Sunday, October 30, 2011

F- 35 Jet Update: Meanwhile, Turning to F-35 News

F- 35 Jet Update: Meanwhile, Turning to F-35 News:

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Meanwhile, Turning to F-35 News

The F-35 is a truly hi-tech fighter but one thing that high-tech always comes with is a serious shelf-life problem.  Hi-tech weaponry is inevitably expensive which usually means sacrificing quantity for quality.  You wind up with fewer of them in the expectation they'll actually be so much more effective that you'll come out ahead compared with the cheaper option.  The term used is "force multiplier."  But it's a big gamble that will turn into a loser eventually.

The history of man is full of high-tech weaponry.   When prehistoric man first figured out how to lash a sharp pointy stone to a sapling, turning a knife into a spear, that was pretty high-tech for its time.  Boiling leather to form it into armour was high-tech for its time.  Gunpowder, muskets, cannon, rifles, machine guns, artillery, heavier than air flight, tanks, rockets, jet engines, nuclear bombs - all were high-tech by turns.   Each was a huge force-multiplier but only for a while, only until rivals figured out how to counter them or copy them.

The F-35 is a mediocre fighter made invisible, sort of invisible.   Once it becomes detectable, however, you're left with a mediocre fighter and, because of its enormous costs, very few of them.  It should still work well enough against backward enemies lacking modern air defence systems but there are far more capable, far less expensive aircraft that can do that job even better.   The F-35 is designed to fight countries that can afford to deploy their own high-tech weaponry, countries that are already developing their own stealth aircraft and the sort of radar that does work quite well against the F-35.   And these potential adversaries know they've got at least five years, probably ten, before they would have to worry about defeating a force of F-35 fighters.

Worse yet, the F-35 is "high-tech brittle" unlike its big stealth brother, the F-22 Raptor.  If the Raptor's stealth advantage is negated it remains an incredibly effective fighter.  It's fast, agile, long-range, survivable and carries a substantial weapons load.   If you negate the F-35's stealth advantage it's far from fast, unmaneuverable,  short range and carries a very modest weapons load.  In air combat against any of the old Russian Sukhoi 30 series fighters, the F-35 would be dead meat.

So what assurance do we have, what manufacturer's warranty will we get, that the F-35's stealth technology will remain effective for ten, twenty or thirty years, the service life we expect from this aircraft?   Shouldn't we get some promise that the F-35 won't be old-tech target practice for at least a decade, maybe even two?

This thing is wrong at so many levels that one wonders what backroom deals keep driving it forward.

(Excerpted from  

The Disaffected Lib

Second thoughts about the F-35

Published On Sat Oct 29 2011
Mark M. Miller

When the most senior U.S. military officer admits that the largest defence procurement program in history has affordability issues, then you can bet that the situation is dire. Gen. Martin Dempsey, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, has even put forth the likelihood that at least one variant of the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter may be cancelled, and total numbers reduced.

Even if the F-35 eventually meets reasonable cost projections, it must still be vetted as an operational combat aircraft. It was not only meant to be an affordable fifth-generation fighter-bomber for the U.S. and her allies, but also to have lower maintenance costs than aircraft now in service. These claims may also turn out to be inaccurate, with the F-35 a potential hanger-queen like the F-22 Raptor.

Besides the F-35’s development and cost troubles, we are left with the question of whether 65 of these particular planes will meet Canada’s defence and alliance commitments. Unlike the F-22 Raptor, which has been built exclusively for the U.S. military, the F-35 was conceived as a less capable aircraft in terms of sheer performance but better than the planes of potential adversaries, especially in terms of stealth and first-strike capability — and development costs would be shared with trusted allies.

Canada has always intended to buy the F-35A, the simplest, least expensive variant, which is a conventional take-off-and-landing aircraft. But affordability is a relative term when an aircraft has not been fully tested and proven. Australia, which originally had intended to buy 100 F-35As, has had to purchase two dozen new F-18 Super Hornets as a stopgap measure due, among other things, to delays in the F-35 program. If the F-35 has further problems, we may have to take the same route.

And even if the F-35 is as effective as claimed, it may still be the wrong plane for Canada. It is not very fast and has less range and weapons-load capacity than other allied fighters — even more so compared with new planes being developed in Russia, India and China.

