F35-lightening-lockheed-martin-1The issues with the F-35B’s exhaust gasses, and the MV-22 Osprey’s as well, damaging the decks of America’s “L class” ships is nothing new. What is new is that America’s latest amphibious assault ship, the USS America, designed without a well deck to embark beach landing craft and their assorted tanks and vehicles, instead being focused on aviation operations, cannot handle the aircraft it was purpose-built to deploy.

Now think about that, the Navy decides that the MV-22 and the F-35B are so important to their “gator navy” that they build a much less versatile version of what traditionally are highly versatile ships known as Landing Helicopter Docks (LHDs), that cannot even handle their primary function that compromised the class’s range abilities in the first place. Basically, the LHA-6 “America Class,” as it is designed today is an aircraft carrier. Sure it looks like the Wasp Class LHD that proceeded it, but once again it totally lacks the ability to deploy vessels from its stern. Instead it is built with Marine aviation almost totally in mind. Such a deviation from the proven Landing Helicopter Dock (LHD) concept is controversial to begin with as the US Navy already has close to a dozen massive nuclear carriers that can handle more capable and longer ranged traditional fixed wing naval fighter aircraft. america-011Yet the fact that the deck of this new “state of the art” ship, that cost upwards of six billion dollars to design and field, cannot even provide sustained flight operations of F-35Bs and MV-22s because of the heat involved with exposing the ship’s deck to their exhausts. This is so bad, so wasteful its disgusting.

Hearing these officials trying to spin such obtuse designs blunders over and over again is getting so damn old and tiring that it is hard to even read these articles anymore. So the Navy says the next two Amphibious Assault ships won’t have this problem, jus the six billion dollar one they already have purpose built to operate these aircraft. Yet this is not an issue because according to Captain Mercer (quoted in the article) these aircraft carriers were not designed for sustained air operations? How contradictory is all this? Maybe the captain should look back to 2003’s Operation Iraqi Freedom, where amphibs were used as “Harrier Carriers,” embarking two dozen Harriers for combat operations (see picture below), and that was an operation to oust an impotent dictator, not a protracted peer state conflict in the Pacific! Or what about the recent “Operation Odyssey Dawn” over Libya, where an LHD, and its Ospreys and Harriers, were used instead of a nuclear powered CVN for air operations? Harrier CarrierNews flash, you sound like a bunch of incompetent idiots that have no stewardship of America’s treasure or strategic dominance. They should take that ship, remove its proud name, and let it sit in dry dock until the manufacturer can install a deck surface that can sustain constant sustained flight operations of anything in the inventory presently or planned. If both the Osprey and the F-35B are exceeding their engine exhaust temperatures that were stated in relation to America’s deck design, then the manufacturers of these aircraft should pay for its refitting. In other words, it’s time for serious accountability.

america-016I am sure that some of you are reading this and the response is “jeez every new system has problems.” Guess what, you are part of the problem and I envy your ability to find employment where such small thinking and low standards are acceptable. This bait and switch defense procurement  situation, one that has become eerily circular in nature, is a much larger threat to national security then uneducated men in mud huts with AK-47s. A foe which we have spent trillions targeting and killing for over the last decade with little to show for it. If we cannot put a deck on a ship strong enough to complete its central mission than we do not deserve to remain the world’s super power. It is as simple as that.

Varyag LiaoningLet’s take a quick trip down memory lane here to see what we are up against. While the very namesake ship of our country cannot even support the aircraft it was designed to handle, even though we spent billions researching and developing this new “class” of ship, look at what China did with a rusted hulk. Seriously, look at these before and after pictures of the one-time Russian aircraft carrier hull Varyag and you tell me who will rule the seas in the coming decades. We have lost our resourcefulness and ability to work a problem efficiently. We throw piles of cash at designs in the hope that the money will mend their wows, when in reality its bad engineering in and bad capability out. Maybe we should drop all this CAD design and go back to slide rules. The Nimitz Class, the SR-71, and the damn Saturn V were built without a fraction of the automation we have now and in much less time than it would take today, with greater results than we could ever muster in this sad day and age.

