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Posts Tagged ‘problems’

CDI: Pentagon reports continuing Lockheed Martin failures

Posted by picard578 on April 12, 2014

Under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA), the CDI Straus Military Reform Project has obtained almost two years of monthly reports from the Defense Contract Management Agency (DCMA) on Lockheed Martin’s production of the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter. The documents do not paint a pretty picture, explains Straus Military Reform Project Director Winslow Wheeler.

The Defense Contract Management Agency’s (DCMA) most recent reports cover the months July through November 2009. The full reports are available below. Their major points, as summarized by Winslow Wheeler, are as follows:

The F-35 assembly line at Forth Worth, Texas is being cannibalized for parts to support flight testing. This may be the first time an assembly line has been cannibalized for parts. See the summary of the August report below. Read the rest of this entry »

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LCS – Little Crappy Ship

Posted by picard578 on August 10, 2013

LCS is one of US DoDs pet projects. A floating version of F-35, it was an attempt to make an affordable ship capable of doing almost every mission that surface warship could be expected to do – except maybe imitating submarines or transforming into a mecha-Cthulhu and rolling inland to take out a set of targets by sheer power of awesome. And no, Mr. Hagel, this is not a challenge. Major arguments used to defend it are, like with F-35, economic benefits and not miltary usefulness. Instead of picking a better design, or better yet incorporating good characteristics of each design into new ship, it was decided that both designs will go into production – allegedly to increase production rate and decrease cost by making contractors paranoid about getting dumped in case one of them decreases cost and other doesn’t. But either variant is hard to cancel due to political consequences of one of shipyards loosing the work share.

LCS is supposed to clear out mines, hunt submarines, interdict drug traffic, provide humanitarian relief. It is assumed that it will be capable of performing all these missions effectively due to modules which will enable ship to change between mission-specific configurations – something already done by Denmark. But it seems more and more to be like seagoing variant of F-35.

For starters, LCS is – like the F-35 – riddled with problems. Each LCS Read the rest of this entry »

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On drones

Posted by picard578 on May 25, 2013

Some say that UAVs can replace tactical aircraft, and that, being cheaper, can be produced in greater numbers. But UAVs have greater logistical burden when compared to even relatively complex manned fighter, as UAV support crews need to eat, and maintenance isn’t simple either. More C-130s are required, more parts and technicians are also required for both UAV and support mechanisms. Neither can UAVs do ground attack missions, and combat-capable UAVs aren’t going to be cheap even when counting only production costs. And while I did write an article about (in)ability of UAVs to replace manned fighters, I hope for this article to be more detailed and adress some issues I have not touched in my previous article.

UAVs were first used in Spanish-American war in 1898 when journalist William Eddy took hundreds of photographs from camera suspended under a kite. While not strictly “UAV”, in third century BC Chinese used kites to help with triangulating distance required for tunnel dug under the walls. First heavier than air unmanned aircraft flew in 1896, over Potomac river. In World War II US military attempted to develop a radio-controlled bomber, codename Aphrodite; none of prototypes were successful and project was scrapped. First successful military use of UAVs was in Vietnam, with Ryan 147 Lightning Bug flying 3.435 reconnaissance sorties during Vietnam war. In 1972, modified Lightning Bug was used to launch a missile against simulated SAM. In 1982, Israel successfuly used UAVs in reconnaissance role in Lebanon, and US Navy acquired UAVs from Israel for use in Desert Storm. But are modern UAVs useful? I’m going to take a look at following missions: air superiority, ground attack and reconnaissance.

