Monday, July 27, 2015

F-35B IOC is Imminent

Prepare for all the Handwringing

Word on the street is that F-35 IOC is all done except for the signatures (which always leaves the political angle, but ya gotta have faith).

I remember all the angst when the B-2 IOC occurred. How did that work out?
Like this:
IOC is the beginning, not the end. People who think you can field a perfect airplane out the door don't know airplanes, people, or how weapon systems become operational.
Note the critics were still acting in accordance to their SOPs even after B-2 IOC. Although the GAO pretty much threw in the towel after they published the report they had already written before Allied Force in 1999 (with only a cursory nod to the reality that just smacked around their paper pushing exercise.  

By the time F-35 FOC occurs, the critics will have lost all their teeth and will be gumming it to death. 

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

P.W. Singer and August Cole? 'Game Show' Quality Defense Analysis

(Apologies to Game Shows Everywhere)

Ersatz sound-bite providers cum defense 'thinkers' P.W. Singer and August Cole have piled even more B.S. on the F-35 non-story that was made up out of whole cloth earlier over at 'Axe is Boring'.

To summarize the authors (in sequence):
  1. Help propagate the disinformation cascade by repeating the nonsensical hit-piece-on-a-report that neither they nor the original author propagating such drivel apparently are capable of understanding. 
  2. Misrepresent the official response to said hit-piece and critique their own misrepresentation. 
  3. Repeat a tired old ‘we tried missiles only’ trope. (Only interceptors designed to engage nuclear-armed bombers at a distance were ever ‘missiles only’ armed). 
  4. Misrepresent the Navy’s actual design objective of the F-4, which was as a "Fleet Interceptor" of aforementioned bombers, and armed with A2A missiles designed to intercept those same less-than-maneuverable bombers and at very high altitudes (unlike how the ROEs shaped SEA combat). BTW: The Air Force ALWAYS wanted a gun on its F-4s in the fighter role. Robert the ’Strange’ said ‘NO’ to the AF until the F-4E. 
  5. Provide a cartoon snapshot of the fighter pilots' post-1968 experience in SEA. 
  6. Then reassert the bogus F-35 hit-piece masquerading as ‘reporting’ and analysis as if there were 'facts' involved.

So then.... 

Q: What IS there about the rest of the authors' so-called ‘analysis’ that would make their ‘blog post’ anything other than 'intellectual' booger-flicking?

A: Nothing.

By way of a palate cleanser, lets compare Singer and Cole's B.S. with some, y'know...FACTS.

Contrary to what some might believe, I try not to just point at the stupid people and their stupidity without also providing some positive and countervailing content. So in passing, let us review some information that at least provides some information as to what that 'test' Axe & Co. got their beta-boy panties in a wad over  REALLY means -- instead of what they want it to mean (apparently just because it fits their preconceived life-positions).

The Testing in Question was Described Ahead of Time Last Year 

From the 2014 AIAA paper "F-35A High Angle-of-Attack Testing"[1], authored by a Mr. Steve Baer, (Lockheed Martin "Aeronautical Engineer, Flying Qualities" at Edwards AFB), and presented to the Atmospheric Flight Mechanics Conference held between 16 and 20 June 2014, in Atlanta, Georgia we find that F-35 High AoA testing was designed to follow in the following progression: 
The test objectives for high angle-of-attack testing are as follows:
1) Characterize the flyqualities [sic] at AoAs from 20° to the control law limit regime with operationally representative maneuvers. 
2) Demonstrate the aircraft’s ability to recover from out of control flight and assess deep stall susceptibility 
3) Evaluate the effectiveness and usefulness of the automatic pitch rocker (APR) 
4) Evaluate departure resistance at both positive and negative AoA with center of gravity (CG) positions up to the aft limit and with maximum lateral asymmetry. 
5) Assess the handling qualities of the aircraft in the High AoA flight
Now, in case a 'punk journalist' or other factually-challenged reader wanders by, we need to be clear that #5 has nothing to do with "dogfighting". We know this because Mr. Baer makes two points shortly thereafter within the paper. 

The first point is relevant to the state of the testing at the time of his writing. I observe that this paper was written during Objective #4 testing and published at about the time it concluded. This observation is supported by the passage [emphasis/brackets mine]:
With intentional departure testing [Objective #4] wrapped up, the team will soon move into departure resistance [Objective #4] and plan to remove the SRC now that these systems have been verified. In this phase of testing, the jet will test the CLAW limiters with much higher energy and rates than previous testing, fleshing out and correcting areas that may be departure prone. Lastly, select operational maneuvers [Objective #5], such as a slow down turn and a Split-S, will be used to gather handling qualities data on high AoA maneuvers. With the completion of this phase, the F-35 will be released for initial operational capability in the high AoA region.
   Note: 'CLAW' is Control Law and 'SRC' is Spin Recovery Chute.
Clearly the testing was not yet at step #5 at the time of writing but to emphasize same, the author followed the above paragraph with [emphasis mine]: 
While the flight test team will explore legacy high AoA maneuvers for handling qualities, it will be the Operational Test and Evaluation team that will truly develop high AoA maneuvers for the F-35. In the operational world, a pilot should rarely be taking the F-35 into the high angle-of-attack regime, but the ability to do so could make the difference between being the victor or the victim in air-to-air combat....
So with this paragraph, not only does the author expound on the exploring of "legacy high AoA maneuvers" (the 'legacy' part is important) that is to come, he specifically assigns the kind of testing that will "truly develop high AoA maneuvers for the F-35" (vs. 'legacy' which may be differed from) to the Operational Testers and NOT part of the Edwards AFB Developmental Test Team activities. 

In a nutshell, just within these two paragraphs that Baer wrote in early/mid 2014 is precisely what the JPO/LM stated in their official response to Axe's B.S.
Therefore the "reasonable man" may logically and confidently conclude the JPO response:
  1. WAS NOT simply something that was contrived in response to Axe's made up bullsh*t  but...
  2. WAS accurately asserting what the testing was truly about...
....debunking all and any claims to the contrary.

[1] AIAA #2014-2057

Minor changes for clarity, readability and typo corrections made 23 July 15 @ 1944 hrs.  

Sunday, July 19, 2015

'That's All Brother' Update

Like most stories that come out in the mainstream media, they seem to never come out with all the important details just right. I'm following the 'That's All Brother' saga as it unfolds, and in the wake of the CAF's VERY successful 'Kickstarter' campaign, some more pieces of the backstory surrounding the rediscovery of this historic C-47 are coming to light.

Now, according to this article-- which also mentions 'That's All Brother' will be on static display at the EAA's annual Oshkosh fly-in, the aircraft company that 'found' the plane in it's turboprop conversion queue, didn't just 'find' it . 'That's All Brother' had been tracked by an individual who served in the same unit after the pilot of 'That's All Brother' in postwar service and it was this gentleman-- an Air National Guard 'boomer'--in addition to the conscientious crew at Basler Turbo Conversions was instrumental in making the right people aware through personal perseverance:
Matt Scales was serving in an Alabama Air National Guard unit when he learned one of his unit's former members — Donalson, who died in 1987 — had flown the lead plane in the D-Day invasion. In 2007 Scales tracked down the unit Donalson served in during the war and searched the unit's history. He figured it would end there because most military historians didn't bother to record tail numbers.
But Scales and fellow military historian Ken Tilley hit the jackpot. Donalson's unit historian wrote down his D-Day plane's tail number: 42-92847. On a lark, Scales looked up the tail number in the FAA's database and got a hit. It was privately owned by a man in Arizona who was excited to learn his plane had flown on D-Day.
Scales, again, figured that was the end of it. He continued working as a boom operator in an air refueling wing and as a police officer in Alabama. Three years later he decided to check the database again and learned that by then the plane had been purchased by Basler Turbo Conversions in Oshkosh, which repurposes old DC-3 and C-47 planes into modern aircraft.
Randy Myers, director of production and engineering at Basler, had seen "That's All, Brother" with its Vietnam gunship paint parked at the airport in Waupaca years ago and made an offer to the Arizona man. Myers wouldn't learn of the D-Day connection until much later.
Once Scales realized it was at Basler, he contacted museums and aviation preservation groups to see if any were interested in saving the aircraft that led the D-Day invasion. None were, and Scales figured his quest had finally come to a dead end.
But last year a blogger mentioned the combat history of the C-47 parked in the boneyard behind Basler. Smith, of the Commemorative Air Force, thought his group was the perfect fit to save it. It exchanged a C-47 in its collection for "That's All, Brother" and began fundraising for the restoration.
There's lot's more of the story at the source.

Scales' enquiries and efforts are what spread awareness of the artifact and its location. And though no group responded to his personal efforts directly, it was those efforts that allowed the chain of events to unfold as they did.

Note: I wonder how much of this was also serendipitous. Scales served in the Alabama ANG, Were the resources that Scales needed to get the right tail number perhaps more readily available at Maxwell AFB, home of the Air University, in Montgomery?


Wednesday, July 15, 2015

A Mysterious LM CUDA Missile Update

Just gets more interesting as time goes on...

Major Hat Tip to Marauder for finding the relevant AFIT Technical thesis and passing it along

Regular readers may remember one of my most popular posts on LM’s CUDA missile concept. In that post, I hypothesized some about the CUDA’s weight and resultant performance by using a comparative analysis of what little was known about the CUDA and existing missiles with known physical characteristics. Key assumptions were that the same kind of propellant characteristics and relative scaling of the different components of existing missiles would apply to the CUDA.

Based upon a recent AFIT paper I no longer believe that approach is sufficient.

