Sunday, September 14, 2014

The Robert F. Dorr F-35 Follies

Don’t Expect Insight

I believe Robert F. Dorr, long-in-tooth aviation ‘journalist’ and ersatz ‘historian’, reached new editorial and factual lows in September’s Combat Aircraft Monthly with his ‘editorial’ THE F-35 FOLLIES: DON'T EXPECT IMPROVEMENT. I already had a ‘getaroundtoit’ project on the back-burner to deconstruct one of his slightly earlier transgressions, but I found his latest output was such an over-the-top feral rant-job, that it just deserved to be exposed even more. Piece by piece. 
It ties in well with one other post I am working on, another re-look at the mythical Military-Industrial complex, and was helpfully, but unintentionally pointed out to me by an aviation enthusiast in the comments elsewhere.
After you’ve read what he wrote, ask yourself:  how much faith should one place in anything else he’s written? Try and avoid the Gell-Mann Amnesia Effect when you next read something dribbling off the page written by Robert F. Dorr.

It begins: 

WAR IS FOUGHT in bad weather, amid noise, chaos and bad smells, with people trying to kill you. Yet even in sunny weather, in the calm of an airshow venue, the Pentagon was unable to get its F-35 Lightning II Joint Strike Fighter to show up and to show off.
Hmmm. Dorr opens his ‘editorial’ with a (perhaps ‘slight’?) mis-characterization of the F-35’s non-deployment and subsequent missing of its planned international airshow debut. It’s only a ‘slight’ mis-characterization, IF Dorr is criticizing the DoD and F-35 program partners for not bringing themselves to accept the risk of doing so while an investigation into the engine failure and subsequent near-immolation on 23 June was (and is) ongoing. 
But I doubt that is the case: certainly Dorr isn’t implying he would have advocated the circumvention of normal safety/accident investigation protocols just to meet an airshow deadline and, on the side, accomplish a minor F-35 ‘first’ (Trans-Atlantic, overseas deployment)?
This leaves us only two other possible reasons--that I can see anyway--for Dorr even bothering to bring this subject up. First, he might believe that the F-35 couldn’t actually physically accomplish the deployment if it had been allowed. But that meaning would fly in the face of all the evidence in hand, as the F-35 program was prepared to deploy right up until the Safety Mafia ruled it out completely (See here, and here). 

That leaves us with one last possible meaning. We can assume Dorr is just poking a stick in the F-35’s programmatic ‘eye’ because……because he can? We’ll use that reason for our working hypothesis, but we’ll keep an eye out for any real justification for his aspersion. I mean "justification" above and beyond his desire to merely poke at the program, the jet, or anything else.
The F-35 follies continue. 
This summer's on-again, off-again effort by British and American experts to display an F-35 at airshows at Fairford and Farnborough would have been laughable if it was not symptomatic of larger problems.
So now Dorr punctuates his first claim by broadening it: asserting in effect: ‘I say this was a BIG problem but there’s even BIGGER problems going on!’ Will he provide proper factual evidence and employ logical argumentation to back his accusations up.
It simply is no longer acceptable to make excuses for the F-35, as former British Defence Secretary Philip Hammond did. Hammond brushed off this summer's problems by arguing that the F-35 is 'still in its developmental stage'. Nor can the F-35’s problems be brushed under the rug with bombast, some of which accompanied US Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel's July 10 visit to Eglin Air Force Base, Florida.
No, he does more stick-poking. Perhaps Mr. Dorr will now also provide proper factual evidence and logical argumentation to support his assertion that Defence Secretary Philip Hammond’s truthful observation that the F-35 is “still in its developmental stage” is ‘brushing’ off the ‘problems’. Or perhaps he’ll expand on what he means about a “bombast” at Eglin? Okay Mr. Dorr. We get it. Dorr is, or is pretending to be, OUTRAGED! So then, will Dorr NOW provide some proper factual evidence and logical argumentation to justify his outrage? Or will he just keep ‘going’?
And least of all is it acceptable to shrug off F-35 woes with a platitude, as did Senator Bill Nelson, Democrat of Florida, who told reporters , 'When you develop a system like this you're going to have hiccups.'
He. Kept. Going…
We should hold no hope of Dorr bothering to explain why he thinks that “when you develop a system like this you're going to have hiccups” is a “platitude”. He cannot truthfully name an advanced fighter aircraft that has been fielded in the last 50 years for which Hammond’s statement would not apply. (Nor could he do so for any endeavor where the descriptors ‘complex’ and ‘advanced technology’ can be rightfully employed.)
Feh, what the heck. We’ll probably just get more outrage without substance, but let’s ride along to the end…..

It's worse than that. If a dog were to bite you in the butt, that would not make headlines because journalism classes teach that 'dog bites man' isn't news. If you wanted to be the lead story on the BBC evening news, you would have to bite the dog. But there are no 'man bites dog' episodes in the F-35 story because all of it is all too familiar. We've now observed several generations of people who have bungled the F-35 program, lied about it and drawn their pensions, and they are not making news because there is absolutely nothing new in the twisted, terrible tale of the F-35: it's 'dog bites man '.
Aaaannnnd I was right. We got MORE unsupported ranting. This time it was a pointless ‘journalism’ cliché (AKA ‘dog bites man’) followed by….more aspersions: against people involved in the F-35 program. 
So then. Mr. Dorr. Tell us. Tell us who the people were in those “generations” of “bunglers” and ‘liars’? What were their ‘lies’? Why were they ‘lies’? How (through ‘mistaken error’ of course) might you be misrepresenting the true history? Make your freakin’ case…. IF you can.
Here we are, about one fourth of the way through Dorr’s ‘editorial’, before his complaints got to any specificity beyond ‘F-35 is bad!’ and he tells us… ‘somebody lied’? Will Dorr ever provide any information useful to the reader in assessing whether his assertions as being ‘true’, ‘false’, or heck--even ‘remotely plausible’? Or is he just going to keep spitting venom at us through the keyboard?

