Monday, July 30, 2012

F-22: Journalism vs. Punk Journalism

Is David Axe a ‘Punk’?

If only ‘Punks’ practice ‘Punk Journalism’, we would have to say… yes. Otherwise?

Before you answer the question, let us first illustrate some of the key differences between ‘Journalism’ and ‘Punk Journalism’ to perhaps help you make up your mind.

(Note: all bold emphasis and brackets ‘[]’ are mine)

Journalism Title: IN FOCUS: German Eurofighters impress during Red Flag debut

Punk Journalism Title: “How to Defeat the Air Force’s Powerful Stealth Fighter

F-22 Raptor (Source ACC)
Journalism is an attempt to provide a balanced story:

As part of the Distant Frontier exercise, F-22s from the USAF's 525th Fighter Squadron faced off against the German fighters in visual-range basic fighter manoeuvres (BFM) combat training... 
While Grune [Luftwaffe] does not directly say that the Eurofighters emerged as the overall victors, he strongly implies it. "I put out some whiskey. If they come back with some good performances, and if you know what the goal is from a BFM setup, and you achieve that, then I will pay you whiskey," he says. "And I paid quite a lot of whiskey."... 
That account, however, is strongly disputed by USAF sources flying the F-22. "It sounds as though we have very different recollections as to the outcomes of the BFM engagements that were fought," one Raptor pilot says….  
USAF sources say that the Typhoon has good energy and a pretty good first turn, but that they were able to outmanoeuvre the Germans due to the Raptor's thrust vectoring. Additionally, the Typhoon was not able to match the high angle of attack capability of he F-22. "We ended up with numerous gunshots," another USAF pilot says….  
Regardless of their differing accounts, the USAF was grateful for the chance to train with the Luftwaffe. "We optimise the opportunities we get to participate in dissimilar air combat training, as those opportunities are all too rare," says Lt Col Paul Moga, commander of the 525th Fighter Squadron. "Our recent BFM hops with the German air force Typhoons were outstanding….

‘Punk Journalism’ tries to sell you a single POV that supports a predetermined meme:

In mid-June, 150 German airmen and eight twin-engine, non-stealthy Typhoons arrived at Eielson Air Force Base in Alaska for an American-led Red Flag exercise involving more than 100 aircraft from Germany, the U.S. Air Force and Army, NATO, Japan, Australia and Poland. Eight times during the two-week war game, individual German Typhoons flew against single F-22s in basic fighter maneuvers meant to simulate a close-range dogfight....  
The results were a surprise to the Germans and presumably the Americans, too. “We were evenly matched,” Maj. Marc Gruene told Combat Aircraft’s Jamie Hunter. The key, Gruene said, is to get as close as possible to the F-22 … and stay there. “They didn’t expect us to turn so aggressively.” ... 
Gruene said the Raptor excels at fighting from beyond visual range with its high speed and altitude, sophisticated radar and long-range AMRAAM missiles. But in a slower, close-range tangle — which pilots call a “merge” — the bigger and heavier F-22 is at a disadvantage. “As soon as you get to the merge … the Typhoon doesn’t necessarily have to fear the F-22,” Gruene said. ... 
This is not supposed to be the sort of reaction the F-22 inspires. For years the Air Force has billed the Raptor as an unparalleled aerial combatant. Even former Defense Secretary Robert Gates, who in 2009 famously cut F-22 production to just 187 copies, called the stealth jet “far and away the best air-to-air fighter ever produced” and predicted “it will ensure U.S. command of the skies for the next generation.”

Eurofighter Typhoon (Source: Wikipedia)
Journalism will present valuable information to help the reader understand the story in the larger context:

While certain uncontrollable factors such as weather and manoeuvring limitations did not allow for full-up engagements, it is suffice to say that there was much learning across the board. The details of each set-up are privy only to the pilots that flew them, as that is the sacred standard among fighter pilots... 
"Its [F-22’s] unique capabilities are overwhelming from our first impressions in terms of modern air combat," [Commander of JG74, Colonel] Pfeiffer says. "But once you get to the merge, which is only a very small spectrum of air combat, in that area the Typhoon doesn't have to fear the F-22 in all aspects."...

The Typhoons were stripped of their external fuel tanks and slicked off as much as possible before the encounter with the Raptors, says Grune, who adds that in that configuration, the Typhoon is an "animal". [How ‘slick’ is still a feasible Air-to-Air configuration?]

Punk Journalism will contain known falsehoods when it is believed it will advance the meme:

And it’s [F-22 is] slowly getting taken off the probation it incurred after seemingly suffocating pilots... [Combat Edge Flight Ensemble has been determined to be the problem and (wait for it)….it is NOT part of the F-22]  
Despite the historical facts, there persists in Air Force circles “a hypothetical vision of ultra-long range, radar-based, air-to-air combat,” to quote air power skeptic Pierre Sprey, co-designer of the brute-simple F-16 and A-10 warplanes. [Sprey is not a co-designer of either the A-10 or F-16. He participated in the development of the initial REQUIREMENTS. BTW: This is called a “fallacious appeal to authority”.]

I now put it to the reader: How ‘Punk’ does the ‘Journalism’ have to be before it can only be written by a punk? Or perhaps David Axe is just phoning in POGO talking points these days?

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

F22 Oxygen System Hysteria: A Retrospective

Dave Majumdar at FlightGlobal brings news that the AF has nailed down the root cause of the F-22’s oxygen system woes. In one of his posts a short while ago, he indicated where the investigation was heading: right where the grapevine was whispering it was going. Key bits:
The USAF had earlier narrowed down the potential root cause to either contamination or an air quantity problem. "We have eliminated one of the hypotheses that the Air Force Scientific Advisory Board postulated as a potential root cause for the hypoxia-related incidents and that was contamination," says USAF chief of staff Gen Norton Schwartz. "We have the data that has confirmed that."…….  
Based on tests conducted inside an altitude chamber and a centrifuge, the USAF has concluded that a combination of hardware defects with the pilot's life support gear contributed to the problem. ……. 
Asked why the problems with the Raptor's life support systems were not caught earlier during the jet's extensive developmental and operational test phases, Schwartz says that human physiology is not well understood at the combination of altitude and g-loadings that F-22 pilots routinely operate at. "This is a unique airplane," Schwartz says. "You can pull 6Gs at 50,000ft. Tell me what other airplane, ever, can do that?" There are aspects of the Raptor's performance at high altitude, which from the standpoint of human physiology, are not well understood. "In some respects, the testing did not reveal the shortcomings we have recently discovered."
I thought it would be interesting to contrast the real findings with some of the DoDBuzz/DefenseTech stories and speculative commentary that has rained down on their boards over the past year. Think about the following the next time you read the woe, doom, and outrage over future stories. Also keep in mind that the Combat Edge ensemble was NOT part of the F-22.

Here are some of my favorites from the past year (the good and the bad).  

F-16 Co-Designer Claims F-22’s Glues Causing Hypoxia
Special Award: Most Erroneous Article Title Evah!
“Best SARC  Award:
Pilgrimman • 4 weeks ago
...And in other news, fluoride in our water supply is actually a mind control agent planted by the government (which we all know are puppets of the Illuminati).
Audio of an F-22 Pilot Getting Hypoxia
“Something Must Be Done! – Hey! This is Something” Award (Most Disgusted category):
Black Owl • 9 weeks ago
We need to take these jets completely apart till we know what's up. Until then our air superiority will be done with our reliable 4th gen and 4.5 gen fighters. All of our malfunctioning fighters seem to come from Lockheed. They need to get their crap together.

F-22 Ground Crew Suffered Hypoxia-Like Symptoms
First 'Desponder' Award:
Black Owl • 11 weeks ago
I have now lost faith in the F-22. We should not deploy these fighters until we take them completely apart and dissect them till we find the problem.

Most Nicely Worded ‘Shut Up Kid’ Exchange Award:
Lance • 11 weeks ago
Time to fix the oxygen system on the plane get over it brass.
1 reply •  DGR • 11 weeks ago
They know this, they have known this, that is why they are spending millions trying to find out what part needs to be fixed. Nobody is denying its broken, they are trying to fix it and they are being very clear about that. But its plain stupid to just start replacing stuff without knowing what needs replaced. Is it a $5 nut and bolt, or a 5 million dollar system? Without knowing the root cause there is nothing that can be done to fix the issue.

AF: F-22’s Extreme Performance May Be Behind Oxygen Problems
Best Conspiracy Theory out of Left Field Award:
Lance • 11 weeks ago
This is more cover up by USAF brass to save there [sic] own pet fighter. A redesign is needed for the oxygen system and they have to admit it. The F-22 is way better than a crappy F-18. Well the F-15 can fly faster and climb higher and carry more missiles than a Raptor. OOOps the Generals are embarrassed again.

