Roper Hints NGAD Could Replace F-35; Why? Life-Cycle Costs

Program progress, politics, orders, and speculation
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hornetfinn

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Unread post10 Mar 2021, 08:35

F-35 basically combines (and improves) the best qualities and capabilities of F-15C/E (BVR capability, payload, range), F/A-18 (high AoA maneuverability, F-35C carrier capability), EA-18G (ESM/ELINT/EW capabilities), F-117 (stealth), F-16 (dimensions, maneuverability, acceleration), AV-8B (F-35B STOVL) and even F-22 (Situational Awareness, survivability). It also has unit cost about equal to 4+ gen fighters which offer a small subset of those same capabilties. I think it could have a lot higher (like several times higher) life-cycle costs than existing fighters and still be really good value for money. How many 4th gen aircraft and supporting assets you'd need to do what 4 F-35s can do? I'd say several times more, especially against high-end enemies. Even against low-end threats it has so much flexibility due to high payload, range, really great situational awareness and networking that it can do many missions effectively what previously only really dedicated systems could do.
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loke

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Unread post10 Mar 2021, 12:59

hornetfinn wrote:F-35 basically combines (and improves) the best qualities and capabilities of F-15C/E (BVR capability, payload, range), F/A-18 (high AoA maneuverability, F-35C carrier capability), EA-18G (ESM/ELINT/EW capabilities), F-117 (stealth), F-16 (dimensions, maneuverability, acceleration), AV-8B (F-35B STOVL) and even F-22 (Situational Awareness, survivability). It also has unit cost about equal to 4+ gen fighters which offer a small subset of those same capabilties. I think it could have a lot higher (like several times higher) life-cycle costs than existing fighters and still be really good value for money. How many 4th gen aircraft and supporting assets you'd need to do what 4 F-35s can do? I'd say several times more, especially against high-end enemies. Even against low-end threats it has so much flexibility due to high payload, range, really great situational awareness and networking that it can do many missions effectively what previously only really dedicated systems could do.

F-35 no doubt is the most capable and impressive fighter jet on the planet. The hypothetical question was if the project still could have benefitted by setting the bar a bit lower in the first launch version, and rather rely on frequent upgrades. I do not have access to the details of the program to be able to suggest what could have been delayed to later blocks, perhaps the SH could offer some hints, which was initially launched in a Block I config with "off-the-shelf" avionics. Clearly the airframe and engine are things that are difficult to upgrade, so they should be as they were.

If they had done that, perhaps the project would have experienced much less delays, and perhaps the first version of the F-35 could have reached Production much sooner. Keep in mind we are still in LRIP, after all these years...

Anyway, F-35 is from a capability point of view already a success -- now they just need to reduce the CPFH, to allow for more F-35 to be purchased on tight defence budgets. It is concerning that level 1 partner the UK are considering to buy only 48. Partner Italy has already reduced significantly their F-35 purchase, in spite of having an F-35 factory which generates high-income high-skill jobs, and in spite of the F-35A being much cheaper to purchase than e.g., the Typhoon.
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spazsinbad

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Unread post10 Mar 2021, 13:09

'loke' said above: "...Partner Italy has already reduced significantly their F-35 purchase, in spite of having an F-35 factory which generates high-income high-skill jobs, and in spite of the F-35A being much cheaper to purchase than e.g., the Typhoon."

These days Italy plans a 90 F-35 aircraft buy according to this 28 Oct 2020 report: viewtopic.php?f=58&t=24829&p=446136&hilit=rebounds#p446136

[The Italian 'factory' FACO assembles Dutch & other country F-35 bits also: https://www.dcma.mil/News/Article-View/ ... milestone/ ] ASLO: https://www.f35.com/f35/global-enterprise/italy.html
"FACO & MRO&U
The Aircraft Division operates the Final Assembly and Check-Out (FACO) line in Cameri, near Novara where Italian and Dutch F-35s are assembled. The Division also produces full wings for aircraft assembled in U.S., using composite and metal structures manufactured in Foggia and Nola plants (Aerostructures Division) and Venegono (Aircraft Division). U.S. Government selected Cameri’s plant as European Regional Heavy Airframe Maintenance, Repair, Overhaul & Upgrade (MRO&U) Center." https://www.leonardocompany.com/en/products/f-35-jsf


https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=I5I-R-d5lXM F-35 Lightning II for Italy: Global Supplier Team

Last edited by spazsinbad on 10 Mar 2021, 13:26, edited 1 time in total.
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loke

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Unread post10 Mar 2021, 13:25

Thanks, I missed the update on Italy moving forward, it seems they will get 30 F-35B + 60 F-35A. Good news for the program.

