Euros don't like the F-35 but like themselves

Program progress, politics, orders, and speculation
  • Author
  • Message
User avatar


Elite 3K

Elite 3K

  • Posts: 20331
  • Joined: 05 May 2009, 21:31
  • Location: ɐıןɐɹʇsn∀¯\_(ツ)_/¯
  • Warnings: -2

Unread post04 Jun 2011, 02:07

Duels In The Sky
Jun 3, 2011 By Bill Sweetman

The European fighter development community’s views on the Joint Strike Fighter (JSF) have become more negative since 2005-06, and this is not, primarily, the result of marketing. The commentary expressed in offline meetings at conferences and shows is much more negative than on-the-record statements suggest.


The non-competitive selections of the JSF by the Netherlands, Norway and Canada are attributed to three main factors: political pressure by the U.S. (suspected for years but confirmed in 2010 by WikiLeaks), U.S.-oriented air forces, and political vacillation enabled by the fact that full-rate production JSFs are not available for order.

This worldview underpins the Europeans’ determination to keep their programs alive until the JSF program runs its course, or unravels, as they expect it to.


Full article: ... line=Duels In The Sky
RAN FAA A4G Skyhawk 1970s: AND
User avatar


Elite 3K

Elite 3K

  • Posts: 7158
  • Joined: 24 Sep 2008, 08:55

Unread post04 Jun 2011, 05:17

The legacy jet manufacturers must feel like the buggy makers when the first automobiles made their appearance. Welcome to the future.
User avatar


Elite 2K

Elite 2K

  • Posts: 2885
  • Joined: 24 Oct 2008, 00:03
  • Location: Houston
  • Warnings: 2

Unread post04 Jun 2011, 05:23

They are more into goggles and silk scarfs(styling), than building modern a/c!


Elite 1K

Elite 1K

  • Posts: 1395
  • Joined: 04 Apr 2009, 16:00
  • Location: UK

Unread post04 Jun 2011, 08:27

spazsinbad wrote:
"The European fighter development community’s views on the Joint Strike Fighter (JSF) have become more negative since 2005-06, and this is not, primarily, the result of marketing. The commentary expressed in offline meetings at conferences and shows is much more negative than on-the-record statements suggest.

Can't blame them that much, afterall they're sh*t scared for the future of their companies seeing as they have nothing in the pipeline that can match the F-35 or its sales potential. I guess that's whats happened when you put all your eggs in the 4th gen basket. It fully explains the idiotic and laughable marketing that Eurofighter have been throwing out lately such as claiming Typhoon is a 5th gen fighter and a match for the F-22 whilst claiming the F-35 is not 5th gen and is infact inferior to the Typhoon.


Senior member

Senior member

  • Posts: 324
  • Joined: 31 Dec 2010, 14:39

Unread post04 Jun 2011, 10:43

I think this article says more about Sweetman's biases than anything useful about these aircraft.

A few thoughts in no particular order.

The Typhoon and Rafale are both ridiculously expensive, especially for aircraft that have been in full production for years. For as much as we hear about the F-35's cost you would think the Europeans had successfully rolled out a lower cost, albeit lower technology, solution. Instead what they have done is produced technically impressive but incredibly expensive 4th generation jets that are hitting their stride only in the twilight years of the 4th generation.

Gripen doesn't belong in this discussion. It is a nifty little plane but it is competitive only on price with its bigger cousins. If you were going to run off a list of its direct competitors they would be aircraft like the JF-17, LCA, F/A-50, F-CK-1, etc. All of these aircraft were designed to be very light weight, very inexpensive fighters with a heavy dose of indigenous technology. In this company the Gripen looks pretty good, and if the promised Gripen NG became reality it would keep the Gripen ahead of its competitors, but this is an awfully difficult market to stay alive in and the Gripen NG is just a concept right now without a single real order.

Stealth is not a passing fad and the F-35 is not a one trick pony. Sweetman has spent too much time over drinks with his European buddies if he believes this for an instant. Both Russia and China are accepting huge technological risks to pursue stealth in their 5th generation designs. This isn't proven technology for them. They have never built an operational stealth aircraft, and yet they have made stealth one of the key design features of their next generation fighters. They wouldn't have made the decision to pursue stealth aggressively if they thought for an instance they didn't have to.

