Tag: Defense Procurement

Overpriced and Underperforming


Over a quarter century into the program, the F-35 fleet is still exhibiting abysmal readiness rates.

This ia particularly concerning given that one of the selling points of the mistake jet was increased reliability:

The F-35 Joint Strike Fighters in the operational test fleet at California’s Edwards Air Force Base are suffering from low readiness rates that may threaten the successful completion of the crucial combat-testing phase of the program, as shown in a chart created by the Joint Program Office’s Integrated Test Force and obtained by the Project On Government Oversight (POGO).

The revelation that the F-35 program is struggling to overcome the last hurdle before it can legally move into full-rate production follows numerous recent reports, including by POGO as well as the Government Accountability Office, indicating the most expensive weapon system in history is far from ready to face current or future threats. The 23 aircraft in the test fleet achieved an abysmal “fully mission capable” rate of 8.7 percent in June 2019 according to the chart, which covers December 2018 through mid-July 2019. A fully mission capable aircraft can perform all of its assigned missions, a particularly important readiness measure for multi-mission programs such as the F-35. The June rate was actually an improvement over the previous month, when the fleet managed a rate of just 4.7 percent. Since the beginning of operational testing in December 2018, the fleet has had an average fully mission capable rate of just 11 percent.

The Pentagon’s operational testing director has stated that the test fleet needs an 80 percent availability rate to meet the demanding schedule of the program’s test and evaluation master plan.

The money quote is, “Newer aircraft like the F-22 and F-35 are averaging lower mission capable rates than the legacy aircraft they are slated to replace.”

Our military industrial complex is increasingly dysfunctional, and I fear that it is only a matter of time before it collapses under its own prodigious weight.

Everyone at the Pentagon Needs to Read Superiority, by Arthur C. Clark

The newest carrier in the US Navy, and the lead ship in the class, the USS Gerald Ford, has experiences many problems related to new technologies implemented on the ship.

First, it was the electromagnetic catapults, which are still missing performance and reliability goals, then it was the advanced arrester gear, and now it appears that the munitions elevators cannot deliver ordinance to the flight deck, meaning that the Ford is not even close to combat ready:

Only two of 11 elevators needed to lift munitions to the deck of the U.S. Navy’s new $13 billion aircraft carrier have been fully installed, according to a Navy veteran who serves on a key House committee.

“I don’t see an end in sight right now” to getting all the elevators working on the USS Gerald R. Ford, the costliest warship ever, Democratic Representative Elaine Luria of Virginia said in an interview. The ship was supposed to be delivered with the Advanced Weapons Elevators, which are moved by magnets rather than cables, working in May 2017.

It’s another setback for contractor Huntington Ingalls Industries Inc. — and for the Navy, which had said in December it planned to complete installation and testing of all 11 elevators before the Ford completed its post-delivery shakedown phase this month, with at least half certified for operation.

Instead, the shakedown phase has been extended to October and the vessel won’t have all the elevators fully installed — much less functioning — by then, according to Luria, a 20-year Navy surface warfare officer whose served on two aircraft carriers and as shore maintenance coordinator for a third.

“Essentially, the ship can’t deploy,” Luria said. “It can’t carry ammunition.” She said the Navy and Huntington Ingalls are trying to solve new problems with doors and hatches lining elevators shafts that don’t meet specifications.

Navy Secretary Richard Spencer said in January that he told President Donald Trump to fire him if the service couldn’t fix the weapons elevators by July. Instead, Trump praised the Ford as “phenomenal” on July 22.

The Ford’s Advanced Weapons Elevators are designed for the carrier’s crew to move as much as 24,000 pounds of ordnance at 150 feet-per-minute, up from the 10,500 pounds at 100 feet-per-minute on the older Nimitz-class carrier. That would increase by more than 30% the number of combat sorties that could launch from the carrier over 24 hours, according to the Navy.

The elevators aren’t the only issue plaguing the ship, which has had problems with two other core systems — the electromagnetic system to launch planes and the arresting gear to catch them when they land.

What can I say, but, “But I cannot be held responsible for my future actions if I am compelled any longer to share my cell with Professor Norden, late Chief of the Research Staff of my armed forces.”*

The Pentagon is going to innovate itself into oblivion.

*Seriously, just read the story, you can find it online.

