Beta
×

Welcome to the Slashdot Beta site -- learn more here. Use the link in the footer or click here to return to the Classic version of Slashdot.

Thank you!

Before you choose to head back to the Classic look of the site, we'd appreciate it if you share your thoughts on the Beta; your feedback is what drives our ongoing development.

Beta is different and we value you taking the time to try it out. Please take a look at the changes we've made in Beta and  learn more about it. Thanks for reading, and for making the site better!

The F-35 Story

Soulskill posted more than 2 years ago | from the trying-too-hard-and-not-hard-enough dept.

The Military 509

New submitter phyzz writes "The F-35 Joint Strike Fighter program aimed to replace several aircraft from three major military services with a fifth-generation model capable of short-takeoff and vertical-landing while maintaining the capability of sustained supersonic flight — all while staying affordable. The project has finally gotten some test points validated, but after a decade in development and numerous cost and schedule overruns, it faces an uphill fight against budget reductions. Bloomberg has an interesting story about the program's troubled past. Quoting: 'Ten years and $66 billion later, the aircraft is still in development, five years behind schedule and 64 percent over cost estimates. The Obama administration may cancel some models and also cut the Pentagon’s orders. The plane, envisioned as the affordable stealth fighter for the U.S. and allies, has turned into a budget target. "I’d blame the program’s setbacks on the fact that we lived in a rich man’s world," said Jacques Gansler, a former Pentagon chief weapons buyer in the Clinton administration and now a professor at the University of Maryland at College Park. "There has been less emphasis on cost over the past 10 years," he said.'"

cancel ×

509 comments

Sorry! There are no comments related to the filter you selected.

Only "troubled" if you're not Lockheed Martin (5, Informative)

elrous0 (869638) | more than 2 years ago | (#37976434)

I think the larger story isn't a troubled individual program, it's a federal government that outsources and contracts almost *everything* these days. Having grown up around military bases, I find the level of contracting with anything military to be very troubling these days. I remember back in the 80's when bases began contracting out things like food services. Okay, that seemed pretty reasonable. But I recently went back to an old base that I had once been stationed at back in the day and being shocked by how far this has really gone. Not only were food services, the PX, laundries, etc. run by civilians--but so was base *security*. Instead of MP's greeting me at the gate, it was a bunch of rent-a-cops. I'm not even sure the base *has* MP's anymore (never saw any of them). It would seem a handful of contractors and merc firms do pretty much everything now for the government.

Thanks to the lobbying money of the Lockheed Martins, Northrop Grummans, and Blackwaters (or whatever the fuck they're calling themselves these days), we have overpriced weapons/aircraft programs that function as little more than cash funnels, U.S. embassies guarded not by Marines but by mercs, and a NASA that can't even build a rocket anymore without a Lockheed or Boeing to do all the work for them.

So why should Lockheed Martin care if the F-35 goes over budget, or the MEADS system [bloomberg.com] turns out to be a money sink, etc. etc. ? It's not like a Congress that they *own* is ever going to call them to task for it. And they'll get a hundred *new* contracts to replace them. So why should it surprise anyone to see stories like this [slashdot.org] pop up again and again on /.?

Re:Only "troubled" if you're not Lockheed Martin (5, Insightful)

0racle (667029) | more than 2 years ago | (#37976504)

I believe weapons development of this type was always done by contractors. NASA never built rockets, the Navy never built ships and the Army/Air Force never built planes.

Contracting everything out everywhere has in many places got out of hand, but the JSF program isn't really one of them. The only thing I'm not sure about is if there were ever penalties for budget overruns.

Re:Only "troubled" if you're not Lockheed Martin (4, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37976574)

Figher aircraft have traditionally run over budget. It has paid off, anyway - expensive aircraft have turned out to be very capable in a 'you get what you pay for' way. The F-35 is no different. Is there pork or inefficiency in some of what happened? Probably, and it would be nice to recover it - but in general a new fighter aircraft running over budget and late on milestones should not be a surprise.

Re:Only "troubled" if you're not Lockheed Martin (1, Insightful)

h4rr4r (612664) | more than 2 years ago | (#37976658)

It is a worse aircraft and almost as expensive if not more so now, then the F-22. It is also many years later. Had we kept building F-22s the price would have gone down.

Re:Only "troubled" if you're not Lockheed Martin (5, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37976778)

That is incorrect.

The F-22 is a better aircraft at blowing other planes out of the sky. That is its mission, what it has been built for, and what it does. (Also, it is getting upgrades from F-35 tech developments. Fighters are always undergoing upgrades)

The F-35 is a strike fighter. Its job is to blow up various ground targets, and it does this better than the F-22. Again, that is its mission and what it was built to do.

It isn't worse than an F-22, it has a completely different mission - and yes, purpose built-aircraft /are/ better than other aircraft at fulfilling their purpose - that's why they get built. Not a lot of countries can afford to build pure air to air fighters. The US can.

Re:Only "troubled" if you're not Lockheed Martin (2)

h4rr4r (612664) | more than 2 years ago | (#37976854)

yes, purpose built-aircraft /are/ better than other aircraft at fulfilling their purpose

Considering we are talking about the F-35 Jack of all Trades, Master of none, that is a pretty funny thing to mention. The thing was built to be everything to everyone. That is just a great way to make sure it fills no ones needs well and costs more than anyone wanted to pay.

Re:Only "troubled" if you're not Lockheed Martin (1)

ackthpt (218170) | more than 2 years ago | (#37976754)

Figher aircraft have traditionally run over budget. It has paid off, anyway - expensive aircraft have turned out to be very capable in a 'you get what you pay for' way. The F-35 is no different. Is there pork or inefficiency in some of what happened? Probably, and it would be nice to recover it - but in general a new fighter aircraft running over budget and late on milestones should not be a surprise.

