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garnetpalmetto
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F-35 In Trouble Already?

Fri Mar 12, 2004 1:32 am

Hey guys, I was looking at PPRuNe the other day and saw some posts implying that the F-35's future might be endangered by several factors

-It's cost and weight are spiraling out of control
-An internal cannon has been dropped in the -B and -C variants (the carrier-capable and STOVOL variants) in favor of a pod-mounted GAU-12 to keep costs down
-The weapons bays are too small for several specific required weapons
-The radar is having severe developmental problems, as are other pieces of the avionics package

Some of this I think can be written off as developmental growing pains (the cost/weight issues and the developmental problems with the avionics fit). The issues regarding the actual capabilities of the aircraft worry me though. I know the services have never exactly been wild over gun pods and it seems like if an aircraft isn't capable of carrying the munitions that it needs to carry, its strategic value is compromised.

Thoughts on this? How badly would this hurt the future of the USAF, USN, USMC, and RN? I really don't know if I can think of a fighter design as ambitious as the JSF...3 variants of the same aircraft meant to replace four different aircraft in four different services and while I'm skeptical that the F-35 will deliver all it's supposed to (the Swiss Army Knife concept of aircraft design doesn't exactly inspire confidence in me), I think that the services would be rocked by a cancellation of the program, even more than when the A-12 was cancelled, and could potentially lead to a major shake-up in funding for manned combat aircraft. Again - what do y'all think?
South Carolina - too small to be its own country, too big to be a mental asylum.
 
aeroguy
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RE: F-35 In Trouble Already?

Fri Mar 12, 2004 2:41 am

Can anyone say F-111?

I'm with garnetpalmetto, from the beginning I have been skeptical of combining so much into one aircraft. I know some people that are very optimistic about it though. Frankly the F-35 is going to have to be one heck of an impressive airplane if it's going to do all the things they want it to AS WELL AS the airplanes it is replacing. I feel the commonality has taken priority over performance, which I can't say gives me a good feeling. I've heard some counter with the argument that it will be low observable so that's a big plus. How many F-35s do we really expect to take advantage of its stealthy features in operation? Seems to me like they are going to hang a bunch of pylons and external weapons on the thing anyway.

I would guess that in the future the different variants will probably become more and more different but I think maybe shooting for a little less commonality right off the bat would have been better. Yeah it wouldn't have been as cheap but it seems to me the different variants would have been better suited to their missions. Of course it will be interesting to see just how "affordable" the F-35 turns out to be.

I don't know about you guys, but I want the pilots defending my country to go into combat in an airplane that makes them say, "This is one hell of an airplane!", not one that makes them say, "Can you believe what a bargain this was? A similar plane for me and my fellow pilots, regardless of what branch of service we are in!"
 
GDB
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RE: F-35 In Trouble Already?

Fri Mar 12, 2004 3:01 am

Always a risky programme, however it was the only way the US services could get to replace all those aging aircraft post 2010, other than truly massive force reductions.
Before someone yells 'Clinton Cuts', remember that a bunch of programmes were cancelled by Bush 1, these as well as spending reductions later, were the impetus behind JSF.
The biggest risk has probably been to make such bold claims of affordability, but to get it approved, had to be done.
If you look at development programmes for other aircraft that have gone on to be a success, I suspect these problems are common, but there is much more riding on F-35 now, there is no alternative.
 
LY744
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RE: F-35 In Trouble Already?

Fri Mar 12, 2004 4:39 am

External gun pod? On a low RCS fighter?  Nuts


LY744.
Pacifism only works if EVERYBODY practices it
 
L-188
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RE: F-35 In Trouble Already?

Fri Mar 12, 2004 6:32 am

Yeah, but GH's hands where forced by a militant, democrat ruled congress.

People saw through all those cuts and put the republicans in in 94.


Give the JSF time.

Can you name one modern weapons system program that wasn't developed with modifications between the time the prototype flew and when line production started?
OBAMA-WORST PRESIDENT EVER....Even SKOORB would be better.
 
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Spacepope
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RE: F-35 In Trouble Already?

Fri Mar 12, 2004 7:06 am

I have heard different about the weight issue. Supposeldy the military has never set a weight target, and the ones not yet being met are set internally by LM. They could easily shave many hundreds of pounds off of the airframe by using exotic materials, however this would add millions to the cost of the project. Currently they are rethinking the wiring runs, to see if they could shorten them at all (less wire = less weight).

As for the sudden discovery that the weapons bays are too small... I don't buy that. The bay size has been known since the inception, and weapons sizes are known as well. I highly doubt that they all of a sudden said "doh! we forgot to make it the right size!"

