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F-35 - Past, Present ... Future?

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posted on Jul, 5 2011 @ 09:46 AM
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As you all know, the F-35 project was created on the 26th October 2001, when Lockheed Martin won the Joint Strike Fighter competition, beating rivals Boeing with their X-32.

The aim of the competition, and subsequent contracts, was simple - replace the current disparate families of aircraft operated by the US Navy, US Airforce and US Marine Corp with one single, maintenance friendly family of aircraft.

The aircraft was to replace the F-16, F/A-18C/D and E/F, the Harrier II, and the A-10, and also be exportable to other countries in an export-friendly variant.

The original commitment from the US DoD was for the purchase of 2,443 aircraft, with the price point of $30M set when the JSF project was initiated in 1996, and even then the project cost was raising eyebrows, with warnings that commitments to numbers would have to be cut if the per-unit cost rose much above the planned price. However, when Lockheed won the contract, the per-unit cost of the F-35 was set at an average of $69M, well above the 1996 price - but the argument was made that the aircraft was more capable, and the commitment to the purchase stood.

Last year, the GAO revealed that the F-35s per unit cost had doubled in real terms, from $69M per aircraft to just over $138M on average, leaving the DoD with a bill of $340B for their commitment. Quite an increase, and one which has put Lockheed on notice.

Lockheed only survived an outright program cancellation under US law (Nunn-McCurdy provision) by replacing a high level oversight officer from the DoD, otherwise they would have fallen foul of the 25% increase cap.

In April 2011, a report was leaked which suggested that the per unit cost of each F-35 variant was as follows:

F-35A - $111M
F-35B - $109M
F-35C - $142M

Excluding engine costs, which are $15M for the A and C versions, and $32M for the B version.

And the cost is still rising - Lockheeds prices for the Lot 5 buy are $6M higher per unit than that for Lot 4.

With the F-35B being put on a 2 year probation in 2010, and the USMC shifting some of its F-35B purchases to F-35C models, as well as various international buyers reducing their buys or suspending their purchases altogether, the F-35 project as a whole is in hot water.

A figure worth noting is that the F-35 project is already at forecasted double the cost of the entire F-22 Raptor programme, including that aircrafts 187 unit total purchase. The JSF is turning out to be one expensive aircraft.

Attributions: Facts and figures for this post was taken from various sources on the internet, including the GAO, DoD and Lockheed. However, it was an article in this months Airforces Monthly that led me to write this post, and as such this post bears some similarity to that article.




posted on Jul, 5 2011 @ 11:03 AM
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False Claims Act....


You could enter a Claim in Federal Court against the contractors for taking all that money over the decades and never delivering working planes.

A Federal Judge could decide in your favor and Federal Law says YOU would be awarded THREE times the amount of the Federal Contracts.

Why no one has done so is beyond me....it's a sure win Lottery Ticket.



posted on Jul, 5 2011 @ 11:23 AM
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Mil projects are exempt from this, some one will pull there heads out of you know where and say good by to this, it is no longer needed, (can not count the birds, programs, and projects thought worthy of big $$$$$$, only to be dismissed) the only reason the F35 is still around, it will be the test bed for the 6th and 7ht gen fighter, no man on board flight, 8th gen?? self flying, well that might be not in my day, but we do have the F22.



posted on Jul, 6 2011 @ 12:23 PM
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reply to post by bekod
 


Until they can solve the jammer problem, all aircraft will be manned. Drones can bomb people in caves easily, but the second EW equipment shows up, reliability will drop. True unmanned fighters wont happen until we have autonomous AI controlled drones.

If the F-35 isn't the next mass produced fighter for the US military, they are not going to have a fighter. 4th generation aircraft can only fly for so long, and times running out. If F-35s are not affordable, neither will 6th, 7th, 8th generation fighters. I myself find the F-35 rather bland, with lackluster performance. But, it should hold its own against any adversaries given enough support.



posted on Jul, 6 2011 @ 06:10 PM
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The F-35's fate was sealed from its inception. A "do everything" aircraft intended to fit in a footprint somewhere between an F-16 and F-18C is a pipe-dream. Adding an internal munitions bay is just making the pie in the sky bigger and farther away. Creating a VTOL version out of it, too, simply makes it delusional.

They would have been better served starting with something about the size of an F-111 or F-23 with the intention of scrapping roles they could not practically accomplish within the budget.

By the way - the contractors are not exactly the ones at fault, here. Once again, we've allowed people to make decisions regarding things they have functional understanding of. Take the F-105 - it was marketed as a tactical nuclear bomber with supersonic capability. Apparently, basic physics didn't register with these -generals- and -appointed officials- and they seemed to be under the impression that they could simply send this thing screaming in on zone-five afterburn, dash right through air defense grids, blow things up, and burn more dinos to RTB. A very sensible strategy - spare for the fact that it didn't go supersonic while carrying practical loads of air-to-ground ordnance... couldn't remain supersonic for very long without bingoing, and would have run out of fuel long before it ever got to its target.