Employment of a CUDA missile ‘concept’ was used in a thesis written by Army Major Casey D. Connor, and published earlier this year. In his paper “AGENT-BASED MODELING METHODOLOGY FOR ANALYZING WEAPONS SYSTEMS”, Major Connor modeled and examined the relative effectiveness of different missile loadout combinations for a very specific A2A mission using two methods of attack: 'straight-in' and ‘pincer’.
The paper was exploratory in nature, and there’s not enough in the paper to come to any more conclusions than Major Connor did -- but I’m sure someone will read more ‘findings’ into it than he did. In fact, I'd expect 'some' to leap to all kinds of ‘conclusions’ about a lot of different sub-topics because the paper really does raise some very interesting questions that someone else will probably/hopefully pick up and follow-up on going forward.
The value of the paper to us in this instance is that it gives us an indication of some key performance—shall we say—“possibilities” for a CUDA-like weapon system. The paper uses the terms CUDA-like and SACM (Small Advanced Capability Missile) interchangeably. Given the rumblings on the web and in aero media since the CUDA concept’s existence went public, the relationship of the CUDA (a Lockheed Martin concept) to SACM (the programmatic objective of CUDA) is now better known. No surprises there.

What is Surprising?

What IS surprising (to me at least) are the characteristics used for the CUDA/SACM in Major Connor’s thesis. Specifically, Connor provides the CUDA/SACM weight used in his simulations as 49Kg (108 lbs). This has HUGE implications. 

If by my original speculation where I extrapolated known data about existing technology, I had arrived at a weight estimate that was 45.5 lbs higher (153.5 lbs) than the 108lb weight Connor uses, then it almost certainly speaks of significantly more advanced/miniaturized technology than simply scaling down 'more of the same' from existing systems.

I had toyed with putting a wedge in my original estimate for a reverse-weight spiral (less structural weight is needed the lower the non-structural weight), but thought that would have been pushing all the ‘estimating’ a little too far. As it turns out I would have come closer, but still nowhere near a mere 108 lbs for a CUDA weight estimate by my using current weapons for baseline info. I think now that ‘Next generation’ guidance, control, structure, and maybe  propulsion technology breakthroughs almost certainly permeate that CUDA/SACM design concept. As the scaling of RM propellant weight probably still applies (harder to make lighter propellant than other components), I don't think there's much weight change per cubic inch of volume there. But even so, this new lower weight could potentially drive the CUDA/CACM higher in the ‘Delta V’ performance than what I had previously estimated.

What Changed?

If only the weight is lower, with the other factors such as the ratio between pre-launch and expended rocket motor weights, and propellant/rocket factors, etc., then the CUDA potential top speed would not necessarily be higher than my first estimate (~24% higher than AMRAAM using existing missiles as guides). But I don’t think that at this new lighter weight, the same ratio CAN still hold true: a larger percentage of the total CUDA/SACM weight is now more likely found in the rocket motor -- if only just because everything else got lighter.
This shift in weight contribution, in turn, would mean a larger percentage of pre-launch weight is propellant that will be expended in acceleration. The scope of the impact of such a change is unknown, but here is a parametric exploration of the impact of various possible RM weight ratios from no change (54.53%) and up to a little more than 5% increase (60%):
What if the CUDA has a higher percentage of propellant weight than the AMRAAM?
(updated verbiage for more clarity less obfuscation)
As you can see, very little increases in the ratio of propellant weight to total weight yields significantly higher potential Delta V that could be tapped into to:

  1. increase range, 
  2. enable shaping complex flyouts, and/or 
  3. increase end-game dynamics. 
That this improved performance is likely a ‘truism’ in the CUDA/SACM design concept is reflected in Major Connor’s findings.

Connor’s modeling of the engagements he selected resulted in outcomes where the ‘pure’ CUDA/SACM loadout successfully engaging the RED AIR targets at significantly greater distances (32%-38% greater, depending on attack method used) than the Medium Range Missile Model (AMRAAM-basis) used (see Fig. 43 below from the source). That kind of range advantage would be consistent with a higher Delta V for the CUDA/SACM weapon.

[Note: Read the paper for information on the mixed loads of a short range missile (AIM-9X ‘like’), medium range missile (MRM) and the CUDA/SACM weapons]

The higher performance of the CUDA/SACM also shows up in the higher 'effectiveness' ratings of the pure CUDA/SACM loadout over the pure MRM loadout. As Figure 42 from the paper below illustrates, the pure CUDA/SACM missile loadout kills targets at better than a 2 to 1 advantage over the MRM’s kill rate as well as doing so at ranges farther than the MRM. 

This increased effectiveness suggests perhaps an even better end-game kinematic CUDA/SACM design performance than the MRMs due to a higher percentage of propellant design weight, working with the hit-to-kill Attitude Control Motors (ACMs) in the front-end. 

Connor’s focus in the paper isn’t on getting into the nuances of the CUDA/SACM’s capabilities, but the higher performance of the CUDA concept indicated by the data is supported by his observations within the text as well:
The main characteristics of the new missile technology examined in our research include hit-to-kill technology in which the missile uses a kinetic warhead to attack the target, agility in that the missile’s guidance, propulsion, and control surfaces allow it to maneuver more flexibly towards a target, and a smaller size allowing each fighter to carry more missiles. These new weapons have the potential for dramatically changing the range of possible tactics and mission roles allowed. (p.1)
Tactics best suited to the new missile are ones that maintain BVR to take advantage of the increased engagement ranges and possibly combined tactics that allow the flexible maneuvering characteristics of the new missiles to engage enemy aircraft at angles that the enemy aircraft will be unable to counter. (p.102)
There’s a lot of other ‘food for thought’ on many air combat topics in the paper. Connor was meticulous in documenting what he could of the methodology that he used including the limitations, ground-rules and assumptions. There’s also some excellent sources listed for further reading in the list of references.

Time will tell if the SACM concept will be developed into a full-up weapon system. But I must say that if it doesn’t go forward in some iteration or another I will be even more surprised than I have been so far in following the CUDA/SACM story.

Note: minor edits for readability and clarity made 16 July @ 1945 CST.

Wednesday, July 01, 2015

David Axe is More Boring Than Ever (Bless His Heart)

And still practicing Punk Journalism 

Bumped! Axe Doubles Down

*******Update 2 at End of Original Post******* 

Gawd. Saw this at work today and am only posting a short comment because somebody (surer than sh*t) will read something into any non-comment on my part, considering how I've already provided input (17 March 2015) on this subject:
I will bet dollars to donuts that IF the program chooses to respond to such hooey, that we will discover the first two BFM "tests" were in the middle of January, the first two flights were on two consecutive days, the missions were flown by two different pilots, and both of them had nothing but glowing reviews about the jet's performance. If I find eventually a public source to validate this 'guess' I will be happy to also share who I 'guessed' were the pilots, which flight they flew, and which plane(s?) was/were flown. And perhaps even quote the pilots.
First, I'm certain that whatever the test pilot report being cited by Axe may bear some faint resemblance to Axe's representation of same. Axe's perversions of the facts, per his usual modus operandi come via his bizarro assertions-stated-as-fact  and their complete disconnect from any reality as to the purpose and goals of the first A2A scenarios that were flown.

What the objectives were came out shortly after I made my first comments. From Av Week online (2 Apr 15)and with important bits in bold/EMPHASIS:
The F-35 Joint Strike Fighter has been flown in air-to-air combat maneuvers against F-16s for the first time and, based on the results of these and earlier flight-envelope evaluations, test pilots say the aircraft can be cleared for greater agility as a growth option. 
Although the F-35 is designed primarily for attack rather than air combat, U.S. Air Force and Lockheed Martin test pilots say the availability of potential margin for additional maneuverability is a testament to the aircraft’s recently proven overall handling qualities and basic flying performance. “The door is open to provide a little more maneuverability,” says Lockheed Martin F-35 site lead test pilot David “Doc” Nelson..... 
..... “When we did the first dogfight in January, they said, ‘you have no limits,’” says Nelson. “It was loads monitoring, so they could tell if we ever broke something. It was a confidence builder for the rest of the fleet because there is no real difference structurally between AF-2 and the rest of the airplanes.” AF-2 was the first F-35 to be flown to 9g+ and -3g, and to roll at design-load factor. The aircraft, which was also the first Joint Strike Fighter to be intentionally flown in significant airframe buffet at all angles of attack, was calibrated for inflight loads measurements prior to ferrying to Edwards in 2010.

The operational maneuver tests were conducted to see “how it would look like against an F-16 in the airspace,” says Col. Rod “Trash” Cregier, F-35 program director. “It was an EARLY look at any control laws that may need to be tweaked to enable it to fly better in future. You can definitely tweak it—that’s the option.”
The expectation of the tests was to see how the airplane behaved when slung about in a A2A engagement using the current control laws within the current G-limit design, and they found they can open them up the laws for more. Let's ignore the fact we don't know AF-2's empty weight and that the program was delivering the SDD baseline weight aircraft about the time the engagement occurred.

Let's pretend it doesn't matter that we don't know the weight of the F-16 or the altitudes and speeds the engagements occurred either. Let's also ignore the fact that ALL jets need to have many such engagements before the aircrew really know how to best exploit their advantages. Even without all that, Axe is STILL  just laying down a nice pile of fertilizer for the rest of the Punk Journalists and Faux Reformers to spread and nurture yet another disinformation cascade.

Sit back and watch the fun. Any bets on who cites this weak-a** hit-piece first?

Update: I see is on the case.

Update 2(1 July 15)

Wow. A lot can happen in a day, and I can't even go into the kind of detail I'd love to go into for some of it. (I'll have to stay 'hypothetical' about the now-out-in-the-open Test Report, given the caveats plastered at the top and bottom of every page of the report.)

First. A former fighter driver with experience in both the F-16 and F-18 chimed in with some thoughts that fit pretty much hand-in-glove with what I've stated so far in his post: Why The “F-35 v F-16″ Article Is Garbage.
Second. The global disinformation cascade Axe set off (and I predicted) was gathering a lot steam until the former fighter driver posted his thoughts.

Third. The F-35 program office and LM then added some information that was also consistent with my posts on the topic. (I'm not claiming any special insight here, just an experienced one that appears to be consistent with other experienced viewpoints.)

Fourth. Axe appears to have felt enough sting in the criticism he's received so far to now have gone a step further and posted a lightly-sanitized copy of the report. If he cared a whit versus just playing a gadfly, I would love to explain to him the cognitive dissonance between what the report says and means in contrast to what he asserts it means. I suspect the JPO or LM will have to go through the process of releasing some of the leaked information for export just so they can spell it out for the low-information crowd.

