U.S. Senators Ask for F-35 Alternative

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spazsinbad

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Unread post20 May 2011, 14:43

Senators Ask For JSF Alternatives May 20, 2011 By Jen DiMascio

http://www.aviationweek.com/aw/generic/ ... e=Senators Ask For JSF Alternatives

"After more than a decade of pursuing the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter program, members of the Senate Armed Services Committee are indicating that the Pentagon’s biggest weapon program might need an understudy.

“It seems to me [prudent that] we at least begin considering alternatives,” Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) said during a hearing May 19, after hearing that current estimates show the program’s development and sustainment are unaffordable.

That idea does not sit well with the Pentagon’s top acquisition official, Ashton Carter, who says the Pentagon has no good alternative to the next-generation stealthy fighter, even though the cost to sustain the program into the future is an eye-popping $1 trillion, adjusted for inflation over its lifespan. That is less than the cost to sustain the F-22, about the same as the F-15, and more than either the F-16 or the F-18.

Carter is pledging the amount will be brought down during a “should-cost” review of the program that he will finish in the next couple of months.

Not all members of the Senate committee that sets policy for the Defense Department agree with McCain that it is time to begin looking at other options.

Sen. John Cornyn (R-Texas), from the home state of the program’s Ft. Worth production facilities, says that the Pentagon needs to do all it can to protect the JSF. “If you’re going to put all your eggs in one basket, you ought to protect that basket.” Cornyn says.

Others picked up on McCain’s comment, however, including Sen. Mark Begich (D-Alaska), who pressed Carter on exactly how much cost the Pentagon would like to see removed from the sustainment estimate.

Carter says he is aiming to reduce costs by 20% to 50%. “It’s not a small amount,” Carter says.

But Christine Fox, the director of the Pentagon’s cost assessment and program evaluation office, casts doubt on that goal, saying that even if the program can speed software development to reduce costs, operation and sustainment (O&S) reductions are another matter.

“O&S is hard,” Fox says, adding that the cost of fuel, for example, will not be easy to reduce. “Whether we can get it all the way down to legacy [O&S cost levels] is something that I in my office doubt.”

Asked about the costs, Tom Burbage, Lockheed Martin’s general manager for F-35 program integration, says that the next-generation fighter’s sustainment costs cannot be fairly compared to older aircraft.

He says JSF sustainment was developed on a performance-based logistics plan different than legacy sustainment processes. The JSF’s O&S estimates also go out to 2065 and are susceptible to ground rules that legacy aircraft are not bound to, he adds.


Nonetheless, committee chairman Sen. Carl Levin (D-Mich.) wants Carter to report back within a week on what the Pentagon sees as an alternative to JSF if the Pentagon’s goals are not met.

“We need to know what the driver is, to succeed here,” Levin says. “Part of the driver is to have a backup plan.”
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Unread post20 May 2011, 15:46

This is laughable...they kill the alternate engine program, and ask for an alternate aircraft program?....so proud of our folks on capitol hill...so proud. I am sure this is a "you better git your s*it together LM" tactic, but just the mere thought of engineers at aerospace companies around the country scrambling to help out the cause...and I am sure that the wanna be engineers on this forum will come up with great solutions.."let's put an F119 in an F-16 or F110's in a F-18. And how can you sit in front of congress and even say $1 trillion...that had to drop a few jaws. :bang:
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Unread post20 May 2011, 16:21

Having been (and still is) a strong believer in the F-35 program I must admit that I find the signals from the US senators very troubling. This hearing and what was said about "abysmal" LM performance and price estimates (or lack thereof) has been picked up here in Norway, with politicians calling for government hearings. I wonder if McCain and Co gave any thought about how their words would be perceived. Hm..
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Unread post20 May 2011, 17:11

aceshigh wrote:..gave any thought about how their words would be perceived. Hm..


