Thursday, September 29, 2011

F-35 to Begin Sea Trials Next Week

Defense News Reports:
"They start on 3rd October, and should last only two weeks," said Lt. Gen. Terry Robling, the Marine's deputy commandant for aviation. "But we have the USS Wasp for six weeks in case there are some anomalies."

Looking forward to the reports, videos and pics.

(Photoshop/Artist Concept)

Centennial of Naval Aviation #2

Historic U.S. Navy PN-9 Seaplane, Circa 1925
Bumped: Find a new comment from a Grandson of the designer.

Here are some crops of another never-before-seen (or published) photograph that are presented in honor of the Centennial of Naval Aviation (Copyright Mine 2011)

The photo was taken by my Grandfather in 1925 in Hawaii while in port with his ship, the USS Langley. It had the simple caption “Navy Seaplane PN-9” in his Langley ‘Memories’ album. Note the evidence of repair on the upper wing

The ‘tail’ number was clearly visible, so I performed a quick search on the internet, and was surprised to find it was quite a famous AND one-of-a-kind seaplane.

BuNo A6878

From a '' PDF file (p 681) :

The last PN-8 was converted by the Naval Aircraft Factory to the PN-9, a one-of-a-kind aircraft. It had redesigned tail surfaces and revised engine nacelles with large nose radiators. This aircraft set a world distance record for seaplanes in September 1925 when it flew from San Francisco to Hawaii under the command of Commander John Rogers. While it had to sail the last 559 miles after running out of fuel, the 1,841 miles covered by air was recognized as a new world seaplane distance record.

Crew: 4
Range: 2,550 miles
Power Plant: Two geared 475 hp Packard 1A-2500
  Empty - 8,995 lbs
  Gross - 18,125 lbs
  Wing area - 1,217 sq ft
  Wing span - 72 ft 10 in
  Length - 49 ft 2 in
  Height - 16 ft 6 in
BuNo: PN-9 A6878
From a photo taken after the aircraft had been towed into port, we can tell that my Granddad’s photo was obviously taken after many repairs have already been made. This is what the plane looked like when it reached Hawaii:

Rodgers' PN-9 After Ordeal, Source: State of Hawaii

The crew had been given up as lost after an extensive search. Rodgers and the rest of the PN-9 crew were able to monitor the radio without being able to transmit their location the entire time. They listened in as the searchers first coordinated their efforts and then decided to call off the search. They were ‘frustrated’ to say the least as they listened as the search unfolded. The Langley and the crew were part of the search effort. When Rodgers and his crew overheard that it was the opinion of the Langley’s aviators that the PN-9 and crew were ‘lost’… I imagine that made Rodgers and crew a little bit ‘more’ than just frustrated.

Rodgers’ navigation skills and the ability to ‘sail’ the seaplane using the fabric removed from the lower wings as sails brought them within a few miles of landfall when they were finally seen by a US submarine. They were towed past treacherous shoals and received a hero’s welcome both in Hawaii and eventually back on the mainland.

This same plane was apparently used to make another long distance flight attempt, and again forced to set down in the water (Caribbean) with its crew adrift. Again, it was found and the crew rescued but this time, it was seen as too risky to tow to safety and was sunk in place as a hazard to navigation. An unlucky, yet weirdly lucky bird if there ever was one.

Further Reading:

A 1925 ‘Flight’ article here.

Much more about the flight and the crew’s epic journey here, including many photographs and links to news articles of the day.

Monday, September 26, 2011

DDG-1000: US Surface Stealth News

I was wondering why there hadn't been any actual DDG-1000 "Zumwalt" photos on the web even though there were discussions about how much of it was complete. I should have known they were doing the bulk of the buildup indoors, since they are using the modular construction approach not unlike carriers (too big to do all inside) and submarines (that are built up under shelter).
 Defense News has the words and a photo.

Photo: GD/Bath Ironworks

So Far... So Good

The message is almost TOO positive:
"We're on time, we're on budget. We're within budget," Capt. James Downey declared during an interview earlier this month. "We're hitting the milestones within the program."

The Zumwalt's astounding completion level of 60 percent at keel-laying - once one of the earliest moments in a ship's construction - is a byproduct of the modern, modular building methods, Downey said.

"The ship is built in modules," he explained, including ever-larger elements known as ultra units. "When the first ultra unit is complete, that's when keel-laying is."

The forward midbody module, which includes the guns, weighs more than 4,000 tons - larger than a littoral combat ship, Downey said. The modules feature a high degree of outfitting, including smaller details like wiring, pipes, and control consoles to main and auxiliary propulsion engines and missile launchers.

As the ultra units are joined together, the Zumwalt will rapidly take on more of its ultimate shape. The composite deck structure, weighing more than 1,000 tons and now more than 75 percent complete, is expected to be barged from Mississippi to Maine in late spring, and the Zumwalt is scheduled to be launched in July 2013. Initial delivery is set for 2014, with completion of the combat system to follow in 2015.
Getting all the systems in all the modules to work well with each other will be the hard part, but they've done a lot of advance work already:

A DDG 1000 power plant at the Navy's Land-Based Test Site in Philadelphia conducted a successful, full-scale power test in May.
"We tested the complete propulsion system in local control," Downey said. "It pretty much passed with flying colors," although some test equipment needed upgrading. "We made no changes to any of our [ship] equipment."
The advanced induction motor (AIM) - heart of the integrated power system - "has performed very well," Downey said. "It met all the requirements at land-based testing. It exceeded the requirements."
Officers and crew of the DDG 1000 have already been reporting for duty, Downey said, with several members spending time this summer underway on British Type 45 destroyers, which also use AIM engines.
"We're learning what to expect out of the system," Downey said. "It's good for them to see a working system out at sea."
Tests of BAE's 155mm advanced gun system and its associated long-range land-attack projectile also have progressed "very well," Downey said. Two successful live-fire tests were held Aug. 30 at White Sands Missile Range, N.M., against live targets, which were hit at a range of 45 nautical miles. The round, he said, is hitting targets within "40-ish inches" of where it's aimed, against a requirement of 20-30 meters.

