AvWeek: Explore other options beyond F-35

Discuss the F-35 Lightning II
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battleshipagincourt

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Unread post03 Oct 2012, 15:24

I think we can all agree that a 'one size fits all' concept really cannot work. The F-35 for all intents and purposes is a high-end aircraft, meaning that it's equipped for the most technologically advanced of threats. As a result it's significantly overpriced to serve for anything other than for combat in high-threat environments.

It very well may be a cheaper alternative to the F-22, but it certainly cannot replace aircraft like the A-10 or F-16 when it comes to low-threat environments. So in the end, we're still going to be looking for replacements because the F-35 absolutely cannot replace UAV's or other cheaper alternatives for the 'low-end' operations were numbers are much more important than stealth. If a mission requires infiltrating heavily defended airspace, then an F-35 would be the best choice. For CAS and COIN operations, UAV's and A-10's are a much better choice.

While Bill may be suggesting that the F-35 can't even perform the high-end operations, he at least does have a point about the F-35 being too expensive to perform the low-end operations where UAV's and A-10's would be much more important.
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Unread post03 Oct 2012, 15:39

battleshipagincourt wrote: It very well may be a cheaper alternative to the F-22, but it certainly cannot replace aircraft like the A-10 or F-16 when it comes to low-threat environments. So in the end, we're still going to be looking for replacements because the F-35 absolutely cannot replace UAV's or other cheaper alternatives for the 'low-end' operations were numbers are much more important than stealth. If a mission requires infiltrating heavily defended airspace, then an F-35 would be the best choice. For CAS and COIN operations, UAV's and A-10's are a much better choice.



The F-35 is certainly more expensive than an A-10, but when you compare the FRP price with that of a new build F-16 Block 50/52+(or at this point Block 60/70), with AESA, comformal tanks, targeting/jamming pods, EFTs, and other avionic/sensor/datalink improvements, then there really is a negligible price difference between the 2 aircraft. Now factor in the performance advantages that the F-35 represents, and it becomes far more obvious which COA is the better value. As for the A-10, it is certainly the preferable aircraft for strafing tanks, and taking AAA fire while loitering down in the weeds. In terms of putting ordinance on target, and situational awareness, there's no comparison though. The F-35 can get to targets further away, or in a shorter length of time than the A-10 can. That's certainly something to factor into the comparison. It can also engage more targets on a single pass, than the A-10 is able to. Additionally, the ISR capabilities of the F-35 gives the ground commanders better situational awareness as well.
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sferrin

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Unread post03 Oct 2012, 15:42

battleshipagincourt wrote:I think we can all agree that a 'one size fits all' concept really cannot work. The F-35 for all intents and purposes is a high-end aircraft, meaning that it's equipped for the most technologically advanced of threats. As a result it's significantly overpriced to serve for anything other than for combat in high-threat environments.

It very well may be a cheaper alternative to the F-22, but it certainly cannot replace aircraft like the A-10 or F-16 when it comes to low-threat environments. So in the end, we're still going to be looking for replacements because the F-35 absolutely cannot replace UAV's or other cheaper alternatives for the 'low-end' operations were numbers are much more important than stealth. If a mission requires infiltrating heavily defended airspace, then an F-35 would be the best choice. For CAS and COIN operations, UAV's and A-10's are a much better choice.

While Bill may be suggesting that the F-35 can't even perform the high-end operations, he at least does have a point about the F-35 being too expensive to perform the low-end operations where UAV's and A-10's would be much more important.


Funny they said the same thing about the F-15 and F-16, which is how we got the A-10. Thing is we can't afford to have a specialized aircraft for every task. So if your choice is an F-35 or an F-16 the F-35 is the obvious choice as the F-16 simply will not be survivable in many of the environments it could see in the next 40 years.
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battleshipagincourt

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Unread post03 Oct 2012, 16:20

sferrin wrote:Funny they said the same thing about the F-15 and F-16, which is how we got the A-10. Thing is we can't afford to have a specialized aircraft for every task. So if your choice is an F-35 or an F-16 the F-35 is the obvious choice as the F-16 simply will not be survivable in many of the environments it could see in the next 40 years.


But what if you have the choice between one F-35 or five UAV's? The F-35 simply cannot work because it can't be in five places at once, whereas UAV's have many more options. I would select having five low-end UAV's over a single F-35 for all except for high-threat environments.

So what's your point here?
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Unread post03 Oct 2012, 16:28

As long as the enemy does not have SAM coverage, or ADA, or even a MANPADS, or is a time sensitive target, or a COMMS jammer, or needs a big bang, or, or, or, .....

This is not an either or situation. We have F-35s AND UAVs.
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sferrin

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Unread post03 Oct 2012, 18:46

battleshipagincourt wrote:
sferrin wrote:Funny they said the same thing about the F-15 and F-16, which is how we got the A-10. Thing is we can't afford to have a specialized aircraft for every task. So if your choice is an F-35 or an F-16 the F-35 is the obvious choice as the F-16 simply will not be survivable in many of the environments it could see in the next 40 years.


But what if you have the choice between one F-35 or five UAV's? The F-35 simply cannot work because it can't be in five places at once, whereas UAV's have many more options. I would select having five low-end UAV's over a single F-35 for all except for high-threat environments.

So what's your point here?


