Wednesday, July 01, 2015

David Axe is More Boring Than Ever (Bless His Heart)

And still practicing Punk Journalism 

Bumped! Axe Doubles Down

*******Update 2 at End of Original Post******* 

Gawd. Saw this at work today and am only posting a short comment because somebody (surer than sh*t) will read something into any non-comment on my part, considering how I've already provided input (17 March 2015) on this subject:
I will bet dollars to donuts that IF the program chooses to respond to such hooey, that we will discover the first two BFM "tests" were in the middle of January, the first two flights were on two consecutive days, the missions were flown by two different pilots, and both of them had nothing but glowing reviews about the jet's performance. If I find eventually a public source to validate this 'guess' I will be happy to also share who I 'guessed' were the pilots, which flight they flew, and which plane(s?) was/were flown. And perhaps even quote the pilots.
First, I'm certain that whatever the test pilot report being cited by Axe may bear some faint resemblance to Axe's representation of same. Axe's perversions of the facts, per his usual modus operandi come via his bizarro assertions-stated-as-fact  and their complete disconnect from any reality as to the purpose and goals of the first A2A scenarios that were flown.

What the objectives were came out shortly after I made my first comments. From Av Week online (2 Apr 15)and with important bits in bold/EMPHASIS:
The F-35 Joint Strike Fighter has been flown in air-to-air combat maneuvers against F-16s for the first time and, based on the results of these and earlier flight-envelope evaluations, test pilots say the aircraft can be cleared for greater agility as a growth option. 
Although the F-35 is designed primarily for attack rather than air combat, U.S. Air Force and Lockheed Martin test pilots say the availability of potential margin for additional maneuverability is a testament to the aircraft’s recently proven overall handling qualities and basic flying performance. “The door is open to provide a little more maneuverability,” says Lockheed Martin F-35 site lead test pilot David “Doc” Nelson..... 
..... “When we did the first dogfight in January, they said, ‘you have no limits,’” says Nelson. “It was loads monitoring, so they could tell if we ever broke something. It was a confidence builder for the rest of the fleet because there is no real difference structurally between AF-2 and the rest of the airplanes.” AF-2 was the first F-35 to be flown to 9g+ and -3g, and to roll at design-load factor. The aircraft, which was also the first Joint Strike Fighter to be intentionally flown in significant airframe buffet at all angles of attack, was calibrated for inflight loads measurements prior to ferrying to Edwards in 2010.

The operational maneuver tests were conducted to see “how it would look like against an F-16 in the airspace,” says Col. Rod “Trash” Cregier, F-35 program director. “It was an EARLY look at any control laws that may need to be tweaked to enable it to fly better in future. You can definitely tweak it—that’s the option.”
The expectation of the tests was to see how the airplane behaved when slung about in a A2A engagement using the current control laws within the current G-limit design, and they found they can open them up the laws for more. Let's ignore the fact we don't know AF-2's empty weight and that the program was delivering the SDD baseline weight aircraft about the time the engagement occurred.

Let's pretend it doesn't matter that we don't know the weight of the F-16 or the altitudes and speeds the engagements occurred either. Let's also ignore the fact that ALL jets need to have many such engagements before the aircrew really know how to best exploit their advantages. Even without all that, Axe is STILL  just laying down a nice pile of fertilizer for the rest of the Punk Journalists and Faux Reformers to spread and nurture yet another disinformation cascade.

Sit back and watch the fun. Any bets on who cites this weak-a** hit-piece first?

Update: I see is on the case.

Update 2(1 July 15)

Wow. A lot can happen in a day, and I can't even go into the kind of detail I'd love to go into for some of it. (I'll have to stay 'hypothetical' about the now-out-in-the-open Test Report, given the caveats plastered at the top and bottom of every page of the report.)

First. A former fighter driver with experience in both the F-16 and F-18 chimed in with some thoughts that fit pretty much hand-in-glove with what I've stated so far in his post: Why The “F-35 v F-16″ Article Is Garbage.
Second. The global disinformation cascade Axe set off (and I predicted) was gathering a lot steam until the former fighter driver posted his thoughts.

