Monday, July 22, 2013

The F-35 Issue: 'Food' for Thought?

No. Thin Intellectual Gruel

Someone in Italy named 'Gherardo Albano' has an internet ‘editorial’ up that was linked to by AV Week (for some unfathomable reason). The title: “The F-35 Issue: Food for Thought”.

But the intellectual gruel he offers is so thin, that if it were real food, an anorexic supermodel wouldn’t bother to throw it back up. It is so bad, I decided to Fisk it here for posterity.  The editorial is in italics. My comments are in purple.

UPDATE #1 29 July 13: For 'some' reason, you may have trouble getting to the site in the above link to original post under examination. I'm getting feedback from a couple of people that the link is "broken", yet the link when entered into the browser works fine-- It is almost as if the traffic to the link is being blocked when accessed from this site (who knows?). If the link doesn't work for you, type:" " without the "" marks in your browser.
We begin....

These days there’s a big discussion on whether Italy should buy 90 Lockheed Martin F-35 Lightning IIs. The aim of this article is to analyze the overall picture within which such an important decision should be taken. In particular, there are two separate fields of analysis, one purely military and another related to economic issues. Let’s analyze them separately.

Sounds acceptable for the purposes of sharing information…so far. I note here, however that we must remember that ‘Economic’ Power is an equal to Military Power as two of a Nation’s Elements of Power. They support each other and the Nation itself.

Military matters
From a strategic point of view, at the moment, it is not foreseeable that a crisis may result in a conventional war. ...

Whoa! Stop. Right. There.
Rarely does an author open an argument with a logical fallacy, in this case a “Non Sequitur”. Usually, employers of this tactic try to lull an audience into a stupor before they try to slip one of these by their readers. Note: There’s a dash of “Begging the question” here as well, where something is first expressed as a presumed truth, and then later used to fallaciously support a claim or conclusion.
Casual readers, especially those of a like-mind with an author, might still miss his use of this logical fallacy because it is executed en passant; carefully avoiding the unwritten non sequitur (“it does not follow”). The ‘does not follow’ part isn’t expressed, but is presumed as unspoken fact to support the arguments that will soon follow.
I wonder if the author has legal training because this has the flavor of an ‘opening argument’, otherwise I have to doubt the author was even aware of his transgression. This does not bode well for the rest of the opinion piece, for it hints that the author is a ‘true believer’ of some sort. The only question is: a ‘true believer’ in “what?”. My main concern at this point now is how much will Albano’s remaining argumentation will rest on ‘beliefs’ instead of ‘facts’?
The ‘does not follow’ part? The fact that “it is not foreseeable that a crisis may result in a conventional war” does not preclude an ‘unforseen’ conventional war. It does not follow that because one cannot envision a conflict, a conflict will not arise. In fact, History tends to tell us that the wars we ‘see coming’ are often the wars we are able to sidestep…into the wars we don’t see coming and that usually bite us in the end. I think my first question to the author at this point would be “How many years before Operation Allied Force or even the recent military intervention in Libya, did you ‘foresee’ either/both of the conflicts coming?” The second would be “Why didn’t you do something to prevent them?”

UPDATE #2 31 July 13: I initially was going to refernce this link to punch up the point that we tend to not see (cognitive sense) 'coming', the wars we end up fighting: 25th Annual Military History Seminar- the Keaney Session , but thought it might be a little overkill. I've revised my thoughts on the subject, in part as a response to reading the first part of "Unknown's" comment in the thread for this post.

   …Of course this does not mean that we can dismantle the entire military. Defense continues to be necessary to every nation, in the present geopolitical framework, including peaceful countries such as Switzerland and Sweden, and certainly cannot be dismantled if it cannot be restored quickly in case of emergency.

Ahh! Pabulum designed to allay fears concerning the author’s reasonableness: An observation that only the most rabid anarchist or peacenik might find objectionable. Are we being ‘lulled’?

As far as we are concerned, the Italian Air Force now has a line of flight divided between air defense, consisting of about 72 Eurofighter Typhoon, and attack, consisting of 36 AMX International AMX and 48 Panavia Tornado PA-200. Then there are of course all the other non-combat operational units like tactical transport, refuelers, rescue, VIP transport, training, and so on. The Italian Navy has about 15 McDonnell Douglas AV-8B Harrier II Plus aircraft characterized by the ability of short take-off — the vertical take-off is militarily marginal — and short or vertical landing. This capability is an essential but expensive element of protection of the fleet which makes it different from most of the other navies in the world.

