F-35 Stealth Questions Bring Back B-2 Memories

Over the PacificBoeing’s recent strategy to question the effectiveness of the F-35’s stealth capabilities against the latest air defense radars brings to mind similar questions that were raised about another expensive next generation stealth aircraft about 13 years ago.

In 1991, Pentagon tests found that Northrop Grumman’s B-2 Spirit was less capable of evading radars with its stealth bat wing design than initially expected. These problems along with cost overruns cut the B-2 program by more than 70 percent.

The Air Force had planned to field 75 of the B-2 bombers, but Congress ended the program at 21 aircraft as costs skyrocketed. If you include all procurement costs, the B-2 cost $929 million per aircraft. It almost makes the F-35 sound like a steal with its procurement costs at $162 million per aircraft.

However, the current debate deals with the F-35 and doubling down on more EA-18 Growlers to increase the Navy’s electronic attack capabilities. Boeing has pushed the Navy to buy more Growlers. The Navy has requested 22 Growlers in its unfunded priorities lists with the possibility of buying up to 50 more.

Chief of Naval Operations Adm. Jonathan Greenert said its a  top Navy priority to increase the number of Growlers aboard each carrier from five to seven. The logic had been that with F-35Cs, the Navy’s need for electronic attack aircraft would diminish, not increase. But that’s assuming the Navy stays on board with the  Joint Strike Fighter Program.

Plenty of questions were asked about the Navy’s commitment to the program when the service  cut its F-35C five-year acquisition plan from 69 to 36 aircraft. More questions were asked when Greenert added the Growlers to the unfunded priority list.

Greenert has repeatedly said the Navy is committed to the F-35 program, but he did hedge in regards to the value of stealth in his recent Congressional testimony.

“[Stealth] is needed for what we have in the future for at least 10 years out there and there is nothing magic about that decade,” Greenert told Congress. “But I think we need to look beyond that. So to me, I think it’s a combination of having aircraft that have stealth but also aircraft that can suppress other forms of radio frequency electromagnetic emissions so that we can get in.”

That comment sounds an awful lot like a few of the lines offered in the presentation given by Mike Gibbons, Boeing’s vice president for Super Hornet and Growler programs, at the Navy’s annual conference earlier this month.

“The density of the threat is getting more complex and more difficult. The electromagnetic spectrum is getting more complex and more difficult and requires more of what the Growler provides in electronic attack and electronic awareness. Only the Growler has this capability,” Gibbons said in an interview with Military.com.

About the Author

Michael Hoffman
Michael Hoffman is the executive editor at Tandem NSI and a contributor to Military.com. He can be reached at mhoffman@tandemnsi.com.
  • Bernard

    The B-2 is a heavy stealth bomber with a 7,000 mile range. We expected it to be expensive. The F-35 is an F-16/F-18 replacement. It is supposed to be cheap because the whole point of the program was the save money by reusing the airframe across three branches and in multiple countries. Unfortunately the F-35 isn’t saving anyone any money, and it cannot even fulfill the most basic of mission requirements.

    • PolicyWonk

      While no one expected the B-2 to be inexpensive, nor did anyone expect that the B-2 would carry a cost that came out to being equal to that of the price of gold at the time.

      The B-2 actually cost the US taxpayers its weight in gold (+/- a few percent).

      • Big-Dean

        next time we’ll just make a gold plated bomber, er, wait a minute…..

      • Bernard

        The B2 is extremely expensive, but unlike the F35 it is designed for a singular role. Because of this it is the most capable aircraft in existence for the role of penetrating deep into highly contested airspace and delivering ordinance on target. In a war with Russia or China nothing could rival it’s ability as a strategic bomber. It has been proven in combat and is versatile enough to carry the full range of nuclear and conventional weaponry employed by the USAF. We need the B2.

      • Mitch S.

        What would an F35 cost if only 21 were built?

        • Bernard

          The F35 is worthless. It sucks at air to air, air to ground, and CAS.

          • nsKb

            Your comment is worthless. You don’t understand engineering, science, and air combat.

    • Joey

      I concur. It doesn’t meet requirements, therefore the F35 is the most expensive because you aren’t getting any value in return. It is simply throwing money away. It is even worse though, because the Chinese have already hacked into and stole the electronic schematics of the F35. The F35 then could become even more a liability when our adversaries can use it against us. I know the F22 had some problems, but I think the decision to cancel it was unwise. It could at least dog fight. The F35 is a joke.

      • Stahlhelm

        “Chinese have already hacked into and stole the electronic schematics of the F35”

        So, let me get this right, you yanks leave the plans of your new weaponry laying around in some 3rd party FTP server? Cause, you DO know that those fancy Hollywood ‘hacking the Pentagon’ stories are, let’s just say, full of excrement?

        Besides, since the plane is, as you say, a joke, what is there to worry about even if Chinese really did get the schematics? Not to mention the possible ‘slight modifications’ that they could’ve gotten along with the package, if you get my drift…

      • nsKb

        I bet that unclassified data the Chinese stole is really gonna help them. Maybe they should do a Google search for “secret F-35 shit” too, might find something they missed.

    • tmb2

      Comparing the cost of the B-2 and the F-35 is a bad example. Bombers have always cost several times more than fighters.

    • commenter

      A large portion of the B-2 price is a result of dividing all the engineering, testing, and tooling costs across only 21 airframes. Anytime you have a large R&D and engineering component then only buy a couple items, the per item cost is going to be enormous.

      The F-22 also had this issue where quoted per plane price is quite high, but the cost to buy an additional one is much less and not that different than the expected F-35 price.

      • Bernard

        The F-22 is supposed to cost more than an F-35, it is the F-15 air superiority fighter replacement. The F-35 was supposed to be the discount plane to replace the F-16 and F/A-18.

    • John

      It must be noted that the cost of 900 million per copy is exaggerated. The opposition to the B-2 program inflated the cost per bomber by including all associated equipment costs, hangers, AG equipment etc. This had never been done before or since. It must also be noted, that they have performed as promised with no losses in combat.

    • CitizenPatriot0

      What you do not take into consideration are the technologies that are included with the F35 that are new and are not frequently discussed. One such ability is to network in battle and use other platforms to launch. It and other packages gives this aircraft leading edge tools in a fight.

    • Noah Thompson

      Prove it.

  • Big-Dean

    Well, if the F-117 could be shot down by a bunch of ragtags Serbs way way back in 1999 then one ask to ask the obvious. Is stealth overrated? Yes it is.

    It time to move away from the thinking that stealth is everything. When you put all of your chips on a single bet then most of the time you will lose because the “house” always controls the odds

    • Bernard

      There was no radar lock, it was a blind shot that just managed to hit. Quit spreading FUD.

      • Musson

        The magic BB.

        • java vm

          magic BB == magic Bernard Bullshoot ?

      • java vm

        A blind shot? Quit spreading BS, Bernard!!!!

