Concerns Linger Over F-35 Software Delays

Top U.S. Defense Department officials say they’re concerned the slow pace of software development may delay the delivery of the most lethal version of the F-35 fighter jet beyond 2017.

The program manager, Air Force Lt. Gen. Christopher Bogdan, told lawmakers today the issue was his top priority.

“My biggest concern in development is software,” Bogdan said in remarks prepared for a Senate Armed Services Committee hearing. “I see more risk to the delivery of Block 3F, our full warfighting capability, by 2017.”

That model of the Lockheed Martin Corp.-made aircraft is designed to be equipped with a suite of internal and external weapons, including the GPS-guided Joint Direct Attack Munition, laser-guided Paveway II bomb, Advanced Medium-Range Air-to-Air Missile and infrared Sidewinder missile.

The program office will have a better estimate of the planned delivery date this summer after reviewing at least six months of flight testing data, Bogdan said.

The Joint Strike Fighter is the Pentagon’s most expensive weapons acquisition program, estimated to cost almost $400 billion for a total of 2,457 aircraft, according to a 2011 defense acquisition report. It’s designed to replace such aircraft as the F-16, A-10, F/A-18 and AV-8B.

The department next year plans to spend $8.4 billion to buy 29 F-35 Lightning IIs, including 19 for the Air Force, six for the Marine Corps and four for the Navy, according to its budget request released earlier this month.

The concerns over software remain despite making a “major shift” in oversight the past year, Bogdan said. That change has resulted in faster software development and integration, reduced coding errors and better collaboration between the program office and Lockheed, he said.

The Bethesda, Maryland-based company and its subcontractors “still need to improve both the speed and quality of software development to be able to catch up from previous software delays,” Bogdan said.

The Pentagon’s top weapons buyer, Frank Kendall, echoed those comments during a separate briefing with reporters to announce an updated effort to improve how the department buys goods and services. “We still got a fair amount of software to write,” he said. “There are some risks there.”

The military is about 40 percent through the F-35 test program, Kendall said.

In addition to software, “there are still a few other issues we haven’t quite put to bed yet, but I’m feeling cautiously optimistic,” he said without elaborating. “I won’t say there won’t be any additional schedule slips.”

The department is working to reduce program expenses by negotiating better terms on production contracts, Kendall said. “I want to keep the pressure on to drive it down as much as we can,” he said.

Kendall described sustaining the aircraft as “our biggest opportunity” to find long-term savings. The cost of keeping the F-35 in service for 50 years is estimated at more than $1 trillion and the Pentagon plans to hold competitions for the work.

“We can achieve the greatest results there,” he said.

About the Author

Brendan McGarry
Brendan McGarry is the managing editor of Military.com. He can be reached at brendan.mcgarry@military.com. Follow him on Twitter at @Brendan_McGarry.
  • William_C1

    In before people shouting “kill it!” without suggesting any realistic alternatives. And please remember that upgraded F-15s, F-16s and F/A-18s won’t cut it, the F-22 can’t operate off a carrier, and there are no other STOVL fighters in production or development.

    • STemplar

      Seems like the supporters are the ones that should be providing the suggestions of what to do with this lead turkey.

      • William_C1

        Like it or not we’re well into the process of fielding the aircraft, what does restarting at the beginning accomplish? Do you really think the military will get the funding for 2-3 separate fighter programs, even if avionics and engine commonality is a goal?

        • STemplar

          That isn’t a suggestion about what to do about this platforms unquestionable shortfalls. I didn’t sat cancel it did l? I said what is your answer(s) to those shortfalls and l hope youve got more to say than just keep spending money without taking steps now to address the shortfalls. If you cant even aknowledge this platgorm cant keep all the promises made then you aren’t interested in a grown up conversation.

          • Zard

            Ahem, my answer would be to adopt agile software development practices, get a continuous integration testbed going. Works every time.

          • Mark

            They already have this.

          • Zard

            No they don’t.

          • Mark
          • Zard

            Clearly you have no idea what continuous integration is.
            http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Continuous_integrati

          • blight_

            Isn’t this how the linux kernel grows and grows?

          • USS ENTERPRISE

            Fight Wikipedia with Wikipedia.

          • STemplar

            OK, since none of the fans can seem to make the suggestions allow me.

            -The combat radius isn’t enough for the western Pacific, doesn’t matter if there were no problems it simply needs longer legs so it is time to start work on CFTs, not after we deploy the thing and realize it needs them, but now.

            -It’s not going to be as maneuverable as promised and the helmet mounted cueing system is going to fall short, if they even get it working, so it is time to throw real effort at things like NCADE and develop air2air missiles with longer legs to help it out.

            -Passive stealth is fine but its glory days are past. Expecting to be able to replay Bosnia and Kosovo and hang gen 3 and 4 weapons from this thing are gone. There needs to be a program stood up immediately to develop the longest range PGM missiles that can fit into the internal bays , to again lengthen the aircraft’s reach.

          • gaylord_gaylordson

            Aww. Cute. Did you read that on the internet somewhere?

            “passive stealth is fine but it’s glory days are past”.

            Tell that to every single major airforce in the World. They’d be thrilled to have an internet educated expert save them all this money!

          • STemplar

            I was referring specifically to the notion of penetrating contested air space and simply dropping short range munitions like JDAMs. Those days are gone. No one intends to fly aircraft, stealth or otherwise into contested air space given the penchant for every government to also slap ER on the back of every single PGM we use.

          • blight_

            I wonder if the combat radius problem can be solved with maritime patrol aircraft and some kind of compact parasite aircraft, or arming them with long-range BVR missiles.