Yeah, your five Predators are going to be real useful in a combat zone populated with air defenses. That's my point.
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Unread post03 Oct 2012, 19:31

maus92 wrote:
hobo wrote:A big deal how?


Unlike many blogs and forums, Aviation Week is a respected industry publication, read by the influential in industry and government worldwide. Scoffing doesn't change that dynamic.


Please,

First off, Aviation Week is not that influential. If it were, Bill's ranting would have amounted to something by now.

Second off, that editorial didn't offer anything in the way of a realistic way forward. Launch more programs to ensure competition and preserve the industrial base, sign me up. More new airframes to fill out the force structure until the F-35 is ready to take over? Sign me up ten years ago... Who is paying btw?


The F-35 program was brought into existence in the first place because of budgetary limitations. Nobody doubts that in a perfect world a half dozen different specialized aircraft would be better.

In the real world we don't have the money to develop and sustain these hypothetical new designs and on the fastest possible timeline they would only be available sometime in the 2020s. (Depending how much concurrency, reliance on models and simulation, and risk you are willing to accept... )

Buying more 4th generation planes that would be delivered sometime in the 2014-2015 time frame at the soonest doesn't help much either.


Let me know when Bill writes an editorial that says: "I am sorry I spent years saying '5th generation is a marketing term.' " That at least would be interesting.
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Unread post03 Oct 2012, 19:58

battleshipagincourt wrote:
sferrin wrote:Funny they said the same thing about the F-15 and F-16, which is how we got the A-10. Thing is we can't afford to have a specialized aircraft for every task. So if your choice is an F-35 or an F-16 the F-35 is the obvious choice as the F-16 simply will not be survivable in many of the environments it could see in the next 40 years.


But what if you have the choice between one F-35 or five UAV's? The F-35 simply cannot work because it can't be in five places at once, whereas UAV's have many more options. I would select having five low-end UAV's over a single F-35 for all except for high-threat environments.

So what's your point here?


Any drone with capabilities similar to an F-35 will cost as much as an F-35. Present-day drones are cheap because they are slow, tiny, and low-powered, etc not because of some fundamental cost advantage of moving the cockpit to a trailer rather than inside the airframe.
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Unread post03 Oct 2012, 20:56

Aviation Week has gone off the deep end in regard to their bias and negativity against the F-35, and i don't think they are being listened to by those who matter in this game (people in government). The costumers list is growing, as well as nations who show interest, a sign of confidence in LM's ability to overcome problems in the program.
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Unread post03 Oct 2012, 22:14

There is an awful lot to be learned from the mistakes of the F-35 program, but it is way too late to talk about producing more 4th generation jets. We already have F-35s coming off the line at better than 30 per year. The best course of action is what we are already doing. Stretch out the 4th generation planes while working to ramp up the F-35.

I certainly would endorse the idea of launching a new fighter program in the near term if funding were available. In a perfect world honestly two programs might be launched, one at the very low end, essentially a Gripen competitor... and another at the high-end, an F-15/F-22/Strike Eagle replacement.

Of course there is no money for such a thing right now.
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Unread post03 Oct 2012, 22:36

F-35 is F/A-18 class with F-15A comparable energy pushing it along. I don't think Gripen class is necessary, more so a T-38 replacement. I'd rather see them commit to an FB-111 or Tu-22M4 size bomber.
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Unread post03 Oct 2012, 23:14

It seems to me that the "mistakes" of the F-35 program are mostly in underestimating the time and cost of developing a 5th gen aircraft.
All of the "three-in-one" issues are basically just in the structure, and that seems limited to the tail hook. Isn't the hold up at this point mostly the avionics (which you would have three times as much trouble with if you were making three totally different planes)?
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Unread post03 Oct 2012, 23:25

maus92 wrote:
hobo wrote:A big deal how?


Unlike many blogs and forums, Aviation Week is a respected industry publication, read by the influential in industry and government worldwide. Scoffing doesn't change that dynamic.


It was. Once upon a time...
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Unread post03 Oct 2012, 23:28

count_to_10 wrote:It seems to me that the "mistakes" of the F-35 program are mostly in underestimating the time and cost of developing a 5th gen aircraft.
All of the "three-in-one" issues are basically just in the structure, and that seems limited to the tail hook. Isn't the hold up at this point mostly the avionics (which you would have three times as much trouble with if you were making three totally different planes)?


I tend to agree with this. There are additional complications from certain aspects of the joint program but it is nothing too awful. This is not turning a light bomber into a fleet interceptor like the F-111 was trying to do. The fighters all have the same basic missions and aircraft like the F-4, F-18 (in different services), F-4, A-7 and others have all shown that it is just not that huge of a deal to do the carrier job and land based job on one basic airframe.

The B is the hardest of the 3 to integrate in my view and probably drove some concessions by the other models to get it done but the fact is that without putting the B in the JSF program there would be no VTOL aircraft built at all.
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Unread post04 Oct 2012, 00:06

aceshigh wrote:Aviation Week has gone off the deep end in regard to their bias and negativity against the F-35, and i don't think they are being listened to by those who matter in this game (people in government).


A damn shame too. Had AVweek and many others not been pulled over the edge by the shrillness of Bill et al, those "people who matter" might have been more willing to listen to outside criticism and alternatives. As it was, Bill made it into a personal issue for individuals with their careers and reputations invested in the F-35. This needless confrontationalism has only reinforced the determination of those with a stake in the program to have the F-35 or nothing else.
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