The F-35 costs too much. That's not news. By my math, a US Air Force squadron could operate five Eurofighter Typhoons - a fighter that impresses many US airmen - for the price of three F-35s. The latest figures are $184 million for a land-based F-35A and $208 million for the carrierborne F-35C… 
Ah! Finally! Something falsifiable.
Dorr’s math is getting a little better (as in closer to the truth than his previous ‘misses’), but he should keep his self-qualifier of having “dumb math” skills until he can gain some ‘smart math’ skills. I won’t guess what his cost number sources are for the Eurofighters, because it doesn’t matter. Per the latest Selective Acquisition Report, for F-35As bought this year and in 2014 “Then Year” Dollars, the F-35A ‘costs’ $181.3M ‘per copy’ ONLY if you include all the support and non-recurring costs. As I doubt the Eurofighter unit costs Mr. Dorr was working with contained the support and non-recurring costs, the idea you could buy more Eurofighters than F-35As is ludicrous. As the same SAR shows the Unit Recurrng Flyaway Costs at about 63% of the $181.3M, or $114.1M  in 2014 dollars for 2014 jets, and Eurofighter costs
are not touted as 'low', I must conclude Dorr is playing as fast and loose with the 'present' as he seems to play with the 'past'. 
I'd do the definitive math if it was necessary, but again the SAR saves the day (pages 72 and 75) with the average unit costs of the F-35A (airframe and engine) equaling $77.7M in Base Year 2012 dollars over the life of the program. We will set aside he not so trivial point that a lot of the recurring costs that Dorr includes in his numbers are spent and in the past. this will avoid having to disabuse future commentary on the nuances of Sunk Cost and the Sunk Cost fallacy.
…Early in the program, the F-35 was touted as a low-cost alternative to the F-22 Raptor….
Hey! This is actually a truism….in the sense that it was ONE justification for the Joint Strike Fighter. But it was not the only one or even the primary one. It seems to be just a convenient way for Dorr to punch up the ‘cost’ message he’s trying to sell.
As to primary reasons for the F-35 instead of the F-22, why would anyone want to replace ALL the airplanes now performing a range of missions with a definite ‘strike’ emphasis with an F-22? Answer: they wouldn’t. In the spectrum of multi-role capabilities, the F-22 of course is clearly optimized more to fulfill the Air Dominance role than the Strike role, The Joint STRIKE Fighter is obviously optimized somewhat farther towards the Air-to-Mud end of the scale. So ‘cost’ of the TOTAL force capabilities was but one reason. Did it get overtaken by events? Dorr evidently assumes so:

….But the cost of rolling a single article out of the assembly plant door, to say nothing of lifetime operating expenses, has risen relentlessly until last year when it began to level off…
Dorr is mixing cost elements and cost impacts and presenting them as meaningful (to him --I guess), when without ‘context’ (the C in PACE) they are not meaningful. Actual unit production costs were increasing for delivered Low Rate Initial Production aircraft for a variety of reasons, not the least of which (and likely the ‘most of which’) were reduced size lot buys and in turn, lower production ramp-up rates and breaks in the learning curve. Blame Congress for stretching out the low-rate production effort all under the banner of avoiding modification costs by reducing production rates in fear of that bogeyman: ‘concurrency’.
This is but one of the unaccounted-for cost impacts of the ‘concurrency’ reduction scam being played out in the current budget environment. Dorr’s mention of the “lifetime operating expenses” fails to recognize that those expenses aren’t actual dollars…yet. They are only ‘estimates’, and the quality of the estimates have been horrendous. But the estimates are starting to get better. Therefore the estimate costs are also coming down. If Dorr and his fellow rant-boys were ever forced to acknowledge the fine print in the Selected Acquisition Reports, they would be doing their readers a service.
First, their readers would learn on Page 95 of the 2013 F-35 SAR that:

For the first time, in 2013, the CAPE O&S cost estimate incorporates actual information on component reliabilities obtained from the ongoing F-35 flight operations, including flight test and field operations. This program information is provided from the DoD test community, through the Director, Operational Test and Evaluation, and includes actual reliability information on many F-35 components based on data collected during approximately 8,500 hours of flight operations. 
The data include the F-35A and F-35B variants, and flight operations through October 2013. The reliability information has been compared to expected reliabilities for this stage of the program, for the A and B variants, based on reliability growth curves. The 2013 CAPE O&S estimate includes an increase of $15 billion (BY12 $) in DLR costs, relative to the 2012 Milestone B estimate, because component reliability information obtained from actual flight operations data is not consistent with expectations.
While this approach is generally to be commended, to attach any great value to the lifetime costs generated by these estimates this early in the fleet’s flight history is specious. “Approximately 8,500 fleet flight hours” is only about 4 ½% of the 200,000 fleet flight hours for all variants that has been identified as flight hour mark when the expected, designed, and required operational reliability is to be achieved and measured. To attach definitive meaning to reliability numbers at this time is statistical malpractice. To assert associated costs associated to those reliability numbers are worthy of consideration at this time is ludicrous.
The good news, also from Page 95 of the 2013 F-35 SAR, is:

