JSF’s Ill-timed Red Stripe

Late last week all 25 Marine Corps F-35Bs were grounded due to a fuel leak that was discovered during a training flight out of Eglin AFB, according to a Reuters report.  The other JSF variants were unaffected by the action, and ground testing of the VTOL version of the jet continues.

At the same time, Business Insider reports that the next-gen fighter/bomber — all models of the Lightning II (ironic, ain’t it) — could explode in midair if hit by lightning (and I can tell you as an airborne lightning strike vet (thrice in the Tomcat) it happens enough to be a valid concern).

These are bad days for these sorts of events and realizations.  The Pentagon has started acting on anticipated budget shortfalls even as the sequestration debate gets pushed to the right by several months, and after the Department of Defense works it’s way through downsizing end strength, freezing civilian hires, and cutting its benefit payouts, they’ll walk the crosshairs onto the acquistion programs of record . . . especially those that have dubious programmatic histories in terms of cost, performance, and schedule.

This most recent Red Stripe issued by NAVAIR on the F-35B is strike two for the program.  As documented in a recent DOT&E report the program halted durability testing late in 2011 when cracks were found after 2,000 hours of flight time on a bulkhead that was designed to last at least 8,000 hours.

Some of this is just the nature of test, of course.  Every great weapons system has had problems during development — every one.  And every program has fought budget pressures along the way.  But what’s different these days is the magnitude of the budget pressure added to a Congress that’s sort of feeling like the Pentagon had a blank check for the last 12 years (except for lawmakers with defense corporations in their districts, of course).

And if a variant has to go, it’s going to be the Marine Corps one.  The Corps’ love of amphibious warfare and CAS flown from dirt airfields close to the action yielded the Harrier (thanks, General Miller), and the AV-8’s history is as much defined by mishaps and groundings as it is VTOL utility in the field.  (It’s super-cool at airshows, though.)  So, when the budget axe hits the requirements side of the house — and only one service is pleading its case — it might get ugly for our pilots-in-green.

  • blight_

    Dare I ask if the F-22 has been tested for lightning strike survivability?

    • Dfens

      Depends on your definition of “survival”. A good sized bolt will blow a chunk out of the skin. I remember back in 1995 when the F-22 program all of the sudden discovered that lightening hits airplanes. We all got one more opportunity to redesign all of the airplane’s structure as they added a ply of copper mesh to the inside of the skins. The deal with stealth aircraft is they are designed from the outside in. Add a ply to the skin and everything underneath has to change. The good news, though, is the development program was able to drag on a little longer because of that “oversight”. The longer it drug on, the more money it cost the US taxpayer. It’s just like clubbing baby seals…

  • BlackOwl18E

    I’m not surprised. I’m just trying to guess which F-35 version will be cancelled first: the F-35B or the F-35C. The F-35C is actually easier to kill since it doesn’t have any foreign orders. The Super Hornet with decent armament and upgrades is all that the Navy needs and ever will need for a long time.

    • tee

      Agreed BlackOwl18: the Navy can buy more Super Hornets,Growlers & UCAV’s and it will be OK for now and would save Billions of $$$ which it needs to build ( those gray floaty things called Ships). At current prices you can get 4 Junk Strike Fighter C Models or buy 1 LCS, which is a whole different can of worms, but that’s their current options. And SecNav Mabus & Under Secretary Work, have eluded to doing just that.

      • Guest

        Canada might (in the end) be interested in the C…They seems to have an odd craving for carrier things, and this one they can even refuel in-flight themselves!

        • Sanem

          you mean the Canada that went from “secured orders” to “let’s rethink everything” a month ago?

          or the F-35C that doesn’t even have a good landing hook?

          • tee

            Canada should buy the Super Hornet. If they did, they would be able to afford ALL the Aircraft that they “Originally” wanted instead of having to cut back their numbers so dramatically. And since the US will be using them for many years to come, there is a built in logistics supply of everything they will ever need. Plus when was the last time Canada used Aircraft for “Truly Offensive” operations and not Peace Keeping Op’s and they were bombing or strafing Enemy positions, WWII ? They need a fast Air Defense Fighter to protect their very large and expansive borders.

          • ChrisB
          • David Tehranchi

            Isn’t the RN buying the C for its thru deck cruisers?

          • David Tehranchi

            Belay my last. I forgot the C is the CVN varient.

    • obviously

      BlackOwl never misses a chances to spew his F-35 hating commie c**p

      • BlackOwl18E

        Damn right I don’t. ;)

    • Sanem

      yep, the Navy has been hedging its bets from day one with the F/A-18E/F (where the USAF went “freeze all other fighter buys, the F-35 will be here on time and on budget”)

      UCAVs also offer way to big advantages to the USN for the F-35C to pose even the smallest competition (range, cost, expendability)

    • dennisbuller

      I am a fan of the A-10.
      But can it land on an aircraft carrier? A Gator freighter?….

      • Thomas L. Nielsen

        “But can it land on an aircraft carrier?”

        Yes. At least once.

        Regards & all,

        Thomas L. Nielsen

        PS: I’m also a fan of the A-10. An aircraft with that big a gun can only be a good thing.

    • RunningBear

      None will be cancelled.

    • matheusdiasuk

      If the F35B is cancelled, the british are totally screwed.

      Those Harriers start to look so much amazing day by day.