Sounds promising. May the program realize every advantage and avoid every pitfall. Maybe we can get the Luddites that capped the program at three units to reverse the decision.

UAV as Satellite Backup

 Without passing any judgement on the technical approach, the idea of having an unmanned high flyer communications network in case our space assets are neutralized is a good one for two reasons:
1. The obvious one: We'd have a backup.
2. The less obvious one: It lowers the military utility, and therefor the likelihood of someone bothering to neutralize the space assets in the first place,

Friday, September 23, 2011

Inside the Pentagon: JSF Faces Potential $3 Billion Bill To Reconfigure Early Production Aircraft

...and it is NOT as big a deal as you might think, and is certainly less than the JSF-Haters fantasize
50th F-35 Center Fuselage Delivery Ceremony
20 July 2011 (Northrop Grumman Photo)
'Inside the Pentagon' reports on 'outside' estimates to bring LRIP F-35's to Production Baseline Standard (link Subscription Required-- sorry). The 'Teaser' at link contains the bottom line:
DefenseAlert - 09/16/2011 The Defense Department is facing a potential $3 billion bill to modify early production Joint Strike Fighter aircraft to final configuration, roughly an additional $10 million for each fighter jet that is not accounted for by Pentagon unit-cost estimates, according to the Senate Appropriations Committee.
This is the same Committee using 'Concurrency' as a red herring to recommend holding back the F-35 production ramp up discussed here. In fact, this 'story' is part and parcel with the 'concurrency' angle. Other tidbits:
...The Senate panel, in a report accompanying its mark of the Pentagon's fiscal year 2012 spending bill, estimates this cost by comparing the Air Force's experience developing the F-22 with the F-35. 
..."Based on F-22 experience, a common configuration modification for the Joint Strike Fighter program would cost approximately $10 million per aircraft resulting in a $1.67 billion to $2.29 billion modification program," the Senate panel's report states  
...These costs are in addition to the $771.2 million in additional costs -- disclosed this summer by the Pentagon -- to reconfigure the first three F-35 production lots. Combined, the Senate panel estimates the total retrofit bill could reach $3 billion.
 So, before the 'Oracles of Doom!' (Mainstream Aero Blogs and Boards) get a hold of this story and blow it into another 'F-35 Nightmare' fable, let's consider what these costs "mean" within context of  the estimates and the actual costs of aircraft delivered to-date:
Remember this chart from a Canadian briefing? (I first used it here in discussing the earlier $771M cost upper for weight reduction)

 Look at the LRIP 3 Contract Settlement and the LRIP 4 Contract values on the chart. What is the first thing you notice? That's right, adding the $10m+ costs to retrofit the LRIP 3 & 4 aircraft will bring the total production costs in line with the LOWEST cost estimate curve plus or minus a small percentage.

Any bets at least one mush head out there on the defense boards will add the "new mod costs" to the highest estimate cost curve line to make even more outrageous cost claims?  What are the chances that the Congressional estimates for the mods are high in the first place, given the crude F-22 parallels used?

And remember the earlier $771M was to cover the weight reduction effort. A Total Ownership Cost perspective was taken in discussing that change.

Was Lockheed Martin 'lucky' or 'good' in bringing the costs in so low on initial production that they can essentially include the mod program and still keep close to the lowest cost curve?

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Deliver Us from Beancounters: Learning Curve Edition

Learning Curves and Production Breaks
Dancin' with 'Engineering_Economist' a.k.a. to me as 'EngeCon' again at Defense Tech, and again the DT comment limits prevent material responses (by design I'm sure - which is understandable on a couple of levels) to outrageous posts so here we are again.

This thread is related to my last post, so I don't mind expanding on the point here at all.

(Note: Ignore the Ad Hominem parts of the comments I repeat here, they are only included because I didn't want to be accused of selective editing)