Finally Reversing the F-22 Crippling of the F-35

The F-35 has a very limited air to air weapons loadout.

My theory for this is that it was a crippled in an attempt a futile effort to protect the F-22 purchase.

Well, it now appears that the weapons bay is being modify to fix this shortcoming: (It still is an over priced and under performing platform though)

Lockheed Martin will modify the F-35 weapons bay to accommodate a very long-range, anti-radiation missile and support a potential future upgrade to carry up to six air-to-air missiles internally, a source close to the program says.


The contract announcement released by the Pentagon specifically calls for altering the portion of the Station 425 bulkhead inside the weapons to carry “aft heavy weaponry.”

A source close to the program says the weapon involved in the modification program is the Navy’s Advanced Anti-Radiation Guided Missile-Extended Range (AARGM-ER).


The modification to Station 425 also will allow the F-35 to carry six AIM-120 missiles internally, the source says.

Lockheed has proposed the so-called “Sidekick” modification to increase the F-35’s internal load-out from four to six air-to-air missiles.

Still a misbegotten waste of resources though.

Finding the Way (Again): Building the Air Force’s New Century Series

Mike Pietrucha thinks that the USAF needs to return its development and procurement programs to the mid 1950s, when it developed the 5 frontline Century Series fighters.

  1. Senior Staff (Major or higher) exempted from up or out.
  2. No rotation out until full production procurement, defined as 25% of the original order, is complete. 
  3. A prohibition on such staff working for defense contractors for 10 years after leaving the service. 

This would make decades long product development cycle a career killer, it would prevent program changes as management rotates in and out, and it would incentivize some alacrity, and time is (taxpayer) money.

Also, the perfect is the enemy of good enough:  It makes no sense to bankrupt ourselves in an attempt to completely overmatch any potential opponent.

We are spending more on defense than the next seven countries combined, and our roads are falling apart, our schools are underfunded, healthcare is unaffordable for much of the population, and life expectancy is falling in many regions.

We cannot afford our bloated military or our bloated weapons anymore.

    Because It’s a Cheaper Plane to Fly

    Saab is tendering an offer to Canada for JAS-39 Gripens.

    The Trudeau government has been decidedly cool on the expensive to buy and expensive to operate F-35, and the Gripen offers much more flexibility and much lower life cycle costs:

    Saab is ready to sell the Canadian government 88 Canada-built Gripen fighters should Ottawa require home-built aircraft.

    The Swedish combat aircraft manufacturer cautions nothing is finalised and its offer will ultimately reflect Canada’s formal request for proposal (RFP). The company expects the final RFP to be issued around midyear by the Royal Canadian Air Force (RCAF).

    “As we have demonstrated in Brazil, and depending on the requirements of a customer, we can build fighter jets in countries other than Sweden,” says the company. “Gripen is the world’s most-modern multi-role aircraft and a perfect match to Canada’s operational requirements for NORAD defense and expeditionary missions. It is proven to operate in any climate, from arctic to desert.”


    The RCAF issued a draft request for proposal in October 2018 to an exclusive set of five potential suppliers to replace its Boeing CF-18A/B Hornet fleet.

    The suppliers included Dassault Aviation, maker of Rafales; Saab, maker of JAS 39 Gripens; Airbus Defense, a major partner in the Eurofighter joint venture, which makes Typhoons; Lockheed Martin, maker of F-16s and F-35s; and Boeing, maker of F/A-18 Super Hornets and F-15E Strike Eagles.

    My guess would be that Canada would go with the F/A-18 EF, as it is the most straightforward path from the earlier models CF-18s.

    Additionally, Canada has long expressed a preference for a twin engine aircraft.

    Still, if the bottom line is cost, the Gripen makes a lot of sense.

    Well, This is a Big Old F%$# You

    I have been writing for some time about how Turkey’s purchase of the top of the line Russian S-400 surface to air missile (SAM) system has the US military industrial complex freaking out over the loss of sales.

    The US claims that Turkey operating the system would allow the Russians unique insights into the characteristics of the F-35, but this is complete crap.

    The Russians would be able to determing things like radar cross section from installations in Syria and Russia. (It is an extraordinarily long range system)

    In response to threats to cancel F-35 sales to Turkey, Turkey is not in negotiations with Russia to set up a production line for the S-500, the even more capable system due to succeed the S-400:

    Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan said on Saturday that the purchase of S-400 defense systems from Russia was a done deal, adding that Ankara would also jointly produce S-500 defense systems with Moscow.

