Thursday, June 27, 2013

F-35: Quote of the day from Italian Defense Minister

Italy, as you know, like much of the world's countries, is going through some rough economic times.  So there is a lot of debate about their budget.  Italy's defense minister, Mario Mauro, said recently, that Italy has no plans on cancelling it's purchase of 90 F-35s.  His reasoning is both logical and compelling and brings us to the quote of the day:
"They are 90 combat jets that will replace 256 obsolete aircraft that will be retired, and our newest fighter is now 30 years old," Mauro said in an interview with state television RAI.
While it is the Italian Defense Minister saying it, the fact is pretty true about most of the airforces of our allies.  It's another reason that the JSF is so important to the US and allied nations, given what is being developed in China and Russia, both in 5th generation aircraft and air defense systems.  Without it, many airforces are reduced to 2nd rate self-defense forces which wouldn't last long against a concerted attack by a more sophisticated enemy.


Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Sen. Durbin endorses F-35

Loren Thompson points to a recent Congressional hearing about the F-35 that must have driven the critics of the program to drink:
In one of the most positive congressional hearings the F-35 fighter program has seen since it was awarded to an industry team led by Lockheed Martin in 2001, Senate defense appropriations subcommittee chairman Richard Durbin (D-IL) yesterday endorsed the military need for the plane and signaled satisfaction with the program's progress. Durbin's verdict is significant because he only recently took over the chairmanship of the subcommittee and was viewed as having an open mind on the F-35's future. After hearing from the most senior officials responsible for the program in the hearing, though, Durbin seemed to be persuaded that past problems with the Pentagon's biggest weapons program have either been resolved or soon will be. 
Look, it's not all sunshine and roses for the F-35 from here on out, there's still a long way to go, but it appears that all of what the services want in their future fighter is what the F-35 will deliver. It also appears that the program is under control and doing much, much better. And that seems to have sent some of the critics over the edge, leaving them few alternatives but to turn to neighborhood rabble-rousing as has Winslow Wheeler (as reported in POLITICO's Morning Defense):
Some residents from South Burlington, Vt., are banding together to fight the possibility of the F-35 Lighting II being based in their backyard. Despite support from Vermont Sens. Patrick Leahy and Bernie Sanders for the plan to replace an F-16 plant with the fifth-generation Joint Strike Fighters, the South Burlingtonians complain the aircraft will be too loud.

Tomorrow, the group will simulate how much noise the F-35s could make at the South Burlington airport, according to an event invitation circulated by email today by Winslow Wheeler, director of the Straus Military Reform Project at the Project on Government Oversight in Washington.

“We don't want to do this, and we apologize upfront to all Vermonters,” the email says. “We don't want to expose anyone to the staggering noise generated by an F-35 warplane. We don't believe in it.

Unfortunately, we are forced into doing this demonstration so that you can hear for yourself with 2,200 pounds of extremely sophisticated audio equipment the actual colossal noise generated by an F-35 and so minimized by all our Vermont political, business and military leaders.”

The group says it wants “elected political leaders to hold a public hearing, to meet with affected citizens and to discuss the threat posed by the F-35 basing in Vermont to children, homeowners, renters, immigrant communities and entire towns,” according to the email. 
Reduced to a NIMBY activist.

Thompson sums up reality however:
Senator Durbin indicated at several points during the hearing that he understands how crucial air dominance is to every other facet of modern warfare. He wants U.S. warfighters to have the best technology available, but he also wants to make sure money isn't wasted acquiring it. So while Durbin has now added his voice to the positive assessments of F-35 being rendered by everyone from the Government Accountability Office to Senator McCain, no one should assume that the challenges F-35 faces are over. Integration of on-board software still must be completed, production costs must be reduced, and sustainment practices must be clarified. The good news coming out of yesterday's hearing, though, is that more and more bright, open-minded people like Senator Durbin think the F-35 effort is on a path to doing those things successfully. 