Complet required for two unarmed Shadow 200 UAVs costs 36 million USD, and UAVs themselves cost 275.000 USD. Single unarmed Predator costs 17 million USD flyaway, and 3.200 USD per hour to operate, without counting control systems. Reaper costs 17 million USD flyaway and 3.600 USD per hour; group of 4 plus control equipment costs 129 million USD. Global Whale (offical name Global Hawk) reconnaissance UAV costs 141 million USD plus 17 million USD per year; while SR-71 costs 261 million USD, having in mind sortie rate issues described later, it is entirely possible that SR-71 may provide more sorties per 1 billion USD spent on aircraft acquisition. Single X-45A, a new US UCAV, is estimated to cost 25 million USD flyaway at empty weight of 3.630 kg. As final version, X-45C, weights 19.000 kg, flyaway cost will likely be 131 million USD. Carrier capable X-47B is expected to weight 6.350 kg empty; flyaway cost will likely be around 100 million USD. Thus UCAVs will cost 25-130 million USD and weight 3,6 to 19 tons, resulting in costs of 6.800 to 15.700 USD per kg; compare to 16-18 million USD and 5,7 to 11,32 tons for well-designed manned fighters, resulting in costs of 1.400 to 3.200 USD per kg, and 30 million USD for F-16A, resulting in cost of 4.240 USD per kg. As X-45A is unlikely to be used for combat, especially for air-to-air, operational UCAVs will be as heavy or heavier, and far costlier than my proposed manned fighters. European UCAV project, nEUROn, despite only being capable of ground attack missions, weights 4.900 kg empty and costs 32,5 million USD, a cost of 6.633 USD per kg. Air superiority UCAVs will cost even more than given costs because of requirement for pulling high g maneuvers, which will put strain on airframe, and especially on fragile electronic components – it is likely that cost of typical air superiority UCAV – if these ever appear – will be 30 to 200 million USD flyaway. None of these costs take into account cost of control systems, such as control unit and communications hardware.

UAVs are notoriously unreliable. While UCAV replacing 4th generation aircraft will cost as much as – or more than – fighter it is replacing, UAVs loss rate is higher than that of manned fighter – even if UCAVs cost turns out far less than that of modern fighter aircraft, in the long run it will be far more, and will support effectively smaller force due to high maintenance requirements and inability to build up numbers caused by huge loss rate. Class A mishap (loss of aircraft) rate per 100.000 hours was 4,1 for F-16, 6,8 for U2, 20 for Predator, 88 for Global Hawk and 191 for Shadow. 2005 Congressional Research Service report indicates that UAV is 100 times more likely to succumb to failure than manned aircraft; considering US DoD history of misreportation, it is possible that figures cited underestimate UAV loss rate (CRS report also cites F-22 loss rate as being 6 per 100.000 hours).

Claim is that UAVs do not require a pilot, and that this reduces costs even more. This is incorrect: UAVs require pilots, except these are not in aircraft itself. Further, while 4 JAS-39 require 4 pilots and 40 maintenance personnell, each Reaper 4-drone CAP requires at least 171 personnell, including 13 pilots. This does not account for other support personnell: drones operating in Pakistan are dependant on US intelligence community as well as tens of thousands of troops stationed in Afghanistan; without these troops, they would not have bases to operate from. And in serious air war, people are just as much in danger on the ground as in the air, if not more so; result is that drones put more people at risk, not less. Even in permissive airspace, they are always used alongside ground forces, while in any kind of defended airspace they require manned fighter escort to operate.

Reaper can only withstand 2 g maneuvers, and high angle maneuvers can lead to connection loss, resulting in a crash. Maximum payload is 1/5 of A-10s and it has nothing comparable to massive GAU-8 cannon. It can also loiter between 18 and 40 hours, depending on payload. Read the rest of this entry »

Posted in weapons | Tagged: , , , , , | 4 Comments »

F-35 and its troubles

Posted by picard578 on May 11, 2013

While people term F-35 a “multirole” aircraft, and Lockheed Martin stated that it is second-best air superiority fighter in the world, F-35 is primarly a dedicated ground attack aircraft. This can be seen relatively easily, as there are different requirements for fighters and for ground attack aircraft.

Primary requirement for ground attack aircraft is ability to fly low and fast. This means that gust sensitivity should be minimal, which is done by high wing loading; only exception are close air support aircraft, which have to be able to fly low and slow, and be agile at low speeds. Air superiority aircraft, on the other hand, has to be able to turn while maintaining energy, which is achieved through having low wing loading, low drag and high thrust to weight ratio.

F-35s EOTS IR sensor (not to be confused with EO DAS which is defense system) can only detect targets right in front of, and below, aircraft.


Wavelengths used by it are also optimised for detecting ground targets.

Even F-35s name says it all: “strike fighter”. Unlike multirole fighters, which are designed to operate primarly in air superiority role but can also carry out ground and (sometimes) maritime strike missions, strike fighter is designed to operate primarly in strike role, with air-to-air capability being secondary and usually limited to self-defense (even A-10 can carry Sidewinders for self-protection purposes).