I think there are those who see these programs coming along and do everything in their power to create an environment where the development will go into overruns. Further, there's the build in expectation that it must cost an absolutely sick amount of money.

The reality is, most of these fighters will encounter aircraft and weapons a couple of generations behind them, held together by cannibalised parts and flown by pilots who have more guts than training.

If the Pentagon said, "We want a new jet, designed and tested and ready to go into mass production, with the initial program less than $10 billion dollars", you can bet someone will overturn that and want the intial program to have a budget two or three times that. Those people are determined to have as much ot the program costs expended in their congressional districts.

Re:Only "troubled" if you're not Lockheed Martin (4, Insightful)

radtea (464814) | more than 2 years ago | (#37976808)

Figher aircraft have traditionally run over budget.

I read this thread just to find an idiot saying this so I could respond to it.

Every time a large project goes over budget some idiot always says, "OF COURSE it went over budget. Projects of type X ALWAYS go over budget."

This is nothing but an indictment of the idiots in charge of the project, since if projects of that type ALWAYS go over budget, it was as predictable before the project started as it was in hindsight, and therefore should have been accounted for in the budget projections. If it was not, then the project planners and the people who hired them are completely incompetent and should be discharged, preferably from a cannon.

Re:Only "troubled" if you're not Lockheed Martin (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37976900)

I read this thread just to find an idiot saying this so I could respond to it.

Holy fuck balls, you're boring!

Re:Only "troubled" if you're not Lockheed Martin (3, Interesting)

Sir_Sri (199544) | more than 2 years ago | (#37976820)

Part of the game that everyone plays is they pitch it to the public under budget, and but then pay cost overruns anyway, everyone involved knowing full well that there will be cost overruns, but once you're 66 billion dollars invested, another few billion to get you out isn't that much.

The other thing is: what's the alternative? We're having this discussion in canada right now. We have F18's. We are slated to buy F35's, and there are certainly other aircraft we could consider (the Eurofighter for example, or one of the Russian aircraft), or we can stick with what we have. Sticking with what we have is fine, but 15 years from now we may find it rather difficult to get new aircraft quickly if we need them. For the US it's not able to afford (nor would it want) 2000 F22's, so the choices are slim, buying 2000 eurofighters would be politically impractical, and the F35 is a better aircraft anyway. So options are limited at this point. Axing the project and starting afresh would set everything back, and be tremendously expensive - so the F35 project has to work at this point, cost overruns or not.

Re:Only "troubled" if you're not Lockheed Martin (4, Insightful)

h4rr4r (612664) | more than 2 years ago | (#37976916)

The alternative is the company gets their 66 billion and either has to deliver the plane or the money back.

Re:Only "troubled" if you're not Lockheed Martin (2)

radtea (464814) | more than 2 years ago | (#37976964)

Part of the game that everyone plays is they pitch it to the public under budget, and but then pay cost overruns anyway, everyone involved knowing full well that there will be cost overruns, but once you're 66 billion dollars invested, another few billion to get you out isn't that much.

There are perfectly well-known processes to to deal with this kind of nonsense, so bringing it up as an "excuse" is like saying, "Of course the building burned down! It's made of unprotected wood and the workers are using blow-torches!" If anyone gave that as an "excuse" for an industrial accident they would quite rightly be looked at like the incompetent wanker they were, but somehow no one ever calls people on it when they use exactly the same "logic" in equally predictable financial disasters that no one made even the tiniest bit of effort to avoid.

Second-lowest-bid contracts are one common and well-understood way of motivating people to bid their best estimate of cost, for example. This is not rocket science (well, OK, it's game theory, but still... it's game theory that's decades old.)

Re:Only "troubled" if you're not Lockheed Martin (1)

Drummergeek0 (1513771) | more than 2 years ago | (#37976522)

Everything military is going civilian, when I got out of the USAF 4 years ago, they were in the process of outsourcing (or A-76'ing as it was called) all of the base support squadrons. Comm (which is where I was), Civil Engineering, and Mission Support were all going civilian to "save cost".

Re:Only "troubled" if you're not Lockheed Martin (5, Insightful)

chebucto (992517) | more than 2 years ago | (#37976530)

I was first really shocked about military outsourcing when I saw a photo of L. Paul Bremner III, the proconsul for Iraq, being guarded by a group of Blackwater people.

How on earth is this justified - forget the question of allegiance and loyalty, outsourcing has got to cost more than using your own troops.

What happens now seems to be
- USG invests hunderds of thousands or millions of dollars in training for 1334 soldiers and pays them a civil service salary
- Mercenary corp hire them and pays them double their salary
- USG contracts Mercenary corp, and gets its own soldiers back and four times the price and one quarter the loyalty.

Re:Only "troubled" if you're not Lockheed Martin (3, Interesting)

Lemmy Caution (8378) | more than 2 years ago | (#37976602)

We live in the world of pure economics now, where the only real motivation that institutions believe matters is money. It's a self-fulfilling prophecy.

It is fascinating that the enemies of the US right now are those people who believe in something worthing killing and dying for that isn't money.

Re:Only "troubled" if you're not Lockheed Martin (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37976934)

So...what's new here?

Re:Only "troubled" if you're not Lockheed Martin (2)

ByOhTek (1181381) | more than 2 years ago | (#37976750)

In my experience, *MOST* of the government inefficiency we find, comes from private organizations abusing the government funds (thinking of them as unlimited), and the decisions by the legislators in those peoples pockets...