          • Kole

            The F-15C “Golden Eagles” have the most capable Radar in a fighter to date; the nose is huge. Radar technology moves faster than Stealth, and it is less expensive to do. The E/A-18G with modern DRFM jammers has already given the F-22A some fits. Sounds much better to me than an entire airplane.

          • USS ENTERPRISE

            There is not such thing as an F-15 “Golden Eagle”. Also, I think its important to note that the E/A-18G isn’t operated by any of our enemies; in fact, there is hardly anything that comes close to the E/A-18.

          • Kole

            There is such thing as an F-15C “Golden Eagle.” It is a USAF F-15C with AN/APG-63(v3). (AESA Radar) Google it.

          • USS ENTERPRISE

            Ach. Mass confusion ensues. I was thinking that you somehow mashed up that Russian backwards winged bat with the Eagle. Alright, I see it.

          • gaylord_gaylordson

            APG-77 and APG-81 are a LOT more capable.

        • oblatt1

          William_C1s only reply is always… “failure is the only option”

    • Charley A

      Really now? The Navy mentioned fully funded classified upgrades slated for the SH fleet in a HASC hearing earlier this week that are intended to keep SH in service until at least the 2030s.

    • USS ENTERPRISE

      Sadly, you have a valid point. But I simply have to ask, how will the F/A-18E/F not cut it? I mean, its a good air frame, relatively knew, modern, advanced technology. Perhaps the F-15s with AESA aren’t half bad either. Now F-16s, though, are the ones that need to be replaced, as they have clocked A LOT of time on their air frames. Finally, while the F-22 can’t operate from carriers (thanks a lot Navy) it operates from forward air bases that cover much of the theater of operations. Just what I think, really.

      • BishopOne

        The F/A-18E/F is indeed a good airframe no agrument there. (Actually anyone would be fool to say otherwise.)

        However in this day in age and the coming future, there’s one word that makes projects like the F-35 more promsing then other weapon platforms and that is “Stealth”.

        The F-35 and its era of aircraft are going to have to bolster a means of stealth capabilites to keep up or keep ahead advancing radar technology.

        Maybe the next gen of F-18 will bolster such design. That would be very intresting to see.

        • Ben

          Yeah, but here’s the kicker: The F-35 isn’t even that stealthy.

          Range is equally as important as stealth, since you can’t penetrate defenses that you can’t even reach. Sure you can strap on a few external tanks but that sacrifices precious stealth characteristics.

          The proposed new Super Hornet is a much better range/stealth pairing (and it’s a whole hell of a lot cheaper).

          • BishopOne

            However the F-35 has the wide varied multi-role option that gives commanders more options on the field.

            The new F-18 well no doubtly support the same concept of being a multi-role aircraft however its carrier based, where the F-35 doesn’t have to be limited to the carrier. The F-35 also offers that VTOL capbility then you tack on its stealth design. Its a project even with all it faults thats worth keeping if you ask me.

            I believe some where down the road these F-35 are going to be the next angels on a your shoulders when shit goes south.

          • Ben

            First: The F-35 isn’t a VTOL, it’s a STOVL.

            Second: The F/A-18 isn’t limited to a carrier. It can operate from any standard runway.

            Third: The STOVL is a joke. Since it launches under its own power instead of catapulting it burns extra fuel and carries a reduced loadout. That equates to less range and less bombs on target. At ~$300 mil a pop it better be able to perform a lot better than that.

          • BlackOwl18E

            The Super Hornet can also operate from austere runways and has good short field performance when loaded lightly.

          • USS ENTERPRISE

            I am guessing that is why so many countries have gone with the F/A-18. Makes me wonder, is there a possibility that Blighty might go for the Super Hornet? I mean, it would increase their compatibility with other US and allied troops.

          • USS ENTERPRISE

            While I agree with you, I think its important to note that a fighter sort of revs up its afterburners even in on CATOBAR arrangement.

          • USS ENTERPRISE

            The F-35’s RCS, last I heard, was the size of a metal beach ball, or something like that. What is the range of an F-35, without out EFTs? I would imagine its smaller than the F-15 or F-22.

          • Restore Palestine

            Take your meds and see if you would hear something else.

          • wpnexp

            Bet the F-35 is far ahead of the best version of the F/A-18 there is in stealthiness. You simply can’t take a non-stealthy designed airframe and make it stealthy. Now, on the edges, it really comes down to how much survivability stealth really buys. As radars improve, they will likely still push the steathy aircraft back, so it comes down to the the investment cost verse the value of stealth. But, you should not fool yourself into thinking that modestly improving the legacy aircraft will increase there survivability in a high threat environment.

          • USS ENTERPRISE

            Uh, you can make a non-stealthy shape stealthy, just not completely. But then again, no aircraft is completely invisible to radar (F-22 included). Yes, the F-35 is ahead in stealthiness. But what about all other categories? Is it better than the F-18E/F or the F-15SE?

          • gaylord_gaylordson

            The F35 has all aspect VLO stealth. It has exceeded it’s requirements for VLO.

            How the hell is that not stealthy?

            Did you look at a blog and then decide that?

            Don’t answer. I already know.

          • blight_

            Technically, we’re not supposed to know that. Short of a model or RCS test stand data, it’s basically the word of the Air Force; or the assumption that the threshold met by the RCS of the JSF is low enough to work in its mission profile.

      • duuude

        Build fresh copies of improved, existing designs.

        If the USAF seriously wanted a new high performance airframe, all it needed to do was to integrate the F-22’s supercruising engine with the F-16XL together with the multi-axis thrust vectoring and the avionic advancements since then.

        The USN might as well drop the F-35 and navalize the YF-23.

        • USS ENTERPRISE

          And what happens to the billions (and years) spent on making the F-35? Also, do you know how hard it would be to make the YF-23 a naval aircraft? Folding wings, tail hooks, anti-corrision body, etc.