The audience is thus presented with a description of how the author, using a ‘Royal We’ editorial style, views and mentally organizes the Italian Navy and Air Force. I have no problem with the explanation, except perhaps the last sentence. It makes an assertion that may or may not be true as to the uniqueness of the Italian STOVL capability and relevance to the fleet.
But the assertion is completely unsupported, and I imagine there are several arguments that might be made against it (one comes immediately to mind). I note here that I wouldn’t disagree with the author on this point. The last sentence expresses a presumption the readers are expected to simply accept as ‘fact’.
We will see later that this sets up a ‘STOVL capability of the F-35B will be essential because I say it is essential’ argument: the author presents more build up to his “begging the question” fallacy.  

The combat aircraft lineup is now a dim memory of what it was in the eighties, when during the Cold War there were more than 200 aircraft for air defense and 350 for the attack role. They have already been reduced due to the organic decrease of the external threat. What remains can be considered a core of resources, human, material and methodological facilities to maintain the expertise, knowledge, methodologies and a minimum of military capability in case the need arises.

I have no major problem with this part except the view of ‘military capability’ as expressed is rather sophomoric. The confused taxonomy listing ‘military capability’, which is a combination of knowledge (expertise), methodologies (along with missing ‘hardware’ and ‘doctrine’), in the list itself may be a translation error. I believe a far better ‘book’ definition of military capability can be found in the definition of the Military Element of a nation’s power.

It is clear therefore that cutting or reducing it further would mean loosing [sic] a capability that needs between 5 to 10 years to build up again if a serious threat becomes visible. Italy would rebuild their forces almost from scratch hoping to have the time to do it. New combat-ready rookie pilots would need about 5 years. Ordering, receiving and organizing for new aircraft, performing maintenance, recruiting technicians, would again require between 5 and 10 years. In the case of the Navy, rebuilding would take much longer if we were to lose the aircraft carriers.

No. And though I’m tempted to go into excruciating detail why ALL of the author’s imagined timelines to reconstitute a force are pure hokum, I will resist the urge and merely point out the timelines appear to focus only on a time to train up the end-use operator/maintainer. Even if you get a cadre of “new combat-ready rookie” pilots in 5 years (a highly suspect assumption as-- unlike the children of Lake Wobegone-- not all fighter pilots are ‘above average’), how long will it take to train up enough force leaders that have the experience and knowledge/skills and doctrinal support to lead them?
I’ll call this “B.S.” but am willing to retract same if anyone can show me a contemporary peacetime military organization that has developed, fielded and employed an advanced military capability after replacing an existing capability much less creating a new capability in under 10 years…. ”successfully”. The 5-10 year time span offered clearly provides nothing for the organizational, doctrinal and infrastructure development required to actually field and execute military power by a modern homogenous society, much less a Western democracy as fractured politically as Italy (or the U.S.A. for that matter).

The above considerations lead me to say that maintaining a capacity in the defense sector by replacing aircraft that reach the end of service life with more modern and competitive aircraft (relative to hostile forces) is a crucial need. The alternative would be a great risk for our country given the current geo-political instability worldwide.

Other than the “above considerations” shouldn’t lead anyone anywhere, this may seem reasonable…on the surface.
We will soon see how the author defines “more modern and competitive aircraft”. Guess what he leaves out or diminishes? Any bets they involve aspects of combat aircraft design that F-35 was built upon?

The attack aircraft in question will still need to be replaced over the next 6-12 years for reasons of obsolescence and useful life. The older a plane becomes, like a car, the more maintenance costs until the situation becomes untenable.

This is what is known as the “setup”. I always look for this part on a point of argument. It is where your debate opposition states something he doesn’t expect an argument over then delivers a contrarian ‘but’, as in “Yes. Blah blah blah, but XXXXXXXXXXXXXXX.” Some of the best advice I ever received was from an Air Force Lt Col (Engineer) during TASVAL79 who told me: “Always remember Mac, everything before the ‘But’ is Bullsh*t.  The setup indicates we are about to be spoon-fed the Bullsh*t.
Also note the author lists “obsolescence” and “useful life” yet only just touches on one aspect of the impacts at the end of “useful life”.

The current situation is the following:
• The AMX are technologically obsolete and should be replaced soon;

I’ll buy that, but for reasons I already know. WHY does the author think they (or the other aircraft for that matter) are “technologically obsolete”? It seems the author is twisting himself into contortions avoiding the details concerning what makes a fighter aircraft “obsolete”.

• Tornadoes are being updated and this standard can last another five-ten years or even more;

Even if it were true, 5-10 years is ‘tomorrow’ even if you have a replacement in hand. I note (again) the author is using a form of “begging the question”: we are expected to accept his claim is ‘true’ because he states it as a ‘truth’.

• AV-8B Navy aircraft have 20 years of operating life and do not need to be replaced now, but in the medium term, unless unexpected problems of maintenance arise.