Third. The F-35 program office and LM then added some information that was also consistent with my posts on the topic. (I'm not claiming any special insight here, just an experienced one that appears to be consistent with other experienced viewpoints.)

Fourth. Axe appears to have felt enough sting in the criticism he's received so far to now have gone a step further and posted a lightly-sanitized copy of the report. If he cared a whit versus just playing a gadfly, I would love to explain to him the cognitive dissonance between what the report says and means in contrast to what he asserts it means. I suspect the JPO or LM will have to go through the process of releasing some of the leaked information for export just so they can spell it out for the low-information crowd.

Until they do, I won't be linking to or addressing anything directly mentioned in the report because doing so could constitute an 'export'. I like my current digs and income status and look terrible in orange or broad stripes, so NO.
Axe better hope he's as insignificant a pissant as I think he is, because the caveats on those pages obviously leave him and his employer open to criminal prosecution and civil lawsuits. It would take a lot of political capital to be spent by the anti-defense crowd to keep Axe and Co. out of the grinder if Uncle Sugar or Lockmart decide to call them out on this. BTW: May whoever leaked the report be far less connected and may the scum twist in wind over this leak.

Given I won't be discussing the contents of the report, I WILL say that Axe's doubling-down on this stupidity gives me some inkling as to how Forest Rangers must feel when some life-long urbanite visits the park and keeps pointing at some small woodland creature insisting it is a 'bear' no matter how many times the Ranger points out the differences. I can't believe he offered the report as if it supported his position. Is he THAT clueless, or is he 'whistling past the graveyard' hoping nobody will call him out further on his peddling crap?

Maybe he wouldn't have made this mistake of misreading things into the report that aren't there, if he read more widely.



Seal Of Lion said...

You know they could have saved a lot of trouble and called it the A-35 instead of F-35. Its a modern version of the A-7 bomb truck.

SMSgt Mac said...

that wouldn't have stopped the usual suspects. Anyway, they're all about to move on and rile the sheeple over yet something else they don't know anything about. Can hardly wait ;-)

SMSgt Mac said...

And unlike previous bomb trucks it has far more ability to smite the evil and the unclean. I have a friend who is a retired Naval Aviator and career attack pilot. His name is on a plaque at the Navy Aviation Museum listing the elite few with more than 1000 Cats and Traps called the 'grand list'. His total is VERY close to the top. He's commanded a CAG and a Navy Base, he was an advocate for the F-18E/F and was 'Tailhooker of the Year' at one time. He's the only Navy pilot to have flown every A-7 variant, and he flew them in combat. He loved the A-7 like Gums McAdoo does over at, but he's excited about the F-35C. He told me at dinner one time the only problem with the A-7 was "You got one good turn....and that's all you're going to be doing for a while."

S O said...

Let's face it:
A program for a strike fighter that goes very well, on time and on budget would look VERY different and produce VERY different press reports.

There are committed critics because the program provides much area for attack.

SMSgt Mac said...

I'll give you one shot at pointing to an example of a multi-role fighter development program producing even one variant that ever went 'well' (abstract concept, but what the heck), on time or on budget. Then quit pretending there ever could be such a thing.

99% of the critics still haven't a clue, and wouldn't be FOR the plane even if they did. We have clowns who earn their living causing sh*tstorms over trivialities then claim something to be 'controversial' and spin up the ignorant who then complain on the interwebs. Good thing their opinions don't matter.

Dimitris said...

"I'll give you one shot at pointing to an example of a multi-role fighter development program producing even one variant that ever went 'well' (abstract concept, but what the heck), on time or on budget."

Gripen comes to mind. The early F-16 variants too, arguably. Both the original F-18 and SH programs proceeded without major issues IIRC (the SH's unimpressive aero performance notwithstanding).

S O said...

Gripen is a powerful example indeed though the development was not very short, and puts military aircraft development in all of NATO to shame.

More importantly, the F-35 development costs, production costs, length of delays, manners of LM (in regard to lobbying, producing propaganda itself etc.) add a lot to the opposition. Other programs don't need to be perfect for the F-35 program to be considered poor value.