He would have to be conscious to have a thought. :oops: This is just his latest contribution to aviation, especially naval aviation. :twisted: To think that honest people voted for him for a presidential candidate. One of the challenges Venlet is next to deal with will be the life cycle fuel cost. Unless they will run on "sunlight", fuel cost is increasing, been to the pump lately? Even modern fuel efficiency is fighting future rising fuel cost, winless. It will be pointless to entertain any discussion about cost until Venlet completes the review of the Sustainment Cost and pops the Trillion dollar bubble. More McCain wasted hot air. :roll:
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Unread post20 May 2011, 17:20

There is no money to pay for this ridiculously expensive and over budget program. F-35s will never be purchased in the numbers DoD wants. Who's going to pay for them? Where is the money going to come from? Some alternatives need to be taken or we are going to be completely screwed when the current fighter fleet runs out of air frame hours. Then what? "We should have purchased something else 20 years ago" But thank God politics will win out and, again, we the people will get completely screwed by the politicians we elect. Hell, if the liberals have their way, there won't be a country to defend in 20 years so it might be ok.....
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Unread post20 May 2011, 17:22

I can see the B/C versions getting tossed to save costs.
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Unread post20 May 2011, 17:38

Is there any indication to what alternative these Senators want to consider? Are we talking more Block 50s, Super Hornets, Strike Eagles? I don't see the AF going for it, but then again, Congress did shove a bunch of C-17s down AMC's throat these past few years.....
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Unread post20 May 2011, 18:05

How about "we the people" ask for an alternate elected official program. In this day and age I would fire all of congress and the senate and we can all just join facebook and use the "like" button for voting! :2c:
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Unread post20 May 2011, 18:27

For a future "high end" air war against a sophisticated and well trained threat, there is no substitute for the B-2, F-22, F-35 class of aircraft. That being said, there are a heck of a lot of missions requiring fighters that do not require such an expensive and specialized aircraft. The recent and current wars in Panama, Grenada, Somalia, the Balkans, Afghanistan, Iraq, and Libya do not need high end stealth aircraft to accomplish the mission. Yes, they were employed in some of those conflicts, but the end result and the strategic outcome were not dependent on the availability of stealth. We might have lost a few more conventional fighters accomplishing those missions, but the final outcome of those conflicts would have remained the same. Similarly, the domestic air defense mission does not need either the F-22 or the F-35 in order to be successful.

The premise of the B-2 was that we would purchase enough of them to replace the remaining B-52 and B-1 fleet. The program became so costly that production was curtailed. The premise of the F-22 was that we would purchase enough of them to replace the entire F-15 fleet, plus have some capability in the F-117 mission. The program became so costly that we only ended up with a handful of them. The premise of the F-35 was that it would be a cheap jack-of-all-trades that would replace every known fighter flying every known mission in all branches of the services both in the US and abroad. Of course, that was "a bridge too far", and the extremely complex and costly program is following the same rutted trail that the B-2 and F-22 went down.

Raptor DCTR above is right. The legacy F-15, F-16, and F-18 fleet is rapidly reaching the end of its collective airframe lifetime. There are a number of current and future missions that can be accomplished by the latest versions of the F-15, F-16, and F-18. Buy 2-300 F-15Es with AESA radars to replace the oldest F-15Cs. Buy the 3-400 of the latest F-16 Block 52 or 60s to replace the oldest F-16s. Buy the latest F-18E/F to replace the oldest F-18A/Cs. All of those production lines are hot. All the pilots are already trained. All the simulators, hangars, ordnance, engine test cells, training facilities, etc, already exist. In the meantime, keep a small trickle of F-35s coming, let the testing and manufacturing community get the aircraft up to speed, then produce it in the 2018-2020 timeframe where it looks like it will end up regardless. We need real airplanes on the ramp now, not wish planes a decade in the future.
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Unread post20 May 2011, 18:53

Iraq did not need high end stealth? You might want to tell that to the F-117 pilots who where the ONLY ones to successfully attack Baghdad (read up on GW1 "Package Q").

