A Little Perspective on Aircraft Development Programs

Program progress, politics, orders, and speculation
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quicksilver

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Unread post01 Mar 2013, 13:01

http://archive.gao.gov/f0102/114371.pdf

A bulkhead failure, high-oil temperature, software development delays, recurring fuel cell leaks, aircraft roll-rate performance, difficult vertical tail installation, an LPT failure.

...and two crashes in a three month period. By 1988 the unit cost increase was 188% of the target. I guess they should have cancelled it and bought improved F-4s with APG-65s, bigger motors, and SLUFs with afterburners for Gums. :wink:
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sprstdlyscottsmn

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Unread post01 Mar 2013, 13:45

and yet it ended up being the benchmark for cheap fighters that are immensely capable. hmmmm.
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quicksilver

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Unread post01 Mar 2013, 14:21

sprstdlyscottsmn wrote:and yet it ended up being the benchmark for cheap fighters that are immensely capable. hmmmm.


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sferrin

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Unread post01 Mar 2013, 16:33

Most of the teen/20-somethings bashing the F-35 don't have a clue.
"There I was. . ."
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quicksilver

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Unread post01 Mar 2013, 17:30

The problem is that there are 30-, 40-, 50- and 60-somethings -- who do have a clue and should know better -- doing the same thing. Variety of reasons for each, but 'agendas' would be the case for many.
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Gums

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Unread post01 Mar 2013, 18:38

Salute!

Good points, Silver

We must remember that 25 years ago the A-12 program was in full swing. Tomcats were still the mainstay for fleet interceptors and soon were being fitted for A2G weapons. So who needs a "superbug"?

So here we are and the Navy is just now getting the first Cee models. Good thing they kept pressing on development of the Superbug. And the Tomcat and Intruders and Sluf's are long gone.

==================

On a personal note, I was very disappointed when our team lost the contract for the A-12. Funny, but I never got to see the Northrop model. my boss pissed off a Navy admiral about my special access clearance and the Navy delayed the clearance. So I was sure I knew who I was working for and what the plane was to do, but was never officially briefed in.

I was still the main dude for the cockpit armament system display and the weapon control algorithms. The big boys knew I wasn't fully in-briefed, but I still gave several presentations to them at "neutral" sites, usually a hotel room. Twas a strange time, but I enjoyed it.

Boeing and GD (Lockheed) were very tight with their software and armament sytem and the displays. So we couldn't get in on the F-35. We couldn't even have a small sliver of the pie. Would have been neat, being right here right outside the gate at Eglin. So I pressed on with the navy P-7, the JDAM, millimeter radar Maverick, Marine Cobra upgrade and so forth.

===================

For perspective, I feel the Viper should be the gold standard for development.

Maybe John-Boy can pitch in, and folks like him made the Viper come in on time and in numbers that we had not seen since the Korean War aircraft.

We had the pilot factor crash shortly after I got to Hill, and then we had a series of engine problems once we had over a hundred planes flying and not in the antiseptic test flying mode. Saw that in the Sluf, too, with compressor blade rubbing and the infamous shaft spacer and the oil system. Biggest show-stopper for the Viper was the FLCS power supply failures - bad, bad, as it (FLCS) was such an integral aspect of the whole plane.

Ahhhh man, those were the days.

Gums sends...

P.S. The Brits had re-heat on their version of the Spey in their F-4. We could have used a burner once we started flying with real heavy bomb loads. Imagine rolling 90% of the runway before rotation, and then having to be real smooth!! After a troop or two bounced off the overrun, we would download 2 x 500 eggs if our computed takeoff roll was greater than 85% of the available runway, and we used 84.9 % even then, heh heh. Two check speeds and we turned off the air conditioning to get a few more pounds of turbine outlet pressure. Took agonizingly long between the 1,000 foot speed and then the next one at 3,000 feet and then waiting to reach 170 knots or so in the next 3,000 feet. GASP!
Gums
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"God in your guts, good men at your back, wings that stay on - and Tally Ho!"
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blindpilot

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Unread post01 Mar 2013, 19:26

Gums wrote:Salute!