Part of the problem is that F-35s are being delivered at high costs with very much limited capability. Planes with such limitations used to be considered as prototypes, not as "in service". The military pays the full (and elevated) price for them, yet gets less military utility out of them than from legacy types.
This story about flight controls not having unlocked full agility yet despite low rate production for eight years is embarrassing.

The program gets the cirtics it deserves.

SMSgt Mac said...

Tim A:
Here's where I come down on this. I'm a big fan of the F-35 as a strike fighter. The original plan was to field the F-22 in large numbers for the air dominance mission and the F-35 as a multirole strike fighter to cover air-to-ground and everything else. Now we, unwisely in my opinion, severely truncated our F-22 buy, so now people are expecting the F-35 to step into the air dominance role. So as I mentioned, I'm a big fan of the F-35. But that doesn't mean that suddenly I see it as a mini F-22 capable of dogfighting in high threat scenarios.
SMSgt Mac:
If someone expects the F-35 to step into the air-dominance role on a one-for-one basis for the F-22 they are sadly mistaken. I know of NO national defense authorities (excluding possibly politicos) who could be described this way. Part of the problem is there is no shortage of people that are external to the decision-making process who ARE so sadly mistaken.
The F-35 can do the F-22’s ‘jobs’ just as it can do the A-10’s ‘jobs’. It will just do it differently, and perhaps in ways that defy direct comparison. In the eyes of ‘some’, including those ‘some’ in the legacy pilot communities that may translate into their heads as ‘not as well’, but I have no doubt history will vindicate the F-35 design and program on this point. The DoD and Industry may do a terrible job of explaining how macro-scale defense planning gets translated into strategy, requirements and then acquisition and execution to outsiders, but then again, I’ve not seen a valid reason WHY they should.
This latest brouhaha is a case in point. I have no doubt the ‘apparent’ outcry from Axe’s little disinformation cascade is fake on the part of many, and punk journalists don’t give a cr*p as long as they keep their masters happy. But I’m also certain that most non-professionals have been truly mislead by the free and sloppy application of the terms ‘maneuverability’ and ‘dogfighting’ to the flights that occurred in the first place--which does not really help, does it?
As the released information does not provide sufficient information to even judge AF-2’s overall performance, much less a baseline-weight and Mission Systems equipped F-35A with a Block 3F control laws, what kind of idiot would extrapolate what is in hand to mean plane X is 'better!' than Plane Y?
To be continued...

SMSgt Mac said...

Another multirole strike aircraft is the F/A-18E/F Super Hornet. And based on the thrust-to-weight ratio's, wing loading, and strike-optimized aerodynamic characteristics, I have always thought the best comparison for the F-35 was not the F-16 but the F/A-18. Rather than the F-16 which, granted they were shooting for originally, did not seem to hit.
SMSgt Mac:
From the now semi-famous ACSC paper written by then-LtCdr Bowman (and which I’ve cited many times), it is well known that initial objectives for the JSF Corner-speed was desired to be somewhere between “F-18 Like” and F-16 Like”. Any other description of F-35 capability objectives in relation to the other two fighters are conversational generalities. We DO have on the other hand, fighter pilots who’ve flown all three types who call their performance very similar, and some claiming the F-35 is ‘better’ in the aggregate. So if there is any ‘miss’ in this respect, it is in your own mind.
TimA said:
Now, you've posted article after article attenpting to demonstrate that, despite all appearances to the contrary, the F-35 has parity with the F-16 in air-to-air maneuvering performance. But here we have three articles that directly contradict this assessment. We have the report from the test pilot. And we also have the program office mentioning only that there is room for "slight" improvements to maneuverability by tweaking the control laws. Then they focus on other advantages (which I don't deny) the F-35 posses which would be relevant and were not tested. Then we have the third article providing a pilot's account of dogfighting an F/A-18 against an F-16 and saying, yep, that sounds pretty identical to what the F-35 went through.
Across the board it should be obvious that the F-35 was unable to achieve its objective for meeting "F-16 like" aerodynamic performance. But it does seem to match the F/A-18. Which isn't terrible for a strike fighter. But certainly not, as far as aerodynamics go, ideal for an interceptor or air dominance fighter. So let's be clear on what this aircraft is and isn't. And let's be ready to reconstitute the F-22 production line if of when our nation's security demands it.