At 50% fuel, thrust-to-weight ratio of all three fighters is below that of modern fighter aircraft at air-to-air configuration takeoff weight, with exception of Saab Gripen. For both F-35A and F-35B, wing loading at 50% fuel is above 400 kg per square meter, with F-35C achieving barely acceptable 340 kilos per square meter. While there is a degree of wing-body blending, amound of body lift is not comparable to air superiority aircraft like F-16, Gripen or Rafale. STOVL requirement also resulted in stubby, fat body, making F-35 a drag queen, especially when compared to clean F-16 – and for all three aircraft listed, clean configuration includes 2 AAM, either BVR or WVR, whereas Typhoon carries 4 BVR AAM in clean configuration. Result is that F-35 has rather sluggish acceleration, and looses energy quickly.

Its cockpit visibility is also good only to front, sides and above aircraft – and in these areas, it is still limited by bow canopy frame. Rearward visibility is nonexistent, thanks to STOVL requirements of B variant – and when pilot brought up that flaw, general Bogdan stated that he can always “put pilot in cargo aircraft where he won’t have to worry about getting gunned down”. Its high-tech HMD, counted at to adress problems of limited cockpit view, also experienced problems, making it possible that information to F-35s pilots will be limited to only what they can see directly through canopy – which is not much – and what can de displayed from sensors on screens within cockpit. This means that problems with canopy bow and ejection seat headrest impeding visibility might get F-35 gunned down in visual combat.

F-35 is also seriously flammable – fuel literally surrounds the engine, and fire protection measures have long since been deleted from the design in order to make it lighter. As result, hits from any kind of weapon which can penetrate its skin – basically anything from 20 mm cannon and above – will turn it into fireball.

Due to everything described above, it has to rely on stealth to survive. But stealth aircraft since SR-71 have been routinely detected by radars and IR sensors during and after Cold War; USSR luckily never chose to shoot any US aircraft, while Iraq did not have capability to do so, even if indications exist that Iraqis did detect F-117. But Serbs easily solved the VHF radar’s problem with low resolution, using it to guide IR SAM close enough to F-117 for missile to acquire and engage the target. Result are two F-117s taken out of action during Kosovo war, one shot down and one mission-killed.

Radar-based BVR combat has never been reliable either. Radar-guided missiles never achieved Pk of over 8% against capable opponent, and this is unlikely to improve, despite all USAFs self-deluding exercises where F-22s BVR missiles are assigned probabilities of kill of 90%. Even this “capable” should be taken with bit of salt, as it refers to North Vietnamese – but at very least, and unlike Iraqis, they did try to evade the missiles.

In fact, by using Air Power Australia report and fixing it with calculable data, it is possible to calculate likely BVR missile Pk against modern, 12-g capable fighter. As g forces pulled in tracking turn are square of speed difference, it can be calculated how much of forces required can modern missiles achieve. AIM-120 travels at Mach 4, and can pull 30 g within its NEZ, yet it would need 768 Gs to reliably hit a modern fighter which is maneuvering at corner speed of Mach 0,5, or 237 Gs if target is still at standard cruise speed of Mach 0,9. This results in Pk between 3 and 13% against fighter aircraft with no ECM, which fits perfectly with 8% Pk demonstrated against (mostly) maneuvering aircraft without ECM to date. If fighter is maneuvering at corner speed, but is still limited to 9 g by FCS (is not in override), BVR missile Pk is 5,2%. Thus, we have following kill-chain against modern fighter aircraft in g override (12 g capable) at M 0,5 (most likely scenario, as RWR will have warned pilot of radar lock):

Action – likelyhood of failure – hit probability

  1. Active missile confirmed on launch rail — 0.1% — 0,999

  2. Search and track radar jammed – 5% — 0,949

  3. Launch or missile failure – 5% — 0,902

  4. Guidance link jammed – 3% — 0,875

  5. Seeker head jammed or diverted — 30% — 0,612

  6. Chaff or decoys seduce the seeker — 5% — 0,581

  7. Seeker chooses towed decoy — 50% — 0,29

  8. Aircraft out-maneuvers missile — 97% — 0,00873

  9. Fuse or warhead failure — 2% — 0,00856

Total: 0,86%

Against 9 g capable fighter aircraft, it goes this way:

  1. Active missile confirmed on launch rail — 0.1%
  2. Search and track radar jammed – 5%
  3. Launch or missile failure – 5%
  4. Guidance link jammed – 3%
  5. Seeker head jammed or diverted — 30%
  6. Chaff or decoys seduce the seeker — 5%
  7. Seeker chooses towed decoy — 50% — 0,291
  8. Aircraft out-maneuvers missile — 94,8% — 0,015
  9. Fuse or warhead failure — 2% — 0,0146

Total: 1,46%

This can be compared to 0,36% probability of kill shown by modern SAMs against capable opponent (with 2 hits being a non-maneuvering VLO light bombers at low altitude and with no ECM; if only actual fighters are counted, probability of kill is 0,12%, as 1 F-16 was shot down out of 842 launches).