  • Simple Man

    Bring back the A-10 or the Skyraider.

    • Kim

      …and the F-104, if only because it looks so good.

      • Zach

        And hell, if we’re talking looks, let’s throw the F-5 in there too.

    • TJRedneck

      They should have NEVER done away with the A-10, unless they were working on an upgraded version of the A-10.

      • Don

        A-10 hasn’t gone anywhere. it is slated to stay around until 2025. I was Hawg Crew Crew Chief and Flightline Super for 16 years on the A-10A. The C model is now out.

        Read more: http://live-defensetech.sites.thewpvalet.com/2013/01/23/jsfs-ill-timed-…

    • Don

      A-10 hasn’t gone anywhere. it is slated to stay around until 2025. I was Hawg Crew Crew Chief and Flightline Super for 16 years on the A-10A. The C model is now out.

      • tiger

        There are fewer planes & units however.

        • Don

          That is true

      • badrivet

        as one of the many who built the A-10, It delivers much pride that a once scorned ( Air Force didn’t apreciate its strengths for close air support) air craft has earned the hearts of both the pilots and ground troups by delivery of much shock and awe. Of course not to mention the Iraquis.

        • Don

          I was one of the first crew chiefs on the A-10A at Myrtle Beach AFB and spent 16+ years on it. I got to enjoy a few trips to the Hagerstown facility to watch them be built. Love that jet!

  • crazy

    Hard to believe it was overlooked. Suspect the program office approved removing add-on lightning strike materials as a weight reduction effort based on statistical analysis predicting a very low probability of lightning strike in the life of the fleet. Not very comforting to the jock in the seat who wins the lightning lottery.

    • blight_

      When you make promises on how wonderful your JSF is based on its technological payload combined with promises of low weight, at some point those two trucks are going to hit each other head on.

      An F-35 with less doodads that meets the weight limits or one with doodads but sacrifices lightning survivability? Hmm…!

  • Lance

    Keep saying keep the C or B scrap the problem prone B before it kills the whole program.

    • sailor12

      Do you know how much money they spent to setup that base in Yuma? All the personnel they had to move there with their families, Housing, exchange commisary and recreation. Thats a lot of MONEY.

    • tiger

      And the Fleet Air Arm Gets a Carrier with no planes? Not a option……….

  • Ronaldo

    Talk to any of the Lockheed engineers and they will tell you that the entire design structure was badly compromised by the requirements of the B. Less so for the C though even there, there was a cost to the CV capability.

    For a broad brush confimation of this, do check out the different performance figures for the various versions particularly in turning force ( G’s) roll rate, and usefull payload.

    Better for all that the Marines had ditched the B and not put their burden on the other services.

    • JohnB

      Absolutely. There were early ill-conceived program decisions that have completely hamstrung the entire JSF project. I don’t think there’s anyone who wouldn’t sign off to that statement.

      But what about now? Which course of action should the incoming secretary choose? The air force cannot extend the service life of its F-16s indefinitely, and the budget pressures are real.

    • Charley A

      Since the JSF design is optimized for the -B variant, would it not be smarter to fix the STOVL version and scrap the -C? The transonic performance of the CV version is terrible (yet not unforeseen.) Then the Navy can accelerate the design process for the F/A-XX / NGAD with funding release from the JSF, and continue to buy Super Hornets to replace the A-D.

  • Chops

    What about the fact that the Brits are building two carriers w/o catapults and are counting on the B model as their naval fighter-bomber—I doubt they can change things now.

    • Peter

      I’m from the UK and I can’t see that as being anything other than a huge mistake! We should have built the carriers with “cats & traps” and bought F18’s. It would have been far cheaper and more satisfactory. I find it hard to believe we’ll ever see any F35’s with our colours on. Not even sure about yours!

      We should also have built the carriers nuclear powered, but that is another story.

      • eaglemmoomin
        • Godzilla

          Is it not possible to use the UK carriers with a STOBAR system with a different fighter than the F-35B? I seem to remember there being studies to use modified Eurofighters like this. The Russians do it with Su-33s on the Admiral Kuznetsov. The French claim the Rafale can launch in STOBAR configuration as well from simulations.

          I agree they would have been better off using CATOBAR to begin with in the UK carriers. I seem to remember the French wanting it as well when it was supposed to be a joint project.

      • badrivet

        The rumore mill that has been feeding me has it that this is esentially, at the moment the plan. Your carrier is on hold pending this decision. If indeed F-18’s they want the U.S. to install the reactors. We both will find out if its fiction.

    • Sanem

      no problem, all they need to build is a good STOVL UAV platform and just transplant the software from the Taranis. cheap, fast and effective

    • Vulpine

      I wouldn’t put it past the Brits to be working on a new VTOL craft of their own by now. This thing is more than 5 years late and way, WAY over budget.

  • TonyC

    The fuel leak could have been a loose fitting, no explanation was given. Grounding a aircraft type when a hazardous condition is dicovered is pretty much standard operating procedure. This may be nothing at all.
    For the F-18E/F proponents, it had major deviation of flight issues in flight testing at Patuxent River that could have cancelled that program if the US Navy had not been behind the project 100%. The F-18E/F that is in the fleet is not like the prototypes,
    so this type of problem is nothing new.