There are a few multi-role fighter competitions taking place around the globe, and it is instructional to view which aircraft are rising to the top. The nations conducting the most in-depth fighter competitions are India, Brazil and Japan.

The Indian Air Force is seeking up to 126 multi-role fighters for approximately $10 billion, with the provisos that there is a transfer of technology and at least 50 per cent value in industrial offsets. India has traditionally purchased and operated Soviet/Russian designs, as well as quality French fighter aircraft. The six types in the competition are: Saab Gripen, Eurofigther Typhoon, Dassault Rafale, Mikoyan MiG-35, Lockheed Martin F-16 Super Viper and Boeing F/A-18 Super Hornet.

The two finalists are the Typhoon and the Rafale, the most expensive contenders. The winner will be determined based on the total package, including technology transfer, industrial offsets, purchase price and life-cycle sustainment costs.

Brazil has had a decade-long on-again, off-again competition to replace its aging French Mirage fighters, with the competitors being the Rafale, Typhoon, Sukhoi Su-35, Gripen and the Super Hornet. It was expected the Rafale would win because of its inclusion in a complex deal between France and Brazil including both naval ships and transport aircraft, but the Gripen has been noted as the best performance-by-cost bid.

Japan has long been a military dependant of the U.S., so it is surprising that the Typhoon has been shortlisted alongside the Super Hornet and the F-35 to be its near-term aerial deterrent to Russian and Chinese incursions. With the F-35 expected to have further delays and costs increasing, the Typhoon might be a winner.

Only time will tell if the F-35 is the outstanding first strike/attack aircraft it is advertised to be, but it will never be a high-speed air supremacy fighter. Canada is so vast that we need a fast, long-range interceptor deterrent against air or sea threats, whether they are terrorist-based or an aggressor nation. Keep in mind that long-range cruise missiles can travel 3,000 miles, with Iran, Pakistan, China and North Korea all having the technology. We need to review the options, just like the rest of our allies, on what aircraft can compliment the F-35, or even replace it.

Mark M. Miller is a Vancouver-based research consultant who writes on international and military affairs.

Saturday, October 29, 2011

F-35: an expensive hard-to-recycle form of garbage?

I find the following picture rather funny. It was taken at Seoul Air Show and shows a Lockheed F-35 Lightning II….with a “garbage” sign posted on the barrier in front of the plane. Obviously it’s only a matter of perspective, but I must admit that the signs seems to be an explainatory panel like the ones you can find next to the airplanes in static display. The person who took this picture and sent it to me has a sense of humour (and knows how to tease a competitor).
The F-35 is in fact among the candidates for S. Korea’s next generation fighter, known as FX-III project with a budget of 8.29 trillion won (7.86 billion USD) for 60 jets. It competes with the Eurofighter Typhoon, the Boeing F-15SE and Sukhoi T50 PAK-FA (yes, the Russia’s 5th generation fighter plane, that was forced to abort take off after at MAKS 2011 air show on Aug. 21, at Ramenskoye air base, near Moscow.
Initially seen as the favorite candidate, the F-35 has been recently questioned because of the delays and the high unit cost. As reported by the Seoul Daily on Sept. 16, a high raking DAPA (Defense Acquisition Program Administration) recently said “A fighter, which is not detected by the radar system, but low in strike capability, will not be effective. We will not necessarily insist on stealth function”, a remark that undermined one of the cornerstones of Lockheed’s appearant advantage over competitors.
Competitors that didn’t miss the chance to take a picture that ridiculed the still dangerous opponent.