          • duuude

            It couldn’t be any harder than making the F-35 carrier capable

          • USS ENTERPRISE

            Wrong. Quite badly. Only a handful (and that its optimistic) YF-23s were built. Simply finding one that can fly would be hard. (Yes, see the sarcasm).

          • duuude

            As for the billions spent, they’re gone. Sunk costs. It’s already an overpriced Brewster Buffalo.

    • Mark

      What I can’t understand is how the equipment will send the main code the processed data,( when making a game like black ops the programmers have to create everything in the environment and then integrate and display, ) then integrate and display, so why is it in 15 years of devoplement the military programmers (having spent millions more then game programers) can’t finish a much easier and less complicated readied program?

      • blight_

        You’re also forgetting that aerospace programmers are working with a niche language (Ada) and niche embedded operating systems, to begin with.
        http://archive.adaic.com/docs/reports/ajpo/transihttp://www.ghs.com/products/safety_critical/integrity-do-178b.html http://www.ghs.com/products/AdaMULTI_IDE.html

        Around the F-22 and the JSF, there has been a gradual march to industry standards with some Ada mixed in. I suspect there will be more C and C++ than Ada, but then you have to port the code from Ada -> new language, or you get to ensure that the two can talk to each other in a bug-free fashion.

        http://www.ldra.com/index.php/en/solutions/by-sta

        “F-35 Lightning II (Joint Strike Fighter) JSF++ AV Standard

        Formal Release of JSF++ AV Coding Standard

        Lockheed Martin has formally released the JSF++ AV (Air Vehicle) Coding Standard (December 2005). LDRA is the tool of choice by LMCO for the JSF project. A copy of the standard can be obtained by clicking on the link below:

        LDRA tool suite – The tool of choice for the JSF++ AV Coding Standard

        As provider of the LDRA tool suite, the JSF software test tool of choice, LDRA has worked closely with prime contractor Lockheed Martin Aeronautics Company (LMCO) during the critical System Design and Development (SDD) phase of the project. Most recently, this technology partnership has seen LDRA assisting with the development of a C++ coding standard specifically for the JSF Air Vehicle Systems division.

        As part of this close collaboration the LDRA tool suite has been enhanced to incorporate the necessary technical features required in order to implement the software test process of the LMCO Air Vehicle (AV) coding standard. This enhanced version of the LDRA tool suite provides users with an automated process for seamlessly checking the C++ standards required by the JSF project. The key benefits to the programme are that software is developed to a consistent style, is portable to other architectures, free from common errors and easily understandable and maintainable by any team member.”

        And if they are cooking up new standards, chances are delays are inevitable.

        Game developers use new engines sparingly, and develop new rendering engines from old rendering engines. If anything, the best comparison is console gaming where devs optimize software within unique hardware architecture limits (though this is no longer the case if PS4 and next xBox are going back to x86 from Cell and PPC, respectively).

      • Mark’s Dumb

        I think Developing Software to Balance the Aerodynamics of Otherwise Unstable air frames is much more difficult then producing Black ops. All jet fighters need specially tailored Avionics Software just to stay aloft. Thats not even beginning to mention temperature control, weapon systems, G-force controls, Thrust vectoring algorithms, Oxygen systems, Radar, Counter measures, etc ,etc, etc. So please don’t try to compare your video game with Aeronautics software Bud.

        • blight_

          Most code is recycled code. It can be a godsend and a cause of grief. Redoing code can address badly written code or data structures chosen based on old hardware parameters important in early code, and may be best if you are migrating standards or even languages (and clearly, they are). It also means more bugs, like the famous F-22 International Date Line bug.

          Recycling code brings other problems. Parameters which may be appropriate for an F-22 may not work well when recycled en masse for F-35 electronics. And recycling ports compatibility issues which require band-aid patches or extensive modification.

          What’s more interesting is when an aircraft program has new electronics across the board and everything is tested together for the first times. Bugs that don’t crop up in a simulated environment start appearing, and more issues may appear beyond the flight simulator in actual flight.

          • USS ENTERPRISE

            I think that is what is happening with the F-35. Despite they have a few commonalities, for the most part, the F-35 is way different in comparison to the F-22. Recycling code just makes no sense.

        • Marks

          But all of what you said was long ago created before the first flight took place. Thanks Blight for sharing that. At least we see it is more specialized programming. But we had a flying test bed aircraft to work out all the sensor integration starting a year or two before they even had the fly off between Lockheed and Boeing.

          • blight_

            The demonstrators are essentially different aircraft. They were mostly for show, except the -B variant, which decided it for Lockheed over Boeing. None or little of the advanced doodadery promised for JSF was in existence for the demonstrators, or was demonstrated in a very beta state and not tested very heavily. That is what they are doing now.

            From the GAO: http://www.gao.gov/assets/590/589454.pdf

            “The lines of code necessary for the JSF’s capabilities have now grown to
            over 24 million—9.5 million on board the aircraft. By comparison, JSF
            has about 3 times more on-board software lines of code than the F-22A
            Raptor and 6 times more than the F/A-18 E/F Super Hornet. This has
            added work and increased the overall complexity of the effort. The
            software on-board the aircraft and needed for operations has grown 37
            percent since the critical design review in 2005. While software growth
            appears to be moderating, contractor officials report that almost half of
            the on-board software has yet to complete integration and test—typically
            the most challenging phase of software development. JSF software
            growth is not much different than other recent defense acquisitions which
            have experienced from 30 to 100 percent growth in software code over
            time. However, the sheer number of lines of code for the JSF makes the
            growth a notable cost and schedule challenge”

            In short, demonstrators use COTS where possible to “stand in” for future awesome systems. Then for development, you twiddle your thumbs and hope the subcontractors in your team can deliver products, then you integrate products with other products and hope everything works. Lockheed has to herd its subcontractor cats while writing the sensor fusion code to get everything to work together, which is hard to do unless you have near-final versions of the products you are integrating.

