Defense Issues

Military and general security

“Why we must continue to fund the F-35” rebuttal

Posted by Picard578 on February 9, 2013

Corporatistic American Enterprise Institute has published an article titled “Why we must continue to fund F-35“.


Despite their claims, F-35 fighter does not provide for either size or quality of the fleet. At 197 million USD unit flyaway cost for A, 237,7 million USD for B, and 236,8 million USD for C variant, F-35 is second most expensive fighter on the market, just behind the F-22. Its operating costs can be expected to be similarly oversized; while stealth coating itself may be more durable than F-22s, F-35 carries far more complex electronics. This problem is made even worse by its likely large maintenance downtime: assuming maintenance downtime of 80% of F-22s, 100 aircraft-strong F-35A force will be able to fly 454 sorties per week, costing 22,2 million USD total. But for same cost, one could have 656 Gripen C’s, which would provide for 10 018 sorties per week, costing 47,1 million USD – and for 22,2 million USD, one could have 4 723 Gripen C sorties.

Qualitatively, F-35 has lowered RCS, on which it relies to remain undetected. But that is its only advantage over competitors such as Gripen, Typhoon, Rafale or PAK FA. In a future battlefield based around passive sensors, F-35 will be at disadvantage – if it uses radar, it will be detected; and as far as visual and heat signatures are concerned, it is far easier to detect than most of its competitors. Technology it carries cannot compensate for these shortcomings.

While each F-35 variant is suited for different needs, stealth requirements as well as very different basic specifications (for example, one F-35 variant had to be capable of STOVL operations) have left its basic design very compromised in aerodynamic department. And despite AEI correctly stating that noone needs to drive a semitruck, F-35 is nothing more than a destined-to-fail attempt to promote semitruck as a Formula 1 racing car. In fact, answer to second point is in itself greatest argument against F-35, as it shows exactly why making three different aircraft would have been better choice.

Most of other characteristics advertised as F-35s advantages – networking, intelligence, surveillance and reconaissance – are not unique to F-35. All Eurocanards have very good networking capabilities, and are capable of undertaking intelligence, surveillance and reconaissance missions.

Finally, it must be realized that air-to-air combat between capable opponents was always, always, visual-range combat. With increased use of jammers, countermeasures and passive sensors, this is unlikely to change. This means that maneuverability remains important, and that smaller fighters will be in more advantageous position, assuming that wing loading and thrust-to-weight differences are not too large.


30 Responses to ““Why we must continue to fund the F-35” rebuttal”

  1. Nuno Gomes said
    From wikipedia the Rafale might cost as high as 124 million $…what are you talking about?
    Also you should notice that the Rafale is very unreliable and as a bigger attrition rate than American designs:from wikipedia-On 6 December 2007, a French Air Force twin-seat Rafale crashed during a training flight. The pilot, who suffered black out, was killed in the accident.[156]
    On 24 September 2009, after unarmed test flights, two French Navy Rafales returning to the Charles de Gaulle, collided in mid-air about 30 kilometers (19 mi) from the town of Perpignan in southwest France. One test pilot, identified as François Duflot, was killed in the accident, while the other was rescued.[157]
    On 28 November 2010, a Rafale from the carrier Charles de Gaulle crashed in the Arabian Sea. This aircraft was supporting Allied operations in Afghanistan. The pilot ejected safely and was recovered by a SAR helicopter from the carrier. Later reports said the engine stopped after being starved of fuel due to confusion by the pilot in switching fuel tanks.[158]
    On 2 July 2012, during a joint exercise, a Rafale from the carrier Charles de Gaulle crashed in the Mediterranean Sea. The pilot ejected safely and was recovered by an American search and rescue helicopter from the carrier USS Dwight D. Eisenhower (CVN-69).[159] More accidents at 101 airframes than the Super Hornet at 500…

    • picard578 said

      Flyaway cost for Rafale M – the most expensive variant – is commonly reported as 90,5 million USD. And please don’t bring me up “projected” F-35 costs: all of them are based on assumption of learning curve making full-production aircraft far cheaper than ones currently in production, an assumption rarely – if ever – proven correct when it comes to complex weapon systems.

      As for attrition rate… no modern fighter can beat F-22.

      • Nuno Gomes said

        The Rafale can:5 losses for 101 airframes.F-22 6 losses for 195 airframes(this includes a prototype).And its 90 million euros not USD…
        The 124 million $ that WIKIPEDIA talks about dont include AESA radar or targeting pods…And acording to India the Rafale is cheaper than the Eurofighter…at 125 million euros a unit if we use the same math that you use for the JSF…without targeting pods and with still reduced multirole capability…

      • picard578 said

        Rafale on average flies more often than F-22. And 124 million USD for Rafale is , whereas 197 million USD for F-35 is unit flyaway.
        5 losses in 6 years for F-22, and 5 losses in 5 years for Rafale don’t tell the whole story: 2 Rafale losses were in colision, and 1 due to the pilot confusion, so only 2 Rafale losses may have been caused by the aircraft itself, similar to F-22. But Rafale is in operational service since 2001, and F-22 since 2005. Unlike F-22, Rafale has also flown combat ops repeatedly.