A pod mounted cannon isn't such a bad idea. Most of the time you will use it is in strafing runs, and when you're that low and exposed, a low RCS isn't really as important as being able to shoot something.
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LMP737
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RE: F-35 In Trouble Already?

Fri Mar 12, 2004 7:31 am

It's almost to be expected that anything involving the DOD will have problems. There was an interesting article in AV Week involving the Royal Navy selection of the F-35B and their future carrier. Evidently the RN is also concerned about the weight of the VTOL JSF. So much so that they have looked at the F-35C a little more closely. If the weight of the VTOL JSF were to get out of hand the RN could fall back on the C model. This of course would mean that the Royal Navy would have to re-design their carrier to accommodate catapult and arresting gear. Very expensive proposition.

With this said I have also read some articles saying that LM is addressing the weight problem and that they feel confident they can overcome it. Hopefully they can accomplish this.

GDB:

When I was in the USN they Secretary of Defense killed the F-14D newbuild/remanufacture program even though it was under-budget and on schedule. Go figure.
Never take financial advice from co-workers.
 
splitzer
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RE: F-35 In Trouble Already?

Fri Mar 12, 2004 8:07 am

I believe the current plan for the new carriers is to have it so catapults can be added later on with little difficulty - all of the piping etc will already be installed when the ships are delivered for STOVL.

~Splitzer~
 
Sinlock
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RE: F-35 In Trouble Already?

Fri Mar 12, 2004 9:55 am

What is this world coming to?............

The RN is thinking about not buying the STOVL...

And the USAF is thinking about buying the STOVL...
 
maiznblu_757
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RE: F-35 In Trouble Already?

Fri Mar 12, 2004 12:46 pm

I have seen this plane in action close up and its nothing overly impressive. I say just make a stealth version of the Super Hornet for the Navy.

 
jwenting
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RE: F-35 In Trouble Already?

Fri Mar 12, 2004 3:11 pm

F-35 has always been an aircraft designed by comittee.
In that it indeed resembles the F-111 which failed misserably in its intended role of air superiority fighter (which of course was purchased by none of the program partners!).

An external gun for some of the versions (especially the STOVL version) was always an option, this is not a sudden change in plans.
The Pentagon (and London) is back again in the 1960s in their heads.
"tri-service project"
"guns are outdated, missiles are all you need"
we've heard it all before, and it's failed all before.

Of course the F-35 will see service, but I wouldn't be surprised if in 5-10 years someone comes knocking at the F-16s door and asking for the F-16XL to be revived and completed with current avionics to enter production as an F-16A/B/C/D replacement...
I wish I were flying
 
saintsman
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RE: F-35 In Trouble Already?

Fri Mar 12, 2004 4:51 pm

"As for the sudden discovery that the weapons bays are too small... I don't buy that. The bay size has been known since the inception, and weapons sizes are known as well. I highly doubt that they all of a sudden said "doh! we forgot to make it the right size!"



That sort of thing doesn't surprise me at all. I was once invovled with a new aircraft programme and attended a design review for the wing. To save costs they had been designing only one wing - the other would be a mirror image. What they had forgotten about was the components of the other wing were not a mirror image, ie if a plug was on the left side of a component it would still be on the left side when it was fitted to the other wing. Because the wing was a mirror image the connector for the plug would be on the left side on one wing and the right side on the other wing and therefore wouldn't fit.

You can't always trust design to get it right first time, especially when the design centres are situated all over the place. Is it any wonder the costs spiral?
 
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keesje
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RE: F-35 In Trouble Already?

Fri Mar 12, 2004 8:06 pm

The JSF will be pushed through,

it has become a future key factor for many airforces

There are no alternatives anymore.

The OEMs know, therefor intensive cost control is neccesary

"Never mistake motion for action." Ernest Hemingway
 
LMP737
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RE: F-35 In Trouble Already?

Sat Mar 13, 2004 2:17 am

Wow, I actually have to agree with KEESJE on this. The OEM's know that if costs get out of control on the JSF program the consequences of cancellation would be severe.
Never take financial advice from co-workers.
 
Guest

RE: F-35 In Trouble Already?

Sat Mar 13, 2004 4:19 am

The lack of internal gun is the biggest mistake they could possibly make. Back many years ago there was this idea that we will never see an air to air gun battle. So the F-4s (our first JSF) were intially built with no internal gun. We get into Vietnam, our F-4 pilots are getting their salads tossed in gunfights with Mig-17s,-19s and -21s. We try hanging a gun pod on the centerline hardpoint of the F-4s. We find an external gun pod wobbles too much in flight meaning you can't hit shit. The next generation of F-4s and every fighter after has an internal gun.