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Navy gets first F-35C

And they're understandably, very excited about it:
The U.S. Navy’s Strike Fighter Squadron (VFA) 101 received the Navy’s first F-35C Lightning II carrier variant aircraft from Lockheed Martin on Saturday at the squadron’s home at Eglin Air Force Base, Fla.

The F-35C is a fifth generation fighter, combining advanced stealth with fighter speed and agility, fully fused sensor information, network-enabled operations and advanced sustainment.
Here's the delivery:


Monday, June 24, 2013

Why the F-15SE is not a "stealth" alternative to the F-35

Over at the American Innovation blog, "Mangler Muldoon" does a terrific and well sourced job of explaining why the F-15SE that many critics of the F-35 claim can be "stealthed up" to match the F-35, will never achieve that claim.  While certainly a 4th generation plus aircraft, it does not come near matching the low observability of either the F-22 or F-35:

All aspect stealth aircraft, such as the F-35 and F-22, utilize a combination of shaping techniques (planform alignment) and radar absorbent material (RAM) coatings to reduce their radar cross section. Platform alignment is a technique for reducing an aircraft’s radar cross section by orienting all the flight surfaces of the aircraft at the same angles.

Although RAM coatings are important, shaping techniques have a larger impact on reducing an airframe's overall rcs. Unlike the F-22 and F-35, the F-15SE did not benefit from meticulous platform alignment shaping from the onset and relies primarily upon RAM coatings to reduce its radar signature.

He also notes something I've been saying for quite some time - stealth, or low observability, has to be engineered in from the beginning:

Stealth is a trait that is designed into the aircraft from its inception and cannot simply be added in latter on a defense contractor’s whim. Prior to the silent eagle, no 4th generation aircraft had ever qualified for the low observable frontal radar cross section designation. The F-15SE design features 15 degree oriented canted tails which produce lower radar returns when compared to the F-15E’s original vertical tails. All stealth aircraft have internal weapon bays; storage of weapons on conventional outer wing pylons would compromise the airframe’s stealth qualities. Boeing’s engineers ingeniously modified the existing conformal fuel tanks to carry weapons. Depending upon the desired ordinance, the fuel tanks are partially drained to allow for weapons storage. The lack of externally stored weapons also reduces drag increasing the already impressive aerodynamic performance of the strike eagle.


Radar signature:

The combination of RAM, weapon bays, and canted tails grants the F-15SE a reduced frontal radar cross section; the side and rear aspects remain unstealthy and produce significant radar returns given the lack of shaping techniques. The exact size of the F-15SE’s rcs has not been released to the general public. It is plausible to assume the F-15SE qualifies for at least the low observable (0.1-.01m^2) designation which is necessary to qualify F-15SE as a stealth aircraft. Boeing initially claimed the silent eagle was as stealthy as the Lockheed Martin F-35 but Boeing has subsequently recanted its view. To provide some perspective, the F-35 is cited to have a frontal radar cross section of .0015m^2 (Global Security, 2011) and the standard eagle has a frontal rcs of 5.0m^2. My assessment is that the silent eagle has a radar signature larger than that of the original F-117A Nighthawk (.025m^2) but not larger than the upper bound .1m^2 figure for low observable aircraft. Thus, I would estimate a figure between .025m^2 and 0.1m^2. For the sake of simplicity, for the rest of the series the figure .05m^2 for the front aspect will be used but please note this is merely my own estimation and .05m^2 is not an official figure from Boeing. The use of .05m^2 is merely intended to provide perspective relative to other stealth aircraft and some basis for analyzing the potential air defense penetration capabilities of the F-15SE.

The reasoning is as follow:

The F-15SE does not feature S-shaped air inlets, divertless supersonic inlets (DSI), or radar grill/mesh panels (e.g. F-117 and RQ-170) to shield its engine fan blades from possible radar returns.

