It's not just low observable, it's /very/ Low Observable...
To be honest, I think there is a cut off point for the two relative to a 'natural' vs. /augmented/ signature reduction capacity.
I think that this latter additional stealth capacity may be represented by modes imbedded in the APG-77 and 'ALR-94++' wingroot antenna systems of
the F-22 for instance (i.e. possible active loading/cancellation).
Such that while there is a certain significant threshold before which 'VLO' can be applied, once you get there as a base decibel per square meter
(dbsm) absorption vs. scatter vs. specular return fraction, you can further 'adjust' matters electronically. To the point of achieving true RF
My personal best guess is that this occurs somewhere between -25 and -35dbsm.
Since the /original/ ATF-22 was a _fourth_ not fifth generation fighter, it may also be simply a matter of semantics as the capabilities of
international threat systems increases and thus so must the base definition of the necessary reduction in return be 'marked down' to maintain
effective radar invisibility and freedom of operations.
In any case, I have long maintained that VLO is a non-exportable technology if you truly want to maintain a viable capability for home forces and thus
the various theater CINCs screaming for a 'common force' metric in generating viable doctrinal building block approach to airpower is totally bunk
because international F-35s will not be as capable as U.S. ones.
Having said that, the notion that the USAF is 'giving away, free' early production block numbers so that it can revest itself in later ATL capable
models etc. is equally moronic. Because it is the USAF (bulk inventory) purchase which ensures a 45 million dollar economy of scale threshold price
for the A model. And if foreign buys replace rather than /add to/ that number, then Lunchmeats' profit margin, based on secondary sales, is not
going to happen because it's NOT-
1,763 + 4,500 jets.
It's 1,100 + (4,500-663) 3,837 jets. BEFORE competition with established Euro Canard Clones and the truly 'bargain basement' UCAVs are applied.
i.e. Without a serious bipolar threat to drive warrior egos beyond the consideration of responsible fisk, most nations will opt for cheapest or most
useful which is uniformly going to mean unmanned bombers, not manned fighters. After all, if we only need 1,100 from the original requirement for
Taking all this into account, final export sales of JSF may be as little as 250 jets. And probably not more than 500.
Which means that not only will Congress lose home-district pork and a significant fraction of trade imbalance offsets. But the USAF order may have to
shrink /again/ as the price of the JSF continues to rise, even for our own services.
States that the operating PAUC (Program Acquistion Unit Cost) is already 104 million (it was 73-79 million as long ago as 1997) and as I have stated
elsewhere, if you continue to slide-right on service dates and dollar values while we bleed green in Iraq and red on the cost:quantity issue, the
likely numbers are going to be between 154 million (todays values) and 210 million (inflationary scaleup) -as an export factored price increase-.
Which makes the F-35 not only worthless as a physical platform but as a 'cheap' fighter as well.
Largely because the technical innovations it represents are too few in number (it is basically an F-16 with non jettisonable fuel tanks) vs. the
necessary changes in ops tempo and peacetime maintenance/training rates needed to make it truly competitive. i.e. It's still manned.
There are other factors-
Titanium Goes Up
Everybody Wants A Piece
But the basic scalars remain the same, 1,600 planes and up is a constant. Anything below that and you're talking diminishing returns-
And AGAIN, as I have long said, people are kidding themselves if they think the ROW wants to play the pride-of-place nationalism game when war for
profit is illegal and they can let us do the policing while /they get rich/.
As with all 'nice' Empires, if you don't conquer and demand tribute to constantly weaken your colonial holdings economies while maintaining flat
resource access values, you eventually are outdone by the vitality of your protectorates. Trying to apply a Pax Americana rule to the world order
without asking to be paid for it, outright and openly, is /stupid/.
The notion that stealth has to be absolute is bogus. SWAKs or Swing Wing Adapter Kits largely remove the threat from weapons in the MANPADS to SA-2/6
class. While cruise systems can saturate limited stocks of advanced SAMs vastly more cheaply than manned airpower can be applied to roll back or
penetrate their coverage.
Once you realize this. Once you UNDERSTAND that 'better bullets win', _all the time_, you start to see the platform as it should be: a bus whose
sole value is it's ability to fly a profile efficiently. As a robotic weapons pylon.
In terms of who-gets-what, and the notion that the U.S. asked for co sponsorship to develop a weapons system which they never intended to sell,
/puhleeze/. Even Tier 1 partners were only putting in 2 billion, the rest are in the 800 million and 150 million category which is not even a drop in
the bucket of 'three airframes, one name' development effort which will likely top 50 billion and /probably/ come close to 70 billion (i.e. the
entirety of the F-22 R&D + Acquisition cost) BEFORE production starts.
The U.S. needs to sell it's death machines because that is all we have left at which we are without doubt superior at (and the effort to smash
through the ITAR process promises to sell off even this). The problem is that the JSF is not all that it's cracked up to be. And the notional
'order of things' (knights of the sky paradigm) by which wars are fought but never won is itself largely a redundant psychology based on changing
technologic capabilities (less Meteor vs. Ks-172 than the interaction between DEWs and Cheap Precision Missiles).
I personally hope Lunchmeat chokes on their greed. And the U.S. Armed Farces are brought low by their narcissistic 'subservience' to a bully
politick foreign policy that they enforce solely to maintain their precious percentage of the budgetary dole. Maybe once we ruin the best military
force on the planet with corrupt use and self interest, we can start to move away from 'war as an independent variable' and towards a global rule of
law in which idiots like UBL can be chased down by every police force instead of just our own incompetent muzzle mutts.