SMSgt Mac Says:
First, the JPO statement made no mention of how much control laws can be ‘tweaked’ and to what benefit, "Slight" or otherwise. Another source may have said something similar, but they have no idea what the effects of doing anything small or large will actually be until they do the engineering, simulation, and flight tests. Given the focus in the testing was controlability at the edge of flight: post-stall controlability, all you can get out any changes would probably be ‘little’ because there is ‘little’ anyone can do in that region anyway. (Do you even know what post-stall means?) The JPO statement did make another statement:
There have been numerous occasions where a four-ship of F-35s has engaged a four-ship of F-16s in simulated combat scenarios and the F-35s won each of those encounters because of its sensors, weapons, and stealth technology.
Runs kind of ‘contrary’ to your imagination, doesn’t it?
Still more coming...

SMSgt Mac said...

Still SMSgt Mac:
I have posted “article after article” that has shown the relative performance of the F-35 to variants of the F-16 is highly dependent upon relative loadouts and weights. The funniest thing is, even IF it were ‘true’ that the leaked report ‘proved’ that particular F-16 was a ‘better dogfighter’ than AF-2 in the scenarios flown (and it doesn’t) it would not be surprising in the least NOR would it in any way be inconsistent with what I’ve posted to date. Why? Because from what little we know of the possible range of F-16 weights and drag index during the test, that particular configuration looks like it sits right where I’ve already shown the F-16 to have transonic acceleration that somewhere between ‘slightly advantageous’ and ‘superior’ to the F-35 KPP configuration, depending upon the amount of fuel on board. (Table: Shocking, isn’t it?
Further, IF it WERE true (and it still IS NOT TRUE), then it would also be entirely consistent with my ‘sustained turn’ F-35A vs F-16A posts. Remember the series (presuming you bothered to read them— it’s looking ‘iffy’ to say the least) conclusion? I explicitly stated:

“Depending on amount of fuel carried by each aircraft, the F-35A is capable of sustained turn performance on a par with the F-16A. Assuming the F-16A is still the ‘best’ in a sustained turn that there’s ever been at 15K feet and M.8, then that means the F-35A is capable of holding its own against all comers in a sustained turn when flown properly in competent hands.”

SO while I use knowledge and experience to provide qualified statements that are laid out within a framework of data and analysis using acknowledged ground rules and assumptions and recognized limitations, YOU still just keep making unsupported and over-generalized assertions that you can’t back up with hard facts. Your ignorance and inexperience allows you to make hasty-generalizations, and apparently your over-developed sense of self-worth compels you to share with others.
Don’t pretend to know what the test report ‘means’. Without the education, training and flight-test experience, it’s not surprising most observers generally can’t Grok what they see out of proper context. experts may debate nuances. But any non-expert outsider that would attach a meaning to what they read that is different from the meaning that those who know better (me, LM, JPO, fill-in-the-blank), and then insist their understanding is better than the experts are laughable and easily dismissed. You appear to be a prime example of the archetype.
I took the time to fully address your silly lashing out and incorporate your comment into mine because yours is going to disappear. All your future comments will disappear, and I’ll whip up a copy-paste tombstone for them to put in any thread with info WHY they disappear-- pointing to past threads like this one so you can’t play the 'victim'.
Yes, I've got better things to spend my time doing than explaining why that marmot you're pointing at isn't a bear.

SMSgt Mac said...

Hi Dimitris and S.O.,
I accept the challenge, but I have to tell you it isn't a very hard one. I already have the data in hand and it's only a matter of rounding up the citations. Both the JAS 39 Gripen and the F-16 had more than their share of difficulties. The Gripen in particular seems to have had a lot of problems swept down the memory hole now that its development is in the past. As to the F-16, the 'early' variants played the equivalent role of F-35 Block .5, 1, and 2--interim steps on the way to the baseline objectives.

S O said...