The services, as much as they complain about tight budgets and declining investments in new technologies, are spoiled beyond belief. They can burn through national treasure at breakneck speeds with little to show for it without any sort of repercussions. Oh and to the guy who says “this diatribe does not sound like supporting the troops,” you too are part of the problem. Just thinking the military-industrial complex can do no wrong because some of those associated with these blunders where a uniform or have been deployed in harm’s way is asinine and indicative of a limited view of the complexities of America’s defense procurement issues. Supporting the troops means giving them equipment that actually works, in large enough numbers that they can actually be effective, while not bankrupting the nation in the process. Yes the number one threat to national security is our monetary policy, not China or the boy ruler of North Korea, and definitely not those aforementioned lunatics flying black flags on their vehicles and sleeping on dirt floors with their arms wrapped around their rusted AK-47. We have to get a handle on our priorities here and stop letting trumped-up boogeymen, low information congressional delegates and the civilian side of the defense apparatus get the best of our nation’s strategic future.

LHA6 picSome may be yelling at their screen right now saying “good lord Tyler it is just the deck of a ship,” fine, factually you are right. I will argue that this faulty deck, on a ship named USS America ironically, is a perfect metaphor for the mismanagement of our nations defense capabilities. If we cannot even built a boat that has a deck robust enough to do what it was already controversially intended to almost singularly do, for six billion dollars, then kiss your supremacy of the air and sea goodbye. We might as well just start negotiating a one-sided treaty with China over who controls shipping in the Eastern Hemisphere.

The Littoral Combat Ship, the F-35 program, the DDG-1000 and the list goes on and on of big promises, failed concepts, and hollowed capabilities. If the Navy were not in bed with its contractors, and congressmen were not pork gobbling gluttons, this ship would be returned to the manufacturer and funds would be withheld until it can handle constant cyclic operations as it was designed to. Alternatively, if its Lockheed and Bell/Boeing’s fault, that they built aircraft too hot to deploy on their intended motherships, then stop orders of these over-complex and gold-plated machines until they fix their exhaust temperatures or provide the USS America with a deck it can actually use. Anything else is bordering on criminal and the US tax payer and the individual war fighter is once again the voiceless victim.

This entry was posted in News, Opinon, The F-35 Saga and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.


  1. Mark says:


    Preach on Brotha.

  2. Mark says:

    God Bless America!

  3. Thor says:

    This is not so much a matter of CAD, but a failure to apply performance criteria to materials analysis which is still a failure between the ears of the design team leaders more than a matter of a CAD failure. The SR-71 team invented new manufacturing processes as they went in order to deal with problems of the materials necessary to withstand the thermal issues of sustained Mach 3 flight. No CAD program can do that.

    One would expect that such a basic question affecting a multi-billion Dollar weapons system acquisition would have been closely scrutinized up the entire chain of command, even to the secretarial level. This problem is not an unexpected, unknown or unforeseeable matter. Harriers are known to have torn up Tarmac ramps as are the 22s. Unless this is resolved, major policy changes will be necessary…this class of ships will need to be terminated. The acquisition of F-35Bs will need to be reevaluated, as will other systems which will have to assume new missions. The 22s are essential to Marine Corps doctrine as well as the spec ops community.

    The careers of many associated with this failure should be over. This is simply scandalous in the magnitude of the failure.

    • aviationintel.com says:

      Thor- I agree, the CAD thing is more of a loose comparison of how we may have digressed even though we have far superior tech than years before. Great thoughts on the process this probably went through. I think you nailed it.

  4. aerodawg says:

    “The Nimitz Class, the SR-71, and the damn Saturn V ”

    With those 3 examples, reasonable, achievable requirements were defined, and management walked away to let them do their jobs other than making sure everyone’s paycheck showed up on time.

