Aerospace Blog Blog

Aerospace Blog

The Aerospace Blog is the place for conversation and discussion about aeronautics, astronautics, fixed-wing aircraft, future space travel, satellites, NASA, and much more.

Previous in Blog: Drone Technologies Advance Exponentially   Next in Blog: Spacesuit Design Takes Giant Leap Forward
Close
Close
Close
9 comments

Is the F-35 Fighter a Failure?

Posted July 16, 2014 9:12 AM by HUSH
Pathfinder Tags: f-35 Fighter jet military

As a kid, my parents had certain rituals of summer to entertain my adolescent brain.

Monster trucks were always a highlight. Mechanical dirt monsters roared to life on a humid July night, in the midst of true rednecks (more than few dozen Confederate flags displayed; safety-always off). Days spent on paddle boats, at Belmont, or at a nearby water park were numerous.

But I always enjoyed the local airshow the most. A nearby airport would welcome antique planes and military warbirds, where spectators could see them up close and also perform low altitude fly-bys and demonstrations. I may have assembled one or two model fighters during these summer vacations. I was the only 10-year-old who had a favorite fighter jet. An A-10 Thunderbolt II strafing cardboard targets across an open field was truly mesmerizing.

Unfortunately that air show has been long discontinued, and it seems as though the A-10 will shortly follow that fate. The plane is designed solely for close support of ground troops, and the U.S. Air Force believes it can save $3.7 billion in the next four years by retiring the A-10 in favor of a multi-faceted fighter.

That fighter would be the F-35 Lightning II, currently under development as an air support, recon, and defense platform. But the F-35 is currently under considerable scrutiny; the plane is scheduled for full delivery in 2037 but has been in development for 30 years already, and the program has become another popular "defense program is excessively expensive" narrative. And right now, IHS Jane's reports all F-35 purchases are suspended until a presumed manufacturing defect is fixed.

Let me introduce some pros and cons of the F-35, and I'll let you make up your own mind about this plane's worth (in the comments, of course!).

First, the F-35 needs to have three combat roles, as well as three variants for different service branches. Operationally, the plane needs to provide close air support (CAS) to ground troops, it must be able to identify targets as a forward agent, and it must provide an air-to-ground strike capability. It needs to do this while meeting the needs of three branches: the Air Force; the Marines, who want vertical takeoff/landing capabilities; and the Navy, who need a carrier-based fighter. Simply put, there are too many compromises in the F-35 design for the plane to excel at any one aspect.

A lot of attention has also been paid to the plane's stealth designs. From materials selection to geometry cross sections, the F-35 is one of the stealthiest aircraft ever produced. However, this is only for radars that are positioned horizontally or a few degrees from horizontal. This also means that the F-35's weaponry and fuel tanks must be kept within the fuselage, which limits the capacity of both. While stealth is very important for reconnaissance and strike missions, it's virtually meaningless for CAS objectives, where the plane would typically be below radar detection and be fired upon visually. Finally, a leading USAF general noted that the F-35 is completely reliant on the F-22 Raptor to provide air cover in order to be used in contested airspace.

The F-35 will be the most technologically advanced plane built yet, but tying the best air-to-air radar ever, the best threat detection, incredible thrust-to-weight ratio, and many other developments together is going to take some trial-and-error. Integrating a remarkable number of new technologies into a sophisticated, but easy-to-use avionics operating system has ultimately impeded the F-35's development as well.

Lastly, there are the development costs. At current projections, the F-35 will cost $1.01 trillion when all is said and done. One of the leading arguments for scrapping the F-22 program was outlandish costs-but the F-22 is a considerably different plane, solely funded and operated by the U.S. Air Force. This $1.01 trillion is being shared by the U.S., Italy, the U.K, Australia, Canada, Norway, Denmark, the Netherlands, and Turkey. And unlike the F-22, export sales are allowed, opening the possibility for revenue.

All in all, the F-35 will likely be one of the best planes ever built, but as with any defense project it's efficiency is never considered.

Reply

Interested in this topic? By joining CR4 you can "subscribe" to
this discussion and receive notification when new comments are added.

Comments rated to be Good Answers:

These comments received enough positive ratings to make them "good answers".

Comments rated to be "almost" Good Answers:

Check out these comments that don't yet have enough votes to be "official" good answers and, if you agree with them, rate them!
Guru
United States - Member - New Member Engineering Fields - Mechanical Engineering - New Member Engineering Fields - Petroleum Engineering - New Member Hobbies - Target Shooting - New Member

Join Date: Jan 2008
Location: Spring, Texas
Posts: 3403
Good Answers: 149
#1

Re: Is the F-35 Fighter a Failure?

07/17/2014 8:30 AM

Yes, but the thrust vectoring nozzle still needs work...

http://youtu.be/aZLUERkcFoY

__________________
Who is John Galt?
Reply
Power-User

Join Date: Jan 2007
Location: Maritimes
Posts: 264
Good Answers: 2
#5
In reply to #1

Re: Is the F-35 Fighter a Failure?

07/17/2014 7:26 PM

Holy smokes!!! Let's see the Sukhoi Bureau beat that manoever!!!

__________________
Out in a Bowt
Reply
Guru
Philippines - Member - New Member Engineering Fields - Instrumentation Engineering - New Member Engineering Fields - Control Engineering - Who am I?

Join Date: Oct 2006
Location: Philippines
Posts: 2076
Good Answers: 51
#8
In reply to #1

Re: Is the F-35 Fighter a Failure?

07/19/2014 2:02 AM

One of the comments in that video is that it's a video game. There's a life meter on the lower right and there is a strange lack of deck crew. 'Still impressive thought. (",)

regards,

Vulcan

__________________
Miscommunication: when what people heard you say differs from what you said. Make yourself understood.
Reply
Guru

Join Date: Dec 2009
Posts: 582
Good Answers: 15
#2

Re: Is the F-35 Fighter a Failure?

