Jump to content
Sign in to follow this  
MigBuster

F-35 at Green Flag 2015

Recommended Posts

 


 

 

 

Not a single F-35 was “shot down” during the joint-force Green Flag exercises testing the jet and its pilots’ prowess operating it in a contested air-support role in the Western U.S. this month, according to U.S. Air Force Lt. Col. Cameron Dadgar, head of the exercise and leader of the 549th Combat Training Sqdn. at Nellis AFB, Nevada.

 

This is notable because A-10s and F-16s were defeated in the same conditions, operating in an environment with hostile aircraft and surface-to-air missiles, he said. USAF officials suggest this validates the theory of Air Force leaders that sacrificing weapons load for stealth in the F-35’s design proved solid, at least for these mission sets. Skeptics, however, say the exercise was a public relations stunt designed to sell the jet as the service continues its uphill battle to convince Congress and others that the aircraft will be a sufficient replacement for the F-15E, F-16 and A-10 for future close air support (CAS) missions.

 

Therein lies the dichotomy between dialogs in the capitols of nations buying the Lockheed Martin F-35 and operators receiving it for training. The latter appear to be at least satisfied with the early, nascent capabilities provided by the F-35A Block 2B jets used in Green Flag, and operators are working to hone pilot skills in employing the jet. By contrast, discussions in Washington—as well as at the Paris Air Show—are focused on constantly justifying the existence of the F-35, the most costly weapons program in Pentagon history. Program managers are aiming to lower the cost of the jet (about $100 million per copy) and boost production numbers as well as defend its incrementally increasing capabilities.

 

 

The F-35 has participated in Green Flag exercises—conducted twice a year—since 2013; however, this was the first time it was featured prominently. “In comparison with the other airframes, they provided the most sorties over the most days,” says Master Sgt. Sanjay Allen, a Nellis spokesman. Two operational test F-35As participated in the fight from Edwards AFB, California. They flew more than 10 days, with sorties taking place in some cases multiple times a day.

 

Typical weapon loadout for these missions included a single 2,000-lb. GBU-31 and two 500-lb. GBU 12s, which are laser-guided Paveways, Allen says.

 

He bristles at the idea that the media invitation to Green Flag was an F-35 PR stunt. “We’ve had media days at this Green Flag before,” he says. “Just because the F-35 is here doesn’t mean this is a PR stunt.”

 

He and Maj. Christopher Laird, an F-35 pilot, say pilots are learning lessons on how better to employ the F-35 in a contested CAS role, the point of the exercise. With his focus on training pilots, Laird seems almost exasperated at the PR stunt criticism. “This isn’t magic,” he says. “It isn’t bringing anything magic to the fight,” but adding a new capability to the mix, he contends. 

 

Green Flag is intended to tax operators to their max so when they reach actual combat they are proficient in a variety of scenarios. Perhaps contributing to the “PR stunt criticism” is that Green Flag is the lesser known of Nellis’s big exercises. Air Force leaders have only recently begun to discuss the exercise widely as they have fought to explain how the F-35 will provide CAS. They more often point to Red Flag, which tests pilots’ air-to-air skills, as the gold standard of flying exercises.

 

Laird says the F-35 pilots were able to communicate directly with ground-based air controllers calling in fires for CAS. While doing so, the F-35s provided their own counter air, or capability to evade hostile fires.

 

He acknowledges that one challenge is for the F-35 to communicate with legacy aircraft—F-15Es, F-16s and A-10s—when operating covertly. The F-35’s Link 16 is effective in transmitting data, but it broadcasts the jet’s location, nullifying its stealthiness. By contrast, F-35s can pass data to other F-35s via the Multifunction Advanced Data Link, which is not accessible to legacy aircraft. “What we are trying to figure out now is integrating the F-35 with fourth-gen assets,” Laird says. Passing threat data from the F-35 to these fighters will make them more survivable in the fight, he adds.

 

Nellis officials did not provide sortie tallies.

 

Meanwhile,  Marine Corps officials are preparing for a series of operational readiness trials for the first squadron of F-35Bs in advance of the plan to announce initial operational capability for the aircraft in late July. VMFA-121 at MCAS Yuma, Arizona, will be the first operational F-35 unit in the world, with 10 F-35B Block 2B aircraft and enough trained pilots and maintainers to deploy for operations if needed.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

That it is a PR stunt doesn't negate the fact that in a contested air space (be it from SAMs or other fighters), the F-35 will of course be better than older planes with older systems (even when recently upgraded), what is in question is how (cost-)efficient it will be at the same task in uncontested airspace or in low-intensity conflicts.

 

Yes, the F-35 would be better to provide air support to troops in the Ukrainian plains while under the threat of Russian SAM systems and upgraded MiGs and Sukhois... But is it still the best or most cost effective solution for providing air support in Mali, or whatever dirty little war is next on the agenda ?

 

Is the F-35 really a good choice for nations planning to use it primarily for air defence ?

 

Yep, as a tactical dirt mover for World War III, I would support the F-35 100%, but as an asset for an increasing number of low-intensity conflicts presenting little survivability problems, low-value targets only and harsh environments and maintenance-intensive situations, how are you going to justify the cost ? As an air superiority asset it will all depend on the real acquisition and operating costs, it's a bit too early but as it stands now, the F-35 seems to offer less capacity than the F-16 for the same cost, or the same capacity at higher cost... That might change favourably as production ramps up and maintenance procedures get better though, so let's not write it off entirely yet.