Until they do, I won't be linking to or addressing anything directly mentioned in the report because doing so could constitute an 'export'. I like my current digs and income status and look terrible in orange or broad stripes, so NO.
Axe better hope he's as insignificant a pissant as I think he is, because the caveats on those pages obviously leave him and his employer open to criminal prosecution and civil lawsuits. It would take a lot of political capital to be spent by the anti-defense crowd to keep Axe and Co. out of the grinder if Uncle Sugar or Lockmart decide to call them out on this. BTW: May whoever leaked the report be far less connected and may the scum twist in wind over this leak.

Given I won't be discussing the contents of the report, I WILL say that Axe's doubling-down on this stupidity gives me some inkling as to how Forest Rangers must feel when some life-long urbanite visits the park and keeps pointing at some small woodland creature insisting it is a 'bear' no matter how many times the Ranger points out the differences. I can't believe he offered the report as if it supported his position. Is he THAT clueless, or is he 'whistling past the graveyard' hoping nobody will call him out further on his peddling crap?

Maybe he wouldn't have made this mistake of misreading things into the report that aren't there, if he read more widely.


Sunday, June 28, 2015

An Open Letter to Ed Driscoll: Power of CAS Myths

Guest 'Pundit' at Instapundit, Ed Driscolllinks to a craptastic "Save the A-10" editorial (unattributed) at Investors Business Daily.... SIX MONTHS after it was published?

I thought the editorial at the link was so bad at the time it came out (along with a bunch of similar A-10 puff pieces), I don't remember paying it much heed.  But Driscoll's resurrection of this poorly 'informed' op-ed illustrates--- once again-- the power of the CAS Mythology and "narrative". Just look at the comment thread at Instapundit. Yikes!

Normally, I like what Ed Driscoll writes, and writes about, but he's waaay out of his area of expertise this time.

Dear Ed: That IBD Op Ed could have been written by one or more squirrels.  

No, the A-10 wasn’t designed to stop Soviet Tanks. This is a common misconception I've heard General Officers utter. We are so ahistorical.

The A-10 was conceived as a weapon that could attack “hard targets” and cooperate with Army Airmobile forces in SEA. After Vietnam, the Air Force HOPED it could be survivable in the NATO order of battle and did all kinds of things to make/keep it relevant. In Europe, its main advantage was the ability to get below typical rotten Euro-weather that would keep fast-movers off the target. We have sensors and communications now that remove the weather restriction for fast movers. the F-35's The weapons the A-10 was designed to survive against predated MANPADs, Integrated Air Defense Systems and even radar controlled AAA that even the NVA were pushing into the South at the end of the Vietnam War. (Google Lam Son 719).

The A-10 wasn't fielded in 1972. It first flew, in a fly-off, in 1972. (I was there) It didn’t hit IOC until 1976 or FOC until 1978.  Core operational concepts for Europe weren't developed until 1979 (I was there too).

The A-10 HAS to fly low and slow because it doesn’t have the kinds of sensors (SNIPER pods are an improvement, but not enough) and communications capabilities to sort out the battlefield well prior to the attack. It often HAS to loiter longer just because it takes longer to set up an attack.

The cockpit armor and other design features make it harder to shoot down that it would be otherwise, but having bits and pieces shot off you is not a long term survival strategy. A-10s in Desert Storm saw the most intense air defense environment they have seen before or since. They did not do well. A-10s were pulled off the Iraqi Republican Guard units and tasked against weaker units as a consequence.

Yes “A supersonic fighter pilot flying miles above the battlefield will not see enemy forces the way a Warthog pilot can” – They will see it better. I’m always fascinated by people who cite 'low and slow" as an advantage: as if flying there gives one more time to view the ground. That maybe true at Piper Cub speeds. But I’ve 'done' low and 'A-10 slow' a the same time and the scenery is whizzing by pretty fast. It ain't that great for picking up and following specific specs out of all the other specs.

A fast mover may cost more $ up front, but if the attrition rate is even a few percentage points lower, the savings, not to mention the ability to sustain operations, far outweighs the operating costs—even if you don’t factor in the fewer 'dead aircrew' part. THAT is the proper context for framing a statement like “Force requirements should be dictated by battlefield requirements, not budget restraints.”

The F-35 will provide CAS in its own way and not in the manner the A-10 provides it, so the open question is not whether or not the F-35 “can take the punishment the A-10 can”. The open question is:
Why do people think you have to take punishment like an A-10 to fly CAS?
The Warthog is still a low-intensity-conflict “hammer”: A Completely appropriate design (ignoring they are worn out) solution if ALL you are going to do is flatten insects. It is NOT so appropriate if you have to also be ready to face  Thor who is swinging his own hammer. Unless you have the extra dollars to buy and support both kinds of weapons systems to deal with bugs and Old Norse deities, you want the one that can beat the gods without getting beat yourself.

May I Suggest Some Remedial Reading?
Start at Part 1 (Links for Part 2 through 8 at bottom of Part 1).

Just found out where and how Driscoll got suckered in.

Saturday, June 27, 2015

CAF Kickstarter Project: Save The Plane that Led D-Day.

The Commemorative Air Force is close to meeting their Kickstarter stretch goal of $250K to restore the C-47 that led the swarm of transports the night of D-1 that opened the D-Day invasion by dropping paratroopers behind the German defense of the 'Atlantic Wall'. The plane "That's All brother" was discovered to be in a queue to be either turned into a turboprop by a company that does those kinds of conversions for remote cargo hauling, etc. or provide parts for other planes, When they discovered what they had in their hands, the company decided to offer it to somebody who could preserve it.

If you can't contribute, spread the word about the project. The more people that hear of it, the better the chance of others pledging money too. Watch the video. The plane carried the 101st and 82nd Airborne divisions on the opening day and kept 'haulin' through other memorable battles.

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

William Hartung: You got Yer'self a Reckoning a'Coming Boy!

I'm going to take this craptastic, yet all so formulaic and predictable op-ed piece by William Hartung apart ...... piece by piece.

William Hartung describing the most inches of column he ever wrote without perverting
reality to serve his ideological bent. 

Everybody ready? All settled in? Then without further ado let’s throw ole Hartung’s Op Ed up on the slab, drain the corpse, and do the postmortem.

Don’t rush forward on the F-35 
By William D. Hartung 
To hear Lockheed Martin and the Pentagon tell it, the myriad problems with the F-35 combat aircraft are all behind us, and it is time to dramatically ramp up production of the plane. Nothing could be further from the truth. The plane continues to have basic problems with engine performance, software development, operating costs, maintenance, and reliability that suggest the Pentagon and the military services should proceed with caution.

This is a CLASSIC ‘Hartung’ opener. He begins with a scurilous attack: calling a dehumanized Lockheed Martin and Pentagon ‘liars’ [Hartung claims “they” say ‘x’ but Hartung says it is not ‘true’!]. Hartung then follows with an intentionally over-generalized laundry list of things that he asserts are in the ‘present tense’ (“The plane continues to have basic problems”) instead of observing these things he lists have occurred (more or less--usually less than how he describes them) and are either already in the past, or are being addressed per a viable plan now in execution. In any case, his over–generalization obfuscates events and encourages the casual reader to assume all the problems are significant and peculiar to the F-35 in the first place, when for the most part, these kinds of ‘problems’ have been part and parcel with any advanced aircraft development program since…..ever.

Hartung’s opening is ‘battlefield prep’. We’ve noted before the use of P.A.C.E. by the faux ‘reformers’ and this is a Hartung-style invocation of same. Hartung employs it for the same reason(s) POGO et al employ it: It is critical to the trite and cliché polemic-to-follow that Hartung bases his pitch upon two fundamental assumptions--which the Faux Military Reform crowd unvaryingly ground the bulk of their argumentation. These bases are:

1) A ‘problem’ is something that is never overcome or overtaken by events until it is proven to the ‘reformers’ satisfaction. And one wonders if it can ever REALLY be proven to be a thing of the past to the ‘reformer’ mind.

2) Closely related to #1 is the usually inferred assertion that no weapon system should be fielded until it is ‘mature’ (as decided by the ‘reformers’) vs. ‘mature enough’ (as decided BY THE OPERATORS). I would call the assertion “a belief” except I’m not nearly naïve enough to think they really believe what they want everyone else to accept.

Neither of these bases have any logical relationship to any generic real-world problem-solving nor program management activities, much less any proximity to weapon-system specific development experience. While it is exceedingly rare for a ‘Reformer’ to openly acknowledge these tenets, they are among the pillars of their basic doctrine.
Both bases of ‘reformer’ argumentation will be seen in full display through the rest of Hartung’s bloviating, but I consider the second basis the more onerous. It is easy for the average reader to catch on when the ‘reformers’ inevitably cling to claims about a specific problem too long after it is apparent it is no longer a problem to the average person. But as Hartung and his ilk are chronic agitators and manipulators of the technologically ignorant, those whom the ‘reformers’ gull into actually believing a weapon system COULD be ‘matured’ (to some unspoken and/or poorly defined standard BTW) before it is in the hands of the operators are MORE vulnerable. After all, most people have no idea of the amount of work is behind even the most trivial technology they use every day. Without these presumptive non-truths propping up the protestations, their  hollow arguments immediately crumble and their motives become openly suspect to anyone applying the 'reasonable man test. I bring out this point upfront because just by remembering these are the key major premises, the reader is forewarned (and thus forearmed) to enjoy the rest of this ‘Fisking’ of Hartung’s yellow-press editorializing.
The ‘reformers’ chant their mantras of “risk”, “maturity”, explain their motivations, but this in spite of the fact that no one can show us such a case EVER occurring where a fully-functional weapon system emerged as a fully effective ‘whole’ coming out of the development phase. Nor has anyone ever adequately described how it could even be ‘possible’ without introducing more unspoken and equally erroneous ‘reformer’ assumptions into the equation. I’ve stated what I believe, but I leave it to the reader to decide if Hartung and his ilk are victims of their own bizarre ideology and rhetoric and therefore are of a kind with the people J.R. Pierce (I never tire of that guy!) identified in his famous dictum
Novices in mathematics, science, or engineering are forever demanding infallible, universal, mechanical methods for solving problems.
....Or not.