      • DBM

        Soviet doctrine was to just fire every round of ammo into the sky. The serbs got really lucky

    • Derf

      It was an infrared missile, set up to fire directly at the F-117’s rear, because the idiots in charge had the planes flying the EXACT SAME ROUTE every day. So, a non-idiot Serb put a whole bunch of missiles exactly on the flight path, and then got lucky when one of them managed to hit.

      Nothing to do with stealth tech – just idiots. Even magic couldn’t help against star-grade stupidity.

      • RWB123

        The plane was shot down by an SA-3 which is a radar guided CLOS missile. There were two missiles fired and the pilot of the F-117 saw both of them coming. One was a close miss and the other one nailed him.

        You don’t have to believe me – research it yourself.

        • William_C1

          Based on how SA-2s were sometimes used in Vietnam (fired blind during many missions when heavy SEAD support was around) the SA-3 can almost certainly be fired in a more “manual” method by trying to predict an interception point by whatever information you have. That was likely what happened as opposed to this notion it was command-guided by radar all the way to the target. Unless the F-117 had its bomb bay open the entire time that would be virtually impossible.

          • RWB123

            That means they were able to track the plan long enough to predict its course. Also, they were really good at it since they used only two missiles and nearly scored hits with both (the second missile passed close enough to buffet the aircraft). To put that in perspective the average missile hit rate against conventional aircraft is 2%. You shoot 50 missiles to down one plane. Another thing is that the Yugos actually scored against two F-117’s. The other was hit on April 30, but managed to return to base. To claim that it was all blind luck is foolish.

            The fact is that however Colonel Dani’s troops did it they were able to track and engage a stealth plane with 1960’s technology. Betting that stealth will be the ultimate trump card in future conflicts is not smart.

          • William_C1

            Considering that the F-117s had been flying the same route repeatedly (very stupid mission planning) they probably did have a good idea of its course. And yes, their modified radars could likely get an occasional glimpse of the F-117. In fact the very long wavelength of those old radars made them more useful than most more modern radar designs. Plus there was no ECM or SEAD support around.

            There is no way to know only two missiles were launched, but regardless one got close enough for the proximity fuse to work, and the SA-3 is a big missile with a big warhead.

            So a combination of a skilled SAM regiment (they had to be to keep their SAMs intact), incredibly poor mission planning, and blind luck. The greater failure however was that we didn’t drop a 2000 lb HE or incendiary bomb on the wreckage of that aircraft. Probably because the fear some fools with cameras would be standing around it at the time.

            The claim that a second F-117 was damaged has never been confirmed to the best of my knowledge. All surviving F-117s (minus two YF-117 FSD aircraft which were retired and on display) were seen flying sometime between the end of Operation Allied Force and the Nighthawk’s retirement in 2008.

          • nsKb

            That version of the SA-3 had a camera (IR IIRC) installed. The missile could be guided without the engagement radar. Obviously this only works at short ranges but the F-117 was only a few km out. I’m pretty sure the some versions of the SA-2 could do this at least as far back as nam (though they probably used a regular vis spectrum camera).

    • Guest

      During a Red Flag exercise, a RAAF F-18 made contact with a Raptor. The pilot could see the F-22. His weapons systems could not. Really pissed him off.

      It’s one thing to detect a stealth aircraft. It’s something else altogether to lock a weapon on one.

      • oblatt22

        I’m sure he was pissed that his clutter reduction setting hadn’t been reduced. The radar could see the raptor just discarded it as being too small a contact at that distance.

        Early model radars such as the RAAF flies probably need the setting to be changed on the ground but its a simple matter.

        • William_C1

          Probably not so simple, especially when you consider that it makes the radar that much more susceptible to jamming. The use of chaff is often disregarded these days, but it will certainly help to confuse a radar configured like that.

      • spec

        Where did you read that story? Didn’t you smell a rat back then. Think about it for a second, or an hour if necessary, and see if you spot the BS.

    • jac

      Wasn’t so much the Serbs’ genius as it was poor mission planning by the F-117 crews and or higher ups. They flew the same ingress route every night. Sure hope the dude responsible for that was forced to retire.

    • muttling

      In addition to the other replies (which are almost all quite accurate), the Russians were very interested in finding ways to defeat stealth and are suspected to have given technical help to Colonel Dani (the commander of the unit that took the plane down.)

      The Russians had figured out something we were well aware of and tried to keep secret, stealth technology isn’t as effective against low frequency (e.g. long wave length) radars and the older radars which Col. Dani’s unit deployed was all low frequency equipment.

      From the very beginning, we new stealth wouldn’t last forever. We knew it would be penetrated and that’s it is frequently called “low observability today.” It’s hard to see and even more difficult to lock onto a “stealth” aircraft, but not impossible. What’s more, you may or may not be able to us when you turn on your radar but rest assured that we WILL see you and there might be an AGM-88 HARM coming back at you.

    • IronV

      This little debate ignores the fact that all key Serb targets were reduced to grease smudges.

    • saber2

      its almost as stupid as saying armor tech is overrated coz it cant protected you from bullets all the time. Stealth isnt about 100% invulnerability. Nobody ever said so. Dumb people keep citing one loss at Balkan, while overlook the fact that F-117A was used for like 20 years, for the most dangerous missions ever, and with ONLY ONE loss.

    • Atomic Walrus

      Stealth is like camouflage. It’s not going to prevent detection all of the time, but it’s going to make detection a lot harder in general. The utility of painted camouflage on aircraft declined dramatically after the advent of radar and infrared sensors, but it’s still applied on almost everything. You’re going to see stealth technologies (or at least radar signal reduction) applied to just about every new tactical aircraft for the same reason that nobody leaves their fighters in polished metal finishes anymore.

    • Alva Maynor

      And during the gulf wars, they sent in the F-4 wild weasel ahead of the F-117 aircraft. Having started my career on the Aegis Weapon System ships, I would put a good radar detection warning system ahead of any stealth technology.

  • BlackOwl18E

    The Navy has been way ahead of the competition when it comes to thinking forward. Our enemies know we are enamored by stealth and they’ve already developed a lot of systems that can see it in theory. However, countering effective electronic jamming will be more difficult than countering stealth as technology develops. The Super Hornet and Growler combination can handle anything our enemies could muster up for a long time and remain more effective over a longer period of time than the F-35 ever will.

    The CNO knows this too.

    • citanon

      That’s not really true.

      The two systems complement each other. Stealth on the F-35 defeats shorter wavelength radars that are more capable at precisely tracking and targeting aircraft and more resistant to jamming.

      The anti-stealth techniques use longer wavelengths that are more difficult to counter, but more vulnerable to jamming and less precise.

      Thus, when you put the electronic attack capabilities of the Growler together with the F-35C, you end up with a winning combination. Each on its own would be deficient.

      Ultimately, you need many more of the F-35C, which are the go out there and get em bomb trucks than you need of the Growler, which help protect them from the rear and are likely less survivable.

      As for Growlers _replacing_ the F35C, that’s just desperate Boeing FUD.

