How have your opinions of the JSF changed over the years?

Discuss the F-35 Lightning II
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battleshipagincourt

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Unread post10 Aug 2011, 15:41

Okay, I'm convinced that the F-35 is proving to be a remarkable fighter. Like so many, I looked at its meager mach 1.6 maximum speed, gawked at how such a heavy fighter could match an F-16's agility, and had a larger RCS than the F-22. Right off the back, it looks unimpressive for what I'd expect from a generation five fighter, especially compared to the F-22.

However after hearing the opinions of many pilots who've flown the F-35 (or been in simulators) and after comparing it to high-end fighters like the F-15, Typhoon, and Rafale... I've come to respect the Lightning II in many ways. It's clearly not intended as a stunt plane like the F-22 or the Su-35, but as a mission-oriented fighter. I am quite convinced of its value in a modern battlefield, especially in terms of performance and range with a warload, but I still remain skeptical of its viability as an affordable aircraft. As its upkeep and unit cost are expected to climb considerably higher than legacy fighters, this an opinion I'm not likely to alter unless something drastic should change within the program.

I'm just wondering if anyone else had similar changes of heart over the life of this program. I know that some are deeply biased towards the F-35 for the most absurd reasons, some who I believe share my skepticism on its affordability, as well as some who seem to embrace this fighter no matter how much the damned thing is expected to cost. How do you stand on the F-35 today, as compared to your initial expectations? How has its development and program management so far influenced your opinion?
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Unread post10 Aug 2011, 18:08

Back when I was first watching to NOVA special all I could think was "Lockheed had better win, that Boeing plane is ugly as sin." Lockheed won. Timelines slipped, costs increased, STOVL ability questioned...

I re-watched the special and noticed some things.
Boeing design changed because Navy altered requirements after the build started
Boeing tried a revolutionary wing building process, and when that failed they still had time to build it the old fashioned way
Boeing produced two test articles and had them flying before Lockheed had built one
Boeing removed all the panels during VTOL testing to simulate the REDUCED WEIGHT of the NAVY MANDATED REDESIGN.

The Lightning II is going to be the best overall warplane in the world when it makes IOC, but sometimes I think "maybe it SHOULD have gone to Boeing?"
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Unread post10 Aug 2011, 18:21

battleshipagincourt wrote:Okay, I'm convinced that the F-35 is proving to be a remarkable fighter. Like so many, I looked at its meager mach 1.6 maximum speed, gawked at how such a heavy fighter could match an F-16's agility, and had a larger RCS than the F-22. Right off the back, it looks unimpressive for what I'd expect from a generation five fighter, especially compared to the F-22.

However after hearing the opinions of many pilots who've flown the F-35 (or been in simulators) and after comparing it to high-end fighters like the F-15, Typhoon, and Rafale... I've come to respect the Lightning II in many ways. It's clearly not intended as a stunt plane like the F-22 or the Su-35, but as a mission-oriented fighter. I am quite convinced of its value in a modern battlefield, especially in terms of performance and range with a warload, but I still remain skeptical of its viability as an affordable aircraft. As its upkeep and unit cost are expected to climb considerably higher than legacy fighters, this an opinion I'm not likely to alter unless something drastic should change within the program.

I'm just wondering if anyone else had similar changes of heart over the life of this program. I know that some are deeply biased towards the F-35 for the most absurd reasons, some who I believe share my skepticism on its affordability, as well as some who seem to embrace this fighter no matter how much the damned thing is expected to cost. How do you stand on the F-35 today, as compared to your initial expectations? How has its development and program management so far influenced your opinion?


It's always frustrating to see growing pains, delays, and cost increases, but there are more than enough success stories, to maintain a positive outlook on the program. Most of the cost complaints, are due to a different metric being used, than for legacy aircraft(maintenance over 50yrs vs. 30yrs). When you compare legacy aircraft using the same metric, then the value becomes more apparent. The revolutionary capabilities are game changing though, and the synergy that they bring is far better than just slightly improved over current aircraft.