This is what we call learning from a mistake. The dumbest possible thing anyone can do is NOT to learn from a mistake. Deleting the internal gun is de-evolving a new design. In short, its stupid.

Personally I think the JSF is the one new airplane we need. The F-22 is not necessary. Stealth is overrated and what do we need a dedicated air to air fighter for? We need the multi-role JSF, the F-16s are older than some of the people flying them and putting bombs on the ground is what we are going to be doing for a long time to come. Unless some third world air forces are going to discover the miracle of training.
 
PPGMD
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RE: F-35 In Trouble Already?

Sat Mar 13, 2004 6:10 am

Stealth is not overrated, it's a fantastic technology when applied correctly. Deep strike aircraft like the F-117, and B-2 need stealth, so do reconnaissance aircraft.

IMO what the USAF needs now is a replacement for the EF-111, and simply more modern airframes (and pilots to fly them). The F-15E can now do what the F-111 did in the bomber role (the F-15E can carry the same tonnage of bombs at least according to the Gulf War numbers that I have), but they still need an electronic warfare aircraft that can go with the strike package in-country.

The biggest problem I see with the USAF future is that when new aircraft like the F-35 and F-22 come in, they are not only going to have less aircraft to do the job, but in most cases the aircraft can't move the same amount of weaponry.
At worst, you screw up and die.
 
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Spacepope
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RE: F-35 In Trouble Already?

Sat Mar 13, 2004 7:11 am

With the advent of less expensive PGMs however, you don't need as much tonnage as before. The JSF can make do with a few 500 pound small diameter JDAM weapons (being developed for the B-2 so that it can fit 80 in there) or even smaller charge (250 pound) PGMs. I'd even venture so far as to say it'd be more accurate and effective than an A-6 loaded out with standard MK-82s or even Snakeyes.

As for the Phantom, it wasn't the first JSF, it was a Navy aircraft (F4H-1) that the USAF just happened to pick up (as the F-110). The external gunpods were actually quite sucessful. The wobble wasn't so bad, and the pilots weren't experienced in using them, but they shot down enemy planes about as well as F-105s with internal M61-A1 cannons. The F-4Ds with 3 gun pods were nothing to mess with either.

The main difference with the gun pod issue in vietnam vs. the JSF is that the JSF is being designed from the get-go to use this podded gun (Like the removable podded 25mm GAU-8 on the Harrier) in situations where it would be likely to need it. It is not being fitted as a reactionary measure, but rather as a cost and weight saving measure for the 99.999999% of the aircrafts life where it would be nothing more than expensive ballast.
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PPGMD
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RE: F-35 In Trouble Already?

Sat Mar 13, 2004 7:47 am

Spacepope,

But the problem as I see it, is that with each generation of aircraft the USAF is getting fewer and fewer airframes. If the F-35, and F-22 totally replace the Viper and the Eagle, they are going to have to do the same (or more missions) with less aircraft, and can't carry the same war load.

Also operation such as CAS, and tank plinking (I love that term) generally don't require stealth and require a greater number of small ordnance which the JSF, can't accomplish. IMO I think it was the wrong road for the air force to goto.
At worst, you screw up and die.
 
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Spacepope
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RE: F-35 In Trouble Already?

Sat Mar 13, 2004 10:42 am

The thing is, the F-35 won't be operating alone. With 80x 500lb JDAMS, you can think of the B-2 as an airborne precision artillery system for massed formations of armor, chucking out munitions where and when needed. A lot less troublesome and more accurate than the Army's old Copperhead system. The F-35 will be used where its capabilities fit. It wasn't designed to be a bomb truck. That's what the B-2 and B-1 are for.

It's all part of the strike package. Stealth doesn't even give decent results unless you plan your route to avoid the most radar and operate with jamming aircraft as well (which admittedly the USAF is sorely lacking, they need to bring back the Spark Vark). Sure you can evaluate an airframe on an individual basis, but it sure beats sending 1000 B-17s to take out a railyard.
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jwenting
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RE: F-35 In Trouble Already?

Sat Mar 13, 2004 6:37 pm

Remains that the USAF will only have 20 pieces of artillery (B-2) and a few hundred cavelerymen (F-22) to protect the thousand or less footsoldiers (F-35).