At the DT thread below a post about the Senate Appropriations Committee recommending a two year extension on the current F-35 LRIP production rates, I made the comment:
No doubt in the future, if it is found that the costs of running a fighter factory in first gear for two more years exceeds the total lifecycle cost (or APUC for that matter) impacts that would have been incurred if the conventional alternative (of proceeding with increasing production rates and retrofitting fielded early aircraft) had been followed, that the good Senator (D-Hi) will be the first to admit the strategy was wrong and that he and the other Senators will be the ones to blame for the cost increases. I know that on the other hand, if such a delay does actually save total costs (vs, just playing a convenient ricebowl to plunder for the short term) and has no negative impact on the same costsI will be happy to publically proclaim I was 'wrong'
I won't bother with the preliminary back and forth and the early Ad Hominem but the thread rapidly got to EngeCon posting:
that wasn't even an ad homenim. i asked a question and expressed an opinion. once again the communication process has broken down. also according to learning curve theory it doesn't matter if the lot quantity increases, as long as there is not a production break. so no matter how much you misapply learning theory, you can't blame this on the Senate. the learning effects will not be achieved for a variety of other reasons, such as the unstable production configuration and inevitable obsolescence. there are probably some great introduction to logic and proof classes at your local community college which might give you an appreciation for axioms of math, science, and engineering. i'm sure if we keep repeating the educational process with you, sooner or later something may stick.
The only thing worth noting in this comment was the part about 'Production Break' and 'Learning Curve'. This was funny: A guy trying to 'count coup' while demonstrating a lack of in depth knowledge of the point he was trying to use to refute my argument. I followed with:
Re: Fallacious Ad Hominem – I take the general and to-date unsupported “your obfuscated, hubristic, and biased views” as a personal (not to mention unsupported to the point of nonsensical) attack.
Re: ‘Production Break’ observation. Interesting, but your offhand dismissive use of the term indicates you probably have no idea that a ‘Production Break’(as the term relates to Learning Curves) does not have to be temporal or complete. In fact, your answer reeks of a ‘numerical’ and not ‘operational’ awareness of ‘Learning Curve’ [ I would note that it comes over as arrogance in your own ignorance, but that would mean bringing up “Hybris” again and I’ve noted how that seems to have rankled you some. So I won’t mention it. ] Now go back and try to conceptualize how many of the five categories of ‘Production Breaks’ as identified within the Anderlohr Method are relevant to an operation on the scale of the F-35 and the planned expansion to the manufacturing effort (scope) and speed (production rates). Hint: All of them are relevant.
Re the rest of your poor scratchings: Infantile projection
I don't know why, but I expected EngeCon to at least do a little research on the "Anderlohr Method" before he came back, but nooooooooo:
what is your reference for definition of the term 'production break'? then show how what has happened in the past or in the future indicates that a production break has or will occurr. Congress is not at fault for any production breaks. i understand the frustration in the Appropriations process, but in the F-35's case, Congress has faithfully appropriated billions of dollars into this caper per year, and the program should still be expending dollars that were obligated in past years. the whole experience is ANOTHER lesson in how foolish the concurrency approach is. you need to prove you are ready for production, via a MS C decision, before starting LRIP. what's the status of that DAB to rebaseline the program??
 Aside from the obvious fact that EngeCon hasn't gotten the latest word on Concurrency yet, and aside from attempting to shift the discussion back to the Milestone BS meme he so desperately clings to at the end...there's not much here.  I obliged him with a reference, and would have posted at DT all of what I'm about to post here, except it would have had to be broken into about 6-7 unconnected comments, subject to cherry picking. In 'replay' what I wrote at DT was:
Have you noticed that you often begin with challenging an assertion by asking for ‘support’, then attempt to preemptively refute (poison the well) any support provided in response? And before you have ANY idea what the response will be? Interesting. I assumed you would have just Googled up the ‘Anderlohr Method’. From the second or third hit on my computer:  

RE: MSC/DAB & other formalities. I'll refer readers to our earlier dance :  
What I WANTED to post in addition to the link was the actual categories of "Production Breaks":
My comments in brackets []; feel free to cavil away.
George Anderlohr…. divided all learning lost, by an organization, due to a break in production, into five categories:

"1. Personnel Learning: In this area , the physical loss of personnel, either through regular movement or layoff, must be determined. The company's personnel records can usually furnish evidence on which to establish this learning loss. The percentage of learning lost by the personnel retained on other plant projects must also be ascertained. These people will lose their physical dexterity and familiarity with the product and the momentum of repetition." [From my next door neighbor who works on the F-35 production line, I know that LM is (again) already shuffling key people around into less desirable (read: dirty or at night) work because the production ramp-up is being delayed (again). They are trying to retain the experience and skills of as many less-senior but more ‘F-35 experienced’ line workers as they can--in anticipation of possible layoffs which, given it is a unionized workforce, would otherwise be ‘out the door’ as the more senior ‘protected’ mechanics and electricians are retained.]     
"2. Supervisory Learning: Once again, a percentage of supervisory personnel will be lost as a result of regular movement. Management will make a greater effort to retain this higher caliber personnel, so the physical loss, in the majority of cases, will be far less than in the area of production personnel. However the supervisory personnel retained will lose the overall familiarity with the job so that the guidance they can furnish will be reduced. In addition, because of the loss of production personnel, the supervisor will have no knowledge, so necessary in effective supervision, of the new hires and their individual personalities and capabilities. [We should suspect this will particularly affect those people who were involved in planning the ramp up of production itself, some of whom will start the replan, and others who will now go fight other fires]
"3. Continuity of Productivity: This relates to the physical positioning of the production line, the relationship of one work station to another, and the location of lighting, bins, parts, and tools within the work station. It also includes position adjustment to optimize the individual needs. In addition, a major factor affecting this area is the balance line or the work in process build-up. Of all the elements of learning, the greatest initial loss is suffered in this area." [How much additional production infrastructure had LM and (hundreds of?) suppliers already put into place to support the coming ramp up and will now have to work around it or set it aside?  How much will have to change (do over) if the profile of the ‘ramp up’ has to change (steeper or slower – still a change)? How much more expensive will it be to work through the ramp up in later years, for all the categories and for all the suppliers?]

"4. Methods: This area is least affected by a production break. As long as method sheets [now computerized work instructions- see below] are kept on file, learning can never be completely lost. However, drastic revisions to the method sheets may be required as a result of a change from soft to hard tooling." [ not just ‘soft’ to ‘hard’ tooling – any tooling change driven by scale. BTW I disagree with this being ‘least affected’. The effect is dependent upon the availability of people who understood the intent of the instructions when they were written.]