    That long ago stopped being the case in DoD procurement. Leadership defines gold plated requirements, which change frequently and then tries to micromanage the development. The micromanagement essentially being required by the re-damn-diculous acquisition process developed after Congress got pissed off at the debacle that was the the A-12 Avenger II and dictated that they actually have a process.

    Seriously, if you’ve ever gone through any Defense Acuisition University training, you know how absolutely INSANE the process is.

    Being involved in the process I can venture a guess what happened with the LHA. Someone came up with a deck design that they were sure would hold up, so they move forward with the project. They’re already in the process of building the thing when they realize via test and eval efforts that the deck design is inadequate. A decision must be made whether to hold short and redesign or keep going and refit later. Said decision makes its way through the rube goldberg decision process taking 6 months to a year. By the time a decision can actually be made, they’re too far along in construction to change anything without massive impacts to cost and schedule, and ultimately that’s what Col. (promotable) program managers care about because that’s what they get graded on. They want that star on their shoulders when their PM stint is up in a couple years and only development cost and schedule factor into that, not refit cost down the line.

    So out the ass end of the monster pops a turd that can’t even do it’s job so that Col promotable can get his star.

    • Thor says:

      Small test platforms would have determined the suitability and durability of the test materials.

      • aviationintel.com says:

        Thor- I agree, this issue had to be identified early on as it was for all the WASP class ships.

      • aerodawg says:

        No doubt. But you have to understand what you’re saying within the context of DoD procurement. Test & Eval is expensive and problems in T&E blow up development budgets all the time.

        Again Mr. Col. (promotable) cares about getting that star and if his programs go tits up because of cost overruns while he’s in charge, he’s not likely to get it. There are no repurcussions to him if they have to spend a pile of $ long AFTER he’s vacated the PM slot.

        From my perspective that’s been a BIG driver in the shift from T&E to more modeling and simulation. It’s billed as a cost saving measure in lots of cases, but often ends up costing more when the simulations aren’t accurate. A graybeard flight test engineer summed it up rather crudely as “Simulation is like m@$terbation, the more you do it the more it feels like the real thing, but it never is.”

        • aviationintel.com says:

          Ahhh concurrency, what was billed as the “new way” of getting hardware off the disk and into the field has turned out to be the greatest enemy of the very programs this new “tactic” was supposed to elevate. At least some of us knew this would be a total disaster…

          Big news with the LCS too here guys. I have been writing a ton on naval issues so I don’t think I will discuss it directly, none the less: http://breakingdefense.com/2014/01/littoral-combat-ship-cut-plan-reopens-navy-riff-build-em-fast-or-rugged/

          If the Navy can do this FINALLY with the LCS watch out F-35C and B.

          I do think the B model has more relevance than any other, as I have discussed at great length and will again soon, but the unique “ecosystem” that supports and deploys it must be invested in fully to make the high price tag pay off. The LHA’s faulty deck is a VERY bad indicator that attention to detail in building this “ecosystem” is simply not there.

    • aviationintel.com says:

      Great thoughts as always Aerodawg. I think you are on the money here as well. I may do a follow up post about the F-35B and the force’s true commitment to it. It is the most “relevant” of the three types but only if the support, infrastructure and doctrine are developed closely with it. Expect something tonight/tomorrow.

      • aerodawg says:

        Honestly I think if DoD looks too hard at it, the case for the Bravo model declines significantly. With the trickle down of PGMs all the way down to things like mortar rounds, how much of a need is there for STOVL CAS. Why do I need a jet aircraft to do gun runs on ground targets when I can drop mortar rounds on target at will? More importantly, why do I need a stealth STOVL aircraft to do that?

        The marines have this persistent idea that they’re going to do an over the horizon airborne assault but I have a hard time identifing a theater where that would work especially when you talk “pacific pivot.”

  5. Bronc says:

    These comments are making me ill. Not because I think they’re wrong or because I disagree, it’s because, unfortunately, they are probably correct.