      I love how people criticize Lockmart Power Point FUD only to fall head over heels for Boeing Power Point FUD.

      • BlackOwl18E

        All the Navy needs is the Advanced Super Hornet and the Growler. The F-35C is woefully unnecessary. The Advanced Super Hornet could easily take over the job the F-35C was intended for at far less cost and when it’s teamed up with the Growler no IADS could stand against them.

        Boeing recently conducted tests on the Advanced Super Hornet with the Navy and the Navy said that they think Boeing got the RCS of the Super Hornet reduced enough to be satisfactory for its needs. The F-35C is being forced on them by the USAF, USMC, and the Pentagon. It doesn’t suit their needs and soaks up a good portion of their budget while delivering an aircraft that is neither carrier compatible or combat capable.

        • citanon

          Great, proving my point by repeating Boeing marketing material back, and misinterpreting Navy statements in the same way……

          • BlackOwl18E

            I’ve been saying this since even before Boeing has. I started this about three years ago. If the only thing you can do to attack my arguments is claim that they’re made by Boeing, I’d say you don’t have anything to refute them.

            And I’m not misinterpreting anything. The Navy had placed a standard on the Advanced Super Hornet. The standard was not to beat the F-35C in terms of RCS, it was to beat the projected enemy threat and Boeing met that standard:

            Link: https://medium.com/war-is-boring/d10fcf64d089

            Link: http://www.flightglobal.com/news/articles/navy-pl

          • citanon

            Did you actually read the articles?

            From link 1: ““People think the F/A-18E/F is a fourth-generation fighter—can’t get close,” said Rear Adm. Mike Manazir. “That’s not true. The treatments that Boeing and PMA-265 at Pax [Naval Air Station Patuxent River, Maryland] have done to that airplane are such that we can get close in enough to be effective with the weapons we’re going to have on the airplanes here relatively soon.”

            For the Navy, it’s not a question of Super Hornets versus the new, stealthier Lockheed Martin F-35C, as many have speculated, Manazir said. The sailing branch needs both aircraft, he stressed. The F-35 will provide targeting data to the F/A-18E/F from deep behind enemy lines, since the Super Hornet can’t penetrate quite as far into hostile territory as the purpose-built stealth aircraft can.”

            IE, stealthy enough, as long as it has the F-35 as its stealthier buddy.

            Link 2: “The measures we were able to get on signature reduction and flying quality were spot on predications,” Morley tells reporters during a press briefing at the Navy League’s Sea-Air-Space Exposition near Washington, DC. “It helps better inform decisions made through the budget bills and provides options as needed.”

            Translation – product meets the number that Boeing said it would meet. Gives us some information about whether we should buy a few more.

            Does that sound like “OMG let’s scrap the F-35 buy right now!” to you?

            PS – Broad spectrum “protection” for the “whole force” is not hostile airspace penetration, in case that still isn’t clear.

          • BlackOwl18E

            Okay, read what I am about to tell you very carefully because I can see that you did not catch it from reading the articles.

            The first article was not talking about the Advanced Super Hornet. It was talking about the Super Hornet as it exists right now. In fact, the Super Hornet as it exists right now is actually the most stealthy aircraft that has not been purpose built for stealth. It is extremely low observable and this gives it an edge.

            The second article is talking about Boeing’s research on the Advanced Super Hornet RCS, which includes new stealth treatments, RAM coatings, and a few other things. The Navy wanted Boeing to reduce the RCS of the Super Hornet further and wanted to see if Boeing could get it low enough to defeat the projected threat. Boeing succeeded.

            The Navy is not going to come out and say, “Let’s scrap the F-35.” The program is too powerful and too politically sensitive for that. What they are doing is arguing behind closed doors. Remember, the Navy does not chose what they are allowed to buy. Congress does. The Navy has been allowed to cut their F-35C orders in half recently and now they are making it clear that they want the Growler with that unfunded priorities list (which is something the Navy actually has control over). You need to read up on how the system works.

          • citanon

            Adm. Manazir specifically said:

            “we can get close in enough to be effective with the weapons we’re going to have on the airplanes here relatively soon.”

            IE – it is actually not good enough without weapons that are not yet even here.

            The second article said that the ASH met Boeing’s numbers. Boeing’s numbers were actually rather modest. How do you get they want the planes now from somebody saying that the program has provided information, is beyond me.

            Plenty clear the Navy want’s negotiation fodder. It probably doesn’t want the planes.

            Giving yourself extra +1s using other computers isn’t going to change that. ;)

          • citanon

            PS – detection range scales as roughly the 4th power of the RCS. Boeing’s claim of a 50% RCS reduction corresponds to roughly a 15% reduction in detection range.

            Rather modest.

          • nsKb

            I’m impressed every time someone intelligent calls out the Boeing marketing BS. Doesn’t happen often enough though.

    • citanon

      Oh, and if needed, they might be able to put a jamming pod package on the F-35 to address additional waveforms. Boeing showed how with the low signature pods for the Super Duper Hornet.

      • BlackOwl18E

        Now I know you have no clue what you’re talking about. It makes no sense to add jammers to a stealth aircraft. Adding emitters to an aircraft that had been expensively built to remain hidden on the EM spectrum is utter nonsense. You lose all of the capability that you just blew billions of dollars to make and then risk all of those dollars upon its exposure to combat.

        Lockheed Martin can’t even get the F-35’s combat ready software right until 2020 and they’ve admitted to that openly. Adding the software necessary for jammers to the F-35 would take years and cost an extra billion or so dollars. The Growler fulfills the role better at a far less cost.

        I don’t know if anyone told you this, but money is a REAL thing that we don’t have a lot of right now.

        • citanon

          Uh no.

          First let me remind you that jamming capabilities are a planned upgrade to the AESA units on the F-22 and the F-35.

          Secondly, adding additional jamming capabilities in the EM spectrum outside of the bands that the stealth features are designed for can increase capabilities.

          Thirdly, jamming can be directionally focused and turn on is selective and situational.

          Selective use of focused jamming can complement and enhance low observability, hence their application to AESA for X-band. If you want to go L-band or longer to counter “anti-stealth” strategies, then you have to go with a pod.

          Lastly, now I know you have not even a faint idea of what a Growler actually is and is not.

          • BlackOwl18E

            You’re missing the point: it still makes no sense to build an aircraft expensively that is designed not to emit anything, and then screw all that up by adding emitters to it. It is a gross waist of money.

            Jamming capabilities are also a planned upgrade in the Super Hornet/Growler’s APG-79 AESA. All of these new jamming technologies coming out can be added to the Growler and be just as effective while being much cheaper and risking a lot less in combat.

            I couldn’t help but to notice that you also dodged the money issue completely. The real factor here is COST. We are in huge debt, the economy is in shambles. We don’t have money to afford the F-35 because the program was so mismanaged and the plane has turned out to be nothing like what it was supposed to be. We don’t have the money for the planned F-35 program as it is now. Upgrading the F-35s with NGJs is not only nonsense, but it would be unrealistically expensive and require money that we just don’t have.

