Thursday, April 10, 2014

Back UP From Maintenance (Updated)

Update:

It wasn't the Trojan. The laptop's power supply/distribution system was frying components, including my hard drive. The shop was able to recover most of my stuff (Huzzah!) but I've been having to get it all transferred over to the new laptop, and considering how convoluted newer program licensing works, moving programs has been a PITA.
No matter now. I have the core programs I need installed and can slowly migrate datafrom the old hard drive (what is there anyway), reinstall most other programs, and migrate from backup DVD/CDs as I go. The Dell XPS 15 served faithfully for about 5 years, which is probably 80-100 years in Human terms the way I used it.

Coming Up

 I'm now working on Question 5 of the A2A Combat over SEA series. Boeing is also tempting me with a vapid banner ad for their 'Save the Growler' campaign that just begs parody, but I'd have to dust off some Flash skills and that takes time.

Speaking of 'saving'...

Given the near global stupidity among the unwashed that is pushing for 'saving' the A-10, I may add to the Debunking Close Air Support Myths series with a post on how the Air Force has tried to field a 'survivable' CAS plane for high intensity conflict repeatedly, yet have been stymied by the 'Army Insecurity Committee' and earlier stupid Congresscritters. I'll try not to get into what a self-serving lost boy, the idiot John McCain is (done enough of that already). Think he's running again?
       

Update ends, original post below...

*************************************
As I mentioned in the comments of a previous post, a 'Trojan' hit my primary computer almost two weeks ago and it has been in the shop since. I back up all my data, but unfortunately the d%#*! thing hit me in the middle of a backup session so until I get my computer back, I have no idea how much of my data was affected. The computer shop is attempting to recover my data and programs, but the hard drive is gone.  I'm banging this post out on a little netbook I use for word processing on the road, and it is wholly unsuitable for serious work [just making the odd comment here and there ;-) ], so I'll resume regular (for me) blogging as soon as I get my main system up to speed. Down for

Monday, March 24, 2014

Operation Allied Force: 15 Years After

I have no real time to do any substantive postings right now, and I want to get back to the '20 questions series' in that regard before I move onto other topics. But I could not let this anniversary pass without a nod to what may have been my biggest contribution to National Defense (six years after retiring from the AF) at that time.

I'm the guy who told the Air Force in 1998 that unless the missions are too long for the aircrews, they shouldn't bother to forward deploy: They could do more operating from home station. The B-2 was getting beat up (wrongfully--sound familiar?) for not being 'deployable'.  The program SPO came to my 'shop' and contracted us to accurately describe where any shortfalls were and recommend corrective action. The first question in answering that question is: "Under what circumstances will it make sense for the B-2 deploy instead of operate from Whiteman AFB?" the second question was "When it does deploy, where should it deploy to?" The analysis showed a clear answer to both questions: deploy rarely and only a handful of locations would provide coverage for the entire globe.

Deployment is Hard Work for Not a Whole Lot More Return

Because when units deploy, it looked like it took at least a week to get packed up, move, get set up and start forward operations. The B-2 in most circumstances spend that week getting a head start (in servicing aim points) on any other system that has to deploy, and the B-2 and B-1 experiences in Allied Force actually played out to prove that assumption. Once a system is forward deployed, the logistics of feeding fuel, munitions and everything else is tougher than the logistics of doing same at home base. I had modeled that even if the forward deployed system was able to adequately generate sorties for all their airplanes 'faster' (because they were closer) that for a six bomber package, all the unit at home station had to do was add one aircraft at home station (easily done) to surpass the deployed sortie rates.

The News Was Well Accepted

When I briefed  my findings to the 509th at Whiteman in the summer of 1998, I had one maintenance officer tell me after the brief that when a package forward deploys, the first airplane that breaks hard usually becomes the forward deployed parts bin and 'hangar queen'. They probably wouldn't even need to add a plane at home station to equal the 'forward-deployed" effort.
One of the positive developments that came out of the effort before Allied Force was that the Air Force decided to get off the dime and start setting up, at key FOBs, the portable shelters they had been developing. By the time Allied Force kicked off, there was significant movement in that area which would pay off not very much later in Operations Enduring and Iraqi Freedom (another war story).

The B-2's Contribution....and More

To commemorate the anniversary the B-2's successful combat debut, here are a few slides extracted from a General Hawley brief. I got my hands on it in early 2000, but it was probably one of the last big presentations the General made before retiring in mid-1999.

Leading up to Operation Allied Force...

We were testing CALCMs on the ranges before they were used in Desert Storm, and in 1993 I was testing the smart weapon interface for what would become the GATS/GAM and later JDAM weapon concepts 


Operation Allied Force...


The 'Air Boss' Lt General Michael Short called the B-2 one of the 'Stars' of the campaign. He said he could count on "sixteen quality DPMIs" for every sortie. DPMI = Designated (NOT 'Desired') Mean Point of Impact

This was 'then' in 1999

Developments after Operation Allied Force....


This was a big step. Carrying even MORE SDBs, or a couple of BIG BLUs, and mixed loads is a quantum jump  
 
This is 'Now' 
 
                 

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

F-35 "price sinks to US$80-85m" in FY2019 Dollars?

Some H8ters H8, Others are (Apparently?) 'Gobsmacked'

Hat Tip: 'Spazsinbad' over on F-16.net


F-35 Numbers Growing, Prices Falling? 
Courtesy of 'Spazsinbad', I first read this at the Sydney Morning Herald website and wondered why I didn't see anything about it at any of the so-called 'leading' defense websites:

JSF price sinks to US$80-85m
Australia looks like paying a less than expected $US80-$US85 million for each F-35 Joint Strike Fighter aircraft and that could drop if production ramps up. That's much cheaper than recent indications of over $US100 million ($A111.73 million) per aircraft. Lieutenant General Chris Bogdan, who heads the JSF acquisition program for the US military, said the price included profit for JSF manufacturer Lockheed Martin and was in 2019 dollars, accounting for inflation. That's less than the $130 million budgeted price for each of Australia's first two, which are in production set for delivery in the US later this year and next (Read it all here ).
The initial reaction around the web appears to be muted to say the least, especially compared to what it has been whenever hypothetical and amorphous outside cost 'estimates' have gone up. Could the Anti-JSF bias be any more blatant?

From the thread at the F-16.net link above, I saw that the Euroshill was allegedly casting aspersions Gen. Bogdan's way, so I dropped in to find another Moronic Convergence at Defense-Aerospace. First de Briganti heads his 'piece' with:
Recent Statements by F-35 Program Chief Strains Credibility
Then, after opening with an 'incredulous' review of past cost numbers, he reports the JSFPO e-mail reply he received when he asked them to explain:
JPO spokesman Joe DellaVedova confirmed Bogdan’s figures in an e-mailed statement, adding that “The number [he] quoted is an affordability initiative we're working on with our industry partners.”  
He added that “Don't know if ‘contradiction’ is the right word to use or how you did the math or what is included in a FUC ... but the reality is we've been buying aircraft at a lower cost than what are in budget estimates” such as the FUC figures quoted above.  
“For example, in LRIP 7 (buy year 2013, delivery 2015), we negotiated with LM the price of $98 million for an air vehicle and we fully expect to negotiate a lower price in LRIP 8 and a lower price in LRIP 9,” he said.  
The $98 million cost quoted by DellaVedova is $28.8 million lower than the $126.8 million budgeted by the US Air Force for LRIP 7 aircraft, implying that the JPO was able to negotiate a reduction of 22% in the price of F-35A fighters

Where's the problem Giovanni?

Is it in your inability to do math: you can't or refuse to put two and two together without insisting it must be something other than 4? Or is it that you don't understand 'learning curves' and Economic Order Quantities? Somebody-- anybody!-- please, help that man.