All previous conventional stealth aircraft put into service such as the F-22A, F-35, B-2, F-117A, and RQ-170 shield the face of the engine from radar returns.

Lack of planform alignment in the design, shaping contributes more towards stealth than RAM.

The F-117A Nighthawk is likely stealthier than the F-15SE as it was designed from the onset to be a stealth airframe but the primitive shaping techniques and RAM resulted in a comparatively larger rcs when compared to more advanced low observable airframes such as the F-22A. Of the rcs signatures of known stealth aircraft, the closest “fit” in terms of approximate rcs size to the F-15SE is likely the F-117A.

IR Signature

In the F-15SE’s IR signature has not been significantly altered from the base strike eagle. Stealth aircraft typically incorporate design features to minimize the aircraft's IR signature. The F-22A utilizes specially shaped engine nozzles to reduce its IR signature while the F-35 utilizes a combination of ceramic material coatings on the engine nozzle and heat sinks to reduce its IR signature. The shape of the engine nozzles on the F-15SE remains unchanged and no heat sinks have been added. It can be argued that an aircraft’s IR signature is less important than its radar cross section as even the most capable infrared search and track (IRST) systems have a relatively short range when compared to high power fighter radars. For example, the PIRATE IRST system equipped in the Eurofighter Typhoon can detect a fighter aircraft at 27 nautical miles compared to the AN/APG-77 actively scanned electronic array radar on the F-22 which can detect fighter sized targets from over 120 + nautical miles away. This is not to say IR signature reduce has no benefits; a reduced IR signature would reduce the effective range of an IRST and the range of enemy IR guided missiles.

Electronic Signature

An often overlooked aspect of stealth is an aircraft's electronic signature. Several types of electronic emissions originating from either the aircraft's communication system or its radar can potentially betray its location to the enemy. Unfortunately the topic of electronic emissions is exceedingly dull (it will put most people to sleep), very complicated, and a lot of information is classified so to simplify things two types of systems will be examined: emission locator systems and radar warning receivers (RWR). Both types of systems are passive detection methods that could potentially locate an aircraft. Emission locator systems can, under the right circumstances, identify the origin of enemy communication signals while RWR can detect the emission source for radars.

In terms of electronic emissions, the F-15SE does not incorporate a specialized minimally detectable communication system. The F-15SE uses the standard link-16 system in addition to the standard AN/ARC-164 HAVE QUICK II radio system. These systems are generally regarded to provide secure jam resistant communication but their emissions are detectable by emitter locator systems such as the KRTP-86 Tamara.

"[Emission locator systems] were developed during the last two decades of the Cold War to bolster Warsaw Pact air defence capabilities in the high density European Theatre, where it was expected that the US would heavily jam all surveillance, acquisition and engagement radars used in the Integrated Air Defence System (IADS). The intent behind these passive sensors was to provide a capability to passively detect, locate and track US and NATO aircraft using their RF emissions, to cue other IADS elements to an engagement." - Kopp, 2008

Go read the rest of his assessment.  Like I said, very well done and some good information that counters a lot of the critic's claims.  Low observability, or stealth, can be improved on 4th generation aircraft, but unless it is designed into the airframe from the beginning, it will always be inferior to those airframes in which the design has been incorporated. 


Thursday, June 20, 2013

F-35: Israel will be first one of the first countries to get F-35

And it looks like it will be at the end of 2016:
Israel remains on track to become one of the first countries to receive the new highly advanced stealth F-35 fighter jets manufactured by Lockheed Martin, a vice president from the American defense company has confirmed.

At the recent Paris Air Show, Steve O’Bryan of Lockheed Martin said the state-of-the-art fighter jets would be delivered to Israel by the end of 2016, Israel Hayom reported.
The date makes more sense now with the US services having set their IOC dates around that time as well.


Wednesday, June 19, 2013

F-35: F-18 buy corporate welfare?