Let’s continue dissecting Hartung’s rant….

If the F-35 isn’t ready for prime time, what’s the rush? The answer can be summed up in one word: politics. The decision to approve the Marines’ version of the plane for Initial Operating Capability (IOC) before the end of this year and the recent proposal to fund over 450 planes in the next several years are designed to make the F-35 program “too big to fail.” Once production reaches a certain tipping point, it will become even harder for members of Congress, independent experts, or taxpayers to slow down or exert control over the program.
See how after setting up his presumptive preface (“If the F-35 isn’t ready for prime time..”) Hartung works from the assumption the reader has accepted his presumption and THEN builds a Strawman argument (or “begs the question”) :

” … what’s the rush? The answer can be summed up in one word: politics.”?

Hartung then attempts to suck the reader into his way of thinking by making more unsupported assertions up front. Hartung desires the slow-witted among us to view the F-35 program as HE says it is, not what those who are working the program say it is. And on a program that has seen its share of delays due more to preemptive programmatic decisions (risk avoidance) and external influences (stretching SDD to reduce concurrency) than from any real manifestations of technical issues (2 years), 
Hartung slimes on the idea that working on a bulk buy to lower unit costs at this time is a “rush”? Eventually Hartung will get around to listing ‘problems’ but not until (in typical Hartung fashion) he beats the jungle drums more in the effort to get the tribe lathered up and buy into his coming attempts at misdirection. 
I note that in his observation about when a program moves further down the road it becomes harder to ‘control’ he REALLY means it will be harder for the Faux Reformers to terminate it. After all, it is part of basic program and project management common knowledge that the further any project gets down the road, the fewer opportunities there are to change it, if only because there is less in the future that can be influenced as the present becomes past. So…. Freaking…. what? Even Hartung’s publisher of his execrable books knows that is even a truism for a simple book project. 
Note the reference to 'independent experts'. While there are always a few outside a program, they are never who the 'reformers' are really referring to. When a Hartung, or other 'reformer' say this kind of thing, what they are referring to is their fellow travelers in the anti-defense industry (more on this later).

What next?……
What needs to be fixed before the F-35 is determined to be adequate to join the active force? Let’s start with the engine. On June 23 of last year an F-35’s engine caught on fire while the plane was taxiing on the runway at Eglin Air Force Base in Florida. Now, nearly a year later, a new report from the Air Force’s Accident Investigation Board attributed the fire to a catastrophic failure of the engine. So far, no long-term solution has been found to the problems identified by the accident investigation board. An April report by the Government Accountability Office has described the reliability of the engine as “very poor (less than half of what it should be).”
Hartung often goes more than two paragraphs without making any concrete assertions before he starts introducing any specificity. I presume there was column-space limitation that curtailed his stem-winding this go-around. In any case, here he asserts, knowingly or unknowingly, two falsehoods.

In the first case, he characterizes the state of the permanent fix for the F135 engine as “no long-term solution has been found”. He would have been more accurate and far less deceptive if he had stated “no long-term solution selection has been publically announced”, as it has been ‘in all the papers’ that Pratt and Whitney had identified a number of options for the program to pick from, and that it is essentially a matter of evaluating the options and selecting the best option to follow.. But that isn’t hopeless sounding at all, certainly not as dire as Hartung’s little misdirection makes things sound does it? There is also no guarantee, because there is no need, that a detailed description of the final fix will even be announced.

In the second assertion, Hartung commits the Biased Sample (Cherry Picking) logical fallacy by holding up the GAO report as evidence and conveniently excluding uncontested Pratt and Whitney responses to same.

Hartung now proceeds to speak of the past as if 1) It matters and 2) treat the past as indicative of the present and future. This time, it is ‘ALIS’.
Problems have also plagued the plane’s Autonomic Logistics Information System (ALIS), which is needed to keep the F-35 up and running. As Mandy Smithberger of the Straus Military Reform Project at the Project on Government Oversight puts it, “ALIS is the core to making sure the F-35 functions.” A report last year by the Pentagon’s independent testing office noted that the system had been “fielded with deficiencies.” In April, F-35 maintainers told members of the House Armed Services committee that 80 percent of the problems identified by ALIS were “false positives.” In addition, as Smithberger has noted, the rush to deployment means that there will be no careful assessment of how changes in ALIS affect other aspects of the aircraft’s performance.
The funniest thing about this paragraph is I’m pretty sure neither Hartung nor Smithberger really know what the true scope and function of ‘ALIS’ is, but wha-ta-hay, let’s dissect some more.
First off, these guys apparently didn’t get the memo that the portable ‘ALIS’ was used in the Recent OT-1 aboard the USS Wasp. Software and hardware updates are pretty much going to plan. One exception is the 'downlink' to maintenance on inbound jets, which won’t be seen until Block 4. Personally, I don’t think that is a bad thing, as it is really evolved DoD security requirements driving the delay. The ‘false positives’ Mandy is quoted as all worried about are on their way to being overcome already. Maybe if Mandy had gone to a better school, y’know—an “Engineering College”, then advanced technology wouldn’t seem so daunting to her. That is, assuming she believes the crap she writes.

Mandy Smithberger, for those who haven’t been following the ‘reformer’ industry as closely as I have lo these many years, is the next-gen Winslow Wheeler’ at POGO. For those who don’t know what “the Straus Military Reform Project at the Project on Government Oversight” is…it’s a long story. Bottom line, it is a jobs program for anti-defense miscreants sponsored by one Phil Strauss: an under-achieving-trust-fund-baby-cum-itinerant-‘photographer’ who is also, BTW, the Chairman of the Board of “Mother Jones”.
Chairman Phil Strauss: Intellect held hostage by Ideology
Mandy Smithberger, is a long-time POGOette who has only recently returned to the POGO sty from a finishing school of sorts. She dropped off POGO’s payroll for a while (to get her network mojo going with Congress and elsewhere I presume) spending time as a part-time “National Security Staffer” for a cheapa** Leftard Congresswoman whose main claim to fame is she didn’t get kill’t in the runup to, or climax of, the Jim Jones tragedy. Sure, Mandy looks pretty “cleaned-up’ nowadays, but just a few of years ago she was showing a more candid side:
Mandy Smithberger (2011) letting out a little more of the inner feral SJW than thse days, Nothing says 'serious defense thinker' than a little body-modification involving piercings in places prone to infection.     
So why is it important you know the relationship between these people? Because, as it has been known for quite some time, the ‘reform’ crowd collude and collaborate on their special targets, Their very tight clown network habitually use each other’s quotes and mutually cite or refer to each other as 'experts' in fields where the real experts wouldn’t let them in the door to call for a tow. It is more classic application of the P.A.C.E. approach.. 

Let's move on to the next bit of spittle on the floor shall we?
There have also been serious problems with the helmet that is supposed to serve as an F-35 pilot’s eyes in the sky. Until the helmet is working to full capacity, the ability of an F-35 to drop bombs accurately or recognize enemy fighters will be impaired. And in April, the Pentagon’s office of independent testing noted that in the event of a failure of the helmet, a pilot would not be able to see what is happening below or behind the plane.
In typical ‘Reform’ fashion, Hartung artfully ignores 1) the fact that the helmet’s capabilities are every bit under development as the rest of the plane, 2) the needed capabilities weren’t even known to be possible when the program began but were seen as desirous and worth the effort, and 3) that the capabilities are coming online in accordance with the current plan. 
He makes his unqualified and un-quantified assertion that the operators will be ‘impaired’ until the helmet is developed without acknowledging with the fact that the operators consider the initial capability sufficient for now (and some already say it is better than what it replaces) AND the Gen III helmet is planned by AF IOC next year
It IS quaint that Hartung and his fellow travelers feel qualified to presume they know better what is good for the Marine Corps than the Marine Corps does. That is if you believe THEY believe the drivel they are spreading and aren’t just trying to stop or curtail yet another program. BTW: the second option would make them lying b*stards of the worst kind…among other things.
The last assertion Hartung makes is a howler. Somebody tell him 1) no one else can even see through their plane on their BEST day and 2) the pilot doesn’t have to look behind him or use his helmet to ‘see’(eyeball) anything behind him as he can ‘see’ it on his panel if he or she desires. In any case, the rest of the F-35 systems still provide the pilot with situational awareness superior to any other candidate Hartung could imagine….if he could 'imagine' that is.
Declaring planes ready before they can actually meet basic performance standards is not a responsible approach to fielding an aircraft. Down the road, many of the problems that have yet to be resolved will require expensive retrofits of planes already in the force.
I could really pick on Hartung here and challenge him on exactly what he means by ‘basic’ performance standards, but the real problem is he’s F.O.S. about what kind of capability EVER can be initially fielded, because EVEN IF A WEAPON WAS PERFECT from the first article rolling out the door, the operators are the ones that will mature the capability over time. His claim is essentially 'not doing the impossible is irresponsible'. No. What IS irresponsible, is his penchant for making these kind of asinine assertions. It is yet another typical ‘Reformer’ tactic: ignore the real expectations set by the acquisition system and complain that the possible isn’t ‘enough’.

