Navy: F-35C Will Be Eyes and Ears of the Fleet

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Corsair1963

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Unread post04 Jan 2022, 06:26

750 F-35s Now Delivered, Navy To Put Some Of Its Oldest Test Models Into Storage

The F-35 program has hit a major production milestone as primary test efforts are finally spinning down.
By Joseph Trevithick January 3, 2022

The U.S. Navy is looking for a contractor to help put three early F-35 Joint Strike Fighters, two B models and C variant, which are no longer needed for flight testing purposes, into storage. This decision reflects the progress that has been finally made in moving the F-35 program out of its long-troubled testing phases. There is hope that this year the Pentagon may finally approve formal full-rate production of the jets, more than 750 of which have been delivered to customers around the world to date.

The Naval Air Systems Command's (NAVAIR) Naval Air Warfare Center Aircraft Division (NAWCAD), which is headquartered at Naval Air Station Patuxent River in Maryland, first revealed it was looking to put the F-35s in question into long-term storage in a contracting notice it posted online on Dec. 30, 2021. The three jets are presently at Patuxent River.

At least 19 F-35s of various models, including a number of non-flying ground test articles, were built specifically for testing purposes as part of the SDD phase of the program. Lockheed Martin won its first Systems Development and Design (SDD) contract in 2001 and this phase is still technically ongoing. In 2018, the program did conclude developmental flight testing, transitioning to operational testing and evaluation.

"With the conclusion of the Systems Development and Design (SDD) portion of the F-35 flight test program, three of NAS Patuxent River F-35 Integrated Test Force (ITF) flight science aircraft (x1 F-35C and x2 F-35B) are no longer required to gather flight test data," the notice explains. "Therefore, it has been determined at the F-35 Joint Program Office (JPO) that these aircraft will be preserved via a preservation/protection system (i.e. shrink wrap) and transported elsewhere for other uses at a later date."

Though referred to colloquially as 'shrink wrapping,' the preservation process actually involves the application of a more complex set of coverings in order "to keep the jets in its [sic] original state to keep the jets from damage due to the installation/removal of the preservation system, weather, moisture, and corrosion." This is particularly important for storing stealthy aircraft like the F-35, the radar-absorbent skins of which are made of materials that are notoriously sensitive to environmental conditions.

Whichever contractor NAWCAD ultimately hires to do this work, which it hopes will be done between the beginning and the end of March of this year, will need to configure the jets in such a way that they can be craned onto trucks for movement to the designated storage site. The contracting notice does not state where that site might be, but does say that it be "elsewhere" in relation to Patuxent River.

NAWCAD's contracting notice also defines "long-term storage" by saying that "the jets will be stored outside in the sun and weather for up to five (5) years." It's not clear whether or not that means the expectation at present is that the jets will only be in storage for five years or less and there are no indications about what the Navy's plans might be for the aircraft after that point. The contracting notice does mention the possibility of "other uses at a later date" for these planes.

How useful F-35 flight science aircraft might be for future testing of any kind is unclear. The Joint Strike Fighter was developed using a process known as "concurrency," meaning that aircraft were built with the understanding that there would be a need to integrate various fixes and modifications onto early jets as the SDD phase progressed. This was initially presented as a cost-saving concept, wherein production could be ramped up early on in the development process, but has led to cost increases and schedule delays that are likely to persist for at least some years to come still.

In addition, this means that early jets are significantly different on many levels, even in their basic structure, from aircraft in later production lots. For instance, the differences are so significant that the Air Force is considering not upgrading entire batches of early production F-35As to the current standard configuration due to the costs involved. The F-35 JPO also canceled a third round of structural testing relating to the F-35B after determining the relevant "test article to no longer be representative of the wing-carry-through structure in production aircraft," according to the most recent annual report on the Joint Strike Fighter from the Pentagon's Office of the Director of Operational Test and Evaluation. Beyond all this, test aircraft typically have specific systems and associated wiring, among other things, giving them distinct weights and performance specifications compared to production examples in any configuration.

It is possible that the Navy or the F-35 JPO, or some other branch of the U.S. military or other government agency, such as NASA, might have some interest in using these early F-35s for other kinds of testing in the future, including destructive testing on the ground, or for use as training aids. The War Zone has reached out to NAWCAD for more detailed information about its current plans for the jets.