"5. Special Tooling: New and better tooling is a major contributor to learning. In relating loss in the tooling area, the major factors are wear, physical misplacement and breakage. An additional consideration must be the comparison of the short run or so called soft tooling to long run or hard tooling and the effect of the transition from soft to hard tooling." [Unlike relatively simple manufacturing products, like a microchip or even some F-35 subsystem components, scaling up the tooling for high rate production involves more than just cloning a production line or station. Scaling up the F-35 production will involve reconfiguring and rearranging new tooling. I believe the process of transitioning to full rate tooling has already started with LM subs (remember reading about it in the last year someplace). Will they have to change their processes again to efficiently use the tooling at the lower rate?]

'The definitions presented by Anderlohr have been modified and expanded, since 1969, to accommodate today’s manufacturing environment. For example, some of today’s modern factories operate in a “paperless environment” where method sheets are no longer used. However, these factories normally produce all of their shop instructions on computer files, these computer files sometimes have the same “ability” to get lost as their paper counterparts. Therefore the Methods portion of learning may deal with these computer files (i.e. lost files, changes to files due to new equipment, etc.)." 
Thus it is shown that when the term 'Production Breaks'  is used in reference to 'Learning Curves' within the "Anderlohr Method" (the most widely used application in aerospace as far as I know) it does not just mean cessasion and restart of activity, but applies to any disruption in the current production system that renders prior knowledge ineffective of less effective for future application. As
1. the current F-35 production system had a plan and was executing to that plan, and
2. must now change their execution to meet the next plan's objectives, and
3. that the people and equipment they were putting in place must now change,
new learning will have to begin again or be refreshed.
As the learning curve will now be applied/achieved in later years, the curve can be expected to cost more 'then' than 'now'. If the production rate ramp up under the delayed plan is different from the previous plan, that too will require new knowledge and understanding of the impacts and used to develop the new plan.

Like I said: Cavil away! 

Monday, September 19, 2011

Congressional Bloviation On The 'Concurrency Bogeyman'

There's no 'There' there...
I was initially going to post on this when it was first announced, then I decided to just let this latest F-35 development lie where I thought it belonged (in the ‘Political Doublespeak ‘roundfile’) because the major blogs and news outlets weren’t giving it much play. I moved on to other interests, but should have anticipated that the more inflammatory of the pundit perches were merely saving up for a weekend rabble-rouser squawking. Defense Tech, in an unattributed piece started the red-meat varmint call early last Friday. The post itself was on the whole quite innocuous -if incomplete - but it was the rhetorical “we’ll see what happens next” at the end that calls out to the innumerate and the ignorant along with the casual observers to proffer uninformed opinions en masse. This would be, of course, perfectly acceptable as long as they are offered AS opinions. The problem with much of the DT/Military.Com crowd these days is that too often opinions and personal preferences offered are masquerading as absolute statements of fact without any specific evidence of same. Heck, we’re lucky if they even bother with a fallacious argument, and when they do, if one points out the argument is fallacious it will result in fallacious ad hominem thrown back reflexively. ( I'll check out the responses to my comment at DT after I get this up, but as I have noted before, JSF 'haters' are woefully short of logicians (link).

The WHOLE story and nothing but....
To quote the actual (and corrected) statement (link here)
"We recommend a $695 million reduction to the Joint Strike Fighter program. We continue to strongly support this program and believe that the F-35 is showing progress since it was restructured last year. However, excessive concurrency in development and production still exists. The test program is only 10 percent complete, yet the request continues to ramp up production of aircraft in fiscal years 2012 and 2013. We recommend maintaining production at the fiscal year 2011 levels for two more years in order to limit out year cost growth. For each aircraft we build this early in the test program, we will have to pay many millions in the future to fix the problems that are identified in testing.
Instead of employing a teaser ‘let’s see what happens next’ approach, how about we ask ourselves ‘What might this (Senate decision and rationale offered) really mean?”

I. Decomposing the Appropriations Committees’ Recommendations
Note: Readers may skip this section and proceed directly to Part II if they desire, and revisit this section if they have questions as to my summary of the Committee’s core argument. In fact, unless you are predisposed for classical rhetoric, I STRONGLY recommend it.
We can accept the statement at face value or assume there is deviousness and deception involved. Being a ‘Theory Y’  kind of guy, I would normally tend to look at a statement and first take it that Senator Inoue and the Committee really mean what is stated.  But are their assumptions and reasons given correct? Can we assess their logic and find it sound?
The Explicit…

First, let’s summarize what it is explicitly stated:
1. The Appropriations Committee recommends a $650M reduction to the JSF program budget.
2. The Appropriations Committee asserts that the F-35 program concurrency is “excessive”.
3. The Appropriations Committee continues “to strongly support” the Joint Strike Fighter program.
4. The Appropriations Committee believes the program has shown “strong progress” since last year.
5. The Appropriations Committee recommends maintaining the current production level at 35 aircraft per year for two more years (2012 & 2013) for the express purpose of “limiting out year cost growth”.
6. The Appropriations Committee asserts that each aircraft built “this early” in testing will require “many millions in the future to fix the problems that are identified in testing”

…and The Tacit
The above is rather straightforward, and normally not worth reiterating. I only took the trouble of identifying these explicit statements to help differentiate between what is expressed -- and what is ‘presumed’ or ‘implied’.  What presumptions and implications should we feel confident in deducing from the explicit statements? I assert that until contrary information is available, the following may also be seen as contained within the Committee’s statement.
 I assert that we can safely deduce, given the totality of the Committee’s statement, that:
A. All or the significant portion of the budget reduction is coming out of the proposed production budgets for 2012 and 2013. We should note here that the 2013 reduction could be reversed (or increased) next year, but that probably would not have a significant effect on the actual production because the dollars taken out now for 2013 will affect long-lead procurement items and you cannot accelerate their acquisition by simply turning on the ‘money tap’ again.   
B. The Committee believes that this delay in ramping up production will reduce “excessive” program concurrency.
C. The Committee believes that reducing program concurrency will save the program “millions of dollars”. 
We can further deduce from the above that IF the Committee believes it makes economic sense to delay production, they must believe the savings from not having to retrofit the aircraft somehow exceeds the cost of maintaining the inefficient utilization of manufacturing resources for two years, and increased costs of production in the out years.  This must include the adverse impacts on hundreds if not thousands of suppliers, large and small.  Of course, if some of those suppliers are having difficulty meeting engineering and/or production schedules (typically a small minority in any program) they will benefit from such a delay (and there are simpler and more certain remedies for such problems other than slipping the entire program).
II.  The Senate Appropriations Committee’s Central Argument
Thus we see from all of the above that the Senate Appropriations Committee’s expressed rationale for cutting the F-35 budget rests solely on the following argument:
“High-concurrency programs involve having to ‘fix’ early production articles and the costs incurred in these programs can be minimized (i.e. monetary savings will be realized) by stretching out the production to make the program less concurrent.”
To evaluate this claim, I em>WAS going to proceed with a scholarly investigation of literature dissecting the pros and cons of program concurrency, its relationship to cost overruns and schedule delays. I assumed getting to the bottom of the story would be complicated.
It is not.
It is simple.
In spite of well over two decades of fear-mongering by detractors, 'Concurrency' in and of itself has been shown to be nothing to fear - only managed.

All you need to know to judge whether or not the Senate Appropriations Committee action made sense is found in the following few documents. You can look at others, but you wont find much difference among the earlier work and the last reference is the latest and most complete research on the topic.
Concurrent Weapons Development and Production, CBO, August 1988 (link)
In this study, the CBO went looking for the adverse effects of ‘concurrency’ and came away ….somewhat contrite (emphases mine):
This study examined concurrency, cost growth, and schedule data for 14 major weapons systems that were developed during the 1970s and have been subsequently produced and deployed. The systems include a variety of types of weapons from each of the military services, and all of them have been reviewed by the Defense Systems Acquisition Review Council (DSARC). The analysis showed that no strong relationship exists between concurrency and schedule delay (see Summary Table). A statistical regression analysis found that only a couple of percentage points of the variation in schedule delays are explained by concurrency. A modestly stronger relationship exists between concurrency and cost growth: approximately 14 percent of the variance in cost growth is explained by concurrency. (Page vii-iix)
The report noted all the changes that have occurred in years leading up to the report that reduce concurrency and its ‘effects’ –tenuous linkages or no – but that didn’t stop the authors from suggesting MORE limitations for Congress if they so desire:
Given the ambivalent statistical evidence concerning the effects of concurrency on costs and schedules, and the fact that current laws and regulations limit its use, the Congress may wish to take no further action regarding concurrent programs as a group. On the other hand, in view of recent problems with certain programs, the Congress may wish to have more information on high-priority programs that are employing concurrency (Page xi).
BTW: No data or detailed discussion of methodology was included in the report so it would be hard to really get your teeth in the study to judge its completeness and efficacy.
Then we get to Congressional testimony in May 1999 by Frank C. Conahan, Assistant Comptroller General, National Security and International Affairs Division of the GAO (link here):
Within, Mr, Conahan insists problems with 5 of 6 then-‘highly concurrent’ programs were related to concurrency (without any supporting rationale as to why concurrency is a problem) and took a swipe at the then-emerging DDG-51 program. His ardor was as palpable as his data was invisible. It drips with the fear that somebody must be doing something wrong someplace therefore the standard GAO response of 'more oversight' gets an entire section.
But there simply MUST be something to this concurrency thing, right?  Well people kept looking. A team of analysts from CNA reported in the Defense ATL magazine (link) late last year:  
Our results (located at [link fixed by me], based on examining 28 programs across all Services, are very similar to those of the Congressional Budget Office and RAND [example] studies with one surprising exception: While from a purely statistical point of view we found that the relationship between both planned and actual concurrency and cost growth was very weak, in both cases, there seems to be a “sweet spot” of about 30 percent concurrency. That is, programs that plan on spending 30 percent of RDT&E funds while concurrently spending procurement funds actually experience the lowest average cost growth. Similarly, those programs that actually do spend about 30 percent of RDT&E funds while concurrently spending procurement dollars, even when not originally planned, also experience lower cost growth. Furthermore, programs with planned or actual levels of concurrency below 30 percent experienced higher cost growth than those with higher levels of concurrency. In other words, lower levels of planned or actual concurrency were actually worse than higher levels of concurrency. This is the complete opposite of what many in the acquisition community believe. We speculate that lower levels of concurrency may expose the program to higher levels of external changes.  
At the end of the AT&L article, the authors Donald Birchler, Gary Christle, and Eric Groo close with the following:
What to Do About Concurrency?
So far, no conclusive evidence exists that concurrency (no matter how it is defined) is generally a problem. This does not mean that concurrency is never a problem. But most likely, concurrency leads to cost and schedule growth under very particular circumstances. What these circumstances are is not very clear just yet. Nor is it clear why in our study, the sweet spot for concurrency is somewhere around the 30 percent mark. What is clear is that there are definite advantages to concurrently designing and building a weapons system that most program managers take advantage of, to some extent or another.
The [1988] Congressional Budget Office study advised that “Congress may wish to take no further action regarding concurrent programs as a group,” given the very weak relationship between the concurrency and cost growth. Instead, the office argued that Congress should simply ask that DoD develop a consistent measure for concurrency to be published in a program’s acquisition report and then monitor programs to see how they are performing relative to their planned level of concurrency. More than 20 years later, this advice still seems to be appropriate.
Alas, I fear the CNA team’s sensible findings and advice will go unheeded – as long as the “Concurrency’ Bogeyman serves as a useful tool in the quiver of bloviating politicians.

