The 2016 DOT&E Report on the F-35 – David Archibald

The role of the Director, Operational Test and Evaluation at the Pentagon is to ensure that US weapons programs continue on track and that the weapons do what they are supposed to. His report for the 2016 year can be found here. The interesting observations in the report, with respect to the F-35, are listed following:

  1. From page 55, “In August, an F-35 OT pilot from Edwards AFB, California, briefed the results of an OT community assessment of F-35 mission capability with Block 3FR5.03, based on observing developmental flight test missions and results to date. This OT assessment rated all IOT&E mission areas as “red,” including CAS, SEAD/DEAD, Offensive Counter Air (OCA) and Defensive Counter Air (DCA), AI, and Surface Warfare (SuW). Several DT Integrated Product Team representatives also briefed the status of different F-35 mission systems capabilities, most of which were rated “red,” and not meeting the entrance criteria to enter the “graduation level” mission effectiveness testing.” This is an F-35 pilot saying that the F-35 is hopeless at everything. (Note by Picard578: In missions such as CAS which require specialized skillset and aircraft design, even achieving full capability will still leave F-35 incapable of adequately performing the mission).

  1. On page 56 the Block Buy is discussed. What is strange is the language which talks in terms of percentages of the Economic Order Quantity instead of stating the actual numbers of aircraft. The Block Buy is an attempt to forestall abandonment of the program by locking the USAF and foreign buyers into taking 452 aircraft before the program is abandoned. Lockheed Martin is aware that the foreign partners are only contracted for 30 aircraft. The lure is supposed savings by buying in bulk. Now what is not mentioned in the 2016 DOT&E report is the number of hours to build an F-35 of 70,000. This had flatlined in the 2015 report and thus no further decreases in the build cost could be expected. The 2016 DOT&E report also did not mention the rework rate which is the percentage of build hours spent fixing components that had been damaged during installation. The F-35 is packed tighter than a head of cabbage. The rework rate had also flatlined at 14% so no further improvement could be expected. Therefore the build cost will remain at about $130 million and not fall to the $80 million promised for the Block Buy. (Note by Picard578: $130 is most likely price for F-35A only, other versions would be more expensive).

  1. From page 60, “Limitations to the carriage and employment envelope of the AIM-120 missile above 550 knots may be required due to excessive vibrations on the missiles and bombs in the weapons bay. Analyses of flight test data and ground vibration test data are ongoing (this applies to all variants).” With only two air-to-air missiles, the F-35 is effectively unarmed. Now it seems that, ten years after the first production aircraft came off the line, that the shaping of the bomb bay means that there is excessive vibration if the aircraft comes close to a high subsonic speed where it would normally be operating. (Note by Picard578: This also means that the F-35 cannot use supersonic speed and altitude increase that comes with it when launching missiles. As a result, missile launched from F-35 will have significantly less energy, and thus range, than a missile of the same type launched from other fighter).

  1. From page 61, “All F-35 variants display objectionable or unacceptable flying qualities at transonic speeds, where aerodynamicforces on the aircraft are rapidly changing. Particularly, under elevated “g” conditions, when wing loading causes the effects to be more pronounced, pilots have reported the flying qualities as “unacceptable.” So as well as not being able to carry bombs and missiles at high subsonic speeds, the F-35 doesn’t handle the transonic part well either.

  1. From page 69, “Many pilots assess and report that the Electro-Optical Targeting System (EOTS) on the F-35 is inferior to those currently on legacy systems, in terms of providing the pilot with an ability to discern target features and identify targets at tactically useful ranges, along with maintaining target identification and laser designation throughout the attack. Environmental effects, such as high humidity, often forced pilots to fly closer to the target than desired in order to discern target features and then engage for weapon employment, much closer than needed with legacy systems, potentially alerting the enemy, exposing the F-35 to threats around the target area or requiring delays to regain adequate spacing to set up an attack.” The F-35 was designed primarily as a ground attack aircraft and is not as good at doing that as the aircraft it would replace. (Note by Picard578: EOTS is a midwave IR system designed specifically for ground attack. Fact that legacy systems outperform it in its designed mission so comprehensively means that situation in air combat will be far worse).

  1. Also from page 69, “Compared to a legacy fighter with multiple weapons on racks, and multiple weapons types per aircraft, the limited load of two bombs means that only a limited number and type of targets can be effectively attacked.” Confirmation that the F-35 is not cost-effective. (Note by Picard578: This can be worked around by carrying external weapons, but as Block 3F testing revealed, even this has resulted in F-35 being “red” in capability).

  1. From page 72, “If used in combat, F-35 aircraft will need support to locate and avoid modern threat ground radars, acquire targets, and engage formations of enemy fighter aircraft, due to unresolved performance deficiencies and limited weapons carriage available (i.e., two bombs and two air-to-air missiles).” Finding ground radars was the one thing that the F-35 was supposed to be good at, but now it needs help to do that? (Note by Picard578: This means that the F-35 will be limited by “legacy” fighter support, preventing it from attacking targets deep in defended territory.)