 

Like Europe Needed Another Maroon: Diversity in the Strangest Places 

Evidently this Don Bacon character has found a European home, so that we now have a strange alliance formed between a European Defense PR Flack and an US Anti-Defense Isolationist.
 
Go Figure.
 
The Euroshill  gives Bacon a platform (again) to sputter from incoherently. His ability to determine what is a direct quote (hint: they are called quotation marks) and someone reporting what was said in a press release is apparently non-existent. But 'Non-existent' is still more than what I can say for his critical reading skills. (Is it possible for someone to NOT understand anything?) 
 
Example? How about the DoD press release (Emphasis mine) Bacon references:
Interim capability currently allows the F-35s to survey the battle space, absorb information and give the department a clear picture from an individual perspective, the general said. Meanwhile, he added, the software development aims to ensure not only that two jets can assess and fuse the information, but also that multiple systems can share and process the data -- systems such as F-22 Raptor fighters, Airborne Warning and Control System aircraft, B-2 bombers, satellites and ground stations.  
Bogdan explained that finishing interim capability as quickly as possible with the resources at hand will help the program move to the next development phase. So far, he said, airframe and engine production schedules are stable and predictable, measuring milestones in days and weeks, not months and years.
“It’s more important to know when those lines will come out so we can get them to those bases and start that stand-up,” the general said.
The developmental test program is 50 percent complete for 28 F-35s, Bogdan said. At this time last year, he added, the program office delivered about 36 airplanes, with plans this year to deliver 36 to 38.
Don Bacon's comment?
--"The developmental test program is 50 percent complete for 28 F-35s" makes absolutely no sense.
Makes....no...sense...?
Pssst. Don. Look at the passage again. Keep looking at it until you realize the paragraphs are about the same topic: Interim Capability.
 
Bacon's comments on the DAS indicate a lack of technical knowledge impervious to reason, so I won't waste my time on them.  
 
Note: A friend e-mails me that he thinks Mr. Bacon is a retired Army officer. If so, I suspect he was the 'classification' of officer that Baron Kurt von Hammerstein-Equord warned us about.
 
The rest of the JSF Defamation League seems silent for now, but why do I suspect they are all just comparing notes to get their story meme straight?

Tuesday, March 04, 2014

The Joint Strike Fighter/F-35 Program: A Canadian Technology Policy Perspective?

More Like An Unguided Analytical 'Bomb'

I checked my inbox at work today and had a link to the latest Air & Space Power Journal pop up. Some good stuff in there as usual but there was one piece 'that was not like the others'. In "The Joint Strike Fighter/F-35 Program: A Canadian Technology Policy Perspective" by authors Dr. Danny Lam and Dr. Brian Paul Cozzarin, I found a rambling, disjointed case against (I'm pretty sure) the F-35 for Canada.

Now I don't give a dang whether or not Canada buys F-35s as long as they don't buy something less capable or survivable. Then I'll only care for the people who will fly them. I read through it pretty quickly (it is not exactly 'deep') and I have to say it smells more like a political hit piece than a serious assessment of the F-25s pros and cons.

I WAS going to dismantle the author's major and minor arguments in the comments section, but found they only allow 600 characters. So I posted a short version of what I wanted to say, which I repeat here in case it never shows up or goes MIA later:
In 600 characters?
1. Paper is Unguided Analytical Bomb. (Apologies to Kurt Gutha)
2. Major Premise: Source code needed for best value for Canada and not available because US controls. Sources referenced do not support argument.
3. Minor Premise: F-35 effectiveness 'deficient'.
Sources? They rely on Harpoon 3 video game. Results= Deterministic GIGO. Also rejected by AUS Military.
I'll post a long version at my place,
I see I have a few characters left.
Nits?
- Note to authors: without hardware, software just lays there.
- UAV talk seems to be 'red herring'
-feel of 'special pleading'

What I wanted to write

Now, the long version with complete, run-on sentences would read something like this:

To redirect the thread back to commentary relevant to the material presented, the authors attempt to make a case that F-35 procurement is not 'worth it' for Canada unless Canada gets the F-35 source code, and they appear to presume that Canada will not. After only a quick read-through I have concluded that when we strip away the manifold and in cases somewhat odd extraneous discussion, such as the supposed (asserted, not shown) influence of unmanned systems advances on the F-35’s complexity, we find at the heart of their ‘position’ are two arguments. By how these arguments are treated in the paper I would assert one is ‘major’ and the other is ‘minor’.

 

Major Argument

The authors major argument is that due to the nature of the US-only ‘controls’ on the F-35’s software, Canada will not benefit from a large portion of future F-35 work, including sustainment. Setting aside the “plausible guess” (p.61) at the percentage of F-35 work that would fall under the ‘source code’ definition is STILL just a guess, the authors then proceeded to build and knock down a straw man argument based upon that “guess”. 

First it was asserted that nations other than the US will not be able to develop their own unique capabilities because of the US monopoly on the ‘source code’. Then it was noted that after some ‘difficulty’ the U.K. had received assurances that the U.K. would maintain “operational sovereignty over the aircraft” they were buying, but the authors follow that up with it was “believed that the United States in fact did not transfer the source code but gave the United Kingdom priority and assurance that its needs would be met by timely American-engineered upgrades”.

I submit if the reader bothers to go to the source material referenced they will find the first quote (Note 47) is sourced from an official government statement that more fully states:
“Both governments agree that the UK will have the ability to successfully operate, upgrade, employ and maintain the Joint Strike Fighter such that the UK retains operational sovereignty over the aircraft.”

Which when combined with what is actually at the link of the second source (Note 48), a quote (of a quote) of a Lockheed Martin executive stating:
“Nobody’s happy with it completely, but everybody’s satisfied and understands,” Wolf quoted Schreiber.

None of the above implies that anyone “believed that the United States in fact did not transfer the source code but gave the United Kingdom priority and assurance that its needs would be met by timely American-engineered upgrades” as stated by the authors.

This hints at some rather creative interpretation of the information provided by the two sources. I would assert the authors would have done better asking themselves: HOW was it that the U.K. would be able to “successfully operate, upgrade, employ and maintain the Joint Strike Fighter” and retain “operational sovereignty over the aircraft” WITHOUT having unrestricted access to the source code? Perhaps the answer to that question lies in the details of the F-35 software architecture itself: a topic oddly absent in the authors’ discussion. 

Without the ‘we need the source code’ claim the rest of the ‘missing out on the software value’ argument disappears.

Minor Argument


This leaves us with the minor argument: the F-35 isn't 'effective'.

The authors attempt to diminish the F-35’s capabilities relying on….wait for it…..

The infamous APA/RepSim Harpoon 3 ‘model’- based ‘studies’

Really.

From Page 63 until Page 67 just before the ‘Conclusion’ the authors rely almost exclusively on APA/RepSim for their appraisal of the F-35’s effectiveness. The authors even go so far as to intimate in the notes (Note 66) that though RAND denies there ever was a RAND ‘study’, and that the circulating PowerPoint presentation is not a sanctioned RAND product reporting on F-35 performance. “This did not stop the Australians from extending the study to show the F-35’s vulnerability”. I note here the authors do not mention that the Australian military and Government dismissed the so-called 'independent’ and uninformed ‘studies’:
Air Vice Marshal Osley said the APA analysis was flawed through incorrect assumptions and a lack of knowledge of the classified F-35 air combat performance information.

Monday, February 24, 2014

F-35 and the "Crack"-pots of Doom...Again.

They never learn.

At least it seems that way.

If the F-35 is 'plagued' by anything, it is plagued by critics who haven't a clue as to how Airframe Durability testing is conducted, what its objectives are, and how it fits into the modern aircraft development process. It seems this ignorance 'dooms' the F-35 program to an annual round of misplaced and sneering derision by people who have no idea they are broadcasting their own ignorance after every DOT&E report release.