          • blight_

            Re the demonstrator
            http://www.codeonemagazine.com/article.html?item_

            “The X-35 demonstrators, by any standard, were much simpler than the F-35 Lightning IIs that will be rolling out of the Lockheed Martin factory in Fort Worth, Texas. The demonstrators, for example, used a number of off-the-shelf components to speed design and fabrication. The fast pace of the program meant that only essential functions and capabilities were provided and tested. For instance, the X aircraft did not carry or drop weapons or include mission avionics. The demonstrators also did not carry signature treatments.”

            Of course, once Lockmart won they added more stuff. The article goes on to state:

            “The demonstrators have been transformed into operational fighters during the current System Design and Development phase of the program. The ****pit has been refined. Full avionics functionality has been added. Engine thrust has increased. Capability and durability of the lift system have been improved. Internal weapon bays, radar, targeting system, and low-observable treatments are functional. New technologies that didn’t actually fly on the demonstrators—such as the electrohydrostatic actuators, integrated power package, or IPP, and helmet-mounted display—now function as integral parts of the F-35.”

            Every item in that paragraph was paid for by taxpayers as Development cost.

            And in defense of Lockheed, the demonstrators were put together by Skunk Works, following established principles of delivering aircraft with OTS parts. However, the military was promised an aircraft with advanced not-yet-off-the-shelf parts, and Lockheed will deliver what the customer wants.

          • Restore Palestine

            The golden days of America’s aircraft industry have been long gone.

            In the next 15 years, Asia will have more engineers than rest of the world combined. Even the EU will graduate more engineers than the US, or North America for that matter.

            Considering the embarrassing failure of the F-22 and the F-35 programs and the time it has taken US and EU engineers to fix the pathetic problems of the F-35, the future of US aircraft industry looks nothing short of a toilet bowl.

          • blight_

            And that’s pretty funny, considering how many foreign students come to the US for engineering degrees. What happens over the next few years decides whether or not they will return to their native land, or stay here.

            The big picture is not who graduates more engineers, but where the jobs are. If you put it into perspective, it’s only a couple of thousands of dollars to move an engineer from one country to the next. And if you can pay the engineer less in exchange for offering said engineer reduced cost of living and better quality of life…?

          • Restore Palestine

            You can get a fairly good picture of employment trends by gleaning the internet for the locations of Microsoft’s new research centers and layoffs. Do the same for IBM, Motorola, Nokia, Applied Material, GE, … and the likes.

    • http://twitter.com/GreensboroVet @GreensboroVet

      I’m with you Williiam_C1. This program is too important and 40% to quit because some people are crying its tooo hard. Last dam time I checked, this was America and some of us still believe that the hard stuff is what we do best.

      • Restore Palestine

        HaHaHa. Hard stuff … you mean like war crimes? Money printing?

        • USS ENTERPRISE

          North Korea does both of those things, in case you wanted to know.

  • pedestrian
  • eric

    the jsf is just a sympton of a failing system, that’s the scary part.

  • Tinto

    Never ending Fleesing of our Defense Department by the Contractors. What project in the last 50 years that has not been Overbudget and Late. Remember, Eisenhower warned about the Defense Contractor Complex.

    At the same time, our own Services are not without Stain, good equipment Surplused or Destroid. Remember we have to sue our budget up or loose it. I worked many years in the Defense Industry, have seen fraud on both sides.

    • Mark

      A-10

  • Sanem

    the reason that there are no alternative is because they killed all alternatives (USAF F-22 and J-UCAS, RN Harrier)
    if they stopped wasting such obscene amounts of money on the F-35, they could develop cheap and effective alternatives, like the UCLASS or a STOVL UCAV
    not that it matters, F-35 will never see IOC

    • USS ENTERPRISE

      Trouble is, we have already wasted hundreds of Billions on the F-35 program. Pulling out right now would be even worse than the F-22 procurement fiasco.

      • Cranky Observer

        Google “sunk cost fallacy”.

        • Restore Palestine

          No, BS ENTERPRISE is a mental. Just tell him to take his meds. He cannot read or process written information like normal people.

  • WhatMeWorry

    With the cost of the F-35 will military planners even consider deploying the aircraft in hostile conflicts for fear of losing one or more.

    • Josh

      No. There has already been $400 billion poured into this program. They aren’t going to all of a sudden cut it. So all the people screaming to cancel the program need to shut up and sit down because it’s not going to happen. You just better hope that Lockheed Martin fixes these problems. If Lockheed Martin fixes the problems and produces a plane that meets the requirements for the JSF, it will be an excellent fighter. But that’s the tough part, fixing the problems.

      • Restore Palestine

        No, Josh idiot. Real, qualified, and honest engineers already know the answer to the “fixing the problems” part. In short, they cannot be fixed. The tough part is taking the rational and obvious step to deal with the problems, i.e. canceling the JSF program. You can take it to the bank, idiot.

        • USS ENTERPRISE

          The cost of the JSF program makes it impossible to be cancelled. But from your tone, it seems you are concerned from the product that will be mad from the program. Mad bro?

    • USS ENTERPRISE

      Well, a lot of the money is spent on R&D, so they might not be so afraid to hurl a few F-35s in, especially considering that if they don’t use the F-35, they have to turn to the “more expensive” F-22. Its kinda like the argument of whether or not we should use the B-2. Expensive, but works. (Given time, that is).

      • Restore Palestine

        That’s BS, BS ENTERPRISE mental.

