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View Diary: Billion Dollar F-35 Cracks in Tests (107 comments)

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  •  Not big on warplanes, (9+ / 0-)

    not at all, but why is everyone surprised when new aircraft, especially complicated ones, develop problems in their initial phases. Everything from the V-22 to the Dreamliner has had massive problems, though eventually they were overcome.
    I would be perfectly happy to see almost every large-scale defence contract terminated; we aren't proposing to have the kind of war where an F-35 is likely to be needed, as patbahn points out. However, the lack of tolerance for failure through risk taking is part of the culture in almost any field of endeavour, though aircraft design seems to be particularly susceptible.

    "The 'Middle' is a crowded place - that is where the effective power is - the extreme right and left might annoy governments, but the middle terrifies them." Johnny Linehan

    by northsylvania on Fri Feb 14, 2014 at 01:21:26 AM PST

    •  The problem with this one (29+ / 0-)

      Is that every service wants their own version of the "Everycar" in this plane.  Instead of developing for a single purpose they've tried to make this plane capable of handling so many missions that it unlikely to be good at anything.

      And, the niche it's supposed to fill is not really the most important national security issue anymore.

      •  Just like the F-111... (12+ / 0-)

        and it will turn out the same way.

        "Time flies like an arrow. Fruit flies like a banana." --Townes Van Zandt

        by Bisbonian on Fri Feb 14, 2014 at 04:48:22 AM PST

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      •  And the real problem is they tried that once (24+ / 0-)

        50 years back with the TFX (later known as the F-111) & it didn't work then either. (IIRC The original plan for the TFX was for it to be an all-service strike fighter, but as the development program galumphed along it was determined that in order to strengthen the structure enough to allow repeated takeoffs & landings on aircraft carriers the plane would be too heavy to get off the deck & not very capable once it did.) Eventually the F-111 made a decent career in the USAF as light bomber (e.g., Libya) and EW platform, but it never came close to living up to the initial hype.

        As a wise man once said, "Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it." (And as a wise guy once addled ;), "fool me once, shame on - shame on you. Fool me - you can't get fooled again.")

        The greatest trick the GOP ever played was convincing the devil they had a soul to sell.

        by Uncle Cosmo on Fri Feb 14, 2014 at 04:54:13 AM PST

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      •  Not just the F-111. This is the reason that (18+ / 0-)

        Germany's ME-262 didn't get off the ground until the end of the war.

        If Hitler hadn't demanded multiple versions just like they're doing with the F-35, the Germans would have had squadrons of these monsters as their primary air-superiority fighter, possibly as early as 1942.

        The 262 was developed BEFORE the American P-38, which was similar in that the P-38 was ALSO a cutting edge twin-engine heavy fighter.

        But because of that Everyplane problem where they wanted the 262 to do way too much?

        The Germans built 1,430 ME-262s, and we built 10,037 P-38s.

        The 262 had virtually no impact on the war, while the Germans named our p-38 "Gabelschwanz-Teufels:" Twin tailed devils. The Japanese somewhat mystically referred to the P-38 as Two Planes, One Pilot. It could outrun anything it could outmaneuver, and it could outgun just about every other plane in the air. Also, all of its guns were in the nose.

        So instead of shooting at an enemy plane from your wings at an angle:

         / / /     \ \ \

        It was shooting straight ahead from the nose:


        So a pilot who was less of a marksman could shout down more enemy fighters from farther away. The same design was used in the 262. You didn't have to think about when your shots coming in from diagonals from both directions would intersect, because your bullets just went straight.

        The only successful multirole fighters in history are fighters which do not require any rebuilding or redesign based on their multirole capabilities.

        That is, you can take this one fighter, and leave the guts alone, and as long as you put different weapons on the outside of it, it can do different jobs.

        The P-51, the P-38, the A-20 Havoc, the British Mosquito, and today, the F/A-18 Hornet. The old AV-8B Harriers were pretty good at their jobs as well.

