Thursday, May 26, 2011

Faith is not quality Mr. Davies--ASPI opinon on the F-35 is unsupportable

This wouldn't be so bad if it was just one guy with an opinion.

The problem is that this one guy does taxpayer funded reports that Defence and politicians--in their own ignorance on the topic--seriously consider.

That is a big problem when what Mr. Davies states about air power is mostly wrong.

Over the years in hearings before our elected officials, the media, think-tanks and so on, one will see mention about maintaining air superiority.

The F-35 has not shown any proof that it is capable of doing this. So the question should be; why are we not an intelligent purchaser of military equipment? In other words; we should see a completed go-to-war, fully tested F-35 before we make a buying decison. One of these may not exist for many years.

A total indifference to what is real? It sure seems so. Consider this which is quite different from what ASPI writes about the F-35.

(note some of the following links are PDF files)



Independent analyses on JSF affordability have been done. A summary of earlier analyses (circa 2002-06) may be found here. The attached file (USMC_DoN_2008.pdf) provides a summary of costs for the DoN JSF for the projected FYDP (pre-WEC).

Australia terminated evaluations under the Air6000 New Air Combat Capability Project and entered the JSF SDD Program back in 2002. The Chief of the Air Force advised the unit price for the JSF aircraft was going to be “…about forty million dollars”.

Current Australian Defence and JSF Program Office Plans have initial procurements of Block 3 F-35A JSF aircraft in the 2012-2014 period.

The results of risk based analyses of JSF costing data from the pre-World Economic Crisis (WEC) era have been provided to Defence. These show the JSF unit price would likely be around US$168 million (-10%/+30% variance range) in the 2012-14 timeframe.

Using the same methods of analysis, the price estimated for the F-22A Raptor is around US$136 million.

Recent articles published by the IEEE put the unit price figure for the F-22A Raptor at US$137 million.

In summary, in 2014 on a per unit procurement cost basis, the Block 3 F-35A JSF would likely cost as much, if not more, than the F-22A Raptor would cost.

Opening Questions:

  1. In US dollars, what was the pre-WEC estimate of the unit procurement cost (UPC) for the Block 3 Configuration F-35A JSF aircraft planned to be delivered in 2014?
  2. Does this price estimate include any dollar amounts to cover any developmental or procurement or other risks?
  3. If so, what are these risks and what amounts of money, in 2014 US dollars, have been allocated (in cost per aircraft terms, please) to cover each of these risks?



Lethality is measure of how much physical damage a combat aircraft can inflict upon the enemy. It can be measured, in the tactical context, by the number and size of munitions carried, and in the strategic context by the same plus the range to which such weapons can be delivered and the resulting effectiveness.

With survivability dictating internal carriage, the JSF is constrained to a pair of weapon bays, each sized around a single MK.84 size bomb, and a single AMRAAM.

Since the start of the SDD, a progressive reduction in the range of weapon types intended to be integrated and cleared has been observed, with only a small fraction of the initially stated weapon types now planned for SDD.

The world has moved on since the JSF was first specified, but somehow those defining capability requirements have failed to keep pace, if not gone backwards due to CAIV.

This is a new world where the aphorism ‘the quick and the dead’ applies.

Opening Questions:

  1. Why has the range of weapon types intended under SDD been so dramatically scaled back?
  2. Is not moving the certification of the remaining weapons out of the SDD Phase and into the Operational Phase what, in keeping with modern day Risk Management Standards such as AS/NZS4360:2004, should be called Extreme Risk?
  3. The weapon bay configuration of the JSF with its canted carriage (about 5 degrees nose in to the centreline, I believe) and forward centroid location (both mass and aerodynamic) relative to the aircraft’s CoG range, also presents significant risk to the carriage and clearance of weapons from these bays.
  4. How is LM planning to mitigate all such risks to the clearance of weapons from these bays?
  5. How does the JSF Program intend to accommodate internal carriage of more than two AAMs, and how many will the aircraft be able to ultimately carry internally and deliver?
  6. Will each of the JSF weapon bays accommodate the carriage and delivery of 4 x SDB + an AAM and, if so, when will this be certificated?
  7. What are the in flight opening/closing times for the weapon bay doors?



Survivability is a measure of what fraction of a combat fleet remains alive in a given threat environment, flying repeated sorties over a sustained period of time.

The survivability paradigm for the JSF was defined around the ability to survive in a battlefield interdiction environment where the aircraft would be confronted by medium range and short range SAMs, and AAA systems, assuming that hostile fighters, long range SAMs and supporting radars will have been already destroyed by the F-22 fleet.

The JSF’s stealth performance, reflected in shaping, was optimised around this model, with independent technical analyses showing that the aircraft will have viable stealth in the front sector, but much weaker stealth performance in the beam and aft sectors.

The evolving market for radars and surface to air missiles has, however, taken a different turn to that anticipated when the JSF program was launched.