Re:Only "troubled" if you're not Lockheed Martin (1)

ackthpt (218170) | more than 2 years ago | (#37976822)

In my experience, *MOST* of the government inefficiency we find, comes from private organizations abusing the government funds (thinking of them as unlimited), and the decisions by the legislators in those peoples pockets...

And that abuse is hard fought for by the very people who claim to be trimming the budget.

It's called Bringing Home The Bacon and a time honored tradition among Representatives. B1 Bomber and Sergeant York vehicle come to mind.

Re:Only "troubled" if you're not Lockheed Martin (2)

dkleinsc (563838) | more than 2 years ago | (#37976864)

You have to remember that from Lockheed's point of view, government funds *are* unlimited. From Lockheed's point of view, cost and timeline overruns are simply increased profit. They will never, ever, be punished for failing to meet their contract terms, and they know it.

People who've looked into the issue basically think a motivated POTUS could conceivably spend his entire term trying to clean up the cesspool of corruption known as defense contracting, and still wouldn't even come close to succeeding. That should give you some idea of how bad it is.

Re:Only "troubled" if you're not Lockheed Martin (4, Insightful)

demachina (71715) | more than 2 years ago | (#37976976)

I think the cost comparison needs to factor in the lifetime cost of a soldier. In particular a lifetime of health care through the VA and if you stay in the military for at least 30 years the fat pension.

  If you put in 20 years you get a pension equal to 50% of your last paycheck, or at 40 years you get 100%. So⦠you can start drawing a pension at age 38 and if you live to 90, which is increasingly common, you draw a pension for 52 years.

As life expectancy and health care costs have skyrocketed, there is a rationale for outsourcing everything except actual war fighting, the benefits have become exorbinantly too expensive to have soldiers do house keeping work.

They should have trained 3 more soldiers. (1)

CanadianRealist (1258974) | more than 2 years ago | (#37976978)

- USG invests hunderds of thousands or millions of dollars in training for 1334 soldiers and pays them a civil service salary

It would have been so much better if they had trained just 3 more soldiers.

Re:Only "troubled" if you're not Lockheed Martin (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37976548)

Our planes have always been "outsourced" to the Lockheed's of the world... the question is, what changed.

Re:Only "troubled" if you're not Lockheed Martin (1)

Kenja (541830) | more than 2 years ago | (#37976810)

What changed is we stopped asking the question "what is it for" and just started writing checks for anything they could produce.

There is no need for a new fighter jet. So why did we buy one?

Re:Only "troubled" if you're not Lockheed Martin (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37976910)

Program complexity - as complexity increases and development times increase, the risk of the customer causing scope-creep mid-program increases drastically.

Also, because a few dishonest companies bilked the government, everything is now more expensive across the board. Increased oversight makes it hard for honest contractors to just "git er' done" without spending hours dealing with EVMS bullshit.

Re:Only "troubled" if you're not Lockheed Martin (1)

GodInHell (258915) | more than 2 years ago | (#37976560)

It would seem a handful of contractors and merc firms do pretty much everything now for the government.

Hey now, they don't do everything. Soldiers get to do all the fighting and dieing, and for much less per hour!

-GiH

Not troubled at all. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37976586)

Interesting.

Aside from the named modern weapons, it almost described the last days of the Roman Empire.

The good news is, if we go the way of the British Empire, the standard of living for the average citizen will go up like it did for the English - it's expensive being a World power and the cost is born by the middle and lower classes (99%) while the benefits go to the upper classes (1%).

As a matter of fact, the faster we decline the better it is for most of us. And maybe, just maybe, we can get some of that defense money to NASA?

Another point, if you look at the demilitarized nations (Germany, Japan), they did pretty damn good after their militaries were drastically reduced.

Re:Not troubled at all. (1)

elrous0 (869638) | more than 2 years ago | (#37976668)

Another point, if you look at the demilitarized nations (Germany, Japan), they did pretty damn good after their militaries were drastically reduced.

Yeah, but they were only able to do that because the U.S. and Europe stepped in and took over their defence with NATO and occupation. Who is going to do that for the U.S. if we go bust?

Need troops for combat ... (1)

perpenso (1613749) | more than 2 years ago | (#37976640)

I think the recent trend also has a lot to do with the demand for troops for combat related assignments. The outsourcing of some support tasks makes uniformed personnel available for combat assignments. It might be similar to the various womens auxiliaries from WW2 where men were made available for combat. When overseas combat deployments decline we may see a reversal of the trend, perhaps MPs back at the gates, etc.

Re:Only "troubled" if you're not Lockheed Martin (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37976660)

This is the way it *SHOULD* be you dumbass statist. Only the PRIVATE sector can do things reliably, consistently, and with absolute dedication to quality and affordability through innovation and the invisible hand of the free market. The government (as we all know from all the stories on slashdot) is incompetent in everything it does, why woul dyou want national security handled by people whos only interest is the size of their fat cat union backed paycheck?

Re:Only "troubled" if you're not Lockheed Martin (5, Insightful)

YrWrstNtmr (564987) | more than 2 years ago | (#37976744)

I think the larger story isn't a troubled individual program, it's a federal government that outsources and contracts almost *everything* these days.

The word 'drawdown' is the fault here.
Let's say for a given capability, it takes 5,000,000 individuals. 4.5 million uniforms, and 500,000 civilian contractors. Along comes Congress, and they want to, in the name of votes, drawdown the number of uniforms on active duty. So down we go down to 3,000,000 active duty, Hooray! We cut the size of ythe military!
But wait a minute. It still takes 5,000,000 individuals to run that given capability. So now you have 3,000,000 uniforms, and 2,000,000 civilians.

