Remember 1977, when the F-16 was America's problem child?

Feel free to discuss anything here - as long as it is F-16 related.
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tbarlow

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Unread post30 Jun 2016, 05:58

Remember 1977, When the F-16 Was America's Problem Child?
​The iconic fighter and today's F-35 shared many of the same problems.​

By Kyle Mizokami, Jun 29, 2016

A New York Times newspaper article describes a beleaguered American fighter program enduring delays, escalating costs, and technical problems. Another article about the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter no doubt, right? Nope. It's an article from 1977 about the F-16 Fighting Falcon.

The F-16 was the original multinational fighter. Developed by the United States with Belgium, Denmark, the Netherlands, and Norway as partners, the fighter was designed to be an agile, lightweight, daytime fighter to replace aging fighters such as the F-5 Freedom Fighter and the F-104 Starfighter. At $6,091,000 per unit—$27.1 million when adjusted for inflation—it was also supposed to be inexpensive.

Many of the F-16's past problems are mirror images of the issues we see in the F-35. According to the article, the Air Force expected the F-16's research and development costs rose by some $7 billion to reach $13.8 billion by 1986. Adjusted for inflation, that's $54.7 billion in today's dollars. F-35 R&D costs, on the other hand, are estimated at $107 billion dollars to date.

Like the F-35, the F-16's problems arose from technological issues and design challenges. The fly-by-wire mechanism of the F-16, in which an aerodynamically unstable but highly maneuverable aircraft was tamed by computers to keep it flying, was an expensive problem that was eventually solved. Like the F-35, the F-16 had problems with its engine and also had to be modified to placate U.S. allies who wanted a fighter capable of air-to-ground missions, a real multi-role fighter.

Still, as similar as the problems between these two planes are, the F-35's problems are much more intense. The F-35 was originally slated to cost $50 million apiece—nearly twice the original cost of the F-16 at today's prices—but the three versions of the plane currently run anywhere from $112 to $120 million each. The F-16 encountered months of delays, but the F-35 A/B/C models will, on average, be delayed half a decade.

Yes, America and her allies have been down this road before, but this time it is a lot rockier.

Source: http://www.popularmechanics.com/militar ... lem-child/
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hornetfinn

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Unread post30 Jun 2016, 13:09

I agree that F-35 and F-16 development have a lot in common. They also have the commonality that both are ubiquitous fighters with huge production runs compared to most competitors. What they don't have in common is that F-16 had many competitors which had roughly similar capabilities (F/A-18, Mirage 2000, MiG-29, JAS Gripen). F-35 basically has no competition as all the serious competitors are really previous generation jets.

I don't agree at all that the development of F-35 has been a lot rockier than F-16 development. How many F-16s crashed before reaching 100,000 flight hours? AFAIK, something like dozen F-16s were destroyed by then.There has been zero F-35 crashes to date and they are definitely getting close to that 100,000 flight hours mark Of course development has taken longer time as there are huge difference in complexity and capabilities between F-16A and three F-35 variants.
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basher54321

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Unread post30 Jun 2016, 13:17

Possibly from the 1977 - 1979 reports to congress - they do make interesting reading.

$6.091 million was a "not to exceed" price listed in the 1979 report to congress with its breakdown.
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krorvik

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Unread post30 Jun 2016, 19:14

hornetfinn wrote:How many F-16s crashed before reaching 100,000 flight hours? AFAIK, something like dozen F-16s were destroyed by then.


They even made a movie about it:
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Afterburn_(film)

Afterburn is a 1992 dramatic film written and produced for television, based on a true story where one woman takes on the United States military and General Dynamics, manufacturer of the F-16 jet fighter aircraft that took her husband's life. The docudrama starred Laura Dern, Robert Loggia, and Vincent Spano. The film's name is derived from the "Afterburner" bar where the central character (Janet Harduvel), who works as a waitress, met her future husband, a setting that forms the focus of the first part of the film. [...]


Afterburn.jpg
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smsgtmac

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Unread post02 Jul 2016, 01:22

Well, it's almost as if he tried with this story. :doh:

My 2 cents: "F-16 and F-35 parallels: Boy Reporter Gets Few Facts Right, Story Wrong"
--The ultimate weapon is the mind of man.
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Unread post12 Jul 2016, 04:09

Salute!

Finally get a chance to contribute.
++++++++++
Got my satellite installed up in the high country and can read,digest, excrete and comment while here for next three months.
++++++++++

I respect Sgt Mac's analysis, and shall add and maybe take issue with one or two things. I would love to have John Will's memories of those early days of the Viper. We may have differences, but "we were there", and didn't have to read about it.