Italy will be the biggest F-35 operator in Europe.
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Unread post10 Mar 2021, 14:20

loke wrote:F-35 no doubt is the most capable and impressive fighter jet on the planet. The hypothetical question was if the project still could have benefitted by setting the bar a bit lower in the first launch version, and rather rely on frequent upgrades. I do not have access to the details of the program to be able to suggest what could have been delayed to later blocks, perhaps the SH could offer some hints, which was initially launched in a Block I config with "off-the-shelf" avionics. Clearly the airframe and engine are things that are difficult to upgrade, so they should be as they were.

If they had done that, perhaps the project would have experienced much less delays, and perhaps the first version of the F-35 could have reached Production much sooner. Keep in mind we are still in LRIP, after all these years...

Anyway, F-35 is from a capability point of view already a success -- now they just need to reduce the CPFH, to allow for more F-35 to be purchased on tight defence budgets. It is concerning that level 1 partner the UK are considering to buy only 48. Partner Italy has already reduced significantly their F-35 purchase, in spite of having an F-35 factory which generates high-income high-skill jobs, and in spite of the F-35A being much cheaper to purchase than e.g., the Typhoon.


I thought they were basically setting the bar a bit lower in the first launch version and rely on frequent upgrades? Like they went from Block 1A to 1B to 2A to 2B to 3i to 3F and will go to Block 4.1 to 4.2 etc. They have already also done couple of technology refreshes and will do those in the future as well.

Problem with off-the-shelf avionics is that F-35 was designed to use totally integrated avionics system and there were no off-the-shelf integrated avionics systems and components that support it available. They could've used legacy federated avionics system and components but that would've basically required to totally redesign and test the whole system twice and totally rebuild the earlier aircraft avionics systems. Some things like EO DAS and HMD system integration with it would've been very difficult and expensive to do with legacy avionics system. So they would've likely needed to design it with HUD first and then change to HMD. Federated avionics system and components would've also made sensor fusion system work very differently and would've needed to be done twice. Super Hornet Block 2 was much simpler upgrade than this would've been. It would definitely have had many complications in itself and would've not necessarily been any faster or simpler or cheaper to do. I'd say their approach was the pretty much the only reasonable way to do it. The whole avionics system is extremely ambitious and I'd say that delays have not been bad at all taking that into account.
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Unread post10 Mar 2021, 15:42

loke wrote:The hypothetical question was if the project still could have benefitted by setting the bar a bit lower in the first launch version, and rather rely on frequent upgrades.


Just to complement hornetfinn's excellent reply and like he said, the F-35 program already does this. Remember when Block 2B and 3i was only capable of deploying in terms of weaponry the AMRAAM, GBU-12 and GBU-31? And later with Block 3F this was expanded to being capable to also use the gun (both internal and external), AIM-9X, GBU-49, GBU-32, Paveway IV, JSOW-C1?

Moreover if you want to design, develop and build an aircraft which is planned to be operational and survivable until 2070 or so then you'll better set the bar to a very, very high level.

loke wrote: I do not have access to the details of the program to be able to suggest what could have been delayed to later blocks, perhaps the SH could offer some hints, which was initially launched in a Block I config with "off-the-shelf" avionics. Clearly the airframe and engine are things that are difficult to upgrade, so they should be as they were.


Also to complement what hornetfinn said, remember that the Super Hornet was clearly based on an existing aircraft, the legacy Hornet and as an example its main sensor the APG-79 radar was always planned from the start to be based on the existing APG-73 radar of the legacy Hornet. A clear indication of this is that the APG-79 was initially called AN/APG-73 RUG III. Another example was that the SH Block I carried the self-defense ASPJ jammer which is the same found on the Legacy Hornet and later with Block II this was updated/change to a more modern system.
In the case of the F-35 the airframe and the vast majority of avionics, sensors, etc... are totally and completely new.


loke wrote:If they had done that, perhaps the project would have experienced much less delays, and perhaps the first version of the F-35 could have reached Production much sooner. Keep in mind we are still in LRIP, after all these years...