In some cases, this is a good thing. I'd rather have a young airman out fixing a jet rather than wasting the day cutting the grass. So hire a local company to do that grass.
But I'd also rather have active duty Marines protecting a US official in Kabul, rather than Blackwater doing it.

Re:Only "troubled" if you're not Lockheed Martin (1)

geoffrobinson (109879) | more than 2 years ago | (#37976984)

The men in uniform are not nor have ever been designing advanced airplanes.

Re:Only "troubled" if you're not Lockheed Martin (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37976804)

"It's not like a Congress that they *own* is ever going to call them to task for it." - As someone who works at an LM plant that had around 1/4 of their workforce laid off due to a program cancellation, I disagree with you.

Also note that in the case of that program, just like with F-35, the customer is just as much at fault as the contractor. Just read the F-35 story, and it's the same old story - costs skyrocketed because the customer couldn't make up their damn mind and kept on changing technical requirements or shuffling around the schedule. (See, for example, this gem from TFA - "Instead, after the Marines lobbied to have their model go first, the Pentagon in 2003 asked Lockheed to begin work on that jet. It also sought more software capabilities in earlier versions of the plane than originally planned, Muellner said.")

Changing a program midway through development after contract award is a LOT more expensive than finishing your first baseline, then adding features onto an already-complete baseline as a followon. "scope creep" is a killer of programs.

It generally goes:
Government submits a request for proposal
Contractors submit bids
One contractor wins
Contractor begins executing per proposal
Customer then says, "Hey can I have this?"
Contractor says, "It'll cost you $x"
Customer says "Sure" - and here's where it starts going down the tubes. This is where the "rich man's world" mentioned above comes into play.

End result is that program costs skyrocket and schedule slips due to the churn. Now yes, the contractor is to some degree at fault for not saying "This is the baseline we bid and we're going to stick to it", but the fact is that the customer pressured the contractor into changing the baseline mid-program to begin with.

Funny thing is, engineers at one company who will remain nameless are constantly taught in training classes to commit to a baseline and finish it - then the program managers have them reassigned when they try to execute their training and fight scope creep.

Re:Only "troubled" if you're not Lockheed Martin (1)

TheLink (130905) | more than 2 years ago | (#37976876)

it's a federal government that outsources and contracts almost *everything* these days

Of course, that's because many voters keep stupidly asking for small government, so the people in power figure out ways to reduce headcount and pretend to have "small government" while still enriching themselves.

So be careful for what you ask for. You might get it. Quality matters more than Quantity.

The next "obvious" step is the voters saying "No it's not just about headcount" and want to reduce Government spending and taxes as well. If forced to, they'd do stuff like give/sell off the profitable bits and have their Crony Corporations now charge fees, tolls, rent instead (of taxes).

Then you'd have small government, low taxes, low government spending, low regulation. The dreams of the voters and some people in power will come true.

But the voters would be even more screwed, since the voters would find it even harder to "vote out" Corporations they don't want.

When that happens don't expect voters to succeed voting with their wallets when:
a) they clearly did a stupid job voting with the ballot
b) the votes of the rich and powerful count for more
c) you have even fewer "candidates" and good luck having independents for "Tolled Highways" or "Defense Management Corporation".

As for voting with bullets, sure you can try to get rid of everything, but you may then have to wait for the Supreme Dictator's great-grandchild to take over and decide that Democracy might be a cool thing to try.

Re:Only "troubled" if you're not Lockheed Martin (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37976944)

Of course, that's because many voters keep stupidly asking for small government,

We ask for a "for real" small government - not a government that pretends to be small but in reality has expanded boatloads with stupid accounting/accountability/contracting.

Having said that, I'd imagine there's far less waste contracting that politicians foisting unsustainable government employee pensions on future taxpayers.

Having Once Worked at Lockheed Martin... (1)

geoffrobinson (109879) | more than 2 years ago | (#37976956)

Lockheed Martin doesn't like to have cost and schedule overruns. While I didn't work on this project directly (I knew people who did), my educated guess would be to the causes:

1) the government's requirements are either unrealistic or changing
2) doing large technical projects is legitimately hard to do on time, on budget, and meeting requirements.

This isn't just true of government and defense projects. This is true of almost all technical projects. While in grad school, I took a software project management class. The teacher stressed that out of all technical projects only 1/6th can be considered successful (on-time, on-budget, meets requirements).

So let's not be hypocritical and attributing cost overruns simply to lobbying.

As to the costs, the government is very bureaucratic. (stating the obvious) Also, the defense industry doesn't outsource labor. Imagine a place where engineering can work for good pay at the age of 55.

Re:Only "troubled" if you're not Lockheed Martin (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37976962)

Every time someone tries to blame "lobbying money" on a problem ... what you are really saying ... is that the government employees in charge of making decisions and overseeing programs are incompetent.

I can lobby that you buy a #2 pencil from me for $500. If you are dumb enough to do it, then the next time you ask how much a pencil costs, being the astute business person I am, the answer will be $600. The price, and consequently the waste, won't go down, until you wise up and refuse to pay $500 for a pencil.

Ah, makes perfect sense... (3, Insightful)

fuzzyfuzzyfungus (1223518) | more than 2 years ago | (#37976442)

"I’d blame the program’s setbacks on the fact that we lived in a rich man’s world,"

So, the development is five years behind schedule because the budget used to be too large?

Re:Ah, makes perfect sense... (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37976598)

Actually... Yes! Without enough limitations projects are very susceptible to feature creep, and since they can keep getting money year after year without producing anything, there is not that much incentive to actually finish.

