Wednesday, February 05, 2014

Moronic Convergence at Defense Aerospace

Mmmmm. BACON! I usually like to fry mine so it is somewhat less crispy, but tonight? ‘Carbonized’ is just fine. 

AKA 'Blogiversary Over'

Don Bacon & DeBriganti. What could go wrong?
Defense Aerospace has a ‘guest commenter’ who appears to have more ambition than to just keep saying stupid things in the comment threads at other people’s websites. He now wants to be ‘featured’ saying stupid things.

You don’t have to go there to read it.

I fisk it here, so you don’t have to take a shower afterwards.

The F-35 O&S Cost Coverup

(Source:; published Feb. 04, 2014)

By guest contributor Don Bacon

The F-35 selected acquisition report (SAR) reported last Spring that there had been no progress in reducing its staggering $1 trillion, 50-year life-cycle cost. Then in June 2013 it was reported that "the company and the U.S. military are taking aim at a more vexing problem: the cost of flying and maintaining the new warplane." Not only was the total cost stratospheric but the cost per flying hour was much higher than the legacy fleet at $31,922.

What could be done to cut high operations and sustainment (O&S) costs? International customers were being scared away by high production costs, and particularly by high operating cost.

The F-35 program office had the answer. Simply announce that the costs are lower! Why not? The result:

Pentagon Cuts F-35 Operating Estimate Below $1 Trillion

WASHINGTON (Reuters), Aug 21, 2013 - "The U.S. government has slashed its estimate for the long-term operating costs of Lockheed Martin Corp F-35 fighter jets by more than 20 percent to under $1 trillion, according to a senior defense official, a move that could boost international support for the program." 

That arbitrary announcement out of the F-35 program office that operating cost had dropped from $1.1 trillion to $857 million didn't fly very high. (See related story—Ed). On September 6 the Pentagon acquisition chief Frank Kendall announced that there would be a review of F-35 operating costs. Kendall indicated that the program office's estimate might have been overly optimistic. 

In fact the GAO has reported that F-35 operating and support costs (O&S) are currently projected to be 60 percent higher than those of the existing aircraft it will replace. 

“We’re … looking at that number,” Kendall said. “The official number is still the one we put up in the SAR [selected acquisition report]. We’re going to do a review of F-35 this fall. We’ll get another estimate out of CAPE [Cost Assessment and Program Evaluation] for that and we’ll probably make some adjustments.

On October 6, 2013 Kyra Hawn, spokeswoman for the Pentagon’s F-35 program office, said a high-level Defense Acquisition Board meeting was expected to proceed on Monday despite the partial government shutdown. The meeting has already been postponed several times. 

Well that CAPE meeting came and went, with no news on F-35 operating cost. The cost data must have been bad and so it had to be covered up, just like other cost data (production cost, etc.) on the F-35. We did get some PR fluff out of the meeting, though. “While risks remain, progress on the F-35 program at this point has been adequate to support a decision to budget for increased rates,” Frank Kendall, under-secretary for acquisition, said in a decision memo.

If it was good cost news supporting an increase in production rates, then why didn't Kendall release the data? Apparently the opposite was true, the data was bad. And now we have the data, in the FY2013 F-35 test report, and it isn't pretty.

Got all that?

Bacon cherry picks old news reports and not only ponders why there’s been no operating cost updates, but asserts it must be bad for the JSF because Kendall would have released it if it were ‘good’. I could just say “proof please”, but I got a theory too—only I’ll tell you it is just a theory and not assert it as ‘fact’. As we have noted all along (one, two, three) the actual costs have consistently come close enough to LM’s ‘should cost’ curves to call LMs estimates 'accurate'. The CAPE stuff? Not so much. My theory assumes the CAPE-ers will try to cover their collective estimating a**es by bringing down their estimates slow enough that (they hope) people won’t notice how bad they were to start with. Note I do not blame the analysts themselves, just their political management that tells them what and how to compute.

As to the ‘massive’ O&S costs (Cue Austin Powers clip) ONE TRILLION DOLLARS!? Who the H*LL cares about a GUESS covering FIFTY years of future operations? Answer: No one. At least no one in their right mind that is.

Pssst, Don: Calculate the B-52s operating costs over the first 50 years, go back in time to the start of the program and tell them what it will cost in 2010 dollars. Think that would stop them? Answer: No. They, unlike you and the legions of mouth-breathers, actually understood the 'time value' of money.      

Next, Don Bacon takes us into a world where he proves he hasn’t a freaking clue: R&M.

FY13 DOT&E Report

-- Mean Flight Hours Between Critical Failure (MFHBCF)

-- Mean Corrective Maintenance Time for Critical Failure (MCMTCF)
variant--threshold/observed/FY12 Report

So you fly the F-35A for 4.5 hours, get a critical failure, and then it takes 12.1 hours to fix it, or nearly three hours longer than it took last year. (That's hours, not manhours; Eglin AFB has seventeen mechanics per F-35.)

Similarly with the F-35B -- fly it for 3 hours, critical failure, then corrective maintenance takes 15.5 hours (7.5 hours more than last year).

The F-35C will fly for only 2.7 hours before 9.6 hours for corrective maintenance time. (Only one engine, too, out over the deep blue water.)
As I noted over at, “Statistical Crimes Against Humanity” were about the only thing of note in the latest DOT&E report.