The F-35 has all the hallmarks of the same type of thinking.

The contractors, in effect, are handed something like this: "Build us a car that gets 60 miles to the gallon, has 500 horsepower, a light body, all-wheel drive, crash tolerance with few crumple zones, a truck-bed, 3 kilowatt electrical distribution system, a hatch-back design, GPS navigational systems, an insulated trunk, 800-mile range, a 2-gallon gas tank, total seating for 13.2, a 1 kw audio system, and a design that limits driver distractions."

Then, the public accuses them of 'misuse of public funding.'

At the end of the day - the contractors don't really make money until they are awarded a production contract. They have as much of their own money tied up in developing these M.C. Escher contracts as anyone else, most of the time.

Though I suppose one could question the ethics of attempting to build something that is known to be literally impossible....



posted on Jul, 6 2011 @ 07:41 PM
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Originally posted by Aim64C
The F-35's fate was sealed from its inception. A "do everything" aircraft intended to fit in a footprint somewhere between an F-16 and F-18C is a pipe-dream. Adding an internal munitions bay is just making the pie in the sky bigger and farther away. Creating a VTOL version out of it, too, simply makes it delusional.


Its a high tech version of old Mac the Knife trying to force the navy to select the F-111.

I understand the differences between the models, but having never looked at the actuall cost differences why is the naval varaint that much more? I would have put money down that the STOVL version would have cost huge $$$$$

The "B" varaint should be killed off, the development costs eaten and moved elsewhere. The marines primary mission of amphib assult is pretty much dead (at least on a large scale) and while I understand thier desire for organic CAS turfing that role to the USAF like the army does would be much more cost effective. With the UK pulling out of the "B" model, its time to bury the body. The USMC's lobby is pretty powerfull however, but they already have one STOVL high cost albatross (The M-22) and should not take another
edit on 7/6/11 by FredT because: (no reason given)



posted on Jul, 7 2011 @ 12:59 AM
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I hate to leave such a short post, but what possible alternatives could there be to the F-35?

While the UK and many other nations can turn to several alternatives, as far as I see it, the US have only three real options:

1) Produce en-mass a down-tech version of the F-22. Depend upon economies of scale to reduce the price of an already developed and hugely capable aircraft.

2) Silent Eagle/ Silent Hornet. Trust Boeing and rely upon airframes developed 40 years ago.

3) New aircraft(s), would cost a fortune and only come into play 10-15 years down the line, and that's being really optimistic.

Any hope of them turning abroad would be impossible as a result of US government protectionism in defence.
Me, in dream world I would resurrect the YF-23 and develop a carrier capable version, clearly no chance.

Jensy



posted on Jul, 7 2011 @ 04:10 AM
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Originally posted by Aim64C
The F-35's fate was sealed from its inception. A "do everything" aircraft intended to fit in a footprint somewhere between an F-16 and F-18C is a pipe-dream. Adding an internal munitions bay is just making the pie in the sky bigger and farther away. Creating a VTOL version out of it, too, simply makes it delusional.


Its worth noting that the VTOL aircraft was the originally pitched version, with the later idea that the same aircraft could fill both conventional and carrier roles as well - so they didn't add the VTOL role, they added the other two.



posted on Jul, 7 2011 @ 04:12 AM
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Originally posted by FredT
I understand the differences between the models, but having never looked at the actuall cost differences why is the naval varaint that much more? I would have put money down that the STOVL version would have cost huge $$$$$


The carrier variant comes with a heavier airframe for more strength, a heavier, larger and redefined wing, heavier landing gear and different avionics and electronics to both the A and B variants - theres a lot there which is custom to just the C version.

And it all adds up, cost wise



posted on Jul, 7 2011 @ 10:59 AM
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Originally posted by RichardPrice

And it all adds up, cost wise



I know but almost 40 million worth?????



posted on Jul, 7 2011 @ 05:20 PM
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reply to post by jensy
 


New aircraft is out of the question...

Tech down Raptors, tech isn't the problem, raptors systems are dated anyways. It's the parts, limited production, and not selling overseas that added to the cost...
`
F-15, 18 silent version. Which really aren't that bad, considering the new Su-35 is based of an slightly younger aircraft and it's a great platform for the modern battlefield. Rafale and EF improves on proven technology and concepts, both are great platforms and highly effective. 4th gen++++++ fighters seem to be all the rage today. Will an F-15SE be superior to a Su-35, Rafale, or EF2000? I'm not going to comment, don't bother asking me.