 

The head-scratcher is that unless the US really intend on fighting World War III against Russia/China and believe they have a chance of winning - or the whole program is a job program scam - the F-35 makes little military or economic sense... The F-22 had the excuse of being born while the Cold War was still on (and still makes more sense now that the F-35), but by the time the JSF program took shape it was obvious how dumb the idea was, and yet the thing evolved further and further into a program utterly inadequate to the needs and budget of the US Air Force and the nations participating to the program (unless it's all about the bragging rights of having a "next-generation" plane before anyone else, even though it isn't cost-effective or doesn't really suit your needs).

 

 

And let's be frank, the F-35 suffers from a serious image deficit, it's not a beautiful plane, it's not elegant and certainly not graceful (especially the B and C) and yet it fails to be truly ugly and bizarre denying him what becomes, for other planes, character... for plane watchers the F-35 is just post-modern meh... add to that the uninspired and uninspiring "Lightning II" nickname, evoking two legendary planes, one a long-range/escort fighter, the other a weird, wonderful, quirky and idiosyncratic to the point of uselessness interceptor but strapping it to a mud mover...

Edited by Gunrunner

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

As an air superiority asset it will all depend on the real acquisition and operating costs, it's a bit too early but as it stands now, the F-35 seems to offer less capacity than the F-16 for the same cost, or the same capacity at higher cost... That might change favourably as production ramps up and maintenance procedures get better though, so let's not write it off entirely yet.

 

 

Research would suggest the F-35 is far better and capable in this role than the F-16 now let alone in the future when the systems are mature. Even the Block 60 let alone the USAF ones using ancient avionics - note even the recent CAPES upgrade was not funded! ( that still would have left them with far less capability - didn't even include an IRST let alone other bits).

 

As it stands I would expect the F-35 to be up there with the F-22 regarding real life A-A   :beach: .

 

 

Translated from http://blogg.regjeringen.no/kampfly/2015/04/20/moderne-luftkamp-the-right-stuff-top-gun-eller-noe-helt-annet/#more-1050

 

 

 

 

In a post in the official norwegian ministry of defence JSF programme blog, the norwegian captain Morten Hanche, test pilot on F-35 with a background on F-16s in the 338 Squadron RNAF, writes some about how an F-35A compares to the Viper in air to air. Unfortunately in norwegian, but the translation to english is decent. Best passage in my opinion is this,

 

 

Many of my colleague flyers are curious what the F-35 mean in terms of pure performance; how fast , how high , how far ? Performance has also been diligently debated in both newspapers and Internet forums . In this post , I therefore intend to look at how both " stealth " and performance could affect the outcome of a dogfight . I hope you understand that I cannot share the " juicy details " but I do not think it is necessary to get your message across .

 Modern Air Combat bears little resemblance to fly sequences many know from the film Top Gun . In Top Gun we see a " melee " in the air ; planes chasing each other with only a few tens of meters. When we exercise similar setup between two F-16 , the goal is often to kill your opponent using only aircraft cannon. Usually starting setups between 1,000 and 3,000 feet apart. Within distance has shrunk to 500 meters tend struggle to be settled, without the help of missiles. Top Gun looks great, but it does not describe modern air combat . Training with cannon is not irrelevant, but modern air combat is often decided before the pilots can see each other with their own eyes . Modern missiles have long range and are very maneuverable . They also have reliable sensors and deadly warheads. When we consciously limit ourselves to only use the cannon , it takes a lot for not a missile shot has ruled the fight long before there is talk about the " dogfight ".

 

Top Gun looks great, but it does not describe modern air combat.

 

 Air Combat is a merciless arena. The outcome is influenced by many factors, including weather conditions, aircraft maneuverability, range, speed, sensors, antidotes, weapons systems, visual and electromagnetic signature, the pilot's knowledge, training level and will. I mean it is not possible to point to one single factor as the most important. The whole is composed. One weak area does not necessarily mean that the aircraft is badly in dogfight, but the characteristics must be balanced. The most maneuverable plane has the advantage if it comes to "dogfight". If I can "point" own plane in the direction of the opponent, I can simultaneously follow him with their own sensors and threaten all weapons. Yet it is not always so that the most maneuverable aircraft winner. Modern sensors and missiles changes the balance in a dogfight. Our old F-16 is quite heavy in the butt when they are dressed up with all the necessary role equipment: External Fuel, målbelysningsutstyr, weapon mounts, weapons and equipment for electronic countermeasures. There is little left of maneuverability as the audience will watch a air display.