In WVR combat, if missile travels at Mach 3 and fighter aircraft travels at Mach 0,5 (corner speed of many modern fighters) and can pull 12 g maneuvers, missile needs to pull 432 g to hit fighter aircraft. This gives a Pk of 14% for WVR missiles, as even IRIS-T can “only” pull 60 gs. Against targets limited to 9 g, it has to pull 324 g, for Pk of 18,5%.

As such, for visual-range missiles, against aircraft maneuvering at corner speed, calculation goes this way:

  1. Active missile confirmed or on launch rail – 0,001 – 0,999
  2. Launch or missile failure – 0,03 – 0,969
  3. DIRCM effective – 0,00 (rarely fitted to fighters)
  4. Flare or decoys seduce the seeker – 0,05 – 0,921
  5. Aircraft out-maneuvers the missile – 0,86 – 0,13
  6. Fuse or warhead failure – 0,1 – 0,12

Total Pk: 12%

Against fighter aircraft limited to 9 g it goes this way:

  1. Active missile confirmed or on launch rail – 0,001 – 0,999
  2. Launch or missile failure – 0,03 – 0,969
  3. DIRCM effective – 0,00 (rarely fitted to fighters)
  4. Flare or decoys seduce the seeker – 0,05 – 0,92
  5. Aircraft out-maneuvers the missile – 0,81 – 0,17
  6. Fuse or warhead failure – 0,1 – 0,157

Total Pk: 15,7%

As such, BVR missiles will have Pk of 0,86% – 1,46%, and WVR missiles will have Pk of 12% – 15,7%. As F-35 can carry 4 missiles, combined Pk will be 3,44% – 5,84% for BVR missiles, or 48% – 62,8% for WVR missiles. Because F-35 is very expensive and maintenance-intensive, it will find itself outnumbered, and forced to engage opponents with gun. This will mean F-35s loss against most fighter aircraft, as it is performance-limited: only one version can regularly pull 9 g maneuvers, and other two are limited to 7 and 7,5 g, respectively – which also means that opponent’s IR missiles will have higher Pk against them (~20%) than other way around. They can’t run either, as maximum speed when clean is Mach 1,6 – theoretically, as current aircraft are unable to go past Mach 0,9. While all three versions likely have ultimate load limit of 13,5 g, it is unknown wether F-35B and C will be allowed to go into g override to same limit as F-35A.

F-35s technology, once thought to be best of the best, is now outdated. Its IRST is no better than European counterparts, and is actually worse for air-to-air work as it is designed – and uses wavelengths suited for – air-to-ground work; and by the time F-35 enters service, Eurocanards will have AESA radars.

As a ground attack aircraft, it is only somewhat better. It can carry only two 900-kg bombs in its bomb bays, making it a rather average bomber. It is unable to carry out close air support, as it is too vulnerable to get low enough to engage tactical targets, too fast to put weapons precisely on target even if it does come low, and too fuel-thirsty to loiter over ground troops in need of air cover.

In March 2013, F-35A was forbidden from doing following things:

  • descent rates of more than 30 meters per second
  • airspeed above Mach 0,9 (compare to advertised Mach 1,6)
  • angle of attack beyond -5 and +18 degrees (compare to advertised +50 degrees)
  • maneuvers beyond -1 and +5 g (compare to advertised 9 g for A version)
  • takeoffs or landings in formation
  • flying at night or in bad weather
  • using real or simulated weapons
  • rapid stick or rudder movements
  • air-to-air or air-to-ground tracking maneuvers
  • refuelling in the air
  • flying within 40 kilometers from lightning
  • use of electronic countermeasures
  • use of anti-jamming, secure communications or datalinks
  • electro-optical targeting
  • using DAS to detect targets or threats
  • using IFF interrogator
  • using HMD as “primary reference”
  • use of air-to-air or air-to-ground radar modes for electronic attack, sea search, ground-moving targets or close-in air combat modes.

