F-35 Information

While researching exactly what the F-35 was, what benefits it brought and what features it had, i found a lack of informative and sourced descriptions available to read, this is my compendium of information i have found and compiled to give an accurate picture, everything i state is either directly sourced or within the sources listed. There is often competing information for certain aspects, I give weight to what pilots state is important and those who have relevant backgrounds or good information, i do not give credit to people who do not have the relevant backgrounds and either lack sources or misuse facts as well as those who use emotive language(usually a recourse to lacking knowledge on the subject), i would advise you to do the same.

If a link is no longer working it may still be accessible through http://archive.org/

For a general overview of Air Power and journalism read this, for understanding stealth try this and for past & present aerial warfare review this report.

For some of these videos, pay attention to the actual system demonstrations, ignore the narration/fancy graphics unless you want a laugh.

F-35 Distributed Aperture System(DAS)1) Distributed Aperture System(DAS) AN/AAQ-37 is 6 Electro-Optical sensors that watch a total 570 degrees, overlapping to provide safe 360 degree observation, they are positioned such that no part of the aircraft masks it’s 360 view. DAS provides automatic missile and aircraft detection, tracking & warning and integrates imagery to the HMD.  Each aperture is interlinked to the ICP which runs the software algorithms that generates geo-registered threat reports and imagery which is then forward to either the HMD or Cockpit Display. DAS detects moving targets and has detected ballistic missile launches at 1,300km and detected tanks firing, the processing power of the ICP allows DAS to simultaneously track thousands of objects.

2) Gen III Helmet Mounted Display System(HMDS), All the information pilots need to complete their missions – airspeed, heading, altitude, targeting information and warnings – is projected on the helmet’s visor, rather than on a traditional Heads-up Display. Additionally, the F-35’s Distributed Aperture System (DAS) streams real-time imagery from six infrared cameras mounted around the aircraft to the helmet at near 20/20 vision acuity, allowing pilots to “look through” the airframe, a small strip at the bottom provides a 360 view, a compass/mini-map in the lower right corner and indicates the direction the pilot is looking. The helmet also provides pilots night vision through the use of an integrated camera, which because it’s FLIR isn’t as sensitive to bright lights. This helmet gives the pilot exceptional Situational Awareness which is the primary driver for engagement outcomes 80% of the time. Due to the precision required, padding inside the HMD is specifically molded to each pilots head shape. Current contracts have the price of the helmet at 301k which is slightly more than JHMCs. The HMD and DAS also par very well with the new generation High Off Bore missiles that can be targeted and launched at aircraft up to 90 degrees off bore and the Lock On After Launch feature will provide 360 degree missile engagement envelope.

Side Note: The Cockpit also features several advances, assembled by a team with 150 years of tactical aviation experience, it is dominated by two joint 10 inch by 8 inch Panoramic Cockpit Displays(PCD) with touch integration and extensive voice activation functionality, each PCD has an independent computer and can be subdivided into different modes. A few buttons do remain such as landing gear, electrical reset and engine on/off which work regardless of software. F-16/18/35 cockpits and a Norwegian comparison.

3) Electro-Optical Targeting System (EOTS) AN/AAQ-40, a combined FLIR and infrared search and track, it features laser designation, laser spot tracker for cooperative engagements, air-to-air and air-to-ground tracking FLIR, wide area IRST and generation of geo-coordinates to support GPS-guided weapons. It will initially be able to share still images to troops, a Common Data Link(CDL) will allow the Video feed generated to be sent to ground troops over a Rover Network, they could even control where the camera is pointed and indicate to the Pilot where they want targeted, this functionality is planned for Block 4. There are other programs aimed at furthering this interaction between ground troops and CAS. The EOTS has a long range, able to discern windows apart in a Hotel 50 miles away.

4) AESA/APG-81 Radar, this radar is exceptional with an Active Electronically Steered Array(AESA) of 1,676 T/R modules and can do vastly more than old Passive Electronically Steered Array(PESA) radars, especially with it’s integration to the ICP. It can track more aircraft, create high def SAR maps and then automatically identify targets(ATR), use inverse SAR to detect and identify maritime objects, use passive bistatic detection methods, can jam radars in combination with ASQ-239, can be used in LPI/LPD mode where it scans at different frequencies and power rapidly to avoid detection or it can use “closed-loop tracking” where after detecting an aircraft it will only use the minimal power to keep track of the aircraft, it can use Non Cooperative Target Recognition to “Map” out aircraft to identify them or analyze their thrust signature. The F-35 also has color-weather radar for navigating thunderstorms, squall lines, and fronts and is a first for fighters. The APG-81 won the David Packard award for it’s resistance to jamming. Here’s a simulation video.

5) AN/ASQ-239 “Barracuda”. While most aircraft carry crutch Electronic Warfare(EW) systems, the F-35’s was designed from the outset for integration, able to operate not just with other components within the aircraft such as the APG-81, it can operate with other F-35’s over MADL to perform EW operations together. The AN/ASQ-239 is an evolution of the F-22’s AN/ALR-94 which is described as the most complex and costly avionics piece on the F-22, the Barracuda has twice the reliability and is a quarter the cost of the ALR-94, as well as being able to reduce the 30 sensors on the F-22 to 10 sensors, it has demonstrated the ability to detect and jam the F-22’s radar. It’s able to precisely geo-locate emission locations hundreds of kilometers away, further then it’s radar can see and from there the APG-81 can be slaved to that data track and then detect and track the object with a very narrow beam, increasing power and detection on target while decreasing detection by other aircraft. At close range or against targets using Jammers it is capable of narrowband interleaved search and track(NBILST) against aircraft which provides precise range and velocity that can then be used by a missile without need of the APG-81, allowing 360 degree targeting of aircraft. The Barracuda can refer to it’s data-banks of known emissions and identify the source vehicle or store it for future classification. Other features are false target generation and range-gate stealing, offensive EW is possible, a towed RF decoy is also a part of the package as is MJU-68/B Flares, the counter measure dispenser’s can be seen from behind. The F-35 will also feature “cyber attack” capability.

6) The Communications, Navigation and Information(CNI) system. The CNI uses Software-defined radio (SDR) technology, SDR uses reconfigurable RF hardware and computer processors to run software that produces a desired waveform, the CNI can manage over 27 different wave-forms. One of the new wave-forms is the MultiFunction Advanced Data Link(MADL) developed for the F-35 which has a very high data(video streaming etc) transfer rate and is very hard to intercept or jam, giving the aircraft “stealth” communications, it also acts in a Daisy Chain fashion to operate over wide areas with numerous nodes(other F-35s). The F-35 will have LPI/LPD Link-16 capability as well. With it’s full suite of communications It can give information to another aircraft enhancing their situational awareness, this allows an F-35 that has expended it’s munitions to continue to act as an AWACS, furthering network centric warfare. If an F-35 see’s a ballistic missile it can give that information to a naval vessel who can send an SM-6 after it with the F-35’s targeting data, extending the range of AEGIS, or it can provide geo-coordinate data on a vehicle somewhere and guide in artillery GPS shells/rockets or missiles(tomahawks) etc. With the AESA radar the communications system can send or receive very large amounts of data very quickly.

7) Integrated Core Processor(ICP)Blocks and Code. At the core of the F-35 is the Computer systems, this is where all the information that every system gathers comes together and is fused then presented to the pilot. This computer system is designed to be very easy to upgrade and up to date, the power system was also designed to handle future loads as well as the use of fibre optics for high data transfer rates. The Code for the F-35 comprises 8.1 million lines, Block 1 had 76% of the code, Block 2 had an additional 6% that enabled basic avionic and weapon functionality, Block 2B is ongoing with version 2BR5, only data clean up is left and the USMC intends to declare IOC with Block 2. Block 3i will be next which the Air Force will go to IOC with, afterwards Block 3F will follow, the USN requires Block 3F for IOC. 98% of that coding is developed and in the labs, and 89% is currently flying. The estimated delay on Block 3F is 4-6 months without making changes but is within the buffer and will be ready for USN IOC. The F-35 also has very strong cryptographic security, only the US has the ability to modify the source code, but aircraft owners will be able to change geographic data.