As for performance, it's important to note the distinction between the M1.6 speed given for the F-35, versus some of the higher speeds attributed to other aircraft. M1.6 is an real world combat speed(not the hypothetical top speed), that the F-35 can operate at, with 5000lbs of weapons. This is a significant improvement over legacy aircraft(i.e. the fastest an F-15 has ever flown in combat is M1.4)

Now add agility levels that are comparable/better than F-16s, F-18s, M2000s, Fulcrums/Flankers, etc... but with first look/shoot/kill and situational awareness advantages.

When all of these things are factored, much of the gloom and doom fades away, and a more realistic perspective remains.
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Unread post10 Aug 2011, 19:55

During the mid 90s when the concepts were starting to be released through contractor artist renderings, I thought they were all pulling a fast one on all of the outside observers by releasing planes that were all ugly ducklings.

Lockheed's design looked extremely conservative, and yet also looked pudgy.

Boeings design was so unappealing that I thought it had to be a joke to throw everyone off on their real design.

Northrop's design looked more like small single engined 5th gen stealth fighter *should* look like. But it still had its aesthic shortcomings, galore.

Then when the prototypes were released for the public consumption, I was floored by how much they actually resembled the artist illustrations, and I thought for sure that the DoD had on purpose dictated a plane that couldn't step on the toes of the F-22.

Now, as far as I can tell, the only thing missing from the F-35 is supercruise. If it were not for that one shortfall, then I'd sleep a little better at night knowing we didn't throw away what it was when we purchased the F-22. After all, each successive fighter should be better than the next, which I'm sure the F-35 is, except in terms of cruise speed.
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Unread post10 Aug 2011, 20:10

Quite frankly I think agility to overrated in any event. I tend to compare the F-35 with the F-22 when it comes to transitioning from one generation to the next, and I think the F-35 was deliberately set to put electronic warfare capabilities above performance. The F-22 was built to excel in both, but proved very expensive in any event. The F-35's performance isn't the greatest, but it's at least good enough to match most of its competitors... its electronic warfare capabilities are what they focused on, as that was the F-22's major innovation.

Unfortunately that added complexity and cost to every single airframe. Stealth was its key benefit, so adding all the other survival features was simply going over the top. They talked about building an affordable airframe for three services, yet they seemed to abandon that in favor of building something set to beat the F-22. And as a result, it's not likely to be any less expensive than its air superiority counterpart. Wasn't the NOVA figure of the JSF supposed to be around a third of an F-22?
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Unread post10 Aug 2011, 20:19

sewerrat wrote:Now, as far as I can tell, the only thing missing from the F-35 is supercruise. If it were not for that one shortfall, then I'd sleep a little better at night knowing we didn't throw away what it was when we purchased the F-22. After all, each successive fighter should be better than the next, which I'm sure the F-35 is, except in terms of cruise speed.


Certainly it would be a nifty feature, but unfortunately not a very useful one in most cases. The F-22's mission pretty much demanded supersonic cruise, whereas the F-35's multi-role function demanded something with range taking priority over maximum speed. Its acceleration is pretty decent regardless... mainly above the transonic region is where the F119 shows its luster.

Also I don't think they really put a high priority on performance, as the F-22 demonstrated its electronic capabilities almost rendered its other attributes pointless. Although thrust vectoring is pretty cool, you really don't need them for a high-speed air superiority fighter. Dogfighting has almost become a last measure in the last generation fighters, so they might as well abandon old tactics if they aren't needed... they make the airframe that much more expensive.
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Unread post10 Aug 2011, 22:53

[quote="battleshipagincourt]Dogfighting has almost become a last measure in the last generation fighters, so they might as well abandon old tactics ...[/quote]

The white silk scarf and the leather googles are rapidly fading from memory (less the "Air Shows) and with it the tactics that can't escape Mach 4+ speed and 12g+ turns. Even these incredible missle performance numbers are paling in comparison to the ranges and sensing techonolgies, not even including stealth. The F-22 is an incredible and awesome performing a/c but even it will have difficulty evading these evolving missle technologies.... and No, I'm not forgetting 'Nam and the gunless Phantom lesson.