Posted by David Cenciotti in Aviation

F-35 Jet Conning The Currency

The Pentagon's habit of concurrency – building a weapon before you've finished the blueprints for it – is rearing its ugly head once again. Frankly, having witnessed it for decades, the logic behind it is less than compelling. It's often cited as necessary to keep up with the Russians or the Chinese or the Somebody Else, but such races inevitably end up largely the fruit of some Pentagon thinker's over-active imagination.
Tom Donnelly of the American Enterprise Institute notes on the Weekly Standard website that when it took too long to develop weapons in the late 1970s, the Reagan Pentagon responded by “embrac[ing] systematic concurrency.” Talk about pretzel logic: because weapons are so complex and take so long to build, let's build them more quickly by starting production before we've finished the design. That's not merely a self-licking ice cream cone; it throws in cows, milkmaids, cone-bakers and sprinkles as well.
Over at Aviation Week, Amy Butler writes about the inevitable snafus such boneheadedness is yielding on the $328 billion F-35 jet fighter program, the most costly in the history of this world:
The program was conceived by both the government and contractor 10 years ago to allow for -- and many say embrace -- significant concurrency in flight testing and production, and that vision has come to pass as did the reality that the risk of finding problems costs money. Flight testing will continue well into this decade, and the company is already conducting long lead activities for lot 5. It is also having to insert fixes into earlier designs via retrofit that were the results of problems discovered during flight testing.
There's a battle now underway between the Pentagon and F-35 builder Lockheed, that goes something like this:
USG: We've paid every cent of retrofitting the first four lots of F-35 aircraft because of incomplete, fuzzy or wrong blueprints. Now that we're negotiating your contract to build us the fifth lot, we want you to share in the cost of such retrofits.
Lockmart: Go to hell. We don't do things that way.
Bottom line, back here on Earth: what's the rush, guys? There is no one anywhere around with an air force as good as the U.S. Air Force (except the U.S. Navy. And the U.S. Marines). Concurrency makes sense when you're in a rush to build something before your mortal foe does. Anything else is sheer idiocy. Alas, it's also SOP at DOD.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Ottawa to spend up to $477M on U.S. military satellites | News | National Post

Ottawa to spend up to $477M on U.S. military satellites | News | National Post:

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Pentagon Cuts Four Lockheed Jets From Next Order, Pentagon Says

Oct. 26 (Bloomberg) -- The Pentagon has cut four F-35 jet fighters from its next contract with Lockheed Martin Corp., in part to pay for cost overruns on the first three orders, a spokesman said tonight.
The U.S. Air Force and Navy had planned to buy a total of 34 jets in the fifth order, for which negotiations are still under way. The order is now for 30 aircraft, said Pentagon F-35 spokesman Joe DellaVedova in an e-mail.
The Air Force deleted three aircraft and the Navy one from the pending contract to help fund the overruns and costs associated with retrofits to the initial aircraft intended to correct glitches that have been revealed in flight testing, he said. These are so-called “concurrency costs.”
The first 28 aircraft are estimated to cost a total of $918 million more than anticipated. Lockheed Martin and engine subcontractor Pratt & Whitney, a unit of United Techologies Corp., are already paying $283 million of that amount, and the government the remaining $635 million, the program office said in July.
DellaVedova didn’t have the value of the four aircraft that are being removed from the fifth contract.
The aircraft reductions were necessary in part because the Senate Armed Services Committee denied a Pentagon request to shift a total of $264 million from other programs and unearned Lockheed Martin award fees to pay for the overruns and retrofits, he said.
Lockheed Martin spokeswoman Laurie Quincy didn’t immediately respond to an e-mail seeking comment.
--Editors: John Walcott, Terry Atlas

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Japanese defense contractor admits hackers may have snatched secrets

Computerworld - Japan's largest defense contractor backpedaled yesterday, saying it's possible some secrets had been stolen by hackers who broke into the company's network and planted malware in August.
The acknowledgement came several weeks after Mitsubishi Heavy Industries, confirming that scores of its servers and PCs had been infected, denied any information had been pilfered.
Previously, a U.S.-based Mitsubishi Heavy spokesman had said that although attackers had uncovered company IP (Internet Protocol) addresses, the attack "was caught at an early stage."
But yesterday the company changed its tune, saying that more investigation had revealed a possible loss of information.