Virginia and Alaska F-22s Back in the Skies
Best Observation on Punk Culture Award:
Jock Williams • 39 weeks ago
The OBOGS system -onboard oyygen [sic] generating system -has been used successfully for over 30 years in the F18 and other types as well. The Air Force will research and eventually solve the problem. Problems crop up from time to time in all new systems -the difference today is the amount of publicity attached now to problems that earlier would have been dealt with quietly and discreetly -and out of the public eye! I am sure the military longs for that more "private" era when such glitches arise. To be honest I fail to see the benefit of public discussion of matters that may give "aid and comfort to our enemies". I am really glad to see "experts" who have never flown a fighter presenting such facile solutions as "The solution is unmanned fighter aircraft". "Absolutely" is equally as effective! I sure wish I had a 10 letter solution to this or many other problems!
Jock Williams
Yogi 13
30 year fighter pilot

F-22s Back in the Air (Updated)
Best Fanboy Use of Fake Crisis to Further an Agenda Award:
Black Owl • 43 weeks ago
Big deal that their back in the air. Super Hornets are out bombing the enemy and actually being used in war, but no one cheers for that as much they do for the Raptor. When the Raptor went on its first deployment to Japan people went ballistic. No where near the same reaction for the Super Hornet when it dropped twice as many bombs as all the Tomcat squadrons with 100% accuracy during the initial stages of the war in Iraq

AF: Alaska F-22 Crash Due to Pilot Error
Most Pointless Snark to Miss Mark Award:
BigRick • 31 weeks ago
The 4 star said to the 3 star, "this F-22 **** is hurting my chances at the CEO job at Lockhead when I retire."
the 3 start said to the 2 star "this F-22 issue is hurting may chances at making joint chiefs"
the 2 start said to the 1 one "damn, I wonder if I'm going to get my 3rd star?"
the 1 start said to the colonel "how I can blame someone else?"
the colonel said said to the LtCol "man, I'm never going to make general at this rate"
the LtCol said to the Col "don't worry colonel, we make sure you get selected, we'll say it's pilot error"
the LtCol said to the major "it's obviously pilot error-get your people trained major or I'll train them for you"
the major replied "yes sir and two bags full"
the major yelled at the captain "you worthless piece of ****, don't you know how to fly without oxygen, I'm writing you up"
the captain said (to himself) "3 months, 2 days and a wake up"

F-22 Raptor Fleet Grounded Indefinitely
Voice of Experience and Reason Award:
iused2fly • 52 weeks ago
As of May 17th, 2011 there are parallel investigations taking place into the OBOGS systems in the A-10, F-16, F-35 and T-6 aircraft." So a wide net is being cast to look for other problems with similar OBOGS installattions. Being around aviation for as long as I have, I expect an aircraft as complex as the F-22 to see some components than are less than fully robust. We all just have to wait until more information is available. Given the financial momentum of this very expensive program I expect the F-22 problem to be solved with a re-design and the F-22s back flying unrestricted some time late this year or early 2012.

Despite whistle-blowing pilots, AF is unmoved on F-22
Worst Extrapolation (AKA Kill them All!) Award:
Cha0stician • 11 weeks ago
There should absolutely be Congressional hearings. Our military culture has deteriorated to the point where we cannot trust anything officers say unless a report is made by independent government investigators with the power to subpoena witnesses who must tell the truth under the threat of jailtime for perjury. Look at what Maj Jeremy Gordon said during the interview about the F-22 when asked what makes the F-22 so special: "The ability to know what's going on all the way around you all the time." Capt Josh Wilson: "It is just a phenomenal, phenomenal machine." When our military members are so brainwashed that they will still repeat the F-22 marketing propaganda over and over again even when refusing to fly the systems we taxpayers have paid millions, billions, and trillions to train them on, then we need to FEAR for our country. Time to clean house. We need a new President every 4 years and a new Congress every 2 years until we get some serious reversal in trend indicators

F-22 Raptor “smoking gun” not found
Best Mocking Takedown Award:
Amicus Curiae • 21 weeks ago
"I can't imagine what they did to screw it up."
Sure you can. Educate us. It's too bad you weren't there when the paper was blank. You'd show 'em. But did it ever occur to you that they didn't screw it up? Everyone is so obsessed with rounding up the usual suspects, they can't find anything wrong. Do something...anything...Does it work? Who knows? Did you measure toxins? Yes/No...Maybe...Possibly...What was the question? Whew, I'm feeling a little light headed. I'm pulling the green ring.

AF: F-22s authorized to fly again
Best Summation on F-22 Woes Award:
This whole exchange (tie)
AmicusCuriae • 44 weeks ago
Well, I guess if it wasn't broke, they didn't fix it.
2 replies
pfcem • 44 weeks ago
After 4 months of TRYING to find a problem with it & not finding any, what is there to fix?
Thinking_ExUSAF 95p • 43 weeks ago
At least they did not fall into the trap of "fixing" an unbroken system for the sake of public relations! Sometimes it takes some serious cojones to just say, "We dont know!", but sometimes it is the only honest action.

F-22 pilots try to keep their edge during grounding
Most Unsupported Declarative Statements in a Post Award (extra credit for randomness):
Puken Dog 01 VF-143 • 53 weeks ago
The F-22 Program along with JSF, and NGB should be Cancelled NOW!!! Stealth is Dead and so are these Programs. Google SA-21 and S-400. A total Waste of Funding. Lies by Lockheed Martin and Senior Pentagon Leadership. The F-117, last real Stealth Platform, was retired by the USAF in November 2008. All these platforms do is increase share Price for LMCO and the steer ropers and bush in Texas. Here we go again. Nothing more Than wall street running the entire DOD. The same rational why bush did not go after UBL after 911….. Money…..
AF: No word when F-22s could fly again (only one comment?)

AF: No word when F-22s could fly again (Oh. There they are!)
Most Succinct 'And We Could Have Just Stopped There' Award:
AmicusCuriae • 54 weeks ago
Obviously, no one knows what is wrong with the F-22 oxygen system...if anything.

Report: Investigation widens as F-22s stay grounded
J. R. Pierce Award (Old JR once noted: "Novices in mathematics, science, or engineering are forever demanding infallible, universal, mechanical methods for solving problems")
Engineer Economist • 57 weeks ago
"More than six weeks later, the Air Force’s F-22 fleet is still grounded" "We are still working to pinpoint the exact nature of the problem,” the ACC said.. "USAF investigation is also comparing the F-22’s life support system with other strike aircraft in its fleet" SO.. what the heck is going on here... do we have a design/system integration problem and now we have to go back to proven designs to figure out how to do it right? So far the billions in cost overruns and the years behind schedule we end up with defective designs that require ANOTHER unfunded requirement to fix? The acquisition strategy that gives us F-22 & F-35 results has got to go. For the same amount of money, we could have incremental improvements to F-15 & F-16, recapitalized the rest of the fleet, and made better investments with better payoffs. DoD & USAF has got to stop screwing the pooch, and expecting taxpayer bailouts over and over again

The Air Force sings the Raptor blues
Most Prophetic First Post Award:
Lightndattic • 63 weeks ago
Que up the trolls in 3...2...1...

Sunday, July 22, 2012

Double-0 POGO and the F-35: Update 2

Mr. Smallwood (Eventually) Responded

Lt. Col. Eric Smith (left) congratulates Lt. Col. Lee Kloos on becoming the latest qualified joint strike fighter pilot and DOD’s first non-developmental test pilot to qualify, May 31 at Eglin Air Force Base, Fla. After completing his flight, is now a qualified instructor pilot for the F-35 Lightning II. Smith, the director of operations with the 58th FS and the first Air Force qualified pilot, served as Kloos' flight evaluator. (U.S. Air Force photo/Maj. Karen Roganov)

And the response was pretty much as expected:
“Your comments seem to suggest the F-35 has actually been completely tested and is fully ready for combat. Since it isn’t even halfway there, I’ll take your comments — barely legible as they were — with a healthy dose of skepticism. Further, since you have openly suggested on your website that I’m working for POGO itself I will go ahead and play turnabout: You strike me as nothing more than a front for the defense industry — the kind of guy paid-off to act like an independent and fill the debate with tripe to make people think twice about what is obvious. What is obvious: the plane is an overpriced piece of crap, and will never be a staple of the American Air Force. Your boys at Lockheed are on borrowed time using the Pentagon as a marketer and purchaser all at once because America is broke. Best invest that money elsewhere.” (screen capture to left)
Notice the lack of any real attempt to engage on the validity of the ‘debunking’ itself? I must say I find the notion that I’m a sort of paid secret ‘front’ for the defense industry (I’m a ‘highly-compensated’ engineer/analyst, bucko!) scouring the web for evil-doers on the behalf of the F-35 for bounty….hilariously conspiratorial.  I do the scouring for free! I suspect Mr. Smallwood probably also operates under the delusion that there actually IS a ‘Military-Industrial Complex’.