  1. From page 83, “Aircraft fleet-wide availability averaged 52 percent for 12 months ending October 2016, compared to the modest goal of 60 percent. It is important to note that the expected combat sortie rates will require significantly greater availability than 60 percent; therefore, if the F-35 is to replace legacy aircraft for combat taskings, availability will likely need to improve to near 80 percent.” (Note by Picard578: These availability rates are in line with availability rates of other stealth aircraft, F-22 in particular. It is therefore unrealistic to expect F-35 availability rates to go above 60 percent).

  1. Also from page 83, “reliability metrics related to critical failures have decreased over the past year. This decrease in reliability correlates with the simultaneously observed decline in the Fully Mission Capable (FMC) rate for all variants, which measures the percentage of aircraft not in depot status that are able to fly all defined F-35 missions. The fleet-wide FMC rate peaked in December 2014 at 62 percent and has fallen steadily since then to 21 percent in October 2016.” So reliability has gone backwards and only one in five F-35s at a time might be able to fly a combat mission.

  1. Lockheed has to be incentivised to perform. From page 84, “the program has implemented a Performance Based Logistics (PBL) construct with Lockheed Martin that ties contract incentive awards to a slightly different set of tailored fleet performance targets.” (Note by Picard578: All contractors have to be incentivised to perform, this is not only the case with Lockheed).

  1. From page 87, “For the 12-month period ending in October 2016, the monthly cannibalization rate averaged 9.8 cannibalization actions for every 100 sorties against a program goal of no more than 8 actions for every 100 sorties.” This is absolutely bizarre for an aircraft in development, particularly for an aircraft which is so difficult to work in.

  1. From the table on page 89, reliability is only at 45% of the required 20 hours between failures and won’t improve enough to meet the contract specification.

We are in an abusive relationship with the F-35. We have stayed in that relationship because the F-35 has promised to improve. The 2016 DOT&E report is further confirmation that the F-35 is not improving and would be useless even if it performed to the 2001 contract specification. Bring on the Gripen E.

David Archibald is the author of American Gripen: The Solution to the F-35 Nightmare.


Categories: weapons

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45 replies

  1. I just love this kind of reports. Just a question Picard, where did you find the original article from Archibald? Otherwise, here is an other enlightening article on F35 status:

  2. The alarming part about this is that David Gilmore, the DOT&E head is going to be resigning with Trump’s election. It’s tradition in the US for senior members to hand over their resignations. It will be up to Trump’s Administration whether to give him another 4 years or to hire someone else. If it is someone else, we’d better hope they are competent and honest, which Gilmore has proven to be.

    Oh and the F-35 is pretty much worthless as an air superiority fighter. It’s way to fragile for a CAS aircraft. Even at the “strike” role, it won’t do well – just too unreliable. The alarming part is that the reliability isn’t getting any better. Considering this is several years into the program, that’s cause for worry.

    An American Gripen might be the best chance, or maybe the Rafale.

    Another thing – the most challenging tests is not until late 2010s or early 2020s. THat means if there are problems, existing F-35s would have to be retrofitted. Then there’s the matter of changing the production line. An expensive and complex process that would easily cause the price to skyrocket.

    • True. I hope he will continue the tenure.

    • There’s also this, which is alarming:

      The US Army wants to be exempt from the oversight of DOT&E.

      So does the US Navy:

      I bet the USAF does too.

    • Thus, the Swiss tests had these results :
      1. Rafale
      2. Typhoon
      3. Super Hornet
      4. Grippen
      BUT the Swiss militaries concluded that Grippen even behaved under their old Hornets’ capabilities!
      Rafale even proved a formidable availability during the Libyan operation as some were pushed up to 10-11 missions a day for a full week, while, for the most of aircraft, hoping for 3 sorties a day is already wishful thinking… Rafales have also made the envy of US-Navy pilots when they were deployed on their aircraft-carriers, highly surpassing Super-Hornet capabilities.
      Now Rafale has been unclassified as also being a stealth fighter by French govt (Dec.2015), which has been confirmed by Indian air-marshall recently after the J-20 was introduced in PLA-AF.
      Now, I’m not very fond of the idea of having Dassault moving to the US and due to the use US have of their militaries, becoming even more dangerous with Rafales!
      Actually, for both strategic, cultural and geopolitic reasons, I consider it should be a good idea to… Scrap NATO as it is and make it a totally EU force, have the US militaries back home and getting allies with the Russians. At the time being, the sole purpose of NATO is to block EU and Russia to have good neighbourhood relations (remember Victoria Nuland’s “Fuck the E.U.”) and maintain a toxic influence on the EU by maintaining an artificial dependence on US militaries.

  3. Also, if anyone wants it, Gilmore just gave his testimony about the Littoral Combat Shipl

    Funny, but it’s even worse than many people thought.