It also had quite a list of other problems:

  • liable to explode if struck with lightning
  • F-135 jet engine exceeds weight capacity of traditional replenishment systems and generates more heat than previous engines
  • extensive damage will require returning aircraft to factory for repairs
  • fuel dump subsystem poses fire hazard
  • survivability issues (rumored to be about stealth)
  • airframe unlikely to last through required lifespan
  • using the afterburner damages the aircraft
  • poor radar performance

But this is hardly end of F-35s troubles list. Performance shortfalls are compounded by development problems: at one point, Lockheed Martin had to cannibalize LRIP production line for spares so prototypes can continue with testing.

F-35s costs are understated. Sometimes-heard 59 and 79 million USD values are those of early days of the programme, specifically from 2002. But even without inflation, costs have doubled by 2012, with flyaway cost being 197 million USD for F-35A, 237,7 million USD for F-35B and 236,8 million USD for F-35C. And these are unlikely to get any lower than they are for very simple reason: modern fighter aircraft are complex, and for them learning curve barely exists. And what of learning curve does exist has already been largely absorbed by reduction in cost which lowered F-35As unit flyaway cost from 207 to 197 million USD. One of reasons is that fighter aircraft get continuous upgrades which do not allow production to stabilize and invest in truly effective cost reduction measures. F-22s unit flyaway costs went backwards late in production: whereas flyaway cost mid-production was 200 million USD, last aircraft produced cost 250 million USD flyaway. Same happened with F-14, F-15 and F-16, due to increased complexity of new technology put in to make them “more capable”; F-16A would, today, cost 30 million USD, but F-16C costs 70 million USD.

F-35 is also very unreliable, which means that pilots won’t be able to fly it as often as required, and it is not meeting reliability growth targets. One in seven training sorties in late 2012 resulted in mission aborts. By late 2012, F-35 was barely achieving one sortie every 3 days. It had 4 flight hours between critical failures, and by 2013 mean elapsed time for engine removal and installation was 52 hours (system treshold being 120 minutes). Flights were also aborted due to battery problems whenever temperature dropped below 15 degrees Celzius, making F-35 utterly unsuitable to Canada, Great Britain or Scandinavian countries.

I have already mentioned HMD problems. These include misaligned horizons; inoperative or flickering displays; double, unfocused, jittery, washed-out and/or latent images. Due to all that confusion, HMD more hurts situational awareness than it helps – and F-35, due to STOVL requirement for Marine version, has nil rearward visibility.

While F-35 has met 7 out of 10 objectives, several objectives – like “begun lab testing” – were impossible to fail. But these do not show how well – or bad – programme is progressing. And in the end, it cannot be expected that dedicated strike aircraft can perform well in air superiority role; role which, despite wishful thinking by weapons designers, is still visual-range unless enemy is outmatched in every way imaginable. But if it is, F-15A and Tornado ADV are perfectly capable of handling him; there is no need for stealth fighters; and if it isn’t, F-35, with its disastrous visual-range performance, cannot be anything more than cannon fodder, soaking up enemy missiles so more capable fighters – be it F-22, F-15 or F-16 – can take out enemy aircraft without heavy losses. But F-35 is too expensive for that, which means that USAF will be in trouble as soon as F-16 is replaced by F-35.

Pig-that-ate-the-Pentagon.Lockheed-Martin flying-pig-325x275

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JSF issues

Posted by picard578 on November 17, 2012

From Eric Palmer’s blog:

JSF issues

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F-35 cheated on performance tests

Posted by picard578 on October 18, 2012 article is here:

While F-35 has been stated to have met all performance criteria, I have been sceptical about statement – not only because performance criteria were less than impressive themselves, but because I was aware that money and reputation that went into F-35 meant that USAF and Lockheed Martin will fight tooth and nail to keep F-35s reputation untarnished, including favorite tool of all corporations: lying about their products (alternatively known as “marketing”, “promoting product” etc).

I have been proven right. As can be seen from the article, only reason F-35 has met criteria is that already-low criteria bar has been lowered even further. End result is about the same as you would expect from building a fighter with no performance requirements stated, and then writing performance requirements to be the same as said fighter actually achieved. Suffice to say, that is not how weapons are being designed.

But noone at USAF or Lockheed Martin will care as long as their pockets are full and their bribes regular.

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