The blog is a view of life, science, politics and education from an engineering perspective. As engineers, we are taught to view the world objectively. We can hope, believe and calculate a particular outcome, but natural laws are inflexible and pay no heed to who we are or what we believe. We must approach the objective dispassionately, while compensating for our own distorted perceptions. Balance is also a key element; balancing between the ideal and the pragmatic, balancing cost and functionality, balancing analysis with action, etc.
Scheduling routine critical self-analysis is the foundation to objectivity. If we do not fully understand and compensate for our own failures, tendencies, habits and skewed thought processes, we will not see the world as it is. Without a regular critical self-analysis we will see the world as we are and then fall prey to self-delusion.
Failure is a great teacher. When failure is coupled with perseverance, it produces the fruit of patience and humility. An engineer, fresh out of engineering school is typically set up for failure early and often. The failure breaks the new engineer of any ideas of self-importance, arrogance and book smarts. Only then can the new engineer be formed and molded into a productive element in the industry.
The news regarding the trillion dollar F-35 program is getting worse. The fleet has been grounded following the discovery of cracks during routine inspections.
The F-35 conjures up images of bloat; extremely costly, poor performance, over weight and only kept alive through pork barrel spending.
A watchdog group, the Project on Government Oversight, said the grounding is not likely to mean a significant delay in the effort to field the stealthy aircraft. “The Pentagon’s current management is hooked on the airplane and refuses to admit it is a failure,” claimed the watchdog group.
"The F-35 is a huge problem because of its growing, already unaffordable, cost and its gigantically disappointing performance," the group's Winslow Wheeler said. "That performance would be unacceptable even if the aircraft met its far-too-modest requirements, but it is not."
The turbine problem, first reported by Politico Pro, arose as the Pentagon has sought to persuade Congress to cancel the automatic cuts, which could force the military to reduce its budgets by about $500 billion over the next 10 years. The first installment of the cuts is scheduled to start on Friday, and it may force the Pentagon to delay buying three of the approximately 30 F-35 planes it had planned to order this year.
Its weight stems from the desire for this aircraft to serve in every role ever conceived by all branches of the military. About 550 lbs of extra air frame is needed to accommodate the impact of carrier landings. Extra avionics is needed for surveillance programs. The low radar signature also adds weight. The result is an aircraft with considerably lower performance levels than the F-22; the aircraft launched 10 years ago.
- F-22A carries twice as many air-to-air missiles as the F-35A
- F-22A tactically employs at nearly twice the altitude and at 50% greater airspeed than the F-35A
- Gives air-to-air missiles a 40% greater employment range and increased lethality
- Increases air-to-ground weapons employment range
- F-22A can control more than twice the battle space of the F-35A
- F-22A AESA radar has more T/R elements than F-35 radar
- F-22A in production...F-35A initial operational capability date is 2013…key in considering F-15Cs need to be replaced now
- Only the F-22 features vectored thrust, giving it twice the maneuverability of an F-35
- The F-22 can turn at twice the rate of an F-35
- The F-22 is more expensive than the original projection of the F-35 but the gap is narrowing.
The F-35 did not hit the desired performance targets. Instead of revising the aircraft, the targets were reduced.
The F-35 is only capable of a turn performance of 4.6g down from 5g, which was downgraded from the plan of a 6g plane (which is less than an F-4, Mirage IIIE, or a Mig-17).
It is also slower in acceleration tests from mach 0.8 to 1.2 than planned (it is now 43 secs, which slower than an F-4, Mirage IIIE or Mig-17)
It also has a much lower top speed than the Mirage IIIE, a plane that was retired from the RAAF in 1988, and it is also slower than the Navy’s current main aircraft the F/A-18.
An Australian pilot commented on the F-35 after a test flight, “Compared to our first supersonic fighter (the Mirage), the F-35 has less range, it is slower, it is less agile at most heights, all of which mean it has less survivability. Due to the low weapons volume it can take, the chances of it surviving a visual fight with the 4th gen fighters is pretty poor, and stealth will not save it. Currently JORN (our over the horizon radar system) can spot one of these pretty easy. JORN has a little trouble tracking it, but more than enough to narrow down an area and get fighter in visual range, pretty sure other countries will be able to do the same. More to the point; it would mean the tankers (needed to support the F-35) would also be exposed or require more assets to protect it.”
The response from Lockheed Martin is that the F-35 not an air superiority fighter, such as the F22, but rather it is a multirole aircraft. The evaluation criteria as a pure fighter (maneuverability, acceleration, top speed) are not based on the original scope of the F-35.
The F-35 is also designed to have a low radar signature. Its shape has no right angles, which reflect radar waves, and a special “fiber” coating make it difficult to detect on any enemy radar. Low heat emissions and an ability to carry armaments in an internal weapons bay instead of mounted on wings and underneath the fuselage further enhances its stealth capabilities.
A spokesman for Lockheed Martin said: "“The F-35 is a stealth aircraft and by definition it is less vulnerable than any fourth generation fighter flying today. We don’t consider this a major issue. We have demonstrated very good vulnerability performance and we continue to work this with the Joint Program Office.”
New technology doesn’t come easily or cheaply. In many occasions we will need to limp along with the new technology before running. However, at some point the determination needs to be made on whether or not the technology is mature enough to use on a mass production basis. In the case of the F-35, the technology issues are exacerbated by poor tactical decisions and implementation.