        They will never use the F-35s against countries that have the tools to shoot them down like ducks. But against small, poor, powerless countries without an air force or air defense system, that’s a different question.

        Cut the BS, and go take your meds, loony.

        • USS ENTERPRISE

          Okay great. China and Russia I am guessing. Let me say this. If war broke out today, or tomorrow, the USA would win. Simple as that. Argue about whatever you want. But the sheer economic stress would bring your heroic nations down hard. I am not saying the US won’t suffer, but we would emerge victorious.

          • Restore Palestine

            The meds, loony. The meds.

          • USS ENTERPRISE

            Match point. Enterprise 1, RIP 0. Apollo 11.

    • gaylord_gaylordson

      In a word, no. Of course not.

      …and 5 thumbs up for that comment.

      Shows the level of acumen we are dealing with here.

      There are some platforms that will be used sparingly, but these will only show up if they crash. IE Abbotabad.

      • Restore Palestine

        Imagine sending these expensive pieces of crap out on a mission and losing half or all of them to SAMs or enemy fighters that cost 30 to 50 times less.

        • USS ENTERPRISE

          Who said they will be lost?

          • Restore Palestine

            People with healthy, normal brains and a good, real education.

            Have you taken your meds yet?

          • USS ENTERPRISE

            Sad man. The F-35 hasn’t even flown against your glorified missile systems from the mother-land. Don’t talk about normal brains; its something you don’t have access to, I am afraid.

          • Restore Palestine

            HaHaHaHa. The meds, loony. The meds.

  • BlackOwl18E

    USN Admiral, director of the Navy’s air warfare division, confirms classified systems being added to Super Hornet that will keep it formidable through late 2020s-early 2030s: http://www.aviationweek.com/Blogs.aspx?plckBlogId

    • wpnexp

      Formidable and capable are two different things. He didn’t say they would survive in a high threat environment. Do you really think that they would survive an engagement say int he Taiwan Straits? SA-20s can already cover the entire island of Taiwan, much less in the straits. The F-22 could likely survive, but we certainly didn’t buy enough of them either.

      • USS ENTERPRISE

        F-22s are deployed in that area. Also, I don’t think the SA-20s can track the F-35; its just to advanced for the systems. The F-35 isn’t the stealthiest plane out there, but stop pretending it has a massive RCS.

    • William_C1

      “Formidable” doesn’t cut it. We need something superior to the next generation of Chinese and Russian aircraft. An aircraft that could be considered the “hi” in the old “hi-lo mix” concept.

      • BlackOwl18E

        If you want that we should kill the F-35C and let the Navy move forward with F/A-XX. The F-35 sure won’t cut it. The Super Hornet will at least be able to hold its own and with the right pilots, the best of which are in the US Navy, it will still be lethal and effective.

        • USS ENTERPRISE

          F-18, like I have maintained, is a seriously underrated aircraft. It is quite a capable platform, and the navy pilots that fly them do the Hornets justice. Now, personally, I would say that we go ahead and start funding the preliminary research for the F/A-XX. Put in a little bit of money, and have it spent over a a “long” period of time.

  • blight_

    They’ll probably spin off all the tech they can from JSF to justify it hanging on as an R&D program instead of something meant to replace standard Hornets.

    I suppose it would have been too lazy to produce JSF’s with less cutting-edge electronics. We set the 5th gen bar so high we can’t produce them cheaply and effectively.

    • USS ENTERPRISE

      Yeah. How are those PAK FA’s and J-20’s coming along? I would imagine that they have to be raising a few eyebrows. I can’t imagine that they are exactly cheap either.

      • BishopOne

        Last time I heard the PAK FA won’t be tasting operational status untile 2015, if it doesn’t run into any major set backs.

        If you ask me, from what I’ve seen the PAK FA larger design and engine setup kind of negates its stealth capabilites. If nothing it just makes it a bit hard to track on radar.

        The J-20 is basically a clone so one can only imagine how thats turning out.

        • USS ENTERPRISE

          The J-20 has canards, which is a big no-no on stealthy planes. Now, I will find it impossible to believe that the Russians won’t hit any set backs on the PAK FA project. They are dealing with something completely new. And finally, the shape I am seeing is rather large. Like, even a “massive” F-15 is dwarfed by the PAK FA’s predecessor, the SU-27.

        • tee

          Russian T-50 Fighter Jet to Start State Flight Test in 2014

          Read more: http://www.defencetalk.com/russian-t-50-fighter-j

        • Stratege

          “If you ask me, from what I’ve seen the PAK FA larger design and engine setup kind of negates its stealth capabilites. If nothing it just makes it a bit hard to track on radar. ”

          – Existing PAK-FA’s engine is an interim solution.
          – This engine setup hardly affects frontal aspect

          • USS ENTERPRISE

            FRONTAL ASPECT. What happens if its scanned from another angle? That is the point here. I realize that shape isn’t the largest factor in RCS reduction, (RAM coatings take that job) but it does have an effect.

          • Restore Palestine

            loony BSer, your meds!

          • USS ENTERPRISE

            Funny how you down vote me on every comment I make, not matter how correct it is. Apollo 11.

      • gaylord_gaylordson

        The feeling in the ONI is that they will not be able to deploy these in effective numbers till the mid 2020s at the earliest and that these are not on a par with the F22 or F35.

        The US is on it’s 7th generation of stealth. LRS-B being the 6th….and certain classified projects are laying out the ground rules for the development of the 7th.

        The Russians and Chinese are perhaps on a second iteration of stealth design…capable of producing capable weapons systems, yes, but there is definitely not much hand wringing in the pentagon. In public, yes, but in private there are more serious concerns. Advanced SAMs would be one of them.