F-35_computer8) Autonomic Logistics Information System(ALIS) and Maintenance, ALIS receives Health Reporting information while the F-35 is still in flight, the system, with 5 million lines of code, enables the pre-positioning of parts and qualified maintainers on the ground, so that when the aircraft lands, downtime is minimized and efficiency is increased. This system is the most delayed part of the JSF program and is encountering significant software issues but has a strong potential to enable much higher sortie rates and reduced ground maintenance requirements. The F-35 has complex health management system’s throughout the aircraft and engine. The F-35 also has closed-loop Electro-Hydrostatic Actuators that require no maintenance for their entire lifetime, this feature also has the benefit of avoiding the need for manual reversion after suffering damage. The F-35 has a 200hp gas turbine engine for starting the main engine, for environmental controls and emergency power if the engine were to fail.

9) Stealth, reportedly at 0.006m² to 0.001m² RCS or -30 dBsm(from 2005, newer comments state it’s smaller then an F-22), it has a vastly reduced detection range, what this does is reduce the enemy’s reaction times, allows the F-35 to operate outside of a targets engagement range and enables it to “first look, first shot, first kill” which sets the initiative of the fight in the F-35s favour. An F/A-18E/F has about 0.5m² RCS, if it was detected at 100nm the F-35 would be detected at 25nm. Stealth increases the effectiveness of Jamming. The F-35’s stealth is also much more maintenance friendly than previous aircraft, notably with the stealth coating cured into the skin. Another aspect of Stealth is the Thermal Signature, the F-35 incorporates lessons from the LOAN program for reduced engine RCS & thermals as well as advanced air bleeding and using the fuel as a heat sink.

10) Performance. The F-35 was designed with “F-16/F-18 like” qualities, for the difference between those planes refer here. To get a good idea of the F-35s maneuverability through unclassified means we can use three different methods, first is pilot comments; the F-35 is remarked by Col De Smit of the RNLAF as “turns like an F-16 with pylon tanks; but it climbs, descends & accelerates like a clean F-16” also to note is the F-35 has more fuel then an F-16 with pylon tanks. This also conforms with Lt Col Lee Kloos of the USAF who said “The F-35′s acceleration is “very comparable” to a Block 50 F-16.””Again, if you cleaned off an F-16 and wanted to turn and maintain Gs and[turn] rates, then I think a clean F-16 would certainly outperform a loaded F-35″”But if you compared them at combat loadings, the F-35 I think would probably outperform it.” Captain Morten Hanche states these points in his blog as well.

The second is Aerodynamic modeling which largely confirms the pilot quotes and allows us to make several more assumptions. At Sea Level it encounters relatively more drag(due to it’s “stubby” body) and has slightly worse performance then an F-16 but at high altitude(30k-57k) the penalty for this lessens out drastically. Carrying weapons on other aircraft significantly worsens their performance through the drag of the weapon and pylon whilst the F-35 is affected only by the weight, this makes the F-35 superior in combat loadings. F-16s and regular Hornets also require fuel tanks and pods(ECM, Targeting etc) to reach the same range/capabilities as the F-35, all of which increase drag and reduces hard-points for munitions.

The third is through extrapolation of the KPPs which reinforces our above statements, therefore we can conclude; The F-35A’s sustained turning compared to a Block 50 F-16C is worse at low/clean profiles, equal/better at high/combat profiles. Subsonic acceleration and climb rate is the same/better as a clean/combat F-16 and transonic acceleration should be similar to a combat loaded F-16.

A small detail is that compared to the F-16, the F-35A with “full war equipment” can cruise 10-15k feet higher without afterburner and cruise 50-80 knots faster, all of this additional energy is imparted on missiles.

The F-16 is limited to 26 degree Angle of Attack while the F-35 can pull 50 degrees(tested up to 101), the same as the F/A-18’s, the F-35 will have “superb low speed handling characteristics and post-stall manoeuvrability” similar to the F-18 and much better then the F-16. The F-35A has been tested to 9.88G with a design load of 9G, B & C are 7/7.5G, for reference the F-16 is also 9G while the F/A-18 is limited to 7.5G. Certain external stores will reduce the limits on AoA, G-force and max speed on all aircraft. Captain Morten Hanche describes the AoA difference and how it affects fighting here.

Combat Radius is 613nm which includes carrying 2 Aim-120s and 2x2k JDAMs over a combat profile mission, this is further then most aircraft it’s replacing, at optimal cruise range is about ~1700nm, max speed is 700KCAS or Mach 1.6 and it can supercruise at mach 1.2 for 150nm.

Payload is a standard 8 tonnes/18k pounds internal & external over 10 hard-points, an additional center-line hard-point can carry the Multi-Mission Pod or Gun Pod. The F-35 has 2 internal bays that can carry an AIM-120 and a ≤2,500 pound bomb or 4 SDBs or an additional AIM-120(2 in Block 4) in each bay for a total up to 2.2 tonnes/5k pounds. The F-35Bs bomb rack is limited to ≤1,500 pounds. The F-35 can carry many legacy munitions externally and several internally and a few weapons are being designed specifically to fit inside weapon bays such as the Joint Strike Missile, SDB II, SOM, JAGM and some future form of the maturation programs; Joint Dual Role Air Dominance missile and Triple Target Terminator missile.

The F-35A will posses an internal cannon(B/C will use a Pod) of 25mm caliber, the GAU-22/A which is 38% more accurate then the M61 Vulcan on Legacy jets and the same accuracy as the GAU-8 on the A-10, in addition it will have a cockpit programmable fire control system that accounts for the effects of wind and aim wonder on long-range air to ground employment opportunity. The GAU-22/A will have Armor Piercing High Explosive rounds, the combination of increased accuracy and more lethal munitions allows for a smaller ammunition storage for the same kill chance, the F-35A will have 180 rounds(Pod is 220), down from 511 on Legacy aircraft, which will probably provide 4-5 bursts.

11) Costing. Cost is a big contentious point for the F-35 but is often misrepresented with inflationary figures in $Then Year out to 2065, if we account for inflation the JSF program will cost a total $917 Billion in $2012 dollars, this is for development, procurement and sustainment out to 2065 of 2,443 aircraft. Development and Procurement is $59 and $257 Billion respectively, another 3.9 Billion for Construction and Operations & Sustainment is $597 Billion $2012. These estimates include Cost Growth Above Inflation over the 55 years as well as a mid-life upgrade and subsystems(ECM, EOTS etc) that legacy aircraft don’t include, there are also many factors in CAPE/GAO reports that is questionable such as depot level maintenance and removal rates, the latest SAR also doesn’t include newer data such as the Cost War Room that is set to save $41 Billion. JPO maintains an O&S cost of 535 billion. Production starts off in Low Rate Initial Production(LRIP) slowing ramping up to Full Rate Production(FRP) in 2018 and up to 120 aircraft per year in 2022, the prices for each lot decrease‘s as economies of scale increase and as more efficient production techniques are learnt.

Cost increases, there is a lot of confusion over the exact increase due to the issue of cutting aircraft and delays causing inflation to affect the amounts. In 2001 the SDD started with the idea of 2,866 aircraft and 35 billion in development but no baseline was approved, in 2003 the first baseline was approved at 2,457 aircraft(13 dedicated to testing) and 45 billion development. The original prediction was 177 Billion in $2002, this is 226 Billion in $2012 based on Bureau of Labor Statistics, the current estimate is 323 Billion in $2012, this means the program is 43% over the predicted amount when accounting for inflation, this has been declining since 2009 high of 345 Billion. Of this increase apparently 40% of it is accountable to Lockheed faults, 22% for Pratt & Whitney and the rest is Government changes either in requirements(war spares) or how to estimate costs.

