Monday, July 14, 2014

David Axe on the F-35: Still Making S**T Up…

Because He Can!

This is not the first time I’ve 'Fisked' the poster boy for Punk Journalism. I’m sure it won’t be the last. His 'piece' here reeks royally, but not to worry-- I take it all apart below for your edification and enlightenment.  Axe's labors are in pink italics, mine are in black.

We begin.....

The U.S. military has grounded all its new F-35 Joint Strike Fighters following an incident on June 23, when one of the high-tech warplanes caught fire on the runway of a Florida air base. The no-fly order — which affects at least 50 F-35s at training and test bases in Florida, Arizona, California and Maryland — began on the evening of July 3 and continued through July 11.

I know “attention span” isn’t one of Axe’s strong points, but there have been at least a hundred F-35s delivered and most news stories have mentioned 97-98 aircraft have been affected. How uninformed is Axe anyway?

All those F-35s sitting idle could be a preview of a future in which potentially thousands of the Pentagon’s warplanes can’t reliably fly.

To be fair, the Pentagon routinely grounds warplanes on a temporary basis following accidents and malfunctions to buy investigators time to identify problems and to give engineers time to fix them. But there’s real reason to worry. The June incident might reflect serious design flaws that could render the F-35 unsuitable for combat.

Yet there has been no talk of such a worry throughout the life of the safety stand-down-then-grounding. In fact, the reports have been increasingly positive that there is in fact NOT a ‘serious design flaw’ related to this incident. So no, there’s NO “real reason to worry” as long as you deal in facts and not your, or your fellow traveler’s fetid imaginations.

For starters, the Lockheed Martin-built F-35 — which can avoid sensor detection thanks to its special shape and coating — simply doesn’t work very well. The Pentagon has had to temporarily ground F-35s no fewer than 13 times since 2007, mostly due to problems with the plane’s Pratt &Whitney-made F135 engine, in particular, with the engines’ turbine blades. The stand-downs lasted at most a few weeks.


Repeat that faster and faster until you recognize the word, and then look up what it means. The F-35 is still integrating changes that have already been identified and until development is complete, further changes may come as well. Axe also doesn’t know dip-squat about Low Observability, but we won’t let that distract us.

“The repeated problems with the same part of the engine may be indications of a serious design and structural problem with the F135 engine,” said Johan Boeder, a Dutch aerospace expert and editor of the online publication JSF News.

1) Problems haven’t been found ‘with the same part of the engine’ and

2) I can’t think of any of the ‘problems’ lately that have been found to be ‘design-related’.

The last I can think of is the shaft length/spacer design for the lift fan, and that was a relatively simple fix. As an aside,  quoting an un-cleared, uninvolved, and therefore uninformed ‘engineer’ with a website is also just about the epitome of a Fallacious Appeal to Authority.

Pratt & Whitney has already totally redesigned the F135 in an attempt to end its history of frequent failures. ….

Put delicately, That’s a complete and total lie. The design remains fundamentally the same since it was first built. It is the same two-shaft engine with a three-stage fan and six-stage high pressure compressor. The hot section still has an annular combustor with a single-stage high pressure turbine unit and a two-stage low pressure turbine. The afterburner still consists of a variable converging-diverging nozzle. The design has been tweaked (details and materials) for reliability and durability…just like every other turbine engine development since the history of turbine engine development began.
Axe oversteps to feed the low information crowd on this point. The lie either reeks of desperation or supreme confidence that his mouth-breathing base won’t bother to call him out on such flat-out Bullsh*t-- because is suits them just fine either way.

But there’s only so much engineers can do. In a controversial move during the early stages of the F-35′s development, the Pentagon decided to fit the plane with one engine instead of two. Sticking with one motor can help keep down the price of a new plane. But in the F-35′s case, the decision proved self-defeating.

Assertion of belief unsupported by fact. The single engine approach was an affordability (procuring and maintaining half as many engines as a two engine plane) decision at the start.

Now Axe follows up with some  ‘narrative’:

That’s because the F-35 is complex — the result of the Air Force, Marines and Navy all adding features to the basic design…..