...
Gums sends...

P.S. ... After a troop or two bounced off the overrun, we would download 2 x 500 eggs if our computed takeoff roll was greater than 85% of the available runway, and we used 84.9 % even then, heh heh. Two check speeds and we turned off the air conditioning to get a few more pounds of turbine outlet pressure. Took agonizingly long between the 1,000 foot speed and then the next one at 3,000 feet and then waiting to reach 170 knots or so in the next 3,000 feet. GASP!


That PS caused flashbacks for me Gums. I once took off from Diego, before they built the "Holiday inns and airports," and you had to sleep with the donkeys in a quonset hut.

One mission required EWO clearance from the Pentagon, over weight takeoff, and we rolled right off the runway, and went another mile in ground effect over the ocean, before we finally got up the speed to climb. ... Gasp indeed!!!

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Unread post01 Mar 2013, 19:36

My most extreme takeoff was with a TA4G with three 2,000 pound full fuel tanks (centre being buddy tank) doing the ‘ski jump’ on the NAS Nowra 6,200 feet approx. Runway 08 on a hot windless summer day, contemplating where the aircraft should be pointed, IF, during the ‘interminable’ takeoff roll things did not go as advertised according to the TA4G NATOPS Take Off Performance Charts (thankfully just making all the benchmarks perfectly) as it trundled down towards that magic drop off into the gully, off the end of RW 08; but NOT BEFORE bouncing up & down on that long nose oleo – going nowhere performance-wise – on that last few hundred feet uphill (the jump-de-ski effect).

Yep, veer/turn right – eject. But then the wheels left the tarmac & aircraft dropped into the gully, slowly accelerating ‘downhill’. No performance in TA4G with that 6,000lb extra load/drag with full internal fuel of 4,800lbs on that ‘hot’ day.

[A long field arrest was perhaps possible – but not certain.]
Attachments
TA4GexampleNATOPStakeoffRun.gif
RAN FAA A4G Skyhawk 1970s: https://www.faaaa.asn.au/spazsinbad-a4g/ AND https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCwqC_s6gcCVvG7NOge3qfAQ/
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Unread post02 Mar 2013, 08:52

Right, Gums, the F-16 development was like a dream come true after ten years of almost constant problems and criticism (some justified) with the F-111. My opinion at the time was the F-16 development went so well because of all we learned from the YF-16 flight test before the F-16 design was finalized. However, both the F-22 and F-35 had similar prototype programs, yet still had (have) significant development problems. So now my opinion is the F-16 development went so well because it was a relatively simple airplane in addition to the prototype knowledge. I also have to say the corporate culture, work environment, and morale for GD was superior to that of LM.

I agree with your criticism of the FLCS power supply problem. That was inexcusable, with both the designers and the approvers sharing fault.
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KamenRiderBlade

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Unread post02 Mar 2013, 08:56

When you're on the cutting edge of technology, like the F-22 / F-35, you're bound to run into trouble.

The same is true with most of Science, Technology, and new ideas / inventions
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Unread post02 Mar 2013, 09:24

@Gums: I'd be curious your thoughts on the YF-16 vs YF-17 competition. The YF-16 used the FBW to full advantage, and better avionics. The YF-17 avionics were completely redone, and new FBW for the F/A-18. Some pilots who flew F-16s in the early 80s said the F-16 radar and cockpit avionics package was significantly better than previous jets.

Do you think politics killed the A-12? Were there any major technical issues or was it mainly to do with increased production costs with decreased volume.
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Gums

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Unread post02 Mar 2013, 15:50

Salute!

@Gums: I'd be curious your thoughts on the YF-16 vs YF-17 competition. The YF-16 used the FBW to full advantage, and better avionics. The YF-17 avionics were completely redone, and new FBW for the F/A-18. Some pilots who flew F-16s in the early 80s said the F-16 radar and cockpit avionics package was significantly better than previous jets.