    U.S. officials have called Turkey’s planned purchase of the S-400 missile defense system “deeply problematic,” saying it would risk Ankara’s partnership in the joint strike fighter F-35 program because it would compromise the jets, made by Lockheed Martin Corp.

    I don’t speak Turkish, but I’m pretty sure that this is an invitation for the Pentagon, and Lockheed Martin, to go Cheney themselves.

    Germany has the Military Industrial Complex Completely Losing Its Sh%$

    Germany has decided not to procure the F-35, and Lockheed Martin is not happy.

    I do think that the apocalyptic terms used are a bit over the top:

    Germany’s decision not to buy the F-35 stealth fighter jet is a “retrograde step” that could hamper the country’s ability to operate at the same level as its Nato partners, according to the European head of Lockheed Martin, which manufactures the aircraft.

    Jonathan Hoyle, vice-president for Europe at the US defence group, said the German decision in January to exclude the F-35 from further consideration as a replacement for its ageing Tornado fleet had caught a lot of governments “on the hop”. The German defence ministry said at the time it had decided to acquire either more Eurofighters from Airbus, the European group, or Boeing-made F-18s.

    With the German rhetoric in the past three years having been about stepping up its defence capabilities, the decision not to consider the F-35 had prompted questions among other European governments over “Germany’s position going forward, and therefore what does it mean for Nato”, Mr Hoyle told the Financial Times in an interview.

    The German decision was seen by many defence observers as a signal by Berlin that it remained committed to pursuing a next-generation Franco-German “future combat air system” (FCAS). Paris had previously voiced fears that a German order to buy the F-35, widely seen as the most advanced aircraft on the shortlist, could have made the FCAS project — due to form the backbone of both countries’ air forces after 2040 — redundant.

    It’s also a signal that Germany finds the F-35 too expensive to own and operate, as well as being too inflexible (limited weapons loadout and payload) for its needs.

    Even ignoring Eisenhower’s characterization of the Military Industrial complex, this decision makes sense.

    Mo Money, Mo Money, Mo Money

    Despite the fact that the F-35 technically entered service last year, it is still not combat ready.

    The block 4 upgrade is supposed to get it there (maybe) and now we discover that the price tag for this will run into the billions:

    Lockheed-Martin Corp.’s F-35 jet, the world’s costliest weapons program, just got even costlier.

    The estimated total price for research and procurement has increased by $22 billion in current dollars adjusted for inflation, according to the Pentagon’s latest annual cost assessment of major projects. The estimate for operating and supporting the fleet of fighters over more than six decades grew by almost $73 billion to $1.196 trillion.


    Instead, the increase reflects for the first time the current cost estimates for a major set of upgrades planned in coming “Block 4” modifications, according to the report.


    But the long-range cost estimate for operating the fleet from 2011 to 2077 was problematic even before the latest independent Pentagon cost projection of an increase to $1.196 trillion. By contrast, the F-35 program office’s latest estimate declined by about $8.5 billion to $1 trillion.

    Block 4 is a major upgrade, and includes integrating new weapons beyond its current meager loadout, (including European weapons and the short range Sidewinder), adding electronic warfare capabilities, and adding the ability for the F-35 to communicate with legacy aircraft.

    Note that even with this upgrade, the cannon will still not work properly, and the vaunted ALIS maintenance program is still (at best) marginally operational, so the term “combat ready” is a bit of a stretch.

    For only a few tens of billions of dollars, which could otherwise be used to rebuild aging infrastructure, educate citizens, and provide healthcare.

    The F-35 is an exercise in what James Tiberius Kirk would call, “The illogic of waste.”

    Boeing’s Problems Metastasize

    I am sure that the operators of aircraft are going over their procedures and training as we speak:

    Boeing’s 767-based tankers use a version of the pitch augmentation system that grounded the 737 Max 8 fleet, the manufacturer and U.S. Air Force officials say.

    The disclosure provides a new data point in the unfolding story of how Boeing installed the Maneuvering Characteristics Augmentation System (MCAS) on the narrowbody airliner fleet.

