Friday, June 1, 2012

Experts trying to invent problems for the F-35?

The well known problems with the oxygen system in the F-22 have been in the news for some time. 

But the F-35 has had no reported oxygen system problems. That hasn’t stopped the critics of the program from trying to invent one, or at least imply that there are likely problems with the F-35’s oxygen system.

An example:

Given the recent allegations by F-22 Raptor pilots that the aircraft has potentially deadly oxygen-system problems, it’s not surprising that questions are also being raised about the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter—which has strikingly similar design elements. Lockheed Martin, which makes both aircrafts, has recently said that “the F-35 and F-22 have common aircraft oxygen system suppliers, but the systems are very different.”

But a ‘concerned’ POGO commenter asked us if there’s any chance the F-35 could have the same oxygen problems, anyways. Not content to simply parrot Lockheed’s answer, we decided to pose the question to two defense experts: Winslow Wheeler, the director of POGO's Straus Military Reform Project and Pierre Sprey, who co-designed the F-16 and A-10 jets.

The two “defense experts”?  Both outspoken critics of the F-35 program (no attempt to balance this by bringing in an opinion from an “expert” who is for the program).  And of course, the fact that there hasn’t been a single incident with the F-35’s oxygen system seems to be of absolutely of no concern to them.  Since the systems are by the same manufacturer the assumption is it must have problems even if Lockheed Martin makes the point that there have been no problems to be found in the F-35 system to date.  Obviously believing the manufacturer is “parroting” them – a nice way of saying they don’t believe a word they say.

Amusingly, the two “experts” use their opportunity to wander off into a condemnation of the toxicity of the stealth coatings and groundless assumptions about how the manufacturer and the Air Force might handle any potential oxygen system problem in the F-35.

Or said more succinctly – a whole lot of nothing.

All variations of the F-35 have flown over 40,000 feet (the F-35B at 49,000, the F-35C at 45,000).  The jet is routinely flown over 10,000, the point where oxygen is required in a non-pressurized cabin.

Not a hint of a problem.

Lockheed Martin has been pretty clear about this:

"They are different systems," Lockheed spokesman Michael Rein says. "The F-35 and F-22 have common aircraft oxygen system suppliers but the systems are very different...The two systems each utilize a similar approach and architecture, but they are packaged and implemented differently.

"The F-35 program continuously monitors issues present in other aircraft assessing applicability to our current design," Rein says. "The program has leveraged the lessons learned from F-22 development to enhance the F-35 across all subsystems, including the Onboard Oxygen Generating System."

It is one thing to confront a real problem.  It is another to try to invent one.  Given the rambling, unfocused answers the “experts” gave to the "possible oxygen system problem” in the F-35, they’re trying very hard to invent one in this case.



  1. Giving credit where credit is due... or in this case, not due.

    "Pierre Sprey, who co-designed the F-16 and A-10 jets."

    Sprey was a member of the infamous "Fighter Mafia" and worked for the pentagon, not LM or Boeing. They, the "Fighter Mafia", pushed for the concept of a LWF which grew into the F-16A.

    Btw, the concept of a LWF was a failure as they no longer are LWFs (in order to survive in the modern battlefield), but Medium weight Multi-role fighters. In fact, Sprey has said that he does not like what the F-16 has become.

    Here is a good read:

    1. From my next article:

      "YF-16 was armed with Sidewinders, two M-39 20mm cannons, range-only radar and computing gunsights for missiles and guns, weighting 9.072 kg fully armed, with wing loading of 346,6 kg per square meter, and thrust-to-weight ratio of 1,18. There was potential to reduce its weight between prototype and production stage to 8.392 kg, which would give wing loading of 321 kg per square meter and increase TWR to 1,28. It is also likely that it would cost 20-25 million USD flyaway if sold new - when adjusted to inflation, its original cost works out to 16 million USD flyaway.

      But production F-16 went in opposite direction: nose was widened to accomodate radar, which reduced maximum angle of attack to 26,6 degrees due to lateral stability issues, preventing it from achieving maximum turn performance; weight increased by 25%, maintenance man hours increased by over 25%, and cost increased by 67%."

      So no, F-16C or even A is not more capable. YF-16 with IRST, IR and AR missiles would have been superior to anything USAF currently has.