UK defence issues and the odd container or two

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Think Defence hopes to start sensible conversations about UK defence issues, no agenda or no campaign but there might be one or two posts on containers, bridges and mexeflotes!

30 Comments

  1. Topman

    Interesting video, no I don’t think anyone thought out the rest of the sentence, did they ? I’m amused that even during ‘budget cuts’ the USAF have someone just to sort out the LO fit and finish, sounds like a low maintance aircraft to operate ;) Although that’s something I’ve seen/heard repeatedly from those on the F35 out in the states now. I wonder if they learnt anything from the F22?

  2. Mark

    ” I wonder if they learnt anything from the F22?”

    Oh they did make sure parts were being build or maintained in all us states.

  3. x

    I still want to know if a pilot is cleared for B is also cleared for A and C without conversion?

    Obviously A and C can’t go straight to B, or can they as long as they do any vertical stuff?

    That we only need 4 instead of lots line I think is a bit far fetched. If he can say that then what is its actual performance level? It would have to be completely invisible to radar………

  4. WiseApe

    I hate it when people say “110 %” – it’s like “11″ on an amplifier. :D

    Can it fly in bad weather yet? How’s the helmet coming along? Can the hook catch a wire? How’s the weight margins on the B? How much will it cost?

    Shouldn’t we be getting answers to these – and other – questions by now? They’ve built over a hundred of them. Yes I know it’s a complex system, but feck me…

  5. DavidNiven

    @Topman

    ‘just $5000 a roll’

    Is that all? what’s all this complaining about cost for?

    @WiseApe

    ‘it’s like “11″ on an amplifier’

    What your failing to understand is that the F35 is a Force Amplifier ;-)

  6. Bluenose

    Oh, leave the poor thing alone; at least let it fly at Farnborough before renewing the general stabbing.

  7. Martin

    after both Europe and America invested billion’s in expensive Gucci single mission aircraft surely what is needed in these uncertain times is a bit if a jack of all trades even if its not a master in all.

    In will agree that the software and helmet are issues but most of the issues are in meeting the programs design parameters.

    The design parameters may have to be reduced but we will still end up with a decent aircraft with a large future potential for growth.

    Its not the right aircraft to replace the entire USAF fleet but then it was never suppose to be. The fault if any lies with the F22 program.

    For the UK its the perfect harrier replacement and a good complementary capability to the Typhoon. Together the two with some sort of Taranis derived UCAV will easily replace the Tornado.

  8. Mike Wheatley

    “…surely what is needed in these uncertain times is a bit if a jack of all trades even if its not a master in all.”

    No, what is needed is a *cheaper* warplane, even if it is a bit “jack of all trades master of none”.

    By far the biggest problem is not that it underperforms the F-22 and/or Tiffy, but that it is so much more expensive than required.

  9. Monty

    All the fuss about the F-35 reminds me of the Porsche 911. When it was launched it was not a particularly good sports car dynamically.. As it has evolved over successive generations, it has become one of the greatest sports cars.

    I don’t know if the F-35 will enjoy the same success, but the B version is undoubtedly a better aircraft than the Harrier ever was. That’s no criticism of the Harrier, merely an acknowledgement of technological evolution.

    One can rightly criticise the JSF Program for a whole variety of reasons. Ultimately, though it has to succeed. There’s so much invested in it, I am sure that the will for it to be as good as it’s forbears will result in a great aircraft.

    I hear much talk of the A version replacing the Tornado. This too was criticised back in the 70s for being a Jack of all Trades.

  10. WiseApe

    “…a large future potential for growth. ” – Given that currently it can only fly in US air space (that is, when it’s not grounded), provided it’s not too cloudy, then yes, I would say that there is certainly enormous room for development! Provided it doesn’t weigh or cost too much.

    Where did I put my “It will still be better than Harrier” T-shirt?

  11. Simon

    What I’d really love to know about the F35 is how much R&D has been specifically for F35B and F35C.

    I just get the impression that at the scale this project was aimed it could actually have delivered an F16 replacement pretty effectively.

    I wonder how much the Harrier and F18 replacement is diluting the value of the truly viable and sensible version?

    Anyone from Lockheed Martin care to comment?

  12. Martin

    @ Mike W

    You must have some information I don’t. what price will a production F35 be? What are the cheaper aircraft options?

  13. ArmChairCivvy

    Simon,
    Payload of a Hornet
    Acceleration of an F16
    Sneaky characteristics of an F117

    Which one of the three main design parameters would you first take away, to get a cheaper price?

  14. Mark

    http://www.flightglobal.com/news/articles/outgoing-f-35-programme-boss-shares-hard-won-lessons-383932/

    Lockheed, during the early years of the programme between 2004 and 2005, was working on the conventional take-off F-35A variant first because the company did not have the engineering resources to work on all three versions of the jet simultaneously, Burbage says. But company and government parametric engineering models began to show that the weight of the F-35B short take-off vertical landing (STOVL) version of the aircraft was getting too high.

    ACC

    This one “Sneaky characteristics of an F117″

  15. Simon

    ACC,

    I see Observer “did a NaB” and had the Red Stripe when only Stella and Kronenbourg was on offer. I was going to do the same and ditch STOVL and carrier hookability and handling ;-)

    First – Payload of a Hornet
    Second – Sneaky characteristics of an F117
    Third – Acceleration of an F16

  16. Simon

    Also curious if we’ll all actually end up with two fleets within the F35 fleet…

    1. Properly maintained and highly stealth-ified (I’m going for these types of word now).
    2. Once used from an austere base and stealth-buggered (skin damaged), but still an operable aircraft.