CAPE will continue to work with the DoD operational test community to improve the processes and methods used to incorporate actual data and information on component reliabilities and removal rates, obtained from ongoing flight operations, into the CAPE life-cycle O&S cost estimate for the F-35 program. This information will be used, together with reliability improvement forecasts, to update the life cycle O&S cost estimates as the program proceeds to and beyond IOC.
So perhaps eventually, the support cost numbers will become meaningful. May we expect that the Bob Dorrs of this world will acknowledge this phenomenon when it emerges? Especially if the story ends with greatly reduced estimates? Or should we expect them to use any changes as factoids in order to continue their weaving of fabulous stories, perhaps promoting a repeat of past ‘conspiracy’ and ‘coverup’ memes in the face of positive developments?
Dorr closes out this paragraph with:

…Too many dollars have been poured into an aircraft that isn't worth this many greenbacks and no-one is being held to account….
This is just another unsupported allegation, whereby this time Dorr wrongly presumes he is qualified to make such a judgment for his readers. It is thrown out in the vein of a false ‘everybody knows’ argument. I note here, that this is the closest Dorr gets to discussing the concept of ‘value’ in regards to the F-35’s cost and performance, by simply declaring it isn’t worth the effort. Yet ‘buyers’ apparently do think the F-35 is worth the effort. Should it have occurred to Dorr that perhaps the ‘Customer’ actually does know what’s best for them?
Dorr flows into the next paragraph with a series of statements full of pointless indignation and storytelling. This time however, instead of avoiding providing a ‘context’ for his claims, he attempts to overlay a perversion of history: a fable to create a FALSE context for his readers to absorb:

The F-35 is behind schedule. That's not news. Never before in a defense program have so many examples been airworthy (102 , presumably minus the fire victim) without even one being ready to perform a mission. (In 1942, the first Bell XP-59A Airacomet was configured and equipped for combat on the day of its first flight.) Schedules have been re-written again and again as dates for delivery, the start of training, clearance for night and all-weather operation, and initial operating capability have moved to the right on the calendar. Remember that this summer, officials were not debating whether any F-35 is combat-ready because none is. They were debating whether a few airframes could find their way across the Atlantic to attend a couple of airshows. Too many delays have become embedded in the F-35 saga and no-one is being held to account.

First, even if it were ‘true’, the relevance of decrying that 102 F-35s were airworthy without “even one being ready to perform a mission” would be a ‘red herring’ argument employing misleading vividness: an over the top yet irrelevant argument against the worth or status of the F-35’s performance or program.

It is, however, hyperbolic nonsense on its own: a gross exaggeration. It extrapolates the fact that the F-35 has not yet been ‘cleared’ to do certain things nor been declared operational’ into the mistaken (or malicious) assertion that none of the F-35s could go out tomorrow and actually “perform a mission”. Dorr conveniently leaps past the fact that the administratively prohibited does not preclude the physically possible, and that a full capability yet to be reached does not preclude some capability already being extant in the current fleet. F-35’s are flying and launching weapons that are hitting their intended targets. If it were today’s wartime equivalent of 1942, when the XP-59 emerged, would there be any doubt that the F-35 would be pushed into combat and matured along the way? NO. Because the capability to deploy with reduced capability exists today with existing aircraft and software that exist today.
So as it turns out, the XP-59A analogy is a one of monumental overstatement and epic irrelevance. That is, it would be IF it were actually true. First let us observe that what it took to get a ‘first article’ to first flight in 1942 has little relationship to what it takes to field a modern weapon system, even ignoring the wartime urgency of the jet programs during WW2.
As to whether or not the XP-59A was truly “configured and equipped for combat” on the day of its first flight? Dorr is not even close to being right. Ever see any pictures or videos of the first XP-59A before or after it was modified to carry an open air ‘observer’ ahead of the pilot?

See any guns? 

Even Wikipedia knows guns were installed first in the later YP-59As. Unless Dorr can convincingly argue the XP-59’s ‘day one’ combat capability involved ramming relatively slow airplanes from behind, he is selling snake oil.
To drive home the point that even IF the XP-59A had been armed, it would not have been combat capable, consider how the later YP-59s versions were stomped by P-47s and P-38s in an air combat evaluation trial two years later (Wooldridge, pp13-15). The XP-59A would have been cannon-fodder in 1942. One would then have to ask what would have been the point to claim it was ‘combat ready’ when one knew it was also most likely ‘combat toast’? As the history played out, the limited run of P-59s were deemed unsuitable for combat (Wooldridge) and were relegated to the important, but far less challenging role of America’s first jet trainers.
Dorr now launches into a fairly standard litany of the anti-JSF crowd’s pet ‘stories’:
The F-35 doesn't work. That's not news. The stealth coating is finicky and requires ground crews to perform labor-intensive maintenance with toxic materials. 
Doesn’t ‘work’? He needs to define what he means by ‘work’. Does he mean it isn’t finished with its development or that it can't or won’t work when its development is done? Next he needs to identify in what ways the F-35 doesn’t ‘work’. If it doesn’t work in some way now, why is that a problem now, before development is complete? Specify. Specify. Specify. Dorr never does.
Evidence of the “stealth coating” being “finicky”? We see none. In fact we’ve seen quite the opposite.
As to “toxic materials”, would that be significantly more toxic than most high quality paint used on high-performance aircraft? Too toxic to use safely? Hardly. Is Dorr trying to get Greenpeace in on his side? Even if the F-35 coatings are like other aircraft coatings, Dorr obviously isn’t aware of what the F-35 program is now working on to bring to fruition, and how structural fiber mat is already used to reduce the LO coating stack-up now.

Also, wouldn’t total environmental impact be more important than just focusing on coatings? Does Dorr give the F-35 any credit for being the 'greenest’ jet possible?