The F-35 still being in LRIP is a 'technicality' since the F-35 current LRIPs basically manufactures more aircraft during the same timeframe (lets say a month or a year) than any other fighter aircraft currently in full production.


loke wrote:Anyway, F-35 is from a capability point of view already a success -- now they just need to reduce the CPFH, to allow for more F-35 to be purchased on tight defence budgets. It is concerning that level 1 partner the UK are considering to buy only 48. Partner Italy has already reduced significantly their F-35 purchase, in spite of having an F-35 factory which generates high-income high-skill jobs, and in spite of the F-35A being much cheaper to purchase than e.g., the Typhoon.


Like I already said in a past post here in this thread, nothing is set on stone regarding the UK. Actually and apparently the most likely plan seems to be that instead of making a full 138 order of F-35Bs, this same 138 order would be split between F-35Bs and F-35As, being the -As the majority.
But lets imagine that even this plan fails to go thru and the UK ends up reducing its F-35 order: In this case, this has nothing to do with the F-35 program and its costs but rather due to the current UK's situation regarding Brexit and poor economical situation which will potentially lead to the reduction military spending and on top of this the will to spend money developing new systems like for example the Tempest. Again, nothing related to the F-35. Actually, worse than this was Brazil's cutting a planned order of 120 Gripen E/F to only 36 :wink:
Regarding Italy, Spaz already replied.
“Active stealth” is what the ignorant nay sayers call ECM and pretend like it’s new.
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XanderCrews

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Unread post10 Mar 2021, 16:49

loke wrote:F-35 no doubt is the most capable and impressive fighter jet on the planet.


not sure if srs

The hypothetical question was if the project still could have benefitted by setting the bar a bit lower in the first launch version, and rather rely on frequent upgrades. I do not have access to the details of the program to be able to suggest what could have been delayed to later blocks, perhaps the SH could offer some hints, which was initially launched in a Block I config with "off-the-shelf" avionics. Clearly the airframe and engine are things that are difficult to upgrade, so they should be as they were.


Yeah, just grab all the "off the shelf" EODAS, EOTS, and AESAs off the F-16s there, and jam pack them into that nose along with all the other communications and sensors, and make sure to leave room for the canopy hinges and a HUD too there, good chap. Then start the certification and testing process, and once all that time energy and money is wasted, you can begin building the definitive F-35 we will actually use. it will be like starting on day 1 again and a complete redesign. refreshing.

F-35 did do blocks. F-35 does and continues to have "spiral development" People complained the entire time, and continue to complain.

Image

I've said it before, but one of the reasons the JSF/F-35 went the way that it did is that it was demanded to be that way based on lessons from the past. "everything we know says this is best way to do it" well, we did that. We did concurrency, we did block buys, we even did a JSF contest which the SH never had to be subjected to. We knew like SH, we were going to make a certain amount of "Block one" jets that were going to be not the real deal, but important to get out there and we can retrofit them (Or like lots of SH Block one, not retrofit and cast them to oddball units and taskings) this methodology was chosen because we have several very advanced technologies, from the 5th gen engine, to the female friendly ejection seat, to the helmet, and if we waited until everything was "perfect" it would never be done, and when it was finally time for production, we would be back at square one with the manufacturing curves.

Its not a matter of simply saying "why don't you do it like that other program?" often times they do, and the results don't come out the same. Every program is different, and for as much as everyone likes to blame LM, there was a lot of "customer" stupidity. The customer to this day is responsible for the majority of F-35 costs, but LM is being thrown under the bus. The Customer (Government) is complaining that the customers airplanes, flown and maintained by the customer for the customer using the customers purchased parts are too expensive, and its not the customers fault. Better still the customer, is saying the F-35A is somehow over the top expensive CPFH, while suggesting F-15EX which has a higher CPFH because F-15s have a higher CPFH being heavy twin engines.

Image


its a political scam. they're making $36,000 sound like its some insane amount, when these days its not even the most expensive comparatively, and you'll note they're just throwing that out there. Most people have no idea how expensive aviation is, and there's no frame of reference. our single engine helicopter was $10K an hour when contracted to the gov. most people think its about 100 dollars an hour, if they even think about it at all. "well what does the gas cost?" :doh:


If they had done that, perhaps the project would have experienced much less delays, and perhaps the first version of the F-35 could have reached Production much sooner. Keep in mind we are still in LRIP, after all these years...