There is zero chance the F-35 will "run its course" or "unravel." The F-35 is now getting over the development hump. The test program is moving ahead impressively as the pace of production increases. (It already exceeds that of the Rafale.) Very soon the first F-35s will start being delivered into the hands of operators, domestic and foreign, at which point the internet's various anti-JSF bloggers will have to work much much harder to ignore those offering positive reviews of its flight performance. It is easy to attack an aircraft when it is going through the tail end of its development program when almost the only available news is bad news. The Eurofighter and Rafale both went through similar delays and cost overruns, they just did it ten years earlier because the programs started ten years earlier.

The bottom line is that the Europeans are fighting to stay alive in the fighter business. In all likelihood at least one, and likely two of the three will be effectively out of business by 2020. Saab will almost certainly disappear, which is unfortunate because I do have a soft spot in my heart for the underdog, and the loser of the Indian contract will have to fight very hard to hang around because there just aren't that many other big deals floating around out there that could provide the funding commitment that is lacking from Europe.

Finally, I do love how Sweetman has once again regurgitated the Eurocanard marketing line into an article without the slightest critical thought. It is amusing how much he loves to play the skeptic about the F-35, but turns into a glassy eyed fanboy at the thought of an upgraded Gripen.


Elite 1K

Elite 1K

  • Posts: 1395
  • Joined: 04 Apr 2009, 16:00
  • Location: UK

Unread post04 Jun 2011, 11:58

hobo wrote:I think this article says more about Sweetman's biases than anything useful about these aircraft.

I too take that impression away with me, it's as if all the problems that the Euro jets have are glossed over, for example the tiny radar in the Rafale. Now you can bet your a$$ that if the F-35 had that tiny radome it'd Sweetman would cast it as an unsolvable problem that will forever hinder the F-35, not so with the Rafale though oh no, it was a smart move. Hideous Typhoon costs are glossed over and its four and a half year late debut into service completely forgotten, as are its half finished capabilites and pathetic upgrade path that it seems to be slowly meandering down.

He claims Europe thinks that stealth will be a less important in the future, which explains perfectly why the Gripen folks are desperatly trying to bring out a stealthier Gripen and the rest of Europe is trying to figure out stealth UCAV's, yeah stealth must be a waste of time right Billy..? Not to meantion he forgets the NG is still effectivly a paper plane far behind the F-35 in ability and development schedule.

I guess the article served as a good excuse to try and bash the F-35 which after all is pretty much all Bill is about these days, and of course as Hobo says it gives him the chance to get all glassy eyes at the thought of the thoroughly medicore Gripen being souped up.


Senior member

Senior member

  • Posts: 324
  • Joined: 31 Dec 2010, 14:39

Unread post04 Jun 2011, 13:06

Two more thoughts:

"there is evidence that its Thales Spectra electronic warfare system has an active cancellation mode. "

This is a perfect example of the range of settings offered by Sweetman's skepticism dial. What evidence is he talking about? A few whispered hints about stealthy jamming modes from Dassault reps? Is that all it takes to constitute "evidence" to him? Imagine how he would react if some Lockheed employee at a trade show made a similarly vague reference to a similarly vague capability. You could safely bet your house Sweetman wouldn't still be bringing it up years later as "evidence" of such a capability.

The Gripen fascination is strange to me. The Gripen as it exists today is simply nothing special. It is a modern but very small airframe with a minimal radar and EW suite. It has a datalink and more or less all of the other features one would expect in a passably modern 4th generation aircraft, but it isn't a world beater in any respect. It is small and cheap. It is reliant on the US for its engines, BVR weapon, and other key technologies which means it will always be competing head to head with the F-16, and as history has demonstrated, almost always losing.

The Gripen NG concept is a pretty impressive attempt to bring what is currently a more or less standard 4th generation aircraft up to the nebulous 4.5 generation level. It is essentially taking the Super Hornet approach to the Gripen. Grow the airframe, add fuel, add thrust, add an AESA and other modern avionics. The end result would be a nifty little plane, but one that would arrive on the scene rather late. It also has that one little issue of not actually having been ordered by anyone. There are a lot of concept planes floating around out there and most of them never get built. If the Gripen NG is going to become anything more than a footnote in history someone needs to come forward with enough cash to order 100+ of them.


