USAF: F-35B cannot generate enough sorties to replace A-10

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neptune

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Unread post17 May 2012, 03:31

http://www.flightglobal.com/news/articl ... 10-371985/


USAF: F-35B cannot generate enough sorties to replace A-10

By: Dave Majumdar Washington DC

The US Air Force has concluded that the short take-off vertical landing (STOVL) Lockheed Martin F-35B- model aircraft cannot generate enough sorties to meet its needs; therefore the service will not consider replacing the Fairchild Republic A-10 Warthog close air support jet with that variant...

"The F-35B is well-suited to support of the Marine Air Ground Taskforce (MAGTF) in very austere locations," says USAF chief of staff Gen Norton Schwartz, speaking at an event hosted by the Brookings Institution in Washington, D.C. "But the reality is, is that scenario is not a high sortie generation scenario."
.....

The F-35B is an interesting aircraft, Schwartz says. But while the USAF had at one time considered the variant as a potential replacement for the A-10, given the fiscal constraints the services faces and the need to generate more sorties, the USAF will not buy the F-35B, he says.
.....
The key performance parameters (KPP) for the F-35 require higher sortie rates for the B-model at four sorties per day. The A and C models are only required to generate three sorties per day.

"So far in SDD [System Development and Demonstration], all three variants are on track to exceed their KPPs at the completion of SDD," Gardner says. "The B looks to come in at about six sorties per day, the A at about 3.5 and the C at close to four."
...…

So...does this mean that "IF!!" the Bee generates 6 sorties per day the AF will buy it....NAH!!!!, as in never!! :lol:
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geogen

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Unread post17 May 2012, 05:08

Interesting, I wasn't aware that the USAF was seriously considering the F-35B today as a possible A-10 replacement.

But in parsing the wording made by Gen Schwartz, one could ponder if he is implying that the USAF would replace the A-10 with F-35A models instead of F-35B, as part of USAF's 1700+ acquisition plan(?)... or perhaps, due to fiscal constraints going forward, not consider replace the A-10 with any specialized model at all? ie, consolidate the future F-35 acquisition into smaller, leaner single variant fleet?
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Unread post17 May 2012, 05:32

geogen wrote:Interesting, I wasn't aware that the USAF was seriously considering the F-35B today as a possible A-10 replacement.

But in parsing the wording made by Gen Schwartz, one could ponder if he is implying that the USAF would replace the A-10 with F-35A models instead of F-35B, as part of USAF's 1700+ acquisition plan(?)... or perhaps, due to fiscal constraints going forward, not consider replace the A-10 with any specialized model at all? ie, consolidate the future F-35 acquisition into smaller, leaner single variant fleet?


The article may be a little behind the times. My understanding is that the USAF was originally going to buy a few F-35Bs as CAS aircraft, but decided to buy only F-35As a long time ago when it became apparent that the variants wouldn't have as much in common as hoped. However, the idea might still be floating around out there... I just don't know. My personal opinion is that the F-35 in any variant is ill-suited for such a mission unless the threat environment requires VLO (an unlikely event in most scenarios); the cost-benefit ratio just isn't there. My guess is that the A-10 will soldier on in small numbers for a long while yet, especially with current budget concerns pushing more and more F-35 (or any other fighter) procurement ever further to the right.

As for the USMC's use of the F-35B for CAS, that's pretty much a given as no aircraft comparable to the A-10 can operate effectively off of the gators; but that's a matter for another discussion.
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Unread post17 May 2012, 05:52

I say throw a cannon in the 'C', eat the weight increase which wouldn't be much, and all services buy the 'C'.
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Unread post17 May 2012, 05:56

1st503rdsgt wrote:no aircraft comparable to the A-10 can operate effectively off of the gators; but that's a matter for another discussion.


Never too late to interject a sub-topic into the greater discussion. :)

That's true, that no aircraft currently under development would operate off of the gators as well as the future F-35B. But also to consider, that specialized mission requirement is only a small sub-set of the USMC's total air power capability requirements too. Hence, other aircraft, relatively comparable to the A-10, could operate even more effectively than the F-35B when operating from other-than-gators.

Therein is the issue with respect to debating; what is the most viable and strategic platform mix of tomorrow? imho
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Unread post17 May 2012, 06:16

geogen wrote:That's true, that no aircraft currently under development would operate off of the gators as well as the future F-35B. But also to consider, that specialized mission requirement is only a small sub-set of the USMC's total air power capability requirements too.