Youre in "LRIP" after all these years because the administrative formalities of "Full Rate Production" can't be met do to poor government certification infrastructure, a global pandemic and other "Customer" read government screw ups. Believe me LM is ready to have that airplane in FRP $$$$. Even last year in the stupidity that was 2020 they still produced 123 airplanes in a single year. This isn't FRP? well its not because we are not calling it that. but 123 airplanes in a single year by any and all definitions is an extreme level of production, that any aircraft company would consider "full rate"

There's over 600 F-35s now and barely I think 200 Rafales. Rafale has been in production since 2001. Theres more F-35s than any other aircraft built post year 2000 I believe. More than SH, more than Tiffies, more than Rafale, more than all the Gripens of all variants combined. I think France builds like a whole 3 Rafales a month now, and theyre working on getting it up to 4. And I'm not exaggerating that.

so what the hell does "LRIP" even mean and what does it matter?

Anyway, F-35 is from a capability point of view already a success -- now they just need to reduce the CPFH, to allow for more F-35 to be purchased on tight defence budgets. It is concerning that level 1 partner the UK are considering to buy only 48. Partner Italy has already reduced significantly their F-35 purchase, in spite of having an F-35 factory which generates high-income high-skill jobs, and in spite of the F-35A being much cheaper to purchase than e.g., the Typhoon.


I can't stop the english from doing stupid things, not even they can stop themselves. Some of this goes beyond even F-35. Its a very convenient whipping boy of course, but the UK is looking to absolve itself of a navy so it can chase the dream of building next gen fighter. the hope is that after that falls on its face the F-35 will be in production and they can come running back
Last edited by XanderCrews on 10 Mar 2021, 18:05, edited 1 time in total.
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Unread post10 Mar 2021, 17:26

“...if we waited until everything was "perfect" it would never be done, and when it was finally time for production, we would be back at square one with the manufacturing curves.”

Yep, and which (as some have suggested in one form or another above) some parts of the acquisition bureaucracy would have been perfectly content to do.

A brand-new service chief gets the messaging wrong about his biggest acquisition program, and the all-but-dormant cicadas of criticism emerge and start buzzing. Not sure why some choose to sing along.
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Unread post10 Mar 2021, 17:32

I keep going back to requirements. In the USA (anyway), contractors work to the requirements that are baked into the contract. If it's not a requirement, they don't do it, because they won't get paid. Commercial enterprises are like that.

I'll throw some broad numbers out. I'll say that the JSF program could have been done cheaper. By half. But for the requirements. Not the stelph & STOVL, those were bedrock requirements. No, the requirements that resulted in a phenomenal pack-hunting velociraptor because of it's networked situational awareness. In short, the avionics that were demanded by the program requirements. All the operators (i.e. the pilots) rave about the situational awareness. Oh - yeah, it accelerates like a Hornet with four motors. Oh - yeah, it pirouettes like a Bug. Oh - yeah, it hangs with a Block 50 Viper (clean). BUT LET ME TELL YOU ABOUT THE SA!!!! WOW!

I do not know the entire history of the JSF program in detail. Well, I know of what Dr. Bevilaqua wrote up to the X-35 vs X-32 flyoff. But I do not know a whole lot about what happened after contract award esp. vis-a-vis the avionics requirements. Now, Dr. Bevilaqua himself has stated the thought too much "stuff" was added to the X-35. And I appreciate his opinion. BUT, that stuff -- integrated EOTS, DAS/EODAS, EW, panoramic display, HMS -- and all the software and sensor fusion that went into it -- all that stuff is what transformed, IMO, the F-35 from being a 4-to-1 or 8-to-1 transformative, next-gen fighter to this 20-1 or 30-0 velociraptor.

If the requirements had been such that the X-35, with the original 2x1000lb internal bomb requirement, just needed to be tweaked for production, with an AESA radar, a conventional HUD combined with the standard helmet mounted cueing system of the day, a built-in EOTS (i.e. electro-optic with integrated thermal & laser designator), and a basic self-defense EW jamming package (i.e. an F/A-18E type avionics with an AESA), the F-35 prolly would have been IOC 5-10 years earlier and cost a lot less, and maintenance would be a LOT less. I bet the CPFH of the F-35 would be down around an F/A-18E by now (maybe less), and possibly approaching an F-16V. But you may only have been seeing 4-to-1 or 8-to-1 exchange ratio in Red Flag. A lot of Blue Force jets would be getting shot down in Red Flag because that kid fresh out of flight school wasn't able to say "Hey dude, you need to go a different direction, cuz you're about to get smoked by a bandit" to a 5000 hour Viper vet.