No matter what, the Navy's lack of immediate need for these three flight sciences F-35s does highlight the program's progress toward finally bringing the SDD phase to a close after more than two decades. The F-35 JPO still needs examples of the F-35A, B, and C to at least pass various tests in an advanced simulated training environment, scheduled to take place this year, before the Pentagon will give manufacturer Lockheed Martin formal approval to begin full-rate production of these aircraft. The full-rate production decision should coincide with the end of operational testing and evaluation, which will mark the official end of the SDD phase, according to Lockheed Martin. In 2009, before the Pentagon decided to "re-baseline" the entire program due to cost overruns and delays, the expectation was that this milestone would come in 2013.

https://www.thedrive.com/the-war-zone/4 ... to-storage
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Unread post04 Jan 2022, 07:18

JEEPERS who'da thunk the F-35s were so delicate despite all evidence to the contrary both by quotes & actual usage:
"...Though referred to colloquially as 'shrink wrapping,' the preservation process actually involves the application of a more complex set of coverings in order "to keep the jets in its [sic] original state to keep the jets from damage due to the installation/removal of the preservation system, weather, moisture, and corrosion." This is particularly important for storing stealthy aircraft like the F-35, the radar-absorbent skins of which are made of materials that are notoriously sensitive to environmental conditions...." [wot a whacker - mebbe applies to F-22 - shithead needs edumucation]]
A4G Skyhawk: www.faaaa.asn.au/spazsinbad-a4g/ & www.youtube.com/channel/UCwqC_s6gcCVvG7NOge3qfAQ/videos?view_as=subscriber
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Unread post04 Jan 2022, 10:43

Corsair1963 wrote:How useful F-35 flight science aircraft might be for future testing of any kind is unclear. The Joint Strike Fighter was developed using a process known as "concurrency," meaning that aircraft were built with the understanding that there would be a need to integrate various fixes and modifications onto early jets as the SDD phase progressed. This was initially presented as a cost-saving concept, wherein production could be ramped up early on in the development process, but has led to cost increases and schedule delays that are likely to persist for at least some years to come still.


Yes it was developed using that kind of process, although I'm not at all convinced that not doing so would have had any better results when it comes to delays or costs. I think many of the deficiensies and issues have been found in actual everyday life in different conditions and environments and not in testing. It's very difficult, time-consuming and expensive to try to find every deficiency and issue through testing. Besides concurrency has been used in almost every fighter program to date because of this and many issues and deficiensies have been fixed afterwards. But earlier this was not part of the original plan but just a fact of life. Flying hundreds of aircraft for hundreds of thousands of hours, maintaining and supporting them is best possible testing. How do you replicate that in testing with a handful of aircraft?

My opinion is that without concurrency they'd still be flying test aircraft only with LRIP only starting now. F-35 first IOC would be in 2025 or so. Active squadrons would still be flying F-16s, F-15s, F/A-18s and Harriers for years. That would surely be good for schedule and costs... :roll:
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Unread post05 Jan 2022, 01:29

hornetfinn wrote:
Corsair1963 wrote:How useful F-35 flight science aircraft might be for future testing of any kind is unclear. The Joint Strike Fighter was developed using a process known as "concurrency," meaning that aircraft were built with the understanding that there would be a need to integrate various fixes and modifications onto early jets as the SDD phase progressed. This was initially presented as a cost-saving concept, wherein production could be ramped up early on in the development process, but has led to cost increases and schedule delays that are likely to persist for at least some years to come still.


Yes it was developed using that kind of process, although I'm not at all convinced that not doing so would have had any better results when it comes to delays or costs. I think many of the deficiensies and issues have been found in actual everyday life in different conditions and environments and not in testing. It's very difficult, time-consuming and expensive to try to find every deficiency and issue through testing. Besides concurrency has been used in almost every fighter program to date because of this and many issues and deficiensies have been fixed afterwards. But earlier this was not part of the original plan but just a fact of life. Flying hundreds of aircraft for hundreds of thousands of hours, maintaining and supporting them is best possible testing. How do you replicate that in testing with a handful of aircraft?

My opinion is that without concurrency they'd still be flying test aircraft only with LRIP only starting now. F-35 first IOC would be in 2025 or so. Active squadrons would still be flying F-16s, F-15s, F/A-18s and Harriers for years. That would surely be good for schedule and costs... :roll:



Yes, with concurrency the US Military and Allies got the F-35 early, and while the initial costs were high. The price is coming down nicely.....

So maybe it wasn't such a bad plan after all? :|
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Unread post05 Jan 2022, 09:40

Corsair1963 wrote:Yes, with concurrency the US Military and Allies got the F-35 early, and while the initial costs were high. The price is coming down nicely.....

So maybe it wasn't such a bad plan after all? :|


Totally agree with that. Here an excellent writing about concurrency:
https://sldinfo.com/2012/05/f-16s-set-example-of-concurrent-development/

This fast production was based on several important decision criteria. First, there was confidence that the early configuration of the F-16 would be superior to the F-4 Phantom it was replacing, even though the performance specification had not been fully demonstrated through testing. Contractor and government tests were in parallel, and results were shared to gain quick confidence in the basic airplane.