  17. as

    There have been plenty of aircraft that started as a dog and got to the stage they are worshiped today.
    The F4 was awful to start with. Nothing on it worked but it got there. Any time you try to make a technological leap there are going to be problems. If they had not been brave the would of taken the F5 and it would of had to be replace in the 70s instead of soldering on till the early 90s.

  18. El Sid

    @Simon
    What I’d really love to know about the F35 is how much R&D has been specifically for F35B and F35C.

    Bill Sweetman had a go for the F-35B back in 2011 in “How Much for That Stovl Capability?”. It’s no longer on the AvWeek website but you can get an idea from the excerpts here :
    http://www.portierramaryaire.com/foro/viewtopic.php?f=5&p=150463#p150078
    http://www.air-defense.net/forum/topic/29-le-f-35/page-227

    Inevitably it’s handwaving, and people can argue with many of his assumptions, like $4bn on the Concept Demonstration Aircraft was entirely for STOVL, or that they would have used 2xF414 with no further development if they hadn’t had to cater for STOVL (thus saving $10.7bn developing F135/6), or that they could have avoided $6.2bn of cost and delays for the Stovl Weight Attack Team in 2004. Add in a share of the other dev costs and he comes to $34 billion in then-year development costs for the F-35B. You could add in things like development of heavier RAS gear to cope with the bigger engines etc, and there will have been some navalisation aspects split between B and C.

    So yes, there was certainly scope for splitting out STOVL and creating a stealth Phantom – twin-engined jet designed for a naval requirement but that also works for air forces. The politics don’t work nearly so well though – without STOVL BAE have less to offer so there’s less opportunity to hook in the UK as a major partner, which has all sorts of knock-on effects from LM’s point of view.

    The biggest single cost is software development, which is probably non-negotiable for this generation of aircraft, and you’d probably end up spending the same money to get less capable software fitted to 4th-gen aircraft.

  19. Mike Wheatley

    @ Martin

    I’m basing my conclusions on numbers like this:

    “The 2014 procurement cost for 19 F-35As will be $2.989 billion. However, we need to add to that the “long lead” money for the 2014 buy that was appropriated in 2013; that was $293 million, making a total of $3.282 billion for 19 aircraft in 2014. The math for unit cost comes to $172.7 million for each aircraft.
    To be fully accurate, however, we should add the additional procurement money authorized for “modification of aircraft” for F-35As for 2014; that means $158 million more, bringing the total unit production cost to $181 million per copy.

    ***

    Based on this, I would say that the Super Hornet and Saab Grippen are cheaper.

    Hopefully the full rate production aircraft will be cheaper than these LRIP aircraft. However, I am pessimistic about being able to motivate LM to reduce the price much.
    But perhaps these costings include one-off expenses that are not representative of the true unit cost? I certainly hope so.

  20. Chuck

    Lockheed is promising lower prices by 2019

    “Specifically, LM, NG, and BAE will invest up to $170 million from 2014 – 2016 in affordability measures, directly resulting in a lower-priced aircraft. Only after a reduction of cost, will industry recoup the investment plus profit with the accrued savings from the cost reduction initiatives. From 2016-2018, the USG has the option to invest additional money if the initial cost reduction initiatives are successful. The primary way the government will realize its savings is through reduced F-35 unit recurring flyaway (URF) cost.”

    http://www.lockheedmartin.com/us/news/press-releases/2014/july/140710ae_dod-to-deliver-f-35-5th-gen-at-4th-gen-cost.html

    Promises.. Promises… We’ll see.

  21. The Other Chris

    How expensive is the F-35 to the UK? Take off your baseball caps for a minute and doff your John Steel pattern Bowlers once more because one aspect you may want to consider is the deal the UK has.

    15% by work, 15% – 20% by value based on which official audit reports you read. That’s equivalent to 400 – 500 F-35 units depending on how pessimistic or optimistic you feel about the planned volumes.

    Arguably the UK involvement in the program could even pay for itself. Actual unit price almost becomes irrelevant. You can even argue that it’s in the UK interests to go all-in on the full 138 planned purchase in F-35B form: Drive down unit cost further, encourage B variant orders from existing partners and new exports, of which we have the larger workshare.

    At least, that’s just one aspect that you can consider. Feel free to take off your Bowler hats and return to the baseball/tin hats and social media spawned US-centric Kool Aid now ;)

  22. The Other Chris

    Just as an aside on the F-35. UK involvement is beyond workshare. There was/is heavy design involvement on non-workshare elements also.

    If you cast your minds back to the 2005 threats of pulling out of the program, you’ll likely automatically think of the software sovereignty issues. The bulk of the problems though related to US ITAR obstacles preventing the transfer of technical information and test data back to the UK.

    Design is one activity, however the information you gather from attempting to put your design into practice not only assists your current developments but informs on future ones. Events such as the ITAR blocks highlights the amount of British design in the aircraft.

  23. Mark

    Toc

    Great in theory of UK plc no basis in reality of the mod budget.

    Not sure the uk does have higher work share on the b, Rolls Royce build the lift fan at its Indianapolis plant for example.

  24. The Other Chris

    @El Sid

    We won’t know for certain until further into the production however there’s one school of thought that the A has benefitted from the additional crucible heat required of the B and C.

  25. The Other Chris

    @Mark

    Completely agree. Makes for good conversation, especially when the aircraft is described as expensive without qualification. At the very least it highlights who’ve been digging and who’re just reading Sweetman/Bacon.

    There’s a lot of debate about what the B values include. Ansty were involved early in the development for example and some of the projections lump in more UK linked payloads for B fleets compared to A/C, none of each are beyond the talks stage.

    The lower figure of 15% works for debate purposes well enough.

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