Assuming the Italian AV-8’s haven’t been flown into the ground and won’t be in the future, I’ll buy 20 years on the airframe durability. But an airplane is far more than just the airframe, and the author somehow fails to mention the relative obsolescence of the AV-8 design itself.
 I’ll not pursue the hole in the author’s argument for now, except to first ask: “What makes this author ignore the fact that like all pre-5th Generation aircraft, obsolescence will probably overcome the aircraft before they are ever close to being worn out?”
Oh, and about the authors last turn of the phrase using the weasel words “unless unexpected problems of maintenance arise”: In my 40+ years of aerospace experience “unexpected problems of maintenance” have never failed to “arise”. Why assume otherwise? 

Let’s see now what could be the alternative having already narrowed down to the most plausible hypothesis:

Has anyone seen any ‘narrowing down’ yet? I didn’t either.

1. replace the strike aircraft with the F-35 variants A and B, taking into account that B is the only possible replacement for the Navy’s AV-8B as there are no other STOVL aircraft types;
2. replace the AV-8B with F-35B and all others with more Typhoon, Tranche 3, which have advanced attack capabilities.

What happened to #3? After all, it is only the freakin' ‘current plan’:
3. replace the AV-8B with F-35B and the AMX/Tornados with the F-35A. If the author sees fit to ignore the current plan, why then shouldn’t we also consider an expansion on that plan to come up with a ‘#4’?:
4. retire some/all Typhoons in recognition of the inherent Air-to-Air capability that F-35As bring to the Air-to-Air fight.

This suggests that for the Navy it is important to buy the F-35B while the Air Force has in fact two possible choices. Let us see the features of the two possible candidates.

Well, since the author saw fit to selectively attenuate his list of options ahead of time, of course he would reach this conclusion.

The development program for the F-35 is not proceeding well. …

“Not proceeding well”. One may argue the point using the “as compared to what?” other modern (last 50 years) and similarly advanced technical development efforts or even to simply other large, highly complex, government programs-- as the F-35 program fall into both categories. I would therefore challenge Mr. Albano to name one program in either category that did/has not experienced as many or more challenges than the F-35 program. I also challenge him to name any of them that did a better job of dealing with them than the F-35 program has to-date. This is the kind of simplistic thought that makes my Aerospace Engineer blood boil. But on the plus side, it provides me yet another opportunity to quote a favorite: J. R. Pierce.
Novices in mathematics, science, or engineering are forever demanding infallible, universal, mechanical methods for solving problems.
(I never tire of referencing Dr. Pierce)

… Let’s say that there were basic errors: starting production of the plane when the development was still in progress and the desire to develop three versions — Standard A, B vertical take-off, C for aircraft carriers with catapult — from a single basic design coming to affect all versions with the requirements of the most difficult vertical take-off version. This has led to a significant increase in costs and the forced relaxation of specifications to be met, without which the project would had [sic] been unfeasible. …

“Let’s say?”—This is yet another ‘Begging the Question’ logical fallacy, only this one is a ‘twofer’: two popular, yet unsubstantiated/perverted criticisms in one. They are: 1) ‘Concurrency’ and 2) ‘STOVL Requirements adversely affected CTOL and CV designs’.
1. Concurrency. ‘Some’ claim concurrent development increases cost and schedule. This assertion on the F-35 has become a rather popular ‘political’ truth, but it is still not an actual truth. ‘Concurrency’ when studied by those with expertise to do so has consistently been shown to benefit advanced programs, and IMHO I’ve adequately covered this topic many times on many web domains, but have dealt with it most completely in 2011 in my Congressional Bloviation on Concurrency post, so I will not go into detail again here. But I will note that the post stands up well, especially in light of the Undersecretary of Defense for Acquisition, Technology and Logistics testifying before Congress just a month ago that “Concurrency costs are coming down faster than program estimates, and production costs are coming down as well.”
2. STOVL Requirements adversely affected CTOL and CV designs. This is perhaps one of the most tiresome canards propagated by the anti-JSF crowd. ALL aircraft design involves tradeoffs. In the case of the F-35, the dominant tradeoffs were made between the requirements to perform air-to-air and air-to-ground missions. In all the assertions that the F-35’s design was ‘compromised’ somehow because of the STOVL requirement, I have not once read once ‘how’ the design was allegedly ‘compromised’.
The author can’t name one any more than any other before him. The most dominant ‘F-35B unique’ requirement in the total design effort was ‘low weight’ in support of the STOVL operation. If anything that requirement drove better F-35 CTOL/CV designs as well. There are perhaps some dimensioning restrictions in the design for ship-borne operations, but even with those the most a critic could claim is that they ‘might’ have driven a different (not necessarily better) design than the F-35A model would have been as a standalone design.
NOTE: from this point forward, Albano’s opinion piece really starts rambling all over the place so I will be inserting comments in brackets as often as possible. If his thoughts were better organized, I would have been finished yesterday. If I don’t use brackets […], I would have to chop up his sentences as well as his paragraphs, making it even tougher for the reader to follow.

… In any case we are talking about a highly advanced aircraft not only for the use of new stealth technology — which basically means opposing radar has difficulty in detection — but also for new production technologies and the integration of a lot of electronics called sensor fusion — to put it simply, allowing better awareness of the situation around the aircraft.

Mr. Albano obviously has no idea how important Low Observables and F-35-grade Sensor Fusion are to the modern air combat equation judging by how this entire piece is written. The “difficulty in detection” is a “damning with faint praise” fallacy. Low Observability disrupts the entire kill chain at every step, from attempts to detect to terminal weapon end game, and forces an opponent to have to begin the process all over again when the chain is broken. 

The program currently sees continuation of testing, and the manufacture of aircraft is not yet at the minimum standard for combat. [So? Is this a recognition of an already recognized ‘risk’?] In short, the aircraft to the current date is not satisfactory [It is still in LRIP, Duh!], but over time it will be excellent in the attack role. It will remain however, in my opinion, insufficient in the role of air defense, since it hasn’t a powerful enough radar. [“However” is another form of “But”--See earlier note on that topic. As to “not powerful enough”, Mr. Albano has no idea know how “powerful” it is. I also seriously doubt he has any idea how the whole of F-35 ‘Sensor Fusion’ is greater than the sum of its parts, including the AESA.]

In addition, currently the F-35 can only carry two anti-aircraft missiles when in stealth mode and this severely limits the ability to deal with numerous enemy formations [Patently false. Current plans call for maximum of 4 internal A2A missiles, with provisions for more. The capability supports very favorable projected exchange loss ratios, so Albano’s “opinion” which based on who-knows-what misinformation is of no consequence]. Kinematic capabilities also contribute to a poor verdict on its air to air performances. [More opinion based upon….what? There isn’t enough information in the public domain for outsiders to pass judgment on the subject, only conjecture.]
Cost for purchase and maintenance remains to be firmly determined, which will be discussed later.
Count the internally-carried Air-to-Air missiles in the baseline plan...

Yes, it is all just ‘estimates’ now. Just like the future costs of any aircraft, even ones that are now flying, So?.

The alternative to the F-35A is the Typhoon, a European project which is already mature owing to further development with the so-called Tranche 3 (T3) that Italy should acquire, funds permitting, to complete the line of air defense. [Italy isn’t buying the F-35 to replace the Typhoon in the Air Superiority mission, so what is Albano’s point?] The T3 develops the plane incorporating a new type of AESA radar and new types of weapons for air-to-air and air-to-ground combat, increasing significantly the military value and configuring it as a true multi-role aircraft. The Typhoon does not have stealth technology, but has top rated kinematic capabilities — speed, acceleration, turning — and self-defense exceeding the F-35. [No. See earlier comment about kinematics and exchange rates] For comparison a Typhoon has at least six missile, has wider antenna coverage and can go higher and faster.

'Wider’ antenna coverage? Does he mean scan angle? Is he talking about the current or future EFA radar? In any case this can be countered by the F-35 changing operational techniques, so “So What?”. The Typhoon is far more observable at every range and angle with far less situational awareness than an F-35. It can go higher and faster than an F-35… sometimes. Such as when it’s not carrying any significant go-to-war payload.
The plane on the left can carry two 2K lb precision weapons and 2 Air-to-Air Missiles to 50K ft+ and fly 1000+ nm and dash at M1.6 in this configuration. The plane on the right with the same load? Not so much.  

A comparison of the F-35 and Typhoon T3 must be set to a period of the useful life of about 30 years which brings me to the following considerations:

1. the F-35 is more technologically advanced and this is reflected in a number of benefits including that in the next 10-15 years, a further development potential is possible to adapt the plane to new threats;

Ah. Cherry-picking a timeframe. How about for the next 30-40 years? The Typhoon conceptual design is already 30 years old, based on even older requirements and designed for a different (pre-stealth) age. It will be lucky if it is viable in any scenario in 15 years.

2. the stealth technology is the F-35′s primary means of protection from interception, but there are many plans to reduce the effectiveness of this technology and high maintenance costs of stealth protection is a sustainability issue;

I’ve lost count of the assumptions, myths and half truths presented in Albano’s piece as ‘fact’ that we’re expected to accept. These are two more.
First: Low Observability. LO is a combination of technology, techniques and tactics. It is no more ‘static’ than the efforts to defeat it, and it is always developed and applied with an eye towards of continuous improvement. This is yet another case where someone with no actual background assumes the LO an aircraft starts with, is the LO it ends with. We do pre-planned product improvements on all aircraft systems, and operational techniques always evolve over time, What makes anyone think LO is any different? Albano needs to start someplace on this topic, so he can start here, and I’ve already provided the link to Grant’s Radar Game.
Second: LO High Cost of maintenance. Mr. Albano has obviously missed all the discussions on how the F-35 had LO supportability designed-in based upon experiences of the past. If he were a serious student of maintainability and supportability, he would have observed that in all the reports that have criticized the F-35 to-date, there have been none -- zero, zilch, nada -- that have criticized the F-35 Sortie Generation Rates. You don’t get the SGR you are looking for if you have excessive maintenance burdens of any type.

3. Italy overall has few aircraft and multi-role capability, although not a main requirement, will definitely have value. In this respect, the Typhoon is great for air defense while the F-35 is marginal;

Need I point out that Albano is again ‘begging the question’? And over a point tangential to the reasons the Italians are buying F-35s in the first place? I’d like to also pose the question as to “How great are you at air defense?”, if low observable opponents will most likely ‘see’ you before ‘you’ see them?

4. in the attack role the F-35 is invaluable in the event of a confrontation with technologically advanced opponents in the early days of the war when air defenses are fully functional; when the fight shifts to trucking bombs, the two aircraft are substantially equal.

‘Substantially equal’? This is ‘begging the question’ again. Does the Typhoon have anything like the F-35’s ability to distinguish friend from foe on a fluid battlefield? Does the Typhoon have anything that provides a pilot with a clear view of the target in the day, night, in any direction and in all weather conditions? More importantly, can the Typhoon do so with a reasonable expectation of not being successfully engaged by Surface-to-Air threat? As proven in Operation Allied Force, where the Serbians elected to shepherd their air defense resources, you can never be certain to have eliminated the Surface to Air threat, you can only have varying degrees of confidence you have been able to attrit/mitigate it. Flying a non-LO aircraft over hostile territory is an invitation to eventually get shot down. How “equal’ a bomb-truck can a Typhoon be if attrition is factored in? Answer: not very equal at all.
A single flight line on the Typhoon would have major economic benefits  for training, spare parts and so forth  while the same proposition cannot be said for the F-35 since it is not an interceptor. 
We now see Albano, having praised the secondary strike capability of a Typhoon, making no examination of the F-35’s capabilities in the Air-to-Air mission. While no doubt the F-35 would have to perform the mission differently than a Typhoon (the Typhoon’s great top speed in a relatively clean configuration is a direct product of the ‘Interceptor’ mission requirement),it has not been shown that the F-35 could not perform the mission. If viewed as a ‘fleet’ vs. ‘individual fighter capability’ could an argument be made that an “all F-35” fleet in greater, same, or fewer total numbers than a combined F-35/Typhoon fleet could perform both A-A and A-G roles? Has Albano reduced this effort to a EFA Typhoon advocacy paper?

In the future, industries are developing unmanned combat aircraft vehicle (UCAV) stealth such as the X-47B. These are designed, much like the F-35, to carry out attacks in extremely dangerous air defences. Therefore, the specific strength of the F-35 could in the future be better carried out by a European UCAV.

The X-47B just now completed the technology demonstration step in the combat UAV evolution. Whatever the follow-on program produces if it even materializes, it will still be only the first step on a long journey that will take several generations of developments, and still, it may never make the manned combat aircraft 'obsolete'. File this under ‘wishful thinking’.

Regarding the choice of the Air Force to ask for 60 F-35As and 15 F-35Bs, I consider that, assuming we stick to the F-35, the best solution would be to buy all F-35As because: the B version costs 30% more than the A; is, performance wise, inferior to the A version; but most importantly because the operational motivation is rather weak. In fact, the F-35Bs were required by the Air Force to be used in support of expeditionary situations where adequate runways are not available. If this is the need, then it would be more effective to use F-35As for the Navy, considering an increased purchase to 20. To save money, in case of F-35 purchase, a unified management of today’s separate lines of flight of the two armed forces, including training, should be enforced.

This part is so disjointed I hardly know where to begin. First the F-35B is essential for the Navy because it can operate off the Cavour. Now the Navy should buy land based versions? The author’s ‘logic’ holds only if the Navy never goes farther asea than where the land-based F-35As can support it. While throwing around a ‘30% higher cost’ number is Albano aware that the STOVL sortie generation rate specification is about 33% higher than the F-35A or F-35C? What ‘costs’ are he using to compare F-35A and F-35B unit costs? Is he aware the program is managed to minimize total life cycle costs instead of initial procurement unit costs? Is he aware that in a 25-30 year weapon system lifetime, typically 2/3rds of total costs are in sustainment?