 

In return, our F-16 equipped with a helmet sight and highly maneuverable heat-seeking missile. Therefore, it is not as critical that our F-16 is not particularly maneuverable with weapons; our missiles are more maneuverable than any other fighter. Helmet Indicted means we do not need to point the nose of the plane in the direction of the opponent - we can "throw" a shot over the shoulder. Shot can hardly escape ... It is an advantage to have the fastest fighter. Superior speed makes it possible to collect or escape an opponent. All javelin throwers user misses to throw as far as possible. Likewise, it is advantageous to fly high and fast when a missile being shot. The missile gets more energy which in turn increases the range so that the missile can be fired by the longer distance. If we assume equally proficient pilots, equally good sensors and equally good missiles, it seems that raw performance alone can determine the outcome of a dogfight - the fastest flying can shoot first. Whoever shoots first wins often. Pierre Spey and other critics have pointed out that the F-35 is not as fast or maneuverable as modern Russian fighter. In a previous section I argued that the performance of the F-16 at air display is theoretical and not available in a war situation. Combat aircraft like the F-16 carries the load out. This reduces the practical range, speed, maneuverability and maximum altitude. (This also applies to your opponent's aircraft, which carries the load out).

 

With the F-35, we get more of all this, compared to what we are used to today. To discover how much more was a positive surprise for me. In full war equipment operates F-35 effortlessly 10,000 to 15,000 feet higher than our F-16 can, without using afterburner. The speed in 'cruises' is without further 50 to 80 knots higher. In the F-16, I must use afterburner and take running speed before a missile shot. F-35 "cruiser" both faster and higher. Therefore, I am ready to shoot far anytime. 

 

In full war equipment operates F-35 effortlessly 10,000 to 15,000 feet higher than our F-16s  

 

F-35 also has more fuel than we are accustomed to, it carries the load inside and is not as dependent on afterburner. Therefore we are left with more range than the F-16 and similar aircraft can achieve. "Combat radius" for the F-35 is between 30% and 70% longer than we get with the F-16! The extra range comes in handy in our elongated country. Range may alternatively be replaced in endurance over a given area. This is useful for our little organization, which disposes tanker and relies on versatility in all aspects. Back to performance; perhaps it is the fastest flying can shoot first? In this case, I take even one important proviso; both planes must discover each other at the same distance if kinematics alone shall be conclusive. My experience shows that this is not very realistic. In daily training between their F-16 and meet with our allies, we experience in practice what radar signature and electronic antidotes means. Our old F-16 is "small" on radar and is detected late, compared to other modern fighter aircraft. We also notice the effect of external load; the heaviest loaded planes are detected at the furthest distance because the external load increases radar signature. I therefore claim that it is unrealistic to assume that two militant fighter discovers each other simultaneously, although the sensors basically are equally good. The effect of radar signature and electronic antidotes are great.  

 

 

The effect of radar signature and electronic antidotes are great.

 

If an opponent with " old-fashioned " radar signature meets an aircraft as the F-35 , with very small radar signature , it becomes difficult to exploit the benefits that provides superior performance . Imagine a meeting between a highly trained sprinter and a sniper . The mission is to shoot counterpart. Both are armed with hunting rifles , but only marksmen have riflescope . Sprinter has to return a more powerful rifle , but he is dressed in neon colored tracksuit , and takes up on the short end of a football field. Marksman is camouflaged somewhere on the opposite end path . Sprinter is the fastest and the most powerful rifle , but what is he shooting at ? While sprinter gallops across the track in search of his opponent , he must take shot after shot . This is not a smooth match. Unfortunately I have found that it is extremely frustrating to train dogfight when we can not find the opponent with its own sensors. It ends rarely well .. The outcome of a dogfight between two identical fighter decided finally by the individual pilot. It requires time and significant resources to cultivate a skilled pilot. Especially important is perhaps a steady supply of flying time, a good and constructive learning environment, access to appropriate airspace and an organization that facilitates training. During exercises have my colleagues in the Air Force and I many times flown against more modern fighter than our F-16. Yet, "wins" we occasionally air war against more advanced adversaries, technically speaking. Often the explanation is that we meet inexperienced pilots. More interesting is perhaps when we meet pilots with completely different culture for learning and collaboration. My impression is that cultures where the distance from the conductor to lead is large, fail to cultivate equally skilled pilots. In such highly hierarchical organizations it is perhaps impossible to be honest with your boss in "debriefing" after the flight. Therefore they miss out on important learning. My point with this post was to show that many variables affect the outcome of the dogfight. The situation is rarely black and white. One of the most diffuse might skill of the individual pilot. I am often surprised when I read cocksure posts in newspapers and comment fields. Common to many such posts is a "digital" interpretation of performance data. A speed XY, B rate YY = A is best, period. One problem is the source data referenced. Another is that it tends to focus on a few isolated parameters. Our experience with the F-35 so far has shown us a fighter that will surprise many in air-to-air role. The combination of high performance, good sensors and low signature makes the F-35 to a dangerous opponent in air campaign. Finally; remember that even Arnold Schwarzenegger had to resort to lavsignatur in the old classic "Predator." When using mud. Brute strength is good, but camouflage also works ...

Edited by MigBuster
  • Like 2

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

You are not understanding me...

 

For air defence, as an individual plane, the F-35 is obviously superior to the F-16 not as a whole but for a few points :

- Newer electronics (as noted for air support)

- Much, much better ergonomics

- More responsive flight controls (how it compares to a Rafale, often used as a benchmark too in that respect, is unknown)

- More stealthy, of course, but under fairly limited conditions and against unsophisticated detection networks

- Better acceleration

 

However it is equal in most other aspects and potentially lacking in others - compared to the F-16 - including :

- Inferior or equal manoeuvrability, however it seems to require a "lesser" pilot to get the best out of it compared to the F-16, so it's a difficult point to judge in real operations (and it may help negate the effect of lower flight hours due to budgetary constraints)

- Lower top speed (but that's not a huge drawback, especially for countries other than the US)

- Equal payload at the cost of drag and stealth or much lower payload (not a huge problem but that means that the trick for which you are ready to pay a premium is not really that useful)

 

Anyway, that wasn't my point...

