Selective Quoting in F-35 Land

Nothing seems to be simple in F-35 reporting but one thing is certain, it is becoming increasingly difficult to discriminate between valid commentary and blatant nonsense.

UK First F35-B Joint Combat Aircraft flight BK-1 01
UK First F35-B Joint Combat Aircraft flight BK-1 01

Although this story it hasn’t been widely reported I expect it will, the Daily Mail have reported;

Controversial £5billion fighter jet which took 15 years to build dogged by problems every week, says engineer

The article reports on another report, the Naval Engineer to be precise, by Lieutenant Commander Beth Kitchen MBE BEng CEng MIET RN.

Squadron technicians experience new technical faults for the first time weekly. Most are as predicted by the [aircraft’s] designers; however technical faults still occur during flight where components did not perform as expected.

Damning stuff you might think.

Except the newspaper failed to report the next sentence.

This will continue to occur as the airframes and systems are exposed to growing number of flying hours and the flight envelope is expanded. New procedures are required to repair this type of damage.
Have a read of the always interesting Naval Engineer here, it is a great story from a professional engineer exploring the challenges that the F-35B poses from a maintenance perspective. There is also a fascinating look at small craft operations in Sierra Leone.
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duker
duker
September 13, 2015 1:02 am

Intriguing in her comments about USMC maintenance department

“The Maintenance Department is headed by the Aircraft Maintenance Officer, who is a pilot. He is supported by seven other officers; two of whom are also pilots and five are ground maintenance officers. None are engineers in the traditional sense as they do not hold any engineering qualifications such as an engineering degree and none are accredited engineers”

Tubby
Tubby
September 13, 2015 8:34 am

According to an interview with Lt Gen Jon Davis, USMC Deputy Commandant for Aviation, in this months Combat Aircraft Monthly (Vol 16 no. 10), the F-35B was only designed to have a 74% readiness rate, while readiness rate is not directly linked to failure of components, it does suggest that there is significant amount of maintenance needed to keep the F-35B operational.

Nothern Power House
Nothern Power House
September 13, 2015 8:58 am
Reply to  Tubby

I’m not an engineer but how would the Harrier GR-7 compare with the levels of maintenance required and readiness rate against that of the F35B and more importantly how many man hours would it take to do similar maintenance tasks under combat conditions.

Barborossa
Barborossa
September 13, 2015 8:59 am

Read the piece in The Naval Engineer. Seems alright, until they got the bit about having a centralised maintenance control…then it dawned on me…Whilst not denigrating her in any way, she’s announcing this programme as somehow introducing something completely different and new… And it’s not….

This is how airlines have been running since the introduction of wireless….
For Maintenance Control read ‘Maintrol’- based at the operator’s home base, they are the 1st and only point of contact for any aircraft Eng and MX- they also run the lineys at all stations- they have access to the airlines ‘Core’ computer system (Which has flying records for aircraft and crew, maintenance programme and records, flying programme, operational performance, crew programme and training programme- my company had this since the introduction of B757 and B767 aircraft in the eighties). They are all qualified and licenced engineers, with, usually, a great deal of experience and a cynical, and pungent, disregard for authority…Their job is to keep the aeroplanes going, safely. Funnily enough in my company, many of them had PPL’s- which they often used to run small bits around the country (We had a number of small aeroplanes as part of the company flying club, which Ops controlled as well)
For flying control read ‘Operations Centre’- The 1st and only point of contact for any operational (including customer service) issues- They are responsible for maintaining flying programne integrity and planning for any disruptions and events. Usually they have a great deal of experience (and recently qualifications), often in different parts of the company- again with a pungent disregard for authority and wells of cynicism so deep as to be unplumbable, dug by dealing with aircrew for a substantial time.
Only problem is- there’s too many pilots with their fingers in the pie, IMO- The engineering structure should have engineers, the Ops structure should have ‘Ops blokes’… Pilots fly aeroplanes, not fix them (we’ve spent years struggling to stop pilots fiddling with things they shouldn’t, and thereby cocking them up).

Topman
Topman
September 13, 2015 9:38 am

Thanks for the link TD. The structure of the how the USMC do things is an interesting comparision but not really relavant to us in the UK. They have manpower levels that we can only dream of.
I don’t think she’s announcing it as anything new. Every sqn I’ve known of in the RAF is split between Eng and ops. What she is pointing out is the numbers, the ‘maint con’ or rects control in the RAF is one person not a whole dept. The eng side of a Sqn has 3 Engineering Officers in the RAF as opposed to 8 in the USMC. Ops is normally 2 people. Similar reductions will apply across the whole Sqn structure.