    Both the KC-767 and KC-46 fleets delivered to air forces in Italy, Japan and the U.S. rely on the MCAS to adjust for pitch trim changes during refueling operations.


    By 2011, Boeing had already delivered KC-767s to Italy and Japan fitted with the first version of MCAS. The use of the system then spread as Boeing won the Air Force’s KC-46 contract in February and launched the 737 Max 8 in August. ………

    The U.S. Air Force has launched a review of flight procedures for the KC-46, a spokeswoman says.

    “The USAF does not fly the models of aircraft involved in the recent accidents, but we are taking this opportunity to exercise due diligence by reviewing our procedures and training as part of our normal and ongoing review process,” she says.



    It looks like the usual suspects are trying to sell a bloated defense budget as being a net job creator.

    In this case, it’s Peter Navarro, assistant to the president and the director of the Office of Trade and Manufacturing Policy, and in his New York Times OP/ED, he extols how, “the Trump defense budget is helping to create good manufacturing jobs at good wages.”

    Those jobs cost on the order of 10 times as much, and at the end of they day, we have nothing.

    To quote Ike Eisenhower, these tanks, and guns, and bombs are “A theft from those who hunger and are not fed, those who are cold and are not clothed.”

    You could get 5-10 times the number of jobs spending money on repairing our decaying infrastructure, or by working on projects to get new less polluting power on the grid, or on healthcare and early education.

    But that, of course, is socialism, so flushing money down a Desert Tan toilet it is, I guess.

    What You’ve Just Said Was One of the Most Insanely Idiotic Things I Have Ever Heard

    and May God Have Mercy on Your Soul

    The above Billy Madison quote is directed at Katie Wheelbarger, acting assistant secretary of defense for international security affairs.

    She is a part of the Pentagon freakout over Turkey buying S-400 SAMs from Russia.

    As I have noted before, this butt-hurt is about US defense contractors not geting their vigorish, and then not distributing a cut to Pentagon Generals through post-retirement sinecures.

    There are claims of security issues, but given that US allies in NATO are currently operating the nearly as capable S-300 system, Bulgaria, Greece, and Slovakia, I’m calling bullsh%$.

    Katie, however, turned the knobs on stupidity and hypocrisy up to eleven with when she said this:

    “The S-400 is a computer. The F-35 is a computer. You don’t hook your computer to your adversary’s computer and that’s basically what we would be doing,” Katie Wheelbarger, acting assistant secretary of defense for international security affairs, told Reuters.

    Undoubtedly the S-400 has ESM capabilities, and as such it could read emissions from the F-35 (as could more extensive installations in Russia) but the idea that somehow, because they both have chips in them, the S-400 could hack into the F-35 is beyond brain dead.

    I have it on good authority that you can tell when Katie Wheelbarger has been using your computer, because there is Wite-Out® on the screen.

    Triple the Development Time, and You Might Get Close

    This will not fly in 4 years

    India, which took 30 years to develop a lightweight fighter, the Tejas, is now promising that it will be fielding a completely new mid-size derivative of that benighted program.

    They are expecting the aircraft to take flight in 2023, with initial qualification following by 2 years.

    Considering the fact that this aircraft will be almost completely new, this is a Herculean task.

    Given that it is India, where weapon system development proceeds at a pace that makes US defense procurement look like a hummingbird on meth, I doubt it:

    Before it became the Tejas Mk. 1, India’s indigenous fighter was the Light Combat Aircraft (LCA), intended to replace the MiG-21. As a final operational configuration is approved for the Tejas Mk. 1, the government’s defense technology agency is proposing a larger successor, the Medium Weight Fighter (MWF), or Tejas Mk. 2.


    The MWF relates to the Tejas Mk. 1 very much as the Saab Gripen E/F does to the Gripen A/B/C/D. The Tejas Mk. 1 is an enlargement using the General Electric F414 engine in place of the F404 in its predecessor and fitted with updated electronics. Hindustan Aeronautics Ltd. (HAL) builds the Tejas Mk. 1.