I was a big proponent of the emerging LWF concept as a means to "fill in" or supplement the Eagle, which was still under consideration with the "A-X" when I was at Air University in 1970. The LWF would be the "low" of the "hi-lo" mix. I also liked the idea of an A-X for the CAS and CSAR missions, but could not fathom the WW2 platform we got from that effort, and politics was more in play then than for the Viper years later. Seemed to me that a mix of A-7D's and the new A-X should be like the Viper/Eagle mix.

1) I recall the LWF effort as being a low-cost fighter with limited A2G capability and superior aero,low cost, etc. Numbers.

Seems that the LWF morphed to a multirole platform around the 1973 timeframe, but maybe I should review the actual history, being old and possibly losing it. The idea of replacing many NATO Zippers would required a limited A2G capability. So soon we heard about the "multirole" platform even as the flyoff was about to begin. Then the EPG emerged, and GD had a great bargaining chip, plus more assurance the program would go forward. I was in St Louis at the Defense Mapping Agency in January of 1975 giving a presentation on the A-7D Projected Map Display when the GD selection was announced.

I do not feel that the USAF "always" wanted more goodies right in the beginning ( before 1980). The cosmic radar and weapon delivery system was there from the get go, once the decision to go multirole was made and accepted by Congress ( the YF-16 had a simple radar kinda like "range only", heh heh). The big hang up was the BVR missile, and its denial was pure politics. I was there, and I could sense the nervous Eagle community thinking about a Viper with a Sparrow or the AMRAAM under development. We were already demoinstrating a great A2A capability with only Lima's and could easily go vertical in a fight and maintain energy. If the Viper had a BVR missile, then the Eagle production was in jeopardy.

2) Our problems early on were not related to the FLCS or the relaxed static stability. The motors had some problems and except for the first loss ( pilot factor due to open refueling vents and running outta gas), our initial losses were engine related. GD had discovered the deep stall problem by the time I showed up at Hill in June of 1979, and we were manually moving fuel forward to decrease chances of arriving in the critical AoA. The pitch override function was being retrofitted as I arrived at Hill, and seems the Bk 5 jets had it right from the factory. We balanced fuel forward until we got the big tails, and I have some good stories about that.

The big FLCS problem was the power supply!! We did not know that an uncommanded EPU could provide more volts to the computers than the voltage regulators would handle. So above "x" ( 37V DC so if I recall), the things disconnected. We were dealing with early 70's components and the 80 models could have handled much higher volts. If the last ditch NiCads could not handle the loss of power, then the computers went tango uniform and the jet did a wahoo, usually nose down.

We fixed all that.

3) We finally got our BVR capability when the Eagle production line died out, and besides, we had the 1553 mux bus and they didn't have it. So we got the Slammer first. And first kill with the sucker. The mod for the Sparrow was not expensive, but USAF would not go for the $$$$, as I have asserted.

4) The $$$$ was a joke, and our EPG pilots were wise to the scam as one of the senior troops in my class told me. At $6 million plus per unit, they knew that the total cost per jet would be more. But the fact was the actual fly away cost was about that, but did not include screw all - no maintenance support gear, no spare parts, no training for all the folks, nada, nothing.

The biggest difference between the F-16 and the F-35 programs is that from the first "requirement", the jet was to be multirole and have variants as necessary - a true "joint" "strike" fighter. Unlike the LWF, the F-35 would be primarily "strike", but have a significant A2A capability. And so it has become.

Sorry for the long rant, but had to get stuff off my chest.

Gums sends...
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"God in your guts, good men at your back, wings that stay on - and Tally Ho!"
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Unread post12 Jul 2016, 13:48

Thanks Gums! I love when you old timers come in to give us kids a history lesson.
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Unread post12 Jul 2016, 14:41

smsgtmac wrote:Well, it's almost as if he tried with this story.

My 2 cents: "F-16 and F-35 parallels: Boy Reporter Gets Few Facts Right, Story Wrong"


One detail I noticed that you seem to have taken at face value -- the F-35 R&D program cost isn't $107 billion to date. That's roughly the total program cost, which also includes all the planes produced. According to the 2016 SAR for the F-35 (looking at page 28, hope "President's Budget" is the right one), including only up to fiscal year 2015, RDT&E to date has been around $52 billion, and procurement has been around $46 billion, in then-year dollars. This is for 14 RDT&E planes and 217 planes from procurement. I suppose the cost is a bit higher if you include maintenance and support, but it shouldn't be all that high yet compared with the other categories.
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Unread post12 Jul 2016, 20:05

Remember 1967, when the F-111 was ...
Vietnam veteran (Combat Engineer) 1967
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Unread post13 Jul 2016, 00:58

Salute!

In all fairness, edpop, I was there in 1968 when the 'vaark cut its teeth in Combat Lancer. I was in Combat Dragon, which remained in-country as the 604th SOS until 1972.