Many of the rules they are operating under will be changed once under UK rules. The american rules have rules and regs that suit them, as do we but they are somewhat different.

As I’ve mentioned earlier it looks like it’s a huge step change for the navy in the way the aircraft operates. Might be a while before they get to grips with it.

John Hartley
John Hartley
September 13, 2015 10:14 am

Both the pro & anti F-35 groups fail to grasp that the F-35 is a work in progress. I may not think much of the F-35s built up to now, but those built with the block 1 engine upgrade from 2018 & the block 4 software from 2019, will be very capable, should all go to plan.

Deja Vu
Deja Vu
September 13, 2015 3:12 pm

TD Thanks for the link to NEt leafing through is a bit like overhearing an interesting conversation on a train.
I am intrigued by the references to a hand tool shortage. Are they referring to spanners, hammers, screwdrivers and the like or are we talking equipment specific exotic items?

The Other Chris
September 13, 2015 4:58 pm

You can add non sequiturs to the selective quoting, there’s even a non sequitur from a selective quoting of this very article out there…

Not a Boffin
Not a Boffin
September 13, 2015 6:41 pm
Reply to  Topman

In case you hadn’t read the article, it’s a UK Joint team out there (half and half), not an RN squadron. The navy has (and does) operate and maintain complex aircraft just as well as the RAF – despite the condescending comments from some. The comment about “they” shows just where problems in jointery lie – it’s not the Navy, it’s the Navy & RAF who are going to have to deal with ALIS and all that entails.

stephen duckworth
September 13, 2015 6:44 pm
Topman
Topman
September 13, 2015 7:10 pm

@ NaB

If you were meaning me, I wasn’t being condescending. I was trying (badly it seems) that in many ways it’s quite similar to aircraft already operated by the raf and within that I include all the concepts and systems that support the aircraft. You’d be more likely to see those within the RAF than the navy from my understanding, thus they’d have a head start, I don’t think it’s unreasonable to say that. If the navy has something similar to above in Lynx or Merlin, then I’m happy to say I’m wrong and I’ll stand corrected. No offence was meant.
It was just one bit of a wider point about how this a/c will be supported. My comments echoed the engineer officer in the linked magazine, ie training programs will change within the navy to met the changes that this a/c brings etc.

duker
duker
September 13, 2015 9:00 pm
Reply to  John Hartley

Block 4 software is a moving target , increasing the number of iterations at 6 month intervals, it will be closer to 2022 for the full block 4, if that.

duker
duker
September 13, 2015 9:04 pm
Reply to  Topman

I think you missed the point, obviously there is a separate engineering section , but the point about the marines, is that section too is run by non engineer pilots. Their maintenance officers are essentially administrative who work rigidly from the book.

Not a Boffin
Not a Boffin
September 13, 2015 9:55 pm
Reply to  Topman

The RN has had those sorts of concepts and systems in place for twenty years and not talking about the Harrier II variants either. The only major difference in RAF cabs from RN cabs is likely to be the speed & altitude at which they operate at this precise moment in time. Multi-mode sensors? Check. Multi-freq agile encrypted comms? Programmable mission systems? Check. BITE and associated reporting and analysis systems? Check. Guided weapons? Check. DAS? Check. Composite and complex alloy airframes? Check. RAM? Check. FBW? Check. OBOGS? Check. AL store flight hours and environmental exposure monitoring? Check? And that’s just for the aircraft operated. Try looking after some of the more complex IT systems on a ship.

Contrary to popular belief in some quarters, the RN is and always has been more than capable of looking after complex aircraft, including FJ. The Stringbag does not represent the zenith of the RN aviation capability!

The AEO (SEngO in Crabspeak) in the article was also talking about training programmes required for the UK (rather than RN) squadrons. What was interesting was the recognition that there was going to have to be some form of expansion of the Writer branch to deal with the admin overhead that ALIS may impose. That’s where the AE world and Logs world will interface – getting that right needs lots of attention.

Topman
Topman
September 14, 2015 6:04 am

I wasn’t quite suggesting that no-one in the navy hadn’t seen a computer before. What, in part, I am saying is that some of issues and concepts that the aeo flagged up as new aren’t new in the raf. Not in every platform of course, but some. To use one of your examples, the concept of ALIS isn’t new, I’m sure it’s different but we’ve got very similar systems that use maint/flight program etc in use and have for years. If you’ve seen similar, you’ve got a headstart. Fair comment?
It may also need an expansion in the RAF logs branch as the logs side will be joint service as well, it won’t be just the navy looking after it.