    • Harrierboyf35
    • Ryan

      “The F-18E/F that is in the fleet is not like the prototypes”

      True, but due to concerency the F-35 that is currently being flight tested is much closer to the fleet aircraft that are and will be fielded.

  • Tribulationtime

    Anyone can show me where found info about F-35C?.

  • Rob

    The F-35 should, by all intents and purposes be cancelled - it’s failed to comply with every DoD Acquisition Law known to man. Sadly, it will not be cancelled at least in part because Lockheed-Martin is in bed with so many members of Congress it’s not funny. It’s a clear target for budget cuts - please refer to the previous statement to understand why it hasn’t been cut. F-35 replace the A-10 - not in a million years! We’re in quite the conundrum here - the F-22 is probably what we need the most (another L-M effort with a number of problems) for the truly high-threat areas and it’s gone very likely to never return. For most applications A-10s and the F-Teen aircraft (15,16, 18) are just fine and I’m sure Boeing would gladly sell us new build F-15s possibly even the semi-stealthy F-15SE and is still delivering F-18s now which incorporate some L/O properties themselves and could probably do more in that area.

    • Rob

      Let’s not forget that Boeing also now supports the Harrier - bet they know where the dies and jigs for that badboy are as well.

    • Jon

      I agree Rob, keep it simple. Hard to beat modified Teen series and then there is the A-10…

  • Mzungu

    I fail to see how scraping the B would save the A and C. The design works all like 90% finished on all 3, isn’t it?. it’s not like the engineers are now free to move the engine or the wing and tails around on the A & C for better performance without a few more billion dollars. Did I miss something?

    • Charley A

      Moving parts around on a stealth aircraft is not easy or cheap.

  • heloshark

    If any F-35 variant is cancelled to make this budget situation work, bet a steak dinner it’s the “C” variant that goes. The Navy has GREAT options, the Super Hornet and the Growler. The Marine Corps doesn’t.

    • oblat

      Scrapping the marine corps is the way to go. It is doing more damage to our security than it is worth.

    • Papi1960R

      Scrapping the USMC is not really an option. The USA needs a relevant USMC. Since 2001 the Marines have performed very poorly as a second land Army, I’d like to envision a future Marine force down-sized to resemble The Royal Marines( or as my Angalophile friends like to state RM= REAL Marines), but about 4 times larger. Light, Lethal & Elite. Where 95% of Marines are door smashers & ASSKickers. Capital combat multipliers Artillery, Engineers, MP, EOC Signal, Net Backbone & Intel task assigned from the Army when needed. “With Only 9 CSGs”? WTF? The USN can only float 30K Marines Maximum, a CSG can shadow every MEU, everywhere in the world. Currently the USMC cant deploy, conduct & sustain combat ops without major contributions from the Army NG/Reserves. Remold the the USMC quickly, currently they are the B team.

  • Gary

    It always amuses me when somebody compares the chances of something happening(winning the Lotto, etc.) with the odds of getting struck by lightning. The odd of getting struck by lightning WHERE and doing WHAT?
    Sitting at your desk in the office: Extremely Low.
    Flying you supersonic jet fighter/bomber through/near a convective cell: Significantly Higher.

  • Ripley

    I don’t think it was the USMC’s love of CAS from dirt airfields that yielded the Harrier. It was the British RAF’s love of CAS from dirt airfields.

    The RAF and RN also showed what VTOL jets flying off small carriers and dirt forward airbases can do when the British liberated the Falklands.

    It was a compromise too far to try and make a conventional and VTOL version of the same plane, but VTOL jets can be game changers, especially when you can’t afford big deck carriers.

    • Mastro

      Did the Brits fly many sorties in the Falklands from unprepared fields? I honestly don’t know-

      • JohnnyRanger

        I am pretty sure the RAF set up air bases ashore after San Carlos. They had actually lost most of their Harriers when the Argentines (Argentinians?) sank the cargo ship that was ferrying them into the area, so we are really only talking about a handful, and for just the tail end of the war, but they were able to be deployed close to the troops with minimal ground support. I recall reading they used some sort of matting on the takeoff and landing areas, so I guess it’s inaccurate to say the fields were totally unprepared. Austere, definitely.

        • Baldrick

          When the Atlantic Conveyor was sunk in the Falklands War, no Harriers were lost but lots of stores and helicopters were (check out Bravo November, it’s quite famous for a helicopter with it’s own wikipedia entry, but I digress).

          The Harriers did work off a temporary runway at San Carlos Bay, there are records of a Harrier being lost/damaged whilst landing there.

          What I think was significant about that War was the practice of VIFF’ing (Vectoring In Forward Flight) which greatly helped the Harrier in Air to Air combat. The ability to VIFF is something that the F35-B will not have. Not a negative statement, just a statement of fact. VIFF’ing was of “great use” in the Falklands War with the Argentinian planes flying on critical fuel and having little spare fuel for Air-to-Air manoeuvring, it’s use in other scenarios however… (this is where my knowledge is limited, anyone care to comment?)

          One final thought of relevance to this thread. The Harrier & F-35B cratered runway scenario has not really occurred yet (Falklands was “almost there”). Western Forces have not really been in a shooting war with someone who can threaten our airpower support facilities both on land and at sea. That is a key feature of the VTOL F-35B, when it is finished testing, it’s flexibility when you are stretched should be an asset.