The F-35 has a large bag of tricks to be developed and each one of those tricks will have to be cost effective or deleted from the program. I am anxiously awaiting the Admirals review for O&S and the debunking? (I hope) of the $Trillion and a modern cost matrix that will give the new owners sound numbers for purchase and budgets.

The F-35 is is our new "hunting dog" and see how "purty she is" but watch her bite.
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Unread post11 Aug 2011, 01:19

sprstdlyscottsmn wrote:Back when I was first watching to NOVA special all I could think was "Lockheed had better win, that Boeing plane is ugly as sin." Lockheed won. Timelines slipped, costs increased, STOVL ability questioned...

I re-watched the special and noticed some things.
Boeing design changed because Navy altered requirements after the build started
Boeing tried a revolutionary wing building process, and when that failed they still had time to build it the old fashioned way
Boeing produced two test articles and had them flying before Lockheed had built one
Boeing removed all the panels during VTOL testing to simulate the REDUCED WEIGHT of the NAVY MANDATED REDESIGN.

The Lightning II is going to be the best overall warplane in the world when it makes IOC, but sometimes I think "maybe it SHOULD have gone to Boeing?"


They took all the 'stuff' off the Boeing X-jet so it could demonstrate that it could hover -- it was too heavy.

Navy requirements (principally ship launch and recovery) drove the planform/layout changes between the X-jet and their unsuccessful contract proposal.
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Unread post11 Aug 2011, 01:39

Are all you guys working for Lockheed?

Never seen such a onside debate
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Unread post11 Aug 2011, 02:22

cynical175 wrote:Are all you guys working for Lockheed?

Never seen such a onside debate


I'm not, and certainly I've no love for the JSF. If people have their criticisms for the F-35, they're welcome to present whatever they wish. My primary concern is in regards to production and upkeep, otherwise I'm quite satisfied with the product we're giving our pilots.

If you've got something to debate, then you're welcome to add your input.
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Unread post11 Aug 2011, 03:02

Perhaps this 'upkeep' article has been missed from an earlier thread:

F-35 and Cost Effective Performance The Missing Element from the “Sustainment” Debate
By Dr. Robbin Laird | Aug/01/2011

http://www.sldinfo.com/f-35-and-cost-ef ... rformance/

Summary:
"There are several key elements of the game-changing approach to maintenance and sustainability literally built into the aircraft.

First, there is a common configuration for avionics and mission systems across the fleet. Rather than having to train and supply maintainers for multiple configurations of F-16s training and supply can focus on the common F-35A configuration. This is true of the other variants of the F-35 as well.

Second, the aircraft will provide real time operational data, which will allow maintenance to need rather than maintenance, based on paper determined schedules. The real time operational data will be used as well to determine parts reliability, which in turn can lead to improved design and production of parts, which is another cost reducer.

Third, rather than constantly rewriting and reprinting of manuals, digital systems resident in the computer can be upgraded in real time. Retraining of staff is reduced by the software upgrades in the maintenance systems and data upgrades. One can leverage software upgrades and use the computer’s capabilities rather than constant re-training of maintenance staff.

Fourth, parts ownership is local in the current system. There is a very difficult and arduous process to move parts from locale A to locale B as aircraft need parts. A global sustainability approach is inherent in the technology built into parts management in the F-35 program whereby transparency of parts can facilitate system ownership of parts rather than local ownership. This leads to reduce time to replace parts, which is another cost savings.