Bacon evidently even missed the part of the DOT&E Report that stated: “the program has fielded too few F-35C aircraft to assess reliability trends”. 
That’s OK though, because the entire program has flown too few hours, especially considering training activity and the changing and expanding operational footprint, to assess anything meaningful. The fact that reality didn’t stop some calculator in DOT&E from applying their inconsequential knowledge simply invites more abuse of math and logic. I’m surprised Bacon didn’t also glom on to that B.S. software reset ‘analysis’ inside. Maybe that much idiocy was obvious even to Bacon. 

 My 2012 post on the subject criticizing the GAO’s similar violations holds up rather well when applied to DOT&E. The DOT&E report IS helpful in one way in that it provides the bounds for measuring the R&M of the airplane. Each variant has a cumulative flight hour measuring point and the fleet cumulative flight hour measuring point. People seem to have a better time of it visualizing just how little the program is into the data collecting if you graph it for them, so the following is offered for your enjoyment:
I started the growth slope at zero, but that isn’t really important, as the initial starting point is usually an educated guess or completely capricious. Raise the start point to 5-10 Hrs MTBCF if you like: it is still a long way from where the ‘grade’ counts, and not much of a slope to climb from where the program is now.
What is most important is to show how far away the current flight hour total is away from the cumulative experience required to be even considered as showing any kind of ‘trend’, much less a ‘grade’.  The chart above shows how far the total fleet hours have to go. Here's how far the variant measure has to go:

These charts are simplified and use a linear scale, so remember Log-log scales as are the norm, as I've thoroughly described before (same link as previous). Also note the apparent bobbling in the ‘objective’ lines comes from rounding and my selecting precise flight hour data points for the current flight hours in the DOT&E report among the other, evenly spaced, ones.

Give us a ring when the planes get to about the 25K-30K Flight Hour per variant and 100K Fleet Flight Hour mark. Then we can talk trends and problems areas.

Same thing goes for the mean-time-to-repair (MTTR) figures. And bring average crew size and MMH/FH with you so it can be discussed intelligently next time.


So Bacon then decides he wants to beat on fictional operating costs some more. Let’s keep tagging along shall we?

If anybody thinks the acquisition cost is high, and it is, it will be totally eclipsed by the operating cost. An independent audit by KPMG has estimated the cost of buying and operating the F-35 warplanes at $600-million per jet, two-thirds of that operating cost. 

Captain Overstreet of the F-35 program office warned in November that while development costs are high for the F-35, they will be “dwarfed” by the sustainability costs. Back in May 2011 Defense Undersecretary for Acquisition Ashton Carter described current projected costs for the F-35 as “unacceptable.”
Ahem, Minor point. It is a rule of thumb that 2/3 of total life cycle costs are in the operating and support of the systems. Nothing shocking there.

 It is an accepted premise and I think it was taught in just about every DAU course I ever completed. Any bets Bacon wants to use it for nefarious purposes?

Awww, you guessed right. He does:

All of this reality runs against what the early F-35 promises were.
-- From the 1997 doc -- "The Affordable Solution - JSF": Tactical Aircraft Affordability Objective 1997: R&D 6%, Production 54%, total dev & prod 60%, O&S 40%.

-- The actual 2014 test data is way different:
dev & prod -- $397B = 26%, O&S -- $1,100B = 74%, total -- $1,497 

So the F-35 has gone from an initial-operating cost ratio of 60-40 to 26-74, and that's with much higher production costs. Nobody can afford that, especially foreign customers -- which is why it's been covered up.
Hate to harsh your mellow there Don (OK, I really don’t mind it a bit) but you are shoveling some mighty fine hoo-haw there. The only real question is:
Are you doing it 'intentionally' or 'stupidly'?

Answer?...It's 'Stupidly'

That first set of numbers comes from a ‘document’ that is a POWERPOINT presentation. It looks very much like those numbers are talking about either the planned cost reduction percentage over legacy aircraft OR where the percentage of cost reduction opportunities resided at the time. I use the past tense, because that slide was from before either of the X-planes were built or flew, and before the Operational Requirements Document was defined and published. See Slides 3, 4, and 5 from the ‘1997 document referenced:
See anything in there about those numbers standing for the proportion of total cost? Me neither. Next slide?
Wow. The two X-planes aren't even built yet, and the requirements document isn't even firmed up to determine how much capability for what cost will be pursued.
More talking about affordability opportunities to balance before deciding what to pursue. the whole briefing is this way.

I’d love to find the original with ‘notes pages’ view for clarification just to smack the stupidity down even more for my visitors, but I guess I will have to (for now) settle for just salting the wound by pointing out the 1997 ‘document’ wasn’t an authoritative source to begin with. With only a cursory search, I’ve found three copies on the web of various versions and unknown provenance, none on an official government website. So Bacon bases his argument on a 17-year old PowerPoint slide with a unexplained message and calls it a 'conspiracy'?  

Can’t you just feel the Dezinformatsia in Bacon’s ramblings now oozing out into the interwebs and being passed around by the illiterate and the innumerate?     

So who is this 'Don Bacon' writing this drivel for the Euro-Shill?
About the author: 
Don Bacon is a retired army officer with acquisition experience, who has seen how programs go wrong in spite of the evidence, largely because of the military 'can-do' attitude which leads to harmful, ineffective results. Now he is a private citizen who sees the necessity of challenging baseless claims in order to get to the truth, and so the truth will prevail.
That’s rather verbose for “completely clueless out-of-the-loop retiree with no knowledge relevant to the subject which he so ardently, yet so flaccidly opines about” Isn’t it? No wonder the children don’t respect their elders anymore.

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