Re:Ah, makes perfect sense... (1)

jazman_777 (44742) | more than 2 years ago | (#37976904)

The F-35 shouldn't be the JSF "Joint Strike Fighter", but the DNF: "Duke Nukem Fighter"

Re:Ah, makes perfect sense... (1)

MrTester (860336) | more than 2 years ago | (#37976608)

No, were 5 years behind schedule because the governments response to that situation in the past has been "Oh. Well here's some more money. Let see if that helps."

The next new airplane to get axed... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37976444)

Really wonderful, since they already axed further Raptor (F-22) production (and others) because the JSF was going to be the end-all for all services. Our fleet is getting old, and our enemies are busy building 5th-gen fighters to beat ours as they eye their neighbors hungrily.

So shortsighted it makes me sick.

Re:The next new airplane to get axed... (1)

cornface (900179) | more than 2 years ago | (#37976482)

The worst part about the Raptor cuts is that they cut it after the most expensive part of the program.

The cost per plane would have dropped significantly since the lines were already up and running. Meh.

Re:The next new airplane to get axed... (3, Insightful)

ElectricTurtle (1171201) | more than 2 years ago | (#37976518)

F-35 was kept at F-22's expense because unlike F-22 (which is too awesome to share with anybody else for any reason) the F-35 is as much a diplomatic tool as it is military vehicle. The US obligated itself to its allies to produce this aircraft for mutual use, and not delivering it would cause a lot more international face loss than cancelling F-22.

It's really pathetic that we are more concerned with playing political games with our allies than fielding the best equipment for our armed forces.

Re:The next new airplane to get axed... (1)

ComaVN (325750) | more than 2 years ago | (#37976654)

The US obligated itself to its allies to produce this aircraft for mutual use, and not delivering it would cause a lot more international face loss than cancelling F-22

It's funny you should say that, because in The Netherlands, the opinion is that we only chose to join/support the development of the F35 to suck up to the US.

Re:The next new airplane to get axed... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37976768)

The world's leaders are now discussing their beliefs and motives on Slashdot?

Re:The next new airplane to get axed... (1)

the linux geek (799780) | more than 2 years ago | (#37976520)

The F-22 had a few issues, namely that Congress wouldn't permit it to be exported and it wasn't really suitable for carrier-based ops (no STOL/VTOL capability.) The F-35 was supposed to be the successor to the F-16 as the near-standard fighter for NATO and non-NATO US allies, and provide a replacement for the F/A-18 for the Navy.

Re:The next new airplane to get axed... (3, Insightful)

GodInHell (258915) | more than 2 years ago | (#37976594)

Our fleet is getting old, and our enemies are busy building 5th-gen fighters to beat ours as they eye their neighbors hungrily.

Uhm, who's that now? China is the only serious competitor out there that's in the jet building game nowadays, and while they may be eyeing their neighbors hungrily (and hell, they've been on a steady 1 conquest per decade rule for awhile now), they're pretty economically tied into the current relationship between the U.S., Eurozone and China. Their oil supplies are extra-national (ours are native) they're a net food importer (we're an exporter) and their entire economy is based on export fever. They may be aggressive, but "enemies" is a bit much.

-GiH

Re:The next new airplane to get axed... (1)

the linux geek (799780) | more than 2 years ago | (#37976656)

Russia is building the PAK FA 5th-gen fighter.

Re:The next new airplane to get axed... (1)

khallow (566160) | more than 2 years ago | (#37976676)

Russia and EU are in the game as well. Even if they aren't "enemies" by the standard of the earlier poster, they could sell to someone who gets into a conflict with the US. The Russians have already done this.

Re:The next new airplane to get axed... (1)

Frosty Piss (770223) | more than 2 years ago | (#37976906)

Remember the recent Tanker fiasco... Boeing and Airbus fighting over pork with gravy while the KC-135 fleet gets older and older. And the new tanker is still YEARS away.

Re:The next new airplane to get axed... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37976986)

The F-22 is the only so-called "5th generation fighter" that's been deployed. The only other aircraft even close are the F-35 and Russia's Sukhoi PAK FA, the latter which just had it's first flight last year and realistically won't reach production any earlier than 2016. No other "5th generation fighter" will reach production until 2020 even by the most optimistic timetables. As for the American fleet the situation is even more absurd: it's bigger than the next 13 navies combined, with 11 aircraft carriers (plus one in reserve, one building, and two more ordered) that are twice as big as anybody else's.

Solyndra (2)

Cyberax (705495) | more than 2 years ago | (#37976446)

So when Congress Republicans are going to launch investigations about this failure like they did with Solyndra?

Re:Solyndra (2, Insightful)

fuzzyfuzzyfungus (1223518) | more than 2 years ago | (#37976500)

Military procurement projects never fail. They only get canceled by democrats who are weak on national defense...

Re:Solyndra (1)

Bardwick (696376) | more than 2 years ago | (#37976514)

The investigation would reveal that a government project is over budget and long overdue. What's to investigate? This happens on pretty much every project.

Re:Solyndra (0, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37976532)

So when Congress Republicans are going to launch investigations about this failure like they did with Solyndra?

They'll demand an investigation about the time the campaign donations, expensive vacations, and cushy jobs for their relatives stop happening.

Re:Solyndra (4, Informative)

metiscus (1270822) | more than 2 years ago | (#37976568)

The difference is that Lockheed isn't a bankrupt company, financed with taxpayer funds, given under dubious circumstances. The contracts for the F-35 and F-22 are well known and derived from congressional authority. If you want congress to investigate the largess at Lockheed, contact your senator, but at least the F-35 contract was awarded openly. We don't know much about the loan that was given to Solyndra since the administration has refused a lawful congressional subpoena.