The F-35 will have an individual 30 year operational life with production out to 2038 for a total 2,457 aircraft. The F-35 is replacing 1,200 F-16’s, 254 F-15C/Ds, 340 A-10’s, 100 Harriers, 662 Hornets and not scheduled to replace 200 F-15Es, 565 Super Hornets and 114 Growlers.

Now what about relative to other aircraft? Development is pretty pricey, at 55 billion its more than the F-22 at 42 billion, and the Euro-fighter and Rafale are about 30-25 billion respectively, the LRS-B is estimated to cost 24 billion, the B-2 cost about 37 billion.

How about aircraft unit costs? Unit Costs are often compared to older aircraft, this is not accurate as aircraft are always becoming more expensive as complexity and demands increase resulting in more highly capable, albeit expensive aircraft.

In $2012 dollars the F-35A is 76/86(lowest/average) million over it’s production run, the F-35B/C is 94/109 million. The F-16 Block 52 is likely 73 million, A Super Hornet is 63/79 million, a Growler is 64/72, the Gripen E/F is around 80-85 mil, the Rafale C is 87mil and M is 100mil, the Eurofighter T3 costs 110 million in $2012,  the F-22 115/181 million These costs are UNRF. Unit costs are often confused between Unit Recurring Flyaway(basic airframe + engines + avionics), Unit Non-Recurring Flyaway(+ mission/weapon systems, ancillary and equipment), Procurement Unit Cost (+Spares), and Program Acquisition Unit Cost (+Development costs), it is important to compare the same cost measure. It is also very important to ensure calculations are made in same year dollars as inflation can rapidly change apparent pricing.

Also to remember is the aircraft lifetime, the Super Hornet is rated for 6,000 hours years where as all F-35s are 8,000 hours, to add more hours to the Super Hornet is called a SLEP and costs 28 million for 3,000 hours. The Eurofighter is rated for 6,000 hours and Rafale 7,000 hours, the F-22 is 8,000 hours, as is the F-16.

How about cost per flying hour?
The F-35A flies 250 hours(higher capability simulators replace some flying hours)per year at the cost of $32.5k per hour, cost of $8.1 million per year. An active F-16 flies 316 hours per year at a cost of $8.2 million per year and 26k per hour, the F-16 does not include pods(Fuel, ECM, Targeting) required to reach similar capability as the F-35. The F-16s cost is also increasing as it get’s older and will soon eclipse the F-35As. It’s important to compare the same type of cost, there is Operational Cost Per Flying Hour and the Variable Cost Per Flying Hour which is considerably lower.

An interesting exercise is the comparison of the F-22 to the F-35 projects. The F-22 started with an APUC of $35 million $1985 which is $70 million in $2009 in 2009 the APUC was $160 million with notable performance cuts and delays. Same goes for the F/A-18 although a much less risky program it still encountered significant issues such as a 50% price increase, schedule slippage, questionable performance etc. This GAO report was highly critical of the F-16 in 1977.

The F-35’s development timeline is also relatively moderate. The Rafale started development in 1982 and introduced in 2001(19 years). The Euro-fighter started in 1983 and was introduced in 2003(20 years). The Raptor started in 1986 and entered service in 2005(19 years). The PAK-FA, an evolutionary aircraft, started in 2001 and will be introduced in 2017(16 years). The Gripen started development in 1979 and was introduced in 1998(19 years). The Hornet was a redesign of the YF-17(9 years) from 1975 to 1983(8 Years) from which the Super Hornet evolved from 1992 to 2000(8 years). The F-35 in comparison to all of these started in 1996 with USAF IOC in 2016(20 years). Whatever happened to the four year aircraft?

12) Variants, There is an A version, the Conventional Take Off and Landing, the B version, a Short Take Off and Vertical Landing and C the Carrier Variant. The JSF designers were able to accommodate each of these with “virtually no scars” on the CTOL variant in regard to ship suitability.

The STOVL variant‘s fan system is exactly where some of the CTOLs(and CV’s) fuel tanks are, by sacrificing fuel(24% less), weapons storage(1,000 pound bombs instead of 2,000 but still 4 SDB2s), heavier weight(3,000 pounds) and some slight fuselage changes it’s able to utilize a fan driven lift system. The F135 CTOL/CV engine produces 28k/43k(dry/wet thrust). The STOVL engine produces 27k/41k, in STOVL mode 5,025 pounds is diverted to the LiftFan which then produces 18,575 pounds of lift another 3,400 pounds is split between each of the Roll Posts and the engine itself produces 18,575 pounds of lift for a total 40,550 pounds of lift.

The Carrier Variant has a large wingspan and tails, ailerons and strengthened structure, trade-offs are lower acceleration and max speed, benefits are larger fuel storage, better loiter time, tighter turn radius and allows it to perform carrier landings at very slow speeds and more steadily. The Carrier variant will have a smaller Spot Factor than the Super Hornet, 1.11 vs 1.24 relative to legacy Hornets.

Procurement numbers can be found in the Fast Facts.

Combat mode = Internal Stores + full fuel.

Length(ft) Width(ft) Wing Area(ft) Empty Weight(lb) Internal Fuel(lb) Combat Radius(nm) Wing Loading (Empty/Combat,ft) Thrust/Weight (Empty/Combat,lb) Instant/Sustained turning
F-35A CTOL 50.5 35 460 29,016 18,250 613 63/113 1.48/0.83 9g/4.6g
F-35B STOVL 50.5 35 460 32,412 13,500 469 70/106 1.27/0.85 7g/4.5g
F-35C CV 50.8 43 668 34,519 19,750 610 52/88 1.25/0.73 7.5g/5g

13) Design Philosophy, the F-35 originates in the STOVL Strike Fighter(SSF) program around the single engine with a driveshaft driven fan system.  The first design had highly swept wings which produced unstable pitch up at even moderate Angles of Attack and was abandoned, the next design had canards and no horizontal tail, this was optimized for supersonic flight. The USAF was interested in replacing the F-16 with another single engine aircraft and it was demonstrated that a conventional variant could be easily made by removing the lift fan & drive-shaft then substituting them with a fuel tank, this was met with approval and the Common Advance Lightweight Fighter(CALF) program was born. With the addition of 4 new ground-attack missions emphasis changed from a fighter with strike capability to a strike aircraft with some fighter capability, this was reinforced by the Gulf War in which most Iraqi aviation assets were destroyed on the ground, stealth and BVR missiles were more mature and the advent of high-off-boresight missiles reduced the need for maneuverability. The weapon bays were enlarged to carry 2,000 pound bombs at the price of increased wave drag, and the canards were replaced with horizontal tails and the aerodynamic center was shifted forward, this resulted in greater sub/transonic performance at the expense of supersonic performance. In addition each variant is highly different, using common parts where possible but otherwise using cousin or unique parts where necessary to tailor each variant to their respective roles. To accommodate the lift fan for the STOVL version it uses an entirely unique neck area that has a significant bulge which the A and C does not have. STOVL only has a minor impact on the other variants through the necessity of bifurcated inlet ducts(which come with stealth benefits) and a required lighter weight to keep commonality high.

We can get a good idea of how different mission sets result in different aerospace designs by comparing the F-22 and F-35. The F-22 and F-35 both carry the same amount of fuel, the F-35A/C has a preferred range of >600nm while carrying 5k munitions due to basing and targets in Iraq and Iran, the F-22 has a more relaxed combat radius of around ~500nm with only AA missiles because it’s role is primarily air superiority. The F-35A/C has to carry 2,000 pound bunker busters and cruise missiles while the F-22 only carries 1,000 pound bombs. The F-22 is vastly larger 62 long, 44.6 wide, 16.8 high vs the smaller F-35 at 51.4 x 34 x 14.2, the larger size of the F-22 gives it a better Sears-Haack aerodynamic profile reducing it’s wave drag allowing it to reach a very high top speed, the F-35 on the other hand focus’s on the Area Rule giving it good transonic performance. The F-35s width is slightly more than an F-18s and is dictated by it’s engine and weapons bay lengths. To have a side-by-side weapons bay like the F-22 that carries 2x2k munitions and 2 AA missiles the aircraft would need to be significantly longer, more than the F-22 because of it’s large single engine(5.16m to 5.59m) and longer bay (3.7m to 4.1m) requirements, this would make the aircraft much heavier, degrading performance and increasing cost. Therefore we can conclude that the F-35s focus on stealthy strike missions and affordability is the primary driver of it’s aerodynamic profile.

Criticism links:

DOTE reports 2015 2014 2013 2012 2011 2010

GAO reports 4/15 4/15 3/15 9/14 3/14 6/13 3/13 3/12 3/11 3/10 3/09 3/08 3/07 3/06 3/05 5/03

Inspector General Quality Assurance and follow up.

Inspector General QA on Engine

Congressional Research

RAND & Commonality

Concurrency

Cost of Concurrency

Concurrency quick look

To Do List

Analysis/Interviews:

F-22 leading the F-35 evolution

Paradigm Shift

Re-norming Air Operations

RAND JSF planing and Brief of

JSF History

Case Study

Ready Room

F-35 and VHF

Australia’s reasoning for early entry

Canada reasoning

Details and interviews

Preparing /for the/ F-35 

Commonality of the F-35 variants

Defining Concurrency

New Approach

Z Axis

A 21st-century Concept of Air and Military Operations

Tron Warfare

Early 21st Century War-fighting trends

Norwegian Blog Posts. The Office, Top Gun, Dogfights, What I’ve learned.

Miscellaneous links

SAR 1996-2007 2009 2010 2011 2012 2013 2014

AIR International

Marine CONOPS

Flight Testing Updates

Road Map

Round-table discussion

Weight Watchers 

Post SWAT

CATBird

Driven by Data

Summary video with demonstration of easiness of flight

Australian Audit

Australian

STOVL

Australian Parliamentary hearings.

F-35B Swivle Nozzle

Shaft Driven Lift System

Active Stick and Throttle.

Landing Gear

Manufacturing 

Store separation

RAAF F-35 Facilities

Cockpit Vision

Design of Cockpit

Avionics

Jamming protection

Survivability and Live Firing

Engine survivability

Gun Ammo

Gun accuracy

Fire incident brief 

Investigation Board

Fire incident report

More Survivability

MADL details

Bird Strikes

Sea Trials

F-35B in MEU dissertation

Training

HMD enhanced Training 

Assembly Line Animation

Advanced Manufacturing

AR Goggles in Manufacturing

AR Goggles example

F-35 software

C++ Coding Standards

JSF commonality

Simulator Training

Simulator Article

Maintenance Symposium Presentation

Durability testing 

Lateral Activity 

Evolution of Electric Military Aircraft

Pollution Prevention

Fuel Systems

Electrical Sub-systems.

Oxygen Generation

On Board Oxygen Generation System

Military Avionics Systems (2006)

How it Works, Ejection Seat

Ejection Seat

Prognostics Health Management

F135 Engine

X-35 STOVL

F-35B on Australian LHD 1 234 56

ALIS and PHM

PHM

Data Driven PHM STEALTH-VS-RF

X-35 to F-35

Structural Systems

Norway Presentation

Radar T/R production

Simulation Engineering

Dr Paul Bevilaqua Lecture

JSF Perspectives

STOVL Video

Rolls Royce Lift Fan

Simulation Facility

SECAF Brief – 27 October

Pax River Testing talk

Restructuring details

Simulation Cockpit usage explanation

Mission Data Reprogramming.

Reprogramming labs

Ship suitability

Thermal Management [Broken]

Export Control UK perspective

Speech 

Precision Strike Association Brief

General Bogdan Interview

UK Parliament Brief

Operating bases and associating units.

CAS Summit

Armed Services Committee

Written testimony to Senate ASC 2014

Air to Air Analysis

JSF Close In Performance

Civilian Simulated Combat

AoA testing 2013

AoA testing 2015

F-35B OT-1 Testing on Wasp

F-35C Delta Flight Path IDLC Tailhook 2015 Clemence Brief

The Lightning II – Early Impressions of Working on the Front Line

Dutch flying the F-35

IR Guide to Fighter Aircraft

F-35 Pilot Meet and Greet

If you wish to see recent news on the F-35 this is a good feed.

Please do keep in mind the journalism that surrounds any complex subject.
http://www.sldinfo.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/01/A-Challenge-for-Informed-Public-Debate1.pdf
http://elementsofpower.blogspot.com/2012/07/f-22-journalism-vs-punk-journalism.html

Website version history/changelog is in this Dropbox V3.3- 04/11/2015 – Minor updates since.

Thanks to everyone at F-16.net for their tireless research and information gathering, a large majority of all this can be found somewhere on their forums.

F-35 Upgrades or Future Systems.

1) Engine. The current F135 engine has a high bypass of 0.57 to allow for long range cruising, the higher the bypass the more efficient the engine, the lower it is the more power it can produce, the F-16 uses the F100 with a bypass of 0.36. Under the ADaptable Versatile ENgine Technology(ADVENT) program initiated in 2007, the USAF sponsored the design of a Variable bypass engine where an engine can alter the bypass to a higher ratio by opening up bypass airflow channels, this allows for the design of a lower bypass engine to provide much more thrust while also being able to attain good fuel efficiency, a beneficial side effect is a reduced thermal exhaust signature. Out of the ADVENT program came the Adaptive Engine Technology Development(AETD) program, this had a more specific goal of creating a F-35 post 2020’s engine upgrade using ADVENT technology to provide 25% better thrust-specific fuel consumption, 5% more military power and 10% more maximum thrust for 30% greater range. GE was awarded to incorporate ADVENT technology with P&W, a working engine is expected in 2017, with an ADVENT engine the aircraft can also tap the third stream of air for heat dumping leading to a large reduction in heat issues and IR signature. There is currently strong support behind investing in the engine.

http://www.f-16.net/forum/download/file.php?id=21926

http://www.janes.com/article/50010/pentagon-to-build-new-variable-cycle-engine-for-f-35-and-other-aircraft

http://www.flightglobal.com/news/articles/farnborough-pratt-to-test-new-adaptive-fan-f135-variant-next-374283/

http://www.flightglobal.com/news/articles/full-advent-engine-tests-meet-fuel-heat-goals-ge-408182/

http://aviationweek.com/awin/advent-invent-address-f-35-needs-and-look-ahead

http://aviationweek.com/awin/pratt-rolls-out-ge-stays-afrl-advanced-engine-demo

http://www.reuters.com/article/2015/02/06/us-united-tech-pratt-fighter-idUSKBN0LA07A20150206?irpc=932

http://americanmachinist.com/news/usaf-taps-ge-develop-new-jet-engines

http://www.pw.utc.com/Press/Story/20130619-0600/2013/All%20Categories

http://m.aviationweek.com/defense/pratt-unveils-sixth-generation-fighter-engine-f135-upgrade-options

http://nextbigfuture.com/2015/06/ge-adaptive-cycle-engine-is-so.html

Variable bypass turbine patent 

Variable bypass turbofan patent

2) Directional Infrared Counter Measures. This is a laser system designed to destroy, jam or confuse an attacking missile’s Infrared seeker, Northrup Grumman has taken it upon themselves to fund the development of the DIRCM system for the F-35, DIRCMs are currently slated to be installed in the AN/AAQ-24 variant on larger aircraft such as the V-22 and C-130, the F-35 will be the first fighter aircraft to utilize such a system. The ThNDR will be slotted in with the DAS system which will also provide the targeting information and ensure 360 degree coverage.