 

My point was about the cost of the damn thing... Take Norway, at the current full production cost of the F-35 it's projected that they can afford to replace their F-16 at a rate of 2 F-35 per 3 F-16 at best. Even if we end up agreeing that a F-35 is "worth" 1.5 F-16 MLU we still have a problem because attrition becomes more and more crippling, especially at forces the size of most projected non-US operators (Norway would be at best 50 F-35). You don't get it, let's see, you have 75 F-16 MLU, for some reason you crash one, from 100% you are down to 98.67% capacity and you write off a plane that did cost you (in 1998 dollars) about $20M... now crash one of your 50 F-35, you are down to 98% at a cost of (in 1998 dollars) about $50M. You crash 5 over the life of the program, a F-16 force is down to 93.33% at a cost of $100M, a F-35 force is down to 90% at a cost of $250M. Attrition is much much more costly both in financial and fighting capacity terms. Worse, as attrition takes its toll, for the same number of flight hours for your force, you are wearing down planes faster, increasing your operating costs and/or decreasing your flight hours and readiness.

 

Now take operating costs, for most planes it's a J curve, it starts at a point at the "birth" of a plane, then as spares get cheaper and maintenance crews get better the costs decrease and as time goes on and spares become scarce, the plane ages requiring more and more maintenance to keep in the air, the costs rise again, well above the early operating costs, the F-16 has entered that phase some time ago for most operators.

In favour of the F-35, one can say that its at the start of the curve, therefore it's bound to decrease. On the other hand, they are already comparable to the current costs of the F-16, meaning that it will probably, even in the best conditions, cost more than the F-16 ever did and will cost a lot more years down the road.

That in turn will affect the budget of Air Force employing it, meaning that they will probably fly less, to reduce yearly operating costs and diminish attrition, but in turn it will mean less training for both pilots and maintenance crews, meaning inferior capacity and availability.

 

The F-35 is perfect if you don't have to worry about budget, but once you factor it... it doesn't make sense for anyone outside the US.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

You are not understanding me...

 

For air defence, as an individual plane, the F-35 is obviously superior to the F-16 not as a whole but for a few points :

 

- More stealthy, of course, but under fairly limited conditions and against unsophisticated detection networks

 

 

However it is equal in most other aspects and potentially lacking in others - compared to the F-16 - including :

- Inferior or equal manoeuvrability, however it seems to require a "lesser" pilot to get the best out of it compared to the F-16, so it's a difficult point to judge in real operations (and it may help negate the effect of lower flight hours due to budgetary constraints)

- Lower top speed (but that's not a huge drawback, especially for countries other than the US)

- Equal payload at the cost of drag and stealth or much lower payload (not a huge problem but that means that the trick for which you are ready to pay a premium is not really that useful)

 

 

 

 

Hostage caused a stir in late spring when, in press interviews, he said the F-35 would be stealthier than the F-22, its larger USAF stablemate. Conventional wisdom had pegged the F-22, with its angled, vectored-thrust engines, as a stealthier machine than the F-35. Hostage also said the F-35 would be unbeatable when employed in numbers, which is why the full buy of aircraft is "so critical."

"I would say that General Hostage … is accurate in his statement about the simple stealthiness of the F-35 [with regard] to other airplanes," Bogdan said in the interview. The statement was accurate for radar cross section, as measured in decibels, and range of detectability, he said, and he scoffed at the notion that anyone can tell how stealthy an aircraft is just by looking at it.

 

http://www.airforcemag.com/MagazineArchive/Pages/2014/December%202014/The-F-35-on-Final-Approach.aspx

 

 

 

Unless the F-16 is clean - or has a DI under 50 then the F-35 should be more maneuverable - (depending how you define it ) can even do the slow speed high alpha thing (50 degrees limit) - not that it needs to.

 

The F-35 is manouverable where it actually matters! - that is before you take HMDs and EODAS into consideration. If the EODAS thing can track ID and fire on airborne targets 360 degrees then anything stupid enough to do the old fashioned nose point stunt with an IR sig hotter than the sun is going to have a very bad day! 

 

You will notice the F-16s doing Baltic patrols with Sniper TGPs - well the top end limit with one of them is according to the manual under M1.6..........

 

On the the stealth payload thing well - the F-16 has no stealth mode thus any comparison should be the full non stealthily payload on wing pylons.......

 

Even more ridiculous is the only A-G payload that the F-16 bests an F-35 internal loadout is 4 x duel mount JSOWs on BRU-57s.

 

 

Is the F-35 more costly? likely yes if you take the 1000s of figures banded about from official sources and those who spin BS in the media - but then again you are getting an aircraft that is literally on a different planet in terms of all round capability.