Given that there are 10 such ships in the fleet, I'd hardly call the F-35B's CAS gator mission a "small sub-set of the USMC's total air power capability requirements."

geogen wrote:Therein is the issue with respect to debating; what is the most viable and strategic platform mix of tomorrow? imho


With the current state of affairs being what it is, I'm pretty much ready to quite caring. Once sequestration hits, there's going to be little money to purchase fresh platforms of any kind, so the "mix of tomorrow" will probably be whatever the hell of our disco-era TACAIR is operable at any given time.
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Unread post17 May 2012, 06:44

Well, on your first point... the fact there might be 10 'such ships' in the fleet by 2025 does not by definition automatically increase the proportion of that 'sub-set' requirement for LHD/LHA operations vs the current day Harrier proportion. For one thing, there will not be anywhere as many F-35B procured as originally/currently expected, thus gators will carry on in the current rotary based mission too, as long as they remain in service.

Regarding your 2nd comment... don't quit caring sir, that's not an acceptable position to take and only does more harm than good. We have to keep up the good fight and debate the issues regardless of the sense of the day or state of affairs from one decade to another. What, we should only care when things are rosy and bubbling? That is a rarity in history. Keep fighting on the good fight and never quit imho.

That said, there should no doubt have been a decisive and strategic recalibration of US's TACAIR recapitalization strategy years ago in better predicting the situation similar to what DoD is facing today.

The majority of the voice all along was of course saying something along the lines of... "Stay the course, everything will be OK"... while the more analytical and perceptive observer was looking at the writing on the wall (whether they were watching C-SPAN or whathaveyou) and saying.. "hold on now, this plan is simply not sustainable and will only hurt us in the end if staying the course".

Going forward however, there *should* still be enough budget even after a sequestration event (or still cut regardless, as appropriations will be in the near-future) to at that point, finally, alter the Procurement strat and effectively recapitalize the fleet in the interim period. That is... a mix of refurb'd and new-build F-16, Predator-C type UCAV, possible Super Tucano type, and refurb'd and even new build F-15E+ in the immediate and medium-term could be affordable with even a $375-400B base defense budget. It just comes down to strategy, once again, and to priorities.
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Unread post17 May 2012, 07:22

'Trustworthy for info' Mr. 'bager1968' about USMC being creative and flexible etc. says:

http://warships1discussionboards.yuku.c ... 012?page=2

"...USMC F-35Cs & F-35Bs replace their F/A-18A/A+/C/Ds in active squadrons first (by 2023-26), and only then replace the AV-8B/B+ (by 2026-30)! After that the USMC EA-6Bs and reserve F/A-18s will be replaced (2029).

That is why they bought all the UK's GR.9/9As and all their spare parts... to keep the AV-8Bs flying until ~2026*!

Note that this report was issued MARCH 20, 2012 (page 23 of the document)
http://armedservices.house.gov/index.cf ... e3645c4eb9 (0.75Mb)

The USN and USMC continue to adjust transition plans as F-35 procurement ramps are flattened. The Marine Corps is taking advantage of higher service life remaining in its AV-8B inventory by sliding them to the end of the transition, thus reducing the demand for F/A-18A-D in the later years. Sustainment and relevancy funding will be imperative to maintain the requisite operational capability throughout the 2020’s.

* before the ex-RAF Harrier purchase the schedule called for AV-8B out-of-service in 2021, that has been pushed back to 2026, with NavAirSysCom declaring 2030 as possible.

http://www.xairforces.net/newsd.asp?newsid=691&newst=10 (second paragraph)

http://defensetech.org/2012/04/16/usmcs ... ntil-2030/
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Unread post17 May 2012, 08:35

I don't get it.. isn't 6 sorties a day good enough for the AF?
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Unread post17 May 2012, 09:32

popcorn wrote:I don't get it.. isn't 6 sorties a day good enough for the AF?


I think the answer is yes. But it's irrelevant.

As the B and C model rose in price, the USAF was bullied by Congress into converting some of their A buy to B, to keep costs down for the USN/USMC. USAF never wanted the B. Whether the UK switch back to B, the problems with the C, or something else precipitated this, I think the USAF is just glad to go back to their intended buy of all F-35A.
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Unread post17 May 2012, 10:27

checksixx wrote:I say throw a cannon in the 'C', eat the weight increase which wouldn't be much, and all services buy the 'C'.