Economic and industrial matters
The Typhoon is a plane in which the domestic industry’s original share — design and production — was 21%, but in the case of additional, future purchases may be negotiated higher. [Very nice. Good luck with that. How many future EFA sales are expected? A large percentage of “very little” is ‘not much’. ] Also with the manufacturer of the Typhoon consortium, in case of additional purchases, or beyond the commitments entered into with the consortium, you could negotiate a package of financial compensation even exceeding 100%, just like the big world buyers (India, Brazil, Korea, etc.). In addition, the extension of the production of the Typhoon could lead to further sales abroad, with additional financial benefits for Italy.

In light of the procurement history and dearth of potential customers, that sounds like an awful lot of wishful-thinking to me. The Eurofighter program cost and schedule history make the F-35 look like a model acquisition program. 

In contrast, the Italian share of the F-35 project is 4% for Development and is not assessable for the production, as the supply tenders are still in progress. Italy has invested over the years about 1 million U.S. dollars in the development of the F-35 and so did Finmeccanica partnering with the MoD for the “FACO” in Cameri. We must consider that, while the percentage is lower, it is on a much larger number of planes and a hypothetical 4% of 2,000 aircraft is comparable with a 100% of 75 aircraft. Technologically, Italian companies are fully conversant with Typhoon production technologies while those of the F-35 are partially unknown. The original contribution to the development of the F-35 was finalized contingent on the acquisition of new technologies for Italian companies, but the U.S. has severely limited these knowledge transfers.[It should be noted here that is precisely the kind of criticism the F-16 Multinational program dealt with in the early days. We must observe that the technological benefits received by the partner nations brought most of them back for more with the F-35. This smacks of frustration borne on wings of unreasonable expectations.] In addition, if Italy will purchase F-35s, any national enhancement, update or integration cannot be performed without U.S. approval and involvement, so the F-35 should be considered a “limited sovereignty airplane”.

Not true. But a commonly repeated oversimplification often committed by people who ‘think’ they understand how the F-35 software design works. The author is apparently unfamiliar with MILS or EALS-7 . Users will be able to ‘nationalize’ their own aircraft if new systems are required and add weapons (the aerospace equivalent of adding an ‘App’) if they wish. But the idea behind the common core software design is to ensure commonality and in turn reduced software maintenance cost over the life of the program. Canada, Australia, and the UK are planning to jointly develop a ‘reprogramming laboratory’ of their own (page 77). There is nothing stopping Italy from doing the same on their own or in concert with another partner nation. 

Both the UK and Israel have strongly opposed the American policy in this regard, but for now, only Israel has managed to get limited access to electronic systems in order to make partial integrations nationally. To better understand the implications, if tomorrow the Italian Air Force requires the integration of a weapon or an external tank, it would have to ask the U.S. to perform it, paying and waiting for their development cycles in which, predictably, they would not be a priority. [Again, NOT true (see above). But I suppose it is a convenient appeal to nationalism and trade protectionists]
On acquisition costs for the F-35, there is an extensive bibliography, made of figures difficult to compare and review — a real jungle — so if there are two numbers are one is double the other, they could be both true since they are based on different assumptions. [And include different cost items, or ‘different year’ currency values, or both. So what?]
In addition the F-35 is in the development stage and not yet in full production, having acquisition costs that vary from year to year. We now have, for the A model, an approximate figure well above $100 million. Flight costs per hour is also a topic for fortune tellers, but the numbers are scaring the USAF. ['Scaring': A fallacious Appeal to Emotion directed at the uninformed]
The Typhoon is well known for acquisition and flight costs. [Not so much “well known” as seen as an outcome to be avoided]
In my view, the purchase of the F-35 should be only for the 15-20 copies for the Navy, to be purchased along a period of 7 to 10 years from now, allowing the maturation of the aircraft and the reduction in purchasing costs. To date, a fully operational aircraft is scheduled for 2019, if there are no serious problems on software development, a key component in the present day for a fighter plane. The Air Force, in contrast, has a technological option that makes it possible, even if with operational differences, to purchase the F-35A or the Typhoon.

Only if you actually believe the Typhoon will be effective and survivable for the next 30 years or so.

It is my opinion that it is useful, both economically and industrially, that Italy, since there are no orders signed besides 3 F-35As, reviews in detail the alternatives, requiring two offers, with guaranteed costs and industrial compensations, for the two alternatives: Typhoon T3 and F-35A. The timing for the purchase of the 75 aircraft, may be over a fairly long period and without immediate financial commitments. In case of confirmation of the F-35, it would be desirable that the purchases were delayed until 2018 to 2020, in time to start replacing the AMX.

Oh yes, because everything is always cheaper if you stretch out the purchase and do it later (/sarc). Apparently the author has never heard of Economic Order Quantities.