Durability Testing Promotes the Useful Life.

Amusing as it is, such unwarranted criticism is counter-productive. I could produce a lengthy dissertation (you know I can) on the history and benefits of this kind of testing, and show how the developments to-date for the F-35 are no different than the programs before it --except for the F-35 doing it perhaps better and in a bigger fish bowl --but that would bore the cr*p out of most people.On top of that, the unrepentant anti-JSFers would only claim I was making excuses or some other equally stupid assertion. So I will default to providing an illustrative example of what I mean. Consider the following passage concerning the EARLY F-16 development (Queen's English BTW).
Fatigue tests 
In parallel with the flight-test programme a series of ground fatigue trials were carried out on the fifth development airframe. A test rig set up in a hangar at Fort Worth used more than 100 hydraulic rams to apply stress to an instrumented airframe, simulating the loads imposed by takeoff, landing and combat manoeuvering at up to 10g. By the summer of 1978, this airframe had clocked up more than 16,000 hours of simulated flight in the rig. These tests were carried out at a careful and deliberate pace which sometimes lagged behind schedule. 
As the tests progressed, cracks developed in several structural bulkheads. News of this problem resulted in hostile comments in the media, but GD pointed out in its own defence that the cracks had occurred not in flying aircraft but on ground test specimens. If the risk of such cracks during development testing was not a real one, a company spokesman remarked to the author at the time, no-one would be willing to pay for ground structural test rigs. GD redesigned the affected components, thickening the metal, and installed metal plates to reinforce existing units.  
--Source: F-16: Modern Fighter Aircraft Vol 2., Pg 18. ARCO Publishing, 1983.

Sounds kinda' familiar doesn't it?

I was tempted to employ some trickery to deceive the reader into thinking the above was written about the F-35, but I think this point is better made straight up.  Even after this testing, because the F-16 was initially the ultimate knife-fighting hot rod of a dayfighter, there were useful-life 'issues' on the early airframes. Pilots were flying higher G-loading at several times the rate as previous fighters and higher percentages of the time than that for which the airframe had been designed.    

Thursday, February 20, 2014

Air-to-Air Combat Over Southeast Asia: 20(+/-) Questions That Resonate Today

Questions 1 thru 4


A Q&A series on things you probably know but your friends probably don’t.

I’ll update the subtitle and bump the post every time I add a question. The number of questions in the end will be determined by where the discussion takes us.

I anticipate that my primary sources will be the AF Weapon Systems Evaluation Group, The Ault Report, Marshall Michel’s Clashes (and perhaps some of his other writings), some Air Force Historical Studies Office publications, and Nordeen’s Air Warfare in the Missile Age (Second Edition) at the minimum. I’ll add other sources as required.
I intend to start simply and build on the discussion. Readers are invited to answer the latest question for themselves before they open the fold. Below the fold I’ll post the answer along with perhaps some related observations including the relevance of the question and answer today.

If you have questions or comments about a particular question or section, please reference the relevant question/section number(s). Otherwise this 'single post' format may become confusing pretty quickly.

NOTE: I've 'inverted' the series to keep this post from taking up so much real estate AND to allow people who've been following the series to get to the new stuff without wading through the old stuff. If you are just joining us, take a stab at the latest question and open the fold to see past questions as well.

 


Section 4

From the ‘Acquisition Phase’ we now move to consideration of the “Attack Phase”.

From the Red Baron Report Volume IV, pg 50:
The performance of U.S. aircraft, combined with the skill and tactics employed by U.S. aircrews versus the enemy aircraft/crew combinations, resulted in a 111/8 advantage against the MIG-17 and 36/1 advantage against the MIG-21. This result indicates that under the prevailing conditions, timely position information of the enemy aircraft was the single most significant requirement to enable U.S. aircrews to achieve a position to fire first. However, reference to Figure III-B1 indicates that only 41 of 154 or 27 percent of U.S. first attacks resulted in a MIG kill. Any improvement in U.S. weapons or weapon delivery capability would result in an appreciable number of MIG kills for these acquisition conditions.


The ‘Figure III-B1’ identified above is recreated here:

The Red Baron authors recognized there might be “a slight upward bias to the ratio of U.S. to enemy firing attempts” because “there probably were instances where the enemy achieved a firing position and even fired its weapons without being observed”. But this may be balanced out if one thinks of ‘opportunities’, since it was acknowledged that there were circumstances where opportunities for the U.S to attack were ‘passed up’ when it would have interfered with the primary mission. Example: F-105s at one time were ordered to ignore MiGs unless they were under imminent threat’ (Red Baron, Vol, IV, pg 47) .

The Red Baron Study looked at the engagements in the previous discussion using a variety of factors in an attempt to evaluate the potential encounter outcome as a product/result of those factors, where there was sufficient information (data) available to analyze. There were other factors the study members would have liked to have included (crossing angles, attitude, sun position, maneuver sequence to name those listed in the report) but there was insufficient data of those types for too many of the engagements to perform a statistical analysis.

The factors where there was enough information to analyze for relevance/importance to outcome were:
1. U.S. aircraft type
2. Hostile aircraft type
3. Acquisition range
4. Acquisition clock position
5. Hostile altitude
6. Friendly relative altitude
7. Time of day
8. Stage of war (through 1967)
9. Method of acquisition and identification

Question 4:

From this list of factors above, Red Baron analysts reduced the list of relevant factors to four that were found to “correlate in a complex way”. Were those four factors:
A) 1, 3, 4, 8
B) 2, 3, 4, 6
C) 2, 3, 5, 6
D) 1, 3, 5, 8

Answer and much more below the fold

Sunday, February 16, 2014

Concurrency and the F-35: A CBS 60 Minutes (Re-Run) Viewers Guide

 Courtesy of F-16.net yesterday, I got a late head’s up on one of the Anti-JSF (politico, journolista, and ‘reformer’) memes that 60 Minutes is going pick up in their JSF segment tonight: “There’s been too much ‘Concurrency’ on the F-35 program”. How far 60 Minutes will run with the meme I don’t know, but I thought I’d highlight here just how the F-35 is ‘different’ from most (and ALL Air Force) post-WW2 predecessor programs, by highlighting the one aspect where it is viewed differently from all its predecessors.
While I’ve compiled prior examinations before on this topic, exposing the Concurrency Canard for what it was, and further reemphasized same when more supporting information became available, I think perhaps a review of the actual historical record should further drive the point home that ‘Concurrency’ as it applies to the F-35 is merely a smokescreen used to distract the ‘ahistorical’ among us.

Using “Post-World War II Fighters: 1945-1973” (contents, apparently verbatim, are also found here) for the ‘old’ systems, we will find that to varying degrees, fighter aircraft have always been fielded with originally planned capabilities added incrementally, and that in the case of the F-35, the difference isn’t in trying to produce and field aircraft too soon, it is the presumption that we should be able to delay production until you get it ‘just right’ before you produce in any quantity. Unless you want to damage or kill a program, this has been shown to be counterproductive. If you had followed one of the links to past writings above, you would have found a reference to the report by a team of analysts from Center for Naval Analysis in the Defense in ATL magazine (link):

Our results (located at [link fixed by me], based on examining 28 programs across all Services, are very similar to those of the Congressional Budget Office and RAND [example] studies with one surprising exception: While from a purely statistical point of view we found that the relationship between both planned and actual concurrency and cost growth was very weak, in both cases, there seems to be a “sweet spot” of about 30 percent concurrency. That is, programs that plan on spending 30 percent of RDT&E funds while concurrently spending procurement funds actually experience the lowest average cost growth. Similarly, those programs that actually do spend about 30 percent of RDT&E funds while concurrently spending procurement dollars, even when not originally planned, also experience lower cost growth. Furthermore, programs with planned or actual levels of concurrency below 30 percent experienced higher cost growth than those with higher levels of concurrency. In other words, lower levels of planned or actual concurrency were actually worse than higher levels of concurrency. This is the complete opposite of what many in the acquisition community believe.