That's what "Uncle Jimbo" over at the Blackfive blog thinks may be going on after taking a look at the Defense budget:
The Chairman’s mark of the Defense Authorization Act is out and there are many good things in there. Rep. Buck McKeon is a solid advocate for a strong defense and this is his chance to comment on priorities and goals for defense funding. Most of the relatively short document relates to policy and has some requirements for explanations of debacles like Benghazi. But there are also some funding items that don’t make much sense.

One of these is a requirement to buy F-18 aircraft, which is a bit of a head scratcher. We cancelled the F-22 program before we bought anywhere near as many true air superiority fighters as we should have. We have cut back severely the number of F-35s that we plan to buy, but somehow we can find the money to buy a completely different and significantly less capable bird. That smells distressingly like some corporate welfare for Boeing, who makes the F-18. 
Supporters of the buy will tell you it's necessary to "fill the gap" between now and the deployment of the F-35.   Is that really the reason, or is it a bit like the legacy of continuing to build C-17s and making the Air Force buy them years after the Air Force said it didn't need or want anymore C-17s?


Tuesday, June 18, 2013

F-35: More commentary on the F-35's progress

Dr. Loren Thompson of the Lexington Institute follows up the good words about the F-35 program by Under Secretary of Defense Frank Kendall that I posted yesterday with a summary that makes it clear why the F-35 is so necessary, especially given the reality and probability of what we'll face, as a nation in the future.
That's a good thing as U.S. policymakers contemplate what to do next about Syria, North Korea and Iran, because the days of fighting enemies who lack air forces or air defenses are just about over. Tomorrow's adversaries will be equipped with sophisticated surface-to-air missiles and radars that can track pretty much anything that wasn't designed to be stealthy. The F-35 was conceived to combine integrated stealth features with sensor fusion and off-board datalinks that afford comprehensive situational awareness. What that means in practical terms is that we can see the enemy but he can't see us -- a huge advantage in any warfighting situation. So Secretary Kendall's positive take on F-35 is a sign that U.S. warfighters will own the skies through mid-century.
We're apparently going to intervene at some level in Syria.  And Iran and North Korea aren't going away anytime soon.  Anyone who truly believes that our future includes only countries like Afghanistan and enemies like the Taliban,  needs to retrace their logic and examine their premise.  There is nothing to indicate we'll see only those sorts of enemies and a lot to argue for much more sophisticated enemies and their advanced integrated air defense systems being what our pilots will face.

The F-35 provides the capabilities to face and Afghanistan/Taliban type scenario.  But unlike our aging fleet of 4th generation fighters, it also will give us the capabilities necessary to meet and defeat the more sophisticated brand of enemy of the future.


Monday, June 17, 2013

Kendall: F-35 no longer a "problem program"

This will likely ruin the day of many of the program's critics, but it seems DoD is of the opinion that the F-35 program is both viable, desirable and making good progress. That's certainly the impression Undersecretary of Defense for Acquisition left in a talk with F-35 stakeholders:

“Unless there’s a major surprise, I think we will be able to increase production,” said Frank Kendall, the undersecretary of Defense for acquisition, technology and logistics. In a wide-ranging conference call with reporters, Kendall lauded what he described as a major turnaround for the program over the past year, saying the F-35 Lightning II is no longer one of his “problem programs.”

He also said negotiations for a sixth batch of the fifth-generation fighters are going “more smoothly” than past negotiations, and the government intends to drive a hard bargain with contractors Lockheed Martin and Pratt & Whitney.
Even LTG Christopher Bogdan was positive:
Also on the call was Lt. Gen. Christopher Bogdan, head of the military’s F-35 Joint Program Office who made headlines in February when he accused Lockheed and Pratt of “trying to squeeze every nickel out of that last F-35 and that last engine.” And he was unapologetic on Thursday, saying his past comments “were heard by our industry partners.”