Somewhere, someone was either sold a bill of goods, or got the bright idea, "Hey, wouldn't it be neat if we could... merge the data from all sensors -- from the radar and the passive EO?" Someone else said, hey, if we did that, we could automatically task the laser to get you a range on that bandit. Then someone else said, and if we automatically spread all this data to his wingman via a Low Probability of Intercept (LPI) radio link... and she was interrupted -- "forget wingman, let's spread it to all the aircraft that are up in the package!"

Then someone in the corner spoke up, "Excuse me... that's all great... but maintenance costs are going to be through the roof with all these integrated computers." To which another person piped up, "BUT... if we incorporate fault tolerant computing with integrated self-test, and tie it all together with software on the ground to track all the hardware and predict failures -- like they're doing in the airlines -- we could actually bend that cost curve down." Then some numbnutz engineer who plays a lot of Scrabble said, "We could call it ALIS -- Automatic Logistics Integrated System!"

And it all got written into the requirements. And the customer saw that it was good. And was happy.
Take an F-16, stir in A-7, dollop of F-117, gob of F-22, dash of F/A-18, sprinkle with AV-8B, stir well + bake. Whaddya get? F-35.
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Unread post10 Mar 2021, 17:54

In summary:

Somewhere along the way, the decision was made to go with an integrated avionics system vs a conventional federated avionics system. A conventional, federated avionics X-35, carrying two 1000lb bombs internally, would have been a lot cheaper, but you wouldn't have the velociraptor you have today. It might be really close to the F-16 in CPFH by now. But you wouldn't be seeing the obscene kill ratios at Red Flags put up by Panthers.

But with integrated avionics entirely new frontiers became possible -- sensor fusion, seemless sharing of sensor data, VLO signature management etc. Rather than implement the integrated avionics with a more basic set of operations, either requirements creep set in, or someone got greedy and went a bridge too (electronically). In the end, the contractors got it right, but perhaps smaller block bites would have been better.
Take an F-16, stir in A-7, dollop of F-117, gob of F-22, dash of F/A-18, sprinkle with AV-8B, stir well + bake. Whaddya get? F-35.
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Unread post10 Mar 2021, 19:17

steve2267 wrote:I keep going back to requirements. In the USA (anyway), contractors work to the requirements that are baked into the contract. If it's not a requirement, they don't do it, because they won't get paid. Commercial enterprises are like that.

I'll throw some broad numbers out. I'll say that the JSF program could have been done cheaper. By half. But for the requirements. Not the stelph & STOVL, those were bedrock requirements. No, the requirements that resulted in a phenomenal pack-hunting velociraptor because of it's networked situational awareness. In short, the avionics that were demanded by the program requirements. All the operators (i.e. the pilots) rave about the situational awareness. Oh - yeah, it accelerates like a Hornet with four motors. Oh - yeah, it pirouettes like a Bug. Oh - yeah, it hangs with a Block 50 Viper (clean). BUT LET ME TELL YOU ABOUT THE SA!!!! WOW!

I do not know the entire history of the JSF program in detail. Well, I know of what Dr. Bevilaqua wrote up to the X-35 vs X-32 flyoff. But I do not know a whole lot about what happened after contract award esp. vis-a-vis the avionics requirements. Now, Dr. Bevilaqua himself has stated the thought too much "stuff" was added to the X-35. And I appreciate his opinion. BUT, that stuff -- integrated EOTS, DAS/EODAS, EW, panoramic display, HMS -- and all the software and sensor fusion that went into it -- all that stuff is what transformed, IMO, the F-35 from being a 4-to-1 or 8-to-1 transformative, next-gen fighter to this 20-1 or 30-0 velociraptor.

If the requirements had been such that the X-35, with the original 2x1000lb internal bomb requirement, just needed to be tweaked for production, with an AESA radar, a conventional HUD combined with the standard helmet mounted cueing system of the day, a built-in EOTS (i.e. electro-optic with integrated thermal & laser designator), and a basic self-defense EW jamming package (i.e. an F/A-18E type avionics with an AESA), the F-35 prolly would have been IOC 5-10 years earlier and cost a lot less, and maintenance would be a LOT less. I bet the CPFH of the F-35 would be down around an F/A-18E by now (maybe less), and possibly approaching an F-16V. But you may only have been seeing 4-to-1 or 8-to-1 exchange ratio in Red Flag. A lot of Blue Force jets would be getting shot down in Red Flag because that kid fresh out of flight school wasn't able to say "Hey dude, you need to go a different direction, cuz you're about to get smoked by a bandit" to a 5000 hour Viper vet.