    • aviationintel.com says:

      My commenters are the BEST, I love going to other sites and seeing the useless dribble and then coming here to LEARN along with my readers. Best part of updating is this for me.

  6. Carogna says:

    not only part of USS America class LHDs were screwed up but also the Italian Cavour would be probably significatly affected by the eccessive heat involved with the operqation of the F-35B. Here in Italy people is also more discouraged than you – Cavour will be our only flat deck, 100% of the italian Carrier capability. Designed and built specifically for the F-35B, most possibly she also would be affected in the air operations, because some guy at LM undersitameted the heat generated by the Bs in landing. I hope at least that the UK has the time implement structure modification to their QE classe to avoid that also their flat tops would be affected by the caps.

    • aviationintel.com says:

      This is a great point Carogna that my US-centric focus missed. My apologies. Harrier will be a “golden” commodity if this deck issue is simply unsolvable without spending a billion+ to rebuild these ships’ decks. Please keep on me about the “partner” view of the F-35 program, I could do better in this area of reporting.

  7. Carogna says:

    Thnx Tyl.
    I am replying just to say that I have been following your blog from a while now and I don’t think that your posts are US-centric. I can see interest for other services and specifically for the Italian services. You were more than ready to acknowledge needs, deficiencies and points of strength in posts like http://aviationintel.com/italian-f-35-woes-where-is-boeing/ or http://aviationintel.com/broken-booms-why-is-it-so-damn-hard-to-build-a-tanker-aircraft/ , not to mention Cenciotti guesting on the needs of the AMI. Keep up the good work related to all services. Apart from the concepts/contents, your style of writing is particularly enjoyable also for people outside USA.
    Enough thanking, now let’s go back to the real stuff.
    I was just pointing out an aspect that could not be immediately obvious, like the implications for countries like UK or Italy. Still tech evaluations should be carried out to asses if also the Cavour or the QEs would need impracticable structural changes or just a Thermion coating.
    On Augustof 2013 was told to the media that the just the rather expensive Thermion would have been sufficient to resolve every problem on every ship. See: http://www.aviationweek.com/Blogs.aspx?plckBlogId=Blog:27ec4a53-dcc8-42d0-bd3a-01329aef79a7&plckPostId=Blog:27ec4a53-dcc8-42d0-bd3a-01329aef79a7Post:e14de239-0201-4cd6-afd9-21344c382ecb now we understand else. Costs of the F-35 may be eventually going down, as somebody is stating. But communication with the taxpayers is still poor or mendacious.

  8. AspenTwoZero says:

    Groupthink and the aforementioned misaligned procurement chain incentive and priority scheme have totally corrupted the F-35. I had a lengthy discussion with an engineer who works on the highly problematic F-35 helmet and the technical problems inherent in this one size fits all strategy are so pervasive that it should be obvious to anyone that this aircraft is making America and allied partners less safe. It is time to take a serious close look at the acquisition strategy Tyler proposed awhile ago with significant airframe increases with combined tens of billions in cost savings.

  9. nico says:

    Great stuff Ty! I am surprised how much people buy into the crap that they have been sold by political parties that if you cut DoD budget, you are anti military. I try to explain that we are wasting a ton of money on stuff that doesn’t work like JSF or LCS and then I realize just how much people have been brainwashed into believing that US military-industrial complex knows better and would never screw the taxpayer! Mind boggling!

  10. FlightDreamz says:

    With the MV-22 Osprey at least the deck overheating problem can be lessened (if not eliminated) by tilting the engine nacelles (even if they can’t be completely horizontal with the props turning) and not letting it “idle” for long periods of time same spot on the deck.
    The F-35B however is a trickier problem. And I agree this is just one fault of concurrent testing (which was obviously a bad idea) and that this problem should have been addressed earlier. I believe the F-35B WILL go into production – question is how much longer and how much of a toll will the acquisition “death spiral” take?

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *