Scientists warned defence department against Joint Strike Fighter
Cameron Stewart From: The Australian February 25, 2010 12:00AM
Defence study warned that the new Joint Strike Fighter would be a high-risk venture for Australia, admitting that the plane had weaknesses, including poor engine thrust that made it difficult to dodge missiles.
The blunt criticisms of the warplane contained in the study by Defence scientists in 2000 have never been aired publicly by the government.
But the Defence Science and Technology Organisation study, obtained by The Australian, was far more critical of the other fighter jet options available to Australia if it did not choose the JSF.
The document uses highly undiplomatic language to trash the performance of the warplanes used by Australia's closest allies.
The DSTO study, described as a "first-cut analysis" of Australia's future fighter needs, was written two years before the Howard government signed up to the US-led JSF program in 2002, abandoning the tender process and stunning aircraft manufacturers.
Titled "A Preliminary Assessment of Inhabited Platforms for AIR6000" and written by the DSTO's Graeme Murray and David Carr, the study is significant because it is one of only a handful of studies that looked at alternatives to the JSF.
The government plans to buy 100 JSFs for $16 billion in what will be the largest Australian defence purchase in history.
The DSTO report, written at a time when the JSF existed only on paper, said that if Australia signed on to the JSF program, it would be doing so without knowing the plane's final capability and costs.
"JSF has present serious shortfalls in engine performance and incomplete sensor-fusion capability," the DSTO said.
"The aircraft lacks engine thrust in the baseline configuration due to the high weight, affecting the use of manoeuvrability to defeat missile attack."
It also warned of hi-tech risks in the program because of tight schedule and cost targets, but it gave the plane strong marks for its stealth, range, payload and its "all weather, 24-hour lethality".
It said the JSF would not be cheaper to acquire than other fighters, but would be cheaper to maintain and service.
The study favours the JSF over other options and is blunt about the shortcomings of Australia's other fighter options. It describes the US F-16 used by the US Air Force as having a weak airframe and poor stealth.
"Old airframe lacks agility to outmanoeuvre missiles and has a small internal fuel capacity," the DSTO said of the F-16.
It said Europe's Typhoon fighter had limited strike capability and was unreliable.
"Present (strike) capability is lacking due to limited sensors and weapons carrying capability," it said of the Typhoon.
"Low reliability will mean high costs to operate."
It said Sweden's Gripen fighter had poor stealth, an underdeveloped electronic warfare system and payload and range limitations.
The DSTO found that the earlier version of the F/A-18E Super Hornet -- not the Block II version that has since been purchased by Australia -- was underpowered, lacked endurance and "risks being shot from behind with a radar-guided missile".
The US F-15E lacked stealth while France's Rafale had an unreliable and weak engine.
"The F-15E is good now, but not likely to be defensible in the expected electronic warfare environment in the 2010 timeframe," the DSTO said. "Rafale has short-term shortfalls in engine and radar performance."
The DSTO said the F-22 fighter -- the production of which was recently cancelled by US Defence Secretary Robert Gates -- had limited strike capability and was very expensive.
Despite these criticisms, the study recommended narrowing Australia's choice of a new fighter jet to only three: the JSF, the American F-15E and the French Rafale.
And then says:Scientists warned defence department against Joint Strike Fighter
Hello!!!The study favours the JSF over other options and is blunt about the shortcomings of Australia's other fighter options.
Anyone home at the Australian???
“against” does not mean the same thing as “favours”!!!
Skelton Disses Gates’ F136 Study
By Colin Clark Thursday, February 25th, 2010 12:38 pm
The chairman of the House Armed Services Committee called Defense Secretary Robert Gates’ principal arguments against the F136 “short-sighted” and largely dismissed them.
Skelton, who was joined by the leadership of his committee in asking Gates for the s-called “business case” study, issued this statement:
“Yesterday, I was finally provided with a copy of the ‘business case’ upon which Secretary Gates based his decision to oppose the development of the competitive engine for the F-35. While the committee is still reviewing the analysis, it appears that the Department’s approach focuses on near-term costs to the exclusion of what the committee sees as the long-term benefits of this program. The costs of the second engine in the next few years must be balanced against the fact that life-cycle costs of having two engines are comparable to having only one. The Department’s analysis does not consider the risk that a single engine would present not only to our fighter force, but to our national security, given that the F-35 will account for 95 percent of our nation’s fighter fleet. With this program, as with all others, we cannot use near-sighted vision when long-term security is at stake. I look forward to continuing the dialogue on this program with my colleagues and the Department of Defense. But I remain unconvinced that terminating the alternate engine program makes sense.”
Rep. Norm Dicks, chair of the HAC-D, will probably have the next word in this debate.
A Defense Technology Blog
New Doc: Biz Case Analysis for Killing F136
Posted by Amy Butler at 2/26/2010 4:03 PM CST
In a Feb. 24 report, the Defense Dept.'s CAPE director, Christine Fox, outlines the department position on terminating the F136.
This report was long-sought by lawmakers, who have been adding funding for F136 back into the budget since February 2006 (when the Fiscal 2007 first deleted money for F136). The total Congressional add is about $1.3 billon since the Pentagon walked away from the program.
This copy is incomplete. Other pieces of the report were deemed proprietary or for official use only.
Also, you'll see some points included from Hill staffers -- including that the decision lacked inclusion of non calculable factors, including the risk of a grounding if an engine problem crops up and a back up isn't ready.
Bottom line -- even the Pentagon acknowledges that two engines or one is cost neutral.
'Data deluge day' for F-35
By Stephen Trimble on March 2, 2010 1:22 AM
You probably thought when Secretary of Defense Bob Gates killed the Lockheed Martin F-22 last year, it was a good thing for the F-35. I'm not so sure anymore. I think Gates simply shifted everyone's target. As the MOST EXPENSIVE WEAPONS PROGRAM IN HISTORY, Lockheed's F-35 program, with its nearly $11 BILLION ANNUAL PRICE TAG (and that's only the US-funded portion), faces F-22-like scrutiny, but now with an unprecedented level of public disclosure.
I spent most of my day reading the 25 reports posted by the Defense Contracts Management Agency (DCMA), an unexpectedly public archive that tramples all over the proprietary secrecy usually reserved for aerospace assembly lines.
The DCMA's disclosure is an extraordinary and unprecedented gesture. Sure, many pages are redacted, but, even so, I do not believe that a major weapons program has ever faced this level of exposure.
How do we interpret all of this data? Carefully.
DCMA reports, by their nature, have to be a bit unfair. DCMA's auditors aren't looking to provide a balanced perspective. The monthly action reports are about finding problems -- and fixing them. That said, the DCMA reports show the F-35 has been having more problems than even some of its critics realized, and they haven't been getting fixed either. It will take me another day or two to process all of it.
Meanwhile, the F-35 data dump keeps rolling.
Ashton Carter's office has released an acquisition decision memorandum on the F-35 that postpones full-rate production 13 months. It adds another year of low-rate production, plus adds four jets to the flight test program, including one new carrier variant and three converted low-rate production aircraft.
Last, but not least, a scathingly critical report on the F-35 program has appeared in Holland. Johan Boeder, a software entrepreneur who tracks the global F-35 supply chain on Saturdays and evenings, has posted an English-language briefing on the F-35. Boeder first presented the brief two weeks ago before the standing defence committee of the Dutch Parliament. His findings are worth reading.
A Defense Technology Blog
CEOs, Armaments Directors to Meet in Ft. Worth on JSF
Posted by Amy Butler at 3/2/2010 12:21 PM CST
The armaments directors of eight partner nations and the United States (Ashton Carter) are meeting this week with the CEOs of top partners building the Joint Strike Fighter.
The event is one of two CEO conferences expected in 2010; there are usually two per year. This one is set to be held at Lockheed Martin's final assembly facility in Fort Worth, Texas.
The top CEOs will include those from Lockheed Martin, BAE and Northrop Grumman on the airframe side as well as those from Pratt & Whitney, General Electric and Rolls Royce on the engine side.
This is sure to be a lively meeting. It is taking place in the midst of a restructuring of the development program. And, Pentagon leaders seem to be concluding that the dreaded Nunn McCurdy 50% cost breach is inevitable -- triggering a mandatory review of alternatives. I'm sure the partners want to know how much their airplanes will cost just like we do in the U.S.
Air Force Secretary Michael Donley says no alternatives exist ... but I wonder if F-22 advocates won't dig up their arguments for keeping that line open.
Also likely to be a discussion is what happens with the F136, which Defense Secretary Robert Gates has vowed to kill or propose a veto over. The United Kingdom wants it, and some other nations may opt for it if it is offered. The 2006 MOU with partner nations includes language indicating the two engines would be available, so it is a logical question if the partners feel stiffed by the U.S. backing out on it.
Also, partners are likely to discuss the impact of the delayed testing schedule and production on their in service dates.
DoD Memo Formalizes F-35 Program Overhaul
By JOHN REED
The Pentagon's top weapons buyer late last week formalized the restructuring to the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter program, extending the plane's test phase to 2015 and delaying the start of its full production by 13 months to November of that year.
In a separate event, U.S. Air Force Secretary Michael Donley today told reporters today that the service is delaying its initial operational capability date for the JSF to 2015, two years after the service originally planed to field its first operational F-35 squadron.
In a three-page acquisition decision memorandum (ADM) published Feb. 24, Ashton Carter outlined the U.S. Defense Department's rationale behind the retooling of the F-35 program that saw the government program manager for the program fired, cut production buys of the aircraft and extended its development phase to 2015.