Tell that to the B-2s that struck the C&C and SAM networks in Lybia.
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Unread post20 May 2011, 19:34

Spud: Please re-read my first paragraph above. I didn't say that stealth aircraft are not useful or desirable. I said that the existence of stealth was not a determining factor in the success of those campaigns. Do you believe that absent the existence of the F-117, the invasion of Iraq would not have happened? Or that we would have lost the war and not been able to occupy Bagdad? Or that we would not have attacked Libya without the existence of the B-2? Or that Gaddafi would have kicked our NATO butts and nobody would be overflying Tripoli if it hadn't been for the B-2s?

There are numerous missions that stealth can do in an easier and safer fashion than conventional fighters, but that aren't crucial to the success in acheiving national objectives. There is a difference between having assets that make it easier to accomplish a tasking, and not having assets that enable the nation to attain a critical goal. I believe that it more important to have 1500 relatively recent manufacture conventional fighters on the ramp to accomplish 90% of the required national goals, than to have only 2-300 top of the line stealthy fighters on the entire USAF ramp. That seems to be the direction we're heading.


Oh, and those F-117 and B-2 drivers that I should talk to? They're buddies of mine. I fly with them every day now that we've retired and fly around drinking coffee in our 1G airliners.
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Unread post20 May 2011, 21:45

Meteor wrote:The recent and current wars in Panama, Grenada, Somalia, the Balkans, Afghanistan, Iraq, and Libya do not need high end stealth aircraft to accomplish the mission. Yes, they were employed in some of those conflicts, but the end result and the strategic outcome were not dependent on the availability of stealth. We might have lost a few more conventional fighters accomplishing those missions, but the final outcome of those conflicts would have remained the same. Similarly, the domestic air defense mission does not need either the F-22 or the F-35 in order to be successful.


Totally agree on this point. When you add significantly more safety features to an aircraft than you'll ever need, you spend money very inefficiently. If lives are the price someone brings up, remind them that an F-22 pilot would be hard pressed to defend against ten times as many opponents spread over a wide area. A greater number of less capable aircraft can sometimes be more valuable than one super fighter that can only be in one place at a time.

Meteor wrote:The premise of the B-2 was that we would purchase enough of them to replace the remaining B-52 and B-1 fleet. The program became so costly that production was curtailed.


Not quite... it was the fall of the Soviet Union that B-2 production was capped at twenty. And yes, it is about three or four times as much to produce and operate as a B-52.

Meteor wrote:The premise of the F-22 was that we would purchase enough of them to replace the entire F-15 fleet, plus have some capability in the F-117 mission. The program became so costly that we only ended up with a handful of them.


Although each one cost much more to build, their operating costs were only marginally higher than the F-15. It would have made more financial sense to retire all F-15's and replace them with all with half as many F-22's. While the procurement would have been high, you could have maintained a fleet of ~381 x F-22's for much less than keeping twice as many F-15's in operation. And you would have a much more capable air superiority fighter all ways around.

Meteor wrote:The premise of the F-35 was that it would be a cheap jack-of-all-trades that would replace every known fighter flying every known mission in all branches of the services both in the US and abroad. Of course, that was "a bridge too far", and the extremely complex and costly program is following the same rutted trail that the B-2 and F-22 went down.


Agreed on that. They should have kept the F-35 to more manageable program requirements.

Meteor wrote:Raptor DCTR above is right. The legacy F-15, F-16, and F-18 fleet is rapidly reaching the end of its collective airframe lifetime. There are a number of current and future missions that can be accomplished by the latest versions of the F-15, F-16, and F-18. Buy 2-300 F-15Es with AESA radars to replace the oldest F-15Cs. Buy the 3-400 of the latest F-16 Block 52 or 60s to replace the oldest F-16s. Buy the latest F-18E/F to replace the oldest F-18A/Cs. All of those production lines are hot. All the pilots are already trained. All the simulators, hangars, ordnance, engine test cells, training facilities, etc, already exist. In the meantime, keep a small trickle of F-35s coming, let the testing and manufacturing community get the aircraft up to speed, then produce it in the 2018-2020 timeframe where it looks like it will end up regardless. We need real airplanes on the ramp now, not wish planes a decade in the future.