Think you meant F-18 in last sentence. Anyway, the YF-16 had range-only radar, simple gunsight computer, etc. Only "advanced" avionics I know of was the stores management system, which used a digital panel with push buttons along the edges ( like an ATM). The SMS also used a multiplex bus to the store stations versus dedicated wires for all the functions of the weapons. Our company was involved with a demo of the concept here at Eglin and they still had some of the boxes when I showed up in 1985, as well as many early GD documents for the F-16.

The thing that impressed the pilots in the flyoff was the sustained gee, instantaneous gee, vis, hands-on switches for guns-to-missiles-to bombs. Every pilot I talked with ( we had several in the 16th TFTS from the flyoff) said the YF-17 "felt" better, especially high AoA. The YF-16 design was also closer to a production airplane than the Northrop plane, and that carried a lot of weight with USAF and the EPG folks overseas. Fuel consumption was also better in the YF-16.

The Hornet avionics were in a league of their own when introduced. I flew the Tigershark sim many hours, and the Hornet sim at McAir all day to get a comparison. The switchology and control logic in the Hornet was ahead for the Viper, even in 1985 when I flew sim.
=================

A-12 went down due to $$$ and possibly some performance issues. I would love to talk with someone on the program, and maybe John-Boy can help.

Gums opines, comments....
Gums
Viper pilot '79
"God in your guts, good men at your back, wings that stay on - and Tally Ho!"
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luke_sandoz

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Unread post02 Mar 2013, 16:03

blindpilot wrote:
Gums wrote:Salute!


That PS caused flashbacks for me Gums. I once took off from Diego, before they built the "Holiday inns and airports," and you had to sleep with the donkeys in a quonset hut.

One mission required EWO clearance from the Pentagon, over weight takeoff, and we rolled right off the runway, and went another mile in ground effect over the ocean, before we finally got up the speed to climb. ... Gasp indeed!!!

Blind Pilot


Reminds me of the Vodka Burner video

http://m.youtube.com/#/watch?v=PLxEHIbH ... LxEHIbHUlY
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lamoey

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Unread post02 Mar 2013, 17:52

Gums wrote:Biggest show-stopper for the Viper was the FLCS power supply failures - bad, bad, as it (FLCS) was such an integral aspect of the whole plane.


Is that when they added the four flight control batteries?

The two on the left side was easy to replace, but the two hanging under the nose, right in front of the intake was absolutely a nightmare to replace. Needed a 2 foot standard flat head screwdriver. The battery, with the AC inverter mounted on the top, probably weighed in at 10lbs, so a man had to hold the thing with one hand and try to hit the four screws with the 2 foot, unguided flat head screwdriver with the other hand. One quickly started to shake, making it even harder and sometime impossible. A pair of fresh hands were often needed to complete the battery replacement.

Incidentally, if the Weight On Wheal (WOW) switch failed, Which they did often, the FLCS would refuse to shut down, even after the engine and main power was turned off. If left running until the batteries were flat all four batteries had to be replaced. The trick then was to get to each of the four batteries and short two pins on the AC inverter plug to stop them draining the batteries. This could take too long, so I "invented" a plug that fit the AC inverter that had the two pins shorted. I made a handful, fitted them with a "remove before flight" flag, and gave them to the guys on line. Saved them having to call us, and saved us having to replace those $4000 (each) batteries.
Former Flight Control Technican - We keep'em flying
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Unread post02 Mar 2013, 18:38

Gums wrote:Salute!


=================

A-12 went down due to $$$ and possibly some performance issues. I would love to talk with someone on the program, and maybe John-Boy can help.

Gums opines, comments....


GD was responsible for structural flight test and I was leader of the team. As a working engineer, not a manager, I did not have a great deal of knowledge of things outside my area. But it was common knowledge the most serious problems were cost, schedule, and weight (always) and the difficulty of manufacturing the composite wing spars. However, what really sank the program in the end, was that GD, McDonnell, and the Navy knowingly mislead SecDef Dick Cheney about some of the problems and he repeated the information to Congress. After the truth came out, he quickly pulled the plug on the A-12. Heads rolled, obviously. You don't mess with Cheney.
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