  4. Damn, I wanted to buy American Gripem in e-book but I only see it in paperback.

  5. The latest.Sad, but funny.

    Due to concurrent development and production, which resulted in delivering operational aircraft before the program has completed development and finalized the aircraft design, the Services must send the current fleet of F-35 aircraft to depot facilities. This is to receive modifications that have been designed since the aircraft were originally manufactured and are now required for full capability. Some of these modifications are driven by faults in the original design that were not discovered until after production had started, such as major structural components that do not meet the requirements for the intended lifespan, and others are driven by the continuing improvement of the design of combat capabilities that were known to be lacking when the aircraft were first built. These modifications are a result of the concurrency of production and development and cause the program to expend resources to send aircraft for major re-work, often multiple times… Since SDD will continue at least to the middle of 2018, and by then the program will have delivered nearly 200 aircraft to the Services in other than the 3F configuration, the depot modification program and its associated concurrency burden will be with the Services for years to come.

    Yeah this was totally predictable.

  6. Picard, I would like very much that you criticize the following video

    • It’s bullshit. he contradicts himself several times. For example he says that the F-35 would not have six AMRAAM, only four but he shows them firing six, which with his stated kill probability of 15% is just enough for the first pair of F-35 to shoot down two Su-35. He also ignores the fact that Russian R-77 missiles have three or four seeker types. In addition to active radar they also have passive infrared, semi-active radar and presumably anti-radiation seekers. Su-35s going against F-35 would not load any active radar missiles just infrared, and anti-radiation. Anti-radiation would not require mid-course correction and while infrared would require mid course correction they would have a much higher chance of killing the F-35.

      • You are a bit confused Andrei…Semi-active radar and radr are exactly same type: radar on missile + radr guiding from fighter; radr on missiles anyway usually sucks, and you cant rely on it unless you have a very good radar on ultimate generation missile (only referred to western tech) plus large rcs fighter…Forgot to rely on radr vs F35, lat and not elats because you will never have engagment su-f35 head to tail, at least in bvr; if su-35 can get really close (that means only in a stroke for 35 pilot or some time of damage on f35 both engine and sensors) thta you would launch usual R73, which, is also more reliable and 50 times more common in russian arsenal then R77, that suffers from serious maintenance and reliability issues, a prt from pure kinamatic issues vs westerm counterparts. You should also consider that su-35 IRST is considered to have half range and half precision that one on typhoon and something less that on on rafale. I give ypu some details about meteor missile radar, which is not only best bvr missile by several orders of magnitude compared to amrammc7, (whic is sevral orders of magnitude more effective then R77), but has also much better radar then latest amraam : it can detect and track an 0,1 rcs size fighter 16km far, 1 rcs 36km, 5 or more 80km….Furhtermore consider thta missile radar is not active until last kms, as it is more easily jammable then fighter radar…(In this respect you seem to know nothing about militry issues) : evn on this aspect, meteor radr is most resistant to jamming then latest amraam…As you can see from meteor radr specs, only case where it could be safely launched cointing only on its radr is vs very large rcs fighters,tipically russian ones,,..Forget to use it vs small size fighter rcs unless you are almost in wvr, and very short wvr in case of straolth fighters: that means vs not large rcs fighters IR seeker is much better then semiactive radar missiles, unless you have a very powerful radar, preferably aesa most of all for resistance to jamming, and very large radar detection cone….One weak point of f22 is its conventional detection cone of APg-77 : just 90 degrees…Rafale aesa should be around 120 degrees, while new E-captor with repositioning antenna has 200 degrees coverage: a revolution in bvr combat: typhoon could easily launch its meteor 120km far (or much more, if suoersonic and head vs head enagemnt) and already turning back with no problems with missile guidance., expecially bs large rcs fighters such as russian ones…That translates in zero possibilty not only to receive any incoming fire. Meteor integration gonna be crucial for F-35 capability to ambush large rcs fighters: su-35 vs f35 with meteor could be engaged nad destroyed even if su-35 would not accept any engagement,simply because they would not know to have been engaged until very last decimal of seconds…

        • Actually, there is a big difference – semi-active radar guidance guides the missile up until the impact, while active radar guides it until the terminal stage. This means that semi-active radar missiles are less precise (larger targeting box) while active radar missiles are easier to jam in the terminal stage. Also, if missile’s radar is active whole way, active radar missiles can be much more reliably guided by IRST, as missile itself will detect range differential when it comes close enough.

        • You are right picard, thx, but it doesn’t change fact that active missile radar are not usable vs not extremely large rcs fighters, as meteor radar stats shows: semi-active or active you always need fighter radar guidance, unless your target is a very high rcs fighter like russian ones. Meteor radar stats and jamming resistance are anyway vastly superior to other modern bvr missiles like amraamc7, and it is still not enough vs low rcs targets,unless you have head to tail engagment that is extremely unlikely when a low rcs fighter meets an hig rcs target.

        • Agreed. That’s why I had an idea of IR Meteor.