The plane had a meckanical problem with the horizontal slab, best I recall.

When I came back 4 years later, so did the 'vaarks! Again, they were at Tahkli, and our Sluf's were at Korat. They done good, and especially in Linebacker II when we went way up north and they hit airfields in the middle of the night. We had one great SAR for Jackal 33 as the new kids on the block as Sandy's, but couldn't get him. Very close to Hanoi, as I recall, and he finally got captured but came out two months later. May have been the only loss the 'vaark had that year.

Flew the 'vaark once at Cannon on a "trade" deal. Both crew flew with me in a Viper family model, then I flew with the pilot in the "cadillac". Sucker even had a coat rack for my jacket, heh heh. Very nice jet, and I flew many joint missions with the Spark Vaark at Red Flag/Green Flag.

Way I saw it and many of us in the "multirole/multiservice" community is the ops requirements for the TFX were a dream that the administration could not relate to reality. We must also remember that the thots then were not to make something for a sustained, low intensity conflict. That being said, most of us flying in the mid sixties thot DoD was trying for the impossible. And remember those days when we didn't need the gun anymore and would not have dogfights. Combat CAS and SAR missions were over 10 years in the past. The 'vaark only flew a few "close" support missions when I was there in 1972 - radar drops using a beacon from the grunts, and the gomers were not "on the fence".

The whole TFX story in the sixties stuck in the craw of many for over a decade, and 99% of us folks blamed the fiasco on McNamara and willing military novices, but not the companies. OTOH, we saw a great run with the Double Ugly and the Sluf, both that started with the Navy. Guess we learned our lessons.

Wish the best for the Stubby, and the thing seems to be about as big a step as we can make at theis time.

Gums opines...
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"God in your guts, good men at your back, wings that stay on - and Tally Ho!"
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rpgrynn

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Unread post13 Jul 2016, 04:59

Gums, as always, thanks for the great memories.
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Unread post13 Jul 2016, 19:11

Cheers Gums!
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edpop

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Unread post13 Jul 2016, 22:32

Gums wrote:Salute!

In all fairness, edpop, I was there in 1968 when the 'vaark cut its teeth in Combat Lancer. I was in Combat Dragon, which remained in-country as the 604th SOS until 1972.

The plane had a meckanical problem with the horizontal slab, best I recall.

When I came back 4 years later, so did the 'vaarks! Again, they were at Tahkli, and our Sluf's were at Korat. They done good, and especially in Linebacker II when we went way up north and they hit airfields in the middle of the night. We had one great SAR for Jackal 33 as the new kids on the block as Sandy's, but couldn't get him. Very close to Hanoi, as I recall, and he finally got captured but came out two months later. May have been the only loss the 'vaark had that year.

Flew the 'vaark once at Cannon on a "trade" deal. Both crew flew with me in a Viper family model, then I flew with the pilot in the "cadillac". Sucker even had a coat rack for my jacket, heh heh. Very nice jet, and I flew many joint missions with the Spark Vaark at Red Flag/Green Flag.

Way I saw it and many of us in the "multirole/multiservice" community is the ops requirements for the TFX were a dream that the administration could not relate to reality. We must also remember that the thots then were not to make something for a sustained, low intensity conflict. That being said, most of us flying in the mid sixties thot DoD was trying for the impossible. And remember those days when we didn't need the gun anymore and would not have dogfights. Combat CAS and SAR missions were over 10 years in the past. The 'vaark only flew a few "close" support missions when I was there in 1972 - radar drops using a beacon from the grunts, and the gomers were not "on the fence".

The whole TFX story in the sixties stuck in the craw of many for over a decade, and 99% of us folks blamed the fiasco on McNamara and willing military novices, but not the companies. OTOH, we saw a great run with the Double Ugly and the Sluf, both that started with the Navy. Guess we learned our lessons.

Wish the best for the Stubby, and the thing seems to be about as big a step as we can make at theis time.

Gums opines...


I was referring to all of the problems arising from technological issues and design challenges that the F-111 went through during it's development time as it to was a new design with many new technological features that were yet untested. PS: I had the pleasure of being in Vietnam all of 1967 as a Combat Engineer with the 1st Cavalry Division out of AnKhe and then Pleiku Vietnam. Enjoyed the close air support provided by the Air Force at certain times using A-7's, F-4's and the occasional Skyraider . Salute!
Vietnam veteran (Combat Engineer) 1967
Retired from Chrysler Engineering
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Unread post14 Jul 2016, 00:58

From that period, I still remember the very first YF-16 demo flown at Brustem-Belgium.
That was a true WHAW! moment. (We flew F-104 at the time)

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