Northop Unveils F-35 missile protection 

http://aviationweek.com/defense/northrop-develops-laser-missile-jammer-f-35

IHS on DIRCM for F-35

How DIRCMs work

3) CUDA missiles. Currently the F-35 can carry up to 4 AMRAAMs internally with further upgrades planning to expand that to 6, with the CUDA missile system the F-35 can carry between 8 and 12 missiles internally that use a Hit-to-Kill feature, it will be a Solid Fuel rocket with similar range to the AMRAAM that uses Altitude Control Motors to enable fast turns in the same design as the PAC-3 and uses multi-mode seeker, these design feature’s suggests that the CUDA could also be used as an Anti-Missile Missile and can also be used as a very low collateral air-to-ground missile.

http://theaviationist.com/2012/11/30/cuda/

http://www.flightglobal.com/news/articles/details-emerge-about-lockheeds-cuda-missile-382670/

http://elementsofpower.blogspot.com/2012/12/the-mysterious-lm-cuda-missile.html

http://elementsofpower.blogspot.com/2015/07/a-mysterious-lm-cuda-missile-update.html

Other missiles being matured, T3, Triple Target Terminator, high speed long range missile to take down Aircraft, Cruise Missiles and Ground based Radars.

http://www.darpa.mil/Our_Work/TTO/Programs/Triple_Target_Terminator_(T3).aspx [Archive]

http://www.rocket.com/t3-variable-flow-ducted-rocket-vfdr

http://www.flightglobal.com/news/articles/raytheon-reveals-first-glimpse-of-next-generation-missile-353359/

http://aviationweek.com/paris-air-show-2015/boeing-phantom-works-may-unveil-new-projects

4) Next Generation Jammer. Historically Jamming pods such as the AN/ALQ-99 require entire refits of the aircraft to accommodate them, the NGJ will have internal power, cooling and computers that allow the jammer to operate mostly independent of the aircraft, this includes a data bank of known threats it can refer to to formulate the best response and to also record signals it gathers. It will have 6 AESA radars that provide 360 degree coverage, with AESA technology it’s possible to hack or confuse target computer systems through cyber attacks, it can also operate as a communications device. The NGJ will be a wide-band jammer operating from VHF to KU bands and will use air flow to power itself and can close up to reduce drag for the transit stage of a mission. The downside to the stand-off Jammer is that it will not be capable of supersonic stress.

http://www.lexingtoninstitute.org/wp-content/uploads/2013/11/Next_Gen_Jammer.pdf

http://www.virtualacquisitionshowcase.com/document/1377/briefing – Download Warning.

http://www.sbir.gov/sbirsearch/detail/2903

http://www.cnas.org/sites/default/files/publications-pdf/CNAS_ElectronicWarfare_DavisBarnoBensahel.pdf

Article Piece images: 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 

5) Multi-Mission Pod. Very little details are known but we do know it’s a full monocoque composite structure in carbon fiber designed to expand capability for special missions, it can carry EO sensors, Radars(Jamming), Cyber warfare gear as well as a Gun.

http://www.terma.com/press/news-2012/f-35-multi-mission-pod-on-display/

http://theaviationist.com/2012/07/10/fia12-f35-multimission-pod/

http://theaviationist.com/2012/02/23/f-35-gun-pod/

http://www.terma.com/media/199692/terma_update_july_2012.pdf

http://www.flightglobal.com/news/articles/farnborough-terma-displays-f-35-multimission-pod-374017/

6) High Speed Strike Weapon.
High speed missiles have several advantages, the hyper-sonic engines are “air-breathing” meaning they burn their fuel by mixing it with oxygen from the atmosphere in contrast to regular rockets that have to carry an oxidising agent, giving a greater specific impulse. A scramjet engine is also a lower IR compared to a regular rocket, providing a lower but more continuous burn. They are also very fast, a 500 nautical distance in 10 minutes compared to a regular cruise missile taking 45 minutes. Leveraging the F-35s sensors will be critical in making the most out of this weapon, several F-35s could stay several hundred miles back whilst several F-35s go forward spotting targets and relying the data to F-35s carrying the HSSWs.

http://breakingdefense.com/2014/06/speed-kills-the-case-for-hypersonic-weapons/

http://aviationweek.com/awin/high-speed-strike-weapon-build-x-51-flight

Lockheed High Speed Strike Weapon

http://www.dtic.mil/ndia/2014SET/Wilcox.pdf

http://www.dtic.mil/ndia/2012set/Leugers.pdf

https://info.aiaa.org/Regions/Western/Orange_County/ASAT%20Conference%202014%20Presentations/Jorris_412TW-PA-14077-Hypersonic_Space_Transit_and_Space_Access_Flight_Test.pdf

7) Supporting Drones/Swarms. With the stealthy F-35s highly advanced sensors and fusion it can “hand off” it’s targeting data to “Swarms” of missile carrying drones, vastly increasing the combat power of the F-35s, or the drones could be the radar which if detected would only result in the loss of the drone, or alternatively the drones could be used as a decoy(or carry decoys) to draw out Radar systems for targeting. If the drones are relying upon targeting data from the F-35 they can be made with very little in the way of avionics and much cheaper and expendable. It’s important to note that the F-35 would not actually be flying the drones, the drones would be doing that autonomously, instead it would be commanding them, telling them what formation to fly and what to attack, similar to a Squad Leader.

http://defensetech.org/2015/05/20/air-forces-new-unmanned-strategy-has-f-35-pilots-flying-drones/

http://breakingdefense.com/2014/12/pawlikowski-on-air-force-offset-strategy-f-35s-flying-drone-fleets/

http://thediplomat.com/2014/01/uavs-and-the-f-35-partners-in-air-power/

http://news.usni.org/2013/12/23/navy-uclass-will-stealthy-tomcat-size

http://www.darpa.mil/NewsEvents/Releases/2015/01/21.aspx [Archive]

http://www.darpa.mil/NewsEvents/Releases/2015/03/30.aspx [Archive]

http://www.defense.gov/news/newsarticle.aspx?id=128493

Swarm logic – http://breakingdefense.com/2014/10/who-pulls-trigger-for-new-navy-drone-swarm-boats/

MALD – http://www.dtic.mil/ndia/2010targets/Rutt.pdf

8) HIgh Energy Laser(HEL). Credit for following to “bring_it_on” and “spazsinbadhere.
HEL has several advantages and disadvantages, it offers a low firing cost, low collateral, off bore-sight targeting capability for destroying or immobilizing soft targets, both in the air and on the ground. The negatives are that it requires a fair amount of space for power generation and waste heat dissipation, is ineffective in penetrating dirty environments(clouds, dirt, sand, smoke) and has a relatively short range. HEL will be a much more flexible and useful replacement over use of a Gun, having the same limitations(short range) but greater benefits(off bore-sight, precise targeting).

HEL Tactical Aviation

JSF HEL 

HEL Fighters

HEL Beam Control Testbed

Tactical Laser Weapons

Roadmap

http://www.northropgrumman.com/AboutUs/AnalysisCenter/Documents/pdfs/Operational_Implications_of_La.pdf

https://www.flightglobal.com/news/articles/lockheed-considering-laser-weapon-concepts-for-f-35-417416/

http://breakingdefense.com/2015/10/lockheed-launches-laser-production-line-bets-on-fiber-tech/

9) Close Air Support. The Persistent Close Air Support(PCAS) is a program by DARPA to share real time information, enabling soldiers on the battlefield to quickly and positively identify multiple targets simultaneously. JTACs and aircrews will jointly select the best precision-guided weapons for each target while minimizing collateral damage and friendly fire. PCAS is a plug-n-play system with PCAS-Ground for ground troops with a networked tablet and PCAS-AIr, a platform agnostic system which provides optimal routes to target and optimal weapon with deployment. PCAS has reduced the time from JTAC initiation to missile impact from half an hour to 4 minutes.

DARPA Video

PCAS by DARPA [Archive]

http://www.darpa.mil/NewsEvents/Releases/2014/06/09.aspx [Archive]

http://www.darpa.mil/NewsEvents/Releases/2015/04/06.aspx [Archive]

http://archive.defensenews.com/article/20120123/C4ISR02/301230014/Technology-Modernizing-Close-Air-Support

http://globalaviationreport.com/2014/11/07/raytheon-begins-flight-testing-darpas-persistent-close-air-support-program/

http://www.defensenews.com/story/military/tech/2015/04/16/marines-test-missiles-on-v-22-osprey/25824603/

I will add more features as i find them.