    Unlike that earlier type but like all Gripens, the MWF has all-moving foreplanes just behind the cockpit, creating a close-coupled canard-delta configuration. With 22,000 lb. thrust available from the F414-INS6 engine, maximum takeoff weight is 30% greater than for the Tejas Mk. 1—17.5 metric tons (38,600 lb.) versus 13.5 metric tons, according to data that the DRDO presented at the Aero India exhibition, held in Bengaluru on Feb. 20-24. Maximum external load is almost doubled, to 6.5 metric tons from the 3.3 metric tons of the Tejas Mk. 1 and improved Mk. 1A, which use the 20,200-lb.-thrust GE F404-IN20. Weapons would include beyond-visual-range air-to-air missiles and standoff precision-guided munitions.

    The compound delta wing carries short-range air-to-air missiles on wingtip launch rails, rather than on pylons under the wing as on the Mk. 1, increasing span slightly to 8.5 m (28 ft.). Height also is increased slightly, to 4.86 m. The proposed aircraft will be 14.6 m long, 1.35 m longer than the Tejas Mk. 1. A Mirage-style refueling probe is fitted. Maneuver capability is increased to 9g, versus 8g for the Mk. 1A.


    “The first prototype is expected to fly by the end of 2023 and we hope to get the initial certification by 2025,” says a DRDO official—though these events hinge on when and if funding is made available.

    The Gripen E update involved relocating the landing gear to allow for additional fuel, structural improvements, and adding some hard points.

    This is basically a completely new aircraft, with new systems, new flight control laws, and no shared structure to speak of.

    This is not going to happen in the time frame described.

    Lockheed Martin Lobbyists Are Completely Losing Their Sh%$

    The Air Force Chief of Staff is examining the first new F-15 buy in 19 years, and Lockheed-Martin and its Evil Minions are having a major freakout

    I cannot imaging why Lockheed-Martin would be worried at the prospect of the US Air Force making a purchase of an aircraft that is cheaper to buy, cheaper to operate, flies farther, carries more, can have a back-seater who can handle things like SEAD and jamming, and has been continuously modernized over the years because of foreign sales.

    A full month before the scheduled rollout of the Trump administration’s fiscal 2020 budget request, Boeing’s F-15X has provoked a fierce intellectual clash over the future of U.S. airpower strategy and priorities.

    Advocates of the U.S. Air Force’s current plan to resume F-15 orders after a 19-year hiatus say it is an overdue response to an urgent requirement for quickly and affordably recapitalizing an aging air superiority fleet, while at the same time adding a comparatively flexible weapon system that can be adapted in the future to play a host of new roles, including perhaps electronic attack.

    But critics see wasteful spending on the latest version of a fighter originally designed in the late-1960s, at the expense of buying faster and what they assert are more relevant Lockheed Martin F-35As. Some critics also invoke the prospect of the F-15X causing an acquisition “death spiral” for another advanced stealth aircraft, snaring the Air Force’s program of record to buy 1,763 F-35As in the same budgetary trap that sharply curtailed original plans to order 132 Northrop Grumman B-2A bombers and 750 Lockheed Martin F-22s.


    The debate has placed Lockheed Martin in an awkward position. Although Lockheed executives generally support more spending on F-35 production, they also seem unwilling to contradict Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. Dave Goldfein, who has stated that F-15X funding won’t come at the expense of planned F-35 purchases. It is a point that CEO Marillyn Hewson emphasized on the fourth-quarter earnings call in late January.


    The Air Force is interested in buying a single-seat F-15CX and twin-seat F-15EX, the source says. Except for a two-place canopy and second cockpit in the F-15EX, both Air Force models would be identical.

    The configuration is defined by the Air Force’s demand to limit costs, especially for nonrecurring engineering. So the F-15X models are based exclusively on already fielded technology, including strengthened wings and large area displays funded by the Qatari Air Force, plus conformal fuel tanks, a digital fly-by-wire control system, APG-82 active, electronically scanned array radar and the Eagle Passive Active Warning Survivability System (EPAWSS) introduced by the Royal Saudi Air Force. The U.S. Air Force also is integrating the APG-82 radar on F-15Cs and F-15Es.


    For example, the combination of a strengthened wing and fly-by-wire flight controls expand the flight envelope, yielding a dogfight performance somewhere between the raw power offered by the F-15C and the nimble agility at high angles of attack of the F-22.