Re:Solyndra (2)

iteyoidar (972700) | more than 2 years ago | (#37976626)

"The difference is that Lockheed isn't a bankrupt company, financed with taxpayer funds, given under dubious circumstances."

Two out of three is pretty close!

(and the third is really a matter of the degree of taxpayer funding)

Re:Solyndra (1)

h4rr4r (612664) | more than 2 years ago | (#37976690)

The F-35 contract was based on the fact that it looked nicer than the boeing aircraft. Boeing underestimated how much coolness factor goes into aircraft selection. They focused on things like meeting design goals.

Re:Solyndra (1)

metiscus (1270822) | more than 2 years ago | (#37976878)

Just so I am clear, there is quite [dodbuzz.com] a bit [state.gov] of openness [jsf.mil] about the history [jsf.mil] and current state of the f-35 program. Where [google.com] are the Solyndra documents?

Re:Solyndra (1)

Kenja (541830) | more than 2 years ago | (#37976892)

Its only not bankrupt because we keep on giving them tax payer monies under dubious circumstances. If we stopped, they would have major issues. But we keep funding projects that never get off the ground.

Purge iTards from the gene pool (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37976506)

Has anyone ever noticed that iTards are limp-wristed sissies? About a week ago an iTard started a fight with me in front of his hipster friends and his girlfriend. After facestomping him, I picked him up, pulled down his pants and underwear and preceded to shove his brand new iPhones 4s up his as. Now apparently this guy gets off on being beaten up since he had a raging 2 inch boner. Now apparently his girlfriend had never seen his dick before since she started uncontrollably laughing and ended up dumping him on the spot. After running of his douchebag friends I took his ex-girlfriend back to my place and gave her the deep-dicking of her life. Needless to say she has given up the hipster scene after that and threw all her iShinies in the trash.

The moral of this story is that you better check what an iTard is packing in his pants before you date him. Chances are high that his iPhone is longer than his dick.

Humanity does not need that. (1)

stooo (2202012) | more than 2 years ago | (#37976508)

Humanity does not need that.

Same budget woes as the JWST (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37976556)

Only with 10 times the money wasted.

Good! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37976572)

The world doesn't need the Empire getting any more military technology!

Affordable replacement for something paid for (3, Insightful)

Todd Knarr (15451) | more than 2 years ago | (#37976612)

The JSF's biggest problem: it's a replacement for things the military already owns. No matter how much more cost-effective it might be, the planes it's intended to replace have already been paid for. The spare parts are already bought and paid for and in the warehouse. The pilots and ground crews are already trained. And everybody else uses those same planes too so wherever we go we can be assured of finding support facilities that'll accommodate the existing planes. No matter how affordable the JSF is, it's still going to cost more to bring into service than it'll cost to keep the existing planes flying.

And it isn't bringing anything to the table that the existing planes don't do. Sure it'll do in one package what you'd need several other models of aircraft to do, but it's not so incredibly more effective that you'd need fewer total planes and you still have to buy all new planes and spares and train crews on it. If you're tight on cash, you stick with what you've already got.

Re:Affordable replacement for something paid for (5, Insightful)

93 Escort Wagon (326346) | more than 2 years ago | (#37976662)

The JSF's biggest problem: it's a replacement for things the military already owns.

While I do agree with your point, I'd argue the JSF's biggest problem is it's designed for a war we're unlikely to ever find ourselves in. What need is there for a high-tech plane like this when you're fighing against a bunch of cave-dwelling terrorists?

These shiny gadgets were born out of the cold war, but that's over. Does anyone think China would want a military confrontation with any of its largest customers? Do people really think Russia is likely to rise again?

Re:Affordable replacement for something paid for (1)

archen (447353) | more than 2 years ago | (#37976850)

I'm not entirely sure I even understand what kind of war would require the F-35. The reality of modern warfare is that fighter jets are missile delivery systems. Avionics and missile/bomb capabilities are what really makes the jet, and the old tried and true F-15 can do that just fine. It's unclear how much of an advantage stealth really is for something like the F-35 against a high tech adversary anyway.

Re:Affordable replacement for something paid for (1)

YrWrstNtmr (564987) | more than 2 years ago | (#37976852)

By the time the F-35 starts to come fully online (2020?), the F-16, which is one of those it will replace, will have been in service for 40 years. Extrapolating forward, that means we can expect to be flying the F-35's well past 2050 or 2060. I doubt we could keep F-16's and -18's around until then.

Re:Affordable replacement for something paid for (1)

h4rr4r (612664) | more than 2 years ago | (#37976958)

Why?
You think we are going to forget how to build them?

Re:Affordable replacement for something paid for (1)

Sir_Sri (199544) | more than 2 years ago | (#37976980)

Well except that the planes currently in service are going to be very old by 2020, or 2025 and that's when the JSF is really going to take off as a major airforce component around the world. I'm sure you'll see roll outs in 2013 or so, but in 2020 you don't want to be relying on aircraft and parts made in 1996, so you are buying an aircraft design for the future, not for today. Compared to the Harriers, F16 A/B even D's, early model F15's, F18's (not necessarily the super hornet) it's a *much* better aircraft in terms of range, performance at range etc. Even without stealth. And having standardized parts across countries sounds appealing (it might not be). It's still better than the Superhornet and the F22 is really the replacement for the F15, but not by as huge a margin, bu then it will be contemporary to the F18E for a lot of its service life anyway.

And of course there's the more modern avionics suite, which is hard to evaluate.

What it's bringing to the table is the same reason you buy a new car when the old one requires $500 in maintenance every month because some other damn thing is wrong with it. And when it comes to aircraft you have to plan for this long in advance.