Senators! – this time I’m talking to you!

Saturday, September 17, 2011

Centennial of Naval Aviation #4

1920s Naval Parachute Demonstration

Here's some views (click on all to enlarge) of an interesting photo of a parachute jump circa 1925/26 over Naval Air Station North Island in San Diego. The photo, like those posted earlier, comes from my Grandfather's USS Langley Memories book, but I'm sure he acquired vs. actually taking the photo. It seems to have been quite popular among the fleet to swap ships photos, and I would assume this photo may have been taken from a squadron plane that would be assigned to North Island or the Langley. The caption only read 'Parachute jump San Diego', but confirming it was North Island was easy: see the Wikipedia photo of North Island (ostensibly in 1925) with the USS Langley tied up in the background as a bonus.

Closer examination of the photo shows the parachutist isn't so much as heading towards the base as he is probably just swinging widely in a pendulum back-and-forth: 
Even closer examination illustrates that this early parachute rig is either still 'un-twisting' at the risers or that this early rig provided absolutely no control to the wearer. If the latter is true, the jumper was completely at the mercy of fate after the ripcord was pulled. (Too bad about the scratch in the original.)
Here's a scan of the full photo as it sits in my Grandfather's album with no Photoshop (other than sizing):

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

DefenseTech Challenge Thread

Updated and Bumped!
(warning: what follows will be dry as dust unless you enjoy logic and tautology.)

I had a somewhat whimsical response to my challenge from a ‘JoeC’:
It's bad management because it's not on time or on budget and, so far, it doesn't work! I'm not sure what else you need in order to be convinced.
Of which, given the ground rules were clearly stated, prompted my reply:
Invalid Claim! [;-) (and you provide no definition of, much less evidence supporting 'doesn't work')
Then Joe C. responded with:
"Doesn't work" meaning it was banned from flying until recently. That fits my definition of "doesn't work"! :)

I work in software, so I'm well aware of how people tend to underestimate the time it takes to get things done. We're all very optimistic creatures at heart, I guess. I think some of that is what's going on in the F-35 program. It's also a result, as I've said before, of our Pentagon always wanting the newest, shiniest, most advanced toy instead of being satisfied with an incremental upgrade.
Since under the conditions I laid down in the challenge were not met, I could have just let Joe C’s wistful comment (including the outrageous unsupported claim concerning 'shiniest' jab) lay where it was, but I sensed this person was new to the discussion (i.e. probably not even a past lurker) and seemed somewhat na├»ve on the subjects of advanced technology and acquisition thereof. So I gave him some prompting so he would possibly go try to disprove, discover, or perhaps reply with more detailed questions, with a little hint as to the difference between aerospace and ‘other’ software development (my typos corrected):
Do you know what TRLs are? I ask because buying a weapon system isn't like buying a commercial product. EVERY weapon system sufficiently advanced to be worth developing and fielding with an expected operational life of 20-30-40 years requires the same effort and hits pretty much the same kinds of hurdles (depending on technologies involved). The F-35 program is actually doing better than a lot of its 'successful' predecessors, especially since it is really delivering 3 weapon systems in one. The only difference here is F-35 brand sausage is being made under a spotlight and rice bowls are threatened. The decision to first launch and then develop a new weapon system has been most definitely "requirements-pull" since the end of the Cold War so if an 'incremental' advancement was all that was needed, that is all that is pursued. Biggest problem with the incremental over existing is that on the modern battlefield, if you aren't low observable and connected, you are dead. As to 'software development' if we developed software like the commercial sector, we'd only need half the airbases - because most planes would just make smoking holes enroute to the next base. Kind’a hard on the Beta testers.

Thus I’d call the response to my challenge to this point ‘tepid’ at best. But shortly thereafter it got somewhat more interesting. A commenter after my reply, one ‘halcyon_ 33p’, decides to add two comments [I assume the DT space limitations probably drove the breaking of ‘one’ into ’two’ ]

SMSgt Mac,

So are you stating that because the F-35 is doing better than a lot of it's 'successful' predecessors there is no problem here? I notice you put successful in quotes as if you don't believe these unnamed predecessors were successful. If they weren't successful than even if the F-35 is better how does that serve as an argument that everything is fine with the F-35. Sounds like you are making the argument that because bad isn't worst, than it is good. If they were successful during deployment does that justify all the problems in development? Is it possible for a bad process to still produce viable results? I think all of this "history as a standard" and "Not worst, therefore good" argument stuff fails to take into account that the political climate is completely different today and that is the real deciding factor in this projects survival.

SMSgt Mac,

Your pro-F-35 arguments suffer from the following fallacies. I've included single line summaries of many of your arguments. IF you feel I am unfairly summing up your arguments please direct me to evidence that I am not being fair to you.