What next Mr. Dorr?
The helmet-mounted cueing system has been pronounced cured of its teething troubles not once but twice, and pilots say they still get vibration in certain flight regimes.
The helmet mounted display system is a man-machine interface far more complex than anything that I can remember, made more complex by the fact it has to work over a wide range of light and acoustic environments. This is a capability that is an advanced development of what has been pursued since at least the F-15 program’s early days. Did Dorr expect one of the most advanced features in the F-35 to be ‘easy’? Does he realize everything will “get vibration in certain flight regimes”? 
 The real question is: Is there a problem when and where it does happen? The program says ‘not really’ and Dorr offers no counter. He apparently assumes the worst and expects his readers to take his word for it at face value. I note here that the Gen 3 helmet (the ‘twice’ in Dorr’s ‘fixed twice’) development, in the normal course of its development, is just now being introduced. Dorr therefore can’t provide any answers –only old complaints about old problems. 
Personally, I think there will be more tweaks to the helmet simply because it involves ‘pilots’ and ‘vision’ and relearning how to operate and best use the new capability. Note my statement is as an opinion versus absolute fact: something one would have thought Dorr would have learned how to do a long time ago.
The cannon is not yet cleared for operation and may need to be replaced.
Having a cannon ’cleared for operation’ has everything to do with integrating weapons to a schedule and sequence, and even after anything is 'final' as in 'baseline' it ‘may be replaced’. We know having a gun can be important, if only to keep someone from maneuvering inside your other weapon minimums, but that is about it (Read the “Red Baron” report on the early Air War in SEA). We don’t know how important the gun’s performance will be in the overall scheme of things for the F-35’s overall weapon system effectiveness. 
Dorr’s point here is pretty pointless. IMHO, using a gun to strafe ground targets is a technique with diminishing returns as the battlefield threat situation evolves and increases over time. For that purpose, I think the gun will soon seem to only be there as a ‘just in case’ weapon.
The carrier-based F-35C may or may not have a working tailhook, after years of trial and error.
Pretty condescending dismissal of the C model development, but of course Dorr is wrong again.  
A. It is not trial and error. It is Find–Fix–Fly. A little thing we do within another thing we call ‘development’.
B. Dorr must not have been at Tailhook ’13 where it came out the Navy Customer gave the contractor a faulty wire model the first time around. The contractor needed a good one to develop a viable arresting system design in the first place. Does Dorr assert that is a problem with the F-35 Program or plane instead?
C. Dorr of course also ignores the successes the F-35C has had in catching the wire on land as the graduation to pending sea trials. He also ‘appears’ unaware that there should be further tweaks until development is complete.

The short take-off/vertical landing F-35B emits too much downward jet blast for routine operation aboard assault ships.
Dorr is alluding to changes being made to SOME ships in order to ensure the F-35Bs CAN operate routinely from their decks. BTW: It’s not actually ‘blast’ (‘X’ air mass at a ‘Y’ velocity) per se, so much as it is localized heat with the ‘blast’. My NAVAIR friends find this unremarkable: All new aircraft generate new ship requirements when they are first brought into the fleet.
Hint: The ships are there for the airplanes and the airplanes are the ships’ weapon systems-- not vice versa. Requirements writers make the planes as complementary to carrier designs as they can within the design trade space and change/modify the ship’s design no more than neccessary. Again…so what?

The Pentagon and industry conspired to continue building an aircraft that doesn’t function and no-one is being held to account.
Oooooh! Dorr thinks he can now claim a ‘conspiracy’ is afoot because he’s managed to ‘harrumph’ and ‘humbug’ his way through two thirds of a lame editorial? ‘Doesn’t function’? Get back to us when the F-35 is fielded in baseline Block 3F configuration, or even if it doesn’t look like it WILL get to block 3F. Until then, and again, so what?

What’s left for Dorr to rant about? Oh…apparently LOTS of things.He does go on....

The F-35 has 'an issue with the engine'. That's not news. It dates back to at least 2006, maybe earlier. Decades in development, the F-35 has a long history of problems with its Pratt & Whitney F135 turbofan engine that resulted in two groundings in recent years. Now, investigators are eyeing a further engine problem that occurred in the June 23 engine fire at Eglin on take-off and inflicted major damage to an F-35A (serial 10-5015, c/n AF-27). The pilot successfully shut down the aircraft and escaped unharmed. Even Lorraine Martin, Lockheed Martin's anointed apologist for the F-35, acknowledges that the fire is linked to 'an issue with the engine'. Years ago, for purely political reasons, the Pentagon nixed plans for an alternate engine, the more advanced and innovative General Electric/Rolls-Royce F136. Planning and installation of propulsion for the F-35 has been badly mismanaged and no-one is being held to account.
If Dorr was half the aviation writer he pretends to be, he’d have to acknowledge the F135’s development has been rather pedestrian all things considered and as compared with others in the long history of jet engine development. If this stuff was easy, everybody would be building them in their back yard. The only difference between the F135 engine and prior generations of effort is that the predecessors didn’t have a microscope and video cameras on them while they tried to do the little things that people who produce advanced technology call ‘development’.

Even the ‘groundings’ have been fairly few, usually precautionary, and short in comparison to a lot of others. I’d say that’s not too bad, considering the program is developing the biggest most powerful jet fighter turbofan ever, with the most raucous peanut gallery booing them ever. I would also assert these kinds of things occur far more often with mature, fielded jet engine technology than Dorr would be willing to let on, if he knew about them that is. Even civilian jet airliner engines have safety restrictions, stand downs for inspections, etc from time to time. Example? How about the CFM56? One of the most widely used and successful engines in the world. Just the ‘active’ Airworthiness Directives open on the CFM56s can be found here. Continuous safety concern and monitoring is a fact of life, and Dorr should appreciate the value in that concern and monitoring.
If Dorr had also paid closer attention before the F136 engine was cancelled,  he would have also known that ‘Cost’ was the driver that overrode the ‘Risk’ of going to a single engine type. If he knew but still insisted on typing what he did….well, draw your own conclusions.
And of course, there simply had to be SOME politics in play at time. It was a Congressional topic of interest wasn’t it? 