Sheesh. More Axe B.S.
The F-35 is as complex as it needs to be as far as the users are concerned, and he can’t name anything on any of the variants that adversely affect the other variants. The irony here is that if the F-35 was a two engine plane, it WOULD be necessarily more complex.

In airplane design, such complexity equals weight. The F-35 is extraordinarily heavy for a single-engine plane, weighing as much as 35 tons with a full load of fuel.

Complexity does not necessarily equal weight; complexity can in fact reduce weight. Proof please? And the F-35 is not 'extraordinarily heavy (see F-16 data that follows), But moving on...

In structures, a truss is more complex than a beam but can weigh much less for the same purpose. In components, a multifunction box (GPS-INS) can weigh less than having separate INS and GPS boxes (incidentally, the F-35 uses separate, less-complex GPS and INS components).

 Axe is therefore making another sweeping generalization on a topic for which he possesses no consequential knowledge, and is so typical of Punk Journalism. He uses this complexity-weight ‘Strawman’ to build his narrative further:

By comparison, the older F-15 fighter weighs 40 tons. But it has two engines. To remain reasonably fast and maneuverable, the F-35′s sole F135 engine must generate no less than 20 tons of thrust — making it history’s most powerful fighter motor.

An 'interesting' comparison, selected no doubt to feed the meme machine, and executed with complete ineptitude from an engineering perspective. (But probably counts as a profundity to the Ignorami.)

The only F-15 variant that weighs around ’40 tons’ is a max-loaded F-15 Strike Eagle, the air-to-mud optimized variant of the F-15 air-superiority fighter. The F-35 weighs ‘a lot’ for the same reason as a fully loaded F-15E would weigh ‘a lot’, and at the same point in time (takeoff or after aerial refuel): it is loaded down with fuel and weapons.

The air-superiority version of the F-15 would be much more lightly loaded, but….. so….. what?
Why not compare say, a ‘fully loaded’ F-16's weight and power to weight with an F-35? The F-16C Block 50 has a max takeoff weight of 37K lbs (18.5 tons) and an engine that ‘only’ produces 27K lbs of thrust.

Alternatively, we may want to compare same generations of technology. So why not compare the F-35 power/weight with the F-22’s? Especially since the F135 is a derivative of the F119 in the F-22?

Answer: It doesn’t support Axe’s little lamentations and story line

All that thrust results in extreme levels of stress on engine components. It’s no surprise, then, that the F-35 frequently suffers engine malfunctions...

No, not really…since the ‘frequency’ is more in Axe’s imagination than reality. Maybe he should add jet engine technology to that long list of things he knows nothing about?

…Even with that 20 tons of thrust, the new radar-dodging plane is still sluggish.
The F-35 “is a dog … overweight and underpowered,” according to Winslow Wheeler, director of the Straus Military Reform Project at the Project on Government Oversight in Washington.

Winslow Wheeler is a paid hack for Strauss (first name Phil), trust-fund baby and itinerant ‘photographer’ who by the way is an anti-defense sponsor of Wheeler’s work for ages now. First at the Center for Defense (Dis-)Information and now under the POGO umbrella. Strauss is Board Chairman of that (sarc) bastion of Pro-American thought (/sarc) 'Mother Jones'.  [But don't question their 'patriotism'!]

I think all indications are that the F-35 is anything BUT a dog. But then, I’ve done the math.

In 2008, two analysts at the RAND Corporation, a California think-tank that works closely with the military, programmed a computer simulation to test out the F-35′s fighting ability in a hypothetical air war with China…

This is an obfuscating oversimplification to say the least. RAND did not sponsor what produced the now-infamous slide-show, and RAND disavowed any so-called ‘findings’. In short it was a ‘rogue operation’ at best.

…The results were startling.

NO. The results were deterministic Garbage-In Garbage-Out.

They are now known to have been based on ‘simulations’ run on 'Harpoon 3' (yes….. the video game) using performance, tactics and strategy ‘data’ of unknown pedigree by people who had no current working knowledge of the classified and/or technical data required to realistically model the ‘problem’ in the first place.

So should we dismiss Axe for being incompetently uninformed on the topic or for lying about it? IMHO, either one is unforgivable.

  “The F-35 is double-inferior,” John Stillion and Harold Scott Perdue concluded in their written summary of the war game, later leaked to the press. The new plane “can’t turn, can’t climb, can’t run,” they warned.