    Other important details involve the weapons options. The Saudi air force has integrated the AGM-88 High-speed Anti-Radiation Missile (HARM) on the F-15SA, so that becomes a new option for the Air Force fleet. The combination of the AGM-88, EPAWSS and the F-15’s inherent ability to generate large amounts of electrical power create intriguing possibilities. The Air Force retired its last tactical escort jamming platform in 1997, but the Navy has continued to perform the mission of jamming air defense radars with the Boeing EA-18G. The idea of a radar-jamming and -suppressing “Wild Weasel” version of an F-15EX could create a long-term role for the two-seater, operating alongside strike packages of F-35As.

    I don’t think that this will go anywhere, Lockheed-Martin has meticulously spread subcontractors around crucial Congressional districts, and even if it outperforms the F-35 in 90+% of conflict scenarios.

    Still, this promises to be entertaining.

    Is it April 1 already?

    Less Passenger Space than a DC-3

    A group of defense consultants were tasked with recommending an updated Air Force One, the Presidential transport.

    One proposal, to use a 737 is internally consistent, in that it leverages some of the engineering work done already on the P-8A Poseidon.

    There is a logic behind the choice, though the airframe might be too small to accomodate the President, his staff, and the press corps.

    The second proposal, to use the proposed B-21 next generation bomber, is flat out delusional.
    This aircraft is supposed to be roughly the size of the B-2, and as this picture of its bomb bay shows, the internal volume is less than any other Presidential transport since Presidents first flew.

    Seriously, what the F%$# were they smoking?

    A panel of aerospace and defense analysts has proposed ditching the U.S. Air Force’s Boeing 747-8-based Air Force One in favor of the Northrop Grumman B-21 stealth bomber, or a less-costly militarized Boeing 737 fleet.

    The group, writing for Wright Williams & Kelly (WWK), a cost management software and consulting company, says in a new report that President Donald Trump’s concerns about the massive cost of modifying two or three end-of-the-line 747-8 commercial airliners into military-grade presidential transports could be significantly reduced by recasting the requirements, which demand four engines and accommodations for an entourage of 70-plus passengers. By taking into account the safety and reliability of modern twin-engine aircraft, the Air Force would have a wide range of alternatives to study, instead of being limited to the Boeing 747-8 or Airbus A380.


    Danny Lam, who contributed to the WWK report and is a spokesman on behalf of the group, says the report focused on the B-21 and 737. It does not rule out the Boeing 767, nor foreign airframes built by Airbus, Bombardier or Embraer. Russian and Chinese alternatives were not candidates.

    The penny-wise option is a fleet of presidential 737s, since the type has already been adapted for military use at great expense. The 737-700-based C-40 already carries passengers for the U.S. Navy and U.S. Air Force. The 737 has also been converted into the P-8A Poseidon submarine hunter for the Navy, Australia, India, Norway and the UK. It is the basis for Australia, South Korea, and Turkey’s airborne early warning and control aircraft. Boeing has also pitched it as a replacement for the Air Force’s E-8C Joint Surveillance Target Attack Radar System, EC-130H Compass Call and RC-135 Rivet Joint aircraft.


    Central to the B-21 proposal is safety. Lan says the proliferation of high-tech surface-to-air missiles to “non-state actors and guerrilla groups” is a significant threat to Air Force One, and a 747-8 is particularly vulnerable.

    I would also note that they based their analysis on publicly available data on the B-2 Spirit, which, among other things, lacks a real bathroom, possessing only a chamber pot behind the seats.

    This proposal is insanely stupid.

    Our Broken Military-Industrial Complex

    The Navy’s costliest warship, the $13 billion Gerald R. Ford, had 20 failures of its aircraft launch-and-landing systems during operations at sea, according to the Pentagon’s testing office.

    The previously undisclosed failures with the electromagnetic systems made by General Atomics occurred during more than 740 at-sea trials since the aircraft carrier’s delivery in May 2017 despite praise from Navy officials of its growing combat capabilities. The Navy must pay to fix such flaws under a “cost-plus” development contract.

    The new reliability issues add to doubts the carrier, designated as CVN-78, will meet its planned rate of combat sorties per 24 hours — the prime metric for any aircraft carrier — according to the annual report on major weapons from the Defense Department’s operational test office.


    The launch-and-landing issue is separate from the ship’s lack of 11 functioning elevators to lift munitions from below deck, an issue that’s drawn scrutiny from Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman James Inhofe, an Oklahoma Republican.