        The design of the PAKFA for maneuver/energy fighting is an acknowledgment in public that the Russian AF (VVS) is not yet capable of reliably harnessing the kinds of material science, EW, precision manufacturing etc needed to make a VLO fighter in the US mold. Frankly, the Chinese effort is much more serious about reducing observability.

        • Stratege

          “The design of the PAKFA for maneuver/energy fighting is an acknowledgment in public that the Russian AF (VVS) is not yet capable of reliably harnessing the kinds of material science,”

          PAK-FA was designed with stealth requirement. For what reasons you think that Russians are not expirienced in material science? What acknowledgment in public? As for precision manufacturing, Sukhoi did machine-tool extension years ago.

          “Frankly, the Chinese effort is much more serious about reducing observability.”

          This is ridiculous. J-20’s canards ruins frontal stealth. Their prototypes looks clumsy as an compilation of stolen F-22’s and F-35’s parts. J-20 in terms of aerodynamics looks awful (at least, not very promising), considering its role.

          • Restore Palestine

            You are obviously not trained in any technical discipline. Don’t make arbitrary, uninformed comments about subjects you know absolutely nothing about. Don’t even repeat others’ comments that you find pleasing.

            The canards on J-20 were put in precisely for improved aerodynamics and maneuverability, at least with respect to the F-22. They don’t ruin frontal stealth. Why and how would they? Design of jet fighters is a complex engineering endeavor. Your weird layman sense of aesthetics means nothing. Don’t bother use it again in the future. It makes you look stupider than you already are.

          • USS ENTERPRISE

            Man, you are dumb and drunk. I don’t agree with everything Stratege says, but he got the canards bang on. Canards increase surface area. Radar bounces off surface area. There you go. Complex endeavor you say? Then get out of it, and leave it to trained pros.

          • Restore Palestine

            Your meds, BS ENTERPRISE.

          • USS ENTERPRISE

            Do you have ANYTHING new or constructive to say? You are getting quite boring, RP. Or, should I say, R.I.P.

          • Restore Palestine

            Take your meds and go to bed

          • USS ENTERPRISE

            Apollo 11

          • Restore Palestine

            What happened to “Arabian Gulf”? Is it “Apollo Gulf” now, loony?

          • USS ENTERPRISE

            Neil Armstrong. “Arabian Gulf” is STemplar’s tag.

          • Restore Palestine

            HaHa. As if it would make any difference to me, you nutjob.

          • blight_

            Indeed, short of having an RCS test stand and a radar set, none of us can empirically test our theories on RCS.

            Or if you have a RCS solver, like Epsilon, you can try in silico.
            http://www.roke.co.uk/epsilon/

            Then you can test to your heart’s content, yes?

          • USS ENTERPRISE

            Or you could make yourself a radar. Good luck though.

  • wdan

    the “most lethal version”?…didn’t know that there was a lethal version at all, short of falling on the enemies’ officer’s club…upgraded 15’s/16’s and 18’s are what is needed, already have supply chains, maintenance and common training with other countries…cut our losses and RUN NOW!!!

    • gaylord_gaylordson

      ..and your expertise in low observables engineering and tactical fighter evaluation comes from where?

      …your hindquarters?

      • STemplar

        No, that’s where your mother birthed you though.

  • blight_

    http://www.gao.gov/assets/590/589454.pdf

    What’s interesting is the procurement cost rises pretty quick, even as the JSF order count stabilizes around 2.4k. Development holds around 50->60B.

    Without adjusting for inflation, this is competitive with the B-2’s procurement costs. Though I suppose we will hit the inflation-adjusted value soon enough.

    • USS ENTERPRISE

      I wouldn’t say that the orders for the F-35 have “stabilized” yet. The RAF might know their direction, but what about Canada, Aussies, and maybe even the USA?

  • wpnexp

    what you need to understand is that the F-35 will always continue to have more and better computers and software. F-15s, F-16s, and F/A-18s are limited to older computers, older software codes, limited computer memory, and a host of obsolence issues. Even the B-2 was designed with ancient computer systems, although the size of the aircraft will make it somewhat easier to upgrade over time. If you try to upgrade the legacy aircraft to do what an F-35 will do, don’t you think they will have the same or more complicated software problems? But, the F-35 is designed to grow its software over many decades. Try to run 9 million lines of code in an F/A-18 and watch the computer crash, making the whole plane useless. The code being written for the F-35 will continue until most of us are dead. And every year the plane will continue to get more lethal. But eventually, even the F-35 will need to be replaced as new computing techniques are developed. But holding on the the legacy birds does not get you as much as what the F-35 has to offer.

    • Sanem

      the F-35 is billions worth of computer power, it’s 10 years ahead of everything else

      except it won’t be operational for another 10 years. by then older aircraft will be outfitted with new hardware and software, and new aircraft will have F-35 grade hardware off the shelf, at a fraction of the price, bugs worked out

      not to mention much F-35 technology will be simply outdated by then, namely stealth and sensors, and its computers and software will be capable but outdated by comparsion

      • USS ENTERPRISE

        Not true. Much of the money spent is to keep the plane updated. Besides, I doubt that Flankers and Fulcrums are out fitted with the best radars and computers available, now or in ten years.

        • Restore Palestine

          Somebody needs to put a shock collar on you. You definitely need a shocking reminder very time you fail to take your pills on time because of your compulsive BS bombing trip to this forum and let the medication level in your blood drop below the threshold.

          Everybody will benefit, especially yourself.

          • USS ENTERPRISE

            Hey! Use facts, not your impressive rage.

          • Restore Palestine

            If you are properly medicated, everybody will benefit, especially yourself. Is that not a fact?