            Lockheed would need to add software to the F-35 for the jammers and software is just something they can’t get right at all. They THINK they can get the F-35’s basic combat ready codes fixed in 2020, but they don’t know for certain. What does that tell you?

            “now I know you have not even a faint idea of what a Growler actually is and is not.”

            You clearly have no idea who I am. If you can’t respond with something better than this, any further communication with you is a waist of my time.

          • Problem?

            > waist


          • BlackOwl18E

            Damn spell check. I’m not using my phone for this anymore.

          • JohnnyRanger

            You’d think the “18E” in your handle might’ve clued him in just a bit…

            Although completely unrelated to the topic at hand – I am curious as to what you think about replacing S-3’s with MH-60R/S’s in our carrier wings? Seems to me, given the proliferation of SSKs and even SSNs(especially in the PLAN), that the greatly reduced range/speed/payload/loiter of a helo is a huge disadvantage. But then I’m just an Army guy…

          • CharleyA

            S-3s are long gone, but may be resurrected for COD, oddly enough. Poseidon/Tritons evidently are slated for the long endurance ASW mission.

          • citanon

            The fifth gen aircraft we have today emit lots of things. They just do so in discrete ways. Stealth allows you to get in closer, listen better, and be more invisible when you need to disappear.

            The Growler is a great aircraft _for its current role_. Doesn’t mean it can do the F-35’s job. Doesn’t mean that the F-35 cannot take on some of the Growler’s capabilities to enhance what it can do in combat.

            I’ll bet you internet brownie points, that the moment the Navy finally rejects further Growlers and other Hornet variants, the contractors will turn right back and start harping on how great their LO pods will be for adding capabilities to F-35. In fact I would not be at all surprised if that didn’t include some organic EW vs. L- band emitters.

            As for cost, you need to pay for capability. Simple as that. You need to pay for broad spectrum signature management and EW. If there comes a time when organic EW pod on an F-35 makes sense, then the DoD will go out and buy it. And people will still complain about cost. Especially the vendors who didn’t get the contract.

            Certain people on this board like to point out how much Lockmart likes $$$$$$$$. Well guess what, Boeing also likes money, and wants to sell products. AMAZING! MIND BLOWING! I know I know.

            PS – I don’t need to know who you are. I’ve already read what you’ve wrote.

            Guess what, when people are spending money to buy other people we’re always “broke”.

          • citanon

            That last sentence should be:

            Guess what, when people are spending money to buy other people’s products, we’re always “broke”.

          • BlackOwl18E

            Again, you are missing the point. Money matters and we don’t have a lot of it right now. You’re part of the crowd that wants to keep charging ahead and throwing good money after bad. If you can’t grasp the simple fact that money is a REAL thing that we don’t have a lot of right now and we can get similar capabilities at better prices, you’re not worth my time. I’m done with you.

          • citanon

            Let’s get some perspective here:

            An F-35c has unit flyaway costs of roughly $100 million FY2014 once production ramps up. There happens to be about 100 million tax payers in this country. That gives roughly $1 per each taxpayer per each F-35. IE, less than half the number I just spent on my daily cup of joe.

            Puts the cost issue in perspective doesn’t it? The cost of this airplane and upgrades has to be judged wrt what it will bring to the table. In this case the Navy has clearly indicated that they NEED the F-35C. This is what the CNO has consistently stated over the years.

            Meanwhile else where in this comment thread you are advocating scrapping the “expensive” F-35C in favor of the fabled F/A-XX to be brought in service some time in 2025 and will be some how more affordable, but going to have much more capability, and be developed in about 10 years from requirement to fleet service.

            Really? Doesn’t that seem at least a little tiny bit disingenuous to you?

          • tmb2

            No less disinenuous than claiming the plane only costs you $1 as if that’s the only dollar the government is taking from you.

        • nsKb

          Do you realize that F-35 will operate in groups. The second group can function as stand off jammers for the first, as long as the jammers fitted are powerful enough. The first group can also use its fitted jammers for self protection if fired upon, though this is less ideal.

    • William_C1

      What is a long time? 10 years perhaps? That isn’t very long.

      The carrier battle group needs to be capable of more than just defending itself, stealth is another weapon in an arsenal that works in conjunction with our other methods (jammer aircraft, decoys, stand-off weapons, etc.) to defeat a modern IADS.

      Yes the F-35 can’t do everything. It isn’t an uncompromising air-superiority fighter nor the sort of long-ranged strike/interdiction aircraft like the F-111 or concepts we’ve seen over the years like the FB-22. It’s an aircraft that makes a lot of trade-offs to perform a lot of different roles while not being overly difficult to maintain and operate in number. In many respects the same is true of the F/A-18. Even you can’t deny the F-14D could put the F/A-18E to shame in some regards, particularly in terms of high speed and high altitude performance.

      With 20/20 hindsight it would have made sense to do a lot of things differently, but we are here now and while the F-35C may not be all that inspiring, it will still be useful to the Navy if it does end up in their service.

      • BlackOwl18E

        You’re right. Stealth is a niche capability that can be useful.

        And the Advanced Super Hornet has enough of it to defeat the threat. The Navy doesn’t need the F-35C at all and if they were allowed to leave the F-35 program they would and they would be better off.

        • William_C1

          The A-12 Avenger II program may have ended in the disaster but the Navy did recognize the value of stealth, and the UCLASS program suggests that the Navy still sees value in it. The LO features on the Super Hornet are a useful improvement that helps reduce detection ranges somewhat, but it isn’t a true stealth aircraft in the manner of the F-22 or F-35. VLO stealth is also certainly going to be expected from F/A-XX.

          • BlackOwl18E

            What’s your point? The Navy knows the value of stealth and they now know that they can integrate the exact value of stealth they need into the Super Hornet. I don’t see why you are stating the obvious fact that VLO stealth is being designed into the F/A-XX. The Navy does not need the F-35C at all. In fact, it’s holding them back from better and brighter things.

          • nsKb

            The 18 will never ever get even close an F-35 like RCS. The low X-Band RCS is critical in breaking kill chains and/or making life difficult for the opposition’s radar designers. To top it all off I bet this magical space-alien technology UFO-18 redesign will nearly the same flyway cost as the F-35.

    • saber2

      “countering effective electronic jamming will be more difficult than countering stealth as technology develops” LOL and why are we supposed to believe your statement? Dont you think its kind of naive to dismiss a whole technology just because one particular weapon system fail? Russian has failed time and time again with Bulava, but I never heard them saying ‘screw all those solid fuel SLBM, we’ll never make them again’.

    • Jay

      I agree… But there is a differance between big land based systems and fighter based systems. In a wartime environment you need both if not more of the F-35. F-35 is an C4I aircraft able to process a lot of data and pass it to assets in the air/ground/sea. Both will be needed to overwelm the enemy force.