Senior member

Senior member

  • Posts: 256
  • Joined: 27 Mar 2011, 19:26
  • Location: Norway

Unread post04 Jun 2011, 13:07

"Jun 3, 2011 By Bill Sweetman - Washington.The non-competitive selections of the JSF by the Netherlands, Norway and Canada are attributed to three main factors"

What? How does this man get away with his crappy campaign journalism? To claim that the Norwegian selection of F-35 was without competition is false, as I am sure Sweetman knows that full and well. Rafale, Typhoon and Gripen were all there. The BAE folks left town when they were "dressed naked" and realized they had an inferior product.
User avatar


Elite 3K

Elite 3K

  • Posts: 4413
  • Joined: 22 Jul 2005, 03:23

Unread post04 Jun 2011, 14:23

Bill is on record as saying he believes the success of the F-35 would mean the end of European fighter development. He's a European aviation journalist (who happens to live in the US). It's pretty obvious what motivates him. I had to laugh in disbelief at this latest steaming pile of "journalism". Notive how he quickly glosses over how the Typhoon will get an AESA in the near future? Almost like he thinks if he says it quickly people will forget that the F-15, F-16, F/A-18, and F-22 have all been flying with them for years. Bill is desperately trying to convince us all how great European Betamax is when the rest of the world is going Blu-ray.
"There I was. . ."


Senior member

Senior member

  • Posts: 472
  • Joined: 08 Feb 2011, 20:25

Unread post04 Jun 2011, 14:36

Well I am gobsmacked the competitors feel that way.

Wonder if Airbus thinks its panes are better than Boeings?

Now that would be real news . . . get right on that Bill, will ya?


Forum Veteran

Forum Veteran

  • Posts: 685
  • Joined: 21 Nov 2009, 17:35
  • Location: Columbia, Maryland, USA

Unread post04 Jun 2011, 15:32

"The RAF considers the Typhoon second only to the Lockheed Martin F-22 in the air-to-air regime.."

And I think the USA paid less per plane for its F-22's than the UK paid for its Typhoons, IIRC.


Forum Veteran

Forum Veteran

  • Posts: 582
  • Joined: 30 Jan 2010, 03:27
  • Location: California

Unread post04 Jun 2011, 16:32

If you look over the forums here and elsewhere over the last 10 years and summarize the arguments of the Rafale and Typhoon fanboys and apologists and throw in some bits from the F-35 haters you could have written Sweetman's article. He's so biased he should be fired from Avweek. This is the worst of it:

"The Rafale has impressive capabilities, including discretion, which the French prefer to the term “stealth.” Rafale visibly shows more marks of low-observables technology than its contemporaries, and there is evidence that its Thales Spectra electronic warfare system has an active cancellation mode."

What are these "impressive" capabilities? Impressive is a weasel word. There's really not much there that an F-16 or F-18 doesn't have. Visibly shows more LO than a Shornet? He's an idiot if he thinks that.

The evidence of active cancellation was probably obtained from posts at Strategy Page by two French fanboys who are now banned after ruining that board.

F-35 basically provides a 20 ton class fighter at between 100 and 150 million. That's around the same price as Rafale and Typhoon. F-35 offers AESA, EODAS, etc. F-35 offers first day capability and can later hang pylons. It means the death of all competitors which is why Sweetman has to see it fail so his sources who work at the Euro companies will have something to give him.


Forum Veteran

Forum Veteran

  • Posts: 694
  • Joined: 01 Jan 2011, 23:40
  • Location: NL

Unread post04 Jun 2011, 17:46

With respect for mr. Sweetman, he certainly does not investigate thoroughly what he is writing about.
Deliberately using what he writes as facts. Or he just thinks his views are real facts.

Follow the debates in Australia, as well as in Canada and Norway
The Dutch situation either know best, making some remarks about mr. Sweetman’s opinions.
(May be not that interesting, but probably some information is useful for some, comparing
other level partners).

