Words of Advice:

"If Something Seems To Be Too Good To Be True, It's Best To Shoot It, Just In Case." -- Fiona Glenanne

"Flying the Airplane is More Important than Radioing Your Plight to a Person on the Ground
Who is Incapable of Understanding or Doing Anything About It." -- Unknown

“Never argue with stupid people, they will drag you down to their level
and then beat you with experience.” -- Mark Twain

"Everything is easy if somebody else is the one doing it." -- Me

"Eck!" -- George the Cat

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

A Massive (and Failing) Government Jobs Progam

The F-35, which is shaping up to be an airplane that only does one thing well: Burns through our money.

For an airplane that is supposed to be a gunfighter, it has the worst rear-ward visibility of any active-duty fighter since the F-4. It can't out-turn, out-climb, or out-run other fighters.

Here is what I propose: Take the F-35 out to the aggressor training bases (NAS FAllon and Nellis AFB). And fly the damn thing off in scenarios ranging from long-range missile engagements to furball dogfights. The aggressor squadrons fly F-5s and Kfirs and they could bring in F-15s, F-16s and F-18s. It probably wouldn't be too hard to come up with some MiG-29s and hell, try them against some F-4 Rhinos for shits and grins.

And bring in some retired fighter pilots, ones who have no ties to LockMart, to oversee things. If we leave it to the active-duty blue-suiters and the brown-shoes to run it, odds are that they'll rig the game for the F-35.

My bet is that such an exercise will never happen, because both LockMart and the project managers at Ft. Fumble know that the F-35 would largely get its tail waxed time and again.

(More on this)


Sarah said...

Maybe. It's supposed to be an F16 replacement, so that should be it's opponent. How about the F22 - now *there* is a gold plated jobs program.

BadTux said...

Sarah, the F-22 program is over. Finished. Complete. Done. The only thing they're doing with the F-22 right now is trying to figure out how to keep the planes they bought from suffocating its pilots and turning into lawn darts (eep!).

There have been informal fly-offs between the F-16 and F-35. Generally the F-35 "shot down" the F-16 at a range where the F-16's radar couldn't even register the F-35 (due to its "stealth" characteristics, which reduce, though not eliminate, its radar signature). That said, the F-16's currently in service are running a 20 year old radar design (they haven't been updated because the F-35 was going to replace them, duh!), and the current radar designs supposedly are much better at picking up "stealth" aircraft.

And once a F-16 gets within visual range of a F-35 it's all over. The F-16 was designed to be a dogfighter. The F-35 was not. 'Nuff said.

I'll point out one last thing: The rules of engagement in virtually every conflict we've fought over the past sixty years have required visual identification of the target aircraft before firing upon him. What this means is that, in practice, the F-35's vaunted stealth technology is useless, since the Mark II Eyeball is the most important targetting instrument under those conditions, and the Mark II Eyeball doesn't care about whether it's looking at something with a small radar profile or not.

- Badtux the Air Penguin

Comrade Misfit said...

For similar reasons, the Phoenix missile (AIM-54) came into and went from service without ever being fired at a hostile target.

w3ski said...

You tax dollars at work, or another edition of "why we can't have nice things".

S O said...

Low observability (limited stealth) as has the F-35 is still useful even if there is within visual range air combat.

What kills the most is surprise, especially so in air combat. A F-35 is much more likely to sneak up to an F-16, even though the latter has better rear area vision (which is not that relevant nowadays, since closing speeds are high and human eyesight doesn't improve).

The DAS 360x360° infrared sensor system of the F-35 would reduce the events of F-35 pilot being surprised by F-16 pilot to air combat at low altitude close to mountains and events with defective DAS.

Besides, nowadays you can launch a short range air combat missile such as R-73R or IRIS-T forward in order to hit some aircraft behind yours.

Phoenix Justice said...

As long as Senator McCain and other Congresscritters want the F-35 in production, it will be.

Green Eagle said...

I don't think the problem is the F-35. The U.S. needs to keep its technology current. Russia has produced several new generations of fighters since we introduced the F-15 and F-16 in the sixties, and they currently have far more advanced airframes than we do. The problem is with the entire military procurement process, and with the Air Force in particular, where obvious corruption costing tens of billions has been at work at least since late in World War II. Stop work on the F-35, and all you will get is some other overpriced boondoggle that we'll have to fight for years to end, while the defense contractors rake in their obscene profits. Only an inclusive reaction to the "military industrial complex" has any hope of ending this waste.

Comrade Misfit said...

Only an inclusive reaction to the "military industrial complex" has any hope of ending this waste.

And that'll happen around the time that dolphins gain the right to vote.

S O said...

@Green Eagle:
F-15 is a 70's novelty, F-16 and F-18 arrived in numbers even later.

The Russians caught up with the MiG-29 and Su-27 using aerodynamic approaches more reminiscent of the F-14 and the results were aircraft with relatively crude avionics save for the inclusion of a useful IRS/T and the revolutionary R-73 (AA-11) missile which united key advances of cancelled U.S. missile programs from the 70's.

Ever since, avionics improvements have vastly outstripped airframe improvements in regard to importance.
Typhoon and F-22 fly great, but the improvement of avionics and missiles was much more impressive.

BadTux said...

I remember when the F18's started arriving on carrier decks in the early 90's. But the thing to remember is that they were based on 1970's technology, the F17 that was the competitor to the F16 in that fly-off for the LWF program. The Navy chose two engines though for reliability purposes, and rejected the F16.

The F16's current avionics were designed as a patchup in the mid 90's, i.e., they're close to 20 years old design-wise, and didn't touch the targeting radar, which dates to even earlier. It would be interesting to see what the F16 equipped with the F35's AN/APG-81 (or newer/better equivalent) would do against the F35 in visual-range combat. The F35 would still detect the F16 well before the F16 detected the F35, meaning in BVR combat it'd still be a sitting duck, but the '81 should give the F16 sufficient detection range to target the F35 well beyond visual range even with the F35's low observability.

The wild card in all of this is AWACS capabilities. AWACS can't do the final targeting, thus won't help the F16 in BVR combat against the F35, but could certainly be used to vector the F16 against F35's for visual-range combat, allowing the F16 to put itself into an attitude where it gets sufficient warning from its own targeting radar to enter visual-range combat on an equal basis. Assuming it had the latest greatest targeting radar, right now it doesn't so it's a bit of a sitting duck even there. But on an equal basis, the F16 kicks F35 rear in a dogfight. To the point where the Air Force refuses to do dogfight fly-offs between the two.

Regarding upgrades in avionics being the most important thing: the F18E/F is a fairly mediocre airframe. What it has, is a simple inexpensive cheap-to-maintain and rugged airframe with sufficient size to stuff the latest greatest weapons systems onto it and fly it high enough and far enough to give bad guys a very bad day. The F18E/F isn't the world's best dogfighter (or the world's worst), but that isn't its purpose in life. It's more akin to a flying bomb/missile truck -- same reason the B52 is still flying decades after it was envisioned to be replaced by "better" successors.

Which makes one wonder, if these flying bomb trucks are the most important warfighting gear we have right now, why are we spending so much money on the F35? No potential adversary has more than a handful of 5th generation fighters, and none of them are likely to go to war against the US within the next twenty years. It seems to me that an upgrade of the F16 with newer engines and better avionics would be far more cost effective?