My comments “seem to suggest the F-35 “has actually been completely tested”? No. I cited an expert operator from outside the acquisition/development program who is now fully qualified to fly and instruct other pilots in the F-35. HE says the F-35 is as maneuverable as an F-16 (or better). HIS  statements are an overmatching counter-weight to the tired old claims made by ignorant activist ‘reformers'.
Alas, I fear Mr. Smallwood’s insufficient language skills may be a barrier to meaningful communication, as he also asserts that I “ have openly suggested on" (my) "website that I’m working for POGO itself”.
No Mr. Smallwood. Perhaps you missed the part in my initial post where I wrote: “I’ve noticed a marked uptick in the foreign blog and online alternative newspapers containing references to POGO’s pet ‘expert’ commentators. POGO ‘special operators/fellow travelers’ seem to be most active in F-35 Partner nations where economic conditions are tightest and in countries that represent existing or emerging markets for F-35 Foreign Military Sales (FMS).” What I openly asserted is that Mr. Smallwood was spoon-fed the drivel he regurgitated, and I also suggested that Mr. Smallwood was furthering POGO’s aims: a 'de facto' agent at the very least. I left open the issue as to whether or not they also further his own interests until now. Hence the “a special operator/fellow traveler” reference.
Mr. Smallwood then uses this mischaracterization to then postulate he could also view me “as nothing more than a front for the defense industry — the kind of guy paid-off to act like an independent and fill the debate with tripe to make people think twice about what is obvious” ?
Assuming Mr. Smallwood is a principled man (why not?), I can only conclude from this statement that he has never been exposed to disciplines that are based upon consequential knowledge and the application thereof. Otherwise, would he not have been able to attach proper value to claims made by competent experts in their field (forget nameless ‘me’, what about Lt Col. Kloos)? And could he then not shrug off the political machinations of agent provocateurs who are paid by an anti-defense Non-State Actor that is funded largely by left-wing foundations and aging hippies--however sympathetic he might be to their flawed ideologies?
Sigh~I suppose for some, it would be far easier to shrug off the fact that the ever-increasingly larger circle of people with ACTUAL F-35 experience typically speak very highly of it than change any preconceived or ill-informed decision. 'They' would rather cling to the shrill prevarications of outside critics with no relevant or insufficient expertise and experience, all in order to preserve some philosophical blind spot.

Kudos to ‘SpudmanWP’,  a visitor who is also a “SNAFU!” regular, for attempting to reach out further to Smallwood in the comment thread...and for engaging on behalf of evidence and logic. I’d take more of an interest myself, if I thought there was any hope. As I see it, Smallwood’s just an outlet for the real troublemakers. I want to keep my 'eyes on the prize'.

In Closing: By "barely legible", should we assume he meant my debunking was ‘barely intelligible’? Aside from an "it's/its" typo that got by me I didn't find anything too egregious. I ask, because I thought ‘dumbed it down’ as far as I dared without doing violence to the meaning within:

Friday, July 20, 2012

DoD Buzz: Got Sockpuppets?

I noted in passing this week that's F-18 'SuperDuper' Hornet advocate 'Black Owl' has appeared to have dropped posing in his/her Naval Academy "Midshipman" costume as his/her comments have degenerated progressively lo these many months since I first noticed him/her at DT/DoDBuzz. At DoD Buzz today I commented in response to something 'William C' posted:
I just think it's interesting that 'Black Owl' has dropped the faux respectability, carefully selected phrasing, and poorly simulated gravitas that posing as a Naval Cadet required of him. Must have been exhausting.  
BTW: We may logically presume that IF the F-35 still had a serious weight challenge, they, like all the other non-challenges not mentioned, would have been brought up in the most resent GAO reports. Things must be going pretty good in the weight area, since the GAO didn't even TRY to spin a negative angle on weight last time.  
Recently, someone apparently 'posed as the poser', imitating Black Owl, just as someone did to me not all that long ago, and he/she took the trouble to get an IntenseDebate 'identity' of 'BlackOw1l8E'.

This particular 'BlackOwl' chose to respond (more oddly than I thought he/she would have) with:
First of all the USNA does not have cadets. That's West Point and the USAFA. We have midshipmen. Secondly: Yes, if I was to fake my identity, then a naval midshipman is the first and most obvious choice. I would never think to fake being a commissioned officer or some other member of the aviation community or something even more credible than that. USNA Midshipmen are the most ideal thing to fake because they are the most credible source ever (insert sarcasm). That makes no sense.

The GAO still mentions the terrible paper thin weight margins of the F-35B. They didn't mention those of the F-35A or F-35C, but that doesn't mean they're not there. I think if they had made drastic improvements in that area Lockheed Martin would have boasted more about it.
I attempted to respond today with:
Thanks to web caching we have:  
Black Owl May 1, 2012 at 3:41 pm
Well, I'm in the Navy and I too am working towards being a pilot and, God willing, if I get to fly I would pick the Super Hornet Block II rather than the F-35C. The Super Hornet is dependable, reliable, heavily armed, flexible, and it has two engines. The only thing the F-35s do that other aircraft can't is be stealthy. In order to achieve that it sacrifices heavily in all other areas of performance, especially maintainability. The advanced sensor suite of the F-35 can also easily be added to the Super Hornet. Stealth is an advantage, but it is not an absolute necessity and we can still defeat our enemies without it by utilizing good tactics and advanced ordinance. Integrating stealth into our forces is important, but not at the cost of other things, especially flexibility and aircraft numbers. We don't need the F-35 when our current jets are good enough and will continue to be for many years. The EA-18G Growler and Super Hornet Block III with some advanced weapons can easily handle all our current and future threats and last us until a 6th gen fighter is made. 
So, now we have another question. Is this Black Owl posing as the 'original' Black Owl? Or: Has this Black Owl forgotten where he’s posed as a ‘Middie’?  
BTW, I have a nephew who IS a Midshipman. The ‘Cadet’ mention was an oblique diminution referencing ‘Naval Sea Cadets’ (which is fine and dandy name to be called if one is a teenager, not so fine if you are a real Midshipman).
And after first getting the typical 'too long, please post in pieces' response, when I got the post short enough, I received an immediate notice that my comment "has been deleted by the administrator". 
I tried posting another snippet from the same cache where that Black Owl specifically claimed the 'Middie' mantle:
SMSgt Mac May 1, 2012 at 8:39 pm
IN the interest of understanding, might one ask what is your grade and what exactly it is that you 'do' in the Navy?
Black Owl May 1, 2012 at 11:44 pm
I'm a 2nd class midshipman at the Naval Academy in Annapolis. For the most part I take classes that are taught in a regular college (physics, chemistry,…) only ours are faster paced and more in depth. Along with those classes I take a lot of military classes about weapon systems, navigation, history, and several other things. I'm also taking Russian. My service assignment night is in November and that's when I'll find out if I'm going to be a pilot or not after I graduate.
Almost Forgot: (Update 21 July 2012) I also asked the 'cached' Black Owl what 'squadron' was he in. I asked for a couple of reasons. First, if he/she responded with a "Squadron x" kind of answer, I'd probably conclude I was dealing with a 'young un' and would tailor my responses accordingly. I was more interested in the time lag/tag of any response. it came back with a 2:22AM time tag. Even adjusting for time zone differences, REAL Middies don't have slack time to keep a comment thread busy for an entire day and into the night. (1 May was a Tuesday BTW). Hence my conclusion that Black Owl was a poser, and a Boeing F-18E/F 'Fanboy' to boot. I've pretty much just enjoyed myself watching his facade degenerate over the last couple of months.  Update End .


Odd that I was able to post elsewhere in the same thread, and not allowed to respond to this current 'Black Owl' directly at the same time. I'm open to alternative explanations, but:

It looks like DoDBuzz has a 'sockpuppet' problem in the threads.
(And from the 'administrator delete' episode, there's no telling if it is 'internal' or 'external').

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

"Double 0" POGO and the F-35: Update

POGO's operative in South Korea. MIA or asleep at the wheel?

Posted Earlier:
So While POGO’s Freeman is claiming the Defense Industry is employing ‘Guerilla Tactics”, I’ve noticed a marked uptick in the foreign blog and online alternative newspapers containing references to POGO’s pet ‘expert’ commentators. POGO ‘special operators/fellow travelers’ seem to be most active in F-35 Partner nations where economic conditions are tightest and in countries that represent existing or emerging markets for F-35 Foreign Military Sales (FMS). What a surprise (Not!). The most recent one to catch my eye was an English-version of a Korean ‘alternative’ paper article by one delightfully named ‘Stuart Smallwood’ who also mirrored most of his piece at his own blog....
Smallwood’s entire post reads like a POGO press release, and it is quite obvious from his phrasing and the conclusions surrounding his commentary that Mr. Smallwood (a ‘grad student’ in "Asian Studies" out of Canada now mucking around in other people’s cultures, Eh?) that he hasn’t a freakin’ clue as to what he is writing about. In the comments thread of his ‘blog’ last night I posted a challenge...