    • kevin

      That all sounds good but I’ve always wondered about the infer-red question. How does one hide surface heat on wing tips and nose cone? Every system will always eventually have a new tech countering that system including stealth and radar jamming.

  • blight_

    It’s probably a good time to think about a replacement to the F/A-18 Super Hornet in terms of two-engined heavy designs. If Northrop still has any Grumman guys…

    There’s a good chance that such a competition will lead to another joint competition as they chase a replacement to the F-22 (which is frozen at ~187 units).

    • BlackOwl18E

      F/A-XX is the Navy’s replacement for the Super Hornet. Work is expected to start in 2015, assuming the funds are available. It’s going to essentially be a modern F-14 with an unmanned version to accompany it.

      • William_C1

        I thought you were just insisting the Super Hornet would be enough?

        I would be very pleased to see the F/A-XX in service by the 2025 date currently hoped for. Yet given the record of aircraft programs in recent years I have my doubts. Doubts that are furthered by the sort of budgetary climate we seem to be in thanks to our politicians.

        As far as I know they haven’t yet decided if they are going to give the F/A-XX an “optionally manned” capability or develop a specific unmanned variant of it. That decision may be determined by UCLASS.

        • nick987654

          This F/A-XX is a pipe dream of the USN, there is no way it can be built at a sufficently low cost to replace the super hornets with a one to one ratio. Only a medium size plane produced in mass with the air force can produce an sufficiently low cost for that.

          As for a potential USAF’s 6 gen fighter, history has shown that that kind of high-end fighter is a disaster from an aquisition standpoint. The planes, although very good, cost 3-4 times as much as a medium-class fighter that can be mass produced, when one takes into account R&D costs, increased maintenance costs of a large airframe, low production, and high upgrade costs.

          What the Navy and Air force need is a medium fighter based as much as possible on the F-35. And even if possible, an upgraded F-35 airframe ( tailless delta for reduced RCS, and significant supercruise speed ) should be studied. It it can do the job for 5-10 billion of R&D for the 2 variants, it would be worth it. With a UCAV variant too eventually.

          Also the F135 is the only engine that will have ADVENT technology in that timeframe. Starting another new engine would cost another 5-10 billion.

      • muttling

        It’s not so much a replacement for the F/A-18, that’s the F-35’s expectation. More of one aircraft to serve both the roles of the F-14 and the EA-18 Growler or A-6 Intruder.

        Problem is, the aircraft isn’t expected to be deployed until 2030.

        • ChuckL

          Why are these designers, or proucurers so enamored with one plane for multiple applications. I always costs more than two sparate designs with each optomized for its primary purpose.

      • guest

        The X47B rwreworked will accompany F8 and the Growler on missions.

  • hibeam

    This is how big government works. Get used to it. Why we would want big government to do anything beyond defense and a very few other things is beyond me. 900 million dollar non-working web site anyone? Built in Canada so no Americans got hired in these hard times. Sounds right as rain to me.

    • JoeO

      Private industry can match the Govt screw-up for screw-up, if not beat the Govt hands-down for screw-ups. It’s not public vs private, it’s size & mission & ethics.

  • Paul H

    Does any military project, contract or equipment ever cost and work as intens, it seems that it either cost more than thought or does not work as intended or both.

    • ChuckL

      I believe that the P-51 Mustang fits your requested performance parameters.

  • conradswims

    If I can see it with my eyes and hear it with my ears it ain’t stealth nothing!

  • Lockheed has done a good job convincing the services to accept the reduced capabilities of their Jedi Starfighter. USSR could not compete with the US military expenditures, the US is in the same position as the old USSR with the F35.

  • Houston

    The main drawback with the F-35 is trying to do everything in one airplane. Having one plane that does it all has never worked before, and it won’t work this time.

    $100 million dollar flying turd.

    • Big-Dean

      in that case it’ll now be called the joint ‘stinky’ fighter ;-P

    • nsKb

      This is why the F-16 was such a POS, multirole is such a scam…. oh wait.

    • Olivier

      Have you heard about rafale ? Less passive stealth, but way more active as well

  • oblatt22

    The irony of the F-35 is that its design sacrifice maximum stealth for better performance. The better performance never arrived but they still have the degraded stealth.

    • William_C1

      Stealth was never sacrificed, the level of stealth the F-35 is what was envisioned for the JSF from early on in the program. It wasn’t intended to quite match the F-22 but it would be a lot easier to maintain.

      • Yellow Devil

        Would be a lot easier to maintain? Until they get the F35 actually finished and disseminated among the Armed Forces, there is no guarantee if it is “easier to maintain” than the F22. Yeah I know, “ifs and butts were candy and nuts than…”

  • Tad

    Not being the stealthiest guy in the sky isn’t the end of the world, as long as you understand the conditions and limitations of your stealth. The worst tradeoff that has been made for the F-35, IMO, is cost. If it were cheaper then we could buy lots and lots of them, numbers having a quality all their own and all that.

    • Big-Dean

      we have certainly fallen in the cold war trap of thinking. During the cold war our thinking was that our “stuff” was far superior to the Russians. As it was to a degree. But when you have a single, say very good tank, facing 10 good tanks the very good one will lose every time

      So now we are doing the same thing with the F-35. It’s supposed to be a ‘very good’ aircraft but when the Chinese are building ‘good’ ones at a 4-1 ratio it really doesn’t matter how good your ‘very good’ is because you’ll be dead.

      • tiger

        Then you would be wise to solve problems through diplomatic means. Not a bad thing for us or the world. War is a lousy option to solve disputes.

        • Big-Dean

          diplomacy without a military to back it up with meaningless-just ask Ukraine, or the Philippines or Georgia, or…..

  • William_C1

    By nature of its size and tailless configuration the B-2 is harder to detect with any of the VHF radars people are concerned about. So what were its supposed failings? Did they expect to fly within a dozen kilometers of a state-of-the-art radar set without being detected? The goal for the B-2 was for a level of stealth that would greatly reduce the radar coverage area of the enemy’s air defense systems so it could slip past them. It seems to have achieved that.