    The Ford “will probably not achieve” its sortie rate requirement because of “unrealistic assumptions” that “ignore the effects of weather, aircraft emergencies, ship maneuvers and current air-wing composition on flight operations,” Robert Behler, the Pentagon’s director of operational testing, said in his assessment of the carrier, obtained by Bloomberg News.


    Ten “critical failures” occurred during 747 at-sea catapults of jets; another 10 “operational mission failures” occurred during 763 shipboard landing attempts, according to the testing office’s report.

    So, we are talking about a 1.5% failure rate for the technology.

    This is not human error, this is a failure of the underlying technology, the catapult is performing about 6x worse than what is specified under contract, and the arrester gear is performing about 100x worse than is called for.

    This is a hell of a way to run a f%$#ing railroad.

    The Mistake Jet Just Gets Better and Better

    It now appears the first F-35s delivered will have only ¼ the life originally promised:

    Structural defects mean the earliest F-35Bs delivered by Lockheed Martin could reach a service life limit by 2026 after 2,100 flight hours, according to the Pentagon’s director for weapons testing.

    The design specification of the F-35B called for a service life of 8,000 flight hours, but early production models fall “well under” the durability requirement, Robert Behler, director of operational test and evaluation (DOT&E,) wrote in his latest annual report to Congress.

    The new DOT&E assessment comes after several years of durability testing that exposed multiple structural cracks. Lockheed completed two service lifetime cycles of durability testing on a static F-35B airframe called BH-1, but canceled a plan in February 2017 to perform a third series.

    Structural redesigns, including a new approach for the wing-carry-through, had made BH-1 unrepresentative of the final production standard, the DOT&E report states. The F-35 program has obtained funding to acquire a new structural test article, but it was not yet on contract, the report adds. Bloomberg first reported the DOT&E’s findings on the F-35 program.

    Yeah, the new test article is, “Not yet on contract.”

    The B model is the STOVL version, and any weight increase would have potentially catastrophic effects on performance, but they have not let a contract for a test article yet.

    I’m SO reassured.

    OK, I Did Not See This Coming

    There are a number of things that I thought would never happen.

    One of them was that the US Air Force would never order another F-15.

    They have been trying to kill them for some time, but now it looks like they might be asking for some new Eagles in the 2020 budget:

    Indecision has plagued the U.S. Air Force’s approach to managing a fleet of about 230 Boeing F-15C/Ds. Only two years ago, top Air National Guard officials floated a proposal to retire the U.S.-based portion of the air superiority fleet. After that idea withered under the heat of a Congressional backlash, the Air Force last year opted to deprive its F-15C/D units of a critical electronic warfare upgrade, making the entire fleet vulnerable to a near-term retirement decision. Again, Congress intervened and voted to partially restore the program in the enacted fiscal 2019 budget.

    But Air Force leaders now seem poised to perform the budgetary equivalent of the F-15’s about-face Immelmann turn. Instead of launching another attempt to retire the F-15 fleet, the Air Force is likely to ask Congress for money to order new F-15s for the first time in 19 years. The anticipated policy reversal has prompted calls for the Air Force to justify such a sweeping, strange request in fleet strategy.

    “We’re in a bit of a pickle, and the pickle is we don’t have the capacity we need,” Matt Donovan, Air Force undersecretary, explained on Jan. 18.

    Donovan was careful to clarify that he was neither confirming nor denying reports that the F-15X would be included in the Trump administration’s upcoming fiscal 2020 budget, but he still offered a preview of the Air Force’s newly formed argument that the time has come to reverse its nearly two-decade-old position. Instead of insisting that acquiring more non-stealthy, manned fighters in the modern era is futile, Air Force officials are now pleading for more air superiority aircraft overall, regardless of whether they are less observable to radar.

    There are a number of issues, the USAF is maintaining that they are not getting F-35s fast enough, but I am inclined to believe that in addition to their sky-high acquisition costs, that the operating costs of the Lightning II are much higher than anticipated.

    The hourly direct operating cost of the F-15 is lower than either the F-22 or F-35, while the Eagle’s unrefueled range is greater than either of the newer aircraft, and its air to air and air to ground loadouts are superior.

    For about 95% of any conflicts, the F-15 is cheaper and more capable, so this decision would make sense, which is why I never expected the US Air Force to consider such a decision.