Somewhere, someone was either sold a bill of goods, or got the bright idea, "Hey, wouldn't it be neat if we could... merge the data from all sensors -- from the radar and the passive EO?" Someone else said, hey, if we did that, we could automatically task the laser to get you a range on that bandit. Then someone else said, and if we automatically spread all this data to his wingman via a Low Probability of Intercept (LPI) radio link... and she was interrupted -- "forget wingman, let's spread it to all the aircraft that are up in the package!"

Then someone in the corner spoke up, "Excuse me... that's all great... but maintenance costs are going to be through the roof with all these integrated computers." To which another person piped up, "BUT... if we incorporate fault tolerant computing with integrated self-test, and tie it all together with software on the ground to track all the hardware and predict failures -- like they're doing in the airlines -- we could actually bend that cost curve down." Then some numbnutz engineer who plays a lot of Scrabble said, "We could call it ALIS -- Automatic Logistics Integrated System!"

And it all got written into the requirements. And the customer saw that it was good. And was happy.


Right and I'll pass on some comments, without breaking things up line by line like I usually do.

theres a lot of really basic stuff that could have made JSF easier and cheaper, there was a lot of "own goals" and ramping up the difficulty and just plain mistakes. A lot of the problems with JSF/F-35 are political/government/beauracratic in nature. I'll give some examples

X-32 vs X-35. As far as LM was concerned --and Bevilaqua made this clear --was that the STOVL lift system that was a "deal breaker" and the crux of the entire competition, was good to go from the start and the battle of the X-planes should have never happened. LM should have been sole sourced. But Boeing threw a fit and pulled every political string to ensure there was a competition, arguing that theres only one successful STOVL airplanein the world, and it uses Direct lift and is now made by "Boeing" AKA MCAIR. AKA Boeing. now of course X-32 ends being an absolute joke in terms of STOVL, and the STOVL lift system in X-35 F-35 has been nothing short of remarkable in terms of success vs risk, and problems. The biggest show stopper of the entire JSF endeavor ended up being rock solid. So Boeing wasted a lot of time and effort and money competing a joke of a "rival"

The F-35 as an "air Vehicle" as in imagine an airplane and an engine, and not the brains and sensosrs that make it a warplane, has been very solid. It pulled 9.9G and hit Mach 1.66 back in 2011. There was the engine rub issue, there was premature cracking here and there and modifications that most aircraft have to go through. But the post-SWAT F-35 as an aircraft has been remarkable for a progam most people thought was "impossible" We don't have it crashing and killing people like the V-22, its not suffering flight software problems like F-20 and Gripen did initally. Its not "lawn darting' like F-16. Not bad for an "impossible" airplane

NAVAIR supplied the wrong tailhook info that affected F-35C, and X-47. I don't think even vaunted 2021 design AI would have fixed this, because again bad numbers bring bad builds. This is an example of an "oh s**t" that just makes you bang your head against the wall. its a costly mistake, but its not an engineering flaw. They built something on government furnished info that turned out to be wrong. not LMs fault but like a good contractor LM was polite enough not to mention it.

The 2k Bomb bay thing has been covered, It made life tougher. We could do without it probably, the good news is the bay is bigger now, future weaponers will be happier to have more space to fill.

ALIS is not a bad idea. its taking from the civilian airline industry that has had great success with such systems. most of the people who complain about ALIS have no idea how it even compares to previous systems, computers, and methodologies the military uses now. They just know it sucks. but can't even tell you how its done on F-18s now, or how it differs from the way its done on F-16s. The Military was completely right to "reach" for a better way of doing things. Moreover, since ALIS sucks and doesn't work, the Military has been working around it anyway.

As you point out, more computers and sensors were added, beyond what was ever really first set out. only 1 in 3 F-35s was supposed to have EOTS, but that changed as ISR lessons via the war on terror took off.


A Rand study found that 50 percent of modern costs are engines and avionics, and I am very inclined to believe this. Those are 2 aspects as to "where the money is made" and if one looks at gripen E, theyll note Saab outsourced both. So a fighter company that takes pride on low costs reached to outside areas for the 2 most expensive aspects of fighter design. not a coincidence.

The original construction concept changed post SWAT to a more conventional style. The big Wing joint Idea(sorry I can't find a picture) was abandoned and a more conventional structure that goes from wing tip to wing tip was used. this added costs, but saved weight. SWAT I think was resolved in less than 2 years and produced the definitive vehicle. The Lift Fan has been a god send in terms of reliability. the physical part of this airplane, has been very very good under normal circumstance and phenomenal in terms of the "impossible" design goals.