Fifth, the aircraft as a system, it is not simply a platform, provides for significant enhanced ops time versus training time. This means there are cost savings as measured in terms of real time on station for each platform. A classic example is the shift from the Harrier to the F-35B. The Harrier is a difficult plane to fly and requires significant requalification time for its pilots; much of this time is replaced by the ease of flight of the F-35B, which means more time on mission.

Sixth, significant savings come from how the mission systems are to be upgraded. Rather than a piece by piece upgrade and much time spent on aircraft reconfiguration, the missions systems architecture permits rapid swap out of new sensors and systems.

Seventh, the aircraft as a system has eliminated many parts that simply no longer need to be maintained. For example, with regard to hydraulic systems, 80% of the systems have been eliminated, and the use of actuators will facilitate the speed of maintaining what remains.

Eighth, the F-35 is the first field reparable stealth aircraft ever built. The advantages of stealth built into the aircraft will be sustainable in the field, and costly returns to the plant for touch labor repairs will be significantly reduced.

Not only will one gain significant savings from manpower touch labor time on the aircraft, but also the operational tempo will be enhanced. The result will be a significant shift in the use of manpower from rear touch labor support to tip of the spear operations.

All of this is bypassed by the trillion-dollar sustainability assertion. Reality may be harsh, but no need to make it harder by making up analytical numbers and using hypothetical 2065 costs as a basis for 2011 decisions. This reminds one of John Stuart Mill’s wonderful characterizations of Bentham’s philosophy: “Nonsense on Stilts.”
___________________

Beginning of article:
In the wake of the headlines about the trillion-dollar airplane, F-35 sustainment costs have been tossed into the political fray. According to a single line in an unreleased SAR report, the F-35 fleet is projected to cost more than a trillion dollars to operate over the span of the life of the entire fleet for more than 30 years.

Less amazing than the number is the assumption about the assumption – that it reflects anything remotely relevant to reality. But in the current political climate of financial populism, the F-35 has become the poster child of the desire of many to withdraw from global engagement or more to the point from the modernization of the power projection force.

The F-35 B has been put on probation rather than lionized as a system which doubles the number of capital ships available to the USN from the Gator navy. Rather than emphasizing how the F-35B and the newly enabled ARG provide strategic relevance to the Littoral Combat Ship, the Administration and the Congress pursue every platform fights alone strategy and highlights IOC costs of platforms versus their operation as a fleet and their synergy with the force.

It is particularly ironic that the sustainment costs of the F-35 have entered a policy debate, hitherto never informed by logistics or sustainment issues. The Afghan war is the logistics and sustainment war par excellence, and can any of the “new” experts on aircraft sustainment, tell us the cost per year of logs and sustainment in the far away to reach war?

This is clearly simply a new tactic to eviscerate Air Force, USN, and USMC modernization, rather than a serious debate. As Adam Hebert, Editor in Chief of Air Force Magazine has recently argued:

Take a deep breath, everybody. The trillion-dollar operation and maintenance cost everyone is hyperventilating about is hardly worth the paper it is printed on. It counts every possible cost to operate and modernize the F-35 during a 25-year production run, followed by a 30-year operational life. It represents a half-century’s worth of fuel, parts, upgrades, and even related construction costs.

This time horizon extends until 2065. What makes the estimate particularly worthless is that it is computed in “then-year” dollars—an estimate that measures cost not by 2011 standards, but by what they will cost in the year they are spent. This includes 55 years of inflation at the tail end of the computation, an enormous multiplier that is especially damaging because all of these costs are still, psychologically, perceived as 2011 dollars.

All one has to do is think about the references to what a gallon of gas or a loaf of bread cost in some long-past year to appreciate the effect of decades’ worth of inflation. Just as 2065 is 54 years in the future, 1957 is 54 years in the past. The iconic 1957 Chevrolet cost roughly $2,500 at the time, while the average paid for a new car today is more than $28,000. Decades of compound inflation do amazing things, and anyone who claims to know what inflation rates or fuel prices will be 25 and 50 years hence is a fool.