        • It is not only you that had an idea of an IRST meteor: it has been studied but not aprooved;
          1) may be because meteor has still best radar the world among bvr missiles,by huge margin
          2) may be because IRST tacticts have been not yet developed enough (it should be guided first by IRST fighter)
          3( may be because IRST on missile sucks compared to one on typhoon point 2 and 3 linked
          4) may be because meteor integration on future FCAS is much more important
          5) may be because eurocanards vs stealth fighter is not an option
          6) may be because meteor integration on f35 is already studied but not aprooved and funded and it is much more important (for UK an ITALY)

        • I think it is largely because German Luftwaffe does not have a culture of relying on IRST tactics like AdlA does. They rely on radar too much, which then has implications for Meteor development. Same for RAF.

        • Francesco Ganetti said :
          “1) may be because meteor has still best radar the world among bvr missiles,by huge margin
          2) may be because IRST tacticts have been not yet developed enough (it should be guided first by IRST fighter)
          3( may be because IRST on missile sucks compared to one on typhoon point 2 and 3 linked
          4) may be because meteor integration on future FCAS is much more important
          5) may be because eurocanards vs stealth fighter is not an option
          6) may be because meteor integration on f35 is already studied but not aprooved and funded and it is much more important (for UK an ITALY)”
          1) But the AESA small radar onboard may be mostly useless against VLO aircraft like F-22, F-35, J-20 or J-31. Even less against those with active cancellation like Rafale, upgraded with SPECTRA Mirage-2000 or Russian aircraft carrying Khibiny which can mean ‘just’ any of them…

          2) Maybe not dev’d by Muricans and those too much under their influence. Usually, AdlA cuts radars off as soon as in hot areas, perfectly knowing that they can face anti-radiation missiles. Note that China sells an AR seeker for S-300 to anyone willing to pay…

          3) Typhoon will not have further production anyway. Actually, without the habitual BAe shenanigans, it would never had existed! Proposing a near MBB TKF90 and hammering that a carrier-borne aircraft would add costs was a way to push France out of the Eurofighter consortium. How amusing : Rafale made by France alone ended cheaper than Typhoon and beating it in ANY test. M88-9 gives Rafale even more T/W ratio and now M88/Kaveri is coming with 98kN thrust and vectoring thrust will be fielded in 2018 too.

          4) Due to BAe associating with Saab, Mitsubishi and TAI for FCAS and as visibly, it’s likely to be nothing else than a resurected McDD JAST/BAe Replica, drawbacks will be the same as with F-22 and F-35. They also stay within the same interceptor+striker concept with Replica+F-35 as we had with Typhoon+Tornado and remember that BAe is the only Level-1 partner to LockMart in F-35.
          This is much less interesting than Rafale which already complies on many points on 6th Gen. F/A-XX wishlist (!!!) : tail being radar-transparent so making it tailless is useless. Having already 30 blocks of sensors all around the airframe, adding a still non-existing smart-skin is pretty useless, Safran (SNECMA) is also working on a turbofan+scramjet combo engine. Rafale’s baked-in RAMs affect other frequencies than X-band while only M88 has reduced RCS and IR stealth features in the west. Once added with active cancellation, Rafale simply ends with less RCS than any western aircraft without costs sky-rocketing.
          Russians have patterned Mig-35/29K and Su-35/34 on Rafale’s concepts in a coarser way, the Migs also receive engines with serious cooling of exhausts and the bigger one dev’d especially for PAK-FA that will be retrofitted on Flankers will get this too. Note that now all this is being applied to Fulcrums and Flankers and India’s gonna build Rafales, PAK-FA interest has shrank at both Russian and Indian levels. Actually, PAK-FA won’t be anymore considered as a 1st line fighter but being fit with a huge L-band radar in the wings but also a big AESA antenna in the nose, 2 smaller ones on the sides and very likely a fourth between the tails, it’ll become a serious anti-stealth AEW platform, surely to be fitted with R-37M. You’re likely to end with 1-2 PAK-FA per squadron doing the same job as a sniper in infantry. Very likely also to sneak between strike-pack swarm and go after refuellers, AWACS, aircraft carriers and do deep strikes too. Now, if PM Modi takes the right decisions, Tejas Mk1A will become nothing else than a singe-engined Rafale with the same stealth features, anyway, Tejas is NOTHING else than the project Dassault kept in reserve, was Rafale rejected as Mirage-4000 was by French govt! Funny how prototype/pre-series received GE F404 and definitive version will receive M88/Kaveri and Tejas is strangely STOBAR-OK. Saab did a tremendous error stretching their Gripen-E for GE F414, actually, Boeing did the same error for Super-Hornet : M88 would have avoided all this re-work and lost of time + cost rises. India took the right decision not listening to Saab advising for a Tejas Mk2.
          Now, anyway, as BAe’s in, FCAS is doomed, the same way as if made by Lockheed. Wanna see a sign of incoming shenanigan? Take a look at TAI designs for their TFX! Doesn’t it looks like JAST/Replica???