 

If governments want to spend the money then - up to them - on the other hand if you have an airforce you probably don't want to be flying obsolete equipment if you can afford it

:beach:

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

MigBuster, let's use a reductio ad absurdum approach and an historical analogy, yes, the qualitative approach is great but not at the cost of efficiency through simple number. You can get the best of the best airplane, but if its cost means you only can buy one, it doesn't matter, it's useless... ask Germany how their top of the line tanks fared against the definitely mediocre but numerically superior Shermans on a strategic level.

 

It doesn't matter if tactically you have the best hardware in the world, if by doing so you are ensuring that you don't have enough of them to secure you strategic goals, you have already lost.

 

And once again, it's not a problem for the US, it will be used as one asset among many, in the capacity for which it was designed and in quantities and with a budget that allow it to be used efficiently, if not necessarily cost-efficiently.

 

And no, it's not up to governments, the governments' money doesn't grow on trees, it comes from tax payers and if I were a Norwegian tax payer I'd worry seeing my money go into buying a plane that is both inadequate to the task and overkill, at a cost higher than what we currently have for inferior capacity (through no fault of the plane itself, as explained previously, but because of the force reduction below a certain threshold due to the individual acquisition and operating costs).

 

And lastly, once more... Do the US really intend to fight World War III against Russia or China, and does it think that it can/will be won militarily ? If the answer is yes, then Russia's not the only country full of delusional idiots nostalgic of the Cold War. If the answer is no, then what do you need the F-35 for ? (You know, a plane that can't sit too long in the sun, that doesn't like sand very much, that hates - at least at the moment - rudimentary storage, operation and maintenance... hey, at least it can to a certain extent stay out in the rain, that's got to be an advantage over the F-22 right ?)

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Yes it is up to the governments - they makes the decisions based on information provided to them by relevant offices etc

 

The Strategic Defence Review 2010 clearly outlined the HM governments intentions including using the F-35C. Average taxpayers had ZERO say - I certainly didn't see a referendum on whether the UK  should get the F-35.

Likewise there was no referendum on going to the F-35B - this was purely down to cost cutting according to the Audit Office - and rightly so - 99.9% taxpayers have no understanding of the issue so are in no position to comment. (this also applies to the many cost figures going about)

 

 

As for numerical superiority would any of the JSF partners ever be truly alone? - most of the point is better integration with allied equipment during joint operations.

 

Israel perhaps could be the exception but they go against your example because they were outnumbered and surrounded in 1967 by users who had comparable (not worse!) A-A equipment with a real threat of conventional war.

 

To me the F-35 could be just a jobs program to keep the top line skills and jobs in countries that want them - and if it is - then I don't see an issue - it has to be done in some way. 

 

As a tax payer I don't remember ever having any say to where the tax actually goes (it is wasted on far worse things than JSF)  but I will gladly vote red instead of blue in 5 years time (Yes we have a choice of 2 parties in our token vote).

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Governments are elected to 1) enact the will of the citizenship 2) act in the best interest of the nation, they are not supposed to be elected despots as you are suggesting, but that's another debate and I'll grant that in effect, you are right.

 

Concerning the UK, well, their intended order even now is still large enough to be coherent and considering the Typhoon might have a short life and will certainly not end up as a multi-role mainstay of the RAF, there is a need for something and the F-35 is their best bet in term of capacity and delivery schedule (the Gripen isn't "good" enough and the Rafale would have an hilarious release schedule, entering service much later than the F-35 will, and it would create a host of other problems).

 

Numerical superiority was only part of the problem but let's concentrate on it for a moment, one could simplify things by categorizing operations performed by an Air Force in three categories :

 

1- Peacetime operations, air policing, training and eventually peacekeeping operations abroad.

2- Dirty little wars abroad, low intensity, low tech conflicts, mostly fought alone, even in a coalition, no overwhelming threats, but operating conditions tax the men and aircraft, even at low sortie rate the planes are suffering, availability and endurance are important.

3- World War III, high intensity, high tech, fought as part of a coalition, high level of forces integration, high threats, attrition rate a more pressing problem than availability and maintenance.

 

Let's compare how a small, high tech, high costs force (from now on designated as F-35) fares against a larger, mid tech, mid costs force (from now on designated as F-16) in each case (understand that it would be the exact same thing with any other aircraft close in peacetime capacities but with large cost differences) :

 

1- Both forces perform either equally, at a higher cost for the F-35, with the F-35 aging faster as the same number of flight hours is shared over less planes, with the F-35 costs rising faster or the F-35 performs worse, at equivalent cost, by decreasing the flight hours, diminishing the ability to protect the air space and lowering the training of pilots and maintenance crews.

 

2- Considering that deployment is costlier and has greater cost implications on long term for the F-35 than for the F-16, the F-35 will either be deployed less, or create much higher costs, making such deployment either impractical or costly with greater implications for a F-35 force than a F-16 one (remember, F-35 and F-16 are shorthand for something else, otherwise that statement is utter BS).

 

3- The higher survivability of the F-35 compensates the inferior number and makes the F-35 actually cheaper to operate than the F-16.

 

 

So, basically, you want a plane that is equal or inferior to lower cost alternatives for the tasks you actually need it for, on the off chance that a scenario no-one can win on a strategic level ever comes true, provided you don't bankrupt yourselves procuring those wonder-weapons... riiiiiiight, makes as much sense as nuclear deterrent (well, at least nuclear power makes sense on a political level)...