Hartung begins his signoff by making the now-cliché assertion that the F-35 is somehow ‘flawed’ because it is a multi-role fighter and attack aircraft:
The specific performance issues cited above don’t address a more fundamental problem with the F-35. The program is grounded in a basic conceptual flaw. Expecting variants of the same aircraft to serve as a fighter, a bomber, a close air support aircraft, and a plane that can land on Navy carriers and do vertical take off and landing for the Marines has resulted in design compromises that means it does none of these things as well as it should, given its immense cost.
Why, oddly enough, the above is EXACTLY the kind of stupid-think one would expect from a ‘journalist’ who came out years ago as a peace-at-any-price social activist and who I note STILL has NO relevant experience or knowledge base upon which to make such a judgement. If one did have the relevant qualifications, one might ask oneself why it is then that among the most produced aircraft in the post Korean-War era, nearly all of them are multi-role fighters? Hartung is just being an over-the-top idiot on this point, but he’s not alone. This has become ‘Reformer’ Canon, so expect it to persist years after FOC.
Current plans call for an average expenditure of over $12 billion per year for procurement of the F-35 through 2038, a figure that will be unsustainable unless other proposed programs like a new tanker, a new bomber, and a new generation of more capable unmanned aerial vehicles are substantially scaled back.
Gee. More Hartung-Brand pronouncements (“will be unsustainable unless X, Y, or Z”) that exclude the little point that the F-35 costs are coming down into current 4th Generation cost territory (as planned) and I think what Hartung fears most about the bulk buy is that if it happens then the costs will almost certainly continue to drop faster. I note here (again) that the only way the procurement of the F-35 goes through to 2038 is if they are successful AND the need for as many as planned continues. The most important thing for keeping total acquisition cost down is not the total number to be bought, but the rate at which they are bought: more ‘early’ equals more ‘cheaper’.

‘Dropping names’ as he does when mentioning new 'bombers' and new 'UAVs' reminds me of another favorite ‘reformer’ tactic: always promote the last program or the next program over the current program: lather, rinse, repeat.
Unless further, realistic testing can demonstrate that the F-35 can adequately perform all of its proposed missions, it’s not worth the cost. The Pentagon should slow down and make sure it knows what it’s getting before it spends tens of billions of additional taxpayer dollars on the F-35. And Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) should subject the program to close scrutiny during his committee’s proposed strategic review of major acquisition programs.
Ah, the final ‘pronouncement’. The DoD Customers (even the Navy) , US Partners, and FMS Customers know exactly what they are getting. Hartung just wants everyone to agree with his crap. This last paragraph does perhaps identify who his real target audience is though. I don’t think even McCain is that stupid, but maybe his constituents are?
Hartung is the director of the Arms and Security Project at the Center for International Policy.
No. Hartung’s a rabid anti-defense shill from within the Faux Reform Astroturf Noise Machine. He'd be a loyal babbler if he was still a journalist, and the CIP has it's toes in many things 'left', so Hartung could be considered a Stalwart operating inside a Fellow Traveler network.

Saturday, June 13, 2015

F-35 'Reporting' : A Study in Contrast

Take a look at the serious article at AIN on the effects of the latest F-35 cost reduction efforts here, and contrast it with the crap dropped to days ago over at 'David Axe Is Boring' for the low-information crowd.

Yeah, the author (Bill Carey) in the AIN piece brought up the unrelated GAO audit gripe with Pratt and Whitney, but he did so without any of the overwrought uninformed voices of 'doom' we usually have wade through -- and he included the official Program Office response (retort!) to the GAO 'report'. I thought it was a palate cleanser compared to the even-worse-than-usual-drivel that came out of  the 'collaboration' of two punk-journalistas at Axe's place titled: "The F-35 Just Catches on Fire Sometimes".

Duuuude! Heh heh. Heh. Uhhh um Heh...what was I saying?

I bet they thought it was a 'real cool' story when they wrote it. You can almost hear the snickering as they passed whatever they were 'smoking' back and forth trying to weave their contrived tale of woe:

What happened is not entirely surprising. Some personnel and testers have already raised concerns that the F-35 engine — known as the F135 — is prone to safety hazards.
As early as the 2007 fiscal year, engineers warned that a serious fire could break out if fuel leaked into the engine compartment, according to the latest annual report from the Pentagon’s top weapons tester.
By Fiscal Year 2013, tests had confirmed these fears. “Engine live fire tests in FY13 and prior live fire test data and analyses demonstrated vulnerability to engine fire, either caused by cascading effects or direct damage to engine fuel lines,” the report noted.
Hey 'Duuudes'? An engine shatting about 12 feet of metal spears through a fuel tank is going to cause a fire no matter effing what else you do.

For the record, the Punk Journalism employed oversimplifies things greatly. The  FY 2013 report says:
The first test series confirmed Polyalphaolefin (PAO) coolant and fueldraulic systems fire vulnerabilities. The relevant protective systems were removed from the aircraft in 2008 as part of a weight reduction effort. A Computation of vulnerable Area Tool analysis shows that the removal of these systems results in a 25 percent increase in aircraft vulnerability. The F-35 Program Office may consider reinstalling the PAO shutoff valve feature based on a more detailed cost‑benefit assessment. Fueldraulic system protection is not being reconsidered for the F-35 design.
The program’s most recent vulnerability assessment showed that the removal of fueldraulic fuses, the PAO shutoff valve,and the dry bay fire suppression, also removed in 2008, results in the F-35 not meeting the Operational Requirements Document (ORD) requirement to have a vulnerability posture better than analogous legacy aircraft.
Later, the report also says:
In 2008, the JSF Executive Steering Board (JESB) directed the removal of PAO shutoff valves from the F-35 design to reduce the aircraft weight by 2 pounds. Given the damage observed in this test, the JESB directed the program to re-evaluate installing a PAO shutoff system through its engineering process based on a cost/benefit analysis and the design performance capabilities. The ballistic test results defined the significance of this vulnerability. However, the test also showed that a shutoff system needs  to outperform other fielded systems. To be effective, it must trigger on smaller leak rates, down to 2 gpm versus the 6 gpm typical of other aircraft designs, without causing excessive false alarms. - The program is currently working to identify a low leak rate technical solution. The Program Office will consider operational feasibility and effectiveness of the design, along with cost, to decide if PAO shutoff valves will be reinstated as part of the production aircraft configuration. 
 Translated, the above passage says 1) the Program Office is considering its options, 2) the big thing about 'fuses' that DOT&E is all hot about would require engineering and effort to improve the state of the art because 3) the thingy the DOT&E office wants doesn't exist and are 4) beyond current state-of-the-art engineering.

I predict the JPO will develop the d*mned fuses (if they don't cost TOO much) if only to give the DOT&E their (two) pound(s) of flesh. I also note here (perennially it seems) that a '25% increase in vulnerability' gives no true perspective on vulnerability (25% more than "very little" is still "very little") nor the higher impact to 'survivability'. The DOT&E still provides no budget to the programs they write-up to help comply with their whims, and does not EVER weigh the importance of "vulnerability" relative to the "susceptibility" in considering the real metric of "survivability". This is not, per usual, a case of DOT&E actually being an authority on what is best. It a conflict in opinion and judgement between two presumptive 'authorities', of which only the JPO also has the 'responsibility'.

I'll stand with the ones who have the responsibility for draining the swamp, not the ones filming the docudrama, thank you very much.

So just who is writing this junk? 

Kevin Knodell is a professional multimedia journalist and comic writer. He writes about veterans, military history, peacekeeping and refugees for War is Boring at He's the current writer of War is Boring's regular comic series with artist Blue Delliquanti, as well as the writer of the comic mini-history 'How The World Forgot Darfur' with artist Keith Badgely.
From June 2014-April 2015 he was the coordinator of War Is Boring's field team in Northern Iraq. That meant supervising an international team of contributors covering the war with Islamic State, the mounting humanitarian crisis and the ongoing political struggle. The team's work has been cited by Fox News, The New Yorker, Huffington Post, France 24, and Yahoo News. He has been interviewed by Vice Germany and Rudaw English to provide insight on military tactics and new media conflict reporting.
Writer, Comic Writer, Combat Voyeur. Gets quoted by other media every now and then - got it.
At least he's a redhead and can grow a beard:
Very Van Gogh-ish

Joseph Trevithick is a "Journalist and researcher with experience using various open source and public domain resources, as well as traditional research methods (including informational interviewing and familiarity with the IRB process). Has written pieces for print publications such as Small Arms Review, and online outlets, such as a contributor to Small Wars Journal and Tom Ricks’ The Best Defense. Is also a regular contributor to David Axe’s War is Boring, hosted by Has been interviewed for television by BBC World, CNN International, ABC News, and Al-Jazeera English, on topics ranging from unmanned aerial vehicles to the situation in Afghanistan. Is currently working on a number of projects concerning various military topics for a range of audiences."
Also "He graduated from Carnegie Mellon University in 2006 with a dual BA in History and Policy and International Relations"

Summed up: Writer, likes history (small history from what I read), 'policy', and not just mediation -- international mediation . Gets quoted by other media every now and then - got it.
This article is a new low for Trevithick. Which is remarkable, because his old low isn't even a week old yet.
Well, he has access to a big map. Nothing says 'pro' like a big map... I guess.

Friday, June 12, 2015

Weird Days for the 'Death Spiral' Eh?

While there's really no question as to how the "Who's Death Spiral is It?" game is going to be inevitably played out from where I'm sitting, it looks like The Borg and their F-18E/F are going to get at least one more year without too much loss of altitude via the generosity of Congress. But that generosity is not being granted exclusively to just the F-18:

The vote was 278-149 in favor of the bill, which drew stiff opposition from Democrats because it uses a war-fighting account to raise defense spending next year. The measure provides $8.4 billion for 65 next-generation F-35 fighters, eight more than requested by the Pentagon, as well as $16.9 billion toward nine Navy ships.
In the Senate, the Appropriations Committee approved a $576 billion defense bill that also boosts spending on the F-35 program and adds funds to speed replacement of a Russian-made engine used to launch U.S. satellites.
The Senate bill would increase the number of F-35s made by Lockheed Martin in Fort Worth to 67 from the 57 requested in fiscal 2016. It would shift $730.3 million to buy six additional Marine models of the F-35 and add $97.6 million that, when combined with other previously approved but unspent funds, would buy four additional Air Force models, according to the bill report.
The Senate measure for the year that begins Oct. 1 would also add about $978 million for 12 F/A-18 E/F Super Hornet jets made by Boeing Co., rejecting the Pentagon’s plan to end Navy purchases of the plane.

Everyone's a winner!