  • Michael_AF_Ret

    If you look behind the “green curtain” you will find the Navy doing what it does best during procurement – stalling. It’s classic. 1970’s two fighters were built to compete against one another. The one that won would be the fighter the Navy and Air Force would purchase. Enter the YF-16 and the YF-17(Identical to the first generation F-18). The YF-16 won the fly off in all categories. Time to commit – the Navy doesn’t want the winner; they want the loser because they “need” two engines on their aircraft. Navy had helped the YF-17 contractor to improve the flight characteristics. The Navy thought the FY-17 would win the contest. Instead, it fell flat. It was out climbed, turned, and was far less effective for the mission tests. The YF-17, soon to be the F-18 was heavier which makes catapulting off the deck of a carrier more difficult. Every NATO country purchased the F-16. The Navy gave the YF-17 a different designation of YF-18.
    The new F-18s developed cracks in their vertical stabilizers grounding every F-18 in service including the Canadian Forces squadrons. The CAF eventually purchased F-16s. The Navy purchased single engine Harriers for the Marines.
    If the Navy would just say out front what they need; that, alone, would save 100s of millions of dollars. I think that they are stuck with an antiquated mind set. The F-4 and the F-14 were the only two engine aircraft the Navy actually said they needed two engines. They continued to fly single engine A-4s and A-6s until the F-18 came on line. But, they were building super carriers; and, the F-4s needed the super carriers to be forward deployed safely. And, they up-sized to the Super Hornet – an F-18 on steroids. Another heavy weight. So, the Navy”s solution to procurement is tell Congress what they will save by just upgrading the F-18 with a lot of help from the contractor. So, if you figure that the Navy spent money that should have gone to Gen 5 aircraft, all approved by Congress and the Joint Chiefs, it puts a new light on the Pentagon’s procurement policies. Too many fingers in the pie. I hope in the future the Admirals will think ahead and fully spec out the aircraft they actually need. And, as for the future of the F-35. If you believe the F-35’s radar cross section is inadequate, take a closer look at what the Admirals went out and spent our money on – a 40 year old design and made it bigger. How big is the radar cross section of the YF-17, excuse me, F-18 Super Hornet? It is only a matter of time before the Navy procurement plan includes the F-36, a twin engine version of the F-35 only bigger and heavier. And, for those speaking out against the F-117, first gen stealth, it was Air Force pilots flying those missions on a regular schedule. It was more a matter of taking the same route to target than the stealth abilities of the aircraft. Final word. Everything cost more today than it did 35 years ago. Put everything in perspective. What is needed may require more money than estimated ten years ago. But, that doesn’t change the need.

    • Trons Away

      Perhaps a little bias in your comments…

      Why does the Air Force constantly find the need to tell the Navy what aircraft it needs to buy for its carrier force? If you don’t want two engines because the engineers’ mathematical modeling claims an extremely low mean failure rate, go ahead, believe the engineers. Being an aviator and former maintenance officer, I know that engines are maintained by humans and operated in less than optimal saltwater environments. I can personally attest to several occasions when that second engine has kept me from ejecting.
      Further, anyone that has been involved in the testing of F-35 has quickly realized that it uses an Air Force maintenance paradigm. It requires a pristine hangar environment, and is down if it’s breathed on wrong. Those characteristics are not conducive to carrier operations.
      A-6 had two engines, I believe you meant A-4 and A-7s. Neither aircraft weighed 30k pounds empty, nor cost $130 mil per copy. An extra motor might be a good insurance policy.

      • Michael_AF_Ret

        I’m looking for a little reciprocity. The Navy developed the F-4. The Air Force found that the Phantom was a good aircraft. Thus they bought more of them than the Navy; but, only because the Air Force missions required more aircraft. I did mean the Corsair IIs. And, I understand the safety factor of a second engine. But the YF-17 lost to the YF-16 in what was suppose to be a winner take all fly off. But, the fact is the Navy would have gone only with the YF-17 if it had won. The Air Force would have gone with the YF-17, too. The Air Force, despite its experience with the F-4, went with the single-engined YF-16. If you take a look at mission requirements, the AF needs a nimble, high thrust to weight ratio aircraft. The Navy will sacrifice some of those requirements for additional ruggedness and corrosion-resistant materials. So instead of waiting until a “crisis” moment in developing new aircraft. The Navy should just say that future aircraft have to have two engines to operate from a carrier. I’m sure the Air Force can make their version lighter and cheaper. And, in the end the cost per aircraft should be less expensive on average. As far as pristine conditions, the Navy like the AF park their aircraft on the flight line. Exposed to the elements. Many AF bases, like Langley, are exposed to sal****er. But, I will concede that operating at sea you are dealing with salt air constantly. I’m AF; but, my son is Navy. He has worked on the avionics, fire control, targeting, and other “black boxes” on the F-18 and the Super Hornet. He has had five deployments to the Gulf. He has also been stationed at Fallon NAS and Lemoore NAS. And, he loves both aircraft. My military background is with ICBMs, SLBMs, cruise missiles(air, land, and sea launched), Laser and GPS guided weapons. I’ve, also, worked on several other special weapons platforms. Of course this involved working with all branches of the Armed Forces and many allied Nations. The testing and mission validation programs for each weapon system put me right in the middle of the procurement process. Even after the system was deployed, we continued testing, validating, and tweaking. Testing involved all environments with sal****er and alkaline deserts topping the list for maintenance. One last comment. My favorite aircraft to date are the F-4, F-15, F-14, and E-6 in that order with the F-16 and F-18 Super Hornet.

    • tiger

      Minor nitpicks. You missed the whole A-12 affair in the history mix. T a he YF16 was never built to Navy specs. The Navy had a (VFAX) program in the works & Congress Merged the USAF Lightweight Fighter program with it. LTV & General Dynamics were to design changes To fit the USN needs. There is little sign it happened.

      • Michael_AF_Ret

        Everyone should know that if you make a change to the process it costs money. How long have we been doing this song and dance. Cost overruns happen when projections are designed to “sell” and not to be realistic. Every part has materials requirements. If the material cost goes up, so does the cost of the part. When you are looking at an aircraft designed from the ground up and not based on any existing air frame, you are looking at a much more expensive end item. Those first 50 are going to be the more expensive than the last aircraft re-design. If you reduce the number of aircraft, then you have to depend on older aircraft to do the job. Those older aircraft are hitting 40 years of service. Maintenance on them will cost 100s of billions to keep them in service and we don’t have any idea if they can do the job. If one gets shot down, you’ve lost not only the aircraft but the pilot as well. A pilot that has gone through very costly training over a period of years. Intelligence is needed. Not only about the threats capabilities; but, the managers running the F-35 program and Congress. And, the later is very unlikely.

        • Hunter76

          Excellent arguments, gentlemen, but the future is clouds of cheap uavs.

          • Michael_AF_Ret

            UAVs will definitely be in the mix. Loitering time and low radar cross section make them ideal for specific targets. But, sitting in a trailer on the ground doesn’t give you the “feel” you need being in the cockpit doing Mach 2+. There are missions such as recon that UAVs are just made to perform. If you make a UAV too cheap, it will be limited to specific mission parameters. You will still need a larger UAVs to drop heavy guided munitions. We have to think out of the box with the UAVs. Not look at them as just a way to keep a human out of the cockpit.

          • citanon

            I think what we are learning is that:

            A: UAVs are not cheap
            B: UAVs are really remotely operated vehicles. They need a human in the loop. What happens when communications are denied?

          • Michael_AF_Ret

            If the current exchange of target and air defense between groups of attacking aircraft were shut down, the pilots could still coordinate their attacks. And, as you point out, a UAV requires hardened communications between the trailer and the aircraft. Basically, spending the savings on protecting communications. If communications is lost, the UAV should turn around and head back to the barn. But ….. some want it to continue without human input. Bad idea.

          • Trons Away

            It’s not necessarily a bad idea. We already employ long-range autonomous air vehicles to attack well-defended targets. They’re called Tomahawks; they just don’t come back to the ship – hopefully.

            We can design an aircraft to launch, fly a preplanned route, release its weapons, and return to a known point outside contested airspace for recovery instructions. The technology already exists individually, and X-47B demonstrated the launch and recovery capability.

            Now, if you want dynamic targeting like with Reapers, then you would need a live link, or a AI logic tree that doesn’t exist yet. That would probably be a bad idea.

          • Michael_AF_Ret

            Concur. Cruise missiles target well-defended targets; and, we want to take those targets out. Excellent match between autonomy and target. Minimal collateral damage with their accuracy. Well-defended targets are stationary, or slow movers.
            As you point out dynamic targets, will require continuous update of target information until the UAV acquires it with its on board systems. As long as the target is high-value, and confirmed, the mission runs to completion. I can see the possibility of their flying CAP.
            The future for manned flight might just be low-earth orbit and the UAVs within the 50K envelope. Always looking for the “high ground”.

          • nsKb

            UAVs wont always need a man in the loop, but for the immediate future human input will be needed.

          • Michael_AF_Ret

            And, that day will change the definition of war. When a nation can send robots into battle, that will be the day war becomes like a video game. The “horrors” of war have always been a last resort, or a psychological tool to suppress. Either way the fact human lives were at stake made war something to avoid.
            With AI and robotics, there will be a certain arrogance and distancing from the collateral damage in human lives. The target will be efficiently eliminated and anyone standing nearby as well.

    • Chuck

      The A-6 was also a two engine aircraft.

      • Michael_AF_Ret

        My bad. The Intruder was a great attack aircraft with gutsy pilots.

    • JohnnyRanger

      “The CAF eventually purchased F-16s”. Never.

      • Michael_AF_Ret

        I can tell you this. In the hanger at CAFB Cold Lake, I saw three F-16s in Canadian colors. Along with two F-18s with Canadian colors, both grounded until the vertical stabilizers were repaired. So, what I saw was three mission ready F-16s and two grounded F-18s. I witnessed two F-16s take off. I did not see an F-18 landing or taking off. The aircraft were assigned a intercept/chase mission for a weapons test. This was in mid January and there were no aircraft on the flight line.

        • Dfens

          Just being Devil’s advocate here, but at least the Navy had the good sense to design out the problem with the cracking verticals of the F-18E/F. The Air Force allowed Lockheed to lay out both the F-22 and the F-35 with the cracking verticals problem inherent to their design. It was only by using some fly-by-wire tricks that they are able to keep the verticals on both those airplanes. It would be one thing if they had only been fooled once, but twice?

          • Michael_AF_Ret

            Appreciate your input. I’ll start by saying the B-2 doesn’t have vertical stabilizers; and, it flies because of computers, sensors, and software. The F-117, also, would be impossible to fly without computers, sensors, and software. Both are first gen stealth. To be stealthy you have to be able to redirect, or absorb, radar energy. Angling the vertical stabilizes is a necessary design requirement. Until you put in to test flight, you only have the calculations and “controlled” jig testing. Again, computers, sensors and software allow for the stealth design requirements. The Navy’s new drone has no vertical surfaces thanks to computers, sensors, and software. Many great fighters were designed to tip toe the boundary between stable and unstable flight in order to increase maneuverability. The F-18’s vertical stabilizer cracks were a manufacturing defect. Once it was corrected the F-18 began flying and undergoing Block improvements. Eventually resulting in the Super Hornet. The F-22 and F-35 air frames will have growing pains just like every other aircraft. Putting a pilot in the seat is the only way to test how good, or bad, the aircraft will be. We all have to remember we want to “own” the sky to protect our ground forces and naval forces.

        • Would you please add some content and context to this, please? When was this?

          • Michael_AF_Ret

            This was in 1986. Canadian Forces Base Cold Lake. I had an Air Force crew at Cold Lake for a series of tests. The tests had nothing to do with my observations in the hanger. I was told the F-16s were being used for flight chase. Cold Lake is the Edwards AFB of the CAF.

          • Michael_AF_Ret

            Correction on the year. It was 1985.

          • Michael_AF_Ret

            Robert. I really can’t go deeper into the Cold Lake observations. My team was assigned a work space in the hanger. We actually used the area more as a meeting place for our test projects deployment. The team was assigned to Hill AFB, UT.

    • ChuckL

      Gentlemen, I believe that the procurement arms of the militry are hampered more by the congressmen and senators trying to get the contract for their district, than the military requirements. These politicians also have much to do with the multiple redesigns which cost so much money.

      If the design was completed before RFPs wer snt out and thse RFPs were for the completed design the costs would drop greatly.

      • Dfens

        The man speaks the truth! Pay the contractors extra to screw you and then wonder why they do. That’s just stupid!

      • Michael_AF_Ret

        Amen on the Congressmen and Senators. There is always an on going discussion about future weapon systems and their platforms. Needless to say aircraft has no limit on “experts” and “future analysts”. They are now discussing “near-Earth orbit” craft – manned & unmanned. DoD procurement builds RFPs by committee. And, there are a lot of “what if” inputs. And, when Congress gets wind of some new idea, there is a scramble to get their share of the pie. Chuck, it sounds like you and I have been there – done that.

    • The YF-16 versus YF-17 Lightweight Fighter program to replace the F-104 was a success within NATO but not an overwhelming success. Germany, Britain, and France weren’t interested. Neither were the Japanese. But including the USAF and NATO purchasers about a thousand F-16 A&B models were in the initial orders. So the scale of production kept original cost per unit remarkable low.

      A Carrier based aircraft needs to be designed for that task. The Y-16 never was sturdy enough. McDonnell Douglas partnered with Northop to recreate the YF-17 into the F/A-18. NATO countries Canada and Spain preferred the Hornet over the F-16. And no, the Canadians never used F-16….

      • Michael_AF_Ret

        This was in 1985. Canadian Forces Base Cold Lake. I had an Air Force crew at Cold Lake for a series of tests. The tests had nothing to do with my observations in the hanger. I was told the F-16s were being used for flight chase. Cold Lake is the Edwards AFB of the CAF. And, they were painted in the Canadian colors.. One of the F-16s was a two-seater.

    • The A6A Intruder was a two place twin engine, not a single engine, center line thrust( engines on the port and starboard sides) attack aircraft capable of carrying some heavy payloads it had two J52 8500 lb thust P&W engines made by Grumman Iron Works. the A4 was a light attack single engine aircraft powered by a single engine 8500 lb thrust J52 P&W engine a dream to fly and hold a line on a bomb run a challange to fly on instruments.