Appeal to Tradition - this is the way military projects always work

Biased Sample - Because the F-35 program isn't as bad as these projects it is great Appeal to novelty -- The F-35 is the greatest best thing therefore it must continue

Burden of Proof -- Detractors must prove the F-35 is not the best plane in the world for it's job
I responded:
Given the space limitations on DT, I will Fisk your post at my place and let you know when it happens here (No earlier than Sunday- late). It would be earlier, but I have other pressing commitments this weekend. Kudos for the attempt and willingness to be specific and avoid logical fallacies, but unfortunately you employed several above. As a prequel -- think about the phrase 'it does not follow' as it may apply to what you've posted.
I will deal with halcyon’s comments above by repeating below with my response/observations inserted in [bold blue brackets]. But first I note that I came back last night to find that ‘halcyon’ had decided to add (in split posts):
Thanks for the reply, and I have great respect for your service, however since I am only summarizing your arguments and asking you to clarify I think you will have a very difficult time proving that my logic is not sound. Asking you to clarify your position and pointing out your logical fallacies can only be right or wrong, not a logical fallacy. I haven't even started to argue against your points. Only point out that many of your arguments don't hold up to the standard you have selected. The only point I have made here that might be considered an argument is that you are not taking into account the current political climate which is very different from 20-30 years ago. There is no logical fallacy there-- I haven't even asserted my own opinion. In fact logic will not help you in understanding the current political climate.
By the way in your post can you please answer my challenge that if I have misrepresented your position you provide evidence to show this. I am a clarity over agreement kind of guy. I don't care if we agree but I really don't want to slime you.
I will deal with the remains of this last response after I have dealt with ‘halcyon’s first assertions.

Note: for clarity I refer to the first two of 'halcyon’s' posts above as Part 1, and this last bit above as Part 2. I am completing this response before revisiting the original thread lest ‘halcyon’ added more that I would need to add below.

Ready? As promised, let the Fisking begin!

Responses to Part 1:

SMSgt Mac,
So are you stating that because the F-35 is doing better than a lot of it's 'successful' predecessors there is no problem here? [No, I am saying that not only do the challenges that the F-35 program has encountered to-date NOT rise to the level sufficient to label the F-35 as ‘failed’ , ‘doomed’ or any other of a number of terminal adjectives in criticisms of the program so carelessly slung about in the comments (and some articles) in, but that the technical and programmatic challenges to date are not even unique AND that the difficulties to date are not even remarkable for an advanced high performance fighter aircraft, and less than what many might consider ‘successful’ predecessors] I notice you put successful in quotes as if you don't believe these unnamed predecessors were successful [No, it was in quotes because ‘successful’ without explanation is a fairly abstract concept that may mean different things to different people]. If they weren't successful than even if the F-35 is better how does that serve as an argument that everything is fine with the F-35. Sounds like you are making the argument that because bad isn't worst, than it is good. If they were successful during deployment does that justify all the problems in development? Is it possible for a bad process to still produce viable results? [You thus begin down a slippery slope to create a ‘strawman’ argument as a prop in an attempt to make an argumentative point in what will follow. Read on.] I think all of this "history as a standard" and "Not worst, therefore good" argument stuff fails to take into account that the political climate is completely different today and that is the real deciding factor in this projects survival. [I wouldn’t know, I have never used this argument. If you are implying that I am using this argument, I would only point out that that if I am asserting the F-35 is doing better than many of its ‘successful’ predecessors, that “it does not follow” that I am claiming anything more, including anything to do with your ‘strawman’. (However I will note that as far as political climate goes: what is old is new again.)]

SMSgt Mac,
Your pro-F-35 arguments suffer from the following fallacies. I've included single line summaries [Strawmen Alert! Read on.] of many of your arguments. IF you feel I am unfairly summing up your arguments please direct me to evidence [Weak and transparent attempt to shift the Burden of Proof – more on this topic below] that I am not being fair to you.

Appeal to Tradition - this is the way military projects always work

[Strawman!--Perhaps based upon an ‘It does not follow’ assumption that because I note the programmatic and technical challenges are met as well or better as successful programs?
In any case, considering my long-running and public beef with programmatic problems are with the status quo in how programs are funded and fiddled with and micromanaged by forces outside the program proper, I am hardly ‘appealing to tradition’ in that case.

Considering I do not comment on programmatic decisions unrelated to external forces (very few exist) that I am not in an informed position to question or comment or have public domain information in hand, call me ‘neutral’ in that respect.

Considering that my comments on technical challenges merely note they always occur in developing advanced systems is based upon the usually self-evident point that if they are ‘advanced’ they will have unknowns, many unknowable-beforehand elements involved, and that these challenges are to be expected as unavoidable. 

Remarkably, no one has ever questioned this point online before. Perhaps an excerpt of a paper and presentation I gave at a symposium about two years ago on the subject of conceiving, developing and implementing a Failure Modes and Effects Test (FMET) program for an advanced development program will help:

It does not require much imagination to perceive that perhaps complexity in any one of the three software, hardware, and operational/environment factors have the potential to fuel the complexity of the other two, and that this often results in an even more rapid increase in complexity of the overall system. Given that the overall complexity of modern systems already preclude the possibility of ever having enough time or money, even with automation, to test for 100% coverage 1 , the importance of bounding the scope and effort of an FMET test program will only become more important as systems become even more complex.  
1 Automated Software Testing, Dustan Rashka & Paul, 1999, pp.35-36, Addison-Wesley ]

Biased Sample - Because the F-35 program isn't as bad as these projects it is great

[You’ve created another ‘Strawman’ based upon an ‘it does not follow’. I refute the assertion that F-35 is as its critics claim, ‘failed’ (or other euphemism for same). You take what is essentially my pointing to evidence to the contrary, including noting its successes and comparative relationships to past successful programs , and substitute (quoting the Nizkor page here) “a distorted, exaggerated or misrepresented version” of my position or substitute with an assertion that I say “that it is ‘great’”.]

Appeal to novelty -- The F-35 is the greatest best thing therefore it must continue

[And you create yet ANOTHER ‘Strawman’. This time, I can only suspect it is based upon my consistently noting that the F-35 has the critical technologies (as identified by the users- the Services) of low observability and connectivity among other things, that existing aircraft and potential competitors do not, or similar supported assertion, and convert it into “a distorted, exaggerated or misrepresented” (this time an ‘overly simplistic’) “version” of my position.]