There is one sentence at the end of the paragraph I did not include above this time because I wanted to emphasize it:
We speculate that lower levels of concurrency may expose the program to higher levels of external changes.
Ya’ think? 

 Ground Rules and Assumptions

Some of these GR&As will apply to this post, but most will be saved for perhaps later discussions. It just so ‘happens’that I’ve been looking at the Post-WW2 aircraft program data and histories for quite some time and have been using what I’ve found to develop a database of production quantities, service lives, and variant definitions for various analyses. There is always variability in data definitions and data quality when comparing separate systems and programs over long time spans. There are also often gaps in information. For this exercise I chose to use only programs where the aircraft were actually fielded. Where there were gaps in the data, I tried to select the most conservative approach to estimate. For example, if a production contract was signed in either 1951 or 1950. I would select 1951 for cost purposes. For another example, if it wasn’t clear if a variant was fielded in 1963 or 1964, I would select the earlier year for service life estimates.) Since how well a fighter performs or how long a fighter remains effective is not directly related to how long before it is completely phased out, I chose to use the point in time a fighter begins to be withdrawn from ‘front line service’ as the standard for calculating ‘front line service life’. For early jets, this typically involved first transfers to ANG or AF Reserve units, with the exception of Interceptors, for which the ‘front line’ mission was transferred with the aircraft to the Guard and Reserve. Aircraft ‘variants’ are defined as having a model designation change for older jets, but the distinction is blurred with the introduction of later ‘Block’ type designators.

Approach

The intent will be to ignore subsequent block upgrades and mods (thought they are the norm since early WW2), unless they involve a model (A,B,C,D etc.) designation change. This approach is selected because ALL aircraft receive upgrades over their service lives, but model changes tend to flag major capability improvements with major changes to aircraft configurations. We won’t be dwelling on costs or service lives in this post but will focus on typical aircraft evolutions, from the perspective of time and numbers fielded, beginning the ‘first of type’ production units through when the first ‘definitive’ units were procured.

We’ll cover the period from 1944 to 1973 in two sections, the first one “Buy Now – Fly Later” we’ll list the Air Force aircraft in the first decade after WW2 for which major production decisions were made before the aircraft even flew. In the second section, “Baby Steps”, we will highlight how many early versions of the jets were built and often discarded instead of upgraded before the definitive versions were decided upon. This will highlight how though configurations were frozen before early variants were contracted for, they were only building blocks to get what was really needed.

Buy Now – Fly Later

Before getting into the particulars of the history of ‘concurrency’ and graphically illustrating how buying large numbers of early versions of aircraft before the first (or more) definitive variants is the normal course of things, I think it will be helpful to first how many early aircraft production contracts in our sample were put into place before a ‘production-standard’ (or sometimes even a prototype) aircraft first flight even occurred. For the very early aircraft, it could be seen that this was the result of wartime exigencies, but only those very early aircraft. All citations are from "Post-World War II Fighters: 1945-1973". In order [brackets mine]:

1944:

The AAF definitively endorsed the P-80 on 4 April (2 months ahead of the XP-80A's first flight) with a LC [letter contract] that introduced the first production contract. This contract, as approved in December, called for two lots of P-80s (500 in each). Delivery of the first 500 was to be completed by the end of 1945; …

On 7 January North American presented a bold design based on the successful P-51. This design promised range, reliability, and less pilot fatigue (the two pilots could spell one another). The AAF endorsed it at once. In fact, a February letter contract to construct and test three experimental P-82s gave way in the same month to an order for 500 productions…

1945:

[In January] The AAF order covered 100 service test and production P-84 [ later redesignated F-84] airplanes-25 of the former and 75 of the latter. This was subsequently decreased to 15 service test articles, which were redesignated YP-84As. The production articles were correspondingly increased from 75 to 85 and redesignated P-84Bs. [The P-84 ‘mockup’ was viewed by the AAF for the first time the next month]

1946:

[20 December] Although the prototypes were still under construction, a production order was released. Unit cost of the first 33 P-86s [ later redesignated F-86] authorized for procurement was set at $438,999.00—more than twice the aircraft's eventual price.

1949:

Funds released by President Harry S. Truman in January 1949 enabled the Air Force to execute, during May of that year, a cost plus-a-fixed-fee contract amounting to some $48 million, excluding a fixed-fee of almost $3 million. The estimated costs stipulated in the contract covered modification of the second XF-89 (YF-89) and fabrication of the first 48 production aircraft (F-89As). [Note: the first XF-89 had severe development problems, flew little and was lost shortly after delivery of the second prototype]…

1951/52:

[October 1951] The Air Force Council pressed for the development of revised Sabre 45 [F-100]. This decision ran counter to the belief of key development personnel that the aircraft would not meet the simplicity and cost requirements, basic to a day fighter. To obtain quickly a new fighter that would substantially surpass the F-86, the Air Force Council also agreed with the Aircraft and Weapons Board's recommendations to buy it in quantity prior to flight-testing, even though this ran the risk of extensive modifications in the future…

Initial Contract Date 3 January 1952 The Air Force issued a letter contract for two F-100A prototypes…

First Contract for Production 11 February 1952 The Air Force rushed through a second letter contract to procure 23 F-100As with fiscal year 1952 funds...

Second Production Contract August 1952 Having found the revised mockup basically satisfactory, the Air Force directed procurement of 250 additional F-100As. 1953: The LCs, previously awarded to Convair, were superseded by a definitive contract. This contract, still based on the Cook-Craigie production plan, did not affect the number of aircraft initially ordered. Out of the 42 aircraft under procurement, several were earmarked for testing and two (F-102A prototypes) were scheduled for flight in October and December 1953, respectively...

1953:

The F-101 and F-102 which employed the Cook-Craigie approach (no prototypes) in the pursuit of trying to mature technology before committing to LARGE production quantities, while still committing to volume production as soon as possible. Subsequent jets of the original type were purchased in volume, in evolved forms as a result of lessons learned in operation and test.

Baby Steps

Some adjudication and ‘calls’ in the analysis had to be made, because the real world isn't tidy. For example, I elected to use the F-104G as the definitive model type, though the US never bought it, it was the most numerous and built upon all the prior developments. I didn’t include a lot of F-86 variants prior to the D model because they were really parallel efforts. The F-84F was different enough from the previous versions that if it had been designated during the F-106 era, it would have certainly been given a different number designation, but it was still the final evolution of a long line of F-84s.

There were quite a few other types of aircraft, but not bought in 'major' quantities (except for perhaps the F-86H and precursors but I didn't want to over emphasize the F-86). The most important thing to take from this chart is NOT that in the past, we built aircraft as best we could, learned from them, and made them better in the next iteration.

The takeaway IS that we fielded needed technology as fast as possible knowing we’d learn something new, or possibly fall short (without fear), or learn we needed different or just ‘better’ technology. We then incorporated those lessons learned to get the systems we needed. Most of the time those precursor aircraft had limited front-line service lives and were seconded or scrapped less than a decade after they were built.

Compare that approach with today’s approach; the one used for the F-35. A limited number of aircraft have been produced, with the intention of making them all (or nearly all) meet the baseline standard (Block 3) through subsequent modification. There will probably be around 200 aircraft (or fewer) produced before the first Block 3 plane is rolled out, far less than 10% of the currently planned total production run, and all but the most early of those jets will be upgraded to baseline standard via mostly software/component updates.