          5) Maybe for Typhoon and Gripen! Although it has been kept under the [SECRET DEFENSE] coak by French govt until Dec.2015, Rafale has been decided to be made a stealth aircraft as soon the project was launched in 1988. It was also decided to be made so without compromising aerodynamics. Much clever solutions than the US ones were found, BTW, the US stealth has been sold to them around 1970 by… KGB (!) and Russians had this from seized… Nazi technology!!! It was the KGB nastiest trick to the west : they knew that costs would go out of hand and that it was only effective against X-band and some parts of S-band. As US weren’t sharing with allies but the Brits, French cooked their own ways and as usual, as soon as it comes to high end stuff, they ended doing better 😉 Note that MBB was very near to build their stealth fighter as soon as 1987! Some DoD brasses visited MBB factory, then were dragged in an isolated hangar to see something, the mock-up of Lampyridae project. Very soon, US pressured Germany to abandon the project!

          6) Rafale-M being STOBAR compatible, it was recently highlighted that Cavour can use Rafale-M! UK can also use Rafale-M instead of F-35B on their carriers. Alenia/Leonardo should beter team with Dassault than with Lockheed! UK brexiting, we don’t care but EU SHALL play the EU card! EU is not meant to be/stay an US vassal! We have a MUCH BETTER aircraft than F-35 built in the EU and it’s cheaper to buy but also 4x cheaper to use. BTW, didn’t you red the article? F-35 is merely useless! Pentagon already highlighted it needed protection either from F-22, Typhoon or Rafale. If you’ve got Rafale, you simply don’t need F-35. Meteor ain’t crucial for F-35 at all : F-35 has 2 capabilities : doing F-117 job and switch to A-6 bomb-truck job losing its stealth. It has only limited self-defence capabilities and is nowhere near to become an air-superiority asset!

          You also missed the point on several things :
          – Last generation of Flankers and Fulcrums : they have reduced RCS and also active cancellation.
          – Meteor can be guided near its target using IRST and its radar switched on just before going after it for the kill. Nevertheless, it manoeuvres only 40G, meaning that if you can sustain 8G, you can outmanoeuvre it.
          Thus, Meteor can be put back on the tracks through launcher input if it happened so you are still under threat if you manage to escape Meteor’s seeker!
          Things like MICA manoeuvre 50 Gs, so you need to take at least 10G to outmanoeuvre it and… Only Rafale does!
          – You mostly don’t care about about AESA’s radar angle of coverage : use radar and your stealth is ruined! You just need a few lines of code to get a radar-guided missile switch to passive mode and guide itself on the beacon the aircraft’s radar is! Moreover, the emitter’s waves can be spotted from much further than its own detection range. Just still have your 200° captor searching means that you end with more risks to receive a nice R-37M from more angles you’d be under threat with other radars.
          BTW, how can you know RBE-2 features? These are totally classified! You don’t even know Meteor’s real range and even less its real radar capabilities too. You didn’t even knew that one of the Eurocanards was stealth while this fact was de-classified near 2 years ago and confirmed by Indan air-marshall SB Deo in Dec.2016, when asked about J-20.
          Picard578 already pointed about tremendous Rafale’s OSF “1” capabilities but these were de-classified since OSF “1” is obsolete and we went to the 2nd Gen. of SWIR IRST. Russian OLS-50 is Russian 1st Gen. of SWIR.

          My advice : it’s high time to totally EU-ise NATO and get Russia in the EU. Anyone with understanding of geopolitics can only approve as it’s the best thing to do for both entities. Having clever defence procurement is important too in order to avoid the same issues that doomed USSR and now are dooming the USA!

    • I’m having slow internet so I can’t do it right now.

    • Maybe someone forgets that 2 40 year old Su-24 suddenly disappeared fom the radars of an Aegis frigate then buzzed it. They carried only a very slim ventral pod doing the buzz, smth looking alike the Khibiny… Note there was a drill in the sea of Japan a few years ago where Russians played the aggressor against the US fleet. It was a big surprise when suddenly, 4 Sukhois buzzed the bridge of the CVN while not a single radar detected them. If I remember well, the admiral was fired…

      • That might be due to jamming – Rafale’s SPECTRA can likewise make aircraft literally disappear from radar, as if Rafale were a stealth fighter – or it might be due to low-altitude flight (sneaking up “below the radar”). Or a combination of the two.

        • This is not jamming, this is active cancellation of radar waves.
          Rafale has already many passive stealth features but these were made in a way to not compromise aerodynamics or availability of the aircraft. SPECTRA ends achieving Rafale being stealthier than US/Chinese alleged 5th Gen. fighters in the end. Actually, Khibiny is nothing else than a Russian SPECTRA.
          With digital correction and cancellation of background noise, I am dubious that low flying to sneak under radars is still useful. Well, maybe if you fly less than 100km/h as there is likely to be a ‘gate’ to avoid radars being saturated by cars. Actually, a serious raid could be considered using Tigre choppers which also have reduced RCS but no SPECTRA and are very likely to be confused with cars.
          The case of Su-24 suddenly disappearing from radar screens was documented several times, thus proving that Russians are mastering active cancellation exactly like we do! Actually, they even recently pointed that a Su-34 was now able to make its all flight, even without other aircraft having any stealth features, can have them disappearing from radars.