          • JRL

            The Brits never used VIFF manoeuvering techniques during air combat with the Argentines. Not once.

            What the Harrier gave the Brits was an aerial platform from which to launch the new AIM-9L Sidewinders given to them by the US just before the expeditionary force sailed . That’s what defeated the Argentines, not the airshow tricks.

          • JohnnyRanger

            Ooooh shoot…you’re right, I’m wrong - they lost helos on AC, not Harriers…

    • Charley A

      The Brits developed the Harrier to counter cratered runways. The USMC wanted a fixed wing jet that they could operate from “their” carriers and forward / austere bases. The austere-ness of their basing concept didn’t happen often, proving very difficult logistically. For the most part, land basing takes place at established airbases and camps with significant runways and facilities.

  • C-Low

    My personal observation is that if any of the variants are secure it is the F-35B Marine VSTOL version. Why well simply any/all fortune tells point to the Pacific and allies carrying much more burden. The harrier is old outdated and their is NO OTHER option for replacement but the F-35B. All our pacific ring allies are building up their anfib size ships with the assumed but not always loudly stated prospect of F-35B’s flying off their decks.

    Bottom line is this
    -F-35C has options for F-18 superbug and UCAV
    -F-35A well has the stiffest competition across the board from multiple nations.
    -F-35B has no replacement leaving the US anfibs without air power the pole position warship in any Pacific oriented plan and or small war plans we are currently stuck in. Then think Britain who is building a jump deck carrier that will what, Japan, Australia, S Korea, etc… we are going to leave them all vacant?

    If any of the F-35 variants have a needed hole to fill it is the F-35B. Without it our whole Pacific strategy collapses along with huge amounts of our allies already spent monies on their Anphibs. Not to mention with less carriers and small wars across the 3rd world the F-35B equipped Anphibs open lots of doors while keeping the big boys concentrated on the BIG problems holding down the lid.

    Look at France in Mali with south of 20 fighter bombers and roughly 2500 french troops they blunted a advance turned the line and are pressing close to Goa and soon to push north and/or northeast. Hmmm what does the US have that carries roughly 2500 troops/marines and can operate around 20 fighter bombers?

    just my 2 cents.

    • Flash Gordon

      Good points but a radically updated version of the Harrier is possible with an Israeli jamming system and 4+ gen features (HMD, AESA radar, etc…) and you have a feasible, capable, and survivable VTOL option…

      The problem with the F-35B is the lift fan, the vectored thrust ala the X-32 while not as powerful was a much lower risk option and would be operational today…

      Try to develop new technologies but when they are not working out even with billions and years of development there is a time to give up, we have already passed that time…

    • heloshark

      Our Pacific strategy collapses without the F-35B? Really?

      • Charley A

        Not sure what playbook the poster is reading. The F-35B has the shortest range of all the versions, based on the slowest, most vulnerable “carriers” in the fleet. The Pacific theater needs aircraft with greater unrefueled range. As for Mali - which is a landlocked country - the nearest coastline is more than 300 miles away. Goan (Goa being in India) is even further inshore. The F-35B doesn’t have the fuel to complete that mission, and amphibious groups do not have an organic aerial refueling capability.

  • Flash Gordon

    When a member of the team is not cutting it, you cut them at some point rather than holding on to them to longer and longer…

    If you cut the VTOL F-35, the LCS, the B-52 or B-1 and cut the Army’s heavy armor/artillery in half you solve most of your budget problems without degrading your actual combat capability…

    Somethings have got to go to save the most important capabilities…

    • JohnnyRanger

      How on earth do you cut us down to 20 bombers and cut our armored and artillery forces in HALF and not degrade combat capability? I am sure I am reading your post wrong.

      • Flash Gordon

        Not to just 20 bombers (B-2) but one of the legacy bombers, Buff or Bone, 94 B-52’s or 66 B-1’s, we have an overkill (pun intended) and can save money and recapitalize by cutting and then reinvesting… the FB-22 or B-3 NGB are good starts…

        Armor and artillery (unless prepositioned) are not going to be able to be put into theater quick enough before it is all over for most of the scenarios we are now focusing on with the Pacific Pivot, the Army will have to be light and quick to operate in a theater with the “tyranny of distance” - MBTs and Howitzers are not going to matter since they will not get to the fight fast enough (Taiwan, insurgency in the Philippines, etc…)

        Airpower and fast moving infantry via amphibious assault and airdrop…

        • Vaporhead

          And I guess all those Buffs and Bones are fully operational at all times. What education do you have that makes you qualified to make a statement like that?

        • JohnnyRanger

          I don’t know. What you’re proposing is, at best, 114 bombers, at least until one of your replacement recommendations comes online, which could take half a generation given recent experience. That seems pretty thin. There was an article either here or in DT a while back about bomber optempo just to maintain availability in Afghanistan, and it sounded like it was difficult to do.

          I have to totally disagree about the heavy ground stuff. Not in that it takes a while to move, but in that every war from here on out will over that quickly.

          • Flash Gordon

            Smaller but far more modern force that’s why we need to cut some tails to recapitalize and buy new aircraft… just from an AF perspective do we really think we are going to be carpet bombing from high altitudes in large formations or delivering PGMs from stand off distances against mobile IADs and other HVTs?