Even if the production ramp up hadn’t been delayed by playing the faux ‘concurrency’ card, there still would have been far fewer F-35s needing upgrade than obsolete precursor aircraft produced in fielding previous ‘major’ types. Stretching the program added more costs and more total risks, just fewer technical ones.
I can't emphasize enough that how we frame the concurrency question defines the concept and discussion in the public square. We must recognize that the detractors are playing games with the definition of concurrency to make the F-35 seem worse than it is and worse than predecessor aircraft programs.

This is easily demonstrated by looking at the F-16's evolution.  

I’ve noted multiple times around the web, with no credible rebuttal to date I might add, that there were 291 F-16 Block 1 and 5 deliveries before the first 'nominally' useful Block 10 was built. To keep perspective, the YF-16's first flight (official) was Feb 74, and the first definitive and fully capable Block 30/32 F-16s for the US first flew Feb 87. Counting all partner nation deliveries, approximately 1800 F-16s were delivered before the fully capable Block 30/32s. Until the Block 30/32, all the capabilities of the F-16 were less than what was envisioned by the planners (just not the so-called 'Reformers'). The Block 30/32s were the first F-16s with full Beyond Visual Range-engagement and night/precision ground/maritime attack capabilities. They were the first with full AIM-7/AMRAAM/AGM-65D/HARM capabilities. They were also the first with Seek Talk secure voice communications. Until Block 30/32, the F-16 was mostly a hot rod for knife fighting on blue-sky days. At Block 30/32 and beyond, it was what the users wanted in the first place. An ‘all-weather combat aircraft’ to the users, or what the so-called ‘reformers’ refer to as ‘ruined’. Fielding 1800 F-16s aircraft before you reach a 'baseline' in Block 30/32? Thirteen years after first flight? I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: THAT is 'concurrent development'.
To varying degrees, the same phenomenon can be shown for the F-15, and the F-18's, just look a the program history and the rationales behind the differences in variants.

P.S. Sorry I couldn't get this post up before it aired in most places. 'Life' intervened. 

Guest Post at Op-For

Many thanks to 'DaveO' and 'LtColP' at Op-For for the opportunity to give a guest commentary today, to explain and expand upon a comment I made in an earlier thread on Op-For  .

This is particularly 'timely' considering there's a 60 minutes segment on the F-35 tonight. I myself am prepping a quick viewer's guide as it concerns the topic of 'Concurrency'.  Should be up before it airs in most time zones.

Wednesday, February 05, 2014

Moronic Convergence at Defense Aerospace

Mmmmm. BACON! I usually like to fry mine so it is somewhat less crispy, but tonight? ‘Carbonized’ is just fine. 

AKA 'Blogiversary Over'

Don Bacon & DeBriganti. What could go wrong?
Defense Aerospace has a ‘guest commenter’ who appears to have more ambition than to just keep saying stupid things in the comment threads at other people’s websites. He now wants to be ‘featured’ saying stupid things.

You don’t have to go there to read it.

I fisk it here, so you don’t have to take a shower afterwards.

The F-35 O&S Cost Coverup

(Source: Defense-Aerospace.com; published Feb. 04, 2014)

By guest contributor Don Bacon

The F-35 selected acquisition report (SAR) reported last Spring that there had been no progress in reducing its staggering $1 trillion, 50-year life-cycle cost. Then in June 2013 it was reported that "the company and the U.S. military are taking aim at a more vexing problem: the cost of flying and maintaining the new warplane." Not only was the total cost stratospheric but the cost per flying hour was much higher than the legacy fleet at $31,922.

What could be done to cut high operations and sustainment (O&S) costs? International customers were being scared away by high production costs, and particularly by high operating cost.

The F-35 program office had the answer. Simply announce that the costs are lower! Why not? The result:

Pentagon Cuts F-35 Operating Estimate Below $1 Trillion

WASHINGTON (Reuters), Aug 21, 2013 - "The U.S. government has slashed its estimate for the long-term operating costs of Lockheed Martin Corp F-35 fighter jets by more than 20 percent to under $1 trillion, according to a senior defense official, a move that could boost international support for the program." 

That arbitrary announcement out of the F-35 program office that operating cost had dropped from $1.1 trillion to $857 million didn't fly very high. (See related story—Ed). On September 6 the Pentagon acquisition chief Frank Kendall announced that there would be a review of F-35 operating costs. Kendall indicated that the program office's estimate might have been overly optimistic. 

In fact the GAO has reported that F-35 operating and support costs (O&S) are currently projected to be 60 percent higher than those of the existing aircraft it will replace. 

“We’re … looking at that number,” Kendall said. “The official number is still the one we put up in the SAR [selected acquisition report]. We’re going to do a review of F-35 this fall. We’ll get another estimate out of CAPE [Cost Assessment and Program Evaluation] for that and we’ll probably make some adjustments.

On October 6, 2013 Kyra Hawn, spokeswoman for the Pentagon’s F-35 program office, said a high-level Defense Acquisition Board meeting was expected to proceed on Monday despite the partial government shutdown. The meeting has already been postponed several times. 

Well that CAPE meeting came and went, with no news on F-35 operating cost. The cost data must have been bad and so it had to be covered up, just like other cost data (production cost, etc.) on the F-35. We did get some PR fluff out of the meeting, though. “While risks remain, progress on the F-35 program at this point has been adequate to support a decision to budget for increased rates,” Frank Kendall, under-secretary for acquisition, said in a decision memo.

If it was good cost news supporting an increase in production rates, then why didn't Kendall release the data? Apparently the opposite was true, the data was bad. And now we have the data, in the FY2013 F-35 test report, and it isn't pretty.

Got all that?

Bacon cherry picks old news reports and not only ponders why there’s been no operating cost updates, but asserts it must be bad for the JSF because Kendall would have released it if it were ‘good’. I could just say “proof please”, but I got a theory too—only I’ll tell you it is just a theory and not assert it as ‘fact’. As we have noted all along (one, two, three) the actual costs have consistently come close enough to LM’s ‘should cost’ curves to call LMs estimates 'accurate'. The CAPE stuff? Not so much. My theory assumes the CAPE-ers will try to cover their collective estimating a**es by bringing down their estimates slow enough that (they hope) people won’t notice how bad they were to start with. Note I do not blame the analysts themselves, just their political management that tells them what and how to compute.

As to the ‘massive’ O&S costs (Cue Austin Powers clip) ONE TRILLION DOLLARS!? Who the H*LL cares about a GUESS covering FIFTY years of future operations? Answer: No one. At least no one in their right mind that is.

Pssst, Don: Calculate the B-52s operating costs over the first 50 years, go back in time to the start of the program and tell them what it will cost in 2010 dollars. Think that would stop them? Answer: No. They, unlike you and the legions of mouth-breathers, actually understood the 'time value' of money.      

Next, Don Bacon takes us into a world where he proves he hasn’t a freaking clue: R&M.

FY13 DOT&E Report

-- Mean Flight Hours Between Critical Failure (MFHBCF)
variant--threshold/observed
F-35A--20/4.5
F-35B--12/3.0
F-35C--14/2.7

-- Mean Corrective Maintenance Time for Critical Failure (MCMTCF)
variant--threshold/observed/FY12 Report
F-35A--4.0/12.1/9.3
F-35B--4.5/15.5/8.0
F-35C--4.0/9.6/6.6

So you fly the F-35A for 4.5 hours, get a critical failure, and then it takes 12.1 hours to fix it, or nearly three hours longer than it took last year. (That's hours, not manhours; Eglin AFB has seventeen mechanics per F-35.)

Similarly with the F-35B -- fly it for 3 hours, critical failure, then corrective maintenance takes 15.5 hours (7.5 hours more than last year).