07/17/2014 10:22 AM

I was much younger then, but I think if you look back at the early days of the F-16, you'll find articles that read identically to all the complaints we have about the F-35. Now, the F-16 is the workhorse of many air forces. The F-35's future is the same, but it'll also serve the Navy and Marines as well.

Major defense tech programs start with wish lists that are true wishes. At the outset, we don't know whether we can do what "the customer" wants. That's why things take so long, and cost so much. The contractors bid programs for initial capability, and deliver some of it. If they deliver enough and the program looks promising, the program gets funding for another increment. Bean counters add up all the costs from the beginning, and shriek about the overruns.

All that money that seems to go down the drain is funding fundamental research and advanced engineering (along with tires, fuel, clerks, trucks and food of course). The US Dept of Defense conducts an amazing amount of research. Some of it's not just about destroying enemies, so there are societal benefits. A jobs program for engineers and scientists, indeed.

This work should be done. Failing to do it would make us a dumber nation. I worry that my liberal (or Tea Party) friends could someday be successful in slashing our defense spending, while also failing to add a commensurate number of zeros to the budgets for non-defense research.

__________________
Ignorance is no sin. Willful ignorance is unforgiveable.
Reply
Guru
United States - Member - New Member Engineering Fields - Mechanical Engineering - New Member Engineering Fields - Petroleum Engineering - New Member Hobbies - Target Shooting - New Member

Join Date: Jan 2008
Location: Spring, Texas
Posts: 3403
Good Answers: 149
#3
In reply to #2

Re: Is the F-35 Fighter a Failure?

07/17/2014 1:46 PM

Lynn, I hear you, but I'm a big fan of the concept of aircraft specialized for a specific job instead of wonder aircraft that are intended to do every job under the sun because you always end up with a muddle. An aircraft that sort of does multiple jobs but does none of them terribly well. A close support aircraft really has no need for stealth for instance. It is down in the weeds where radar doesn't work well anyway. But it needs a lot of ordinance, the ability to loiter for long periods, ability to absorb lots of ground fire, and lots of guns. The Marines also like STOL/ VTOL. A tank killer needs to have a monster gun, fly in the weeds, and built like a tank as well. Again stealth really isn't needed. How does the F 35 supply any of that?

__________________
Who is John Galt?
Reply
Guru

Join Date: Dec 2009
Posts: 582
Good Answers: 15
#4
In reply to #3

Re: Is the F-35 Fighter a Failure?

07/17/2014 2:54 PM

We've been demonstrating the feasibility of multi-role aircraft over the last couple decades. The Navy's A-6 & F-14 fleet is now a bunch of F-18s. The F-15E is an air-to-air and air-to-ground variant. I've been told the F-16 does every Air Force mission in the book (not sure whether that "book" includes tanking and airlift though).

US air power is superior to all, therefore, multi-role suffices. Stuffing an effective airframe full of general-purpose computers, some custom peripherals and lots of software makes it versatile.

F-16s do a lot of close air support in addition to the A-10, and the F-16 has the same basic limitations that people see with the F-35. Combine with drones, ground-to-ground missiles and helicopters, and it looks like the strategic planners have the ground troops covered.

When/if we have to go nose-to-nose with 1000 tanks, we'll bring 5000 missiles. Anything lighter will fall to the 20-mm.

The biggest problem I see with the F-35 is that it's so ugly.

__________________
Ignorance is no sin. Willful ignorance is unforgiveable.
Reply
2
Guru
United States - Member - New Member Engineering Fields - Mechanical Engineering - New Member Engineering Fields - Petroleum Engineering - New Member Hobbies - Target Shooting - New Member

Join Date: Jan 2008
Location: Spring, Texas
Posts: 3403
Good Answers: 149
#6
In reply to #4

Re: Is the F-35 Fighter a Failure?

07/18/2014 10:34 AM

Actually all of the ground pounders I have spoken with think the Air Farce is insane for killing the A-10. but then again the Air farce thinks that unless it costs 100 million per copy and fires missiles that cost a million a pop, it can't possibly be worth anything. The Air Farce is in love with high tech and often misses the KISS principle.

__________________
Who is John Galt?
Reply Good Answer (Score 2)
Guru
Technical Fields - Project Managers & Project Engineers - New Member

Join Date: Oct 2013
Location: Texas.Baytown
Posts: 697
Good Answers: 26
#7

Re: Is the F-35 Fighter a Failure?

07/18/2014 3:18 PM

One size does NOT fit all.

__________________
If you want to know how well a broom works you do not ask the guy selling the broom or the guy who designed the broom, you ask the guy using the broom.
Reply Score 1 for Good Answer
Commentator

Join Date: Aug 2014
Posts: 66
Good Answers: 2
#9

Re: Is the F-35 Fighter a Failure?

08/25/2014 4:34 AM

F-35...the other white meat.

Reply
Reply to Blog Entry 9 comments
Interested in this topic? By joining CR4 you can "subscribe" to
this discussion and receive notification when new comments are added.

Comments rated to be Good Answers:

These comments received enough positive ratings to make them "good answers".

Comments rated to be "almost" Good Answers:

Check out these comments that don't yet have enough votes to be "official" good answers and, if you agree with them, rate them!
Copy to Clipboard

Users who posted comments:

badbob (1); Lynn.Wallace (2); Rorschach (3); snowboy (1); texasron (1); Vulcan (1)

Previous in Blog: Drone Technologies Advance Exponentially   Next in Blog: Spacesuit Design Takes Giant Leap Forward

Advertisement