            Even if we go down to 100+ bombers and plan on being able to sustain and employ 50 in a major conflict, that is helluva lot of firepower, more than anyone else (at least currently) would ever be able to muster…

            The US Military needs to be bold and remake itself into a mainly 5th generation force… stealth, networked, precise with long distance capability… shedding some capabilities to fund the new ones is what is needed…

        • Charley A

          FB-22 is a non-starter - it would be range compromised. The better option is the LRS-B / NGB - lots of range, significant payloads.

  • Mastro

    Should I ask if anyone’s tested the F35B and C for salt water resistance?

    • JohnnyRanger

      Hahaha! Well, the -C as first designed couldn’t catch an arresting wire, so maybe it’s not that outlandish!!!

    • Charley A

      Surprisingly, they actually thought about that. The JSF is designed to naval aircraft corrosion standards - which the USAF complained about - so hopefully it won’t corrode as much as the F-22.

  • Mastro

    Is the problem with the F35 and lightning that older planes made from aluminum are basically big Farraday cages- while new composite ones are begging for a fire?

  • RetiredSNCOavionics

    The B should be the last to be cancelled, no one has mentioned the Sept. Attacks on Camp Bastion in Afghanistan, and we suffered the largest single incident losses of marine corps aviation since Viet Nam. Almost %70 of our newly upgraded AV-8B Harrier fleet was either destroyed or put so out of commision it would take months of depot level repair to get back to flying ready again. This incident alone is why the B Model F-35 is an imparative now for the USMC.

    • JohnnyRanger

      I thought only 4 airframes were total losses?

    • Vpanoptes

      An of course the F-35B will be far less likely to suffer major damage from an attack by a bunch of determined jihadis in the next brush war we start? What percent of our force package will we lose then?

    • oblat

      Just shows what a joke forward basing is.

    • JRL

      Yeah, next time it’ll be even more fun when it’s a bunch of $250M bomb trucks going up in smoke.

    • blight_

      The consequence will be moving gunships to Bastion, not more Harriers or expediting a Harrier replacement.

      JSF’s will be so expensive they will rarely be forward based like they were in Bastion.

      • Papi1960R

        Actually it was British Apaches that ended the attack at Bastion. It is a Joint British Army/USMC base. 4 Taliban were captured alive. They indicated that after reconning the base inside and out, that no assault on the British side of the base was considered for 4 reasons. 1. The British guard force and QRF was substantially bigger than the Marines. 2. The British kept an Apache airborne 24/7. 3. The Marine Command appeared to not communicate with the British well. 4. The British had tossed the ISAF ROEs in the rubbish years ago, while the Marines were under strict ISAF/Panetta ROEs. Or so says the Royal Marines un-official web page.

        • DD25

          Your information and comment is 100% incorrect. Please do a little more research before you post such a one sided story.

    • DD25

      Why do you write so matter of fact about information that is not accurate. Please tell us where you got “70% of our newly upgraded AV-8B Harrier fleet was either destroyed or put so out of commission.” Divide that by 10 and you’ll be a lot closer. If you are going to post something online, please know what you’re talking about first.

    • blight_

      Bastion is the UK, Leatherneck the USMC.

      From evil wiki:

      “The attack was described as “the worst loss of U.S. airpower in a single incident since the Vietnam War.”The eight destroyed or damaged aircraft constituted six percent of the USMC’s inventory of Harrier attack jets. Normal attrition of the USMC’s Harrier jets is around two airframes a year. To replace the aircraft lost in the attack, the USMC deployed 14 Harriers to Afghanistan within 36 hours of the raid”

  • Brad

    I support the JSF program. But there is also a bit of a paradox. I am also going into the Navy and was considering being a pilot untill I read up on the C version single engine death trap. No thanks. Even worse that lightning can take them out. With no second engine any problem and the plane is in the sea. Give the C a second engine or fix this lightning problem. Untill then its IW or IO for me.

    • dennisbuller

      Brad, don’t be a sissy. You want to be a pilot? You have to have make yourself have balls of brass.
      Every air-frame the military puts out has issues. The original F-18 landing gear folded up when it landed on carriers. Its bombs popped off. It cracked, everywhere.
      The F-14 had bad engines originally (so long to Goose…). The new engines would burn through the casing at low altitude on after burn.
      My squadron lost a plane and pilot to that last situation. We also had the pilot in squadron who had that happen to him. He and his REO were able to slow down enough to eject. This was all caught on camera for Discovery Carrier documentary.
      The pilots call name was then changed to Comet….
      Shooting aircraft off the nose of a carrier is dangerous. And the limited number of aircraft made along with their complexity means lessons are learned in blood.
      But that is why we place pilots on a pedestal.
      That is why they are the best of us.

      • tiger

        Brad ,The world is full of Crusader, F-16, Super Etendard, Skyhawk & Mirage Pilots.
        All have 1 engine. It is not 1956 with some crappy Westinghouse powerplant for power.

    • hornet guy

      you wouldn’t make it two weeks into flight training.

    • Albert

      Give it another engine? Welcome to the infantry Brad.

  • alex gafford

    The answer is clear. For the Marines, restart the AV8B+ line to give air to ground and basic combat air patrol capability (Amraam) for the the Marine carriers which will be used against second or third tier opponents. The Brits can fly them too as they will, realistically, have the same tasking. Then concentrate on getting what we can out of the A and C versions for deterrence and, if necessary, use against first tier opponents.

  • Dan71

    Not to rehash the corruptive properties of companies like Lockheed and the Congressmen they own - its a wonder just how often we end up giving the military sub-standard material just because there is the overwhelming need to make one aircraft, rifle, ship, or tank do all the jobs multiple pieces of equipment did beforehand. I know having one “whatever” makes logistics easier - but this is a perfect example when you’ve gone one application too far. Somebody needs to lose their stars and I’m sure some need to spend some time in jail.

  • itamar

    i just could not get why develop a 5th generation manned fighter when it’s clear that the pilot is the main limitation for it’s performance.
    drones and uav are cheaper and can outperform any manned platform.

    • tiger

      Because it’s time to replace the 40 year old designs we have now. These GEn 5 planes are for the next 40 years. So by that time ( God willing) at age 80 something, you will have your Cylon piloted fighter.

      • Vulpine

        On the other hand, both the F-16 and the F-15 have been performance tested using slightly different wing plans and demonstrated even greater agility. If you could reasonably ignore the perceived need for absolute stealth, the could both last another 30 years as modified reproductions (as compared to modifying existing airframes) as air superiority and strike fighters. They would also both come out at a fraction of the per-unit cost of the current stealth fighters. Surprisingly, even there with only a few design mods — again already tested on the F-15 — the gen-4.5 birds would have reasonable stealth capability as well.

        • itamar

          the stick of the f 16 is computer limited to 9 g for safety.it can reach 12-13 g.
          at higher g’s the pilots red out or black out.
          what limits the modern aircraft is it’s pilot.

  • SMSgt Mac

    Since we’re being unserious:
    Shouldn’t DT have saved the cheap shots for when the F-35 lightning-protection system is,say… oh I don’t know…maybe after it is SUPPOSED to be certified (current schedule sometime in FY13)? the F-35 hasn’t shot down any PAK-FA’s yet either. Maybe we can snipe about that tomorrow.

  • mzungu
  • guest

    I have never understood the Navy’s fondness for C. The air force use the hi-lo with F-22:s and A:s, and they won’t send A:s into harm’s way before F-22 has mopped up and removed the sharpest threats.
    The F-35 was born as a deep striker for god’s sake, hopefully (but I fail to see how) able to “hold its own” in a dogfight. How can it then be top dog on a carrier???

    • riceball

      The F-35 is not meant as a first line defense fighter, it’s meant to replace the legacy 18s in the Navy’s fleet. Put it this way, the Super Hornets replaced the Tomcats in the Navy’s line up but the legcay18s retained their same role but will now be replaced by the 35s. So you’ll have Super Hornet performing first/outer BARCAP for the CBG with the 35s on the inside and it’s likely that both will be doing strike missions as needed as well.

    • Charley A

      I’m not to sure that the Navy is exactly “fond” of the -C. If they had a choice at the time - and they didn’t - its design would have been significantly different.

  • TJRedneck

    As far as the Air Force goes, their F-35 was supposed to be to the F-22 what the F-16 is to the F-15. I think that it is far from it. I still have YET TO SEE how the F-35 (any variant) handles in a dog-fight against ANY other aircraft. The F-16 on the other hand is a great dog-fighter and if anything since the F-35 is supposed to be replacing and better than the F-16, well then let’s see them go up against each other. If it can’t handle the F-16, then that’s it we scrap it.
    For now, we should be building more F-22s, F-15SEs, and F-16Ns and instead of wasting time with the F-35C, upgrade the F-18 similar to the F-15SE. The F-35B is really the only version that should be considered, and instead of throwing Taxpayer $$$ at it, make Lockheed Martin pay for their own development.
    We should also scrap the B-52s except maybe 10, scrap the B-1B and move forward with the B-1R.

  • TJRedneck

    One more thing, NEVER EVER get rid of the A-10 unless you are building an A-10B or A-10-2, whatever you want to call it. There is NO WAY that you can tell me that the F-35 (any variant) can replace the A-10. Personally I would take the A-10, put some more powerful engines on it, a little bit bigger and forward swept wings on it, a little wider fuselage so that it would hold more 30mm rounds, just as starters. Basically improve its firepower, its ability to hang around longer, and its ability to get out faster.

    • Don

      A-10 hasn’t gone anywhere. it is slated to stay around until 2025. I was Hawg Crew Chief and Flightline Super for 16 years on the A-10A. The C model is now out.

  • Don

    What’s the meaning of the term “Red Stripe?”

    • ward

      That’s the term for what NAVAIR issues to ground an aircraft.

    • Barry

      It’s a brand of Jamaican beer that you’re forced to chug when you make stupid engineering mistakes on the F-35 program, like forgetting the tail hook, forgetting salt water corrosion, forgetting range, forgetting weapons load, forgetting unit cost, forgetting life-cycle cost, forgetting lightning, etc.

  • superraptor

    The F-35 is an unfixable engineering disaster. Have Sequestration and Sec Def Hagel cancel it and rapidly proceed with the FXX program. We already wasted 60 billion on an unfieldable airplane.

  • Warren

    VTOL makes sense for the British that have no large carriers. It makes no sense for the U.S. that has 10-12 in active service. Any VTOL airplane is a waste of U.S. money. It is an attempt to solve a problem that does not exist. This is 2013, not 1943, amphibious landings / assaults are a thing of the past and will never happen again. Our air superiority fighters sweep the sky, our bombers and cruise missiles take out fixed targets, and our troops arrive in Ospreys or Chinooks to clean up. There is zero requirement for an amphibious fighting vehicle or VTOL fighter/bomber.

