LOCKHEED’S “WINCHESTER MYSTERY PLANE”: DROOPING EXPECTATIONS, BALLOONING COST, AND QUESTIONABLE TIMELINES

Full Report: http://timemilitary.files.wordpress.com/2013/01/f-35-jsf-dote-fy12-annual-report.pdf

Also, make sure not to miss this little gem: http://nation.time.com/2013/01/11/hot-stuff-the-f-35-just-became-25-more-vulnerable/

You know what guys? I am not going to go through this report with a fine tooth comb, I think you should read it. I am really sick of reading F-35 reports that never change, they always cite “immaturity” and are dismal. Now that it is 2013, this report is very telling of where we are at with this never-ending money pit and what we will really get when testing is “done”. The good news- the F-35C’s tailhook redesign might work. Just a few of the negative highlights:

  • Helmet is still a mess
  • Accomplished 28% less test points than targeted. Gotta love Lockheed’s ridiculous spin on everything, hey if they had it their way the jet would have been magically operational years ago right?! Instead it is only half way done with the planned test points: “It’s more important to look at the overall plan rather than year by year totals,” Lockheed spokesman Michael Rein said in an emailed statement. “While we remain diligent to ensure deferred test objectives are ultimately completed, the aggregate plan remains on track.” -From the good folks at Aviation Week.
  • Peeling radar absorbent surfaces at high speed (relative as this aircraft is not that fast)
  • Delays in weapons integration for various reasons
  • Cracks
  • Software still far behind schedule
  • Increasing, not decreasing critical failures
  • ALIS logistics and mission planning system far from ready
  • Cooling and coolent issues
  • The aircraft is less survivable than originally thought, still has to avoid lightening
  • Acceleration is way off what was predicted, so is sustained G. Some quotes sent to me from a valued patron of this site:
    “The program announced an intention to change
    performance specifications for the F-35A, reducing turn
    performance from 5.3 to 4.6 sustained g’s and extending
    the time for acceleration from 0.8 Mach to 1.2 Mach by
    8 seconds. These changes were due to the results of air
    vehicle performance and flying qualities evaluations.”
    ——————————————————————
    “The program announced an intention to change performance
    specifications for the F-35B, reducing turn performance from
    5.0 to 4.5 sustained g’s and extending the time for acceleration
    from 0.8 Mach to 1.2 Mach by 16 seconds. These changes
    were due to the results of air vehicle performance and flying
    qualities evaluations.”
    —————————————————————-
     “The program announced an intention to change performance
    specifications for the F-35C, reducing turn performance
    from 5.1 to 5.0 sustained g’s and increasing the time
    for acceleration from 0.8 Mach to 1.2 Mach by at least
    43 seconds. These changes were due to the results of air
    vehicle performance and flying qualities evaluations.”
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6 Responses to LOCKHEED’S “WINCHESTER MYSTERY PLANE”: DROOPING EXPECTATIONS, BALLOONING COST, AND QUESTIONABLE TIMELINES

  1. MattB. says:

    I’m a long time reader who has never commented but I wanted to take a minute to say thank you for all of the hard work you put into this blog. It has been an encyclopedia of fascinating information and excellent commentary. Your insight is very helpful and your writing style is easy to read. Keep up the good work!

  2. Alex says:

    On the topic of aircraft acceleration coming in under predicted levels, it boils down to DOD performance requirements coming into conflict with Physics. Due to a change in the internal weapons bay layout, namely from two bays to one large bay, you have an aircraft with a fuselage shape that prevents the acceleration requirement from being met.

    Before we dogpile on the JSF program, or Lockheed Martin, perhaps we should examine the tendency within the Pentagon to constantly change and expand requirements. All branches of service are guilty of this, and this habit has led to the cancelation of numerous programs in the last 20 years.

    Survivability and the 25 mile lightning avoidance guideline issues come from DOD requirements on total AC weight.

    Sadly, none of the highlights provided are breaking news. This seems more like a collection of headlines throughout 2012 about program problem areas. Before we engage in a thorough flogging of the JSF, lets instead examine the issues within both Lockheed and the Pentagon.

  3. Sushi says:

    How do these turn performance and acceleration numbers compare to current generation fighters like the F-18 E/F and block 50 F-16?

  4. Todd Frohwirth says:

    Change the name to the F-35 Lightning Avoidance

  5. nico says:

    As some proF35 guy noted, you would have to compare an F35 with weapons bay loaded to a combat loaded F16, not clean. It is true, how often do you see an F16 with just 2 wingtip AMRAAMs? In that configuration,I am pretty sure a clean F16 would probably out perform an F35 (at least I hope so!) but not exactly realistic.

    One big advantage of any fourth gen fighter though that is forgotten by proF35 crowd is that in combat, all those fighters can drop their bombs and fuel tanks to become lighter and reduce drag, compared to an F35 that can’t lose it’s internal weapons bay….I think that’s when we should compare performances….

    I hear the excuse that in today ages with internet and such, we are more aware than in the past about problems. BS and tough luck to LMT! Are we supposed just to ignore blogs like this one or just pretend everything is fine?

    How many requirements were changed by DoD? It seems to me all the changes have been reductions to KPPs to make it EASIER for LMT! LMT knew what they were getting into with this program, it’s their business!

  6. Brad says:

    This is what happens when a committee designs an aircraft over a long period of time. All types of mission creep are introduced anytime a piece of military hardware is 20+ years in the making. This tends to get exaggerated when multiple parties are involved as we’ve seen in the past with joint-service programs. The F-35 suffers even more because it is not just joint-service, but also multinational. Military and civilian leaders seem to continuously ignore the procurement lessons of the past, always believing that better leadership and new technology will enable them to pull off the creation of such an aircraft even though similar concepts have failed time and again. I’m tempted to feel sorry for Lockheed and program managers because there must be a tremendous amount of pressure coming for dozens of directions, but it is hard to when they continue to pretend all is well and offer spin on every setback. It is amazing that the aircraft is even performing at its current level, given the massive F-35 bureaucracy.

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