The F-18 buy doesn't bug me all that much. Yeah the Taxpayer pays (again), but it may be worth it, if only as a wedge to help keep LM's F-35 on the cost reduction slope, And its not as if the Navy isn't going to use up the F-18E/Fs they already anyway even after they field the F-35C. Once the Navy catches up to the AF in fully exploiting LO aircraft however, those new F-18s may last years longer than planned: because they just won't be used all that much once it happens.

Speaking of Cost Reductions. 

Evidently the F-35 unit cost is ALREADY dropping due to LM's  ‘Blueprint’ To Drive Down F-35 Costs proactively, instead of just relying on Economic Order Quantities to survive Congress' penchant for micro-management and irrational change:
Initially, the manufacturer expected that it would see the first cost savings during F-35 low-rate initial production (LRIP) lot 9, which Lockheed Martin and the DOD were negotiating at the time of [Lorraine] Martin’s presentation in mid-February. But it realized early benefits while producing LRIP 8 airframes, cutting about $260,000 from the cost of each of 43 fighters that it will begin delivering in 2016. “So that’s not chump change,” Martin declared. “I rolled that cost savings into the offer I made to the government when I negotiated the contract,” which the parties signed last November...

...At the time of the LRIP 8 contract award, Lockheed Martin said the average unit price of airframes for the three F-35 variants was 3.6 percent lower than the LRIP 7 price. The company reports that the LRIP 8 cost of an F-35A for the U.S. Air Force without its F135-PW-100 engine was $94.7 million. The price of an F-35A with its engine was $108 million, which was $4 million lower than Lot 7 prices, according to the Pentagon’s F-35 Joint Program Office (JPO).
Martin said the manufacturing improvements her company is implementing could knock another $780,000 from the price of LRIP 9 jets. Ultimately, the blueprint’s goal is to deliver an F-35 with an engine for $80 million in then-year dollars, accounting for inflation. Martin has generated news by saying the price could be even less. “If this works, and we have confidence that it will, [the government is] potentially willing to invest on the tail end $300 million. With these two sets of investments, that’s what gets us down to under an $80 million aircraft,” she said.


Norway's First F-35 Leving 'Major Mate' for Final Assembly
Let's see what the URF cost of the 2016 F-18E/F buy is going to be in then-year dollars is when the next SAR covering the buy is  released. Should make an interesting comparison. At some point in time the mouth-breathers are going to have deal with the reality and stop amortizing F-35 sunk costs over future buys, but it won't be soon. I think they will want to pretend a little longer, if only because there isn't anything else big to b*tch about.

Tuesday, June 09, 2015

Stupid Journalist Tricks: Gun Control Edition

A 'Pulitzer-Prize Winning' journalist named Cynthia Tucker  has commited an 'EPIC fail' in trying to  'Shame' Texas legislators and citizens over the soon-to-be-signed  'campus-carry' law just passed in Texas.

You see, the old Prog' made the mistake of invoking the 1966 UT Tower Shooting tragedy as her vehicle for the shaming attampt. It has been said that the mass murderer who did the shooting  “introduced the nation to the idea of mass murder in a public space” . Ms. Tucker ignorantly and arrogantly opens her rant with the title:
"With campus gun vote, Texas lawmakers trample the memory of 1966 shooting victims"
And then offends again by closing her opinion 'piece' with:
"...the Texas Legislature has trampled the memory of the dead"
In-between is nothing but the usual gun-control drivel.

How Ignorant Can this Crone Be?

But the problem with Ms. Tucker's screed is that there were several private citizens, gun owners, who sprang into action to suppress the shooter (I won't repeat his name, he doesn't deserve it) and with their own rifles. One was a student who kept a gun in his (gasp) own room on campus. These Citizens took the gunman under fire to keep him from continuing to shoot at will any innocents  he could see over an area spanning several city blocks. Until the citizens started shooting back, the shooter was killing people at a high frequency. When the first law enforcement officer arrived on the scene, he took one of the civilians up the Tower with him thinking he was a lawman at first. Three men went up the tower but many if not most press accounts these days only mention the two lawmen and never mention the civilians who were involved.

At first, the press reported only one of the lawmen as having assaulted the gunman's perch. While the civilians below kept the gunman's head down, the lawmen who reached the roof had to be careful to keep theirs down as well, but there is no doubt the civilian;s suppressive fire from below, and the civilian who held a flank in the top of the tower helped the lawmen make the successful final assault on and the killing of the gunman.

So the story isn't quite what Cynthia thinks it is, but thanks 'Cyndi' for pointing out how private gun ownership can stop criminals on campus.

'Journalist', 'Professor', 'Prog'.
Hmmm. She left out 'Moron'.
(Probably got distracted by a butterfly or something shiny.)  

Wednesday, May 27, 2015

I Believe the First Hit Piece Against the LRS-B Has Been Written

It looks like the 'Faux Reform' crowd has begun the long campaign with a 'retrospective'-themed hit piece on he B-2 as part of the wind-up.

It's typical 'Bloomberg' garbage. With a title like: "Almost Nobody Believes the U.S. Air Force Can Build an Affordable Bomber" * , how could it not be? I notice that those non-believers visited in the article have zilch long-range strike credentials. You don't often see the 'bandwagon' fallacious argument brazenly (stupidly?) combined with a fallacious appeal to authority right up front in the title, but there it is... 

*Note, 1 June 15: Craptastic Bloomberg site changed the links and memory-holed the comments since post was put up. Link changed to go to the Bloomberg piece again...for now. 

There's only a few non-misleading bits, such as... 
“There’s already the usual suspects out there telling us that we don’t need this or it won’t work,” Major General Garrett Harencak, assistant chief of staff for strategic deterrence and nuclear integration, said at an Air Force Association breakfast in January. The new bomber “will be affordable and it’s desperately needed,” he said.
...buried at random amid the otherwise unrelenting drivel oozing from old and new "usual suspects",

Here's the 'B-2 history' graphic found at the link with corrections to make it 'true', or at least a hell of a lot truer than the 'B.S.' concocted by the article's 'author' David Lerman.

The Bloomberg 'piece' is "Punk Journalism" at it's finest.

And of course, it's all part of the plan:

Lerman's new enough to the game that I would probably categorize him as a "Grubber". If he wakes up to how he's been 'played' and resists from here on out, then he can be seen as a 'Former Pawn'. Otherwise we could be seeing an emerging Loyal Babbler.

Saturday, May 09, 2015

The One DOT&E, er DoD SAR Quote You Probably Won't See Anywhere Else

Now with Don Bacon! 
(As in Corrected, Updated and Bumped with Hat Tip to Same)

Don't expect the Punk Journalists, Loyal Babblers, or Faux Reformers (abetted by Punk Journalists) to bother with putting proper perspective around all their little doomsday accounts of what is going on inside the F-35 program. Remember, its all about either trying to kill a program and/or coming up with enough rent money. "P.A.C.E." is the vehicle that they'd drive off the cliff before they'd ever move away from it.

So there is one DOT&E DoD Selected Acquisition Report (SAR) quote out of all the reports and testimonies that comes out of the unexpurgated December 2014 (for 2015) DOT&E Report DoD SAR that I don't see anyone pushing out to the uneducated masses anytime soon. It is the final paragraph of the report's Executive Summary, Page 10:
In summary, the F-35 program is showing steady progress in all areas – including development, flight test, production, maintenance, and stand-up of the global sustainment enterprise. The program is currently on the right track and will continue to deliver on the commitments that have been made to the F-35 Enterprise. As with any big, complex development program, there will be challenges and obstacles. However, we have the ability to overcome any current and future issues, and the superb capabilities of the F-35 are well within reach for all of us
Everything else in the media that surrounds the F-35/DOT&E, DoD SAR, GAO, blah ,blah, blah, reportage is about either rallying the mouth-breathers or herding the sheep.

About the Update: I had meant to identify the report I linked to as the SAR, but let myself get in a hurry and used the incorrect reference at the link that originally led me to the document instead. My 'bad', but it doesn't change the essence of the post or the point either. This update exists because I loathe inaccuracies, even mine and no matter how they are identified.
If anything, the quote is more relevant to my point coming from the SecDef Office SAR than the DOT&E annual report:

Wednesday, April 29, 2015

F-35 Transonic Acceleration vs. an F-16 Block 60 'Hot Rod'

UAE's Block 60 in early livery
over the Arizona Desert (original source)
Updated (at bottom of post) and 'bumped'

'Tim A,' in the comments of my last series of posts covering F-35 KPPs and 'Transonic Acceleration', piqued my interest in doing a comparative analysis of the F-35A's transonic acceleration KPP against a hypothetical, lightweight Block 60 F-16E that LM built for UAE. We can only 'estimate' and in the case of the F-16E/F the estimates can, I believe, be regarded as fair approximations since they are based upon F-16 Block 50 data in hand. Excursions away from the F-35 KPP data will be more presumptive, but we will not venture too far away from 'firmer ground'.

To do the comparison that we want to do, will first require us to make some reasonable assumptions (and remember they are assumptions) concerning the Block 60 aircraft and how they differ from, or are materially the same as, the more well-known Block 50 aircraft.

Major Differences between Block 50 & 60 Aircraft 

There is little 'hard' data available beyond certain basic information on the Block 60 configuration. The United Arab Emirates funded the development of this version in its entirety, and there is no 'Dash 1' manual in the public domain (that I am aware of) that could provide us with the 'authoritative' source for the information we seek. In any case, the factors most important to our discussions will be the establishment of an acceptable aircraft empty weight, and evaluation on what effect the Block 60's higher thrust engine (32,500 lbs vs 29,000 lbs of thrust in afterburner) would have on overall performance.
A major factor that might warp our evaluation of the Block 60 against the F-35A KPP performance--if we let it --would be quantifying the effect of wave and other drag differences between F-16 Block 50 and Block 60. My approach will be to do so in a manner that passes the "Reasonable Man' test.
As the purpose of this exercise is to get an idea as to  how well the 'future' (i.e. F-35A) stands up in comparison to the 'present' (aka F-16 Block 60), I intend to give the Block 60 performance every reasonable benefit of the doubt in surveying the drag differences between the Block 50 and Block 60. I choose to do so in part because I expect the non-wave drag differences between the Block 50 and 60 aircraft will be seen as less important compared to the wave drag contributions. (This should be seen as reasonable, if only because of the relative contributions of the factors proportional to the drag total). I do not expect to be able to characterize the effect of the differences exactly, but we should be able to identify the differences and their effect within a comparatively narrow range with the data in hand.

Block 50 vs Block 60 F-16 Drag and Weight Differences

For our earlier F-16C Block 50 comparison to an F-35A KPP configuration we used this Block 50 configuration:
F-16C Baseline: Full Internal Fuel, 2 AMRAAMs on wingtip launchers and full 20mm load.
The table above was just for a 'baseline' configuration. The source document for the data actually provides us with a wealth of information concerning many different F-16C/D weight and drag configurations that effectively define the F-16C/D transonic performance across a wide region of weight/drag possibilities: 

F-16 Block 50 Drag Count and Weight Differences.
Note that at low drag counts the differences in weights have a greater impact on acceleration times than the differences in drag, In particular, the increases in acceleration time due to a DI below 30 are small (interpolation looks like ~5-6 secs at 32K lbs)

We'll use this information to characterize the effect of the Block 60's external configuration and weight on its total 'drag'. 

For this exploration, we have selected a slightly "better armed" F-16E Block 60 configuration: 

F-16E Block 60 Configuration: Full Internal fuel load not includng CFTs,
Empty CFTs, 4 AMRAAMs and full 20mm load 
The four AMRAAM load was suggested by 'Tim A,', though I kept the CFTs empty because I wanted to keep the Block 60 configuration reasonably light.

The drag differences between the Block 50 and Block 60 F-16 configurations are reduced to the effect of the Block 60's greater total weight and increased drag profile. For the drag numbers in the selected Block 60 configuration I'm using the HAF F-16 manual and an article on CFTs found here. The CFT article mentions specifically the CFT set as "12%" of 300 gallon tank, but that is a general statement that may be the average drag reduction for the 300 in the subsonic region. I selected using 4 as the estimated DI for the CFTs for the transonic region, but even if it is less (perhaps '2') the difference between DI totals of 22 and 24 won't be seen in any guesstimate we can do. In addition, I have elected to treat the Block 60 basic airframe drag the same as the Block 50 in spite of the fact the Block 60 is designed to use and carry sensors/systems that are specific to the type.

Block 50 and lower pods on the left, Block 60 targeting system shown
on the bottom right. Some of the extra weight of the Block 60
comes from carrying an internal infrared search and tracking system,
of which only the FLIR ball can be seen just ahead of the canopy
These Block 60 systems, while they are no doubt 'lower drag' than the Block 50's 'add on' LANTIRN pods etc, they are also not "drag free". This is especially treu of the Sniper XR-derivative targeting system installation shown above. To give the Block 60 every advantage in the quantitative analysis, I choose to ignore the drag of the Block 60's unique installations. I do so for a couple of reasons. First, I doubt it will make as much 'drag difference' as accounting for all the weights involved, and second there is photographic evidence that while the Block 60-specific targeting system installations were initially expected to be carried all the time, in practice it hasn't always the case(Google "Block 60 F-16" and check out the photos). We'll just keep the 'drag factor' of these systems in the back of our minds going forward.

Block 50 vs Block 60 F-16 Engine & Thrust Differences

F-16 Block 50 Engine (source)
F-16 Block 60 Engine (source)
The differences between the Block 50 F110-129 engine and the Block 60 F110-132 engine are slight, but the -132 engine yields 2600 more pounds of thrust at sea level (standard day):
The key differences between the two engines that drive the increased thrust for the -132 variant aren't relevant to our analysis but for the sake of completeness, let us observe that the -132 has a slightly higher airflow than the -119, and that is at least partly due to the ever-so-slightly lower bypass ratio (more 'fast hot' air) for the -132 design. There are also some 'efficiency' improvements in the -132, some of which can be retrofitted to -129 engines for better durability if the users want to pay for the 'goodness'.
Normally, I would be loathe to try and extrapolate what a difference in engine thrust between planes would mean to the relative transonic acceleration performance, but given we are looking at essentially the same aircraft at different weights (and thrust to weight ratios), I think we can make a reasonable accommodation for the effect (on Block 50 acceleration) of the the extra thrust based upon looking at comparable Block 50 thrust-to-weight ratios. We can-- and WILL!-- apply that analysis to arrive at a fairly narrow region of impact of the higher thrust to the Block 60's transonic acceleration performance estimates.

Deriving an Estimation of F-16 Block 60 Performance Based Upon Block 50 Performance

We'll do this in a two-step process to bracket the likely transonic performance of the Block 60 compared to the Block 50. It doesn't make a difference in what order the process is applied, but we'll start with the simplest to explain first, and we'll just keep the F-35A KPP performance in sight as a sort of benchmark for now.

Step A: The Weight/Drag Impact 

As mentioned earlier, we can use the HAF T.O. GR1F 16CJ 1 1 Change 8 document containing the max acceleration performance data for the Block 50 to derive an approximation of the effect of the Block 60's weight and drag relative to the Block 50, We've approximated the drag index of the Conformal Fuel Tanks and added the known drag index of the Block 60's launchers and extra (2) AMRAAMs to arrive at a drag index 'upper' of  24 over a baseline Block 50. As this drag index is approximately halfway between a known DI=0 and DI=50, and the Block 60's selected configuration weight of 31,503 lbs is slightly lower than the the Block 50 32K lb configuration, the effect of weight and drag differences ALONE would indicate a transonic acceleration time of about 53 seconds (plus or minus). This is a performance better than the Block 50 at 32K lbs (DI=50) but not so good as a Block 50 at 28K lbs and with a DI=50 (obviously).

Note: This step would have been a lot easier to show/follow if the Block 50's DI=0 performance at 28K and 32K lbs were 'feasible' configurations. We could have just bracketed the DI=0 and the DI=50 values for a 32K weight.         

Estimating the Effect of Block 60 Weight Drag ONLY based upon Block 50 data. 
As we observed earlier within the 'F-16 Block 50 Drag Count and Weight Differences' chart, large aircraft weight difference have more effect on acceleration times than Drag Indexes when Drag Indexes are low:

Effect of Low Drag Count at relevant weights

Step B: The Impact of the Engine Difference

This step is a little more involved than the other. We again will rely on using the Block 50 data from HAF T.O. GR1F 16CJ 1 1 Change 8, but in estimating the impact of this factor we have to normalize the data for the Block 50 before applying it to the Block 60.

In the first section of the following graphic, I have charted the relative thrust-weight values for both the Block 50 and Block 60 aircraft. Notice how close  both the absolute values and the relative step functions are for the highlighted ratios shown for each F-16's Block data. The highlighted Block 60 ratios and step functions are slightly lower than the Block 50's but still very close.

If we ignore all other differences between the ircraft and assume acceleration differences are purely a matter of thrust to weight, and  generously assume all increased thrust-to-weight for the Block 60 translates proportionally into better acceleration at every weight AND look at the acceleration times for the Block 50 configurations between weight steps, we can express those step 'time deltas' for the Block 60 as a function of the ratio of  Block 50/Block 60 thrust ratios times the time deltas for any selelcted drag index. If that sounds confusing, it is because it is...without a spreadsheet.

To simplify, for this specific example I divided the 'Raw' Block 50 Thrust-Weight Ratio for the 28K weight by the 'Raw' Block 60 thrust-Weight Ratio for the 32K weight (1.0357143/1.0156325). I then  treated the Block 50 28K DI=24 acceleration time shown in the 'Normalized for Drag' portion of the chart below as being solely a product of thrust-to-weight, multiplied the Block 50 acceleration time for the 28K weight (44 seconds) times the 'ratio of thrust ratios used.

Stated more clearly without an audit trail: We assume the heavier block 60 will accelerate like a Block 50 at the same thrust to weight ratio. 

I am giving the Block 60 further benefit of the doubt by not accounting for the higher weight, but that's OK!: we're estimating remember?

Plotting the Step B as standalone estimate on the same graph with the Part A standalone estimate we find:

Estimating the Effect of Block 60 Weight Drag ONLY (A) and Block 60 Thrust to Weight ONLY (B), based upon Block 50 data. 

Obviously the actual Block 60 performance should fall somewhere between the outcome for each as independent factors:

Block 60 Transonic Acceleration Estimate: A Near-32K pound Block 60 with 4 AIM-120s accelerates like a Block 50 F-16 DI=50 at 28K Lbs.   

So in the end, the big advantage of the Block 60 aircraft appears to be the increased range and better/equal performance at a slightly higher weight than the Block 50. Nothing to sneeze at, but nothing too surprising either.

But HEY! What about the Block 60 in comparison to the F-35A KPP performance? 

We've covered the whole F-35A configuration setup already elsewhere. The big thing we do not really 'know' still is how much fuel is aboard the F-35 for the KPP measurement. We DO however understand that the KPP was written based upon a load of two 2K Lb JDAMs and 2 AMRAAMs carried internally. If we simply swap the two JDAMs for two more AMRAAMs the F-35A's weight would be about 4,000 pounds less (Most 2K Pound JDAMS weigh more than 2K lbs with the kits).

This F-35A KPP configuration performs almost exactly the same as a 36K pound Block 50 with a DI=50, the removal of 4000 pounds of weight should yield performance approaching that of a 32K pound Block 50 with a DI=50:

If the F-35A in an A2A configuration wants to match this F-16 Block 60 A2A configuration in transonic acceleration, it can probably just dump some fuel, or more likely simply 'unload'.  Conversely, in an A2G configuration similar to the F-35A KPP setup, the F-16 Block 60 would probably fair not so well against the F-35A KPP configuration

I'm not even going to plot this one (DI=74? Yikes!)

Housekeeping: Note that the Block 50 data in hand starts the acceleration run at Mach .79 and not the Mach.8 used for the F-35 KPP performance. That's OK! At the weights we are looking at, this translates to about 1 second or less difference: well within any margin of error.