If AI and next gen engineering software is the golden bullet people think it is, someone needs to tell Boeing they should maybe consider using it. 737Max and and now 777X (which is now suffering delays that will last more years) could probably use some of these engineering silver bullets. KC-46? No? oh well I guess. someday.

I can go on, and I still might. but the problem is basically this: the engineering is not really the issue with these airplanes. the Engineering is relatively easy and even an "impossible" airplane like the F-35 has done very well. The STOVL lift fan had fewer hick ups than the tailhook. Did anyone predict that? Who had bets on the F-35A being the first variant to suffer a loss? I know I didn't. I thought the B was going to be like osprey 2.0 and fight and kick and scream and probably kill a few people before it settled into reliability. I was wrong.

F-35 program is massive. its going to stand out. the sheer scale means that delays and overruns are also massive. Moreover it essentially monopolized the fighter biz. Which means that every fighter maker has big financial incentive to knock it off the top of the mountain. now who "wins" from there is a secondary concern, but they know that nobody can win unless its gone. so they work to make it gone, and they have lots of help.

The USAF thinks it has some gold ticket, I assure you it doesn't. there's no amount of engineering that stops politics, unpredictability, dumb mistakes, testing issues, buearacrats (Xander, you should learn to spell that correctly someday. No, theyve wasted enough of my life), funding problems, requirements changes midstream, risky scary risk of risk, rivalry, bad press, etc. its not an airplane problem, its a system problem. until you fix the sytem problem the airplane problem will barely move the needle one way or the other. In some ways the hyper fast building may cause problems "wow thats neato kid! what happens when we have the computer draw it up to carry a 5,000 lb hypersonic?"

oh no sir... why...

If you look at Gripen NG/E program its rife with missed opportunities, long development times, cost and weight escalation, and this is supposed to be a "safe" follow-on design as done by one of the best in the world (many consider it THE best). Sweden delayed their order for years. So Saab had to wait for a co-developer which was finally the Swiss in 2011 after the program started offcially in 2006. Swiss drop out, but Brazil signs on in 2014, Then Sweden asked to extend the timeline out. They hope to have it fully operationally capable in 2026/7 it still has years of testing and F model is a couple years out as well. The program is not "delayed" its just very delayed at the request of the customer.

Remember this is the "good company" with the "Safe" design.
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luke_sandoz

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Unread post10 Mar 2021, 19:45

hornetfinn wrote:F-35 basically combines (and improves) the best qualities and capabilities of F-15C/E (BVR capability, payload, range), F/A-18 (high AoA maneuverability, F-35C carrier capability), EA-18G (ESM/ELINT/EW capabilities), F-117 (stealth), F-16 (dimensions, maneuverability, acceleration), AV-8B (F-35B STOVL) and even F-22 (Situational Awareness, survivability). It also has unit cost about equal to 4+ gen fighters which offer a small subset of those same capabilties. I think it could have a lot higher (like several times higher) life-cycle costs than existing fighters and still be really good value for money. How many 4th gen aircraft and supporting assets you'd need to do what 4 F-35s can do? I'd say several times more, especially against high-end enemies. Even against low-end threats it has so much flexibility due to high payload, range, really great situational awareness and networking that it can do many missions effectively what previously only really dedicated systems could do.



For example .
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steve2267

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Unread post11 Mar 2021, 00:08

Numbers are nice. People lie. Numbers don't. (Not by themselves.) People lie about numbers, people lie with numbers, people mislead with numbers etc. But when all the numbers are referencing the same thing, and are "developed" using the same rules, numbers tend to make for a level playing field.

Once upon a time, someone had dug out some budgetary numbers by the US Fed Gov to look at costs. I think I re-found those same numbers or documents. While I am unsure these are official CPFH, they are the dollars someone gets re-imbursed if their equipment does something for someone else. As such, that seems pretty damn level.