        But one thing to note: A P-51 on the attack would never do the Job a P-47 could. Just like an F/A-18 cannot do close air support as well as the A-10 Thunderbolt II (Named after the P-47 Thunderbolt 1.)

        But here's the problem. The multi-role capabilities of this fighter require designing three completely different fighters that just look somewhat similar to each other.

        And the really stupid thing about this aircraft is that by the time it gets off the ground, it will be obsolete.

        Just like the old ME-262. It arrived too late to do much of what it was designed to do.

        An Fhirinn an aghaidh an t'Saoghail. (The truth against the world.) Is treasa tuath na tighearna. (The common people are mightier than the lords.)

        by OllieGarkey on Fri Feb 14, 2014 at 07:15:39 AM PST

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        •  Well, actually, if you want to take this a little (11+ / 0-)

          ....further, the Luftwaffe could have had THIS...if the politics could have been sorted (and some engine probles) in late 1942. Yes, with 500+ mph speed and 3 x 20mm MG151 cannon, squadrons of these fighters would have torn great holes in the early B-17 bomber streams. It might well have changed the course of the air war!

          'Per Ardua Ad Astra'

          by shortfinals on Fri Feb 14, 2014 at 07:31:59 AM PST

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        •  I always assumed wing-mounted guns.... (2+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          ichibon, RiveroftheWest

          shot straight ahead, but turns out you're right.  Learn something every day.

          I don't know what's been trickling down, but it hasn't been pleasant---N. Pelosi

          by Russycle on Fri Feb 14, 2014 at 08:56:02 AM PST

          [ Parent ]

        •  Bit of historical inaccuracy there (3+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          Nautical Knots, Ice Blue, kurt

          The "Hitler demanded multiple versions and delayed it too much" regarding the Me-262 is a bit of a myth. Hitler didn't ask for a ground attack version until the middle of 1943. It was July 1942 before the first prototype without a backup prop-engine made it's first flight, so there is no way "squadrons" would have been available in 1942. That's just simply incorrect.

          He did this in 1943 because it took until 1943 that they made the engines almost reliable enough for operational deployment so you could start thinking about using the plane instead of it still being a prototype. And I say "almost" because the plane never did have really reliable engines. While the airframe design was finalized in 1942, the engines (first the BMW 003, then the Jumo 004) experienced significant delays because of a shortage of strategic metals needed to make the alloys that could handle the high temperatures of a jet engine. The Jumo 004 engine itself, which was finally becoming available in sufficient numbers to field aircraft in 1944, had an expected service life of 50 hours, but most only got to 12 before they failed.

          So in short, the 262 was deployed in service in 1944 not because Hitler delayed it, but because it was only then that there were sufficient quasi-reliable engines available to actually fly the thing operationally. Albert Speer claimed Hitler's decision resulted in a delay, but after the war Speer had a habit of claiming Hitler was responsible for every bad decision, and this is one case where there's no evidence that things would have turned out any differently.

          •  Another inaccuracy (2+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            Nautical Knots, Ice Blue

            The P-38 was developed before the ME-262.

            The P-38 was designed to a 1937 specification and first flew in 1939, about the same time Messerschmitt started drawing up plans for the 262.

            In the beginning, the universe was created. This has made a lot of people very angry, and is generally considered to have been a bad move. -- Douglas Adams, The Hitch Hiker's Guide to the Galaxy

            by boriscleto on Fri Feb 14, 2014 at 09:32:13 AM PST

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        •  Um, by the time the Germans built enough (0+ / 0-)

          ME-262s to matter Germany was out of fuel and damn near out of experienced pilots. They were either dead or in POW camps. In the final days of the war the Allies were shooting down 262s and finding 14 year old pilots with less than 20 hours logged.

          OTOH when one of our fighter pilots hit, IIRC, 600 hours in combat he was automatically sent home. No exceptions. (A friend of mine's uncle found a way around that one. He commanded a squadron of P-51s. He was also a bird colonel at 28.)