The company declined to confirm that any diversion of data related to defense or nuclear technologies took place.
"The company recently confirmed unintended transferring of some information on the company's products and technologies between servers within the company," said Mitsubishi Heavy in a statement. "Based on the finding, the company investigated the incident further and recognized the possibility of some data leakage from the server in question."
Mitsubishi Heavy's admission came on the same day that the Japanese newspaper Asahi Shimbuncited unnamed sources who said data on company-built fighter jets, helicopters and nuclear power plants had apparently been stolen during the attack.
Last month, Mitsubishi Heavy said that among the 83 compromised servers and PCs were ones at its Kobe shipyards, where the company builds diesel-electric submarines and components for nuclear power plants; at the company's Nagasaki shipyards; and at its Nagoya plant, which designs and manufactures missile guidance systems.
The firm's corporate headquarters was also targeted by attackers.
Mitsubishi Heavy said it was continuing to investigate and would cooperate with Japanese authorities, who have been involved since late September when the company filed a complaint with the Tokyo Metropolitan Police Department, said Asahi Shimbun.
The August attack was the first against a major Japanese defense contractor, but followed others earlier this year aimed at U.S. companies, includingLockheed Martin, which manufactures the F-22 Raptor and F-35 Lightning II fighter aircraft. The Lockheed attack was carried out using information stolen earlier from RSA Security, the branch of EMC that produces the SecurID two-factor authentication token used by thousands of contractors and corporations to secure their networks.
Defense News ranked Mitsubishi Heavy as the world's 26th-largest defense contractor last year.
 covers Microsoft, security issues, Apple, Web browsers and general technology breaking news for Computerworld. Follow Gregg on Twitter at Twitter @gkeizer, on Google+ or subscribe to Gregg's RSS feed Keizer RSS. His e-mail address is

Canada’s F-35: What’s the cost of communication?

Over the weekend, the Canadian Press reported that Canada’s F-35s won’t initially be able to communicate from the Arctic. On Monday, the opposition took the government to task yet again for choosing the F-35, saying that this recent issue is just one in a laundry list of problems that ought to make everyone re-think buying the plane at all.
That evening, defence minister Peter MacKay told the CBC that all related costs to modifications that will be necessary to make sure the planes can communicate from the high north are built into the $9 billion that the government has allocated for the program.
Over at the Department of National Defence, they said much the same thing: “There will be no unique additional cost to Canada, as Beyond Line of Site (BLOS) communication is a nine nation partner requirement for the F-35 aircraft,” an official from DND wrote iPolitics in an email. He added that the long lead time that Canada has before it receives its planes will be sufficient to deal with the issue.
“This satellite communications capability continues to be discussed within the various Joint Strike Fighter program working bodies made up of representatives from all partner nations,” he said.
In other words: who knows what it will cost?

Tight belts
What we do know is pressure in the U.S. to get the overall costs of the F-35 program under control is mounting, essentially by the day.
On Monday, the White House endorsed a Senate bill that proposes cutting the U.S. Defense Department’s spending by $26 billion in the 2012 budget. That will effectively freeze defence spending in the U.S. for another year, and one analyst told the Hill the move signals a ‘build-down’ is underway:
With the letter, “the administration has officially endorsed a hard defense freeze in [2012] in order to meet the BCA’s security spending caps,” Matthew Leatherman, an analyst at the Stimson Center, said Monday.
Leatherman said this is exactly how defense build-downs typically work. … “The [Budget Control Act]’s security cap made it difficult to increase military resources above inflation in [2012], and this newly-announced administration position makes that even less likely. There should be no doubt that the build-down has begun.”
According to Politico, the hope is even with less spending over the next 10 years, the U.S. military can still be an “agile, efficient and modern” force. However, JSF partners should perhaps be increasingly worried about where those budget cuts will happen.
From Politico:
Observers are eagerly awaiting the results of a strategic review that will guide decisions on where to reduce Pentagon spending. In the meantime, just about everyone else in Washington is offering their own ideas, with many suggesting that the current U.S. defense strategy — and possibly also some highly sought-after new weapons — won’t survive the planned cuts.
On many analysts’ chopping blocks are weapons systems, including the most expensive defense program in history — the Joint Strike Fighter. The ambitious plan to replace most Air Force, Navy and Marine Corps tactical aircraft with more than 2,400 F-35 fighters in three variants has an estimated $1 trillion cost over a planned 50-year lifespan — an eye-popping figure that attracts budget-cutters.
So while we don’t know what it will cost to add necessary modifications to Canada’s F-35s between now and the time they’re delivered, we can be sure that it will probably cost something. If we’re willing to give everyone the benefit of the doubt here, it would be logical to assume that while this is the first we’ve heard of this communications problem, it’s likely not the first anyone involved with the program has. That being the case, DND’s assertion that the costs will be absorbed by the $9 billion would stand to reason. Having said that, of course, additional costs are additional costs. And when it comes to the F-35 program at the moment, additional costs are the last thing anyone needs.
© 2011 iPolitics Inc.