Second, low cost could only be achieved through high-rate production.

Third, service leaders knew that the airplanes would be continuously upgraded, so there was never a final configuration for production.

Lastly, there was never a plan to retrofit older airplanes as newer capabilities were added. Rather, each airplane configuration was fielded for a mission suited to its performance. And when retrofit was initiated, it was accomplished as part of a scheduled block change to keep the cost low.

To date, there are 138 versions of the F-16, as well as 15 block changes, with each block a decisive improvement in capability.

The contrast with the F-35 is striking. In the past two years, DoD planners have cut 426 F-35s out of the five-year defense plan. Assuming those numbers remain firm, it will now take the F-35 program about 17 years to deliver what the F-16 achieved in seven. No wonder the F-35 unit cost is not coming down as fast as originally planned.

Based on the success of the similar F-16 program, it’s clear to me that avoiding concurrency is not a good decision. It sacrifices the substantial savings available from efficient, higher production rates to save relatively smaller estimated retrofit costs. It guarantees higher production costs to avoid the expense of retrofits that may, in fact, never be incorporated. It just doesn’t add up…..

In addition to the cost of upgrading older airplanes, the services also will need to spend more for their maintenance. The F-35 will save substantial sums in lifetime support costs compared with the multiple legacy airplanes it will replace, but these savings are only realized when the F-35 is deployed, so time is money….

This is the right time to gain unit cost savings from higher F-35 production rates. It is the wrong time for DoD to be making profound program decisions based on a flawed understanding of concurrency.


Basically F-16 program was so successful because of concurrent development process. There was a lot of concurrency in other programs:

https://www.cbo.gov/sites/default/files/100th-congress-1987-1988/reports/doc08b-entire.pdf

Concurrency is not rare in the acquisition process. Virtually all major weapons programs that have begun full-scale development in recent years have exhibited at least some concurrency. Indeed, of 31 major weapons programs surveyed, 13 were found to be highly concurrent.

Concurrency has sometimes worked well. For example, the Pershing I missile program applied concurrency successfully during the 1960s. Despite the fact that production of the missile was approved over two years before field testing began, the Pershing I met the most critical milestone, performance, and deployment goals without significant cost increases or schedule delays.

Other major programs, including the Polaris submarine, the Minuteman missile, and the F-5E aircraft, have also been cited as successful examples of concurrent programs. In these cases, concurrency has meant that a useful weapons system has been deployed more quickly than if a more sequential approach to acquisition had been used.


As the pendulum swung toward more sequential acquisition, however, the policy process generated another reversal. In 1977, the Defense Science Board (DSB), an independent, high-level advisory group to the Secretary of Defense, observed that the acquisition process was taking too much time and ought to be shortened. The DSB reviewed 62 acquisition programs between 1940 and 1977 and determined that no correlation existed between the use of concurrency
and the ability of a program to meet cost, schedule, and performance goals. Consequently, the DSB recommended that DoD encourage the use of concurrency.


That document is from 1988 but there is still whining about concurrency. I say that concurrency is a must have for a really successful program these days but it's better if it has been planned and executed correctly. I think F-35 would actually benefited if there was more concurrency meaning higher production and earlier adoption by all users. It would've increased costs initially but lowered costs quicker and shortened the transition time from 4th gen jets to F-35s. Overall costs would've likely been lower with higher concurrency. Retrofit costs are small compared to other costs involved IMO.
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Unread post05 Jan 2022, 23:38

The Abraham Lincoln Carrier Strike Group is underway for a patrol of the Indo-Pacific and this deployment notes a number of firsts. The Marine Corps is sending its F-35C out to sea for its first operational deployment by bringing VMFA-314 aboard the carrier. VRM-30 will also deploy for the first time along with its CMV-22B. The squadron was established at NAS North Island in 2018.
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Unread post06 Jan 2022, 04:33

I'm really impressed with this:

"3rd MAW has recently demonstrated the F-35’s strike capabilities by utilizing its F-35 squadrons in long-range aerial strike exercises. During Exercise Summer Fury 21, a 3rd MAW squadron flew the F-35 from Miramar to Washington State, a distance of more than one thousand miles, to deliver long-range precision fires on a designated target. Significant technological developments of aircraft and aggressive military training such as this have contributed to the Marine Corps’ ability to uphold free and open international order by deterring potential adversarial aggression"

https://www.navalnews.com/naval-news/20 ... t-carrier/


I'd like to know how many times if any did she tank?
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Unread post06 Jan 2022, 09:57

Note that there is no place in this forums to discuss republicans versus democrats, president X versus president Y...