That's an awefully low number for a worldwide operation. Even with the numbers available in 1990 they were seriously overstretched fighting in the middle east and at the same time keeping up the defense of CONUS and keeping a pressence in Europe.
The USAF would not have been able to do their mission of fighting one major and two minor conflicts at the same time even then, and they can't do their adjusted mission of one major OR two minor conflicts even now.
With the low numbers they'll have when the F-15 and f-16 are gone, they'll likely not even be able to fight a single war and yet maintain the defense of the USA and a presence in Europe...
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garnetpalmetto
Topic Author
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RE: F-35 In Trouble Already?

Sun Mar 14, 2004 8:16 am

Spacepope, regarding the weapons bay size issue, designers aren't flawless. Why do you think the F/A-18A, -B, and -C all have crappy fuel ratios? Because the designers kept the fuel ratio of the prototype YF-17 and have been saying for over 20 years "Doh! We forgot to scale the tanks up for an actual combat aircraft!" As for a gun pod, if you recall the GPU-5 was a gunpod built specifically for the F-16 so that the Viper could take over the CAS role from the A-10. I believe it wobbled so much that it hit everything BUT the target tanks in tests and the NY ANG didn't even take the GPU-5s along during Desert Storm.
South Carolina - too small to be its own country, too big to be a mental asylum.
 
Guest

RE: F-35 In Trouble Already?

Wed Mar 17, 2004 5:21 am

Stealth is overrated...

ok you can use terrain avoidance and fly at 200ft and as fast as you can below anyone's radar with existing airplanes or you can fly wherever you want with temperamental stealth technology with new airframes costing billions to develop.. You make the call. It is only a matter of time before someone defeats stealth technology anyway, assuming it hasn't happened already. I sort of think hanging everything on stealth is putting your eggs in one basket.

What is wrong with keeping prowlers current for ECM?
 
PPGMD
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RE: F-35 In Trouble Already?

Wed Mar 17, 2004 5:49 am

ok you can use terrain avoidance and fly at 200ft and as fast as you can below anyone's radar with existing airplanes

Actually the USAF is looking for ways to avoid that. We found that it was more effective to eliminate the sites with HARM's than try to evade them at low level, where the aircraft could be hit by AAA.
At worst, you screw up and die.
 
cloudy
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RE: F-35 In Trouble Already?

Tue Mar 23, 2004 3:56 pm

I can't think of a single program that has been "to big to be canceled" that has NOT gone massively over buget. Maybe I'm missing something, but it seems that companies and government agencies don't work nearly as hard when a program's survival is guaranteed. Programs safeguarded by international treaties - such as the International Space Station, seem particularily vulnerable. In such programs, there is actually an incentive to spend as much time and money as possible.

My guess is that with the JSF, commonality will be sacrificed somewhat in order to save performance and money. For example, exotic materials may be used in the STOVL version but not in the Air Force version.....

 
Guest

RE: F-35 In Trouble Already?

Thu Mar 25, 2004 12:05 am

Ok so you took out the radar sites with HARMs.. Then why do you need stealth?

How in the hell is AAA going to hit something moving at 350+kts 400ft off the ground other than getting really damn lucky?
 
Contact_tower
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RE: F-35 In Trouble Already?

Thu Mar 25, 2004 12:50 am

"How in the hell is AAA going to hit something moving at 350+kts 400ft off the ground other than getting really damn lucky? "

Darn, the airforces of the world should have asked you before adopting the "above 15.000ft" doctrine. Remeber there are such things as radar and laser guided AAA (ex: Bofors L70), that's a nasty foe even for a fighter hot at low level.  Insane





 
PPGMD
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RE: F-35 In Trouble Already?

Thu Mar 25, 2004 12:52 am

Because sometimes you can't eliminate all the sites, it's too dangerous to civilians to take direct action, or there are high value targets in well protected cities that you have to hit on the first day of combat.

IMO stealth is often overrated, but it also has many uses that the Air Force needs, deep strike, and reconnaissance are the two primary categories.

How in the hell is AAA going to hit something moving at 350+kts 400ft off the ground other than getting really damn lucky?

Ever heard the term spray and pray? But read Every Man a Tiger, it's a rather in depth study on the commanding of Operation Desert Shield and Desert Storm, by the CENTAF.
At worst, you screw up and die.
 
jwenting
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RE: F-35 In Trouble Already?

Thu Mar 25, 2004 2:24 am

How in the hell is AAA going to hit something moving at 350+kts 400ft off the ground other than getting really damn lucky?

Ask a Vietnamese AAA gunner from the Vietnam war era, or a Korean gunner from the Korean war.
Or ask a US Navy gunner from WW2.

It's feasible, it's been done, and will be done.
Practice, volume of fire, and where available technology to help make for a deadly foe.
I wish I were flying

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