          Now they also may have done some advances using plasma as they had a very efficient generator fielded about 15-20y ago but the problem with plasma is a huge visual signature, thus, maybe can it be put out of visual perception? Well seems unlikely but not impossible. I’d opt more about them having followed the Rafale’s example by considering that now Indian Su-30 are being upgraded with reduced RCS skin and Mig-35/29K have been fit with exhaust-cooling, in other terms, Russians are/have Rafalised their gear, thus visibly in a coarse way (no 30 sensor/emitters points all around the airframe) but also, Khibiny being a pod, it’s VERY practical : even a Yak-130 with datalink and/or OLS-50 being fit is likely to become a very serious stealth threat!
          In some ways, we can play the same card as Rafale systems were conceived in a way that Mirage-2000 can be upgraded using these and if I consider the cost of upgrades ordered for the Indian ones, they’re likely to receive SPECTRA too! As a 5th Rafale order is on the way for France, rising the numbers from 180 to 225, we so could consider a 6th and 7th one while not risking to fall under 300 jet-fighters as M-2K will still be able to cope with modern threats until them getting too old.

        • Low altitude flight is always useful against ground radars, because it masks aircraft’s presence behind terrain features. How useful it is against airborne radars depends on many factors, but on Rafale at least it would help by hiding missiles and hardpoints from the enemy radar, thus making job easier for SPECTRA.

          I’m not sure how useful plasma stealth would be, chances are it would blind both radar and IRST of “stealthed” aircraft while massively increasing aircraft’s IR signature.

        • There are already many passive stealth features easing the SPECTRA’s job : masking of engine’s fans, low RCS of exhausts, radar-transparent tail, saw-toothed areas on canards/wings, etc.
          If tail is radar-transparent, other parts may be so too, i.e. pylons 😉
          When you know that, according to last communiqués, a Su-34 can offer stealth to the whole wing around itself, I’m pretty confident that, having fielded such radar cancellation system before anyone and Dassault having a stealth measuring test-range for very long, adding to the fact the aircraft was stealth was at the French highest level of classifying until Dec.2015 , thus, to be frank, a 2004 article in Popular Science already pointed about this possibility, noting that it’d need a really serious onboard computer power, now if you have a look at the motherboard installed around this time, hum, you can bet many CGI studios were jealous… Then, by considering that Gaddafi had bought last gen. of Russian radars and upgraded SAMs with seekers especially cooked to go after B-2, etc, that US didn’t dared to send F-22 or B-2 for the Libyan 2011 dubious operation, then Rafales entered first, ending with zero losses while even in Yugo, with much less up to date systems, even at least 2 F-117 were hit and 1 downed (actually, OSINT gathering tends to consider there were more and F-117 were also downed in Iraq too). My aeronautics-teacher, a just retired Mirage-2000N pilot, once told me in 2003 “don’t think we haven’t stealth too, “maybe” better than the US one” and I remember having red this, probably from a Dassault guy : “SPECTRA is much more than an ECM suite” more than 10y ago.

          When you know we classified all French aircraft from 1890 to 1906 thus even after the Wright Bros. publicly appeared… It gives a good idea how French militaries are pretty secretive, but sometimes, you get interesting points, i.e. a few months ago, they publicly showed the preparation of strikes against Da’ish… There were 3 big yellow bubbles, one in Latakia, one in Tartous, one on Damascus. The planner pointed these, saying : “here, it’s no flight one”… It was pretty easy to estimate the size of the bubbles… S-300 radius is about 10km, S-400 about 12km… You simply can fly over while F-22 are known to have ended with their RWR beeping around 200km from Chinese coast…

        • Rafale is designed so as to focus radar returns in several spikes which are then supressed through usage of RAM and SPECTRA. That being said, SPECTRA modes have to be designed and validated for any given loadout. And yes, active stealth is better than passive stealth as it can be upgraded as the threats develop, whereas passive stealth stays the same barring serious rebuild of the entire airframe.

  7. “EOTS is a midwave IR system designed specifically for ground attack. Fact that legacy systems outperform it in its designed mission so comprehensively means that situation in air combat will be far worse”

    It’s actually even worse.The reason EOTS worse then current systems has nothing to do with the fact that is mid-wave but with the fact that it’s based on technology at least 10 years old. EOTS is basically a first generation SNIPER pod or LANTIRN, entered service in 1998, modified to be carried internally. That’s why it’s also so heavy compared to Skyward – G. It’s alos 3 generations behind current SNIPER or Litening pods, not to mention dedicated IRSTs like Skyward-G and Pirate. This also underlines another problem with the F-35. It’s technology is already outdated and impossible to upgrade because of the strict stealth shaping requirements. Which is the reason why Lockheed didn’t bother to update the design of the EOTS with the technology they themselves were developing for subsequent generations of SNIPER.

  8. Just out today, an article on the F-35A supposedly dominating at Red Flag:

    I have a hard time believing this, unfortunately I assume it’s a propaganda piece by LM and the USAF. It would be wonderful if the JSF were that much of a wonder weapon system. I never have liked cool-aid.