Marine version tripped up the whole program (5, Insightful)

Big_Breaker (190457) | more than 2 years ago | (#37976616)

It's the VTOL/STOL version for the marines that bogged the whole program down. It was just too ambious and when this became obvious the "solution" was to put almost all the focus on the Marine version to push it through. They should have paused the Marine version instead, met all the objectives for the convential and carrier versions, then come back to the marines. In 5 or 10 years we'll be smarter about how to do it, where the airframe can be lightened, how to put more thrust in the engines, etc.

Re:Marine version tripped up the whole program (1)

perpenso (1613749) | more than 2 years ago | (#37976720)

On the other hand the Marines needed a replacement more than the other services. The Marine version should probably be the last to cut, not the first. They have a unique need for VSTOL. Amphibious assault ships fill a very important niche and history has shown having Marine aviation near Marine ground forces can be quite critical.

Re:Marine version tripped up the whole program (1)

Rich0 (548339) | more than 2 years ago | (#37976870)

Why not just have the Navy fill this niche? Why do the planes need to launch from a particular class of ship? Why do they need to land on improvised fields? Just what kind of war could having this particular plane help win that would otherwise be lost?

Re:Marine version tripped up the whole program (1)

0123456 (636235) | more than 2 years ago | (#37976988)

Just what kind of war could having this particular plane help win that would otherwise be lost?

The Falklands?

Though, admittedly, the US Navy could spare more than enough real carriers to fight a war of that size and wouldn't have to send fighter/bombers out there on container ships.

Of course one of the other big benefits of VTOL is that you can land in weather where no-one would even consider conventional carrier operations. Hovering until you spot an empty piece of deck is easier than smashing down onto a deck you can barely see.

Best comment in article: (3, Interesting)

sbrown123 (229895) | more than 2 years ago | (#37976620)

“A lot of design compromises were made especially to give the Marine Corps the STOVL capability which, by the way, they’ve never used in combat,” he said. “And who says the Marines need a fast jet in combat?” said McPeak, now chairman of Ethicspoint Inc., a consulting firm in Lake Oswego, Oregon.

Re:Best comment in article: (1)

fortapocalypse (1231686) | more than 2 years ago | (#37976680)

In Aliens 2, the marines rode in a pretty slow spaceship, well, compared to Star Trek. That is the future. Slow space harriers.

Re:Best comment in article: (3, Informative)

0123456 (636235) | more than 2 years ago | (#37976698)

“A lot of design compromises were made especially to give the Marine Corps the STOVL capability which, by the way, they’ve never used in combat,” he said.

The British routinely used thrust-vectoring in combat with their Harriers; I'd be surprised if the Marines didn't take advantage of the same capability. Of course with the F-35's lift fan design I presume it can't use vectored thrust in forward flight?

Re:Best comment in article: (1)

h4rr4r (612664) | more than 2 years ago | (#37976830)

I do not believe so.
The normal F-35 does not have it either. Yet, another step backward from the F-22.

Marine infantry says that ... (2)

perpenso (1613749) | more than 2 years ago | (#37976780)

And who says the Marines need a fast jet in combat?

Marine infantry says that. Perhaps they have a better perspective than Mr. McPeak has from his desk in Oregon.

Re:Marine infantry says that ... (1)

Rich0 (548339) | more than 2 years ago | (#37976888)

I need a new Porche. Trust me, I'm in a much better place to see it in my driveway than you are...

Re:Best comment in article: (1)

CannonballHead (842625) | more than 2 years ago | (#37976918)

“A lot of design compromises were made especially to give the Marine Corps the STOVL capability which, by the way, they’ve never used in combat,”

Do they currently have that capability? If not, how could they have actually used it in combat already? ...

VTOL used repeatedly in combat for decades (1)

perpenso (1613749) | more than 2 years ago | (#37976974)

A lot of design compromises were made especially to give the Marine Corps the STOVL capability which, by the way, they’ve never used in combat

You were misinformed. VTOL Harriers have been used in combat.

Amphibious assault ships are a highly specialized self-contained "package" that contains everything that Marines need to deliver and support a ground force. Part of that force includes "fast movers" to provide close air support on a very rapid basis. Note that the US Marines and the British Royal Navy employ the same aircraft and the British have similarly sized carriers specialized for these type of aircraft. The concept was proven in the Falklands, Yugoslavia, the Gulf Wars 1 and 2, Afghanistan and in the recent support of revolutionaries in Libya. One of many examples:

"On 20 March 2011, USMC AV-8Bs were launched from USS Kearsarge in support of Operation Odyssey Dawn, enforcing the UN no-fly zone over Libya. They carried out air strikes on Sirte on 5 April 2011. Multiple AV-8Bs were involved in the defense of a downed F-15E pilot, attacking approaching Libyans prior to the pilot's extraction by MV-22 Osprey." http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/AV-8B_Harrier_II#United_States_Marine_Corps [wikipedia.org]

They never learn. (2, Informative)

140Mandak262Jamuna (970587) | more than 2 years ago | (#37976652)

Back in the 60s Robert McNamara pushed a "joint" fighter common to both Air Force and the Navy. Bean counter at heart, wanted to take advantages of economy of scale, synergy and the other buzzword bingo terms.

Both sides hated it. Both Air Force and Navy worked hard to sabotage the project from get go. Navy insisted on side-by-side two seater fighter configuration, citing "visibility concerns on deck landings". Army insisted on ejection pod instead of ejection seats. And super sonic speed too. And maneuverability for deck landings too. By the time they got the specs done they got a "fighter" with thrust-to-weight ratio of some 0.5 or something, with barely better rate of climb and turn radius compared to even second world was fighters. The F111 Thunder Chief was a disaster even before it reached the drawing boards, it was a shame a plane with that kind of specs was given the F designation. F there definitely did not stand for Fighter. After sinking this, Navy got its way and got F-14 Tomcat and Air Force got its way and got F18 Eagle.