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

You make some valid points on the general cost of operating aircraft - and yes this would mean more airframe hours.

 

This does need to be offset by the fact that a combat aircraft also has a deterrence value - and for the F-35 this is greater than an Typhoon or F-16. Airforces are also investing in the latest technology and can train on the new tactics and systems to keep them relevant.

 

Also it has to be considered that a cheaper aircraft is a total waste of money if it cannot do it's job - no one can see the future but nations have to try and predict threats regardless. An F-16 type aircraft does not guarantee air space sovereignty now let alone in 20 years time - and this doesn't have to be Russia/China - any country can get a case of the wrong person in charge.  

 

From my point of view if an aircraft only does airshows, and peacetime duties because of the deterrence value it provides it is money well spent. 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

And you are right, up to a point; There is a threshold where your force is spread so thin and costs so much to operate it becomes, for all intent and purpose, practically useless, it's no longer a fighting force but a political force, a paper military asset, and quite a few nations considering their next generation fighters (and I'm not talking only of the F-35 here, quite a few nations considering cheaper alternatives are making the same mistake) are making the grave assumption that they can both control their budget and get a gold plated plane.

 

Is the F-35 a geo-strategic deterrent ? No more than the F-16 was in his prime, in other words, not at all. As a geo-political asset planes are not a deterrent, they only are a tool to make your opponent spend more money (see the ridiculous competition between Greece and Turkey when it comes to air forces). It's a game of who can spend the most money, or who will do it the most efficiently.

 

You have to consider that it's not a plane, as an individual component, that performs a job (or acts as a deterrent), it's the whole package, it's the actual number of planes available, how available they are, how well trained your pilots are and how willing you are to risk both planes and pilots by engaging them in operations. The costlier and fewer your planes the less available they are, the less trained your pilots and the less willing to lose them you are, making them, past a certain point, de facto useless.

 

 

Yes, it has to be Russia or China, they are the only ones (outside of the US) with enough advanced hardware and resources to sustain a high intensity conflict for more than a week (well, maybe India and Israel, by a few days, can join that club too, Turkey might be getting close, beyond that, either they lack the equipment or the logistical backbone to last, France and UK included).

 

 

 

My real concern is for countries planning to operate less than 80 F-35 as their sole combat asset (Netherlands and Norway); It seems to me to be a potentially very costly gamble to make. I'm also worrying for countries currently operating the Typhoon and originally planning to rely on it longer or as a multi-role asset and now more or less forced to shift that burden on the F-35 (Italy and UK).

 

For Australia, Israel, Turkey and the US I have no worry and Japan is used to operate under-sized and over-budget so it's only par for the course for them.

 

 

Finally, funny thing, since you cited Gen. Hostage and are defending the idea of the F-35 as an air superiority asset for Norway : "If I do not keep that F-22 fleet viable, the F-35 fleet frankly will be irrelevant. The F-35 is not built as an air superiority platform. It needs the F-22." Gen. Michael Hostage, Jan. 27 2014  :biggrin:

Edited by Gunrunner

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Like it or not, the F-35 is going to happen. It's far too large of a program to be allowed to fail. Even at the detriment of the overall capability of the entire force.

 

Too many pockets have been lined with cash for votes or to look the other way. Tests have been rewritten to match what the jet can actually do, versus what it was pitched and sold as to be capable of doing.

 

Politics won this, not the superior product.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

We will likely never go to war with Russia and China - but they wouldn't be doing their job if they didn't consider potential future scenarios with other countries - and there doesn't need to be anything sustained about it.

 

The F-35 was eventually designed to have a primary A-G role - but considering it has far better systems than the F-22 (Not short of gutting the F-22 and starting again) then I would expect it to have an edge over the F-22 in some aspects.

 

The politics & cost are irrelevant at the end of the day because no one can change it and the thing's going IOC - much to the anger of a lot of people. :beach:  

 

The reality is though it is a top class aircraft - performance & systems wise.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Indeed, individually, it's not a bad aircraft, especially once all quirks will be worked out, however the amount of political manipulation and downright corruption around its development and sale are annoying and some countries might end up with a deal that will make the F-104 deals look good, the F-104 wasn't very good for what they intended, but at least it was cheap(-ish) and could be procured in quantity...

 

Oh well, what's done is done, and at least my taxes won't be paying it.

  • Like 1

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

All this is great, but what would the serious alternatives for the F-35 be, both in capability and costs, and how long would it take to get them?  At any rate our MLU's are getting VERY long in the teeth with fatigue problems, rising operating costs and available in dwindling numbers, forcing us to make choices if there are any realistic ones........

Edited by Derk

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

No one has to fight Russia or China. They sell their products cheap to anyone who will take them, to the extent that many countries have more capable Fulcrums and Flankers than Russia itself has.

I mean, the UAE has better F-16s then the US has! So we can easily see F-35s fighting PAK FAs or J-31s without the US or Russia or China actually in the fray.

 

As for fighting a long conflict, why is that a necessary part of the equation? Why can't it be a fast high-intensity one, especially when territories are small, borders are close, and you can fly unrefueled from deep inside friendly territory to deep in enemy and back?