The general praised Lockheed and Pratt for leadership shakeups that he said have led to better communication between the Pentagon and the two companies. In March, Larry Lawson, former head of Lockheed’s aeronautics business, stepped down — a move industry consultant Loren Thompson said might have been the result of “tense relations with the government customer.” 
How important is this program?  Critical.  And it appears the Pentagon has made the decision to go all in on the fighter:
Kendall also suggested the F-35 would emerge as a winner if the Defense Department were forced to absorb large spending cuts in the coming years as a result of sequestration, saying the “department will probably have some additional flexibility in how it moves resources around” and that “the F-35 is our highest priority conventional warfare weapon system.” 


Thursday, June 13, 2013

F-35: The effect of sequestration on the program

In a little noted article, Bloomberg points out the effect sequestration is having on the F-35 program (and others):
The Air Force’s $2.5 billion to buy 19 F-35 jets made by Lockheed reflects a sequestration cut of $503 million, according to the report. The Navy’s final $808 million to buy four carrier-model F-35s incorporates a $157 million cut, and its $1 billion for six Marine Corps short-takeoff-and vertical landing fighters reflects a $146 million reduction.

While the report doesn’t spell out the number of weapons cut in each program, defense companies will be able to use the report to determine “what funding is available for that particular program for the fiscal year,” John Roth, the Pentagon’s deputy comptroller for programs and budgets, said in an interview.
One of the major concerns among critics of the program have been the costs of the aircraft.  As we've pointed out here, as long as we see the aircraft bought in small batches, like the LRIPs, economies of scale aren't likely to be realized.   And, if you cut the small batches even smaller, one certainly won't see lower prices.  It is simple economics as USMC BGen (Ret.) Cheney explains:
Buying fewer F-35s is a tempting solution to the affordability issue. But reducing the buy creates problems too. Buying fewer aircraft means each one costs more. And the more each plane costs, the more risky it becomes to use them.

The B-2 bomber, developed and produced in the 1980s, is the textbook case of poor management. Attempting to cut costs, planners reduced the buy from 132 to 21, driving up the unit price to $2 billion per copy. The result was a bomber that the military was reluctant to use. “If it does badly, and it crashes, you’d have a $2 billion smoking hole in the desert, which could be a bit embarrassing,” one Air Force official explained. 
Or said another way, we've seen and done this before (let's include the F-22).  Let's not make the same mistake a 3rd time with a fighter absolutely critical to the future of our national defense.


Wednesday, June 12, 2013

F-35: Retrofit cost projections drop by almost half a billion dollars

Something the critics were sure would break the bank as the program used concurrency to both develop and field the F-35 seems to be turning out less expensive than expected:
The Pentagon now expects to pay $480 million less than it had figured on only eight months ago for retrofits to the first 90 F-35 fighters, based on revised cost projections of changes predicted to emerge through the end of development in 2017.

The updated cost figures were sent to Congress last month in its second review of so-called concurrency costs for the Lockheed Martin F-35 program. Because the program was crafted in 2001 to conduct production in parallel with testing activities, officials are tracking the concurrency costs, i.e., the price of retrofits that must be made to bring early production jets to an operational standard based on findings in ongoing testing. One example is a fix to the fuselage station 496 bulkhead, which was found to experience unexpected cracking.

As of last year, Pentagon officials estimated the total concurrency cost for the first 90 aircraft, including all on contract in low-rate, initial production (LRIP) lots 1-5, at $1.71 billion. However, since the first report was issued to Congress on these costs last September, the F-35 Joint Program Office, in concert with experts from Lockheed Martin, have reviewed more closely the “actuals,” or costs already known from work on earlier LRIPs, as well as refined how models of retrofits from past fighter programs (the F-22 and F/A-18E/F, for example) are applied to the F-35 moving forward, according to an official from the F-35 Joint Program Office (JPO). 
Note that last sentence.  If you read the critics you'd think the F-35 was the only program ever that has required retrofits. In fact, retrofits are quite common in all fighter programs.