Burden of Proof -- Detractors must prove the F-35 is not the best plane in the world for it's job

[Well, you ALMOST got this one right. Instead of employing the ‘best plane in the world’ Strawman , had you typed: “Detractors have the burden of proof and must prove fielding the F-35, as the current program of record, is not the best solution for its missions”. You would have accurately described my position on 'burden of proof'.

Now, let us address whether or not is it reasonable for me to require the critics to satisfy the burden of proof. Using Nizkor as our guide: 

In many situations, one side has the burden of proof resting on it. This side is obligated to provide evidence for its position. The claim of the other side, the one that does not bear the burden of proof, is assumed to be true unless proven otherwise. The difficulty in such cases is determining which side, if any, the burden of proof rests on. In many cases, settling this issue can be a matter of significant debate. In some cases the burden of proof is set by the situation. For example, in American law a person is assumed to be innocent until proven guilty (hence the burden of proof is on the prosecution). As another example, in debate the burden of proof is placed on the affirmative team.
By either standard, the “Burden of Proof” in my challenge is on the CRITICS of the F-35 (plane and program).

The legal standard would have to be applied metaphorically: Is the F-35 ‘guilty’ or ‘innocent’ of (fill-in-the-blank)? Since on the boards I never see anyone viewing F-35 as ‘succeeding’ and ‘guilty’, the burden of proof would have to be on those who see the F-35 as ‘failing’ and ‘guilty’.

By the more appropriate ‘debate’ standard (for that is what we are engaged in - albeit too often poorly), when I posited the question: “How about one of you (or all of you) working from the philosophical position that the F-35 suffers from 'bad management' actually cite an example of same?” I am CORRECTLY placing the “burden of proof” on those who "affirm" that the F-35 suffers from same.

I dissect and dismiss criticisms of the F-35 with reasoning (why the criticisms are lacking), or I make assertions supported by fact (burden of proof!). If what I type does not fall into either of those categories, you will see caveats, such as ‘I believe’, ‘as far as is known’, ‘I’m fairly certain’ etc. Barring copy-paste errors or typos, and with the possible exception of the occasional hyperbole for shock value, you will NEVER see an assertion made by me that cannot be backed up by a hard fact or verified by a reader themselves if they are willing to do the research.]

Responses to Part 2:

Thanks for the reply, and I have great respect for your service, [I’m wondering now how new you are to these boards. My active duty service is FAR in the past and other than the core program management experience and initial knowledge concerning advanced weapon system development it gave me, not very relevant to the discussion at hand] however since I am only summarizing your arguments and asking you to clarify I think you will have a very difficult time proving that my logic is not sound [Hopefully, not true by now.]  Asking you to clarify your position and pointing out your logical fallacies can only be right or wrong, not a logical fallacy [Sure, if only you could have succeeded AND avoided employing logical fallacies in attempting doing so.] I haven't even started to argue against your points. [re-read this post again if you still believe what you typed afterwards. Repeat as necessary] Only [attempted, and failed to] point out that many of your arguments don't hold up to the standard you have selected. The only point I have made here that might be considered an argument is that you are not taking into account the current political climate which is very different from 20-30 years ago. There is no logical fallacy there-- I haven't even asserted my own opinion. [You just did, I am almost curious. Were you around 20-30 years ago?] In fact logic will not help you in understanding the current political climate [Another opinion, unsupported by fact- I’ll let it go] .…. By the way in your post can you please answer my challenge that if I have misrepresented your position you provide evidence to show this [See all of above]. I am clarity over agreement kind of guy. [We should get along swimmingly then] I don't care if we agree but I really don't want to slime you. [I am kind to those who are kind].

Any bets on whether or not we will be entering the realm of
Argumetum ad nauseum very soon? I won't go there, as alas I have bigger fish to fry...and that work pays much better returns.

---------------------------------Original Post Below this Point------------------------------------------------

There's a post up at DefenseTech calling for opinions as to whether or not the F-35 can be 'turned around'. This an obvious case of working from the philosophical position that the F-35 NEEDS turning around (begging the question). I laid down a gauntlet that I doubt will be picked up by very many, but it could prove interesting if my challenge is accepted instead of subjected to the usual furious 'thumbing down' given comments that do not follow a certain 'groupthink' guide. I wrote:   
A modest proposal. How about one of you (or all of you) working from the philosophical position that the F-35 suffers from 'bad management' actually cite an example of same?
Please post as a separate post instead of a reply. It is a long weekend and if the F-35 is as poorly managed as those asserting it is, we should be able to run up the count to a new DT record for our hosts!
There are only three criteria for a claim to warrant a response other than "Invalid Claim!":
1. Single sentence description of the "bad management" decision/action.
2. Identification of those responsible (names are best) for the "bad management" to at least a) the Government (DoD office or equivalent and higher) or Corporate/Industry leadership level responsible--for 'actors' OUTSIDE the program, and/or b) Identification of those responsible (position or name) WITHIN the program.
3. Single sentence description of WHY it was a bad management event/action.          

Valid claims will be evaluated/critiqued using only three sources: RAND's "Sources of Weapon Systems Cost Growth", DAU's Defense Acquisition Review Journal peer-reviewed papers, and the NIzkor Project Logical Fallacies website.


We'll see if anyone takes up the challenge.

BTW: Contrast the DT piece with Dave Majumdar's facts-only story on an F-35 structure fix at
Defense News with what will no doubt soon be breathlessly announced with Wagnerian 'doom' music in the background at AvWeek,, and elsewhere.

Sunday, September 04, 2011