And one could add that the current obsession with projected life cycle costs rather than real analysis is also part of the problem. Trying to predict the costs of future parts and of fuel and other variables is difficult because precisely they are variables. Using such indicators confuse decision making; they do not inform it.

Closer at hand are ways to understand how new platforms provide ways for enhanced maintainability. New platforms are built with a significant amount of attention to how to enhance their ability to be maintained over time. When platforms were built thirty years ago, logistics support was an afterthought. No it is a core element of determining successful outcomes to the manufacturing process.

Additionally, one needs to buy Fleetwide. Savings will come from pooling resources, something that cannot happen if you buy a gaggle of aircraft, rather than operating a common fleet. Just ask Fed Ex what commonality for their fleet delivers in terms of performance and savings.

The F-35 is strong on both points. The plane has been designed to optimize maintainability and to reduce the amount of touch labor on the plane by at least 30%. And the fleet commonality will lead to significant ability to operate, deploy and sustain fleets of aircraft.

Recently retired head of Marine Corps Aviation General Trautman hammered the first point home.

Affordability is the balance of cost and capabilities required to accomplish assigned missions. For over a decade the Marine Corps has avoided the cost of new procurement during a time when the service lives of our legacy aircraft were sufficient to meet the missions assigned. However, in the near future, our investment in the capabilities of the F-35B will outweigh the unavoidable legacy aircraft operations and sustainment (O&S) cost increases we will incur with the F/A-18, AV-8B, and EA-6B.

The O&S costs of legacy aircraft across DoD have been increasing at an average rate of 7.8% per year since 2000. The operational lifetimes of legacy aircraft are being extended well beyond their original design limits. As a result, we have been continually engaged in a struggle to maintain operational readiness of our legacy aircraft due largely to the increasing age of the aircraft fleet. Early in an aircraft’s life cycle, the principal challenge is primarily attributed to the aging proprietary avionics systems upon which the user depends for warfighting relevance; later it is maintenance of the airframe and hardware components that are become the O&S cost drivers.

The Marine Corps strategy for the last eleven years has been to forego the procurement new variants of legacy aircraft and continuing a process of trying to sustain old designs that inherit the obsolescence and fatigue life issues of their predecessors. Instead, we opted to transition to a new 5th generation aircraft that takes advantage of technology improvements which generate substantial savings in ownership cost. The capabilities of the F-35B enable the Marine Corps to replace three legacy aircraft types and retain the capability of executing all our missions. This results in tangible O&S cost savings.

A common platform produces a common support and sustainment base. By necking down to one type of aircraft we eliminate a threefold redundancy in manpower, operating materiel, support services, training, maintenance competencies, technical systems management, tools, and aircraft upgrades. For example:

Direct military manpower will be reduced by 30%; approximately 340 officers and 2600 enlisted.
Within the Naval Aviation Enterprise we will reduce the technical management requirements the systems requiring support by 60%.
Peculiar Support Equipment will be reduced by 60%; down from 1,400 to 400 line items.
Simulators and training support systems will be reduced by 80%; five different training systems will neck down to one.
Electronic Attack WRA’s will be reduced by 40% and replaced with easier to support state of the art digital electronics.
The Performance Based Logistics construct will nearly eliminate macro and micro avionics repair, and intermediate propulsion support functions.
Airborne Armament Equipment (AAE) will be reduced by over 80% with the incorporation of a multi-use bomb rack.
Compared to historical parametrics we expect our overall O&S costs to decrease by 30%.
The key to enabling these reductions is to evolve our supportability concepts, processes and procedures instead of shackling ourselves to a support infrastructure built for legacy aircraft. We need to be innovative and ensure our sustainment posture keeps pace with technology advancements and global partnering synergies. Working together with industry, the Marine Corps is intently focused on the future as we seek innovative cost effective sustainment strategies that match the game changing operational capabilities resident in the F-35 Lightning II.