In the Program and politics subforum you can talk politics, but even then, only if it is 100% related to the F-35 program.
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Unread post06 Jan 2022, 13:51

So who will be ahead of the curve regarding F-35C operations, the Navy or Marines?
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Unread post07 Jan 2022, 09:07

madrat wrote:So who will be ahead of the curve regarding F-35C operations, the Navy or Marines?


Depends...
From my understanding USMC and USN aviators all fly the same operations but USMC have different operational priorities than the USN.
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Unread post07 Jan 2022, 09:25

On the topic of concurrency, noted that out of the 1763 F-35As, 369 were meant for training and 434. USAF orders only exceeded 369 only after lot 11 and blk 4 started with lot 13 so technically the USAF doesn't really need that much concurrency since training F-35s don't really need to be combat coded and those already are after lot 6. So I don't really see it as a problem for the USAF.

Concurrency was probably a greater risk for the USMC as program totals required only 50 Bs and 7Cs for training and 6Vs for OTE and their orders were fairly larger in the early years with pressure to replace harrier and legacy hornet sqns. However I note this was mitigated by the pause in lots 5-7 esp for the B orders.

As to whose ahead of the F-35C curve, if one looks at active inventory, USMC only started recording F-35C active inventory in FY 2020 by which time USN had already 3 times the number (see PB20s).
PB20 - FY21.jpg
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Unread post14 Jan 2022, 02:35

Navy/Marines F-35C summary to date

VFA 101 started getting F-35Cs in Oct 2013 operating as FRS until deactivation in 2019.
FRS role was taken over by VFA 125 which started receiving F-35Cs in Jan 2017.
VFA 147 then started receiving F-35Cs in Jan 2018, achieving IOC in Dec 2019.

USMC then got into the picture with VMFA 314 receiving F35Cs in Jan 2020. This starts the alternating sequence where USMC & USN alternates receipt of F-35Cs.
VFA 97 then started receiving F-35Cs in Oct 2021.
Next up will be VMFA 311 (VMA 311 harrier sundown in Oct 2020) is expected to start receiving F35Cs within the next few months of 2022.

Thereafter will be VFA 115 currently operating at Iwakuni, followed by VMFA 115. This will complete the navy plan to have 6 F-35C-equipped CVW by FY 2026 where each CVW will operate 1 F-35C sqn with 14 Cs each. 3 USMC/3 USN.

VFA 151 will then follow before the last USMC F-35C sqn (VMFA251) converts to F-35C. Navy units will operate from NAS Lemoore (7 VFA incl 97/147 + VFA 125 FRS). USMC will split its 4 sqns between Miramar & Cherry Point.

Above is the distillation of all the various plans & announcements to date.
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Unread post18 Jan 2022, 12:43

Noted the F-35C orders for lot 4 to 13 was 69 F-35C. That dovetails with FY21 F-35C availability which thus provide the breakdown between USMC and USN as 18 & 51 respectively for orders up to lot 13 (funded up to FY 19).
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Unread post19 Jan 2022, 08:26

Adding to the analysis above, as at FY 2022, USN/USMC having funded 135Cs would need to fund 218 more to meet the 353 program total. Over the 9 years to FY 2031, that would have meant an average buy of 24 planes each year.

For the USMC, having funded 176 Bs, it would need to fund 177 Bs over 9 years or an average of 22 planes each year to meet 353 Bs. 24+22 = 46 B+C annual buy (roughly per the FY 2019 SAR).

The 2019 Marine aviation plan proposed 9 x 16 B sqns + 7 x 10 B sqn (of which 2 are reserves) + 2 x 25 B FRS sqn + 1 x 6B OTE sqn. With another 83Bs as BAI & attrition reserve.

By standardizing the 16 B sqn to 10 B sqn, that cuts 9 x6 or 54 Bs from the program total. So instead of 177B remaining, it would only need 123B remaining which requires a 15B annual buy rate whilst retaining C buys at ~22-24 a year. USMC can then expand the 10B sqn back to 16B if needed post FY 2031.

I was also previously wondering how the jump from 67 Cs to 80 Cs would impact the USMC eg.additional 10C sqn? By increasing to 14C sqn, it looks like USMC F-35C sqn should also standardize to 4x14 C sqns (14x4 = 56 PAI with the remaining 24 for BAI/AR). The USN/USMC have not published the latest plan but if the above is validated, I think its a well thought out plan.
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Unread post19 Jan 2022, 08:45

The plan keeps changing..... :?
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