August 31, 2008 (by Eric L. Palmer) - Here is a variety of reading for the weekend to keep up on F-35 events.
F-35 STOVL test aircraft, BF-1 (Photo by Keith Robinson)
BF-1, the Short-Take-Off-Vertical-Landing (STOVL
) test aircraft is back up in the air after various fixes. One recent flight included opening the doors associated with the STOVL lift system. Also a take-off using the afterburner was performed. The STOVL variant isn’t expected to get a fully functional engine going until sometime next year. AA-1, the initial risk-reduction test aircraft should be back up in the air next week after repair to some of it’s cooling systems.
is reporting many things resulting from a recent interview with the U.S. Department of Defense F-35 program manager, USAF Major General Davis. General Davis explains more on what the new USAF boss, General Schwartz stated in a July confirmation hearing before the U.S. Senate: That the USAF wants to “double it’s F-35 orders from 48 to 110 per year”. Here of course General Schwartz was mixing the official with reality. USAF was originally on track to have 110 F-35s produced per year once full rate production started up around 2014. However back in 2006-7, after some cost climb in F-35 program, the USAF, combined with budget stress in other areas, stated that they would reduce their annual orders and stretch production out to the year 2035-37. This would mean that when full rate production started up, USAF would go for about 80 per year and adjust as necessary from that point. Not long after that, the USAF stated that with continued budget stress that they could only afford 48 F-35s per year unless more money was authorized.
Where will the money come from? Major General Davis explained that there will be an attempt to fund USAF back up to its original plan by using $5 billion in recapitalization money starting in FY 2010 to reach this goal. As there has been no official increase in the USAF budget, one has to wonder what other areas in the USAF will suffer to reach this goal.
General Davis also confirmed, as have many USAF Generals before him, that the F-35 is not a go-it-alone aircraft as Lockheed Martin is leading people to believe in their sales briefings. Quoting Inside Defence: “The general added that a Raptor will not be able to perform close-air-support missions over a crowded area, just as the Lightning II will not be able to fly "at 60,000 feet at 1.8 Mach with six missiles waiting for somebody to come."
This includes enhancing other legacy aircraft combat ability as shown already with the F-22. "It's really not so much can I do a mission that the F-22 can't do, they can do a mission the F-35 can't do, it's how you use this combined fleet to get the most effect out of the whole system," he said. "I can hook an F-35 up to some of the legacy F-15s and F-18s and everything, and I make everybody more effective -- not just the F-35, but the F-15 and the F-18. We share data, we know more about where the targets are, and because of all the sensors on the F-35 . . . I can make him more effective in that battle, so everybody wins if I can do that. We're trying to get away from this discussion about how one airplane can do one mission and the other airplane can do another mission; you have to think of it as a system, kind of an air battle management system all connected together."
That is a big difference from an LM PowerPoint F-35 sales brief of the kind for the 2008 Navy League gathering that states that the F-35 will be able to take on advanced threats with no help.
General Davis also states the obvious that the “savings” from having two engine vendors (Pratt & Whitney and GE/Rolls Royce) might not appear for a very long time. This includes the fact that over-all program costs will be pushed up to sustain the second engine. At least for the F-35, the requirement is to make the engines more plug-and-play to the airframe. The idea that two engine vendors would somehow produce savings for the F-16 program never happened as the F-16 had to be built differently for each engine vendor. This means that logistics for the F-16 gets more complex when you have GE
and PW powered jets in the same theater. No matter, having two engine vendors for the F-35 will increase overall logistics complexity. This is important as one of the big selling points of the F-35 is a lower logistics cost footprint.
The general was also asked about Israel
participation in the F-35 program. He states that Israel will probably sign up for an initial order of 25 aircraft next year with hopes for 100 over the long term. The program needs this to show a hard sign-up for buys. Why? Team JSF
partners are not all guaranteed to select the F-35 as their next fighter. If everyone doesn’t play along, costs will go up for the aircraft.
Why Israel? Answer: An easy source of money to put into the program at this critical stage of the sales effort. That money in part for a “sale” of the F-35 to Israel would come from U.S. taxpayer foreign military aid of which Israel receives billions of dollars per year. This effort is a bit more complex when you consider Israel hasn’t decided what kind of avionics and weapons to fit on the jet. It is doubtful that their F-35 will have “joint” commonality with any other user. The deal for Israel is needed to give an appearance to other potential customers, Team JSF or otherwise, that the F-35 is a hot setup and the time to buy is now.
- Bob Cox, Lighting II is back in the air, Fort Worth Star Telegram, August 28, 2008
- Graham Warwick, Pictures: STOVL F-35 Lights the Burner and Opens the Doors, Aviation Week Ares Blog, August 30, 2008
- Jason Simpson, GENERAL: DOUBLING PACE OF AIR FORCE JOINT STRIKE FIGHTER BUYS ‘DOABLE’, Inside Defense (Subscription), August 29, 2008
- Jason Simpson, JSF ENGINE COST ESTIMATES MAY SUFFER UNTIL COMPETITION SHOWS SAVINGS, Inside Defense (Subscription), August 29, 2008
- Jason Simpson, ISRAEL MOVING FORWARD TO BECOME NINTH JSF PROGRAM PARTNER NATION, Inside Defense (Subscription), August 29, 2008