    • I do believe the report is correct. It is quite easy to manipulate exercises in order to produce a desired result.

    • Now I have taken a look at the article, it was not the F-35 dominating the Red Flag… rather, it was the legacy fighters dominating the Red Flag thanks to F-35s sensory systems, which is actually realistic. Basically, you could have Rafales with its SPECTRA instead of the F-35, or F-16s equipped with F-35s avionics instead of the F-35, and result would have been the same.

      • ” Basically, you could have Rafales with its SPECTRA instead of the F-35, or F-16s equipped with F-35s avionics instead of the F-35, and result would have been the same.”

        Well they did have Rafales a few years back, but USAF RoE for Red Flag forced them to keep their radars on in high altitude missions which was contrary to AdA doctrine for the Rafale which relies on SPECTRA and OSF for high altitude air superiority (Radar on the Rafale was optimized for simultaneous ground to air strikes and medium range air to air engagements at low to medium altitude where OSF has less performance). The French vowed to not return to Red Flag as its stacked against non USAF doctrines.

        • Actually, mostly a way to keep Rafales out of the exercise to avoid F-22 and now F-35 being ridiculed as it happened during ATLC-2009 when lies were spread by the US side then videos and pics surfaced proving the contrary, then US tried another lie to justify which also ended proven to be a lie then ended with a dubious plausible denial as… Rafale wins even without radars!

  9. The corrupt ones in the USA manipulate the Red Flag tests conditions to keep the gravy train coming their way…
    The solution to this mess is to produce a Super Rafale under licence in the USA (with a state of the art solid state radar array, etc… Some tweaks-improvements can be made to the Rafale which only cost a bit of money which the French defense establishment does not have… but the US budget for the F35 is full of money…) Nothing of this is new:

    • Actually, the Super-Rafale made in USA should receive OSF-1 instead of OSF-2 and a less powerful SPECTRA to have the Europeans to keep the edge over the US version and the sale should only apply on condition that any US gadget integrated shall be share with us in full ToT thus I’m a bit dubious about US systems being so advanced : was it the case, their systems would work better than ours and it’s nothing new! They have nothing like Bugatti Chiron, Concorde, TGV, etc etc etc. Actually, CVN C.DeGaulle proved capable to sustain 80% of a Nimitz-class CVN. But she can pack 36 on board, so do your math. She costed us €3bln and crew is 1900. The ‘advances’ for USS G.Ford are supposed to be an increase at 125% of a Nimitz operational capability with a 4300 crew (-25%) with a R&D cost of $4.7bln and building cost of $12.8bln… And availability of the CdG is 70% compared to the 50% of Nimit class.
      IMHO we could do even better than the DEAC proposed by DCNS by jumboising the Mistral-class with a 2 stories hangar, no island (but a FREMM mast with added optronics), no HQ or huge hospital, no dock-well, using last generation of Siemens turbines with 60% efficiency, a single K15 reactor (150MWt=>90MWe) which could made easy to exchange through a rail system, 21.5MW Mermaid pods and using C14 catapults, SATRAP, etc. IMHO, a 244.5 or 261m version wouldn’t cost more than €1.5bln (vs. €2.3bln for non nuke DEAC). A Mistral ship runs with less than 200 sailors, the air crew on CdG is only 600, here with 2 stories hangar we could double the air-group, thus, no more than a 1400 total crew with same air-group as a super-carrier but, moreover, Mistrals have proven a 95% availability.
      As Germany is working on increasing their -too low for NATO- military budget and France has, thanks to F.Hollande, reversed the budget shrinking and we’re clearly on the way to merge our 2 armies as a single one, well, it’d be affordable to have 6 Mistral-CVN and 6 Mistral-BPC and due to availability of ships, even having more power projection than US Navy with a cumulated budget being the 5th of the US one.

      And there are even some boondoggles that could be swept out at French level, i.e. maintaining the same number of public-servants at the DoD as in the era were there weren’t computers and a huge in manpower conscript-army. Thanks to Rafale being STOL and operable from roads and A400M able to land on rugged terrains, mini air bases could be considered.
      Actually, it’s not too much having huge money that matters but how you spend it.