From Dorr’s wilda** claim about a “more advanced and innovative General Electric/Rolls-Royce F136” I’d say politics (or marketing) was STILL in play. The F136 had the same kinds of difficulties the F135 had at a similar stage of development, but was rightfully considered immature compared to the F135 at the time of cancellation. In the spring of 2010, the F136 was only 700 hours into a 10,000 hour test program and had not been flight tested. No one knows what problems it would have encountered had it been fully developed. But in its cancellation, the F136 has become the mythical success-that-could-have-been-but-never-was to the proverbial ‘some’ in the backbenches.

Dorr Goes 'All In'

Now, no matter how outrageous you might have found Dorr’s rant so far, in closing he’s about to go all ‘fundamentalist preacher’ on us. He’s casting his gaze beyond the F-35 program to identify what he apparently sees as the font of all defense acquisition ills. (Say Halleluiah!).
The F-35 is now the biggest, costliest aircraft program in history, yet its vicissitudes are only an emblem for a larger issue. In this capital on my side of the Atlantic, from the Air Staff (in the Pentagon Building) to K Street (where lobbyists hang their hats), the feeling is growing that the entire system for acquisition of military equipment has broken down
One former Pentagon analyst said, 'Industry now produces overpriced junk for our men and women in uniform and' - guess what? - 'no-one is being held to account'….
Ahhhh. The ubiquitous unnamed ‘former Pentagon analyst ‘. Was it Chuck Spinney or Pierre Sprey? Or was it someone else in the Faux-Reform Old Guard? Whoever it was, why not name them—unless the name itself would open the statement to doubt and dismissal? I’m looking for the source of this quote, but have been unable to find it so far. I’ll keep it in mind for a later revisit. Oh, and 'So What?
Critics often quote a January 17, 1961 speech by Dwight D. Eisenhower in which the 34th US President - one of history's great military commanders - warned of the dangers of a 'military industrial complex'. 'Ike' had intended to sound the alarm about a 'Congressional military industrial complex' but, in a rare lapse of judgment, deleted the first word before delivering the speech.
Here Dorr begins an argumentative ‘run home to Mama’ in the form of the mythical Military-Industrial Complex, but he once again creates a false context, an overreach, by simply getting the history ‘wrong’. 
IMHO the major problem with ‘Pop Historians’ like Dorr (or worse, as professional post-modern revisionist historians do) is that they end to glom on to anything that supports their narrative and nothing that doesn’t. By doing so, they tend to propagate lies, half-truths, and rumors along with only carefully selected facts. Here Dorr promotes the discredited story that there was a draft of Eisenhower’s farewell speech with the word ‘Congressional’ linked to the MI terminology. As James Ledbetter has clearly observed and cogently summarized, there is no real evidence such a draft ever existed. 
Again, even Wikipedia gets this one right, so one has to wonder how much of a ‘Pop Historian’ Dorr really is if he goes 0-2 up against Wikipedia within the confines one little ol' editorial.

But as they say on TV 'wait! there's more!'... 
Not even Eisenhower could have foreseen a Washington that could spend billions without successfully building a Littoral Combat Ship, an Expeditionary Fighting Vehicle, or a Joint Strike Fighter. Just to cite one example, look at the way industry has suborned the Connecticut congressional delegation: the engine issue for the F-35 is small stuff compared to a single helicopter manufacturer's iron grip, without bidding or competing, on the next presidential helicopter and the US Air Force's combat rescue helicopter. There was no competition for any of these items because competition cuts costs and brings innovation, and no-one in Washington wants that - but that isn't news, either.
Dorr whipped up a real grab bag of misdirection and obfuscation. He rehashes the unsupported claim that the F-35 is ‘unsuccessful’ and expands the claim against the LCS (a still-ongoing Navy experiment with new strategies and new technical solutions) and the EFV (a cost vs. capability conundrum if there was one and still being sorted out). He then claims somebody (Pratt and Whitney I presume) has ‘suborned’ the Congresscritters of Connecticut without evidence, nor any mention of the activities of Congressional counterparts who pushed for the F136 (selective outrage much?). 
At least Dorr goes off the Peacenick-Leftist ‘Reformer’ reservation on this one. Perhaps he failed to get the memo that cancelling the F136 was a good thing?

Someone should also inform Mr. Dorr that competition takes many forms, as in the two LCS types with different technical approaches, winnowed down from many COMPETING solutions to compete for larger (and at one time possibly exclusive) future buys. He is also apparently unaware that sometimes competition isn’t advisable or possible (as when only one manufacturer bids on a small program like the Presidential helicopter program), or there isn’t enough money in the pot for developing a viable new alternative to an established helicopter design in meeting an existing mission shortfall (such as the AF Combat Rescue helicopter which was also stymied by requirements changes).

Dorr Drones On
If the world made sense, someone would pull the plug on the F-35 follies, squadrons waiting for a new fighter would receive other types instead, and bigwigs would be castigated, if not thrown into prison. But that's not news because – guess what? - no-one is being held to account.
No Mr. Dorr...
If the world made sense, people would stick to concerning themselves with things they actually know and understand, retire before they can no longer grasp the concepts needed to understand the world as it moves beyond their ken. In such a world, those that still insisted on making popping sounds about that which they know not, or have accused others of malfeasance without viable proof would be pointed at and continuously mocked into the oblivion they deserve. But that’s not happening because – guess what? – people who possess inconsequential knowledge constantly attempt to apply their inconsequential knowledge to consequential things to ill effect in this world and yet, are NEVER held to account.