The F-35C will fly for only 2.7 hours before 9.6 hours for corrective maintenance time. (Only one engine, too, out over the deep blue water.)
~Sigh~
As I noted over at F-16.net, “Statistical Crimes Against Humanity” were about the only thing of note in the latest DOT&E report.

Bacon evidently even missed the part of the DOT&E Report that stated: “the program has fielded too few F-35C aircraft to assess reliability trends”. 
That’s OK though, because the entire program has flown too few hours, especially considering training activity and the changing and expanding operational footprint, to assess anything meaningful. The fact that reality didn’t stop some calculator in DOT&E from applying their inconsequential knowledge simply invites more abuse of math and logic. I’m surprised Bacon didn’t also glom on to that B.S. software reset ‘analysis’ inside. Maybe that much idiocy was obvious even to Bacon. 

 My 2012 post on the subject criticizing the GAO’s similar violations holds up rather well when applied to DOT&E. The DOT&E report IS helpful in one way in that it provides the bounds for measuring the R&M of the airplane. Each variant has a cumulative flight hour measuring point and the fleet cumulative flight hour measuring point. People seem to have a better time of it visualizing just how little the program is into the data collecting if you graph it for them, so the following is offered for your enjoyment:
I started the growth slope at zero, but that isn’t really important, as the initial starting point is usually an educated guess or completely capricious. Raise the start point to 5-10 Hrs MTBCF if you like: it is still a long way from where the ‘grade’ counts, and not much of a slope to climb from where the program is now.
What is most important is to show how far away the current flight hour total is away from the cumulative experience required to be even considered as showing any kind of ‘trend’, much less a ‘grade’.  The chart above shows how far the total fleet hours have to go. Here's how far the variant measure has to go:


These charts are simplified and use a linear scale, so remember Log-log scales as are the norm, as I've thoroughly described before (same link as previous). Also note the apparent bobbling in the ‘objective’ lines comes from rounding and my selecting precise flight hour data points for the current flight hours in the DOT&E report among the other, evenly spaced, ones.

Give us a ring when the planes get to about the 25K-30K Flight Hour per variant and 100K Fleet Flight Hour mark. Then we can talk trends and problems areas.

Same thing goes for the mean-time-to-repair (MTTR) figures. And bring average crew size and MMH/FH with you so it can be discussed intelligently next time.

 

So Bacon then decides he wants to beat on fictional operating costs some more. Let’s keep tagging along shall we?

If anybody thinks the acquisition cost is high, and it is, it will be totally eclipsed by the operating cost. An independent audit by KPMG has estimated the cost of buying and operating the F-35 warplanes at $600-million per jet, two-thirds of that operating cost. 

Captain Overstreet of the F-35 program office warned in November that while development costs are high for the F-35, they will be “dwarfed” by the sustainability costs. Back in May 2011 Defense Undersecretary for Acquisition Ashton Carter described current projected costs for the F-35 as “unacceptable.”
Ahem, Minor point. It is a rule of thumb that 2/3 of total life cycle costs are in the operating and support of the systems. Nothing shocking there.

 It is an accepted premise and I think it was taught in just about every DAU course I ever completed. Any bets Bacon wants to use it for nefarious purposes?

Awww, you guessed right. He does:

All of this reality runs against what the early F-35 promises were.
-- From the 1997 doc -- "The Affordable Solution - JSF": Tactical Aircraft Affordability Objective 1997: R&D 6%, Production 54%, total dev & prod 60%, O&S 40%.

-- The actual 2014 test data is way different:
dev & prod -- $397B = 26%, O&S -- $1,100B = 74%, total -- $1,497 

So the F-35 has gone from an initial-operating cost ratio of 60-40 to 26-74, and that's with much higher production costs. Nobody can afford that, especially foreign customers -- which is why it's been covered up.
 
Hate to harsh your mellow there Don (OK, I really don’t mind it a bit) but you are shoveling some mighty fine hoo-haw there. The only real question is:
 
Are you doing it 'intentionally' or 'stupidly'?
 

Answer?...It's 'Stupidly'

That first set of numbers comes from a ‘document’ that is a POWERPOINT presentation. It looks very much like those numbers are talking about either the planned cost reduction percentage over legacy aircraft OR where the percentage of cost reduction opportunities resided at the time. I use the past tense, because that slide was from before either of the X-planes were built or flew, and before the Operational Requirements Document was defined and published. See Slides 3, 4, and 5 from the ‘1997 document referenced:
See anything in there about those numbers standing for the proportion of total cost? Me neither. Next slide?
 
Wow. The two X-planes aren't even built yet, and the requirements document isn't even firmed up to determine how much capability for what cost will be pursued.
 
More talking about affordability opportunities to balance before deciding what to pursue. the whole briefing is this way.

I’d love to find the original with ‘notes pages’ view for clarification just to smack the stupidity down even more for my visitors, but I guess I will have to (for now) settle for just salting the wound by pointing out the 1997 ‘document’ wasn’t an authoritative source to begin with. With only a cursory search, I’ve found three copies on the web of various versions and unknown provenance, none on an official government website. So Bacon bases his argument on a 17-year old PowerPoint slide with a unexplained message and calls it a 'conspiracy'?  

Can’t you just feel the Dezinformatsia in Bacon’s ramblings now oozing out into the interwebs and being passed around by the illiterate and the innumerate?     

So who is this 'Don Bacon' writing this drivel for the Euro-Shill?
About the author: 
Don Bacon is a retired army officer with acquisition experience, who has seen how programs go wrong in spite of the evidence, largely because of the military 'can-do' attitude which leads to harmful, ineffective results. Now he is a private citizen who sees the necessity of challenging baseless claims in order to get to the truth, and so the truth will prevail.
That’s rather verbose for “completely clueless out-of-the-loop retiree with no knowledge relevant to the subject which he so ardently, yet so flaccidly opines about” Isn’t it? No wonder the children don’t respect their elders anymore.

Tuesday, February 04, 2014

8th Blogiversary

To all of you who have e-mailed, commented, or just visited 'Elements of Power' over these past 8 years...

Thank You!
 
 
 

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Journalists Who [Apparently] Have no Critical Reading Skills Either

(Formerly Titled 'Oddest Thing')

I was invited (challenged?) to comment on Ares concerning my last posting where I covered Bill Sweetman's latest assault on 'all things F-35'. I commented,  leaving a link to the post.

I considered the possibility that it was a setup of sorts, but wasn't concerned as much as curious as to what he had in mind. Tonight I checked back at Ares, and Sweetman had responded.  I was somewhat disappointed in the response and can dismiss it rather easily. So I tried to post a response tonight (Can't sleep, been sleeping all day and all weekend trying to get over the bug).

Odd thing happened though. My attempt to post the first part of a two-part response just seemed to hang up in the process. I had broken my response in two to match format limits, but that won't be necessary if I post it here. I'll try and post at Ares in the AM to see if the 'glitch' has cleared up. If not, I'll add it below, and change the title to "Journalists Who [Apparently] Have no Critical Reading Skills Either" .

Stay tuned....

Well,  I woke up in a hacking fit, rebooted the computer, and tried again a couple of hours later, STILL "No Joy". I provide my correction of Mr. Sweetman's counter-comment at Ares (Sweetman in Italics) with a few non-Nyquil additions in [brackets]. I'll come back and add links and labels when I next come up for air or feel better. I may just fold this whole thing into the bottom of the original post. My response begins below the line

*********************************************************************************

(Sweetman) You appear to be trying to make two points.

I did make two points.


(Sweetman) Rather than my $60m current URFC, which I based on three consecutive years in the most recent SAR, you claim the figure should be $80 million.