    Our government is living in the past and paying for it by mortgaging our children’s future.

    • tiger

      It’s 9 CVN’s. 9 very over stretched CVN’s. Amphibious landings a thing of the past? 3/4 of the Planet Earth is H2O (water). Afghanistan is possible Only because of Pakistan & Kyrgistan.Oh, No AAV ? I guess they are going to march on foot all the time?

    • riceball

      What a VTOL aircraft does is gives the Marines organic fixed wing air support assets on their amphibs, without them the Corps would need a full carrier assigned to its MEUs for fixed wing air support. This isn’t handy just for amphibious landings but any sort of op that the MEU undertakes. Granted, a few F-35s won’t mean much against a sophisticated enemy but for what we’re dealing with now a days and for the types of missions that a lone MEU is likely to carry out a few F-35s are more than enough and it frees up our carriers to do other missions.

      • tiger

        Exactly. While we held two CVN’s in the Gulf to cover Iran, It took Naval Air From a French carrier to strike Libya from the MED. About the same firepower as a LHA.

        • Charley A

          Most coalition aircraft were based on land in southern Europe.

          • tiger

            Most, but not all. The 26th MEU on the USS Kearsarge & the carrier Charles De Gaulle were doing strikes.

  • PolicyWonk

    So what happens to the new USS America (LHA-6) class of LHA’s, which were designed based on the assumption that the JSF (B) would be successful? What we’d be stuck with (and the LHA-6/America class is being restricted to only 2 ships of this type) is simply a CV unburdened with either an angled flight deck or catapult (sarcasm intended): in short, a carrier without the features required to be a versatile platform.

    If the B variant is cancelled, maybe that means we’d have to build another batch of Harriers.

    • tee

      Build new Harriers and or buy more Zulu Cobra Gunships and turn it into a Helicopter Assault Ship like the Russians are doing with their 4 new Mistral’s.

    • Barry

      Policy Wonk, you are anything but. You’re arguing that the B has to go forward to justify the sunk (pun intended) cost of the USS America? Ha!

    • tiger

      You raise the unit cost of the A & C however By buying fewer planes. You also completely screw over The Royal Navy…..

  • Vulpine

    Just remember the McArthy days. They tried 50 years ago to make a single airframe serve all four services and with the exception of the F-4 (which was really too big for Navy/Marine service at the time) was an abysmal failure. Why are they trying again? All they’ve done is proven that purpose-built planes for a given mission are superior to planes built as jacks of all trades.

    • Paul Zitoli


      Some corrections to your posting are in order, sir:

      You said “just remember the (Senator) McCarthy days?” No…. The (Secretary of Defense) McNamara days!

      The “single airframe” that you refer to as being an “abysmal failure?” The F-111…which…after resolving its early technical difficulties (as the world’s most complex aircraft of the day) during its first introduction to service in Vietnam, became one of THE best and MOST capable aircraft EVER…and from about 1972 through the end of its service life in the late 90s often performed missions that NO other aircraft could do! I KNOW this FIRST-HAND.

      As for “purpose-built” planes, well…they are NOT a realistic choice from a fiscal, training, and/or logistical-support standpoint! Please CONSIDER those points when deciding what airframes you plan on parking on the tarmac.

      WHAT…may I ask…are YOUR “credentials,” sir? I can only speak for my own experience in USAF active-duty service and as an engineer with a lifetime of aerospace expertise (avionics, guidance/nav/control, and missiles, et al) who is certified by the DoD in acquisition and testing/development of complex systems-you see? As such, I have also without exception been an exemplary steward of the taxpayer dollar.

      Additionally, I am well-studied in the area of military history, and remain ever mindful of the lessons of the past…so as to avoid repeating mistakes. Perhaps some “remedial” study (for you) is in order, yes? Again…Senator Joseph “McCarthy” was on a (communist) witch hunt in the late 1940s and early 1950s. Secretary of Defense (1961-68) Robert McNamara, the head of the “wiz kids,” was a fan of the “one size fits all” philosophy. The F-111 began life in 1962 as the “TFX,” and eventually gestated into an incredibly capable machine which served America very well indeed for a quarter of a century.

      Among the over 3,500 books in my personal library is Robert McNamara’s book “In Retrospect,” an effort to explain his mindset regarding the escalation of the conflict in Vietnam. A nice read, but little comfort at this point. Oh, what could have been….

      Anyway…please accept this post as constructive feedback from a guy who knows first-hand. Peace (through strength, of course).

      • Vulpine

        Quick and simple (since my short essay was deleted even before posting)

        I acknowledge and accept the correction to McNamara; they both had their issues.
        You laud the F-111 and I’ll agree it was a great land-based aircraft; it never succeeded as a carrier-based one. The F-4 was also a compromise that while successful was still marginally capable against purpose-built aircraft built only 5 years later, like the F-5. I also believe the F-5-derived F-20 Tigershark would have been a superior light fighter than even the F-16 turned out to be, though the “cranked-arrow” F-16 would have been better yet.

        My experience is also from years in the Air Force-including one full enlistment term as an instructor at Lowry. I will admit I don’t keep a huge library of military history, but I do have a fair collection of books, primarily centered around air combat.