That should have been an object lesson to any bean counter trying shoehorn specs from multiple services into a single air-frame. But they never learn, do they?

Re:They never learn. (1)

140Mandak262Jamuna (970587) | more than 2 years ago | (#37976726)

Sorry got the name wrong. Not Fire Chief, it was Aardvark. But rest of my recollection [wikipedia.org] seems to be correct.

Re:They never learn. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37976846)

F15 = Eagle, F18 = Hornet

Re:They never learn. (1)

pkinetics (549289) | more than 2 years ago | (#37976786)

I think you mean the Air Force got the F16 Eagle. F18 is the Hornet.

Additionally the F15 and F16 designs were rammed down the Air Force's throat. They wanted nothing to do with it. Heck, they really didn't want the F16.

Read the biography on Colonel John Boyd, who designed the modern day air fighter.

Re:They never learn. (1)

coolmoose25 (1057210) | more than 2 years ago | (#37976932)

Actually, the Air Force got the F-15 Eagle, and the F-16 Falcon (known by pilots as the Viper)

The Navy got the F-14 Tomcat, and the F18 Hornet

The Marines got the AV8-B - the Harrier of British design with VSTOL but not supersonic.

Most of these can, or could, use similar engines... They can, or could use similar avionics and do use similar weapons systems including the Sidewinder Heat Seeking missile, and the AMRAAM (Advanced Medium Range Air To Air Missile). Only the Tomcat got the Phoenix, which was purpose built to be able to work with the Tomcat's radar that could track 18 targets and shoot at 6 of them.

Bottom line is that we should allow the services to use DISSIMILAR airframes, but have them use common components like missiles, radars, and engines.

Re:They never learn. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37976968)

Actually, F-15 is the Eagle. F-16 is the Fighting Falcon.

Re:They never learn. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37976836)

F18 is the Hornet, F15 is the Eagle.

Re:They never learn. (2)

Rich0 (548339) | more than 2 years ago | (#37976924)

Gotta love bureaucracy, where even the secretary of defense is powerless to make a program happen.

The solution isn't to give the bureaucrats what they want, but to tell them that if they don't want to do their jobs properly somebody else will.

Re:They never learn. (1)

A10Mechanic (1056868) | more than 2 years ago | (#37976950)

F-15 Eagle (Air Force) F-18 Hornet (Navy) A-10 Thunderbolt II (Awesome)

The big problem was VTOL (4, Interesting)

Animats (122034) | more than 2 years ago | (#37976688)

Building vertical takeoff into the thing was the big mistake. Historically, VTOL aircraft have not been very successful, despite many attempts. However, the USMC has the Harrier, almost the only VTOL aircraft that works. So VTOL capability was specified for the F-35. This complicated the design enormously. [youtube.com] (Look at the video, with all those hatches opening and huge nozzles deploying). I admire Lockheed-Martin for making that work at all. That's where the money went.

The best fighters have been clean, simple beasts, like the F-16. Trying to combine fighter, bomber, stealth, and VTOL guarantees an expensive aircraft. Usually something important is lost, like range, bomb load, or turn radius. Or, most importantly, number of aircraft. In an air war, the side that runs out of fighters first loses.

Re:The big problem was VTOL (2)

140Mandak262Jamuna (970587) | more than 2 years ago | (#37976818)

Yup, the plumber wants a monkey wrench. The sys-admin wants a screw driver. The surgeon wants a scalpel. So the hospital management orders three swiss army knives. Same old story.

Has there ever been a plane on time on budget? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37976708)

Has there ever been a plane on time on budget? I haven't ever heard of one. Have there been any reports of such a thing? If not, why highlight the expected?

Re:Has there ever been a plane on time on budget? (1)

0123456 (636235) | more than 2 years ago | (#37976756)

Has there ever been a plane on time on budget? I haven't ever heard of one.

I'm pretty sure some aircraft were developed during WWII in less time than developing the paperwork on a modern fighter. Of course that was in wartime when the difference between having it flying and not having it flying could be catastrophic.

And, to be fair, a WWII fighter was a heck of a lot simpler.

Against AK47s and IEDs? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37976826)

Talk about a sledgehammer to crack a walnut.

However, it is a very efficient way to loot taxpayer funds. The US can't afford to have a cost-overrun gap!

i love the F22 :( (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37976872)

i'm glad we cancelled the F22 when it was in production and went with the F35 which is in design. that was a close call, we might have actually had a modernized air force. it's inconceivable that the F22 might have been adapted later to the additional missions the F35 can do. with the best fighter ever created in mothballs, we'll never be a threat to the world. which is good, because america is evil and obama is making sure we're stopped. thank you obama! 4 more years!

actually, i'm quite aware that the F22 was cancelled because it was *too* awesome. so awesome we didn't want to export it. the F35 though? sure no problem, because it sucks.

canada (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37976898)

then Harper decided it's the best choice! no matther the price!

One word: TFX (1)

thepainguy (1436453) | more than 2 years ago | (#37976912)

OK, two words (since the program doesn't seem to be written about much): F-111.

That was the same kind of concept -- one plane that could play multiple roles -- but it didn't work out in the end since so many requirements went against each other. You'd think they'd learn from history, but I guess the concept is just too appealing.

Is it really needed? (1)

kikito (971480) | more than 2 years ago | (#37976930)

The Harrier exists for VTOL. The F-16 is a very capable machine.

What can be more affordable than using what you already have?

Load More Comments
Slashdot Login

Need an Account?

Forgot your password?