NO. I did not 'claim' the figure 'should be' $80M. I demonstrated that, just as Thompson indicated “by perusing the Pentagon’s Selective Acquisition Reports”, such information could be found.
I identified information in the latest SAR that I saw as perhaps clues to the $80M figure that could be found in an earlier SAR. Those clues led me to information in an earlier SAR: the immediately preceding 2011 SAR. Whether estimating then-year unit cost off the base year cost or simply dividing then-year total cost by the units – both arrive at a value close enough to be ‘about’ $80M.


(Sweetman)You base that number on one estimated 13-aircraft "close-out" buy in an older report. This is more accurate... exactly how?

It is more accurate:
  • because it was in the program of record at the time.
  • because it reflected actual expected annual quantity buy and costs [which are the most current values for cancelled 2014 buy].
  • most of all because it reflected a single-year procurement price, as the previous years that you chose to ‘average’ include the benefit of a multi-year buy [and FMS price support].
  • because it also reflected the fact that there were no E-18Gs programmed at the time (for the first time in years) and were therefore not also providing price support 'off the F-18E/F books'.
As an aside, though the 13 E/Fs disappeared for 2014 in the 2012 SAR, [we find] 21 EA-18Gs have been added for 2014 in the 2012 SAR. They, of course, are more expensive as well.
[As another aside, whereas I can point to definite drivers for the increased cost, "close-out" buy is vague, undefined, and in this case unsupported: a  'throwaway' term.]

My first point is therefore made: Facts are in evidence that indicate substance behind Thompson’s $80M figure and [intelligent people may deduce that] therefore indignation and/or incredulousness were unwarranted.


(Sweetman)Then, you dispute my estimate for the 2001 cost by using a different inflation factor, called "economy cost".

NO. My second point was explicit: “Without the quantification of all “the necessary electronics included”, or estimation method used Thompson’s figures aren’t really debatable.” I then added that whatever your estimation was based upon, “it still does not invalidate Thompson’s claims if he uses another recognized inflation adjustment method, SUCH AS that for ‘Economy Cost’.”  

[ If Thompson's numbers bothered me, my first instinct would be to send an e-mail to him first asking him "Hey, what do you base those numbers on? I guess I'm too inquisitive to be a 'journalist']



(Sweetman)But the Pentagon doesn't use it - and neither does anyone else. A Google search for the term (in quotes) does not show it as a method of calculating inflation in its first four pages. If I add the words "inflation method" to the search I get two hits - the source that you link to, and your page.

Since my point, again, was that without more data ANY evaluation is futile, this is pretty much a ‘red herring’,  but I’ll play along. You would have had better luck with Elsevier instead of Google but not by much. First, because ‘Economy Cost’ is a pretty esoteric term. Second, “Economy Cost” is one of those word combinations that will yield multitudes of results far more popular and unrelated or at best peripheral: akin to looking for information on the web concerning incubating eggs by typing in ‘hot chicks’.
In any case, the ‘website’ is part of a project run by two economics professors, with about a dozen international members--apparently all of them also economics professors--on their project advisory board. Ergo: ‘somebody’ uses it.
BTW and not that it matters either: DoD uses OMB inflation figures, it may be authoritative for DoD estimating but not necessarily ‘accurate’ for a 'true' perspective . In DAU it is taught that DoD estimating methods are often disconnected (lower) from methods used by the rest of the world, because “OMB inflation rates reflect policy goals rather than a consensus of forecasters”(link: a dot mil site: ignore warning to view). That's an interesting pedigree isn't it?


(Sweetman) Thanks for playing.

Oh No. Thank You. [Its always appreciated when the big boys come down and inspire the hoi polloi.]

Sunday, January 26, 2014

F-35 Math is Hard. Analysis is Harder

Apparently Too Hard for Bill Sweetman Anyway

Bill Sweetman takes exception with Loren Thompson’s ‘math’. Let’s take a look at the complaint for any validity, shall we?
(Note: I’m not a big fan of Thompson or any ‘policy’ type for that matter that delves into the technical issues – they tend to grossly oversimplify the irreducible, but Thompson appears to be on target this time)

Taking a gander at the key bits of Sweetman’s editorial we find:
As Thompson says, “these numbers can be verified easily by perusing the Pentagon’s Selective Acquisition Reports.” The latest SARs for the F/A-18 and F-35 can be found here and here.
So let’s look at the key claims.
"Even if we include the electronic defenses and targeting systems not usually subsumed in a Super Hornet price tag, the unit recurring flyaway cost of a single-seat F/A 18 is about $80 million in today’s dollars. The corresponding cost for an F-35C is $130 million.”
The URFC of the F-35C is about right. But in then-year dollars, the URFC of the Super Hornet over 2011-13 averages $60 million (page 18 of the Hornet SAR). So what are the "electronic defenses and targeting systems” that would raise that number by $20 million? Targeting pods run about $2 million, and the ALQ-214 jamming system has been under $1 million per aircraft historically. (The SAR is not very clear as to whether those are included in the URFC.) The new Block 4 version of the jammer is higher, but any identifiable mods to the Super Hornet are still a fraction of the $20 million that Thompson is adding. Today, the F-35C costs more than two Super Hornets.

Swing and a miss!

Bill took his figures off a page (Page 18) titled “Annual Funding TY$”. For this report, we can use those numbers although I always prefer to use base year values and adjust. Sweetman’s fatal error was in not reading and understanding the totality of what he was trying to quantify,

On Page 28 of the same report, we find one entry under called “Quantity variance resulting from a decrease of 13 FA-18E/F from 565 to 552.” This entry, combined with the 2014 'blank' space in the table columns he was looking at should have prompted Sweetman to look at the previous F-18E/F SAR for more info.

It turns out, the FY2011 F-18E/F SAR had an entry (pages 17-19) for 13 units in 2014. Depending on which data you choose to use in the 2011 SAR, and in one case how you adjust from $FY2000 base dollars, it works out that those 13 units would cost between $78.9M and ~$80M each.
  • Page 17 values are 13 units for $1.026B (Then Year Dollars) = $78.92308M each.
  • Page 19 values, 13 units for $61.07M (Base Year 2000 Dollars) + adjusted for inflation to 2012 dollars* = $79.4M each.
*Inflation adjuster only goes to 2012, 2013 data not calculated yet

$78.92308M or $79.4M?

Call it “about $80M”, just as Thompson asserts. So why the unit cost jump? Look at the SARs. From a glance it looks to be all about Quantity and FMS price support.

Like They Say on TV: But Wait, There's More!

Sweetman goes on (in more ways than one):
Next: “When 100 single-seat Super Hornets had been produced, the unit recurring flyaway cost—with all necessary electronics included—was about $110 million in today’s dollars, which is where F-35C is likely to stand at the 100th airplane.”
The 100th Super Hornet was delivered in the Fiscal 2001 batch. According to the SAR, the then-year URFC was $61 million. A standard Pentagon inflation calculator raises that to $77 million in 2012 - $33 million less than Thompson’s figure. The F-35 is 43 percent more expensive if it is indeed $110 million.

I call 'Caviling'

Without the quantification of all “the necessary electronics included”, or estimation method used Thompson’s figures aren’t really debatable.

Sweetman citing a ‘standard Pentagon inflation calculator isn’t very descriptive, but the 2001 Superhornet values he chooses to use comes close to adjusting the 2001 F-18E/F URF the same as if using the Historic Opportunity Cost inflation adjustment ($77.6M), which is a far better choice than most make, but it still does not invalidate Thompson’s claims if he uses another recognized inflation adjustment method, such as that for ‘Economy Cost’.

Economy Cost adjustment of the 2001 URF yields $95.5M per aircraft (without electronics) in 2012.