        • Paul

          Thanks for your thoughtful reply to mine…and for your service as a fellow “bluesuiter,” too. And mea culpa for my earlier tone, too-I guess that some of the other replies put me in a cantankerous mood, ya know? Sheesh….

          Anyway-YES…the ‘111″B” never even came close to cutting the mustard as a carrier-borne aircraft for a multitude of reasons, hence the F-14 (initially with same TF-30 turbofans, until the “D” and “A+” variants with the F110 engines were introduced) got the nod for development and fielding in its primary role as a “fleet defense interceptor.” I am VERY familiar with that aircraft, as well, along with the AIM-54 A/C missiles it carried. Speaking of “missiles,” the last one that I worked on was the Trident II D5. Be well, and blue skies.

        • tiger

          While not successful, The TFX Did lead to the world class F-14 & the F-111 Frankly would be nice to still have in the inventory. The F-5 was designed for a different role entirely to the Phantom. Light weight day fighter vs. a all weather fighter/ attack/ recon bird. So while the single airframe goal was not met, it worked out for the best.

          • Vulpine

            I won’t deny that the F-111 could still have a role-but only if they were stripped down and rebuilt. One of the reasons it was finally retired was that she was seeing so many electrical problems that she spent more time in maintenance than she spent ready to fly. When do you finally give up and declare a plane no longer airworthy?

            Yes, the F-5 was designed for a different role. Fast, agile, an easy match for the much larger Mig 21 which was the Phantom’s primary opponent in ‘Nam. As far as bombers, the F-105 was doing a solid job and even it earned at least one victory against the older Mig-19. The F-20 Tigershark was, however, a superior fighter even though it remained a day fighter. Using a single engine with significantly more power and other design changes, the ‘Shark was so good that the US government refused to let it be sold overseas at a time when the F-15 Eagle and F-16 Fighting Falcon were just coming into the inventory.

    • Godzilla

      IMO the problem of the F-111 was not it being a multiple service aircraft since the F-4 Phantom clearly showed such an airplane was possible. The problems IMO were trying to integrate what was essentially the first variable geometry fighter in service with dimensions that rivaled a lot of bombers at the time. IMO the design was overly led by USAF requirements which in the end made it too large and heavy for the USN.

      Without the variable geometry wings and a slightly smaller size it would have been doable. However it would not have ended up being the great long range bomb truck it did develop into after all the bugs got fixed. The F-14 also showed the original vision was possible had the design been done over again.

      Most of the expense in developing an aircraft is in the engines, radar, electronics. I do not understand the fascination into making all the F-35 versions have similar airframes. I also bet the Navy would feel safer with a twin-engine aircraft although they have had single-engine jets in service before.

  • Brandon

    Well one positive way to look at this is if they were satisfied with the fuel consumption rate before, they will be delighted to know they could get even more range out of it when they fix this little bugger of an issue.

  • Hornet Guy

    CORRECTION: Mr. Carroll’s NAV BAG was a 3-time lightning strike vet. Also, how many traps does your nav bag have?

    • ward

      Good one, Hornet Guy. That would make a great focsle follies skit too.

  • Barry

    Why else do you think they called it the LIGHTNING?

  • milad

    lol this grounded aircraft are going to defence from iran’s fire power!? !!

  • Robert Fritts

    I wonder how far in(Dollars or Pounds) is the UK MOD into the JSF? Flight Global reported in 2006 that Yak said it could jump start it’s Yak-41 project, in Italy, with Israeli engineers & Western Electronics, for 250 million Euros start up capital. Since Flight Global is one or two steps above the National Inquirer it got me thinking. How much would a modern 4.5+ generation VSTOL fighter run minus stealth?

    • Eaglemmoomin

      The UK has spent billions and is the only Tier 1 partner. BAe Systems makes the back fuselage of the plane and Rolls Royce makes the lift fan assembly and designed and built two 65,000 ski jump aircraft carriers at the cost of several billion also.. I think diplomatic incident would be putting it lightly.

      • eaglemmoomin
        • Papi1960R

          Still did not answer my question. Were there any studies into a Harrier III or anyother 4th generation VSTOL alternative? What would the cost?
          In November Rafale were operated(take off only) from a ski jump deck without any problems. Of Cat and Traps, the Cats are the expensive part. Complete QE2 as designed, redo the rear end of POW with arresting gear, then retro fit arresting gear to QE2. Buy Rafale M, then forget JSF Nightmare.

          • Papi1960R

            Then sue Lockmart and the US DOD, as the Canadian Labor party has stated it will do after the next election, to recover every penny spent on JSF. The reason - contract fraud.

          • tiger

            Well the other prototype from Boeing?

          • matheusdiasuk

            RAF flying french jets? Oh well, that would be depressing

          • eaglemmoomin
  • Gruntz
  • badrivet

    The way I see it were stuck. The F-35 has been mortgaged to too many international partners. I keep hearing Britain, but most of Europe is onboard including Turkey. The defense dept. probably would love to cancel it, but with the international partners building all the subcontracted assemblies for it, the feedback would be defining. I Feel this is why Lockheed is getting away with their bussiness as usual mega cost overruns.

  • SFP

    Keep saying keep the C or B scrap the problem prone B before it kills the whole program.