 

The West is not capable, technically or politically, of creating a new combat airplane without manipulation and/or corruption taking center stage. The decks are stacked and the various bureaucracies and corporations and services are all deeply incestuous with people working under one banner on Friday and another on Monday. The only ones capable of preventing it will not because they personally benefit, either via kickbacks or even something as simple as jobs in their district.

 

Cancel the F-35 and you will be replacing it with something MORE wasteful even if it might on paper be more capable, because everyone will see to it that their pockets and campaigns are appropriately stroked again for at least as much if not more.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

The reality is though it is a top class aircraft - performance & systems wise.

 

No so much. As I said above, it's current performance is NOT what was sold to the DoD. The requirements were rewritten several times when L/M could not meet what they said the jet could do. Weight (B&C-model especially), it's VFR ONLY, the gun cannot be fired due to incompatible software/helmet, the engine has a lower time to failure rate than the F-16 it's replacing and the list goes on.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

No so much. As I said above, it's current performance is NOT what was sold to the DoD. The requirements were rewritten several times when L/M could not meet what they said the jet could do. Weight (B&C-model especially), it's VFR ONLY, the gun cannot be fired due to incompatible software/helmet, the engine has a lower time to failure rate than the F-16 it's replacing and the list goes on.

 

Well there might be a few issues currently but I dont see how this is a major problem.

 

The USAF / USN/USMC defined requirements - but how any contractor could promise anything whatsoever to meet them concerning systems that don't exist and have never been attempted is something I would need to clarify.

With software engineering projects, required resource including time and cost can be worked out using a variety of fancy formulas that should incorporate risk factors - but at the end of the day they are nothing more than educated guesses. Even if you had good management and no corruption/politics you could never ever guarantee an accurate time scale or whether every requirement could be actually engineered until attempting it.

 

Lockheed changed some KPPs including G and acceleration if that is what you are getting at. Not sure who defined the KPPs at the start of the project - again how could these be set in stone?, secondly the information provided does not actually confirm any significant degredation in performance - despite the media frenzy at the time who had no idea whatsoever what those figures meant. 

 

 

 

 

This is the most complex tactical fighter program in history - every other fighter program in history has also had corruption/polictical involvement and a majority of the aircraft have had issues (fatal ones) well after IOC. All the issues the press previously got their knickers in a twist over were resolved - why not all these other issues?

 

The F100-PW-100 for the F-15 had major problems - they sorted some of these out for the F-16A (F100-PW-200) - but the pilots still had to be careful with the throttles to avoid compressor stalling it - this wasn't fixed until F100-PW-220 well after USAF IOC.

 

On the lower level most LM engineers are probably driven by passion for the technical challenge - and they still had to design and put together what has turned out to be essentially a technical miracle that even conforms to Boyds theories and Hillakers design wishes - you even get a super Harrier (The old subsonic one wasn't bad in actual combat). 

 

 

Dear the US of A - cheer up, this thing really isn't that bad!

Edited by MigBuster

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

@Derk, I'm not saying the F-35 should be cancelled or even that countries relying on it should look for alternatives, it's way, way too late in the game for anyone for that to even be an option. However, just because it's your only choice doesn't in any way mean it hasn't been a bad one.

Acknowledging the fact that you're stuck with it is one thing, painting it as a wonder weapon that is the best choice for you even though it's patently false is another (once again, the F-35 mostly makes sense for the US, not so much for Netherlands, but it's too late, and it's needed, yesterday).

 

@JM, Russia/China because the F-35 really outclasses other options when 4 conditions are met a) you face an opponent with modern air assets, b) you face an opponent with pilots with a modicum of training and reasonable flight hours, c) you face an opponent with modern early warning and finally d) you face an opponent with a modern, multi-layered SAM network.

Very few countries, even amongst the West, meet all these conditions... drop even one of these conditions and most modern planes will do provided careful planning and by accepting higher potential losses (but since you'd be engaging more planes, the loss percentage might end up lower or equal).

 

Why a conflict longer than a week ? Because in the context above (High-Intensity, High-Tech conflict), the only F-35 user I see able and willing to conduct a first strike are Israel (but their opponents mostly fail to qualify), Turkey (again, their opponents are lacking) or the US...

Of course you might disagree with my assessment of the conditions making the F-35 absolutely indispensable, widening the range of potential conflicts that only it can adequately fight and everything changes, however, in my view, it's the only case, all others are a case of engaging more assets and accepting potentially higher losses, which can be seen as cold but I doubt anyone here sees war as a clean, gentlemanly game.

 

As I said to Derk, I'm not even advocating replacing the F-35, it's too late now, that doesn't mean I have to drink the Kool-Aid and sing Kumbaya when the program has been a disaster management wise and some countries buying it will end up with a plane that will leave them with a crippled force (even though it will be better than the force they currently have, those facts are not mutually exclusive).

 

@MB, I think Boyd would have hated the F-35 with a passion, everything from the requirement to the management, procurement and above all the costs has been what he hated the most, but that's beside the point...

 

I think that for everyone's benefit a little historical refresher is needed to have some perspective on what the F-35 program actually is in relation to other programs.

 

Rafale, a 80's design to answer a 70's requirement, with RCS management features tacked on, using systems ranging from the 90's to now. Started as a Cold War multi-role design, ended as a Post-Cold War evolutionary omni-role one.