      • Michael_AF_Ret

        Sorry you missed my correction about the A-6. I’ve always considered A-6 crews to be some of the gutzist pilots in the world. Their missions over Vietnam are legendary. Thanks for the Specs. The fact that Top Gun used A-4s in the adversary squadron speaks volumes about aircraft’s capabilities. I’m still a big fan of the F-4. I worked closely with the F-4 pilots and their test F-4s on a regular basis. Testing new munitions, weapons pods, and flight delivery parameters. It was a lot of work; but, it was a lot of fun, too. Seeing an F-4 in test colors is awesome.

  • mrlee

    If you have a good radar operator on duty, they can find them. You see, once you know that they are in the air, it is not always looking for the aircraft, but looking for what is not correct on your screen.

    • Michael_AF_Ret

      Correct. And, you develop that ability because you are exposed to it continually. Ergo, flying inbound on the same route more often than you should. My AF team worked with the cruise missile programs. The radar’s along the test flight routes would see weird images on their screens for a brief second before they disappeared. Test data correlation showed the missile was momentarily exposed to the radar due to topographical features or altitude changes. Over a three year span in tests in several countries, the cruise missiles were always programmed to fly a different mission profile to target. They were the most visible in the Western Test Ranges in California, Nevada, and Utah. Part of the test profile was to intercept the cruise missile with an aircraft directed towards the missile. That proved to be successful about 10% of the time. And, had more to do with the pilot than the radar system operator. That would be consistent with the F-117 incident.

      • citanon

        Great posts from you sir. I learned something by reading them today.

        However, as much as I’d like to learn more from your first hand experience, I wonder if we are not getting into areas pertinent to OPSEC.

        • Michael_AF_Ret

          Good question. I have read the same dialogue in Jane’s back in the late 80s. As far as the routing to target, it is procedural to select ingress and egress routes based on as many random directions as practical. In some situations that can be very limiting. The ranges are on any map of those areas. That is a lot of territory and a big sky over it all. I had a very interesting career; but, only those working with me and myself will ever know anything about it.

  • Vitor

    I wonder if the most updated version of the russian S-300 and the S-400 could detect the F-35 at useful ranges. For sure I wouldnt trust the F-35 against the S-500 when it is finally deployed.

    • Jim

      I’m sure it could. Nobody has gone on the record about B-2 ops. The insane persistence of USAF flying these back and forth from Kansas City to wherever the go to stealthily strike the target in say, Afghanistan. is a ridiculous waste of time and dollars. I have read from open sources that as the B-2 closes to target, it meets its “escort” of Growlers and, Prowlers,. If it’s “invisible”. why does it need jammers leading the way? Overtaxed and under equipped, the Navy/ Marines had this mission dumped in their laps once all the EF-111 Ravens went to the boneyard,

      • citanon

        Because the depots are in Kansas.

      • JohnnyRanger

        Read where? Provide links, please.

      • blight_

        Interesting. Not sure if true for B-2, but apparently true for F-117.

        Flip to page 3.


        “We had flown hundreds of sorties in the most demanding and high-threat, … most heavily defended … places that we’ve encountered in the decade of the ’90s,” such as the heart of Belgrade and Baghdad, “and we lost one,” he pointed out.

        Had the Air Force concluded there was a fundamental flaw in stealth, it would not have continued to use the F-117 and B-2 in Kosovo or would have reassigned the types to less-challenging targets, service officials insisted.

        SMSgt. Walter Franks, superintendent of maintenance for the F-117 at ACC, said there have been no maintenance change orders issued on the airplane as a result of the loss of the airplane in Kosovo.

        While Jumper echoed Ryan’s observation that the F-117 is not invisible, he noted that “in the right circumstances, it’s very, very hard to see. It will continue to be that way. And its performance continues to improve, both in its maintainability and its stealth qualities. So, I don’t see stealth being ‘on the ropes’ in any way.”

        A prominent criticism of both the F-117 and the B-2 in Kosovo centered on the fact that, even though both were billed as radar evaders, both types were supported by jamming aircraft. This was not supposed to be necessary.

        Jumper said bluntly that the F-117s and B-2s “don’t need escort jammers.” However, senior USAF officials acknowledge that the stealth aircraft certainly did coordinate missions with jamming aircraft, particularly the EA-6Bs operated jointly by the Air Force, Navy, and Marine Corps, to increase the safety margin when attacking tough targets.

      • nsKb

        Stealth aircraft aren’t invisible nor were they ever claimed to be, you fundamentally don’t understand the physics of what is going on from the looks of things.

  • Ross

    1991 was 23 years ago, not 13

  • SMSgt Mac

    Wow. Just Wow.
    Hoffman managed to get every stinking point in his B-2 narrative wrong, creating an epic allegorical fail. But it does tend to obfuscate the fawning delivery of ‘Boeing Koolaid” that followed.

  • chaos0xomega

    I’m loathe to compliment the Navy on much, particularly when it comes to the aviation field, but I think they’re the only ones thinking sensibly about aircraft acquisitions at the moment. Its sad that they, moreso than the Air Warfare branch that is supposed to be the Air Force, are seemingly solely in recognition of the fact that stealth is not the be-all-end-all that its made out to be and electronic warfare is just as important (if not moreso) in the survivability of both stealth and non-stealth air assets in a contested air environment, as well as the fact that it is a more ‘future-proof’ technology than stealth.

  • blight_


    Reading this, I begin to think that Tacit Blue (the stealthy forward air controller prototype) might be the wave of the future.

    As for the F-35, if we cancel now it’ll cost more than the B-2 when amortized over the airframes already purchased.

    We had 100 aircraft in 2013 with costs close to 400B.

  • Alva Maynor

    Many of these comments focus on the F-117 and almost try to give complete success to the mission in Bosnia/Yugoslavia to the F-117. There were other platforms equally engaged if not more so. The F-16 flew many missions and so did the A-10. I haven’t heard but I’m pretty sure the F-4 wild weasel was also used over there. The A-10 took out a lot of the hand held rocket people with superior tactics using the capabilities of the A-10. So Stealth was not the entire picture. As many of the comments suggest, it requires sound tactics and appropriate use of all your different platforms. That will win out before technology will. This fits into the discussion between using Growlers and F-35 aircraft. The discussions over the radars miss MTI or moving target indicators, which help you pick out a small target in bacground noise that is moving. The digital signal processing capabilites are probably more important than what frequency radar you are using. With the Aegis weapon system, we back migrated the digital signal processing capabilites and technology into the rest of the fleet. I started my career on Aegis and now support old aircraft for the Air Force.

  • JayE

    I’m still trying to figure out why we even need this plane.
    Because we don’t.

  • StrumPanzer

    The government should have seen the writing on the wall when LM was developing the X-35 and already was over budget by 100 million dollars. Accounting error my ass.

  • Frank

    Nobody seems to mention one of the best fighters of all time, the F-15 Eagle. It maybe old and big, but I’ll take it. It’s proven. Maybe we are asking too much of all this “new” stuff. The F-22 seems to be very good but too costly.
    I still don’t know what to make of the F-35. Yea or nea?

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