(see thread graphic below)

The first and last lesson provided to POGO's Man-In-South-Korea, Stuart Smallwood, was provided 2 days ago, but has not yet been posted in his thread.  Whether he has not had time to review the comment, is formulating his response prior to posting, or awaiting further guidance from CINC POGO, I have no idea (or really care). If POGO/Reformer modus operandi holds in this case, expect either no response or emphatic misdirection or mischaracterization on some related point.
I provided Mr. Smallwood with the following, as I believe it was the second-lowest hanging fruit and I'm rather pressed for time these days. I believe the only changes are those that allow me to format and link differently in a post vs. a thread elsewhere. If I DO eventually 'fisk' the total drivel POGO spoon-fed him, I will probably do so in the larger context of the battle of ideas and as battlefield prep for deflating future POGO spewings.  The remainder of this post is what I commented on at Smallwood's blog.

Note: I am somewhat curious as to how South Korea views foreign nationals trying to influence South Korean policy decisions while they are guests within South Korea. While not a big deal in the US (Apart from 'shut up--you stupid foreigner!' criticisms), in many countries that kind of activity is taboo (Mexico comes to mind).

RE: “ Wheeler says the complex radar systems and stealth coating on the aircraft make it too heavy to be a close-up fighter airplane.”
First– some background since you are new to the subject.
WW has been peddling this ‘too heavy’ trope ever since the Fighter Mafia failed to keep more advanced systems off the F-16. If the Mafia had their way, the F-16 would still be a one-trick-pony-day-fighter. WW and Co. habitually frame air combat as either BVR or ‘close-in’, magically moving past that period of initial closure where “who detects and targets who first” is paramount.

Actual Debunking:
We don’t even have to get to the parts WW/POGO never talk about here. Let’s debunk the ‘too heavy’ notion up front.

 ONCE you are in a furball, the ability to maneuver and sustain energy (see Boyd’s Energy-Maneuvering theory) is important. It’s importance varies by the relative ability to place weapons (point at) on the target while maneuvering among other things. Let us note here that the F-35 can fire missiles at aircraft that are behind it, but ignore this for the ‘maneuvering’ discussion.  The F-35A is planned to replace the F-16, and it is designed to have equal or better kinematics in a combat configuration than an F-16. The public is beginning to be told this by sources other than Lockheed Martin or 'Test Pilots' (link):
The veteran F-16 operational tester and Weapons School grad shared some of his impressions the F-35. The jet is powerful, stable and easy to fly… 
...A combat-configured F-16 is encumbered with weapons, external fuel tanks, and electronic countermeasures pods that sap the jet’s performance. “You put all that on, I’ll take the F-35 as far as handling characteristic and performance, that’s not to mention the tactical capabilities and advancements in stealth,” he says. “It’s of course way beyond what the F-16 has currently.” 
The F-35′s acceleration is “very comparable” to a Block 50 F-16. “Again, if you cleaned off an F-16 and wanted to turn and maintain Gs and [turn] rates, then I think a clean F-16 would certainly outperform a loaded F-35,” Kloos says. “But if you compared them at combat loadings, the F-35 I think would probably outperform it.”
The F-16, Kloos says, is a very capable aircraft in a within visual range engagement–especially in the lightly loaded air-to-air configuration used during training sorties at home station. “It’s really good at performing in that kind of configuration,” Kloos says. “But that’s not a configuration that I’ve ever–I’ve been in a lot of different deployments–and those are the configurations I’ve never been in with weapons onboard.”
So there you have it. The first operational pilot to qualify on the F-35A, who is also a Weapons School grad, and has been an F-16 OT&E pilot... gives a big ‘thumbs up’ to what LM and the JSF program have been telling us all along.

Expect more glowing pilot reports. From this operational pilot we receive confirmation that the F-35 is only about as ‘bad’ as the aircraft it is replacing, which is exactly what it was designed to be, and OBTW means it is on par with an aircraft that is still one of the world’s premier dogfighters (F-16 is especially ‘hot’ below 20000 ft).

Now let me add just a little of my own aeronautical (BSc, MSc, Decades of flight test, etc.) knowledge for your ruminations. What LtCol Kloos didn’t mention (because he probably doesn’t know) is the true F-35 effective wing area and loading. Neither does WW, any other so-called ‘reformer’, or any outsider. Because the fuselage itself creates lift and adds to the effective wing area. Wing area is the 'denominator' in the wing-loading figure of merit. Outsiders can only make WAGs as to the wing loading and in turn the maneuvering capabilities of the F-35. They are even bigger WAGs if they don’t know the Lift/Drag ratio, total drag, or installed thrust of the engine at varying power settings and airspeeds. Also, because the F-35 will fight ‘clean’ without external pylons and weapons on ‘Day 1’ of a conflict, when it enters into a tight turn it will have a fraction of the parasitic drag of an F-16 or any other non-LO aircraft. In all likelihood, the F-35 will bleed off a lot less speed performing the same turn as an F-16.

It would have been a shorter lesson If I had just chosen to debunk the “It’s too fast to find targets or distinguish enemies from friends on the ground” canard (I can provide if desired). But the Fighter Mafia ‘simple is better’ talking point mindlessly parroted by a long-disenfranchised Congressional staffer with ZERO technical qualification always deserves a good smack-down.

I may just take down every-stinking ‘point’ the POGO boys fed you at my place later, but I’m getting bored with exploding their logical fallacies.
Sorry it took so long to respond. Work, family, and a Crankshaft Position Sensor took up the bulk of my time this week.

Friday, July 13, 2012

Sydney J. Freedberg Jr. Steps in 'It'...Again.

Sydney Freedberg Jr. Just Isn't Having a Very Good Week.

You can be ignorant of the fact that something you believe is a myth. No problem.

What you shouldn’t be able to do is recycle old tropes as if they were fact, in your manifest ignorance of what you are attempting to write about with impunity, but it is done way too often these days concerning Defense in general, and Low Observability specifically. To foster myths as a ‘journalist’ is perhaps typical,  but it is disturbing. And that goes double for an ‘Editor’. You want to write about things? Fine Sydney. Just pick a topic you know something about.

Freedberg, fresh off of having to backtrack ‘big-time’, undone by his mad skillz with creative headlines, is back today with a new ‘piece’ titled Lockheed Dismisses $1 Trillion Estimate For F-35 JSF, just couldn’t resist opening the ‘red meat’ section of his post with the following (emphasis mine) :
Stealth aircraft are notoriously expensive to maintain, with the radar-absorbing coatings on the B-2 prone to disintegrate in the rain, but Rubino argued that F-35 is a different animal. "We have learned a whole lot over the last 20 years as far as maintaining stealth," he said. "We built this airplane to be able to have very robust stealth, to the point where you can ding it, you can scratch it" and it does not lose its radar-evading properties. Even if you dismiss Lockheed's claims about F-35's maintainability, there are still serious questions about…[blah blah blah]
The F-35 LO design IS completely different (see slide to left) from all other systems, and the ‘maintainability headache’ aspect of LO systems from B-2 onward is another myth for another time. But the “radar-absorbing coatings on the B-2 prone to disintegrate in the rain”  crack is a pure myth that can be exploded easier than most.

The Source of the B-2 Coatings ‘Disintegrate’ Myth

The myth comes from the fusion of the wording in a 1997 GAO report, and the anti-B-2 crowd’s willful misrepresentation of same (OK we’ll give them the credit for merely being illiterate). If one does a roll-call, one will find many of the same Illiterati making the most noise over the F-35. One name on both lists is the source of much of the B.S. found in Freedberg’s article. (Not naming names, but his initials are “WW”). I leave the reader to draw their own conclusions on that point.
The GAO report In question was “B-2 Bomber: Cost and Operational Issues, GAO/NSIAD-97-181 August 1997. The offending passage usually cited (if any are cited at all) in claiming the myth is that the B-2 ''must be sheltered or exposed only to the most benign environments -- low humidity, no precipitation, moderate temperatures.''
What the journalists back then NEVER mentioned was the DoD response in the SAME REPORT:

Notice the reference to the ‘Block 30’configuration? In the report elsewhere is this little observation:
The Air Force is currently testing the B-2 and plans to complete the production program, including planned block 30 modifications, by July 2000.
This was an August 1997 report. The FIRST Block 30 aircraft was delivered on 5 August 1997. Block 30 was the final production configuration, and the final configuration wasn’t even fielded yet.
the GAO was basing it's guesses on stale data (again) on interim designs.
The GAO got the last word in commenting on the DoD response (Emphasis mine):
Design requirements for the B-2 include provisions for the B-2 aircraft to be deployed, without shelters, in all types of temperatures and climates. The operational test report for the interim B-2 concluded the B-2 must be sheltered or exposed only to the most benign environments (low humidity, no precipitation, moderate temperatures). According to B-2 Combined Test Force officials, permanent shelters at deployed locations are required. Therefore, while DOD commented that it is possible to deploy the B-2, it appears that effective operations from a forward operation location will require additional facilities and equipment not included in the original plan. The Air Force is still working to identify these additional requirements.
Yes. My goodness. Shelters are required because you can’t do body work or paint in the rain or high humidity. Go to your nearest Auto Body shop and ask them if they think this is worth mentioning. Aside from the passage being somewhat inaccurate in itself (different materials will ‘like’ different temps and humidity) you will also note there is not one, single, solitary, indication that the coatings “will dissolve in the rain”. THAT leap in logic sprang from the febrile minds of the anti-defense left and naïve isolationist/ peaceniks who then spoon-fed it (like SO many other myths) to their fellow-travelers: the all too willing 'Journalistas'.
Think about the “B-2 Rain Dissolves B-2 Coatings Myth” the next time you read something unofficial about the F-35.
EPILOGUE: So how’d the Block 30 B-2 do? Haven’t heard a thing about melting B-2s since 1997 have you? Air Force Magazine 1998:
Two B-2s deployed from Whiteman AFB, Mo., to Guam for a 10-day exercise in March and April. They achieved a 100 percent sortie success rate, flying almost 90 hours during the exercise. Because of recent damage to hangars at the base, one of the B-2s had to be left outside, exposed to the weather, which included driving rainstorms. The Air Force said that most maintenance, including that of low observables coatings, was performed outdoors. A spokesman for the 509th Bomb Wing said this "shot a hole" in the wild news reports last year that the B-2's stealthy coatings melt away in the rain.
Yet the 'myth' persists because the Luddites wish it so.

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Luddite Chief of Naval Operations Feeds the Anti-Stealth Trolls? WTFO?

UPDATED 12 July @ 20:54: Below, I had stated among other things, my problems with the reporting of  'Admiral Greenert 'story' and the rapid mutation of the headline/meme. Late last night, I e-mailed Ms. Mackenzie Eaglen concerning a 'tweet' she subsequently posted and also repeated part of my post concerning the morphing titles. I don't know if my e-mail contributed to bringing about the following, but it is good to know I'm not the only person who provided proper 'feedback'.  The updated Eaglem piece now has this added at the bottom:
[A note of apology from Sydney J. Freedberg Jr., Deputy Editor, AOL Defense: When I first posted this article by Mackenzie Eaglen, I hastily titled it "CNO Ready To Cut Back On F-35 Joint Strike Fighter," which exaggerated Ms. Eaglen's point and misrepresented Adm. Greenert's position. After some sharp feedback from both the CNO's press officer, Capt. Daniel Hernandez, and some of our well-informed readers -- both privately and in the comment section below -- we've decided to correct the title to "CNO Article Raises Doubts About Joint Strike Fighter." The original, incorrect title was entirely of my choosing, and Ms. Eaglen bears no responsibility for it. My apologies to our readers. -- Sydney J. Freedberg Jr.]
Good to know Ms. Eaglen isn't going down the dark side.

There's a delicious serendipity in this, as I'm about to post something else tonight that -- if there were ANY professional standards for ensuring that one got their facts right in 'Journalism'-- should  trigger a retraction from Freedberg on a 'piece' he wrote.
Who knows? Perhaps we can eventually cure Mr Freedman of his Defense 'JournoPunk' tendencies?

Original post below:

This is a weird story so far. To sum up: 1. A ‘Marine Engineer’ cum U-boat driver opines on Low Observables (poorly) in an article that covers a lot of ground titled: “Payloads Over Platforms” using every Comp Sci 101 “Computing Power!” cliché and anecdote amidst a generally clumsy attempt to draw some grand paradigm across ship and aviation weapon system design.
There’s nothing in his resume to indicate he understands how RF and IR systems ‘work’, especially in a combat environment.
1. His ‘stealth’ experience appears to be limited to the “hide until you shoot and hope nobody sees or hears you shoot, because if they do hear you, you are so scr*wed” variety.
2. Among his lesser but more irritating sins, to support his ‘LO is limited’ argument he cites an 11-year-old Popular Science article on Anti-Stealth technology, written by the ‘Ragin Hedge Baby From the Shires” himself–twice (Need I note how badly that article was dismissed by the professionals when it was new?).
3. Said article gets ‘noticed’ (I wonder who in POGO noticed it for him?) by DoD Buzz’ Young Mr. Ewing. A ‘Journalist’. Young Mr. Ewing turns the Admiral’s ranting into an ‘Anti-JSF’ hit piece, creatively titled: “Did CNO just take a big swipe at F-35?”
4. Young Mr. Ewing the Journalist’s article gets noticed by and an even younger and infinitely cuter AEI ‘scholar’ named Eaglen who simply amplifies Ewing’s story line by writing an article titled: “CNO ready to cut back on F-35 Joint Strike Fighter” (and it looks like it was picked up by AOLPOGO).

Got that? In three steps we went from:
 “Payloads Over Platforms” to...
“Did CNO just take a big swipe at F-35?” to...
“CNO ready to cut back on F-35 Joint Strike Fighter” !

Will tomorrow bring a “CNO says F-35 is Satan!” headline? 

The last step was odd, given AEI’s positions and past articles on defense and air primacy. Methinks Ewing and Eaglen just might know each other, and Eaglen may have just gone off the reservation a bit.

About the Greenert ‘Piece’

Admiral Greenert’s two big bullet points on the LO topic scream ignorance (the rest of his article screams Agenda!)
  • Operating at lower electromagnetic frequencies than stealth technologies are designed to negate, and
  • Detecting the stealth platform from angles or aspects at which the platform has a higher signature.

Ummm. Admiral Sir? A few points on your ‘points’...

RE: “Low frequency” systems.
Low Frequency systems MAY be good at getting an idea that ‘something is out there’ but not where it is with any precision and certainly not such that an LO system can be effectively “tracked” (much less ‘targeted’-- Do they even teach ‘Kill Chain’ in Sub school?).
This isn’t about freakin’ “Magic”...
it is about freakin’ Physics... and Physics Involves Limits

RE: Limits of Stealth.
Duh. No Sh*t. They’ve always been there. ‘Stealth technologies’ are designed into systems and applied in ways DETERMINED by the operating environment dictated by the mission requirements.
I am pleased you specified ‘Stealth Technologies’ instead of ‘Stealth’ because in application, Low Observability is a combination of technology and TECHNIQUES. The ‘frequencies’ that low observable weapon systems are tailored for are precisely those that will pose a threat to them. The CONOPS and mission profiles of these weapon systems are designed to minimize exposure of those “angles or aspects” to threat systems.
In short, your two bullet points have always been two of the key considerations of low observability design and quite frankly, you would be a LOT more credible citing Radar Cross Section by Knott, Shaeffer & Tuley, instead of Bill Sweetman (WTF?). At least From Knott et al, you would have learned how RCS objectives are selected, optimized and implemented in LO design. Since the LO engineers are infinitely more knowledgeable on something that they have been allowing for since day one, may I suggest you ask THEM when they think LO will be ‘obsolete’?

RE: ‘Aspects and Angles’ Specifically--A Thought Experiment
You are in Command and in the control center of an Integrated Air Defense System. I am flying along at 450 Kts at 45000 ft in my Acme Stealth Bomber. At point X and Time T, one of my ‘angles’ and/or ‘aspects’ is aligned such that my signature is detectable by one of your ‘sensor systems’.
At time T plus 1 microsecond later, that ‘angle’ and/or ‘aspect’ is no longer aligned such that it can be detected. DID your system detect me in the first place? If it did, what useful information did you collect to even process as to my range, altitude heading, and speed? (Hint: Probably Zilch, Nil, Nada.)
Did I mention that the RCS signal return you were able to detect was the equivalent of a large insect? How many large insects, or birds, bats, chunks of vegetable matter are flying through your network at any given time? Know anything about ambient RF noise? What are the chances your system filters out that 1 microsecond of signal as random noise? (Hint: Pretty Frickin' High - all the processing power in the world doesn't help you if you are integrating a Zero) My RF ‘fuzzball’, in all frequencies where the physics dictate I can be tracked, is defined by very narrow spikes and very deep nulls. My three-dimensional orientation to any and all of your sensors is changing constantly and rapidly-- even if I fly in a straight line, constant speed and elevation.
Oh, did I mention my tiny signal was received among all the other combat environment RF activity... including my onboard EW and offboard jammer support?
BTW: Did I mention this is ‘day one’ and your radars and control nodes are the primary targets?
Normally, Navy CNO’s don’t openly demonstrate their ignorance. This guy is shaping up to be ‘entertaining’.