      We should also consider recreating Bréguet 941S with modern technologies and optional folding wings : payload could rise to 12t + 8t of fuel and MTOW of 27t and then nonetheless it’d be a cargo with many many uses on par with C-295 and C-27 but with crazy STOL capability : the 1961 version was able to take-off in 185m and land in 120m with 8t payload and about 13t empty weight and 26.5t MTOW, now empty weight can be cut by half, then nonetheless it’d have even civilian applications but we’d have our own ship-borne thing doing better than E-2D Hawkeye, Greyhound but also being able to do serous ASM, gunship, ELINT, JSTARS and tactical-refueller jobs. Such a baby can also carry serious payload in areas even a Twin-Otter couldn’t go, not counting carrying much more than a Canadair for firefighting, etc etc etc. With added rockets, XFC-130H Credible-Sport like, it may even seriously compete Osprey which is not really VTOL anymore once fully loaded, then you operate from a soccer field easily. Br.941 can fly as slow as 90km/h (50kts). Relative speed on a 20kts ship is so only 30kts!
      We could also gain a lot through the partnership with India : a fully rafalised Tejas would make a serious aircraft for poorest EU countries like Greece, Bulgaria, Portugal, Eire, etc and a fantastic trainer for others while retaining serious combat abilities, an about 30m long stretched FGFA with 4x M88/Kaveri could become the EU strategic bomber with capabilities on par to Tu-22M (24t payload over 7000km, supersonic) added with active stealth then also being a serious AEW platform and an A2A arsenal but also an armed refueller for contested areas. Actually, was it up to me, I’d highly consider Dassault merging with HAL, BTW, we so could gain access to things like BrahMos, maybe even R-37M and consider joint purchases of KAB-100 etc. We should also buy the LOGIR guidance kit, adapt it to CRV7 and have it produced in India.

      From my POV, if it’s sure that economically and for US interests, having Rafale being built in the US would solve their fighter gap but when we consider how often they act(ed) AGAINST EU interests, it’d be, on geopolitical grounds, having an EU-army, Russia entering the EU and strong ties with countries like India, Brazil and Argentina. I favour win-win relations while with countries like USA or UK and some Mid-East ones, it’s always abusive and the abusive is NOT on our side.

        • Actually, Gripen is nothing else than 1980 BAe P.106
          with initial idea to compete Mirage-2000 that was already flying for 2 years.
          Gripen-C ended absolutely irrelevant, even performing under 30 years old Swiss’ Hornets.
          Gripen-E, due to the necessary stretching is actually no more interesting than if Dassault began to re-build Mirage-2000 with some improvements, adapting Safran M88-Kaveri (98kN) inside and putted full canards, actually, it’s even less interesting as M88 has reduced RCS+IR-signature, moreover, M88 modularity allows to push it, in case of intensive need, up to 10-11 missions/day. I don’t think either F404 or F414 to allow this.

          Saab did a time+money costly error by not playing the EU card. M88 is even smaller and lighter than F404 thus it was stupid to stretch Gripen-C, moreover, Gripen-E keeping the same wings and weight increasing, wingload will do the same and T/W ratio is likely to be inferior, had M88-Kaveri or maybe M88-9 had been used. The smaller size also allowing more fuel into Gripen-C airframe and the increased thrust very likely much more serious payload, not counting the possibilty to add conformal tanks.

          Hopefully for HAL which initially considered a Tejas Mk2 also with F414, which’d had reported the definitive version for enough long to have India buying Gripen-E and Tejas scrapped, they took advise from Dassault+Safran too. Safran told’em it’s took 18 month to make M88 on par with F414 thrust, so now there is M88-Kaveri pushing 98kN, Dassault pointed that it’d require to increase size of air intakes and they could reconfigure the inners to make Tejas Mk1A’s airframe even lighter than Mk1 while it’s already lighter than Gripen-C. Actually, Dassault already ‘gave’ their unfinished study to HAL in 1988, when it was definitively decided to build Rafale. Had it been rejected, we’d have now Tejas Mk1A replacing Mirage-2000 instead of Rafale. Tejas having also around +25% wing area than Gripen and already being STOBAR-OK and visibly into using similar materials as Rafale (how surprising!), just put SPECTRA, OSF-2 and… Tejas is also STOLer than Gripen (so is Rafale).

          Well, hadn’t been BAe involved in Eurofighter, we’d have Rafales all over the EU, had Saab teamed with Dassault instead of BAe, Tejas Mk1A would already be replacing F-16 everywhere for a while with serious advantages and we wouldn’t have Italy+Spain considering getting ruined to get F-35B on Cavour or Juan-Carlos. Let’s hope PM Modi is wishing an Indian-style arranged marriage between HAL and Dassault : it’d be the best thing to happen for both and it’s highly wishable having EU and India teaming together. Moreover, at €39M for Tejas Mk1A, we could nonetheless end with a ‘cheap’ Gen.5 light fighter for the EU but also use the trainer version as AJT with full combat capability in or not, thus, if not, allowing to easily upgrade it. Our Alpha-Jets are near the end and M-346 Master is near as expensive while nowhere near as capable.

          I don’t think Gripen-E to fit for US needs : such light aircraft are simply not suited for typical US use : attacking other countries. F-16, BTW, is more a medium weight, F-35 is even a heavy one (31.8t MTOW). Light fighters are more to be considered for defending your airspace and doing strikes on border area in case of invasion or, if US’ friends in the Gulf send you Qaeda/FSA/IS/Talebs/Sheebabs, inside your own country…
          Rafale would, incl. to replace F-35B on amphibious ships, fitting ski-jump, an angled deck plug (remember Essex-class?) and arrestor cables.

          Thus… should we help them to maintain their power with all the nasty things they do against EU?

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