The impact of fleet operations was highlighted by retired General Cameron, now working on the F-35 program with Lockheed Martin. Cameron as a retired USAF general in charge of maintenance highlighted the fleet consequences of shifting form F-16s to F-35As for the USAF.

The real beauty of the F-35 program is the fact that you can look out across the entire fleet, all the international partners, all the domestic partners, and tell immediately if there are systemic fleet wide issues. The program can share assets to ensure a surge capability to wherever it’s needed and can share the robust supply chain that’s already established on the F-35 production line. Our experiences with the F-16 highlight another major advantage of the F-35 approach. The F-16 has been a highly successful program. However, configuration management has been a challenge because it has been handled at the individual service level. Therefore, there are roughly 130 configurations of the F-16. The operators, when prosecuting the air battle, have to know the precise configuration of each F-16 in order to know what capabilities it brings to the fight. The sustainment of the F-16 is even more challenging with spares not being interchangeable among F-16 variants. The F-35 is a common configuration so interoperability is the key in both operations and sustainment.

One could simply note that the views of such warfighters are simply bypassed in making wild assumptions about future life-cycle costs. An alternative approach would be to examine how the F-35 as manufactured leads to significant REDUCTIONS in touch labor time and to ENHANCED operational tempo which in turn lead to COMBINED reduction in maintenance costs with enhanced combat efficiencies."
http://www.sldinfo.com/wp-content/uploa ... -block.jpg
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Unread post11 Aug 2011, 04:24

Really? I can't help wondering how Lockheed Martin could possibly be having such budget delays and financial trouble with the JSF, given as it keeps hyping about the same cost-saving measures again and again and again... only to end up underselling and overpricing their brainchild. Added R&D erases all the cost savings that could have been had with buying F-22's. Higher unit upkeep costs estimated from most sources directly contrasting those of anyone directly associated with Lockheed Martin.

Yeah, I'm convinced.

So when exactly are these cost savings supposed to happen? After all the higher-than-expected units have been bought and Lockheed had since milked the F-35 for all they could get? It's quite unfortunate that customers lost interest in the F-22, because Lockheed Martin had already gotten everything they could out of that program... and the major program development problems had since been addressed.
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Unread post11 Aug 2011, 04:37

bsac said: "...It's quite unfortunate that customers lost interest in the F-22." Only one customer allowed by Congress AFAIK. USAF?
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Unread post11 Aug 2011, 04:55

Haven't really changed my original assessments, I must say. I recall posting on the old MSNBC msg boards back in 2001, upon first hearing of these 3,000 cheap F-35s being the future game plan, something along the lines of; 'omg... it will likely be a $billion dollar per unit fighter if/when it's canceled, but one of if not the most flawed acquisition Program in history.'

I will say I got a few dissenting replies from the earliest fan boys. :doh:
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Unread post11 Aug 2011, 05:14

Recent training news article outlines some more 'near future' savings: http://www.f-16.net/news_article4393.html

"...A student pilot at Eglin will receive approximately 200 hours of academics, 14 simulators, a high-speed taxi and six flights in the airplane before deemed qualified. Technological advances in virtual reality pilot and maintenance training is the biggest difference 33rd FW students will experience with the military's latest weapons system.

"I've got 80 hours in the simulator and only logged nine actual flying hours," Smith said. "That is a testament to how good the simulator is. Everything is digital...."
__________________________

Builder admits concerns over JSF's costs BY DAVID ELLERY 10 Aug, 2011

http://www.canberratimes.com.au/news/na ... 53592.aspx

"Claims it will cost a trillion dollars to maintain the United States' Joint Strike Fighter fleet over its lifetime are incorrect, a senior Lockheed Martin official said in Canberra yesterday.

F-35 program integration general manager Tom Burbage said if similar costings were applied to the existing US fighter fleet, the total would come to $4 trillion over the same period...."
Last edited by spazsinbad on 11 Aug 2011, 06:19, edited 1 time in total.
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