The C already has a cannon, it's just in a pod. The C has the most weight, the most drag, and most damagingly, the most transsonic drag. It's a transsonic fighter. I believe that to be a direct function of the larger wings messing up the area ruling, and a pod will only make that worse. The internal cannon of the A fits where the C keeps a fuel tank. So if you switch the C from a pod to the A's internal cannon, you still have a design with broken area ruling from the oversized wings, plus you lose the increased fuel load that allows the C to make up for its increased drag and exceed (or in this case, even match) the range of the A. The C is also far more expensive than the A, barely less expensive than the B, worthless for export to several partner nations (now including the UK, the largest partner outside of the US service branches), and useless for basing on the amphibs. Plus it has more parts than the A, meaning it's going to be more expensive to maintain, and likely to spend more time in maintenance.

The A model is the cheapest model and also the majority of the worldwide buy, so the cost savings per aircraft by sticking with the A model mean something. Any remaining economy of scale achieved by the USAF switching to the C model (most of which is already achieved by the USN's not-inconsiderable buy) would not exceed the margin by which the A is a simpler, cheaper aircraft. Therefore, the USAF would have to cut their buy numbers, further reducing the economy of scale, or Congress would simply have to raise taxes to pay for the USAF's increased costs. The USAF could also switch to the B model for even more money, but with loss of the ability to carry the 2000 lb. class JDAM, which for them is a frequently used weapon and therefore a very signicant loss of capability. Also, the USAF cannot fly exactly the same C (or B) as the USN flies; most USAF tankers use boom refueling whereas all USN tankers use probe and drogue. So it's either re-design the F-35C for USAF use (in which case, why not just use the A model already designed for their use?), or spend still more money to modify their tankers. Losing the A would therefore raise prices and reduce capability for the USAF and the USA overall, very significantly. Cutting the B model would wipe out several partner nations' buys altogether, and cut the USN's and USMC's capabilities very significantly. Cutting the C model would raise prices for the USN significantly, and cut capability somewhat significantly, but with the UK switching back to the B model, only the USN would be affected by eliminating the C model now. As I understand it (and any USN aviators, please feel free to tell me this isn't true) the USN rarely uses 2000 lb. class JDAMs, the only weapon the B can't carry that the C can. The only major (direct) loss to the USN would be the reduced range of the B. A carrier flying F-35Bs is less powerful than a carrier flying F-35Cs, but more powerful than a carrier flying F-18s. The USN therefore has a fallback with only slight reduction in capability: like the UK, they can (but don't want to) operate the B off carriers. The partner nations (and USN amphibious ships) have no fallback to elimination of the B model.

So, cutting any of the three models now that they're nearing the end of development raises costs and reduces capability in ways that can only be called significant. But of the three, cutting the A would raise costs and reduce capabilities the most. It makes zero sense to cut the A model. The B is the only actually required model (absolutely nobody flat-out couldn't use the B, though it would raise costs and cut capabilities to make absolutely everyone use it). It makes some financial sense to eliminate the B model, but not enough to balance the loss of capabilities among the US and allies. Elimination of the C model would affect only the USN, and not in truly catastrophic ways. I don't think it exactly makes sense to eliminate the C model, but it makes the most sense of any of them.
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Unread post17 May 2012, 13:58

It's a good thing that the USAF isn't buying the B model.
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Unread post17 May 2012, 14:24

checksixx wrote:I say throw a cannon in the 'C', eat the weight increase which wouldn't be much, and all services buy the 'C'.


That's why you don't make the decisions. :roll:
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Unread post17 May 2012, 14:37

The Hornets needed to be replaced yesterday. The A+ models are coming apart at the seams, according to USMC maintenance personnel I've talked to.

As for the B replacing the A-10, I'd heard of this idea, but I'm not sure it's truly necessary. Geogen's F-16/E+/EMB-314/Predator C plan is not a bad one.
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Unread post17 May 2012, 17:07

The A+ Hornets for a sub-set of the total USMC Hornet force. The D models were still rolling off the line fairly recently (2000) and along with the USMC's fleet of C models, should still have some life in them. At least it was enough life that the USN was looking to make a trade for them not that long ago.


At the end of the day, unless the USAF was looking to embrace a whole new concept of operations involving forward, unprepared strips and shot field landings, etc, why would they ever want the F-35B? If you are going to fly it in a similar fashion to the A-10 (IE out of a major base no different than what the Vipers and F-15E's use) what good would it do you? All you are doing is introducing an aircraft with less range, a more complex propulsion system, no internal canon, a lighter payload, and a whole new training regimen.

If we are going to streamline the fighter fleet, we may as well bite the bullet and not pursue split A/B model buys for the USAF.

Perhaps its time to let a new generation of smart weapons take over the A-10s role...




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