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

F-35 PAUC and APUC

Sheesh. I shouldn't surf the web after midnight (or at least not comment)

What I MEANT to type last night while commenting on a very good F-35 "Costs" article:

You honestly expand on a difficulty where many have seen opportunity to sow confusion.
PAUC among other things includes RDT&E and all costs associated with production of the item such as hardware/software, systems engineering (SE), engineering changes and warranties plus the costs of procuring technical data, training, support equipment, and initial spares. But there is one aspect of PAUC that can make it VERY inappropriate for telling people what something WILL cost them: PAUC includes ‘sunk’ cost.
Most notably, in the F-35’s case, it includes the percentage of the RDT&E, Production, Engineering, and Technical Data costs that have already been incurred. Since the primary production line and RDT&E capabilities for the F-35 are already stood up, and all the suppliers' engineering and production capabilities are running in place waiting for the higher production demand, this has to represent a huge chunk of PAUC [though APUC is still correct and part of PAUC I meant to type the latter] that is already sunk cost.
Try explaining to the man in the street that the PAUC went up because of conscious decisions to defer higher rates of production and stretch development to ‘reduce risks’ and NOT because the Contractor is jacking up the price. People’s eyes will glaze over if you try and explain everything that goes into the PAUC or APUC: Many of the costs tacked on to the PAUC would make no sense to the average citizen because we don’t buy things like a government does. Example: The Man in the Street doesn’t add the cost of a new garage to the cost of his new 4x4 because it is too big to put in the garage he already has. He pays the money and then observes he has bought a new 4&4 AND a new garage.
While PAUC is considered ‘true' costs of the plane by ‘some’, it isn’t. It is just an aggregation of a lot of direct costs that are then booked against each plane by dividing by the number of units. Obviously it includes the costs of infrastructure, new technology, and new knowledge. Much of it will invariably be used to advantage elsewhere – it just gets BOOKED against the program of record.
On the other hand URF is something people will understand because it’s the dollar cost number to buy ‘just one’. Just like the store down the street.
If you must, use both numbers. But only PAUC requires extensive explanation to prevent misrepresentation. And once you have significant sunk costs, to be completely honest with the public, you should also provide the PAUC for producing NO more units, including cancellation costs. If the requirement demands a new program after a cancellation, add the estimated PAUC for that program as well. Let the public see the true cost tradeoffs involved.

Monday, July 09, 2012

POGO Wrongly Cries “Foul!”... While Sniping in a Ghillie Suit

Guerrilla Reformers Falsely Accuse Defense Industry of Guerrilla Tactics 

UPDATED AND BUMPED 9 July 2012 (UPDATE BELOW: Look for the RED) 

Last week, POGO’s Ben Freeman posted another fact-free and ideologically-driven screed, this time at the ‘Puffington Host’ (You know where I mean. I try not to ever link to that swamp) titled “The Guerrilla Warfare of Pentagon Contractors”. To give you the flavor of the misdirection he peddles within, here’s a clip that gives a pretty good summation [emphasis mine]:
Last week Politico reported that defense contractor's new plan is to "threaten to send out layoff notices -- hundreds of thousands of them, right before Election Day." This threat is intended to frighten incumbents into rolling back the impending Budget Control Act sequestration, which would reduce Pentagon spending by roughly ten percent per year for the next ten years.
Despite the doomsday rhetoric and contractor funded "studies" reporting grossly overinflated job losses they claim would result if the Pentagon's more than half a trillion dollar budget is cut, there is absolutely no reason these companies would need to have massive layoffs. This is nothing more than a political stunt.

One would think POGO should know a stunt when they see one, but they either fell short this time or are willfully prevaricating. Perhaps it is because they aren’t too familiar with parts of acquisition law concerning Government contracting and labor rules? I do suppose there’s no exposure to the workings of the current monopsony in POGO’s exclusive digs in the Ivory Tower end of Castle 'Non-Profit'?

Contrast POGO’s flippant dismissal with this excerpt from a recent Defense News article:
Panetta’s meetings come a week after the heads of Lockheed Martin, Northrop Grumman and Pratt & Whitney met with top Office of Management and Budget officials seeking greater clarity on the government’s plan for implementing nearly $500 billion in mandatory defense cuts over the next decade that are scheduled to start Jan. 2.
OMB told the executives it does not plan to issue sequestration implementation guidance until after the November elections, sources said. The meeting was requested by Aerospace Industries Association President Marion Blakey.
Although defense industry leaders have long said that planning for sequestration will be difficult given it is unclear what the specific impact of automatic cuts will be, they have become increasingly vocal that job losses would be unavoidable starting in January.
And they’ve stressed that federal guidelines require them to notify their workers of potential mass layoffs at least 60 days in advance — that would be on the eve on the election.
Source: AEI
Having been one of the many people in the industry long enough to have found themselves on the receiving end of one of those federal ‘60 day notices’ when just one Government program was cancelled or cut back, and having witnessed many others, POGO’s dismissive attitude speaks volumes as to their indifference and/or ignorance. Multiple programs being suddenly cut/cancelled/impacted for reasons other than cause can only cause chaos in the industry. Carrying out such pointless cuts every year over a period of years? Sounds like POGO/Leftard heaven and National Defense Hell. Ask anyone who’s been around Defense Aerospace ‘more than a minute’. They’ll tell you: POGO is full of Sh*t.
Freeman’s POGO puff piece is irritating, but it is more important to keep in mind what this whole sequestration gambit is really about: Democrats playing political games with National Defense.


 Quick Sidebar: Hey! I see from their website that not only has Winslow Wheeler moved his shingle under the POGO rubric, he seems to have brought not only the Strauss Military Reform Project but also the Center for Defense Information with him (link)! I suppose this tells us something about how Reformers are dealing with a diminishing donor base. As I noted earlier: I love it when targets bunch up. On the downside, it seems “the radical trust fund baby cum 'photographer’[ HASN’T] got tired of paying his salary”.

Well Lookee’ Here!  POGO’s got Their Own ‘Snake Eaters’ On Point  

So While POGO’s Freeman is claiming the Defense Industry is employing ‘Guerilla Tactics”, I’ve noticed a marked uptick in the foreign blog and online alternative newspapers containing references to POGO’s pet ‘expert’ commentators. POGO ‘special operators/fellow travelers’ seem to be most active in F-35 Partner nations where economic conditions are tightest and in countries that represent existing or emerging markets for F-35 Foreign Military Sales (FMS). What a surprise (Not!). The most recent one to catch my eye was an English-version of a Korean ‘alternative’ paper article by one delightfully named ‘Stuart Smallwood’ who also mirrored most of his piece at his own blog.
Smallwood’s entire post reads like a POGO press release, and it is quite obvious from his phrasing and the conclusions surrounding his commentary that Mr. Smallwood (a ‘grad student’ in "Asian Studies" out of Canada now mucking around in other people’s cultures, Eh?) that he hasn’t a freakin’ clue as to what he is writing about. In the comments thread of his ‘blog’ last night I posted a challenge:
Heh. If I demonstrate that your post is erroneous on at least one or more key points, will you promise to never again publicly opine on defense topics about which you are ill-informed and not equipped [to discuss*]? And if so, will you also give POGO back the spoon with which they have been feeding you this stuff?
*I have an oversensitive touchpad on my laptop (that I keep turning off and Microsoft keeps turning on whenever they push updates) that causes me no end of typo and edit problems. I didn’t catch two words had dropped until after I posted my comment.

When I went back today to see if my kind offer was accepted I find not only was it rejected, but it seems to have been deleted (shocker). Not much of a Snake Eater after all, eh?
In the last comment on the short Smallwood thread, a thread which had quickly devolved into fantastic familial allegations about ‘bullying allies’, you will see as of this posting a comment (from his Mom?/Sister?) proclaiming: “bullying is everywhere!”. Perhaps Ms. Smallwood, perhaps. But it appears to be not nearly so widespread as intellectual cowardice. It’s to be expected under the circumstances I suppose. I have found that among the professions, the thick thinness of the skin is inversely proportional to the intellectual rigor required of its practitioners. [/snark ]


Update/Correction: Seems Smallwood's Got Game (Good on Him)

My comment has 'reappeared' in the thread:

I take back half the things I've said already. If he chooses wisely...Well. we'll see about the rest later.
Which point will I select for debunking?  I'm leaning towards "the myth of stealth". Stay tuned.