Highly mobile long range SAMs, supported by high power-aperture radars, have been far more popular in the market than the short and medium range weapons which the JSF was defined to and built to defeat.

Opening Questions:

  1. What threat Surface to Air Missile systems and supporting radars was the JSF’s stealth capability modelled against, and which was it not modelled against? For your convenience, a summary of the threat systems may be found here.
  2. What threat combat aircraft types and supporting systems was JSF’s stealth and aerodynamic capability modelled against, and which was it not modelled against? A range of the threat combat aircraft and supporting system may be found here.
  3. Why did the JSF Program discard the flat lower centre fuselage design of the X-35, and replace it with the complex curvature design of the SDD F-35, given that even the basic RCS modelling shows this would adversely impact the stealthiness of the aircraft when illuminated from its side aspect?
  4. Why does the JSF Program believe that opposing threat systems will not use all of their capabilities to survive when confronted by the JSF in combat?
  5. Where is the JSF escape system (pilot ejection system) in its certification program and when do you expect the system to be certificated?
  6. What will be the envelope of the JSF pilot ejection system?
  7. What will be the maximum speed at which the JSF canopy will be certificated for bird strikes?



Over the past 30 years, there have been various attempts to reduce the life cycle costs of operating military aircraft. Options strongly supported by Industry have encouraged the transfer of risk and responsibilities to Industry. Such options have included Total System Performance Responsibility (TSPR) contracting models, Public Private Partnership (PPP) contracting models and various other outsourcing contract models.

With noted exceptions, the military customers’ satisfaction with such arrangements and their outcomes has been less than optimal. One recurring series of complaint has been the consequential deskilling of the military while cost overall have not reduced and, from those of the pre-deskilling era, observations and concerns about increasing loss of control of assets leading to truly sovereign risks for the clients – loss of the most basic of sovereign controls of air combat assets – the aircraft’s configuration.

The latest forms of addressing life cycle costs are the performance based agreement (PBA) models and such things as the Autonomic Logistics Model of the JSF Program – elements of both having been proposed to the P-3 Orion Maritime Patrol Aircraft community and, more recently, the C-130J Hercules Strategic Air Lift Aircraft community.

Opening Questions:

  1. What is the estimated total cost per flying hour, in USD/FH, for the Block 3 F-35A JSF in 2014 for a per aircraft flying rate of 350 hrs per annum and a fleet size of 100 aircraft performing all training missions and roles that achieves a level of preparedness able to fully utilise the full JSF capabilities, with repeatability?
  2. What are the JSF capabilities, training sequences and rates of effort (ROEs) used to determine the answer to the preceding question?
  3. Which organisation or organisations will have the ability and capabilities to control and change the technical configurations of the JSF and its airborne and ground based systems?
  4. By all accounts, including using some of the tools you and I were trained in at USNTPS, the approach speed of the F-35A is inordinately high – reportedly 180 KCAS. Is this the case?
  5. If so, what modelling/simulations have been done to determine the levels of risk and hazards such a high approach speed presents to the operations and support of the F-35A JSF?
  6. What is the means of controlling the temperatures of the ElectroHydroStatic Actuators (EHSA) used to drive the F-35 JSF control surfaces and are these actuators rated for a continuous duty cycle at a loading above 100% of the JSF operational loading? If not, what is their duty cycle rating?

Finally and more generally, the results of analyses undertaken by a number of domain experts around the world do not support the notion that the JSF will not be able to meet its original specification. What they do indicate is, due to the effects of management decisions under paradigms like Cost as An Independent Variable (CAIV); the transfer of risks from the SDD Phase to the Operational Phase; and, the extensive deskilling that has occurred in Departments and Ministries of Defence around the Western World, due to the end of the Cold War ‘peace dividend’, this specification will most likely not be met till around Block 6/7, circa 2020 or later.

However, where these independent analyses converge is full agreement that the original JSF JORD specification and the specification to which the aircraft has been designed and is being built are based on threat assessments from an era past. This combined with the constraining nature of the original air vehicle specification and the on going effects of expeditious management decisions made under CAIV, mean the overall capabilities of the JSF will have been surpassed by the middle of the next decade, if not earlier.

In summary, all the indicators point to a penultimate question -

Will the F-35 JSF be obsolete before its time?

If not, then why not, given where the JSF Program is in its schedule and overall life cycle compared with where the developing threats are in theirs?

That being said, there is much reason for a robust and strong debate. We look forward to your answers, along with the supporting data, information and knowledge, at your earliest, in the spirit of working with you to get the best we can for those who fly as our aim, and confidently demonstrating this thesis (or its antithesis) with hard data and facts as the paramount measures of effectiveness of a strong debate.

Faith will not give Australia a proper air power solution. It would be nice if ASPI would consider that when they produce advice with the big label "Analysis" on the first page.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

so, where did kurt disappear?