That's exactly the kind of logic I totally agree with. Only I would have continued producing the F-22 until all F-15's are retired. Given as it's already in production (or was until recently) it makes no sense to just end it and leave your air force with no alternative but to extend the life of their F-15's even further. Introduce the F-35 when its technology is both ready and its added survival capabilities are demanded.
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Unread post20 May 2011, 22:15

Even if Congress decides to go back to the F-16, I'm sure Lockheed will do their damnedest to make sure the thing is as overpriced as possible. It's unfortunate that they were able to win the JSF contract before the scope of their previous failures to control costs (F-22 and F-2) was fully known.
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Unread post21 May 2011, 00:49

The alternative has been fairly obvious for some time in force structure reductions requiring fewer F-35's as well as having some portion of the 10 strike wings, as outlined in the QDR, with a fighter sized UCAS instead of F-35's.

In the USAF any funds not spent on the F-35 means fewer F-35's. This is exactly why no legacy aircraft have been purchased in well over a decade and why the F-22 was cut short at 187. The USAF will not contemplate more F-15 or F-16 aircraft. The 180 or so F-15C's that could be kept long term are in the air superiority wings to compensate for so few F-22's. The only "answer" left is to SLEP F-16's.

Note the USN continues to purchase new F/A-18E/F/G's, SLEP's F/A-18's, plans to begin operating a carrier based fighter sized UCAS by in seven years, plans for a new aircraft (NGAD/F/A-XX) to replace it's F/A-18's, and is only planning on operating 20 F-35C's per carrier air wing. That's a plan that can deal with delays and other issues with the F-35. The USAF has entirely bet the farm on the F-35 and if it's too expensive they are simply going to purchase and operate less of them. That's been entirely obvious for years now.

One might assume that eventually the USAF will operate 10 wings of F-35's requiring around 1,080. Some of the ten strike wings will be operating a fighter sized strike UCAS. Another long term answer is how many air superiority wings operate the F-35 vs the F-22 follow on aircraft. That program will be sharing some aspects of NGAD.

The irrational USAF policy of not buying fighters for almost two decades (other than 187 F-22's) can not be made up for massive buys of fighters for the next two decades unless that aircraft is very affordable which the F-35 is not. If you have X numbers of fighters and they last 30 years then one really needs to purchase 1/30th of X every year or you fall behind every year.

The USN not only downsized the size of it's carrier wings by 1/3rd, retired many types of aircraft (carrier asw patrol, ELINT, medium attack), retired early expensive to operate aircraft (F-14), but continues to purchase new aircraft on a regular basis. USAF long term planning in regards tactical aviation is far behind in accepting budget realities.
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Unread post21 May 2011, 00:58

@Meteor:
Without F-117s in GW1 their missions would have had to have been done with conventional forces. This would have meant a greater loss of aircraft & life (see Package Q) and a delay in achieving it's missions. That delay would have given the Iraqis a better defensive posture, better IADS, better C&C, and faster rearm, resupply & reinforcements. All of that would have led to a greater loss of Coalition & Kuwaiti lives.

There is a reason so many were awed at the effectiveness of the F-117; it's because they realized what the human cost would have been without them. If you think that 4th gen could do it just the same, look at Package Q. They tried a standard 4th gen attack on Baghdad and ended up loosing 3 planes. Thankfully the pilots made it. They gave up after that and left Baghdad solely to the F-117s. The fact that we won in Iraq was not dependent on the F-117; but the fact that we won so quickly with so little loss of life was due to the F-117.

The B-2s in Lybia is the same thing. If they would have used conventional forces to hit those targets it would have taken longer and could have cost planes and lives.
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