Print Ref: The P-80 Shooting Star: Evolution of a Jet Fighter; E.T. Wooldridge; Smithsonian Institution Press; Washington DC; 1979

Saturday, September 06, 2014

Moronic Jackjawing on B-1 CAS Friendly Fire Incident

Way to Stay 'Classy'...NOT!

Hat Tip: 'Count_to_10' over at

The results of the investigation into the June 2014 ‘friendly fire’ B-1 incident is out.  Read the summary here. I’ll wait until you get back…..

Welcome back!

If you bothered to read the comments, you saw it sure didn’t take long for the morons to start twisting the results to mesh with their own stupid little beliefs held in the vast emptiness of what outwardly appears (to the unsuspecting) to be human heads sitting on their shoulders. 

In the first FIVE comments, on this article reporting on the findings, only one, made by a person named ‘Joe Hardy’, managed to make a cogent, if terse observation as the second commenter:

The JTAC may not have been up to date on the latest B-1 capabilities, in part because its relatively newness and the experienced JTAC might not have worked with a B-1 with this capability before or with any frequency, but Mr. Hardy's statement at least looks towards where the problem in this chain of events was: on the ground.

The guy with ‘firsties! Honors’, one Chris Smith, managed to conflate who did what out of the gate:

Yes Chris, you do need to “get this straight”…. and fast. Re-read what you wrote and see if it makes any sense to you the second time.

The B-1 crew told the JTAC and Ground Commander they could not see the IR strobes. The guys on the ground did not process that information correctly. This wasn’t about what they did or didn’t know, this is about confusion in the heat of battle leading to someone on the ground giving direction to the B-1 to bomb the wrong spot.

The on-scene Commander makes the call, the JTAC is supposed to make sure the on-scene Commander and CAS assets get the information they need to make the call and deliver the ordnance. No doubt the splintering of the commander’s forces without his or the JTAC’s knowledge was a serious compounding factor in the confusion. It could have even been the key link in the chain of events that created the confusion, but in any case it had to have contributed to the tragedy.

The B-1 put the bombs right where it was told to put them. It wasn't the choice of aircraft, or the aircrew's fault. Got it straight now? Well if not, read on.

The third commenter was the delightfully named 'Jerry Barker':
Jerry makes unsupported assertions and allusions, implying what he apparently perceives to be a deficiency in the B-1 or any aircraft that depend on “pods”. He also apparently operates under the mistaken belief that the A-10 would not have had ANY comparable problems in performing the same mission under those same conditions.

He assumes too much.

We cannot positively state that an A-10 would have been able to even DO the job under the conditions at the time. All we can say is that perhaps an A-10 driver might have been able to see the ‘IR beacons’ once he got within the range of his NVGs, but that would only be IF he could have discerned the general battlefield.

If an A-10 wasn’t carrying a Sniper pod, he would have had more difficulty using those same NVGs (and/or other targeting pod that are nowhere near as proficient at that task as the B-1’s Sniper pod), to even get into the position to where he might have seen the IR strobes, AND be able to figure out where most of everyone else was (remember, not even the ground commander knew his guys had split up).

The sun had set just before the B-1 arrived on the scene, and over an hour before the B-1 made its pass. This can be a bad time of day for visible and IR light contrasts. Was it on this night? What was the weather like? Was there haze? Dust? Clouds?

The waxing moon was a little more than half-moon, and would have been approximately half-way to apogee. This could have meant deep shadows (mountains remember?) were present that would have created contrasts that might play more hell with NVGs or any targeting pod with less capability than a Sniper Pod. Even if the A-10 had a Sniper Pod, unless he was at the same altitudes as the B-1, the scene would have been more difficult to assess.  Since there is only one set of eyeballs in an  A-10, the pilot would have had to spit his time between flying the plane, talking to the ground, and looking at his sensors.
The B-1 crew can use the sensors more effectively and manage the workload better. All they need is for someone to give them the right coordinates.

The fourth commenter was a ‘Michael Murphy’:

Less ardent and more succinct in his stupidity than Jerry, but every bit as thoughtless.

The fifth and final dipsh*t is one ‘Mister’ Curtis Conway:

Says the guy with no CAS aircraft design, development, or employment experience. His comment is more ‘Murphy’ than ‘Barker’….he’s just more self-assured in his stupidity.

I’ve not bothered to make much effort to slap him around in response to the usual tripe he manages to post with regularity (and with that same ‘qualifier-free' declarative style seen above) at sites I frequent.

I may have to change that.


In Closing

If anyone who reads this is on Facebook, feel free to share this far and wide. Point out that these D-bags made their stupid little statements without consideration for the well-being of the survivors (those who were involved in the mistake and those who weren’t) AND without consideration for the family and loved ones of those that were lost to this tragedy within a tragedy we call ‘war’.  Tell these sad losers to go vent their misplaced ‘outrage’ on the back of something less sacrosanct than the deaths of good men in a hard war.

Just in case some of this stupidity tries to get flushed down the memory hole, here's a screen cap of the thread at the time I excised the comments presented:


Monday, July 14, 2014

David Axe on the F-35: Still Making S**T Up…

Because He Can!

This is not the first time I’ve 'Fisked' the poster boy for Punk Journalism. I’m sure it won’t be the last. His 'piece' here reeks royally, but not to worry-- I take it all apart below for your edification and enlightenment.  Axe's labors are in pink italics, mine are in black.

We begin.....

The U.S. military has grounded all its new F-35 Joint Strike Fighters following an incident on June 23, when one of the high-tech warplanes caught fire on the runway of a Florida air base. The no-fly order — which affects at least 50 F-35s at training and test bases in Florida, Arizona, California and Maryland — began on the evening of July 3 and continued through July 11.