Non competitive-selections and pressure US
Quote BS: The non-competitive selections of the JSF by the Netherlands, Norway and Canada are attributed
to three main factors: political pressure by the U.S. (suspected for years but confirmed in 2010
by WikiLeaks), U.S.-oriented air forces, and political vacillation enabled by the fact that full-rate
production JSFs are not available for order.

Concerning the Netherlands there has been a evaluation in 2001
A second evaluation (proposed by Members of Parliament) in 2008
Both the evaluations the F35 ended as best choice for replacement for the F16

As was in the Netherlands, also Norway had a severe competitive selection.
The Typhoon, but surely the Gripen NG has had changes. Because of almost the same reasons
the Gripen NG did not succeed, as well as costs of the NG were rather doubtful.

An evaluation has been done by the Rand corporation, to investigate the evaluation
has been a fair process (demanded by Members of Parliament)

Rand Europe (2009 apr.)
The Netherlands F-16
Comparative Analysis, An Evaluation of the Process
MATT BASSFORD ... _CT326.pdf

Rand Europe conclusion: The evaluation has been a fair process

Short version in English, Min of Defence ... omparison/

Candidate comparison

Two candidate comparisons were carried out, one in 2001 and the other in 2008.
There were six initial candidates: the Rafale F4, the Eurofighter Typhoon Tranche 3,
the F-35 (JSF), the Advanced F-16, the Saab Gripen C/D and the F/A-18 E/F Super Hornet.

The first candidate comparison took place in 2001, after which the Saab Gripen C/D and
the F-18 E/F were rejected.
In both cases, this was due to their limited military-operational qualities, such as their range,
self-protection capabilities and sensor package.
Out of the four remaining aircraft, the F-35 emerged as the best aircraft for the best price. In 2002,
the decision was made to participate in the System Development and Demonstration (SDD)
phase of the F-35.

No definitive decision was made at the time to purchase the F-35, however.
The National Aerospace Laboratory has continued to monitor the other remaining candidates
through study of open-source documents.

The most recent coalition agreement of the Dutch Government stipulated that the various
candidates would be compared again in 2008.
Although the F-18 E/F and the Saab Gripen C/D had been rejected after the candidate
evaluation in 2001, the general meeting of the House of Representatives of 27 May 2008
requested that those aircraft be included in the list of candidates once again.
On 3 July 2008, however, a general meeting was held on the F-18 E/F. As a result of that
meeting, three motions were tabled which were all rejected. In concrete terms, that meant that
as of then the F-18 E/F was officially no longer a contender to replace the F-16.

The reasons were:
o two engines, and therefore higher maintenance costs
o the aircraft is too large for the current shelters
o outdated basic concept (design dating from the early 1980s)

After 2002, Saab developed the Gripen further and it intends to market a new version of
the Gripen, the Saab Gripen Next Generation (NG).

The remaining five candidates were sent a questionnaire in 2008. They were asked what the
current status of their aircraft design was.
The questions focused on price, quality and delivery time, as stipulated in the coalition agreement.

Dassault Rafale and Eurofighter withdraw

Dassault (Rafale) and Eurofighter decided not to cooperate in the updating of the candidate
comparison, and withdrew their bids. That meant that as of late July 2008, the only remaining
candidates were the F-35, the Saab Gripen NG and the Advanced F-16.

2008 Candidate Comparison

On 18 December, 2008 the results of the second candidate comparison were presented to the Dutch
House of Representatives. The three candidates (Advanced F 16, Saab Gripen NG and F-35) were
compared with respect to price, quality and delivery time.
The F-35 scored the highest on all three counts.

“The F-35 is the best multi-role combat aircraft and by around 2015 will certainly be able to carry
out all six candidate-comparison missions successfully. The F-35 also has the greatest operational
availability. In addition, the investment costs of the F-35 are the lowest and it is anticipated that the
total life-cycle costs will also be the lowest.”

The comparison with respect to quality focused on the concept of operations for the following
six generic multi-role missions:

1. Offensive Counter-Air / Sweep
Offensive Counter-Air missions are aimed at gaining air superiority by attacking enemy air bases
and attacking enemy aircraft over enemy territory. This type of operation is mainly conducted in
the initial phase of a conflict. An example of such a mission is the air operation in the Balkans
in 1999 during Operation Allied Force.