          Also the Mustang was not important because of how "it" could perform against whatever else in a dogfight. It was important because of its range. (It was also easy to maintain.) Long range was desirable because our bomber crews, even of B-17s, weren't fond of being used for target practice by crack Luftwaffe fighter jocks. As for dogfights, their outcome almost always depends on the skill of the pilots not what they're flying.

          Any jackass can kick down a barn, but it takes a good carpenter to build one.--Sam Rayburn

          by Ice Blue on Fri Feb 14, 2014 at 11:43:43 AM PST

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      •  The Harrier (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:

        Is able to do the basics this plane was intended to do. So its not impossible or leading to a bad plane. Of course when you start asking for them to be very low radar profile and carrying big loads things get trickier

        •  The Harrier in most ways is better (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          Nautical Knots

          The Harrier can take off vertically, F-35 cannot. The Harrier carries considerably more weaponry. The only thing the F-35 has is moderate stealthiness, and how necessary that is is questionable.

          The Air Force needs to can this thing, buy more F-16s and F-15s, keep the A-10. The Navy needs to can this thing. The Marines just bought the entire retired Harrier fleet from the RAF (!), so they're set for some time. This thing has turned into a rathole of incredible proportions.

    •  That perspective was more understandable (16+ / 0-)

      when the price of a top of the line fighter was $50 million. As failure becomes more expensive, so does tolerance for failure. Isn't that basic risk management?

      I'm a Vietnam Era vet. I'm also an Erma Bombeck Era vet. When cussing me out and calling me names please indicate which vet you would like to respond to your world changing thoughts.

      by Just Bob on Fri Feb 14, 2014 at 04:14:37 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  Also, before the age of satellites, and missals, (3+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Just Bob, Woody, ichibon

        and predator drones we needed fighters for intelligence and interception.  They are increasingly obsolete as a weapon system.

        The means is the ends in the process of becoming. - Mahatma Gandhi

        by HoundDog on Fri Feb 14, 2014 at 06:02:11 AM PST

        [ Parent ]

        •  Each do have their short-comings. (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:

          Satellites, obviously, have no weapons and have certain limits to their resolution.
          Missiles only works for relatively static objects, unless you have something on-site to sight it.

          Drones has a host of other issues:
          1. You can't fly it in high-wing (with a very low threshold on what's considered high).
          2. You have to deal with 2+ seconds of latency (imagine playing Halo/CoD/TF2 with a ping of 2000 ms).

          Manned-planes still have their roles to play.

        •  Ummm... (0+ / 0-)

          not to nitpick,but a "missal" is a prayer book.

          They are not generally weaponized.

          You are probably thinking of "missiles".

          I am not religious, and did NOT say I enjoyed sects.

          by trumpeter on Fri Feb 14, 2014 at 10:26:29 AM PST

          [ Parent ]

          •  thanks from the pedantic grammar gnomes (0+ / 0-)


            America's LAST HOPE: vote the GOP OUT in 2014 elections. MAKE them LOSE the House Majority and reduce their numbers in the Senate. Democrats move America forward - Republicans take us backward and are KILLING OUR NATION!

            by dagnome on Fri Feb 14, 2014 at 10:33:05 AM PST

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            •  On the other hand (0+ / 0-)

              when I was playing a lot of D&D, we did have a weaponized "Magic Missal".


              I am not religious, and did NOT say I enjoyed sects.

              by trumpeter on Fri Feb 14, 2014 at 11:01:14 AM PST

              [ Parent ]

              •  pretty sure that qualifies as "play on words" (0+ / 0-)

                not "bad grammar" ;-)

                America's LAST HOPE: vote the GOP OUT in 2014 elections. MAKE them LOSE the House Majority and reduce their numbers in the Senate. Democrats move America forward - Republicans take us backward and are KILLING OUR NATION!

                by dagnome on Fri Feb 14, 2014 at 04:44:32 PM PST

                [ Parent ]

      •  What if the price per fighter is $1B? (0+ / 0-)

        And what if its pilot cracks it up hotdogging?