(Special thanks to my reader who e-mailed me the "head's up" on this development)

************** END OF UPDATE**************  

On a More Serious Note

Catching POGO in their machinations could be simply left as a case of blaming others for what they are guilty of: akin to when a grifter gets caught in the 'act'. But in the war of words, POGOs moves are a cross between Rules For Radicals and at least one of the best military theorists.
“If your enemy is secure at all points, be prepared for him. If he is in superior strength, evade him. If your opponent is temperamental, seek to irritate him. Pretend to be weak, that he may grow arrogant. If he is taking his ease, give him no rest. If his forces are united, separate them. If sovereign and subject are in accord, put division between them. Attack him where he is unprepared, appear where you are not expected.” 
—Sun Tzu
Their biggest disadvantage is that they scurry like vermin when the light hits them. 

P.S. Anyone else about had it with Blogger's formatting quirks?

Friday, July 06, 2012

Strange Silence on GAO F-35 June 2012 ‘Report’

F-35A USAF Photo

There’s evidence the report is either a blatant political hack job or there are absolutely NO experts on Reliability at the GAO. Take your pick – either reason is equally damning.

Has anyone else noticed the comparative ‘silence’ over the last F-35 GAO report compared to the previous releases? Other than the rather strange and rambling “F-35 by the Numbers” at DoD Buzz and the usual unattributed fear-mongering about “Costs!” at AOLPOGO Defense , this time around there hasn’t been much caterwauling coming out from under the usual rocks. My first thought was perhaps the POGO et al crowd was winding up to deliver another integrated PR attack against the program across a broad far-left front.

I decided to take the time to actually read the report itself in hopes of perhaps getting a preview of the latest Doomsayer topic du jour. Imagine my surprise when I found……not much: no blockbuster surprises, and surprisingly little hard information. There’s no ‘there’ there. It is “Same Sh*t. Different Day” in GAO-land.

There is a lot of unmitigated puffery and bull-hooey in this latest edition from the GAO. A good portion of it hinges on understanding the little ‘something’ within (as well as the missing associated bits) the report that strikes this experienced eye as more than a trifle ‘odd’. It is bizarre to the point it raises my suspicions that the F-35 program may either progressing better than ‘some’ would have us believe, or at least NOT doing as poorly as those same ‘some’ WISH we would believe.

If the GAO’s failings in this report are due to incompetence and inexperience, as is always my first instinct, I think that speaks of an even more unfortunate situation. We can overcome intrigue with the light from facts, figures and reason. But institutionalized incompetence? That can be a much tougher nut to crack. It was the part of the report that I found dubious. Quite frankly, it makes me wonder what it is doing in this report at all, unless its entire purpose is to prop up the rest of the report:

According to program office data, the CTOL and STOVL variants are behind expected reliability growth plans at this point in the program. Figure 9 depicts progress of each variant in demonstrating mean flying hours between failures as reported by the program office in October 2011 and compares them to 2010 rates, the expectation at this point in time, and the ultimate goal at maturity.  

As of October 2011, reliability growth plans called for the STOVL to have achieved at least 2.2 flying hours between failures and the CTOL at least 3.7 hours by this point in the program. The STOVL is significantly behind plans, achieving about 0.5 hours between failures, or less than 25 percent of the plan. CTOL variant has demonstrated 2.6 hours between failures, about 70 percent of the rate expected at this point in time. The carrier variant is slightly ahead of its plan; however, it has flown many fewer flights and hours than the other variants.

JSF officials said that reliability rates are tracking below expectations primarily because identified fixes to correct deficiencies are not being implemented and tested in a timely manner. Officials also said the growth rate is difficult to track and to confidently project expected performance at maturity because of insufficient data from the relatively small number of flight hours flown. Based on the initial low reliability demonstrated thus far, the Director of Operational Test and Evaluation reported that the JSF has a significant challenge ahead to provide sufficient reliability growth to meet the operational requirement. 
The explicit characterization “the CTOL and STOVL variants are behind expected reliability growth plans at this point in the program” can only spring from willful distortion and misrepresentation of the facts in hand OR -- more likely-- from a pack of feral accountants and auditors nobly working around a gaping chasm in their own consequential knowledge as to how aircraft reliability programs actually ‘work’. Only someone who had no idea of the true relevance of the data they had in their unprepared little hands would make such a statement. In demonstrating how aircraft reliability programs proceed, measurements are made, and performance is evaluated and graded, we will reveal the ludicrous, unintentional and laughable silliness of the GAO report excerpt above. That there apparently was no one in the Program Office that could have disabused them of this ignorance is even more disconcerting. 

For future reference then, I offer an introductory tutorial on how aircraft 'reliability' programs work, I’ll focus mostly on the F-35A numbers, but what is true for the F-35A is even truer for the F-35B and C as they have even fewer flight hours.

Aircraft Reliability Isn’t Graded in the Cradle

 Let’s begin by noting that by the end of October 2011, the timeframe given above, only approximately 2000 total flight hours had beenflown by all three F-35 variants. Given the F-35A had been flying more and in larger numbers than the other variants through to that timeframe, we can safely assume the F-35A flight hours make up at least half of the 2000 hour total (~1000-1200 hours?). The failure rates shown for the CTOL version include those flown by AA-1, the de facto F-35 prototype which was markedly different from later aircraft (and is now retired from flight and undergoing live fire testing). Given that the typical operating hours accumulated before aircraft type designs are considered ‘mature’ enough to evaluate and grade system reliability is 100,000 fleet flight hours (RAND TR-763Summary, Pg xiii), just mentioning an F-35A reliability metric at the ~1% mark is pointless. Assigning any meaning to the same value and framing a narrative around it demonstrates profound stupidity and/or a hostile agenda.
As there are three major variants of the F-35, and the chart above shows values for all three variants, I would assume there was cause for the program to take some composite approach to benchmarking the F-35, whereby a value lower than 100,000 hours for each variant may have been selected due to commonality and overlap between systems (100000 hours for each variant, while more statistically pure for benchmarking performance would have probably seemed as overgenerous and overkill to non-R&Mers… especially ‘bean counters’). Unless the program is supremely confident in the parts of the F-35 that are unique to each variant, they should keep the 100,000 hour benchmark at least for those unique variant aspects, but given the complexity of tracking partial and full system reliability, I doubt any program would view such an approach to reliability as workable. This means that when they get to a point late in the maturation process, that if the unique systems and features of the variants aren’t measured against a 100,000 hours benchmark, they had better be ‘ahead of the curve’ for what normally would be expected in their reliability performance.

How Programs Track Reliability Growth

One may ask: How programs achieve target reliability benchmarks in their maturity if they aren’t being ‘graded’ on their progress as they go forward? The answer is they ARE evaluated; it is just that they are evaluated in terms of trends for discovering and eliminating root causes, as well as in relation to other metrics to arrive at what the performance ‘means’ as part of the process of achieving required system reliability . Depending upon how far along the program is in maturing the system; the reliability performance at the time will mean different things and require different corrective or reinforcing actions. To illustrate what is evaluated, how a system is ‘matured’, and why it is impossible for a system to be ‘mature’ when it is first fielded, it is helpful to employ a typical reliability chart format with notional data for further reference and discussion. The following chart plots out a hypothetical weapon system’s Mean Time Between Critical Failure (MTBCF) performance, as I suspect the GAO report incorrectly refers to as ‘Mean Time Between Failure’, though all the observations we are about to make concerning same are true in either case. ‘Conveniently’ for our purposes, the hypothetical weapon system in this chart has the identical 2.60 hours MTBCF at 2000 hours, with the ultimate goal of 6 Hours MTBCF at 100000 flight hours, the same as noted in the GAO report for the F-35A.
Notional MTBCF Plot: Copyright 2012 Elements of Power

The reader should immediately note that the chart above is plotted in a ‘Log-Log’ format: both chart axes are plotted using a logarithmic scale. This has the effect of allowing the clear display of early values, where wider variations in data are to be expected and of showing trends (and deviations from same) more accurately. As more statistically relevant data is accumulated, on through to where the system maturity point is selected for determination as to whether or not the system meets the reliability requirement, the deviation from the mean value should lessen (more about that later). The reader should also observe that there are three values logged after the notional 2.60 ‘measurement’.
These values illustrate that the ‘current’ value evaluated at any point in time is usually a few measurements behind the latest measurements because the latest values will have to be “adjudicated” to ensure they are error free. Adjudication can be a daunting, time-consuming process (voice of experience) that often requires iterative communications between the Reliability and Maintainability group and units in the field before the data is purged of errors.
Some actual examples come to mind that illustrate how errors are introduced. On one of my past programs, there was an episode where there appeared to be a sudden increase in failures and subsequent removal and replacement of a cockpit component. It was only through careful review and correlation of several months’ worth of event data that impossible crew sizes (you can’t get 20+ people in a cockpit at one time) were revealed, which led to R&M eventually finding out that the maintainer organizations were running a series of training events and incorrectly logging them against the aircraft.