The restructuring was done after numerous analyses by the Pentagon's Joint Estimating Team (JET) and other groups led Defense Secretary Robert Gates to believe that the program was going to breach the Nunn-McCurdy statute capping per-unit cost growth on major weapons.
Gates' restructuring of the program - as well as an ongoing DoD-wide F-35 program review that began in November - were done with the Pentagon thinking "as though" the program had breached the statute, according to the ADM.
"While the JET II was only an estimate, the Review was undertaken as though the JSF program was in Nunn-McCurdy breach," said the memo, first reported by the Web site DoDBuzz. A copy was obtained by Defense News.
Carter expects the Pentagon to receive 122 fewer F-35s over the next five years than it had planned last year, the memo said.
"No fundamental technology or manufacturing problems were discovered in the Review," the memo said.
The ADM formally orders the JSF program to extend system development and design to 2015, delay the start of full-rate production to later that year, add four test jets to SDD, add $2.8 billion to the test phase of the program and withhold $614 million in performance award fees from Lockheed Martin.
Gates announced the retooling during a Feb. 1 news conference at the Pentagon where he unveiled the department's budget.
All of this is being done in an effort to get the program back on track after Pentagon estimates predicted that the program was up to 30 months behind schedule. Defense Department officials have said that, even with the restructuring, the F-35 will still be 13 months late.
The ADM also allows for the purchase of additional F-35s using any excess money in the program's budget should Lockheed and the government program office be able to "execute program development and or deliver aircraft at lower costs."
The document describes 2010 as a critical year for the F-35 with the "completion of hundreds of test flights, commencement of flight testing at Eglin [Air Force Base, Fla.,] and other key milestones planned."
The Navy is also considering slipping its initial operational capability date for the plane, and along with the Air Forces, is eyeing extending the service lives of its existing fighters.
This comes after a number of monthly progress reports written by the Defense Contract Management Agency from late 2009 show the program to have experienced a number of hiccups at Lockheed's Fort Worth, Texas, F-35 production facility.
These reports, released by the Center for Defense Information (CDI), show that between July and November of last year, the F-35 production line was being "cannibalized" to support the test program and that low-rate initial production delivery schedule for the plane was an average of 80 days late and that F-35 parts were arriving late from the suppliers 25 percent of the time. Later in the fall, the program experienced a quality verification stand-down, which focused on software issues with the aircraft, according to CDI.
Carter To Brief F-35 Partners on Program Changes
By JOHN T. BENNETT
Published: 2 Mar 2010 17:29
U.S. defense acquisition chief Ashton Carter will huddle March 4 with other military procurement chiefs about Pentagon plans to restructure the multination F-35 fighter program, a Pentagon official says.
A Joint Strike Fighter test aircraft banks over the flightline at Eglin Air Force Base, Fla. (SENIOR AIRMAN JULIANNE SHOWALTER / U.S. AIR FORCE)
The high-level session will take place at prime contractor Lockheed Martin's F-35 production facility in Fort Worth, Texas, the official said.
During the "CEOs conference," as two sources called it, Carter will brief "his counterparts" from the eight nations that are Washington's official partners on the fifth-generation fighter effort, according to the Pentagon official.
Lockheed Martin spokesman Christian Geisel said the international meeting has been on the books since last April. Such sessions are held annually, he said.
Carter is set to explain to the other defense procurement chiefs in detail how the Pentagon has restructured the F-35 program, the official said. Also expected to be a part of the agenda is how DoD intends to revamp the program's annual budget, as well as details about Washington's adjusted yearly buy rate.
The United Kingdom is considered a "level one" partner on the effort, while Italy and the Netherlands are "level two partners," according to a Lockheed Martin fact sheet.
Australia, Canada, Denmark, Norway and Turkey are listed on the fact sheet as "level three" partners," and Israel and Singapore are "foreign military sales participants."
Senior Pentagon brass late last year began a comprehensive relook at the program after an internal DoD study group estimated additional F-35 cost growth and schedule slips were coming.
That soup-to-nuts review, led by Carter, spanned several months and culminated with changes to the program's budget, buy rate and overall schedule.
The F-35 is slated to constitute the bulk of the U.S. military's future fighter arsenal. The U.S. Air Force, Navy and Marines are each set to buy various models of the Lockheed-made warplane.
Attendees will "include Department of Defense, and U.S. industrial leaders and the senior leadership of international partner-country governments, militaries, and industries to receive the latest update of F-35 program status and to address any JSF program-related issues," Geisel said. "The attendee list, which will include officials from the U.S. services, "has been consistent from year to year," he added.
"Lockheed Martin and the JSF Program Office will present several joint program-update briefings on a variety of topics," Geisel said.