However, its too late for all those options, enjoy the F-35 as much as possible. Its a good platform, just poor decisions by upper management ruined any chance of it being a great platform.



posted on Jul, 7 2011 @ 08:40 PM
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Honestly, the best solution is to simply port a lot of the avionics developed for the F-35 to existing airframes while putting a think-tank on the job of evaluating the potential for airframe revisions that can be done on existing airframes and to new orders for airframes.

At this point - the Super Hornet is a better option in almost every conceivable scenario, as the Navy stands. They don't need another bomb truck or missile boat. If they need anything - it's a bomb-truck/missile-boat that has some more get-up-and-go for rapid strike and intercept missions - IE - a Tomcat 21.

However, bringing that idea back to life after the failure of the F-35 program is probably out of the question - particularly while in an economic crunch as hard as it is.

To that point - the necessity of the F-35 can be brought into question. While aging airframes are expensive to keep up with - to the point it becomes cheaper to replace them rather than keep up with maintenance; the best solution I can see resides in ramping up parts production for existing fleets with new airframes ordered to replace/supplement as necessary (of existing series) while keeping an open mind toward upgrade programs and the like.

At this point - we can afford to skip the F-35 and take extra care to build the next "future fighter" with more care and competency.

As for the F-35 being a good platform? It doesn't just look like a penguin, it flies like one as well.



posted on Jul, 8 2011 @ 06:42 AM
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reply to post by Aim64C
 


I wouldn't be so hasty to dismiss the capabilities of the F-35. I tend to agree that the airframe isn't something to brag about, and is tame compared to what we are seeing from our European, Russian, and Chinese friends. But, the electronics currently seem to be unrivaled, and in the strike role, the HMD & IRST looks effective.

I personally find two major problems with it...

First, lack of performance, obviously.

Second, the payload. Compared to Americas current assets, the F-35 stinks in this category. Any external payload will ruin the RCS, turning it into a very expensive F-16.

The F-35 should be a good aircraft for our current "kinetic military action", however WIII might pose a problem.



posted on Jul, 11 2011 @ 09:26 PM
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reply to post by ZIVONIC
 


This is quite true - but at the same time, avionics can be quite plug-and-play, at least by comparison to how they used to be back in the 60s and 70s. It wouldn't be as simple as parking an F-35 and an F-15 next to each other and flying the F-15 away a few minutes later - but an F-18E would be able to take the F-35's gear as a systemic upgrade policy (or simply have new models built with it in place of F-35 orders). So could the F-15E, or the F-16 in its later block revisions.

Exploring engine upgrade options for existing fleets would also be worth it - especially in the F-16s - which stand to benefit greatly from a power and fuel-economy improvement. The F-18E/F/Gs could certainly use some more thrust to give them a little more 'umph' in air-to-air scenarios - upgrades in that respect could be limited to Echoes.

It couldn't be any more expensive than trying to build three radically different versions of the same airframe. The RCS improvements aren't really even all that much to quip about.



posted on Jul, 12 2011 @ 05:13 PM
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reply to post by Aim64C
 


I don't think the F-35 is open source yet. So I'm not sure an F-35 type upgrade for both US an foreign operators of F-15, 16, and 18s would be viable, at least not immediately.

The F-35 was a big step in fighter design, it was also very ambitious, replacing the entire US fleet with a single parts sharing platform. A good idea at the time, and probably would have worked well for the next few decades if the economy didn't tank. Looking at the big picture, we are not going to have the 2k+ platforms people were talking about. The best case scenario would be a tech transfer to older airframes, which is by no means a bad path to take. Regarding the RCS, I agree, the backbone of your fleet should not be stealth centric, but work centric, the F-35 is neither.

Personally, I wish Lockheed and Boeing followed Russia's fighter development process of "revolution though evolution", instead of the American process of "evolution through revolution". It's turning out to be a costly mistake.
edit on 12/7/11 by ZIVONIC because: (no reason given)



posted on Jul, 13 2011 @ 10:57 PM
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Hi Richard,


I assume you have seen the story today over on Flight Global announcing that LM have added another $771m to the bill for the first 31 early production models? Locheed adds $771 million.. That works out at a shade under $25m per aircraft increase over what they have already cost and that almost certainly doesn't include the price of the engine. And how the hell can they justify this "price minus the engine" crap? You know a manufacturer is desperate to cover up costs when they start doing that. It's particularly pointless now given that LM/Pratt have it seems finally killed the GE/RR F-136, despite the fact that engine choice for purchasers is specifically written into the original contract. Seems if you have powerful enough friends you can do this. I dont ever remember it being legal for a car dealer to advertise a price for a vehicle but it the fine print there are no wheels or transmission or engine. In most western democracies consumer protection laws state that it is illegal to advertise something for a price but fail to put all the basic components (ie: a test of a reasonable person) one would expect to make it work in the bill of sale. Unless you are Lockheed of course.