      • picard578 said

        Typhoon’s flyaway cost is between 100 and 122 million USD, not Euros. Rafale’s is 70 – 90 million USD.

  2. Nuno Gomes said

    I also dont understand your hate for BVR combat…with today tech it will be more and more vulgar…You should read the Boresight blog,you should know that some sources claim that iranian F-14s managed + or – 180 air wins ,40 of those witht the AIM-54 Phoenix missile…
    I know that its hard to know for sure ,but one thing we do know:when the RWR in iraqui fighters alerted then to the presence of the AWG-9 they run like the devil runs from the cross…the Tomcat/Phoenix combo really scared then…

    • picard578 said

      Iraq-Iran war was basically two underequipped incompetents (with Iraqi being more incompetent side) slugging at each other, and most kills with “BVR” missiles were themselves made in visual range, so your data doesn’t show anything.

  3. Nuno Gomes said

    From the Boresight blog:With the fall of the Shah the United States Navy instructed its Naval Test Research Center at Point Mugu, California to develop ECM (electronic counter measures) aimed at defeating the AIM-54As sold to Iran. The USN also pushed hard for an upgraded AIM-54B and it was rushed into USN service to subsequently suffer from poor build quality. Reports of departing U.S. technicians sabotaging the bulk of the Iranian F-14 fleet and her AIM-54s – is not accurate – and only a few Phoenix rounds were degraded – and all were eventually repaired.

    The first (the first) AIM-54 kill under actual combat conditions (in the world) occurred on 13-Sept 1980 against an Iraqi MiG-23MS – this after the IRIAF High Command authorized commanders of the 81st TFS at FTB 8 to use the Tomcat and AIM-54 Phoenix in combat to demonstrate the effectiveness of the aircraft to the clerical leadership in Tehran – who at the time was considering selling the entire Tomcat fleet (back to the Americans). The Iraqi fighter crashed a few kilometers inside the Iranian border.

    Best available research using non-American sources (as American and Israeli Air Force sources can be unreliable), have concluded that over 130 Iraqi aircraft were downed (with an additional 23 probable) by Iranian F-14 Tomcats during the Iran-Iraq war; with over forty (40) of these using the AIM-54 Phoenix missile.

    • picard578 said

      It doesn’t adress any of my points. It doesn’t show how good pilots were, how good sensors were, how good ECM was, nor how many shots were made from beyond visual range as opposed to usual practice of using BVR missiles in visual range but before the merge and saving visual-range missiles for the merge.

  4. Nuno Gomes said

    So in your opinion the USN was afraid of a missile that didnt work?
    And while the US armed forces are allways wrong in your opinion ,why do the europeans,the russians ,the chinese and the israelis invest in BVR tech?Is every engineer,scientist,pilot and lider in these countries wrong?Thats millions of people illuded…

    • picard578 said

      You fail to consider that, in making military procurement decisions, actual military concerns play the smallest part. And people do have herd mentality, there are many examples of many people following leader into the chasm.

  5. Nuno Gomes said

    From the Boresight blog:«On 15-May 1981, during the Iran-Iraq war, an Iranian F-14A-GR Tomcat fired an AIM-54 at a MiG-25RB Foxbat – at long range, roughly head-on. The MiG did not react (know) it was under attack until the Tomcats AWG-9 transmitted its ‘mid-course update data-burst’ to its AIM-54 (while the Phoenix was still in mid-flight before the AIM-54s own terminal homing radar went active). The Foxbats ECM gear picked up this transmission (this AWG-9 transmission-data-burst was less than 2 seconds) and the MiG pilot executed a powerful maneuver that defeated the AIM-54 shot (only just). The Foxbat and Tomcat were to have a further series of spectacular engagements during the war.

    • picard578 said

      That just proves what I’m saying entire time: BVR combat is useful against unaware opponent, but not much more. And it still doesn’t answer what typical combat in the war was. From it it also seems that Foxbats didn’t have ECM with exception of RWR.

  6. Nuno Gomes said

    It proves that bouth sides were well equiped and that there was a lot of BVR fighting and many aircraft were shoot down in BVR…you should have more interest in this war because it was here were the last big aerial combats had place …

    • picard578 said

      If they were equipped to shoot missiles at BVR, it doesn’t mean they were “well equipped”.