    This is Going to Become a Disaster

    I propose that it be named Zeitverschwendung

    France and Germany are starting to set up requirements for their next generation fighter, and it will be a complete disaster.

    I know this from one data point, it’s size.

    The aircraft will have 2 engines in the 30,000 lb thrust class, which implies a massive, and massively expensive, aircraft.

    This is the start of a cycle.

    It starts with over aggressive specifications and unrealistic schedule and budget, and as the already excessive cost climbs, the program slips, and is restructured in the quest to find cost sharing partners, and finally, a fleet hobbled by inadequate numbers and excessive costs:

    France and Germany’s pursuit of a next-generation combat aircraft for the 2040s may have been plagued by quarrels over workshare and export opportunities in recent weeks, but behind the scenes there appears to be agreement about the way forward.

    National internal studies into the Future Combat Air System (FCAS) have concluded that advanced future threats need to be met with a system of systems that has a manned fighter at its heart, supported by and connected to legacy fighters and a family of ground- and air-launched unmanned aircraft systems-—some expendable, some recoverable, and others with very-low-observable attributes.


    Few details have been broadcast about the NGF’s architecture, but the proposals certainly indicate a large twin-engine, low-observable platform. Studies call for the development of 30,000-lb.-class powerplants. The resulting platform is likely to be larger and heavier than the Eurofighter Typhoon and the Dassault Rafales it is envisaged to replace, more in the size class of the Lockheed Martin F-22 Raptor or even the Northrop Grumman YF-23.


    Dassault presented this tailless, twin-engine NGF design at the Euronaval defense show in Paris in October. Credit: Dassault Aviation Concepts

    Some sense of scale could be drawn from the potential size of the weapons bay, which likely will be sized to fit a future French standoff nuclear weapon.

    The current weapon, the ASMP, is a 5.38-m-long (17.7-ft.) ramjet-powered weapon. The French are reportedly studying hypersonic performance for the next generation, ASN4G, which likely will be a similar size.

    Another consideration of scale will be France’s ambition to develop a carrier-
    borne version, to replace the Rafale M deployed on its Charles de Gaulle carrier. Carrier operations will result in size and weight limitations. The naval version of the Rafale has a lower maximum takeoff weight than its land-based counterpart. However, France plans to replace the Charles de Gaulle with a new carrier, to be operational in the late 2030s, which will be developed to operate with the NGWS.

    We already have the unrealistic specifications down pat.

    This Has Fiasco Written All Over It

    Expensive to Acquire, Expensive to Operate

    The US Air Force is looking at their next tanker, and the mission creep is insane.

    This sounds like it will make the F-35 debacle look like the Skunk Works:

    Very little has changed in the configuration and performance of airlifter and air-refueling aircraft since the mid-1950s. Lockheed Martin’s C-5A dramatically expanded payload volume in 1968, and Boeing’s C-17 introduced a strategic airlifter with the ability to make short takeoffs and landings on unprepared runways. Besides those improvements, the U.S. Air Force’s mobility mission has been almost untouched by the survivability requirements that drove radical changes to the design and operation of fighters, bombers and intelligence-gathering aircraft in the last half-century.

    As Air Force planners now embark on the early stages of a process to acquire a new class of refuelers and airlifters over the next two decades, there is a clear emphasis on designs that overcome the vulnerability of existing aircraft to detection and interception. That potential shift in the requirements follows a new strategy of air warfare that transforms the role of mobility aircraft from a purely supporting one to an active part in combat operations as forward-based command-and-control nodes and even strike platforms.

    And in case you are wondering just how far overboard the USAF is planning to go, have a slice of this guaranteed winner in the next bullsh%$ bingo competition:

    It is a transformation that senior Air Force officials are still trying to socialize with the community of cargo and tanker crews. Underscoring the unfolding transition was a key theme of Chief of Staff Gen. David Goldfein’s address at the Airlift Tanker Association (ATA) annual conference on Oct. 26. “I had the chance to fly the KC-46 a few weeks ago,” Goldfein said before several hundred ATA members. “But what I strapped on was not an aircraft. What I flew was a node in our future network, [with] computing capacity that we can connect at the speed of light to other platforms, sensors and weapons to bring creative solutions to the fight.”

    If they are at this level of complete bullsh%$ at this stage of the program, this presages a Death Star sized debacle.