I know “attention span” isn’t one of Axe’s strong points, but there have been at least a hundred F-35s delivered and most news stories have mentioned 97-98 aircraft have been affected. How uninformed is Axe anyway?

All those F-35s sitting idle could be a preview of a future in which potentially thousands of the Pentagon’s warplanes can’t reliably fly.

To be fair, the Pentagon routinely grounds warplanes on a temporary basis following accidents and malfunctions to buy investigators time to identify problems and to give engineers time to fix them. But there’s real reason to worry. The June incident might reflect serious design flaws that could render the F-35 unsuitable for combat.

Yet there has been no talk of such a worry throughout the life of the safety stand-down-then-grounding. In fact, the reports have been increasingly positive that there is in fact NOT a ‘serious design flaw’ related to this incident. So no, there’s NO “real reason to worry” as long as you deal in facts and not your, or your fellow traveler’s fetid imaginations.

For starters, the Lockheed Martin-built F-35 — which can avoid sensor detection thanks to its special shape and coating — simply doesn’t work very well. The Pentagon has had to temporarily ground F-35s no fewer than 13 times since 2007, mostly due to problems with the plane’s Pratt &Whitney-made F135 engine, in particular, with the engines’ turbine blades. The stand-downs lasted at most a few weeks.


Repeat that faster and faster until you recognize the word, and then look up what it means. The F-35 is still integrating changes that have already been identified and until development is complete, further changes may come as well. Axe also doesn’t know dip-squat about Low Observability, but we won’t let that distract us.

“The repeated problems with the same part of the engine may be indications of a serious design and structural problem with the F135 engine,” said Johan Boeder, a Dutch aerospace expert and editor of the online publication JSF News.

1) Problems haven’t been found ‘with the same part of the engine’ and

2) I can’t think of any of the ‘problems’ lately that have been found to be ‘design-related’.

The last I can think of is the shaft length/spacer design for the lift fan, and that was a relatively simple fix. As an aside,  quoting an un-cleared, uninvolved, and therefore uninformed ‘engineer’ with a website is also just about the epitome of a Fallacious Appeal to Authority.

Pratt & Whitney has already totally redesigned the F135 in an attempt to end its history of frequent failures. ….

Put delicately, That’s a complete and total lie. The design remains fundamentally the same since it was first built. It is the same two-shaft engine with a three-stage fan and six-stage high pressure compressor. The hot section still has an annular combustor with a single-stage high pressure turbine unit and a two-stage low pressure turbine. The afterburner still consists of a variable converging-diverging nozzle. The design has been tweaked (details and materials) for reliability and durability…just like every other turbine engine development since the history of turbine engine development began.
Axe oversteps to feed the low information crowd on this point. The lie either reeks of desperation or supreme confidence that his mouth-breathing base won’t bother to call him out on such flat-out Bullsh*t-- because is suits them just fine either way.

But there’s only so much engineers can do. In a controversial move during the early stages of the F-35′s development, the Pentagon decided to fit the plane with one engine instead of two. Sticking with one motor can help keep down the price of a new plane. But in the F-35′s case, the decision proved self-defeating.

Assertion of belief unsupported by fact. The single engine approach was an affordability (procuring and maintaining half as many engines as a two engine plane) decision at the start.

Now Axe follows up with some  ‘narrative’:

That’s because the F-35 is complex — the result of the Air Force, Marines and Navy all adding features to the basic design…..

Sheesh. More Axe B.S.
The F-35 is as complex as it needs to be as far as the users are concerned, and he can’t name anything on any of the variants that adversely affect the other variants. The irony here is that if the F-35 was a two engine plane, it WOULD be necessarily more complex.

In airplane design, such complexity equals weight. The F-35 is extraordinarily heavy for a single-engine plane, weighing as much as 35 tons with a full load of fuel.

Complexity does not necessarily equal weight; complexity can in fact reduce weight. Proof please? And the F-35 is not 'extraordinarily heavy (see F-16 data that follows), But moving on...

In structures, a truss is more complex than a beam but can weigh much less for the same purpose. In components, a multifunction box (GPS-INS) can weigh less than having separate INS and GPS boxes (incidentally, the F-35 uses separate, less-complex GPS and INS components).

 Axe is therefore making another sweeping generalization on a topic for which he possesses no consequential knowledge, and is so typical of Punk Journalism. He uses this complexity-weight ‘Strawman’ to build his narrative further:

By comparison, the older F-15 fighter weighs 40 tons. But it has two engines. To remain reasonably fast and maneuverable, the F-35′s sole F135 engine must generate no less than 20 tons of thrust — making it history’s most powerful fighter motor.

An 'interesting' comparison, selected no doubt to feed the meme machine, and executed with complete ineptitude from an engineering perspective. (But probably counts as a profundity to the Ignorami.)

The only F-15 variant that weighs around ’40 tons’ is a max-loaded F-15 Strike Eagle, the air-to-mud optimized variant of the F-15 air-superiority fighter. The F-35 weighs ‘a lot’ for the same reason as a fully loaded F-15E would weigh ‘a lot’, and at the same point in time (takeoff or after aerial refuel): it is loaded down with fuel and weapons.

The air-superiority version of the F-15 would be much more lightly loaded, but….. so….. what?
Why not compare say, a ‘fully loaded’ F-16's weight and power to weight with an F-35? The F-16C Block 50 has a max takeoff weight of 37K lbs (18.5 tons) and an engine that ‘only’ produces 27K lbs of thrust.

Alternatively, we may want to compare same generations of technology. So why not compare the F-35 power/weight with the F-22’s? Especially since the F135 is a derivative of the F119 in the F-22?

Answer: It doesn’t support Axe’s little lamentations and story line

All that thrust results in extreme levels of stress on engine components. It’s no surprise, then, that the F-35 frequently suffers engine malfunctions...