Version 1.9

F-35 Criticisms and Opinion

I am not associated with any Air Force or Aerospace Corporation, my interests primarily lie in Australian military procurement and strategy. This is what i have gathered from the sources i have read and my own analysis.

The F-35 is a good aircraft whilst the Joint Strike Fighter program is mediocre, unrealistic goals/timeframes and difficulties with program management for 3 aircraft have caused headaches , there are several prominent criticisms, some of which do have a basis but i do not view as entirely accurate, i will outline their context below.

Criticism 1) Joint program costs too much. The original idea is you develop 3 aircraft for the price of 1.8 if we compare the JSF to the ATF it’s 3:2.2 or to less advanced western aircraft it’s 3:2.75 so it’s cheaper but not nearly as much as envisioned. The other issue with this is that you “put all your eggs in one basket” while not entirely true it’s still a significant risk that isn’t overly necessary, the original plan(before congress merged it) for a joint USAF/USMC and a separate program for USN aircraft would have been a safer path, the C variant also has the lowest commonality and lowest production quantity which results in large costs, both in acquisition and LCC. Commonality benefits in sustainment(2/3rds the overall cost) have yet to be accurately understood as is the benefits of the ALIS program to automate logistics support. A strange argument that occurs is that the JSF program has failed to achieve a meaningful level of commonality that it anticipated, during the Weight Watchers incident Cousin parts were invented using the same tools/processes for different sizes/materials. JPO states this has an average 82% of the benefit of a common component, after factoring in variant fleet numbers the commonality benefit overall is 68.2%, short of their target(70-80%) but still very high. Lockheed has also stated “Commonality has never been an objective of the program. It is a strategy”.

Criticism 2) Commonality negatively affects performance. As demonstrated in my other post certain performance parameters are reduced because of cost, not so much because of commonality trade-offs. By having a pooled R&D systems can be developed to a much greater extent and aircraft produced more cheaply allowing more money to be spent on system enhancing measures, this balances against costly specific requirements of each service(long loiter time vs high top speed etc), the outcome being that superior or inferior to individual program’s is difficult to distinguish. “The technical challenges involved in designing a single aircraft for all three services were met by designing three highly common, but not identical, variants of the same aircraft. The STOVL variant, which was designed first, incorporates a shaft-driven lift fan in a bay between the inlet ducts and a thrust-vectoring cruise nozzle. The airframe was designed to Air Force specifications, so that the conventional takeoff and landing variant was developed by removing the lift fan and vectoring nozzles from the STOVL variant and substituting a fuel tank and a conventional cruise nozzle. The Naval variant was similarly developed from the conventional variant by increasing the wing area, designing stronger landing gear, and using stronger cousin parts to handle the larger airframe loads associated with carrier takeoffs and landings. Both the STOVL and Naval variants are about 15% heavier than the conventional variant.” – Paul M. Bevilaqua

Criticism 3) Concurrency. Because of the vast improvement in computer simulations and an unrealistic development time-frame(half the time that what it took for the Raptor) Concurrency was believed to shorten the program time and enter Full Rate Production much quicker with little cost. This turned out to be false as many issues popped up that the computers hadn’t caught and such a large error margin hadn’t been factored into the already unrealistic timetable. Concurrency isn’t a bad thing, all programs have some degree of it. The F-16 had a particular high concurrency rate, it wasn’t until 1984, 6 years after introduction, that the Block 25 C/D version came out it was the versatile and adept aircraft we know today. There is a “sweet spot” for the right amount of concurrency.

Criticism 4) Procurement process, delays, costly. By using Cost-Plus there is no incentive for contractors to reduce risk or costs and encourages unrealistic program goals, since 2010 the contract award system for the JSF has been moving to a Fixed Price plus incentives(rewards for cutting costs, holding money back until specifications are met) system and is much more effective. The Delays were due to an overly optimistic time-frame and mismanagement, compared to other modern aircraft the development time is average, the procurement system the F-35 had to go through is often criticized. Cost increases are due *primarily* to several things, one is the overly unrealistic goals that took a lot more time and resources to realise, the second is the SWAT teams efforts to reduce weight on the STOVL variant and according all variants to maintain commonality, the biggest change being eliminating a manufacturing process that added 1,000 pounds but was a lot cheaper, other’s include reduced concurrency resulting in higher production costs, changes in cost prediction, labor costs, added auxiliary items, etc.

Criticism 5) Stealth is defeated by Low Band Radar(UHF-VHF). It’s true that Low Band can “see” through stealth, at least to a much greater degree then higher bands, it see’s “through” the shaping but RAM can absorb VHF waves. The downside’s that Low Band is a highly inaccurate radio frequency, it can only locate a target within a kilometer’s accuracy, older systems can’t even determine altitude, this is not nearly enough for missile acquisition or accurate identification of the threat and is very susceptible to clutter and decoys, this means an aircraft still has be acquired by higher band radar(usually “cued” where to look by the UHF-VHF radar, allowing it to focus on a specific area). Other downsides is that Low Band require’s very large antennae to steer the radar beams and they require significant power, the result being that Low Band radar is limited to ground and naval systems. So while Low Band Radar does offer some counter to Stealth, namely early warning systems still being effective and vital, they have tremendous weaknesses that can easily be exploited and can not extend to Aerial systems with any potency. Furthermore the advancement of all Radar systems has made Stealth ‘sine qua non’ for Survivability.

Criticism 6) Not a dogfighter. All though we have established that the F-35 has good agility that is comparable to the aircraft it is replacing, to contain cost this is all it aspired to do, it is not as agile as advanced aircraft such as the Raptor, Eurofighter or Sukhoi’s and this has raised considerable flack over it’s ability to perform the Air Dominance mission. Over the past 30 years there has been a considerably revolution in how Within Visual Range(WVR) combat is fought due to two factors. The first is the advent of highly agile, countermeasure resistant ‘dogfight’ missiles. The second is the perfecting of helmet-mounted sighting systems that allow pilots to acquire and launch ‘dogfight’ missiles at targets far from the aircraft’s line of sight, an even newer advance called Lock On After Launch(LOAL) allows the full envelope of engagement. Previously the aircraft had to maneuver to the correct position, now the missile does the maneuvering.

A common misconception is that over-reliance on missiles has lead to bad results in Vietnam when the real issue was not training pilots in Dissimilar Aircraft Combat Training, the Ault report with the idea “train the man” lead to the creation of Top Gun which saw Navy F-4Cs go from 2:1 to 13:1(or 6:1 depending on source) with the AIM-9G having a 46 percent hit rate, whilst USAF F-4Es remained at 2:1, and a lack of Situational Awareness as found in the Red Baron report. So the F-35 is good at WVR with it’s 360 targeting of DAS paired with HOBs but do we want to fight in the WVR domain? Modern ‘dogfight’ missiles can “launch and leave” whilst not being confused by flares, aircraft launching these highly agile missiles deep in the “no-escape zone” end up taking out each others aircraft. This results in exchange ratios of close to parity and results in a battle of attrition, much better would be the leveraging of sensors, networking, strategy and tactics to ensure combat takes place outside of the no escape zone if much superior exchange ratios are to be achieved. It is for these reasons that the F-35 emphasises BVR combat over WVR. Current modeling based on operational experience and simulation shows 72% of fights in BVR(18nm+), 31% in transitional range and 7% in WVR(8nm-).

Criticism 7) Single engines are less safe. This argument rests upon data from well over 50 years, in the past 20 years the F100-PW-229 equipped in both the F-16 and the F-15 has had far more accidents in the F-15, presumably due to the complexity of two engines, it’s also more safe then the two F119s used in the F-22 which have also had more Class A engine mishaps then the F-16 with the same flight hours, given the similarities between the F-16 & F-35 & their engines it’s safe to assume that the F-35 will have a similar accident rate as a modern F-16 which is so far none.