First Canadian F-35s Won't Support Communications in the Extreme North

F35's wont get integrated satellite communications until 2019

The F-35 Lightning II has been delayed a lot longer than all of the participating countries would have liked, and one of the participating countries is Canada. Some of the first F-35 fighters that Canada takes delivery of will not be able to communicate in the country's most northern regions.

The problem is that current F-35’s and the next few builds will not have the ability to communicate via satellite. Canadian fighter aircraft operating in the arctic can only communicate by beaming their signals up to a satellite and then having it relayed back to the ground. Support for satellite communications isn't expected to be available in the F-35 until the fourth phase of production in 2019.

That is leaving Canada looking for other ways to allow the F-35 to communicate in the northern extremes of the country. However, the Winnipeg Free Press reports that Satellite communications for the F-35 are not guaranteed because research is still under way.

An official said, "That [satellite communications] hasn't all been nailed down yet," said the official. "As you can imagine there are a lot of science projects going on, exploring what is the best . . . capability, what satellites will be available."

Canada's current fleet of CF-18 fighters has satellite communications and the lack of satellite capability will make the F-35 less advanced in that respect than the current fighter.

One of the plans to equip the F-35 with the ability to communicate is adding an external communications pod to the aircraft. Defence Department spokesman Evan Koronewski said that the external pod is one of many alternatives being investigated right now.
Another source of concern for the Canadian F-35 fleet is aerial refueling. Canada uses older style "probe and drogue" connections for in-air refueling whereas the F-35 and other air forces of world use newer plug-in refueling connectors.

It’s unclear when Canada will upgrade its tankers to the newer style. Canada has asked the F-35 manufacturer if it is possible to equip its F-35 aircraft with a different fueling system. Lockheed Martin says that it can, but the final word on what Canada will do has not been offered.

The F-35 program finally hitting stride now with sea trials underway for the STOVL version in America.
Source: Winnipeg Free Press

2011 DailyTech LLC

Minister Fantino Highlights Economic Opportunities of F-35 Joint Strike Fighter Program in Winnipeg

WINNIPEG, MANITOBA, Oct 25, 2011 (MARKETWIRE via COMTEX) -- The Honourabl e Julian Fantino, Associate Minister of National Defence, on behalf of the Honourable Christian Paradis, Minister of Industry, today visited Bristol Aerospace, an operating division of Magellan Aerospace Limited, in Winnipeg, to celebrate the opening of the company's Advanced Composites Manufacturing Centre. This new facility will house the production line for composite and metallic parts and assemble the horizontal tail structures for the F-35 Lightning II aircraft.
"The opening of this facility is a great example of the real, tangible benefits that are being realized as a result of the government's commitment to the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter program," said Minister Fantino. "Canadian firms, including B ristol Aerospace, currently hold approximately $370 million in signed contracts related to the F-35 aircraft, and these are long- term, high-quality opportunities."
The Minister offered congratulations to Bristol Aerospace and its employees at the 13,000-square-metre facility for which Prime Minister Stephen Harper broke ground just one year ago. The Advanced Composites Manufacturing Centre is part of an over-$120-million project to invest in technology and capabilities at this location that includes a $43.4-million investment by the Government of Canada through the Strategic Aerospace and Defence Initiative. The work related to the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter program at this facility could increase employment at the company by up to 100 people over time.
Magellan Aerospace Limited is one of Canada's key contributors to the F-35 global supply chain. Bristol Aerospace's main contribution to the F-35 program is the production of horizontal tails for the F-35A, the conventional takeoff and landing model of F-35 that Canada plans to acquire for the Royal Canadian Air Force. Bristol Aerospace is one of approximately 65 Canadian companies benefitting from Canada's commitment to the F-35 program.
Magellan Aerospace Limited is one of the world's most integrated aerospace industry suppliers. Magellan designs, engineers, and manufactures aeroengine and aerostructure components and assemblies for aerospace markets, advanced products for military and space markets and complementary specialty products.
For more information on the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter program, please visit the National Defence website ( ).