If the Economy Cost method was used by Thompson, $95.5M without the 'electronics' probably would be equal to about ~$100M with electronics,

If anything, the Economy Cost is a more inclusive measure of a project’s value:
Economy Cost of a project is measured using the relative share of the project as a percent of the output of the economy. This measure indicates opportunity cost in terms of the total output of the economy. The viewpoint is the importance of the item to society as a whole, and the measure is the most inclusive. This measure uses the share of GDP

In Closing

Sweetman appears to be just trying to pile-on with the last complaint. Overall, his editorial fails to ‘disprove’ or cast doubt on anything except some people’s grasp of economics and defense spending. Perhaps Sweetman’s well-known target fixation on the F-35 was his undoing this time around? No doubt the innumerate will still be impressed.

UPDATE 28Jan13 : at the 'Ares' site, after trying more than once, it was still impossible to post a substantive rebuttal to Sweetman's mischaracterization of this post in the comment thread so I posted it here.   

Friday, January 24, 2014

Kahr PM40 Review

I’ve been wanting to post a short ‘practical’ (versus esoteric) review of my current ‘first choice’ among my carry weapons for bit, but as regular visitors know I have been ‘busy’.

During the latest gun/ammunition ‘scare’ I got tired of not being able to find either 9mm, or, especially .380 Auto ammunition (practice and defense). And the .380 is far more expensive to shoot to begin with. I like to keep a ‘comfortably’ proficient skill level, and you can’t practice shooting what you can’t get ammunition to put in it first. During the ‘rationing’ I noticed that two calibers in particular were always available: .40 and .45.

As “concealability” and “controllability” are co-equal in my mind, I ruled out the selection of small .45s, though I did hold up making that decision for a while until I could try out the Springfield Armory XDS. I shouldn’t have waited: the gun felt like a brick to me. Being left-handed, it also required too much opposite-hand manipulation for my taste.

The .40 cal ammo NEVER had the price spike, or empty shelves due to rarity where I live. In addition, the .40 caliber rounds stayed as cheap or cheaper as the 9mm before the run on ammo.

I wasn’t looking for a Kahr, but I found one.

What I like

I liked the way it fit my hand, always the first test a weapon has to pass. I found I could work the slide catch with a knuckle of my left-hand trigger finger while pulling the slide back with my right hand (we lefties adapt to the right-handed world). A real plus was the 'rightie' magazine release was positioned perfectly: In no way will I accidentally drop the magazine with even the tightest grip.
I read up on other's experiences with the Kahr and some were not very encouraging, but I liked the gun enough to give it a try, and already had an idea or two about what I would do if I experienced the same problems others had. As an engineer who had a lot of wrench turning experience, and have handled a lot of the older weapons, I understand that anything mechanical is subject to a ‘break in’ schedule.

I was intrigued most about the promised accuracy of the PM40’s barrel with its polygonal rifling. The barrel is also ‘crowned’. The polygonal rifling makes the inner diameter look like it was shaped by pulling a small stop-sign through it while twisting the sign all the way. There’s no real rifling in the conventional sense, just a twisting octagonal shape. It is said to be a ‘match target’ barrel compared to the less expensive CM40 with its conventional rifling –and based on my experience to date, I believe it.

OK, that’s ‘esoteric’ enough. I only mentioned the barrel specifics because I really do think it makes a difference. As does the DAO trigger, which only ‘feels’ DAO on the first round. All pulls for the remaining rounds are particularly smooth. Not as smooth as my Walther, but the Kahr is easily ‘second place’ in trigger pull category for what is in my gun safe. I really like the standard “drift adjustable, white bar-dot combat sights”. They’re very good in all but the lowest light conditions. I can get my sight picture very fast: just “dot the i”.

It runs most  of the .40 caliber ammo, and all of the defense rounds I’ve tried without difficulty, but I avoid the particularly wider-faced ball ammo, because it’s a tight fit for the offset feed ramp. Not a problem, I have a lot of different suppliers to choose from. 

What I Don’t Like

I really don’t like the ‘extended’ 6 round magazine. After the last round is fired, it is hit or miss as to whether or not the follower will come all the way up to lock open the slide. Needless to say, I don’t carry that mag—it is “range use only” until I ‘solve’ it. Besides, I don’t like the extension for concealment reasons. The extra bulk is not worth just being able to reload one round later. I had to de-burr a little bit of obvious metal off one of my 5-round Kahr mags (made in the USA!). Every other kind of malfunction has disappeared after about 200 rounds had been fired through it. This gun, unlike the Walther, had to be broken in. But it was worth it.

Miscellaneous

1. They say this is a 3.1” barrel, but by my measure it looks more like a 2.9”


2. I use an UpLula mag loader for the Kahr, because the magazine springs are stiffer than any gun I’ve ever seen. The first time I put a couple of hundred rounds downrange my fingers were sore afterwards. I’ve never had that happen before, so I got a loader for the next time. Kahr suggests inserting a small punch or screwdriver through a hole in the side of the magazine to restrain the spring during disassembly--you will still deal with flying parts if you are not diligent.    

3. Without the extended magazine, this weapon is very compact (~5” long). I can carry it comfortably in any pant pocket that I can carry my .380 TCP.

4. Charging the weapon reliably requires technique. Once I figured out you have to really slap the slide back, I've had zero miss-feeds charging the weapon. The recoil spring is incredibly stiff like the magazine springs.

5. The only thing I’ve done different for pocket carry compared to the little TCP, was I put a wrap of Kydex, shiny side out, around the Uncle Mike’s ambidextrous pocket holster to stop ‘printing’ in certain pants (jeans) when I sit down. I had planned to ‘rivet’ where the Kydex practically touches, but the shape holds the holster all on its own and only comes off if I pull it off. The other side, not shown, is of course ‘flat’ and from the outside, it looks more like my phone in a pocket than my phone does.

5. Since it’s a larger weapon than the .380, you're aware of the Kahr in your pocket longer than when you carry the .380, but not by much.

6. The gap between the magazine and the bottom of the magazine well bugs some people, It doesn't bother me a bit. The stop is positive: you know when it is seated.   

How’s it shoot?

Better than I do. I’m not one of these internet zero-MOE shooters that seem to populate every corner of the virtual world. I suppose I could be if that was all I wanted to ever do, but I don’t. I just want to shoot with less than one ‘human-minute-of-error’.

The Kahr does that for me. Doing ‘slow fire’,  even before my eye surgeries, I could cut 10-ring sized holes out of stuff at 7 yards. (You HAVE to slow-fire at 3 yards because the muzzle blast blows the hanging target horizontal every time.) After the Chief and I did some basic target practice (she had a marksmanship class last term) I wanted to do some rapid fire (defined as 'shoot as soon as my sight picture is reacquired') practice. I loaded up the 6 round magazine and shot two 3-shot groups with a correcting pause between them at a series of six targets. Here’s a pic to give you an idea of the sight picture.



This was six magazines shot from 7 yards at 6” targets in the order numbered.

I was experimenting with grip and timing. As you can tell, after I totally blew it going too fast on my 2nd target, setting loose one round (3rd of 6) waaaay down below the #3 target, I regrouped to shoot my ‘best of six’ at the #3 target, with all 6 rounds under 3” as a group.

This is a standard silhouette size target shot at 15 yards. (It's not one of the B27 targets because those are more about 5 times more expensive a pop than the 'house' targets)

I shot rapid fire 6 shots twice at the torso. The results prompted me to try and shoot the last 6 round magazine in two 3 round rapid-fire groups at the head. I made a conscious effort to “aim small to miss small” and factoring for range, my angular error in aiming was smaller at 15 yards than it was at 7 yards. The 17th of 18 rounds would have been non-lethal.

Concealable, Controllable, Reliable. I can live with that.