Criticism 8) War Games, there has been claims of certain War Games being conducted in which the F-35 performed very poorly, these were false, a real war game conducted by RAAF has results of “greater than six to one relative loss exchange ratio against in four versus eight engagement scenarios—four blue at 35s versus eight advanced red threats in the 2015 to 2020 time frame.””And it is very important to note that our constructive simulations that Mr Burbage talks about without the pilot in the loop are the lowest number that we talk about—the greater than six to one. When we include the pilot in the loop activities, they even do better when we include all of that in our partner manned tactical simulation facility”. The JSF is claimed by Lockheed to have greater than 6 to 1 kill ratio in 4v4 against near future threat aircraft, the JSFs success is attributed to Stealth and Situational Awareness. We can also look at Red Flag results with F-22s that use the same principle of “First look, First shot, First Kill” which achieve upwards of 144-0 kill ratios. We can also see how these fights would shape out with this Civilian War Gaming.

Criticism 9) STOVL is useless. First we need to know what the Marines are, the USMC have 7 MEUs(~2,500 soldiers) & 3 MAGTFs(~22,000 soldiers)(with detachable MEBs), each force is a self-contained army with tanks, artillery, rotary wing, fixed wing and logistics assets. These units are either ready for rapid deployment(MAGTF in California, Carolina) or are forward based, MAGTF in Japan, 7 MEUs in an Amphibious Read Group(ARG) composed of one LHD, one LPD, one LSD plus a Cruiser, one/two Destroyers and a Sub. Usually two to three ARGs are deployed at a time, one in the Med/Persian/Indian and one or two in the Pacific. These units act as the “fire-fighters” for the US, the rapid reaction force that responds immediately to any crisis, they provide humanitarian aid, they evacuate embassy’s, they provide a rapid strike force. As a strike force this is not limited to amphibious assaults a la Inchon but where the ARG acts as a seabase from which one can conduct a variety of operations across the spectrum of warfare.

This last one is the reason for their existence, the biggest threat to the Marines is an Integrated Air Defense System(IADS), they extensively use helicopters to land troops rapidly(the first two America class LHDs won’t even have well docks) and they use air power(both rotary and fixed) to provide fire support, due to the Marines light footed posture they must make the most out of Combined Arms to compensate for their less powerful gear. Modern IADS are quite capable of denying the Marines the capability of deploying at all(at least until the USAF destroys them) or supporting their infantry, a Modern IADS would easily kill any Helicopter or a Harrier and any other legacy aircraft(F-16s, F/A-18s etc) and they need a 5th Gen aircraft to be able to survive & destroy these threats now and in the future. The Marines would either use the F-35 from their carriers or forward deploy them from Mobile Forward Arming and Refueling Points(MFARPs) and keep their Carriers a safe distance away. Forward deployment of STOVL aircraft has happened several times before, although the new CONOPS for the Marines with the F-35B is much more ambitious.

Criticisms 10) Nitpicking. As to the mountain of criticisms for minor details such as latency or weather clearance etc i will refer to the Selected Acquisition Report(SAR) Executive Summary and Jim Gigliotti.

“In summary, the F-35 program is showing steady progress in all areas – including development, flight test, production, maintenance, and stand-up of the global sustainment enterprise. The program is currently on the right track and will continue to deliver on the commitments that have been made to the F-35 Enterprise. As with any big, complex development program, there will be challenges and obstacles. However, we have the ability to overcome any current and future issues, and the superb capabilities of the F-35 are well within reach for all of us.” – SAR

“The Lift system are one of those were you thought, man that’s something we haven’t really done before, we haven’t matured that yet, there’s going to be big problems. The EHAs, the electro hydrostatic actuators, we were worried about that, basic structural integrity, we were worried about that, are we going to meet it? We haven’t seen any of those major issues really raise their ugly heads, the issues we’ve had to overcome in flight tests are the small things that you normally have to over come in any flight test program and please keep in mind we are in the middle of the flight test program. Our job in flight test is to stress the aircraft, look for things that are problems and fix them, actively fix them… This program is the most heavily scrutinized program around, we can’t afford to hide anything, we can’t hide anything, and we’re not doing that, everything we do are out in the open. We’re fixing all of those nits, some of those nits get blown completely out of proportion, that’s ok, let it happen. We have the hard job of going back and finding a technical solution and then implementing it, and that’s what we do in flight test, so that’s what we’re doing right now.” – Jim Gigliotti

Now what makes it good?

Reasoning: The F-35 is designed to operate in contested airspace for the years 2020-2060, the core abilities in this period will be;

Electronic Warfare(EW), this is a key capability in both the offensive and primarily defensive role. In the offense it can force the opponent to make a move(false target generation), revealing his location or avoid enemy EW(LPI mode, frequency hopping etc). In the defense it can create confusion and degrade sensor abilities(jamming; spot, sweep, barrage, pulse, cover, DRFM & deceptive).

C2ISR. Information is lethality, by having a greater knowledge of where your opponent is and with greater control over your forces you can both evade and place yourself in a position to more easily destroy the enemy. The F-35’s combination of advanced AESA Radar, Radar Warning Receiver, DAS system, EOTS and it’s Communications suite provides unparalleled C2ISR in a combat aircraft.

Stealth allows for greater survivability in an increasingly lethal battlefield by reducing detection distance, reaction times and increasing operational flexibility while also allowing the aircraft to better position itself for engagements and allowing the first shot, further giving it the edge.

Situational Awareness. WW2 and the Red Baron report from the Vietnam War having proven again and again that both having greater information of your opponent and being able to interpret and act upon that information results in a much more favorable outcome with 80% of fights determined by SA, for an example compare two forces of Boeing F-15 fighters, one using Link 16 data link and the other using only voice radio. The Link 16-equipped F-15s had a kill ratio 2.5 times higher, this is a conclusive demonstration of the importance of information in all of it’s aspects, both of enemy and friendly aircraft. The F-35’s information gathered(and buddies information with MADL) feed into it’s touch screen panoramic display or it’s Gen III Helmet Mounted Display is a vast improvement and allows pilots to absorb much more information more simply.

The F-35 also retains legacy war-fighting characteristics with similar manoeuvrability and greater payload/range then the F-16C/F-18C and greater manoeuvrability with similar payload/greater range than the F/A-18E/F.

Is it worth it? Both procurement and sustainment wise the aircraft is cheaper then most other modern aircraft and aircraft of similar value have a lot less capability, the early mismanagement is no reason to languish an aging air force that has doubt-able survivability in the future against high end threats such as  SA-17’s -20’s -21’s & -22s and aircraft such as J-20’s, J-31’s, J-11B’s, Su-35’s & PAK FA’s. The only way forwards is the F-35 and even though it’s costs are appreciably more then original stated it still offers a significant upgrade in capability, both for OCA, DCA, Interdiction and CAS missions over past multi-role aircraft and over opponents. Already in Green Flag it’s performing CAS missions that F-16s and A-10s can’t.

The question is will the aircraft it’s replacing be adequate in the 2020-2060 timeline or will we need the F-35? In my opinion it’s the latter for all of the above reasons.

