Saturday, June 24, 2017

F-35 Was NOT Inferior to F-16 in a 2015 "Dogfight"

Why Any Inference that the F-35 2015 'Post-Stall Agility' Control Law (CLAW) Test As a 'Dogfight' is Bogus

This is a rework of something I posted on twice in 2015. I'm doing the rework a a form of blog 'housekeeping'. When I wrote about it in 2015, the focus was on the echo-chamber, click-bait media claiming or inferring the CLAW test was a 'Dogfight' test. When I look back at that post, I now feel I buried the lede twice. The important bits were not how media tends to be F.O.S. for all their shenanigans (that's hardly 'news'), but the reasons WHY it was not a 'Dogfight' test, and that it can be clearly shown it was NOT a 'dogfight' test are.

Nowadays that the 2015 'controversy' seems to be a perennial word-count filler: something for the lazy media to put in a piece to 'balance out' any positive information about the F-35 in any article or story that might appear to be otherwise 'favoring' the F-35. I want to be very specific in what I am claiming going forward.

Assertion:  The event in question was a post-stall agility test, testing for areas where it might be worthwhile to 'open up' the control laws (CLAWs) and was not a 'dogfight'.

The 2015 Testing in Question was Described in 2014

Supporting Evidence:
The JSFPO and Lockheed Martin at the time of this faux controversy asserted it was a CLAW test. The assertion was met with much snark and derision from the professional cynics and F-35 Haters, yet that is exactly what the test was about. and it was described in a published technical paper by an LM engineer who should certainly know WTF the test was going to be about at the time he wrote the paper.

From the 2014 AIAA paper "F-35A High Angle-of-Attack Testing"[1], by Mr. Steve Baer, (Lockheed Martin "Aeronautical Engineer, Flying Qualities" at Edwards AFB), and presented to the Atmospheric Flight Mechanics Conference held 16-20 June 2014, in Atlanta, Georgia we find that F-35 High AoA testing was designed to follow in the following progression:
 "The test objectives for high angle-of-attack testing are as follows: 1) Characterize the flyqualities [sic] at AoAs from 20° to the control law limit regime with operationally representative maneuvers. 2) Demonstrate the aircraft’s ability to recover from out of control flight and assess deep stall susceptibility 3) Evaluate the effectiveness and usefulness of the automatic pitch rocker (APR) 4) Evaluate departure resistance at both positive and negative AoA with center of gravity (CG) positions up to the aft limit and with maximum lateral asymmetry. 5) Assess the handling qualities of the aircraft in the High AoA flight." 
Let's observe here that from the paper itself we can tell it was written while Objective #4 testing was ongoing and published at about the time it concluded. This observation is supported by the paper's passage [emphasis/brackets mine]:

With intentional departure testing [Objective #4] wrapped up, the team will soon move into departure resistance [Still Objective #4] and plan to remove the SRC now that these systems have been verified. In this phase of testing, the jet will test the CLAW limiters with much higher energy and rates than previous testing, fleshing out and correcting areas that may be departure prone. Lastly, select operational maneuvers [Objective #5], such as a slow down turn and a Split-S, will be used to gather handling qualities data on high AoA maneuvers. With the completion of this phase, the F-35 will be released for initial operational capability in the high AoA region. 
Note: 'SRC' is a 'Spin Recovery Chute'. 

Clearly the testing was not yet at step #5 at the time of writing but to emphasize same, the author followed the above paragraph with [brackets/emphasis mine]:
While the flight test team will explore legacy high AoA maneuvers for handling qualities, it will be the Operational Test and Evaluation team that will truly develop high AoA maneuvers for the F-35. In the operational world, a pilot should rarely be taking the F-35 into the high angle-of-attack regime, but the ability to do so could make the difference between being the victor or the victim in air-to-air combat.... 
So with this paragraph, not only does the author expound on the exploring of "legacy high AoA maneuvers" that is to come, he specifically identifies Objective 5 test as having "Handling Qualities" objectives and explicitly states that the kind of testing that will "truly develop high AoA maneuvers for the F-35" to the testing Operational Testers will perform later and excluded from the Edwards AFB Developmental Test Team activities.

In a nutshell, just within these two paragraphs that Baer wrote in early/mid 2014 is precisely what the JPO/LM stated in their official response to claims that the 2015 event involved some kind of 'dogfight'. Therefore the "reasonable man" may logically and confidently conclude the LM/JSFPO response:

1. WAS NOT simply something that was contrived in response to stories built around leaked program documents but...
2. WAS accurately asserting the truth about what the testing purpose truly was.

Now here we are two years later...

By next year and the roll out of '3F' software/capabilities I doubt if you will be able to find an F-16 pilot who has flown the F-35 that would not pick the F-35 over the F-16.

[1] AIAA #2014-2057

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