This would be a nice as we consider the current crisis that does not allow for non-essential digressions. Defense cannot be neglected, but we can certainly wait a few years before deciding and purchasing.

My Conclusion:
Mr. Albano’s screed is ill-conceived, poorly written, drivel. It remain so even when allowing for what must be lost in the English translation. He presents nothing more than a laundry list of unsubstantiated and/or perverted anti-JSF complaints with a dash of pro-Eurofighter ‘feelings’ (vs. fact). In law, it is said that if the facts are on your side then argue the facts. If the law is on your side, then argue the law. If you have neither the facts nor the law on your side, then ‘pound on the table’. Mr. Albano is clearly ‘pounding on the table’.

Veritas Locutus Est, Causa Finita Est


sferrin said...

Pretty easy to see why Ares linked to it. It supports Bill Sweetman's agenda.

sferrin said...

The STOVL "compromise" I see peddled most often is overall length because it has to fit on a gator's elevator. This has an effect on fineness ratio, max speed, etc.

SpazSinbad said...

Some more info for ‘sferrin’....

The Influence of Ship Configuration on the Design of the Joint Strike Fighter Ryberg, Eric S. (1Mb PDF)

Consideration for the shipboard environment, ship interface requirements, and the users’ at-sea concepts of operations is critical to the successful design of a ship-based air system. The factors that influence shipboard compatibility are quite numerous, and their impacts are often underestimated and/or misunderstood by those not completely familiar with carrier-based aviation. ...

...Geometric Compatibility
Probably the most intuitively obvious factor to influence the design of a ship-based aircraft is geometric compatibility. Simply stated, the airplane must be of an acceptable size and shape to fit within the constrained operating spaces aboard ship.

...The JSF Operational Requirements Document (ORD) established a design threshold for the Spot Factor of the CV variant, in that it could be no greater than 1.24. Early in the JSF design process, it became evident that the Spot Factor requirement would not constrain the size and shape of the aircraft. In fact, it’s likely that the CV variant would satisfy the ORD Spot Factor threshold even without the capability to fold its wings. As will be discussed, however, other considerations have shown that such a mechanism is a worthwhile addition to the CV design, despite the added weight, complexity, and cost.

Maximum Density Spot Factor is purely an academic exercise to quantify an aircraft’s size and shape. An operational spotting analysis helps to determine how Aircraft Handling Officers could most efficiently operate a ship’s complement of aircraft. Efficiency is typically quantified through use of metrics such as sortie generation rate and aircraft turnaround time. The positions where aircraft can be parked prelaunch, post-recovery, and for maintenance or servicing greatly affect these metrics. Obviously, the flight deck layout is a major determinant in deck efficiency, as are the configurations of the aircraft that make up the airwing.

Through the conduct of spotting analyses, it was determined that a folding wing afforded the JSF CV variant increased flexibility in its deck handling, enough so to offset the impact of incorporating the folding mechanisms. The CV variant’s folded wingspan approximates that of an F/A-18C, the aircraft it will eventually replace in the carrier airwing. This similarity should allow Handling Officers aboard CVNs to position JSF very much like they position F/A-18C today.

Unlike the CV variant, the JSF STOVL variant did not have a spot factor requirement levied upon it. Instead, the ORD specified a spotting requirement in operational terms. The USMC operators required that it be possible to park a total of six STOVL variants aft of the island on an LHA or LHD, such that none fouls the landing area and that any one of them can be moved without first moving any other. This requirement constrains the STOVL variant’s wingspan to be no more than 35 ft.

Aside from the amount of flight deck space needed to accommodate an aircraft, there are several additional constraints that affect its geometry. Aircraft are stored in hangar bays with constrained overhead clearances. The ceiling height must allow the conduct of all maintenance and support actions, including such tasks as the removal and replacement of the canopy and ejection seat. Additionally, compatibility with deck elevators may constrain an aircraft’s length, width, or both...”
... In 1995, he helped launch the Carrier Suitability Focus Group for the program now known as Joint Strike Fighter. In 2001, he was chosen to lead JSF’s Basing and Ship Suitability IPT. Mr. Ryberg is a member of the U. S. Naval Institute and the Tailhook Association.”

SMSgt Mac said...

I just got off work, and good to see you both here.

Yeah not a high enough 'fineness' ratio is a common claim, as if that only comes from the L. and not the cross-sectional volume. The irony is that if the F-35 was longer, then it would obviously weigh more as well. As important as the fineness ratio is to the M1 speed regime the distribution of the volume/cross-section: how close does it come to a Sears-Haack distribution? About the best any real world aircraft can do is to have a supersonic drag about twice that of a Sears-Haack Body.

Unknown said...