2. Defensive Counter-Air/ Cruise Missile Defence
Defensive Counter-Air missions gain air superiority by attacking incoming enemy aircraft (air defence),
as well as defence against incoming cruise missiles. It also includes safeguarding the sovereignty of
the national airspace and protecting the area of operations.

3. Suppression/Destruction of Enemy Air Defences (SEAD/DEAD)
SEAD/DEAD involves the suppression/destruction of enemy air defences and the related command
and fire-control systems, such as radar, on the ground.
In the future, this threat will continue to increase due to the proliferation of advanced air-defence
systems in combination with a substantial increase in range. A number of years ago, SEAD/DEAD
was solely related to initial-entry operations, in which the enemy air defences had to be eliminated
It has since become clear that this type of operation is conceivable in any stage of a conflict,
because highly mobile air-defence systems and radar can remain hidden more easily and are
therefore less vulnerable in the initial phase of a conflict. SEAD/DEAD capability is a recognised
shortfall within both NATO and the EU.

4. Air Interdiction
This refers to attacking enemy logistic supply lines and lines of communication, deep inside enemy
territory. These are long-distance missions, so a long range and good self-protection are essential.

5. Close Air Support
Close Air Support (CAS) missions support the ground troops who are engaged with enemy ground
units. CAS missions are the core of the daily deployment of combat aircraft in Afghanistan.
Besides extensive options for carrying several weapon types and their effective deployment,
a high level of precision in eliminating targets is also crucial, for instance in order to prevent
collateral damage.
Effective Close Air Support also means that the missions can be conducted either by day or by night,
and in all weather conditions.
In both NATO and the EU, there is a great shortfall in high-precision weapons employment capability.

6. Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance (ISR)
The airborne gathering of intelligence, the airborne protection of an area and the conducting of
reconnaissance missions by making optimum use of the aircraft’s sensor package are collectively
known as ISR.
This also involves sharing information and intelligence with friendly troops on the ground (Network-
Enabled Capabilities). There is a considerable need for these capabilities in NATO and the EU, but
little capability available. ‘Non-traditional’ ISR refers to a situation in which, during ‘normal’ missions,
information on the area of operations is updated continuously, after which it can be made available
immediately to friendly ground and airborne units.
For this purpose, the aircraft requires a large data-storage and processing capability on board.

Pressure by the US
What mr. Sweetman does forget, for Canada, the Netherlands as well as Norway, pressure by
the US certainly will not mean these countries will have to (always) buy US jets.

As history shows, Canada and the Netherlands were heavily involved in the MRA project,
Panavia Tornado, as a replacement for the F104 Starfighter.
The Tornado became too expensive, got two engines, not what the Dutch wanted and did not
had the characteristics for operating as a ADF.

Panavia Tornado:
Quote: MRA was initiated by Canada, Belgium, Italy, Netherlands and West Germany to replace
their stable of aging Lockheed F-104 Starfighters which were beginning to reach the end of
their useful lives.
Britain joined the program when their other AFVG (Anglo French Variable Geometry) "swing-wing"
joint venture with France fizzled.
While Canada, Belgium and Netherlands ultimately left the now-named MRCA project, Britain,
West Germany and Italy forged ahead to form Panavia Aircraft GmbH, splitting the company
stake between the three (for both the airframe and the powerplant production). ... raft_id=54

Economical Factor
Beside the F35 was the best solution in 2000/2001, a major economical factor was Fokker
Industries got broke a few years before.
The best opportunity to save divisions of the Dutch flying industry was joining a project like
the JFS. Also R&D could stay more or less in tact.
In case of the Typhoon and Rafale development was to far for joining substantial R&D.

Letter 2000, march 15:
Quote: Deze eventuele deelneming en de financiering daarvan dienen mede te worden bezien
tegen de achtergrond van het regeringsstandpunt met betrekking tot de herstructurering en
stimulering van het Nederlandse luchtvaartcluster.