        Any jackass can kick down a barn, but it takes a good carpenter to build one.--Sam Rayburn

        by Ice Blue on Fri Feb 14, 2014 at 11:57:38 AM PST

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    •  This Isn't Initial Phases (25+ / 0-)

      The F-35 isn't in its "initial phases". The project was started 18 years ago. Its first manufacturing was nearly a decade ago. These tests are durability tests of a complete plane that was scheduled for introduction as a weapon next year.

      Its total programme cost was projected at just under $1.5 TRILLION. It will surely cost more, especially after these late-stage failures.

      The intolerance for failure here is based on the expense and unaccountability of this weapon, which should be a much lower priority for committing to spending a TRILLION and a half dollars when we have much more serious threats facing us than these extra planes address.

      "When the going gets weird, the weird turn pro." - HST

      by DocGonzo on Fri Feb 14, 2014 at 05:46:55 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  thank you for pointing that out (4+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        DocGonzo, Woody, mookins, RiveroftheWest

        that was my initial reaction to the claim too,  intitial stages.   They won't finish that thing before I die at the rate they are going.

      •  Also that they skipped a round of prototypes (0+ / 0-)

        The design they have now is what's already being built at the factory. So for the first batches, changes mean Band-Aid fixes with lots of added weight.

        Government and laws are the agreement we all make to secure everyone's freedom.

        by Simplify on Fri Feb 14, 2014 at 09:04:47 AM PST

        [ Parent ]

        •  Yepper - a basic premise: the (0+ / 0-)

          further into the process (design, prototype, beta, build, maintain, enhance) a flaw/issue is identified the more costly (both time and $$$$$) it is to address.

          I find fault with the DoD for not having a weapon system acquisition process/policy/oversight that takes this into full consideration.  I also find fault with the MIC for turning this into a revenue generator.

          How can the GOP trust a woman to "raise" if they do not trust a woman to "choose".....

          by left my heart on Fri Feb 14, 2014 at 10:38:24 AM PST

          [ Parent ]

    •  Agreed. With advances in satellites, missals, (0+ / 0-)

      and drones and modern economic geopolitical competition what role do warplanes play?

      The means is the ends in the process of becoming. - Mahatma Gandhi

      by HoundDog on Fri Feb 14, 2014 at 06:00:20 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  Each have their own limitation (0+ / 0-)

        Satellites are expensive to maintain, have a very predictable schedule (a problem if your enemy knows about said schedule), and are very, very expensive to move around (most of the time you want to do a plane-change, which is ridiculously expensive in terms of fuel). It also has limit on resolution, but with modern optics, that's not that much of an issue.

        Missiles/Cruise Missiles tend to only work against static targets, unless it has a spotter, which brings us to drones.

        Drones has several limits. First, it cannot fly in bad weather (bad weather includes anything stronger than a light breeze). Second, it has a very small payload. Third, the images/video feed it transmit has a very high latency (on the order of 2+ seconds, imagine playing FPS games with that latency).

    •  I dont have a problem with developing (0+ / 0-)

      next generation fighters.  We won't always be fighting terrorist groups and non-traditional wars...sooner or later, a large war will happen.

      I also agree every new plane has initial problems.  The issue here though is that they designed this plane in my opinion to try and do too many varied things...a jack-of-all-trades plane that can fight like an F-22, and do the ground attack/close air support like the F-15, and take off from carriers like the F-18...and it it does none of those things as well as any of those other planes.

      Heck, maybe in the end, it actually ends up being cheaper to go through all of this with one plane than to go through overruns with two or three different planes, but it seems to me the F-22 has the air superiority angle covered, so the F-35 should be just focused on the ground attack role primarily.

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