John Stillion left RAND for ‘greener pastures’ shortly after this cockup, and the reader can make their own assumptions as to perhaps “why”.
Stillion was supposed to be doing a study on what he is perhaps best known for: Airbase Vulnerability. I own some of his stuff on the topic and it is generally very good. IF he was suckered into an anti-JSF operation as part of that, then that’s tragic. But if that brief was his production he is still wrong in how he thinks about modern air combat.

His experience, his air combat worldview as came out in the briefing: that very much of a SEA back-seater. Given post-SEA air combat experiences, it very much looks like the rules for success have progressed way beyond Boyd’s first-generation-think on Energy-Maneuverability, so he should have showed a little humility in recognizing the possibility he was perhaps ignorant of important facts.

Yet the F-35 is on track to become by far the military’s most numerous warplane. It was designed to replace almost all current fighters in the Air Force and Marine Corps and complement the Navy’s existing F/A-18 jets. The Pentagon plans to acquire roughly 2,400 of the radar-evading F-35s in coming decades, at a cost of more than $400 billion.

Like it or not, the stealthy F-35 is the future of U.S. air power. There are few alternatives. Lockheed Martin’s engineers have done millions of man-hours of work on the design since development began in the 1990s. Starting work on a new plane now would force the Defense Department to wait a decade or more, during which other countries might pull ahead in jet design. Russia, China and Japan are all working on new stealth fighter models.

So then, what’s the point of all Axe’s B.S.?

The Pentagon sounds guardedly optimistic about the current F-35 grounding. “Additional inspections of F-35 engines have been ordered,” Rear Admiral John Kirby, a military spokeman [sic] said, “and return to flight will be determined based on inspection results and analysis of engineering data.”

If Axe had bothered to read Reuters the day before he would have found Defense Undersecretary Frank Kendall saying :

  • …..the grounding had halted testing but he did not view the incident as a "fundamental setback" for the $400 billion program, the Pentagon's biggest, which still has about 40 percent of developmental testing to complete.
  • ….. the engine had suffered two issues involving fan blades in the past few years, but they appeared unrelated and not systemic to the airplane.
  • "None of those things that have happened, including this recent one as far as I know, suggests that we have a fundamentally flawed design," Kendall said.
  • ….detailed inspections of engines on the fleet of 97 F-35s already built had not shown signs of the kind of excessive rubbing founded on the engine that broke apart, although there were signs of milder rubbing in several other engines
  • . … the evidence being compiled did not point to a systemic issue, but the analysis was still going on. In this case, engineers found evidence of significant rubbing by the fan blades against a cowl.
  • "We’re not noticing it throughout the fleet," he said.
  •  "The design allows for a limited degree of rubbing, but it was enough in this case to cause a structural reaction that ultimately led to failure."
If Axe read more, the rest of us wouldn’t have to suffer through his Beta-boy handwringing:

Minor fixes might get America’s future warplane flying again soon — for a while. But fundamental design flaws could vex the F-35 for decades to come, forcing the Pentagon to suspend flying far too often for the majority of its fighter fleet, potentially jeopardizing U.S. national security.

….and monkeys might jump out of Axe’s nether regions.

If it is between Axe’s ‘potentials', ‘coulds’ and ‘mights’, and F-35 evidence to date, all indications are we should expect those monkeys first.

My interest now is seeing who picks up Axe's ramblings and repeats the same uninformed drivel Axe just spewed.

NOTE: Work and family demands (and an illness or two)  are the reason for my hiatus have prevented me from posting regularly these days. I still have a couple of major posts in the fire, but don't know when I can complete them. As Axe's commentary proves, it is much more easy to just make up stuff or repeat other people's made-up stuff.  The only reason I had time to do this post was that Axe's drivel spun me up and it was getting in the way of me being able to clear my head for working on real life problems.

Thursday, April 10, 2014

Back UP From Maintenance (Updated)


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-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 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.
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.
- 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’


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 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.


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]:


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…


[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]


[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.


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]…


[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...


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:; 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)

-- Mean Corrective Maintenance Time for Critical Failure (MCMTCF)
variant--threshold/observed/FY12 Report

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.)
As I noted over at, “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.]