22 September 2008

JSF stands for... "Just a Stupid F*$kUp"?

Now that the F35 is all over the news, the questions start to mount about how much of the weapon is hype and how much is hope and how much is actual performance.
A recent Reuters report was focused on the criticisms that appeared in the Australian press. That particular criticism, based on what was essentially a large-scale logistics exercise (refueling and rearming over huge Pacific Ocean distances) was mostly unfounded.

Since then however, additional criticisms have started to surface.

That recent Reuters report included the following
Wheeler and Sprey tarred the F-35 as a 'dog,' calling it overweight, underpowered and, with a payload of only two 2,000-pound bombs in its bomb bay, 'hardly a first-class bomber either.'
As a close-support attack aircraft, they wrote it is too fast to see the tactical targets it is shooting at; too delicate and flammable to withstand ground fire; and lacking the 'endurance' to loiter usefully over friendly ground forces for sustained periods.

Additionally, we get this report from Ares, over at Aviation Week, which notes that the standard config in which the JSF will be flown includes only 2 AAMs, so if the enemy send up 4 fighters, you get a chance to test your getaway speed...
Maj. Richard Koch, chief of USAF Air Combat Command’s advanced air dominance branch, stated last week: “I wake up in a cold sweat at the thought of the F-35 going in with only two air-dominance weapons.”

Now, while those criticisms might seem a bit harsh, one question might be "Exactly what armament does this $299 beeeel-lion white elephant carry?"

According the that bastion of quality data, Wikipedia:
The F-35 includes a GAU-22/A four-barrel 25mm cannon. The Cannon will be mounted internally with 180 rounds in the F-35A and fitted as an external pod with 220 rounds in the F-35B and F-35.
Internally (current planned weapons for integration), up to two air-to-air missiles and two air-to-ground weapons (up to two 2,000lb bombs in A and C models; two 1,000lb bombs in the B model) in the bomb bay.

So we think it does, in fact, carry 2 AAMs, 2 air-to-ground bombs, and bunch of rounds in a cannon, plus whatever performance-impeding weapons can be bolted on outside. Not great. After all, having a "fighter" that can't fight isn't that useful.

The Air Force has trotted out all the right talking heads to say all the right things about how the JSF is supposed to be the best aircraft of all time. The media have been buried under press releases for a while now.

Perhaps the best head-scratching moments on this have come from the press releases from LockMart themselves:
U.S. Air Force analyses show the Lockheed Martin F-35 Lightning II is at least 400 percent more effective in air-to-air combat capability than the best fighters currently available in the international market.

So we expect the F16 to have a roughly 2-to-1 exchange ratio in air-to-air combat, as a planning factor, and expect better because US pilots are typically so much better than everyone else's.
Which means 2-to-1 times 400%, and the JSF should have an 8-to-1 exchange ratio in air-to-air combat. That's a neat trick with only 2 AAMs and 180 rounds of ammo.

The conventional version of the F-35 has 9g capability and matches the turn rates of the F-16 and F/A-18.

Great. 9g, huh? Comforting to know that we can crush our pilots to death faster and more efficiently than other aircraft, while turning at the same rate.

More importantly, in a combat load, with all fuel, targeting sensor pods and weapons carried internally, the F-35's aerodynamic performance far exceeds all legacy aircraft equipped with a similar capability.

I guess that's fine if we're fighting legacy aircraft. But unless the Americans are strafing Aruba and facing the Dutch fleet of F16s, we might want to worry less about legacy aircraft and more about what's coming next.

Three F-35 variants derived from a common design, developed together and using the same sustainment infrastructure worldwide will replace at least 13 types of aircraft for 11 nations initially, making the Lightning II the most cost-effective fighter program in history.
my emphasis

Somehow, I'm doubting that.

By: Widow 6-7

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