Additionally, not all the retrofits identified may be necessary:
The retrofit estimates include non-recurring engineering for the fixes. Though foreign F-35 buyers will not have to pay for these non-recurring costs (those are included in the U.S.-specific development contract), they will have to pick up the tab for the actual retrofits if they decide to install them on their aircraft, according to the JPO official. Additionally, the U.S. services have the discretion of which retrofits to install. The program office is categorizing them by those that are essential to operate the aircraft (such as safety or durability issues) versus those that are “nice to have,” the JPO official says. 
Each service will have the discretion to decide on which of the retrofits are essential and which aren't.


Monday, June 10, 2013

Video: First F-35 live missile launch

And, here's the video:


F-35: First in-flight missile launch of an AIM-120 C5 AAVI

Another successful milestone for the F-35 project:

An F-35A conventional takeoff and landing (CTOL) aircraft completed the first in-flight missile launch of an AIM-120 C5 AAVI (AMRAAM Air Vehicle Instrumented).
The flight was conducted by U.S. Air Force Lt. Col. George "Boxer" Schwartz. The aircraft, known as AF-1, launched the missile over the Point Mugu Sea Test Range from the internal weapons bay.
This is the first launch where the F-35 and AIM-120 demonstrated a successful launch-to-eject communications sequence and fired the rocket motor after launch - paving the way for targeted launches later this year in support of Block 2B fleet release capability.


Thursday, June 6, 2013

F-35: Amendment to limit funding for F-35 fails in committee

Politico's Morning Defense is reporting today:

An amendment offered by Rep. Tammy Duckworth that would have limited funding for the F-35 Lightning II failed. Duckworth said she supported the continued development of the F-35 but wanted to "fence the funding" until the Pentagon reports to Congress on the testing of some technical components that have a troubled past.

 In my opinion this is a good thing.  Holding up the whole program while someone in Congress  decides whether or not they are satisfied with the progress being made on some of the components is foolish.  Certainly progress should be both stressed and demanded.   But this isn't the way to go about it.  We need this aircraft in the field as quickly as it is safe and capable.  Holding up it's progress because night vision acuity isn't quite where we want it yet isn't how one does that.


Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Does Syria make the case for why we need the F-35?

That's the argument Loren Thompson makes in Forbes.  Thompson, of the Lexington Institute, points out that Syria is likely more typical of those sorts of military situations we'll face in the future than is Afghanistan or Iraq.  Syria's airforce isn't so much of a concern as is it's soon to be top of the (export) line integrated air defense system based on the Russian S-300 air defense system.  This is a system Russian does indeed export to various states like Syria and they are a cause for concern when talking about penetrating them and taking them out.  Why? There are multiple reasons:
It would also be hard to use unmanned aircraft or cruise missiles to take out the system, because it has been designed to track and target them even if they are flying close to the ground. Because the S-300 is highly mobile and only takes five minutes to set up, it would probably have to be taken out by manned aircraft receiving continuous target updates while conducting search-and-destroy missions. But such planes would have to be highly survivable, because the S-300 can track up to 100 targets at the same time from a hundred miles away, simultaneously targeting a dozen.
However, in order to impose air superiority, air dominance or even a no-fly zone, those type systems need to be neutralized.  Thompson goes on to explain that existing airframes within the 4th generation of fighters simply are no longer up to the job - at least not without prohibitive loss.
Which brings me to the subject of fifth-generation fighters. Over the years, U.S. fighters have gradually evolved to assimilate new technologies like smart bombs and digital flight controls that would keep them useful and survivable in a world of diverse threats. The latest, fifth generation is defined by advanced stealth features that make the aircraft very hard to detect; high maneuverability enabled by new propulsion technology and materials; fusion of on-board sensor collections; and high-capacity datalinks facilitating comprehensive situational awareness.