          • USS ENTERPRISE

            If it was fact, you should get around to doing it.

          • Restore Palestine

            Well, I certainly wish I could medicate you from here. See if you can reach me by sticking your fingers into the power outlet. I will know you are close by when I hear some mental BS’ing non-stop.

          • USS ENTERPRISE

            Hitting close to home, eh? Apollo 11.

        • Sanem

          well if you look at the F-22 and the B-2 you see that a fortune is spent on just keeping their old technology working, which becomes quickly outdated, while installing new technology and software upgrades are prone to budget cuts

          my point is that much of the hardware and basic software will not be replaced, not for a long time, but will quickly become outdated or matched by much cheaper plug-in alternatives. and where you can relatively easy upgrade older aircraft with new technology, the whole point of the F-35 integrated package is that it will be stuck with its “old” technology

          as for future F-35 opponents, the PAK FA is already designed to beat it, and Russia is constantly looking at installing new radars and avionics to older and newly built Su-27. upgrading the F-35 software will help little when its stealth is compromised, its ECM is blocked by newer and more powerful processors, and its engaged with optically guided missiles that’ll ignore its counter-measures

          • blight_

            Go COTS and ride the wave of Moore’s Law.

            However, in embedded systems land it’s a slooow trickle from commercial sector’s Moore’s Law. There are a number of reliability demands above commercial aerospace, and not every embedded system in use by the military has a COTS analogue from the commercial aviation sector to start the trickle-down.

            However, forking development from commercial products would be a good start. However, there are security risks innate to commercial architecture that people will complain about.

          • USS ENTERPRISE

            Well, if your theory about the technology is correct, than if the PAK FA will be officially revealed and put into service in 2014-2015, won’t it be outfitted with computers that are “old”? I realize that technology gets outdated very quickly, with modern advancement. But really, we are all in the same boat here.

          • blight_

            Define old. the JSF’s RACE++ computers are PPC and 1ghz. Not a speed racer by commercial standards, but the RACE++ computers are rugged and will keep on trucking when an Intel machine goes “ack!”

          • USS ENTERPRISE

            “Old” would be like the early computers put into 4th generation fighters, which, to my knowledge, have been uprated so many times that they aren’t even considered the same computer system as before. But mostly, I said “old” because I was using the term loosely.

  • Belesari

    You want a suggestion of how to replace the F-35? Dont make it a jack of all trades stealth/stovl/attack/fighter/etc. They are always more expensive and under perform.

    F-14 Super Tomcat.
    http://www.anft.net/f-14/f14-history-f14x.htm

    Or Tomcat 21.

    There is nothing present now which can do the job we need so lets use what worked. The A-6 was perfect for its job. And it was damn flexable. So build off of that. Same for the Tomcat.

    Then start preliminary work on a STO/VL aircraft for the Marines. NO STEALTH. Attack aircraft. And continue work on the UCAV’s…or whatever you want to call them. UCLASS whatever.

    Then after these are accomplished take a look at future aircraft and remember the lessons of Joint hell.

    • USS ENTERPRISE

      Well, I agree that the the plane shouldn’t be asked to do literally every role in the US military, but the trouble is you can’t ignore stealth. Ever since the F-117, you have seen that aircraft have been geared to be more and more stealthy. An F-14, while an amazing piece of engineering, is far from stealthy. Same with the A-6. So while the idea is great in our minds, it wouldn’t, sadly, work on the battlefield.

      • Belesari

        Stealth is awesome. The problem? Every country is now working or has stealth defeating radar. Not only that but Aegis and other high powered radars like those found on DDG’s can see damn near everything. They are just to powerful.

        Add to that the EW advances……..

        Stealth is OK. The problem is the price of it.

        • Big-Dean

          Sheer power in the electromagnetic spectrum can overcome just about anything. Couple that with networked radar and super low freg and stealth isn’t such an advantage anymore. Didn’t the air force learn that lesson in Bosnia?

          • blight_

            No, because clearly Serbia is N=1 fluke. I suspect the additional problem is that in Bosnia they hadn’t completely nailed down enemy air defense, used predictable routes and had human spotters on the ground give advance notice of when and where a stealth fighter had taken off, and with some guesswork they could reasonably approximate where the fighter would be, bring additional resources to bear and fire everything at a single F-117.

            The Serbs did incredibly good, but to date it hasn’t been replicated, and chances are it required a unique set of circumstances that combined Serbian ingenuity and diligence with American complacency and sloppiness.

          • USS ENTERPRISE

            Also, I think its important to note that the F-117 was actually kinda getting old. Modern stealth is well, stealthy. Though, what I want to know is where do we go from here? Soon we have to get past just radar stealth. Maybe visual stealth?

    • Sanem

      a cheap STOVL for Marines or any forward operating unit would be an excellent idea
      stealth is an expensive luxery here, it limits its ability to operate from forward bases and for close air support chances are it’ll get shot at anyway
      UAVs are an excellent option in this role, being easier to operate, not risking pilot lives, generally being cheaper… if stealth is not chosen then it doesn’t need to “silent” anyway, and units in the field could take direct control of it on attack runs. going for a large number of light UAVs with small amunitions would also allow for large numbers of expendable attack craft, an excellent choice in such a high attrition environement
      I’m not saying it should be the only asset, but within an integrated military network (without which the F-35 could not operate either btw) such a low cost, easy to operate asset would be much more interesting for forward air support, not unlike ground units use small UAVs for unit support

      stealth is a capacity, and potentially a very valuable one. but the question is if it warrants the cost, especially when the USAF already declared that AESA equiped F-15s would be capable of detecting stealth aircraft at stand off ranges

      • blight_

        In a close support role, JSF is fairly likely to encounter radar-guided AA, in the form of guns and missiles. There’s also IR-guided weapons system, and the Mk1 eyeball if the JSF is flying low and slow.