Translator web: This possible participation and the financing there of should also be reviewed
against the background of the Government's position with regard to the restructuring and
strengthening of the Dutch aviation cluster. ... merstukken

Two engined jets and contenders
- Contenders as Typhoon and Rafale had no real change, mainly because the Dutch Airforce
excludes two engined jets. Two engined is too expensive for the Airforce.
- The F16 development, production by EPAF was a success.
- The JSF project, yet as a development partner, was seen as a possible success like the F16
has been and could save what was left from Fokker Industries.

Not buying the F35 and pulling out
Actually they can’t. Before the Dutch signed for agreement developing the JSF, they knew
when they were in the F35 project, this would mean also “buying” the F35!

As stated in the letter to parliament 2000, march 15:
Quote: Een eventuele keuze voor Nederlandse deelneming aan de EMD-fase is daarmee een
ver strekkend besluit, aangezien Nederland zich hiermee vrijwel vastlegt op de latere aanschaf
van de grotendeels nog te ontwikkelen JSF.

Translation: A possible choice for Dutch participation in the EMD phase is therefore a far-reaching
decision, since this establishes the Netherlands virtually on the subsequent purchase of the largely
still to develop JSF. ... merstukken

Although a Dutch vision of the government at that time, joining means buying, this could imply
this probably good be a same wise vision by other level partners?

Pulling out
Has there ever been a moment the Dutch threatened to pull out?
- No, no government has ever threatened to do so in all these years.
- All governments followed the same path, continuing and always have had the intention
to procure the F35

Good the Dutch take the risk spilling at least €1 billion by dropping out and not order the F35?
- By no means, they did invest too much money and would end what is left from their flying industry.
Therefore, the stakes for the Dutch are to high.

- Was it ever possible buying only one F35, in stead of two?
- No, it was not possible joining the IOT&E with only one F35.

Political parties against the F35
- The political debate comes to shove when decisions, for real, had/have to be made in the Netherlands
- For example; two main parties against the F35 voted for acquisition, last ordered f35 IOT&E.
- Production phase: voted for also by parties against

Contradiction: The main party against the F35 delivered the min. president, former years, who signed
the deal joining the JSF project.
A leaked document from this party showed they were in fact for joining the F35, before signing.

* Every rational and realistic party in the Netherlands knows, the debate itself is no more then
mend for voter purposes only and there is no real intention dropping out, or buying another aircraft.

If mr. Sweetman really thinks level partners really do have doubts about their choices,
or have been forced that much to join the F35 project by the US, he better does some research.

Does he really think the Dutch will ever buy another jet?
- Two F35 IOT&E has been ordered
- €4,5 billion will be put aside for ordering the F35.
- The Airforce is already preparing for the F35 (Infrastructure etc.)
- In 2012 pilots and maintenance personnel start their training
- Orders industry: €1 billion
- Production Phase has been started, when started it’s hardly possible to pull out.

Pulling out:
- This will cost at least €1 billion investments
- Economically: within a few years industry will be more or less dropped out of the F35 project.

Maintenance Valley;
The Dutch like to set up maintenance, Maintenance Valley, for F35 engines in Europe,
in cooperation with Norway (Italy) and hope to get this order.
(Italy will probably produce the Norwegian and Dutch F35’s)

* A better deal than the Dutch and Norwegians will have ever got in case of the Gripen or Rafale.
User avatar


Elite 2K

Elite 2K

  • Posts: 2885
  • Joined: 24 Oct 2008, 00:03
  • Location: Houston
  • Warnings: 2

Unread post04 Jun 2011, 18:48

When Bill mentions the F-35 in his articles, it is in passing for the A & C. It is evident that his great fear is the reality of the Harrier becoming a footnote in history as it is greatly surpassed by the development of the Marines F-35B! He hates the "Bee"! and blames it for all his perceived shortcomings of the program, (irrational). I enjoy reading his articles from a humor standpoint and the occaisional slip of information he contributes. :2c: :cheers:
User avatar


Elite 2K

Elite 2K

  • Posts: 2885
  • Joined: 24 Oct 2008, 00:03
  • Location: Houston
  • Warnings: 2

Unread post04 Jun 2011, 18:56

sferrin wrote:Bill...


Return to Program and politics

Who is online

Users browsing this forum: No registered users and 11 guests