As for porting over technology from the program to legacy airframes/designs, absolutely. In fact the Raptor was always slated to receive upgrades ported across from the F-35 in it's planned spiral upgrade path. The cheek arrays being an example. The list of possible mixes and matches with the various current types is too many to go through, but Im sure we all have some good ideas regarding that. There is point however I would like to gain clarification on. Somebody mentioned using the engine technology to increase power and range. It is my understanding that the F-135 and F-136 BOTH have a higher specific fuel consumption than the legacy F-100/F-110. So Im not sure you can increase thrust here without effectively decreasing range. Can anyone here clarify this?

LEE.



posted on Jul, 14 2011 @ 02:31 AM
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reply to post by thebozeian
 


Very interesting, but these cost overruns are going to ruin any chance of maintaining the size of the fleet we have today. Hopefully, American can learn from this mistake and the next fighter program won't be such a disaster.

Do you have a specific source for the F-22s upgrade path? I'm very curious to learn what capabilities the Raptor might have in the next decade, and how LM are planning to implement them.



posted on Jul, 15 2011 @ 12:45 AM
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reply to post by ZIVONIC
 
ZIVONIC,
It's been a long time since I saw the sources on the F-22 upgrade probably 4+ years ago. I will have to do some digging (assuming I find enough hours in the day!), but I recall seeing a chart with the spiral developments for the Block 20/30/40/+ and the various technology inserts that the F-22 and F-35 were originally supposed to cross migrate between each other. I'll bet my bottom dollar there are probably links though to the info on the APA website given it is one of their pet subjects. I will try and have a look.

LEE.



posted on Jul, 15 2011 @ 01:12 AM
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*** NOTE ***
A further story today again on Flight Global has clarified the cost overrun as actually being in the region of $1.15 billion. The difference between this and the previously reported $771 million is being picked up by LM/P&W. The very same P&W whose supporters have managed to kill off just recently the GE/RR F-136 alternative engine that on the face of it in many ways has suffered less setbacks, and technically speaking is in the long run a more future proof powerplant.
F35 LRIP raised...

Yes I know I misspelt Lockheed In my previous post!


LEE.



posted on Jul, 16 2011 @ 02:32 PM
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reply to post by ZIVONIC
 



I don't think the F-35 is open source yet. So I'm not sure an F-35 type upgrade for both US an foreign operators of F-15, 16, and 18s would be viable, at least not immediately.


"Open Source" isn't really necessary - or all that big of an obstacle. It's a decade old technology that could be out-done by a distributed network of smart phones (I'm exaggerating slightly). The real challenges lay in the programming and the actual IR/radar/etc technologies. The data processing end of it is child's play in today's world of buku-flops and memory.


The F-35 was a big step in fighter design, it was also very ambitious, replacing the entire US fleet with a single parts sharing platform. A good idea at the time, and probably would have worked well for the next few decades if the economy didn't tank.


What world do you live in?

Take a look at today's aircraft - simply look at the different demands placed upon the F-16 and the F-18 - two aircraft bred from the same light-fighter competition. Look even further at the differences between the F-14 and the F-15 - two aircraft with similar roles but working in two completely different environments.

Sure - parts-commonality is good when you can actually make use of it - but to make the same airframe attempt to conform to so many different demands is stupid, to be blunt. You will be decades and trillions into developing a fighter to service the needs of a defense system that is 20 years in the past.


Personally, I wish Lockheed and Boeing followed Russia's fighter development process of "revolution though evolution", instead of the American process of "evolution through revolution". It's turning out to be a costly mistake.


I'm not sure I follow your statement - the problem, here, is that the U.S. has lost anything that resembles control over mission creep. We treat our aircraft like we treat a piece of legislation - "Oh, let's make this Advanced TACTICAL FIGHTER fill a light bomber role! It can replace the F-15E, too!" - That's part of what killed the raptor program, they couldn't help but attach all kinds of completely contradictory roles to the aircraft and felt they had to justify its existence in a world where the threat the ATF was meant to counter no longer existed.

The very same thing is happening with the JSF - except the program to create it sprang from the collapse of the raptor program. Rather than doom an aircraft to a perpetual identity crisis - they decided a program dedicated to developing an entire fleet of airframes out of that identity crisis was a better use of tax payer dollars.

What are we building this aircraft to do, again? Who cares - we need to put in the hot-cocoa dispenser.





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