        • USS ENTERPRISE

          That is why we need the A-10.

      • USS ENTERPRISE

        Knowing that the F-15 can detect stealth aircraft from “safe” distances is very reassuring. I am guessing it can see the F-35.

  • Big-Dean

    The only time joint aircraft was a success is when the air force used the Navy version, not visa-versa i.e. the F-4 Phantom

    • USS ENTERPRISE

      The F-4 shot down a lot, but it never fulfilled all of its requirements effectively.

  • retired462

    Cut the “buy” by 75%, and build more F-15, F-16, F-18, and F-22’s.

    • blight_

      The -15, -16 and -18 lines are open, but if the next shooting war against someone with real radar begins, it’ll be Brewster Buffalo vs Mitsubishi Zeroes all over again. The American military was too embarrassed by WW2 such that it has embraced technological superiority as its panacea to everything.

      • USS ENTERPRISE

        “Real radar”. Okay. Who is that again? Let me point out, a war with China would ruin its economy, and a war with Russia would even further deplete its economy.

      • Belesari

        The Germans, and Japanese both had technologically superior machines in most instances. They got bombed to shit.

        Having been told by people who Know that Naval Radars can see through stealth aircraft I doubt it matters. EW comes into play there.

        We aren’t talking brewster buffalo vs Zero’s. We are talking about P-40’s vs Zero’s.

        I’d rather have enough P-40’s and lose a few pilots than a have not enough Zero’s and lose the war.

        Stealth is only worth it the first days of combat after that? Not really. So have a small number of Stealthy High performance strike aircraft and Fighters. Then a have a large amount of High performance dependable non stealthy fighters/bombers/attack.

        • USS ENTERPRISE

          Quantity over Quality, supposedly. But a little bit of both give the best outcome.

  • blight_

    Digging out more information on the electronics of the JSF. Starting with Integrated Core Processor:
    http://www.embeddedstar.com/press/content/2004/2/

    “Mercury Computer Systems, Inc. (NASDAQ: MRCY) announced that Raytheon Company (NYSE: RTN) has licensed its RACE++® Series multicomputers for use in the Integrated Core Processing (ICP) system of the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter (JSF).”

    RACE++ is a COTS product, and was used on the JSF demonstrator. That /should/ have made hardware development go more smoothly.
    http://www.mrcy.com/products/boards/race_powerpc7
    http://www.mrcy.com/WorkArea/DownloadAsset.aspx?i

    The latter describes the rugged version of the RACE++. The Level4 conduction cooled variant can operate at 70,000 feet and be stored at 100,000 ft. Perhaps the JSF needs something like the level 3: 0-70,000 feet operation, 0-100,000 feet storage, 50G z-axis shock, 80G x and y-axis, operating temp -40 to 71C. Yeech.

  • wmcritter

    “It’s designed to replace such aircraft as the F-16, A-10, F/A-18 and AV-8B.”
    How on God’s green Earth is the F-35 supposed to replace the A-10?????? It can’t go low and slow, it can’t linger, it can’t take a hit, and it can’t saw a tank in half with it’s gun. It literally has zero capabilities of the A-10. At least the F-35 can do a few things that an F-16, F-15, F-18, or AV-8B can do. But it can do absolutely nothing an A-10 can do. Trying to use an F-35 for CAS will be a disaster and get a lot of good people killed. It’s absolutely insane.

    • Restore Palestine

      The US government is insane, and has been insane for decades. Insanity is the norm, not the exception in America.

      • USS ENTERPRISE

        Takes one to know one.

        • Restore Palestine

          Before taking your psychiatric medication or after?

          • USS ENTERPRISE

            Well it seems you have been off them for a while. You would be the most qualified out here to answer that question.

          • Restore Palestine

            No, loony retard, your medication is for you and only you. I can tell that you have not been taking your meds as directed. That’s why you are BS’ing non-stop here. Where are your parents / guardians / custodians? What’s the name and number of your psychiatrist? Does your psychiatrist know that you are posting rubbish here every day?

  • johnvarry

    Anyone remember the A-16 with two 30mm gunpod nightmare that almost was? It was decided A-10 was more survivable.

    Unless the F-35 is coated in some magic armor that deflects bullets I dont see F-35 replacing A-10 in CAS role. Besides, Boeing will soon be able to do new build A-10’s.

    • blight_

      I think the Air Force is now assuming they will loiter high in the sky in stealth mode, dropping JDAMs and SDB’s without actually descending from heaven to strafe a target, let alone shoot it with rockets.

      I suppose Army will have to procure some Super Tucanoes (or AT6-B armed trainers) to work in tandem with helicopter gunships.

      • USS ENTERPRISE

        That is the most logical course of action. If I were to do a CAS mission, I would want A-10s and F-15Es loiter sky high, and Apaches and Tucanoes jumping in when we have a little nest of resistance.

  • Big-Dean

    The air farce also said that in addition to the F-35 replacing the F-16, F-15, F-15E, A-10, AV-8B, F-18, B-52, Apache, Osprey, B-1, F-22, F-111, F-4, Army and Marine Corp, drones and missiles, they also said it’s going to replace the Beatles, rock and roll, toilet paper and beer.

    THAT”S why the darn thing cost so much and is behind schedule, getting the “code” to understand and play Beatles songs-talk about mission creep. ;-P

    • USS ENTERPRISE

      Yeah, basically, at one point or another, Lockheed has come out and “suggested” that the F-35 is the answer to everything in the air force, and should replace everything. Thank god that won’t happen.

  • kiki

    Must be Russian 1950 technology. This planes look obsolete and the design so paltry.

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