The problems of the Gripen development were solved by a country with the population of Brooklyn and didn't prevent the type from becoming competitive on the international arms market with a production run of only about 250 including exports.
Its first production batch wasn't purchased at more than twice the envisaged price. The whole production run for the Swedish Air Force was 2.5 years, which is a third of the now expected duration of F-35 LRIP.

Gripen problems were on an altogether different scale, not comparable to the F-35.

Try to be honest: Imagine it's the 1990's. Boeing and LM proposals for JSF are considered. Both propose LRIP of 200+ faulty aircraft during 2007-2017, at prices on average well above USD 100 million.
Would you have considered this a ridiculously horrible offer?

I suppose only those whose income depends on not considering such a program a disaster would not have thought so. Those who don't today have drank the Kool-aid during two decades of corporate, Hollywood and military propaganda.
The expectations were crashed to nil by collective and pervasive program management incompetence (and corruption) of the MICC.

Marauder said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Marauder said...

And Gripen was throughly trounced, in all categories, by the *legacy* Hornet in the Swiss evaluations.
So badly trounced in fact that it literally sent Saab back to the drawing board.

Gripen is a hangar queen whose availability rates are a national scandal in Sweden. Virtually every deal Gripen has won has been wreathed in scandal and corruption; scandal cost Gripen NG a win in Switzerland.

And the wheels are about to come off figuratively on the Brazilian deal as they have literally on a few Hungarian Gripens recently.

"LRIP of 200+ faulty aircraft"

No more or less faulty that the F-15A, F-16A, Super Hornet Block I and other ridiculously horrible offers.

SMSgt Mac said...

As background and just an FYI, I happen to think highly of the Gripen effort and the end product overall. It was an extremely ambitious program, and it produced an admirable point-defense fighter that properly supported and competently flown can hold its own against any 4th Gen aircraft. It was no more or less immune to 'bad news' than other fighter projects. My point is that this work is hard, fraught with risks and unknowns, and NO project of this kind of complexity, required advanced technology, and cost involved can ever be brought off without a lot of snags and setbacks. Invariably, most of the cost and schedule problems come about via poor program or budget choices made, often external to the program, in dealing with some perceived event or difficulty. The bigger and more complex, the more need for a long-term national commitment and the more political a project becomes--and that adds even more likelihood there will be greater delays and overruns. RAND, among others has got decades of studies under their belt that have repeatedly made this very point.

S O said...

Marauder, Gripen readiness rates are understood to depend on budget and maintainer training primarily. Even Sweden didn't fund its jets properly (which is no surprise, since they have too many).

Commisar12 said...

"And Gripen was throughly trounced, in all categories, by the *legacy* Hornet in the Swiss evaluations.
So badly trounced in fact that it literally sent Saab back to the drawing board.

Gripen is a hangar queen whose availability rates are a national scandal in Sweden. Virtually every deal Gripen has won has been wreathed in scandal and corruption; scandal cost Gripen NG a win in Switzerland.

And the wheels are about to come off figuratively on the Brazilian deal as they have literally on a few Hungarian Gripens recently. "

Well said. The Gripen is a 8/10 scale Swedish F-16 whole biggest export success to date, South Africa, was due to bribery.

The Brazilian deal may go under to lack of funds from Brazil, and even if it does, I doubt Brazil will be able to afford more than 72 Gripens total.

Add to the fact that Sweden won't sell to a lot of nations whose domestic policy they don't like and the Gripen becomes and also ran.

Unknown said...

What do you make out of this?

SMSgt Mac said...

Hi Joseph
RE: The War is Boring digital reprint of the RAS blogpost here:

I think it was a good exercise if only to illustrate that Axe's claims about what the test report and test meant was not only not necessarily true (which it most necessarily IS false and misleading) but that by example described what the real dominant factors in air combat are these days.

Actual results from doing the kind of modeling the RAS guy did on even 'high-power' amateur gaming software can be of varying utility. Sometimes the 'answer' is so obvious that you don't need all the factors of a vetted mil-spec model -- but sometimes you do. No matter what model you use, it still all comes down to whether or not your ground rules and assumptions that shape the inputs and interactions are appropriate to be sure they are 'useful'. To paraphrase mathematician George Box: All models are wrong, some are useful.