No, not really…since the ‘frequency’ is more in Axe’s imagination than reality. Maybe he should add jet engine technology to that long list of things he knows nothing about?

…Even with that 20 tons of thrust, the new radar-dodging plane is still sluggish.
The F-35 “is a dog … overweight and underpowered,” according to Winslow Wheeler, director of the Straus Military Reform Project at the Project on Government Oversight in Washington.

Winslow Wheeler is a paid hack for Strauss (first name Phil), trust-fund baby and itinerant ‘photographer’ who by the way is an anti-defense sponsor of Wheeler’s work for ages now. First at the Center for Defense (Dis-)Information and now under the POGO umbrella. Strauss is Board Chairman of that (sarc) bastion of Pro-American thought (/sarc) 'Mother Jones'.  [But don't question their 'patriotism'!]

I think all indications are that the F-35 is anything BUT a dog. But then, I’ve done the math.

In 2008, two analysts at the RAND Corporation, a California think-tank that works closely with the military, programmed a computer simulation to test out the F-35′s fighting ability in a hypothetical air war with China…

This is an obfuscating oversimplification to say the least. RAND did not sponsor what produced the now-infamous slide-show, and RAND disavowed any so-called ‘findings’. In short it was a ‘rogue operation’ at best.

…The results were startling.

NO. The results were deterministic Garbage-In Garbage-Out.

They are now known to have been based on ‘simulations’ run on 'Harpoon 3' (yes….. the video game) using performance, tactics and strategy ‘data’ of unknown pedigree by people who had no current working knowledge of the classified and/or technical data required to realistically model the ‘problem’ in the first place.

So should we dismiss Axe for being incompetently uninformed on the topic or for lying about it? IMHO, either one is unforgivable.

  “The F-35 is double-inferior,” John Stillion and Harold Scott Perdue concluded in their written summary of the war game, later leaked to the press. The new plane “can’t turn, can’t climb, can’t run,” they warned.

John Stillion left RAND for ‘greener pastures’ shortly after this cockup, and the reader can make their own assumptions as to perhaps “why”.
Stillion was supposed to be doing a study on what he is perhaps best known for: Airbase Vulnerability. I own some of his stuff on the topic and it is generally very good. IF he was suckered into an anti-JSF operation as part of that, then that’s tragic. But if that brief was his production he is still wrong in how he thinks about modern air combat.

His experience, his air combat worldview as came out in the briefing: that very much of a SEA back-seater. Given post-SEA air combat experiences, it very much looks like the rules for success have progressed way beyond Boyd’s first-generation-think on Energy-Maneuverability, so he should have showed a little humility in recognizing the possibility he was perhaps ignorant of important facts.

Yet the F-35 is on track to become by far the military’s most numerous warplane. It was designed to replace almost all current fighters in the Air Force and Marine Corps and complement the Navy’s existing F/A-18 jets. The Pentagon plans to acquire roughly 2,400 of the radar-evading F-35s in coming decades, at a cost of more than $400 billion.

Like it or not, the stealthy F-35 is the future of U.S. air power. There are few alternatives. Lockheed Martin’s engineers have done millions of man-hours of work on the design since development began in the 1990s. Starting work on a new plane now would force the Defense Department to wait a decade or more, during which other countries might pull ahead in jet design. Russia, China and Japan are all working on new stealth fighter models.

So then, what’s the point of all Axe’s B.S.?

The Pentagon sounds guardedly optimistic about the current F-35 grounding. “Additional inspections of F-35 engines have been ordered,” Rear Admiral John Kirby, a military spokeman [sic] said, “and return to flight will be determined based on inspection results and analysis of engineering data.”

If Axe had bothered to read Reuters the day before he would have found Defense Undersecretary Frank Kendall saying :

  • …..the grounding had halted testing but he did not view the incident as a "fundamental setback" for the $400 billion program, the Pentagon's biggest, which still has about 40 percent of developmental testing to complete.
  • ….. the engine had suffered two issues involving fan blades in the past few years, but they appeared unrelated and not systemic to the airplane.
  • "None of those things that have happened, including this recent one as far as I know, suggests that we have a fundamentally flawed design," Kendall said.
  • ….detailed inspections of engines on the fleet of 97 F-35s already built had not shown signs of the kind of excessive rubbing founded on the engine that broke apart, although there were signs of milder rubbing in several other engines
  • . … the evidence being compiled did not point to a systemic issue, but the analysis was still going on. In this case, engineers found evidence of significant rubbing by the fan blades against a cowl.
  • "We’re not noticing it throughout the fleet," he said.
  •  "The design allows for a limited degree of rubbing, but it was enough in this case to cause a structural reaction that ultimately led to failure."
If Axe read more, the rest of us wouldn’t have to suffer through his Beta-boy handwringing:

Minor fixes might get America’s future warplane flying again soon — for a while. But fundamental design flaws could vex the F-35 for decades to come, forcing the Pentagon to suspend flying far too often for the majority of its fighter fleet, potentially jeopardizing U.S. national security.

….and monkeys might jump out of Axe’s nether regions.

If it is between Axe’s ‘potentials', ‘coulds’ and ‘mights’, and F-35 evidence to date, all indications are we should expect those monkeys first.

My interest now is seeing who picks up Axe's ramblings and repeats the same uninformed drivel Axe just spewed.

NOTE: Work and family demands (and an illness or two)  are the reason for my hiatus have prevented me from posting regularly these days. I still have a couple of major posts in the fire, but don't know when I can complete them. As Axe's commentary proves, it is much more easy to just make up stuff or repeat other people's made-up stuff.  The only reason I had time to do this post was that Axe's drivel spun me up and it was getting in the way of me being able to clear my head for working on real life problems.