 

Typhoon, a 80's design to answer a 70's requirement, with RCS management features tacked on, using systems ranging from the 80's to now. Started as a Cold War air superiority design, ended as a Post-Cold War evolutionary air superiority one (with a multi-role capacity planned).

 

Gripen, a 80's design to answer a 80's requirement, with RCS management features almost accidental, using system ranging from the 80's to 00's. Started as a Cold War multi-role design, ended as a Post-Cold War evolutionary omni-role one.

 

F-22, a 80's design updated in the 90's to answer a 80's requirement, with 2nd generation stealth features, using systems ranging from the 80's to 00's. Started as a Cold War air superiority design, ended as a Post-Cold War evolutionary multi-role one.

 

F-35, a 90's design to answer a 90's requirement, with 3rd generation stealth features, using systems ranging from the 00's to now. Started as a Post-Cold War strike fighter design, ended as a Post-Cold War revolutionary multi-role one.

 

Notice, the F-35 is the ONLY design not originating from the Cold War, it's the only one actually meant to be "revolutionary".

 

The problem with the F-35 is that it's not even cutting edge, it's bleeding edge, on almost every aspect of the project (even the gun and its ammo are new developments), explaining the delays, recurring problems, the long teething period and the ridiculous costs, worse, it's managed in such a way that they are built even before problems are fixed, which might end up disastrously (and nearly did at some points), anything else, including the F-22 have been rather timid, conservative affairs.
 
This explains, and fully justifies, the delays and costs, one can even argue that those costs will be recouped with the next project, all the hard R&D being done on the F-35. And in part, that's true but then... why plan building nearly 2000 of a high risk plane that is in essence a prototype, a tech demo, knowing full well that the next one will be at least as good and cost much, much less ? Why build them while you are still solving basic design problems ?
 
Does that mean that the F-35 is at least half a generation ahead of the rest in terms of sophistication ? Indeed.
Does that mean that every dollar spend on that beast fully translates into capabilities increase ? Nope, due to the law of diminishing returns, especially for projects of that scale and taking so many risks at once, every bit of increased capability comes at a very high price, recouped in the next design hopefully.
Does that translate in a huge increase in capability ? Not really, the increase in capability is, barring any surprise like the "secret weapon" sometime mentioned, only marginally superior to what a new evolutionary design would have been.
 
And now let me answer my question for you, why does the US intend to buy so many of the damn things and pushed allies to buy it too, fully knowing it's not the kind of project meant to be mass produced and that "the next one" would offer everything it can, and more, for less money ?
Because for political reasons they believed, or knew, that Congress would never approve another program so close after that one (and the F-22, and the A-12 and so many other mismanaged projects) so they were left with two choices 1) play it safe and take the risk of seeing other countries developing better aircrafts at some point or 2) bet the farm on it, if it works they'll end up with a 10 years head start, at the risk of losing everything (failed program with no backup or budget/time to have one) and/or bankrupting themselves (stretching the budget to the point other items suffer) in the process.
 
Obviously that's not the choice I would have made and I can only deplore the involvement of allies in such a dangerous gamble, it's one thing to play with your own money and security, it's another to do so with someone else's.
Edited by Gunrunner

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

You could be right regarding Boyd - unfortunately he is no longer around to ask. I sincerely hope he wouldn't have fallen as low as some of his so called acolytes to start preaching POGO anti-military hysteria. As you say it is besides the point - also because what I stated above still stands regardless.

 

 

You have brought up some good things in your post - a few points. 

 

We have a good idea the program has failed in many areas because everyone including the Military and LM have admitted it - although it is very difficult to quantify the level of screw up. A lot of reports are very critical and there has been very little praise (I will post the praise because it's only 2 lines :):

 

As previously stated, the program can be commended for learning from the historical mistakes of the TFX program. (G Bowman 2008) 

 

 

Then there is the cost - it is expensive sure - how expensive for a tactical fighter? I have the official figures in the SARs and other reports but I have yet to see any meaning full comparisons that provide any closure. Other reports compare figures with the initial estimates that somebody guessed at, media spouts all kinds of figures without the meaning behind them. It is also difficult to compare them with older less complex programs involving commonality (F-4/F-111), you need to know exactly what given figures specify and include and even then how do you account for the leap in capability and complex-ability ( just another guestimate?). 

 

 

No one can see the future but also no one is going to base requirements completely on past and current threats. This may add to the risks and costs even further, and they may get it wrong - but if there is no forward thinking into these things you end up with nothing more than the Maginot line.

 

Lastly - something else difficult to gauge is the level of public exposure and information available on the F-35 which seems exponentially more than any other Tactical Fighter program ever. A lot of major dev and design issues from previous programs were never exposed to the public in the same manor.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Create an account or sign in to comment

You need to be a member in order to leave a comment

Create an account

Sign up for a new account in our community. It's easy!

Register a new account

Sign in

Already have an account? Sign in here.

Sign In Now
Sign in to follow this  

×

Important Information

By using this site, you agree to our Terms of Use, Privacy Policy, and We have placed cookies on your device to help make this website better. You can adjust your cookie settings, otherwise we'll assume you're okay to continue..