Relevant Pilot Comments:

“In any practice engagement I have had in the last 20 years where I have turned with another aeroplane in a bigger picture environment – rather than the static one by ones, two by twos or four by fours – every time I have tried to do that I have ended up being shot by somebody else who actually is not in the fight. As soon as you enter a turning fight, your situational awareness actually shrinks down because the only thing you can be operating with is the aeroplane you are turning with. The person who has the advantage is the person who can stand off, watch the engagement and just pick you off at the time. So you got to be really careful about how you use those KPIs.” – Air Marshal Brown

“the ability to actually have that data fusion that the aeroplane has makes an incredible difference to how you perform in combat. I saw it first hand on a Red Flag mission in an F15D against a series of fifth-generation F22s. We were actually in the red air. In five engagements we never knew who had hit us and we never even saw the other aeroplane…. After that particular mission I went back and had a look at the tapes on the F22, and the difference in the situational awareness in our two cockpits was just so fundamentally different. That is the key to fifth-generation….the ability to be in a cockpit with a God’s-eye view of what is going on in the world was such an advantage over a fourth-generation fighter – and arguably one of the best fourth-generation fighters in existence, the F15. But even with a DRFM jamming pipe, we still had no chance in those particular engagements. And at no time did any of the performance characteristics that you are talking about have any relevance to those five engagements.” – Air Marshal Brown talking about an exchanged RAAF pilots experience.

“The difference is in what people understand is important in air combat. It is the situation awareness that you have is important—that is all important. Manoeuvrability is important when you are defensive and that is the only time when it comes to be important. Manoeuvrability since helmet-mounted sights has become far less important in offensive situations, because with a helmet-mounted sight and an off-boresight missile you do not have to manoeuvre to somebody at 6 o’clock. You can actually shoot them when they are in your 6 o’clock almost—that is the difference. I would say it is a difference in what is important in air combat capability.” – Air Marshal Brown

“If you go to the merge, and if you each have a helmet mounted sight and you have a highly-agile missile then chances are you are both within range of not escaping if they fire the missiles. So there is a very high likelihood that both of you will die” – Pete “Toes” Bartos

“And without getting into all the tricks that the F-35 has up its sleeve, because you’re stealthy, you can get a lot closer to the adversary and your missile shots are now lethal, no-escape shots. With the F-15 today, you’re very wary of the range of the other guy’s missile, and you basically have to assume that he’s locked on to you, or at least knows where you are since you are in a big, non-stealthy airframe.” – Pete “Toes” Bartos

“Like the F-22, the F-35 can maneuver right in there and attack with a close-in kill shot without playing chicken.  If the F-35 gets in a bad situation, the pilot can extract himself a heck of a lot easier than in an F-15. The F-35 can turn away and still attack  because it has eyes in the back of its head coupled with high off boresight missiles.” – Pete “Toes” Bartos

“While flying an F-15 in a dogfight, I have to constantly swivel my head to manually detect and track adversaries and wingmen with my eyes.  Situational awareness breaks down quickly, and I’m suddenly wondering if that distant object I’m looking at is an F-15 or an adversary aircraft. I’ve flown against MiG-29s, and it wasn’t until I was up close and saw the paint job that I could be positive it wasn’t an F-15. With your head and eyes shifting back and forth under high G loading in a turning fight, it is very easy to lose sight, get confused, and misidentify aircraft.” Pete “Toes” Bartos

“In the future, it may not matter where the weapon comes from,” the commander said of a bombing run. “I may pass the data along, or I may fire a weapon and it may come from somewhere else. That is where we are heading.” – Cmdr. Burks

“A combat-configured F-16 is encumbered with weapons, external fuel tanks, and electronic countermeasures pods that sap the jet’s performance.” “You put all that on, I’ll take the F-35 as far as handling characteristic and performance, that’s not to mention the tactical capabilities and advancements in stealth,” he says. “It’s of course way beyond what the F-16 has currently.” – Lt Col Lee Kloos

“But in the first moments of a conflict I’m not sending Growlers or F-16s or F-15Es anywhere close to that environment, so now I’m going to have to put my fifth gen in there and that’s where that radar cross-section and the exchange of the kill chain is so critical. You’re not going to get a Growler close up to help in the first hours and days of the conflict, so I’m going to be relying on that stealth to open the door,” – General Hostage

“Fusion is the fundamental delineator. And you’re not going to put fusion into a fourth gen airplane because their avionic suites are not set up to be a fused platform. And fusion changes how you use the platform. What I figured out is I would tell my Raptors, I don’t want a single airplane firing a single piece of ordinance until every other fourth-gen airplane is Winchester. Because the SA (situational awareness) right now that the fifth gen has is such a leveraging capability that I want my tactics set up to where my fourth gen expend their ordinance using the SA that the fifth gen provides, the fifth gen could then mop up, and then protect everybody coming in the next wave. It’s radically changing how we fight on the battlefield. We are fundamentally changing the tactical battlefield. How a tactical platform operates with the fusion of fifth gen. What the aviators do is fundamentally different in a fifth gen platform versus fourth gen in the tactical fight.”  – General Hostage

“The advanced fusion of the F-35 versus the F-22 means those airplanes have an equal level or better level of invulnerability than the Raptors have, but it takes multiple airplanes to do it because of the synergistic fused attacks of their weapon systems.” – General Hostage

“The F-35 is geared to go out and take down the surface targets,”“The F-35 doesn’t have the altitude, doesn’t have the speed [of the F-22], but it can beat the F-22 in stealth.”“The F-35 was fundamentally designed to go do that sort of thing [take out advanced IADS].” – General Hostage

“This is the way our future air force would want to operate to achieve air superiority, in preference to fighting air battles of attrition—glamorous and gladiatorial though air battles may be. An adversary’s air capabilities are better destroyed on the ground than in the air. Thus the fundamental keys to air superiority in coming decades will be reach and precision, exercised by a determined leadership that is prepared to seize the initiative.” – Air Marshal Angus Houston

“Ideally, most OCA operations will prevent the launch of aircraft and missiles by destroying them and their supporting systems on the ground” – USAF Doctrine

“From the operator’s perspective, it will be like the difference between stumbling around a dark room and turning the 5 lights on. The combat situation will be instantaneously transparent. All of those high-processing-time tasks that the pilot used to spend his time on, with the objective of knowing what was going on so that he can then take an appropriate action are now done by the airplane.” – “Shotgun” Anthony

“People throw out those terms all the time, “the paradigm shift”, “a game changer”, “an evolutionary leap”, all those things, but it’s all true. It’s all accurate. And I can tell you from the perspective of a guy who has flown over 2,000 hours in a Hornet.  I was a TOPGUN instructor.  I was really at the top of my game. I was as competent as the Marine Corps could’ve taught me to be. In spite of this background, it was a challenge and a major mental leap for me to go to the F-22.  It takes time to turn the corner with 5th Gen thinking.  But once you do, there’s no going back.  Your SA and your ability increase dramatically.  Truth be told, you’re always going to have limits in any legacy platform, for many reasons.  There’s not a pilot in the Air Force that’s flying Raptors right now that will not tell you the exact same thing.””When you consider the fused cockpit of a JSF, you begin to understand just why all those descriptors are really accurate.  It’s an evolutionary leap. It’s a paradigm shift.  It’s a game changer!” – Lieutenant-Colonel Berke

‘The F-35 was optimized, if anything, to go into a high threat environment with advanced surface-to-air missile systems and use very advanced air-to surface sensors to find targets and kill them. It will do that fantastically’ Col Christopher Niemi

“Look at it like this: the F-111 was a landline; a telephone connected to the system made out of black plastic,” he said. “The F/A-18 is a huge brick ­mobile phone, but the F-35 is like the latest iPhone.” “We’re going to have to adapt the way we think about air combat to be able to utilise the F-35 to its full ­potential,” – Air Vice- Marshal Kym Osley

“When you put together the stealth with the situational awareness, with it being connected to all the other airplanes, with the information sharing — this airplane is going to be pretty darn hard to beat,” – Maj. Michael Roundtree

“Having an overview of the situation will allow me to plan my attack; I can prepare myself mentally for what will happen, I can minimize my signature, maybe try to sneak up on my opponent from a dead angle. I can adjust my speed, height and geometry, I can dump heavy weapons to make the aircraft more maneuverable, and I can prepare my desired weapon and optimize the sensors as I approach the merge. I would therefore argue that the situational awareness of a well-trained pilot is the strongest factor when it comes to winning a dogfight.” – Captain Morten Hanche

Suffice to say “5th gen is here to stay and that it will mean a whole new way of doing business.

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