Update 29 April 15About the presumed KPP configuration

(This ‘Update’ driven by conversation in the thread, because covering all the aspects of a complex subject in a comment thread is futile)

It doesn’t really matter if the F-35A configuration for the transonic acceleration KPP includes 2 JDAMs or if the JDAMs have already been dropped. It really doesn’t matter for three fundamental reasons, only one of which we’ve discussed in any detail.

First Fundamental Reason: Ambiguity of KPP Configuration

The KPP configuration and weight ‘is what it is’, and all our analysis has been focused on the relationship between those factors that affect transonic acceleration, and how (and how much) changes to those factors affect performance.

We do not ‘know’ the payload carried for the KPP values for any of the explorations we’ve made, and I’ve been comfortable in doing these parametric examinations using the assumption that the internal payload for the F-35A consisted of (2) 2K JDAMs, (2) AMRAAMs and a nose load of 25mm cannon rounds. Unlike an F-16 or any other aircraft that carries bulk fuel and weapons externally, it really didn’t matter what the F-35 was carrying internally from a drag POV except as in how whatever weight the F-35 was bearing increased the drag due to lift. While I used the assumption that the plane was carrying the JDAMs, We’ve never asserted or implied a total F-35 weight as the basis for the estimates. We have seen that at whatever the baseline weight basis is, the F-35A in its KPP configuration (whatever that is) accelerated from M.8 to M1.2 very much like an F-16 Block 50 at 36K lbs and a Drag Index =50.

I then posed a ‘what if’ scenario where the F-35A was 4K Lbs (or so) lighter to estimate performance at an “X”-4K pound F-35A. I took away the hypothetical 2k JDAMs because they were convenient to quantify. This is acceptable because, as I have mentioned many times, these analyses are about gaining an understanding of the factors involved and their impact/effects.

The data in-hand can’t be used to prove anything either way, it can only point to ‘possibilities’.

I am completely agnostic as to whether or not the F-35A KPP includes carriage of the JDAMS. If, as it has been suggested by ‘Tim A.’ in the comments that the KPP weight of the F-35 for the transonic acceleration performance does NOT include the 4K+ of JDAMs, I am good with that. BUT, I still cannot make a claim either way with certainty. If one takes at face value [1] then-Commander Bowman’s statement that
“The fuel levels and payloads at which maneuverability is calculated differs for each variant but generally focuses on a post-weapons release payload and fuel state at 50% of the required combat radius”
…do we assume that the transonic acceleration KPP falls within both the “post-weapons release” AND “50% fuel” ‘generalities’, or just one? Or the other? Or neither?
We don’t know. 

Looking at the key table in the Bowman paper….

We see two distinct CTOL (F-35A) loadouts specified for two KPPs in the footnotes. Are these the only two ‘possible’ exceptions to the “general” configuration to which Boman refers, or are they the ONLY exceptions? Are they just configurations that Bowman highlighted because he thought they were important to his arguments? We don’t know.

I’ve always been struck by the reference to the 2 empty external tanks in the first footnote, given the F-35 at this time does not carry external wing tanks and to-date they have not been seen as ‘value-added’ enough to be pursued by the program (an interesting topic for another time), but of interest to our discussion here is the second footnote as it relates to Bowman’s introduction to the table.

If it is worth mentioning in the footnote that “60% of internal fuel load” is carried as an exception to the ‘general’ rule, why would it be worth mention that the JDAMs had been “jettisoned/released” as if it were not part of the ‘general’ rule as well? I believe there is enough incongruity between the text and the table to prevent anyone from asserting the F-35A’s transonic acceleration KPP configuration MUST include or exclude JDAMs OR must be at 50% or 60% (or ‘n%’?) fuel [2] carried. This ambiguity is the primary reason I resisted establishing a baseline weight for the F-35A in doing the acceleration modeling and analysis. (Observant readers will note the only time I quantified F-35 variant weights in looking at the F-35 acceleration performance was when we examined possible discriminants between variants as drivers for variations in acceleration times.)

To go beyond the point that we have already gone can only add more uncertainty. Which leads us to Fundamental Reason #2

Second Fundamental Reason: The F-35A Baseline Design Itself is NOT Final

And the ramifications of this point are HUGE. Much of it relates to what will be the final weight/drag of the aircraft itself, but some of it relates to how the ‘books’ are being kept that prevent any definitive performance statements until SDD is complete (see Reason #3).

The weight uncertainty factor we touched upon under Reason #1 looms larger than many people might realize. We can assume all KPPs are based upon all or part of a fuel load required to achieve some unknown-to-us mission utility, objective and/or point, so weight is a factor in all KPPs.

Aircraft total weight will be driven by Aircraft Empty Weight, Fuel Weight, and Payload Weight. To meet ANY KPP objective listed, changes in the basis for Aircraft Empty Weight will have a compounding effect on total weight; creating a fuel-weight ‘spiral’ that can be positive or negative. The lighter or heavier the aircraft, the more or less fuel weight will need to be carried, and reciprocally, less or more payload can be carried. For every pound of empty weight added, how much more fuel weight is needed or how much payload weight will be affected? (Answer: “It depends”.) Whatever a percentage of fuel load weight used for each KPP, and the primary driver for specifying a max weight for each variant appears to vary [3], it can only be of importance as part of a total weight (assuming all weight is carried internally for all KPPs allowing us to ignore external drag ‘adders’), and what we do NOT know about this value and how it relates to performance parameters far outweighs what we do know. Keep this in mind going forward, as the first thing that we DO know about the F-35A’s empty weight is that it is currently below design objectives (DOT&E FY14 PDF):
Weight management of the F-35A is important for meeting air vehicle performance requirements and structural life expectations. These estimates are based on measured weights of components and subassemblies, calculated weights from approved design drawings released for build, and estimated weights of remaining components. These estimates are used to predict the weight of the first Lot 7 F-35A aircraft (AF-72), planned for delivery in August 2015, which will be the basis for evaluating contract specification compliance for aircraft weight.
-- According to these reports, the program has reduced weight by 16 pounds in CY14 (from January to October estimate). The current estimate of 29,016 pounds is 355 pounds (1.2 percent) below the planned not-to-exceed weight of 29,371 pounds.
-- The program has demonstrated positive weight management of the F-35A over the past 38 months, showing a net loss of 123 pounds in the estimates from August 2011 to October 2014. The program will need to ensure the actual aircraft weight meets predictions, as well as continue rigorous management of the actual aircraft weight beyond the technical performance measurements of contract specification in CY15 through the balance of SDD to avoid performance degradation that would affect operational capability.
An empty weight that is 355 pounds lower than the modeled KPP weight implies a much larger weight in fuel that does not to be carried to achieve the F-35A’s combat radius (or ‘60%’ mission radius/endurance distance/time). JETA-1 fuel weighs 6.71 lbs per gallon. How many pounds of fuel can be left behind by not having to carry 355 pounds of dead weight over 1200+ nautical miles out-and-back? We don't know. the uncertainties are certainly adding up.

While the AF-72 aircraft is the target point that is “the basis for evaluating contract specification compliance for [F-35A] aircraft weight”, we also do not know how much margin is in the “planned not-to-exceed weight of 29,371 pounds” target weight. I’ve seen indicators[4] that prevent me from completely assuming the weight targets are the weight assumptions used for KPPs. If the targets aren’t the limits, then there is further weight margin that the KPP model may not be accounting for in performance modeling. I personally wouldn’t assume this to be the case, but we don’t know. Time will tell.

Third Fundamental Reason: The KPP Ground Rules and Assumptions and/or their Impacts aren't fully known or accounted for either.

The ‘unknowns-unknowns’ here might outweigh any factor we have examined in trying to compare an F-35A to any legacy aircraft. The 'known-unknowns' are bad enough. Example? We know the KPPs are based upon a ‘pessimistic’ engine performance with 5% thrust and fuel efficiency degradation (Ref #8 here). We do NOT know what impact that factor has on the overall ‘standard’ aircraft weight or acceleration, but just as important, we do not yet know if that the ‘engine of record’ in the models is the original 40K Lb thrust engine, or an engine with the newer 43K Lb thrust rating. So, what else do we NOT know about the model GR&As?


I don’t lose any sleep over the F-35A’s transonic acceleration because in the end it still gets back to the fundamental fact that you can always just ‘unload’ the plane to shed all that wave drag due to lift… if you so desire. Using such a technique, the F-35A should be able to run away to, from, or with any current or future aircraft through the transonic region unless that other aircraft is heavier AND with a higher Thrust/Weight ratio, and there are always other ways to deal with such contingencies (TANSTAAFL). I’ll THINK about getting concerned when the JPO and users get concerned.

1. While I used the Bowman paper data, I put no weight on what was discernible as Bowman’s own analyses or observations surrounding the data. I treated the paper in this way, because I cannot divine if his positions/opinions come from ‘fact’ or from his ‘views’ on the facts: especially since I see several assertions/conclusions (unrelated to any of the KPP discussions so far) within that I know are erroneous--if only through their over-simplification. Further, Air Command and Staff papers tend to be advocacy papers and Bowman’s certainly falls into that description. I know enough about ACSC papers to know that they are just like almost all college papers, they are usually done for a ‘grade’ and not posterity. False data can get you a failing score in ACSC, but I’ve not seen evidence that faulty reasoning will-- unless you argue it ineffectively.
2. As an aside, if I HAD to pick a fuel quantity for the transonic KPP I would pick a value above 50% fuel on the assumption that the operators would desire at least 50% fuel on hand after a transonic dash, presumably to get to or get away from a fighting position.

3. For the F-35B model, the obvious weight constraint beyond those affecting range, acceleration and turning is Vertical Lift Bringback (VLBB) weight. For the F-35C, the Maximum Carrier Landing Weight is a driver as well as whatever weight will be essential to NOT bust the approach speed limitations.

4. One example is a chart online (that is marked US/FOUO, so I won’t post or link to here) shows the F-35C’s Weight Status in 2012 with a 'target' weight well below the key Carrier Landing Weight limit.