I do not have time to create a spreadsheet presently, but post the links where I found these docs, and attach the PDFs for posterity sake:

Under Secretary of Defense (Comptroller)
Fixed Wing and Helicopter Reimbursement Rates (Tabs B and C)
Department of Defense FY 2016 Reimbursable Rates
Department of Defense FY 2017 Reimbursable Rates
Department of Defense FY 2018 Reimbursable Rates
Department of Defense FY 2019 Reimbursable Rates
Department of Defense FY 2020 Reimbursable Rates

Considering just the 1st column, Other DoD Component User Rates, of these PDF's, which are attached below, found by clicking on the Fixed Wing and Helicopter Reimbursement Rates links at each web page, I draw the following preliminary conclusions:

  1. F-35 reimbursable costs per flight hour have been on a steady decline the past few years
  2. In 2020, the F-35A, @ $17K/hr, cost less per flight hour than the F-15C,D,E (@ $17.4K/hr - $22.4K/hr)
  3. In 2020, the F-35B, @ $16.K/hr, was only about $3K per hour more expensive than the AV-8B @ $14K/hr (remarkable!)
  4. In 2020, the F-35C, @ $13K.1K/hr, was in between the cost of the F/A-18E (@ $12.9K) and F/A-18F (@ $13.7K). (Boing would seem to have a real problem in Finland.)
  5. The F-22A has gone up in cost the past few years and was over $40K per hour in 2020
  6. The F-16C/D is around $9K per hour (2020)
  7. as airframes get old, costs start going up (2020 costs):
    • Navy F-16A,B cost about $15.8K per hour (compare to USAF F-16C/D)
    • Navy F/A-18C,D cost about $18K per hour (more than the Panther!) -- compare to the Super Duper

From where did those figures, recently bandied about in the press, come? I seem to recall CPFH numbers anywhere from $33k to $36k.

These reimbursable flight hours costs must not be true CPFH... because the F-35 is already below $25K/hr in these documents!

In any event, these numbers should be able to provide comparable cost ratios between different aircraft, and show annual trends of the different types.
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Department of Defense FY 2016 Reimbursable Rates, Fixed Wing and Helicopter Reimbursement Rates (Tabs F and H)
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Department of Defense FY 2017 Reimbursable Rates, Fixed Wing and Helicopter Reimbursement Rates (Tabs F and H)
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Department of Defense FY 2018 Reimbursable Rates, Fixed Wing and Helicopter Reimbursement Rates (Tabs B and C)
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2019_b_c.pdf
Department of Defense FY 2019 Reimbursable Rates, Fixed Wing and Helicopter Reimbursement Rates (Tabs B and C)
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2020_b_c.pdf
Department of Defense FY 2020 Reimbursable Rates, Fixed Wing and Helicopter Reimbursement Rates (Tabs B and C)
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Take an F-16, stir in A-7, dollop of F-117, gob of F-22, dash of F/A-18, sprinkle with AV-8B, stir well + bake. Whaddya get? F-35.
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Unread post11 Mar 2021, 02:27

Also, what about all of the support aircraft needed for 4th Generation Fighters. What about that......... :wink:
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Unread post11 Mar 2021, 03:15

Corsair1963 wrote:Also, what about all of the support aircraft needed for 4th Generation Fighters. What about that......... :wink:



This is kind of what the Marines figured out. The cost savings from having just one type of fighter has saved gobs of money in and of itself with logisitics, support, personnel costs. the CPFH cost is a drop in the bucket compared to the amount of money saved.

One thing the Marines did to try and showcase the Osprey's difference between the -46 was to create a new metric that was like passenger per mile:

Pentagon records that tally the V-22 engines' service life at just over 200 hours in Afghanistan. The military estimated that figure to be 500 to 600 hours. The shortfall has more than doubled the cost per flying hour to over $10,000, compared with about $4600 per hour for the tandem-rotor CH-46 Sea Knight the Osprey was designed to replace, he said.

But those figures fail to account for the Osprey's speed and size. Whittle points to an internal Marine Corps analysis that crunches the numbers by passenger seats—12 for the Sea Knight at a cost of $3.17 per seat per mile versus $1.76 for the 24-seat Osprey.


Image

now I don't what the magic new metrics could be, but it would be worth sussing out. Some people cried foul that the USMC had created a new metric to "cover up" the expense of the MV-22, but the simple reality is that there needed to be a way to show that initially high cost saved money in the long run via performance. An osprey could do what would take a -46 4 trips and 2 helicopters to do, which also meant double the crew cost, and for pilots that's significant. Personnel costs are one of the biggest expenses across the globe for all militaries.

Image

Theres money to be saved out there. Canada for example would train in the US and wouldn't need to maintain an OCU squadron, which is very big savings... plus the training base is in AZ for all you snowbirds. Arizona Women are hot, but not Canadian hot. We had a Marine det come back from Canada and they all married way about their league. Canadian gals that looked like super models. It was ridiculous.
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