As a technical point of logic, the author neglects to consider the potentiality of "unforseen" conflicts, but as a matter of policy military planning must be done in light of national resources and plausible potential threats. Italy has severely constrained resources due to the economic crises and essentially no threats. The existential threat of the Soviet Union is gone and the prospect of anything similar threat is extremely remote. None of Italy's neighbors in Europe seems remotely likely to pose a threat and the countries of N. Africa are in shambles. The operations against Serbia and Libya were both wars of choice; neither of these nations was any sort of threat to Italy. Perhaps the former conflict might have some consequences for the stability of surrounding European nations or economic repercussions, but probably not major consequences for Italy itself. As a matter of national prestige, Italy would likely want to provide at least token forces for major U.S. lead operations like the war against Libya, but it seems like the Typhoons would be more than adequate for this.

I'd be interested in further information regarding the question of design trade-offs and design features necessary for STOVL. I am not an aeronautical engineer, but I have a degree in nuke e. If someone asks for a reactor with a given power output and safety features one might be able to sketch out a simple design, but if one wants those same specifications on a reactor that must be flown in an aircraft or launched into space, the design process becomes much more difficult. Operation in those challenging environments and the constraints they place on the design dominate the design process. This is a more extreme example than STOVL, perhaps, but it serves to illustrate the reasoning behind people's concern. The Harrier is the only combat aircraft to successfully incorporate STOVL, and this was done at the cost of performance relative to something like an F-16. STOVL seems like, and has historically been, the kind of requirement that places severe constraints on the design process. Certain layouts that might be plausible and advantageous for a standard fighter might be rejected if they lacked sufficient room for the lift fan, for example. Perhaps modern materials, computer aided design, etc. have minimized this, no doubt they have mitigated it to some degree, but I think the basic question makes sense. It seems likely that an F-16 F-18 replacement could have been had with less cost and program risk if the STOVL requirement had been dropped. I'm not saying this is true, but I think this seems prima facie plausible. I'd be really interested in seeing what sort of aircraft would have arisen had the STOVL requirement been done away with.

SMSgt Mac said...

Hi "Unknown".
RE: "Italy has severely constrained resources due to the economic crises and essentially no threats."
Those are both value judgments that have been, are and will be actively debated in any open society. When stated as 'fact' they both PRESUME facts not in evidence and/or are provable: Presumption 1-"Economic crises" makes a certain level of defense pending 'unaffordable'.
Counter- Yet enough people in Italy apparently believe otherwise, else that 'level of defense' or capability would not be sought after.
Presumption 2. "Essentially no threats" are seen to exist.
Counter - I reassert that because they are not seen by some, does not mean either a) they are not seen by others or b) that they do not exist. I gave examples of how unforeseen conflicts have arose in the very recent past. That 'someone' does not see they rose to a level of concern does not mean others did/do not, nor does that mean the next conflict would not be "existential". I've added a link above that I originally intended to incorporate but did not that supports my assertions. The useful life for the F-35 weapon system is planned to cover the next 30-50 years. I do not believe anyone can say with any certainty what 'existential' events will transpire in that timeframe, nor when they will transpire within that timeframe.
The F-35's lift fan system is not just newer technology, it is a newer technological approach. If you can't access any of the AIAA papers, at least visit the Wiki Page on Paul Bevilaqua and follow the links to details (such as the patent) of the design, and a nice graph showing how the power of the propulsion system is used for maximum effect in both conventional and vertical flight.
IMHO the beauty of the actual application was in putting the lift fan ahead of the engine where the weight is equal to about a half-full fuel tank -- the fuel tank that sits in the exact same place in the CTOL version. this arrangement yields very similar CGs for "best maneuverability" for both variants. The Harrier was an evolutionary 'dead end' that required a draggy airframe/engine design and installation that could only produce more thrust by making the engine bigger and draggier. There is a diminishing return on payload, range, and speed to any design-- and the AV-8B design was hitting the limit. The F-35B, taps into the Shaft HP of the common F-35 engine installation to drive the fan. The lift fan produces far more thrust pushing colder denser air than would ever be practical with hot gases, and it mitigates the hot gas ingestion problem of the AV-8B technical approach. The F-35 approach already lifts about twice as much as the Harrier approach, can fly well above Mach1, and can land with significant payload (something the Harrier cannot do). All without 'compromising' the CTOL design.

Unknown said...

Hi SMSgt Mac,

Hmm. I thought the thing would grab my identity from the google account. My name is Chad.

You've got a pretty fascinating blog here and I appreciate the level of analysis you bring to the F-35 discussion.

Thanks for the information about Bevilaqua and the lift fan system; this is very interesting and helps allay concerns about the impact of the STOVL requirement on the performance of the system.

RE: Those are both value judgments that have been, are and will be actively debated in any open society.