The adjudication process itself may also contribute to the eventual improvement of the weapon system’s reliability score. One category of maintenance logged against an aircraft is ‘For Other Maintenance’ (FOM). “Once upon a time” a certain weapon system was showing excessive low observable “Red X” events which flagged a certain area of the plane as experiencing frequent Low Observable outer-mold line (surface) failures (this also generated an inordinate amount of aircraft ‘downtime’ affecting another metric). Through inaccurate logging of the ‘How Malfunctioned’ (How Mal) code, the data masked the fact that the LO maintenance was driven by the need to restore the surface treatments to complete the removal and replacement (R&R) of a component located behind the surface that required restoration. This incorrect data not only pointed the program R&M efforts in a wrong direction, it helped mask the impact, and delayed the ‘fixing’, of what was considered prior to this discovery to be a low priority “nuisance” software glitch. Priority was then given to fixing the ‘glitch’ and along with a change to tech data, a maintenance and reliability ‘high-driver’ was completely eliminated.

The values shown at individual points on the chart above are not the cumulative value from current and all previous data points. They represent a value arrived at from a regression analysis of the last 3-6 data points (usually taken monthly) and the latest snapshot trends are used for further evaluation in conjunction with other performance data to determine true progress and problem trends. I’ve placed markers at various flight hour totals to illustrate points where the possible half-way and full reliability flight hour measurement periods might be for our hypothetical program to illustrate just how far away 1000-1200 flight hours are from any likely MTBCF ‘grading’ point. 

Dominant Factors When Experience is Low

‘Failures’ logged and tracked fall into three broad categories: Inherent or Design-Driven, Induced, or No Fault Found/Cannot Duplicate (NFF/CND) aka ‘false alarm’. When the flight hours of a new weapon system are few, the data tends to be more representative of operator and program learning curves than actual aircraft reliability, to the point that ‘No Fault Found’ and ‘Induced’ often represent one half to two-thirds of the total ‘failures’ so it is entirely within the realm of the possible that this is true at this time for the F-35. If the F-35 failure rate was driven by design problems we would expect to also see the GAO warning of undesirable ‘mission readiness rates’, ‘maintenance man-hours per flying hours’ or other negative performance measures. Without these kinds of details, any standalone MTBCF number is meaningless. Given there is no mention in the (GAO) report what we would expect to see if the F-35’s ‘failures’ to-date were dominated by design problems, I suspect the design reliability might be seen as ‘pretty good’ at this point in time by the R&Mers (Program Managers will always want ‘more’-and ‘sooner’-- so one will ever claim ‘good enough’ until all the reliability measurement hours are adjudicated).
US Navy Photo

STOVL Sidebar

The GAO report notes the STOVL ‘reliability’ figure as being even farther below the ‘expected’ value. As the first production F-35Bs were delivered in January of 2012 after the period ‘graded’, and the total hours flown must be far less than even the ‘A’ model’s paltry ~1000-1200 flight hours, the GAO even showing the numbers, much asserting that the “STOVL is significantly behind plans” is pitiable ignorant, but still useful for two reasons I’m certain the GAO didn’t intend.
First, the GAO’s statements clearly tie the numbers presented to a ‘plan’, Whether this ‘plan’ they refer to is the calendar schedule (which I suspect is true) or they are referring to planned flight hours through October 2011, both are inappropriate to use for MTB(C)F. The ACTUAL hours are what are relevant to the metric, and we’ve already covered how limited experience means less meaningful data.
Second, the STOVL observations help highlight something I’ve dealt with previously in managing small fleet performance improvements: something I call “The Tyranny of Small Numbers”. The very limited number of aircraft evaluated means that even a single ‘early’ failure event for one aircraft carries larger penalties than for a larger fleet. May we expect many more years of ‘behind plan’ reports from the GAO as a result of the ‘concurrency’ bogeyman used as an excuse to stretch the program?
At the end of the period covered in the GAO report was when the B models were getting some pretty important part number rollovers implemented.  Besides also highlighting the fact GAO is always way behind in reporting compared to the current status and thus always out of date, perhaps this was the source of the “because identified fixes to correct deficiencies are not being implemented and tested in a timely manner” cheap shot in the GAO report? (More about that below.) 

How Programs Manage Reliability Growth to Maturity

In viewing the chart above, the reader will see three dashed lines. The ‘red line’ is established at a level where the program sets a value where the program has decided any time the metric moves below the red line will trigger extra attention as to determining root causes, evaluating corrective actions in work and/or possibly decide additional actions are warranted. The ‘blue line’ represents the level of desired or expected reliability performance at every point along the timeline. As the program proceeds the values recorded should cluster progressively tighter at or above the blue line. Both the red and the blue line may be straight lines as shown, or curved. They may also incorporate ‘steps’ to reflect intermediate thresholds that the program office is expecting to meet. If the system performance moves much above the ‘green line’ representing the weapon system’s specified reliability requirement, believe it or not the program may review the weapon system to eliminate the ‘extra’ reliability if the extra reliability is achieved by incurring associated higher costs. 

Value and Tradeoffs

It must be remembered that every performance specification requirement is arrived at during the requirements process by making tradeoffs between performance values and the costs to achieve those values to meet mission requirements. If any single performance metric, such as MTBCF fails to achieve the specified levels, the real impact of same is not understood by just looking at the metric as a standalone. MTBCF is one of the more interesting metrics in that once the MTBCF rises above the expected (and designed) sortie length, the relevance of the metric begins shifting more towards its implications for and impacts to other metrics. By way of example, if our hypothetical program achieves 5.9 hours MTBCF, the probability of successfully completing the mission is reduced by an insignificant amount compared to the specified 6.0 hours. If the Mean Time to Repair (MTTR) is but a fraction of the allowable time and/or the Maintenance Man-Hours Per Flying Hour (MMH/FH) is lower than the maximum allowable, the program office would have to determine the value (cost vs. benefit) of pursuing that last 6 minutes between failures before deciding to ‘go after it’. By ‘value’ I mean if such metrics as the MTTR and MMH/FH are better than the predicted and required levels, the program will have to examine the impact of the increased material costs (if any) from that 6 minute 'shortfall' over the life of the program in balance against all the other factors.  
Since the GAO report fails to highlight the existence of poor MMH/FH and MTTR numbers, AND we know from the program announcements that flight test operations are ahead of current schedule for flights and test points, we can be almost certain that the internals of the performance data shine a better light on the program performance than the GAO is attempting to cast.
Of course even if all the data were known, this doesn’t mean a hypothetical POGO-like organization or sympathetic ‘news’ outlet wouldn’t, in their manifest ignorance and/or pursuit of a non-defense agenda, still bleat false claims of ‘cheating’ on the requirements. (Remember what I said earlier about institutionalized ignorance?).
Early in any program, there may be at any one time, one particular subsystem or component, or even false or induced failures that are standout ‘problems’ (Note: these days it is usually because systems do so well overall. Want to talk REAL maintenance burden? Pick something fielded before the 80s). In such instances the program may maintain and report two or more reliability number sets and plots showing trends for the overall system and the impacts of the offending parts or induced failure events on the overall performance as part of developing a corrective action. These contingencies very often need no more attention other than monitoring and are eventually cleared up through carrying out previously planned part number ‘rollovers’, completing the training of personnel, or updating technical data. The point again, is: mere snapshots of reliability performance without knowing trends and the ‘internals’ of the data are useless.  
The GAO comment above stating “JSF officials said that reliability rates are tracking below expectations primarily because identified fixes to correct deficiencies are not being implemented and tested in a timely manner” is “priceless”--for two reasons. First, given that early MTBCF data is tenuous at best, this may again highlight GAO (and possibly F-35 Program) naiveté on the subject. Reacting prematurely with very little data to implement fixes to things that may not be a problem is a recipe for wasting money. Second, if the ‘fixes’ haven’t been implemented ‘yet’ it is probably due to the F-35 Program Office priorities in having them implemented: planes fielded to-date are needed for other program requirements and this would prevent ‘instant’ fixes.
I seriously doubt the Program Office can’t get the contractor to do anything that it wants them to do given the budgets allocated and number of aircraft available. My experience tells me otherwise. If the GAO citation is correct, then shame on the Program Office for foisting the blame on the contractor.
Competent evaluation of program performance and sober observations resulting from such observations hardly drive web traffic, bring donors, or sell periodicals these days. (Just sayin') So while there are seeds above for quite a few questions that a curious ‘reformer’ or journalist (if either  even exist) might use these seeds to ask the GAO some pretty hard questions if they were interested in understanding and reporting what might be really going on within the F-35 program. 
Given the record of many of those so-called ‘reformers’, commercial websites and periodicals, we probably shouldn’t expect any sober observations. Given their demonstrated willful ignorance on the topic to-date, whether or not we could believe the answers reported is another question in itself.  
F-35A, USAF Photo
Personal Note: My apologies for not posting more lately, but my personal priorities place family needs and work ahead of play, and the need for attending to my family and work have been fairly high the last week or so, and I anticipate the situation to persist for at least a month.