What these features mean when flying into hostile airspace is that friendly pilots can see the enemy, but the enemy can’t see them. The radar returns and other “signatures” such as heat and radio signals emitted by fifth-generation fighters are so faint that they typically can target defenders before their presence has even been detected. When you combine advanced stealth with the accuracy provided by precision-guided munitions and awareness afforded by fused sensors and secure datalinks, you have a prescription for suppressing enemy air defenses within days.
The key, of course, is who is able to detect who first.  The chances of that with 4th generation aircraft, who are anything but stealthy (regardless of how many "stealthy" components have been added) compared to the F-35.  As Thompson points out and many critics seem unable to comprehend, stealth - or low observability - has to be designed in from the beginning.  There's really no such thing is "add on" stealth.  It has to be an integral part of the initial aircraft design.  Otherwise you're fooling yourself if you think any 4th generation fighter has the low observable capabilities of the F-35 or can be "upgraded" to that point.

Then you add all of the other advanced capabilities on top of that and it should become clear as to which fighter has the best chance of successfully executing a SEAD mission in the near future and surviving it.  It certainly won't be found in the 4th generation of jets.


Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Critic unhappy with good news for the F-35 program

As is always the case, every program the DoD embarks upon gathers it's usual quota of critics.   With some programs, the critics have a case.  Certainly the F-35 has had it's moments worth criticism.  But it has also been a program that has made critical changes on the fly and has begun to fulfill its promise of a "game changer".

That, of course, is anathema for critics who are always ready to assure us that they know exactly why any program should be scrapped or is a failure.  In the case of one critic, Winslow Wheeler, who has never set foot in a jet fighter and has made his reputation by being a congressional aide who analyzed costs, he would have you believe that a) he knows what everything is really worth and b) nothing is worth what we plan spending on it.

Wheeler has, in the past, called the F-35 a "flying piano".  He runs with a group who have in the past told us we would suffer on the battlefield from the failures of certain weapons programs such as the M-1 Abrams tank and the AH-64 Apache.

But given Wheeler's past attacks on the F-35, where he has been more than happy to tell us why it won't work, I got a chuckle out of his latest and greatest screed when I read this:
The more-rigorous battlefield testing (the very first and partial phases of operational test and evaluation) will not start until 2016; when the results of those tests are available in 2019, we will be able to move beyond assurances and use actual data to assess just how well the F-35 actually performs. 
Of course the lack of data has never stopped Wheeler from pontificating about how bad a program this is and "assuring" us it is a waste of money.  And he's now back on his heels as the program goes from success to success.  High angle of attack testing went off without a hitch.  IOC dates have been set.   And the leadership is finally realizing what the F-35 brings to the game and they're getting behind it, much to Wheeler's chagrin.

He promises to "enlighten" us today on why all this feeling good about the program is misplaced and, of course, we ought to share his doom and gloom assessments - assessments that to this point have been off target - and he'll tell us again that if we'll only listen to him, we'll save ourselves time and money by sticking with cheap 4th generation fighters while our potential adversaries continue to develop their 5th generation fighters.


Sunday, June 2, 2013

F-35: IOC dates set

Reuters is reporting that the Initial Operational Capability (IOC) dates have been set for the F-35 for all services:
Congress was told the following, according to the Pentagon:

 - The Marine Corps F-35B will reach the IOC milestone by December 2015.
 - The Air Force's F-35A will reach the IOC milestone by December 2016.
 - The Navy's F-35C, attached to carrier air wings, will reach the IOC milestone by February 2019.
In case you're wondering, IOC is usually defined as "the point when the services have enough planes on hand to go to war if needed", and they're capable of combat.  As the Reuters article mentions, "
"[a]ctual deployments usually lag initial operational capability (IOC) dates by about a year."

That last quote is in case you hear the usual suspects trying to make the lag into something more than it is (i.e. the history of how these things have always occurred).

This is big news and good news.  It also strongly alludes to software progress in the final blocks - the warfighter blocks.