      • Nuno Gomes said

        From Wikipedia,enjoy:overthrow of the Shah in 1979, the air force was renamed the Islamic Republic of Iran Air Force (IRIAF) and the post-revolution interim government of Iran canceled most Western arms orders. In 1980 an Iranian F-14 shot down an Iraqi Mil Mi-25 helicopter for its first air-to-air kill during the Iran-Iraq conflict.[55]

        Iranian F-14 Tomcat in a 2006 exhibition, TehranAccording to research by Tom Cooper, within the first six months of the war Iranian F-14s scored over 50 air-to-air victories, mainly against Iraqi MiG-21s and MiG-23s, but some also against Su-20/22s. In exchange, only a single F-14A was destroyed by a MiG-21.[55]

        Between 1982 and 1986 Iranian Tomcats were to see use in a series of slowly developing campaigns: mainly tasked with patrolling the skies over objects vital for the survival of Iranian regime and economy, like Tehran, or Kharg Island. Most of these patrols were supported by the fleet of Boeing 707-3J9C tankers, and quite some lasted as long as 10 hours, thanks to up to four successive in-flight refuelings. Time and again, they were involved in new air battles, and had scored heavily, but their main role was that of intimidating the Iraqi Air Force. Cognizant of previous heavy losses in battles against Iranian F-14s, the Iraqis avoided any engagement with them, so that the sole presence of a Tomcat over the target area was enough to force Iraqi formations to abort their attacks. Because of this, as well as because of the precision and effectiveness of the Tomcat’s AWG-9 weapons system and AIM-54A Phoenix long-range air-to-air missiles, the F-14 maintained air control over a lengthy period of time.[citation needed]

        By 1987, the Iraqis had suffered such heavy losses to Iranian Tomcats that they were forced to find a solution with which they could engage them under equal circumstances. In early 1988 France delivered Mirage F.1EQ-6 fighters, equipped with Super 530D and Magic Mk.2 missiles, to Iraq. In July 1988, after a series of air battles through February, March, and May 1988, in which the Iraqis suffered additional heavy losses to IRIAF Tomcats, the new IrAF Mirages finally managed to shoot down two Iranian F-14s in a single engagement.[citation needed]

        Overall, Tom Cooper claims that Iranian F-14s shot down at least 160 Iraqi aircraft during the Iran-Iraq War, which include 58 MiG-23s, 23 MiG-21s, nine MiG-25s, 33 Dassault Mirage F1s, 23 Su-17s, one Mil Mi-24, five Tu-22s, two MiG-27s, one Dassault Mirage 5, one B-6D, one Aérospatiale Super Frelon, and two unknown aircraft.[56] Considering the circumstances under which the F-14s and their crews had to operate in Iran during the eight-year long war against Iraq, it is still the premier fighter in the Iranian Air Force. The aircraft continued to operate without any support from AWACS or AEW aircraft, without even a proper support from the Ground Control Intercept(GCI). It faced an enemy that was repeatedly introducing new and more capable fighters, radars, weapons and ECM systems in combat and was supported by no less than three “superpowers” (France, the USA, and the USSR). Their crews were also permanently under heavy pressure from the regime in Tehran. That it proved as successful in combat is a result of strenuous efforts of IRIAF personnel and immense investment of the Iranian economy.[55]

        Iran had an estimated 44 F-14s,[57] with some 20 operational

      • picard578 said

        Again, it doesn’t answer anything.

      • picard578 said

        To clarify: BVR missiles are very effective against badly trained pilots and aircraft with no ECM. Second, all passages describing combat in anything near to detail had “citation needed”, so reliability is even more questionable than usual from Wikipedia.

  7. Nuno Gomes said

    It faced an enemy that was repeatedly introducing new and more capable fighters, radars, weapons and ECM systems in combat and was supported by no less than three “superpowers” (France, the USA, and the USSR). Their crews were also permanently under heavy pressure from the regime in Tehran. -you forgot to read this part of the post…

  8. Nuno Gomes said

    Oh,dont forget:AMRAAM as «lock on jamming»:)

  9. Nuno Gomes said

    And yes the F-35 is useless for CAS:

    • picard578 said

      That is for F-35s own defense as well as SEAD work, not for CAS. F-35 is still incapable of deciding who is firing exactly, and cannot slow down to effectively identify and attack targets.

      • Nuno Gomes said

        The F-35 is linked to all assets in the battlefield,including ground troups.And there is something called a radio,witch i belive that the JSF also as…and the JSF can (via data link) send A-10s to meet the firing target…
        And might i ask how does the A-10 ID is targets during night?Or if they are camuflaged?
        Because during the day the A-10 cannot propper ID is targets…and thats a fact

      • picard578 said

        FIrst, datalinks are far from reliable. Besides, you should read up on KISS principle.

        Second, A-10 can carry FLIR pod, and pilots can use night vision googles to find targets.

        Third, mistakes always happen. You can’t eliminate that. But you can attempt to reduce mistakes to a minimum, and high altitude bombing is not way to do it.

        — enemy had 800 troops, US-Afghan team 30
        — B-1B had absolutely no effect against enemy infantry firing from moderate cover
        — Allied unit had no radio contact with A-10s until end of the mission; mission had to be done by eyeball
        — Taliban ceased fire as soon as A-10s attacked them with gunfire of their own

  10. Nuno Gomes said

    Sorry – here is proof of A-10 bad target ID

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