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F-35 Joint Strike Fighter (JSF)

Kirkhill

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Just like our Hornet software development has never stopped. We are still fielding one to two software versions every year and one major revision every 1.5 to two years.

The difference, in my opinion, is that there was a limited, but large, production run (F/A-18 A/Bs) contracted and completed following prototyping (YF-17) and merging the designs of the F-18, the A-18 and a TF-18. Those were followed by the F/A-18 C/D less than ten years after introduction and finally the distantly related F/A-18 E/F/G Super Hornets some 5 to 10 years later.

F-18 A/B/C/D Built 1480 between 1982 and 2000 - 18 years
F-18 E/F Built 608 between 1995 and 2020 - 25 years

F-35 First Flight 2006
F-35 IOC (USMC) 2015
F-35 Built 625 between 2006 and 2020 - 14 years.
F-35 to be built 3100 by 2035.

And, as you note Max - the F18 has been going through its own "continuous improvement" exercise for the last 40 years. And its own criticisms.

It will not surprise me if the final improvement, the final iteration, is as a Drone.
 

dapaterson

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From a Canadian history perspective, it's interesting to note that the F35 didn't do prototypes, sort out issues, then enter production (as many aircraft do) but rather set up lines and began building, changing the line as issues were identified while retrofitting where possible already built aircraft.

The same process Avro was trialling with the Arrow.
 

MarkOttawa

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Now a further lengthy post from Corporal Frisk on F-35A bid for Finland, based on detailed talk with LockMart man in charge of the bid (erstwhile US Defence Attaché in Helsinki, ah that military-industrial complex):
With best and final offers in for Finnish fighter competition, Corporal Frisk has a very comprehensive post on what is known about the bids offering F-35A, Rafale, Eurofighter, Gripen E (with two GlobalEyes), SuperHornet/Growler:

Stop, BAFO Time!​

The Best and Final Offers (BAFO) for the HX tender are in, and from here onwards there’s no adjustments to the offers. Whatever the bidder has promised is what they are legally bound to deliver. Now we as well as the OEMs will just have to wait until the end of the year to hear who have been chosen. This also means that the embargo on disclosing details has been lifted, and the suppliers are free to share further information if they want to. Interestingly, some has chosen not to, though that may be telling in itself. Dassault sticks to their line and hasn’t even said whether they have responded to the BAFO-request, though the Finnish authorities have confirmed that they have received all five responses. Lockheed Martin published a short press release, as did Boeing, who followed up with casually dropping the number of fighters offered when asked about it. BAES and Saab in turn held full-blown media events. So what do we know?.. [read on]

Mark
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MarkOttawa

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USA thinking of just junking older F-35As:

Air Force Could Ditch Oldest F-35 Jets as Part of Fighter Downsizing, General Says​


The U.S. Air Force could retire some of its older-model F-35 Joint Strike Fighters, which are used for training, over the next decade in favor of acquiring the most advanced variants of the jet, according to a top general.

Older versions of the premier stealth jet may be retired instead of receiving expensive upgrades to keep them viable for a future conflict, said Lt. Gen. S. Clinton Hinote, the Air Force's deputy chief of staff for strategy, integration and requirements.

"It's not in our plans right now, but that would be something that we would have to take into consideration," he said in an interview Tuesday. "Because the big question is, 'Are we going to go back and retrofit [them]?'..

Can one imagine if RCAF had got first one in 2016, once the plan? See p. 42 PDF here:

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dapaterson

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Not British and haven't been festering unused for the better part of a decade? Hard pass.
 

CBH99

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USA thinking of just junking older F-35As:



Can one imagine if RCAF had got first one in 2016, once the plan? See p. 42 PDF here:

Mark
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And yet again, our dithering has somehow comically turned into a success! It's so incapable of accomplishing the basic tasks that form it's purpose, it surpasses incompetence and somehow ends up looking like genius. Absolutely crazy how this worked out.
 

Kirkhill

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And yet again, our dithering has somehow comically turned into a success! It's so incapable of accomplishing the basic tasks that form it's purpose, it surpasses incompetence and somehow ends up looking like genius. Absolutely crazy how this worked out.


And yet, I sense an opportunity. Have the USAF tranfer the Tail Numbers to the RCAF at disposal prices. Then have the RCAF pay to "Upgrade (ie rebuild)" the aircraft to the current standard in a bulk buy.

My Grandfather's Axe applies.
 

CBH99

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Is that even possible?

I thought it was technically not possible due to changes since the ones manufactured in 2016, to the one currently rolling out of the factory? I thought that was why the USAF didn't look into upgrading them? (Or are they in a position where they just don't need to bother, and can use these jets as trainers/red-air?)
 

Kirkhill

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Is that even possible?

I thought it was technically not possible due to changes since the ones manufactured in 2016, to the one currently rolling out of the factory? I thought that was why the USAF didn't look into upgrading them? (Or are they in a position where they just don't need to bother, and can use these jets as trainers/red-air?)
I don't know that answer.

But I suspect that anything is possible, if cash.

If you can stick a new fuselage center barrel in to an existing F18, add new wings, new engines, new radar and new avionics to an existing tail number I suspect that anything is possible as far as the accountants are concerned.

Similarly with sticking Sea Stallion engines on Chinooks and transmogrifying UH-1s to UH-1Ys.

Even old boats can become new again.

For the US I'm inclined to believe that now the production lines are open and the design is stabilized it is just cheaper to take a new aircraft off the line than try to keep track of all the individual changes involved in their older aircraft.

In our case, we buy the old aircraft and have them install the old tails on new aircraft off the production line while salvaging the remainders for whatever spare parts we can.

Accountants happy.
 

SupersonicMax

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The US also needs to start equipping its adversary fleet with 5th gen aircraft as competitors bring credible 5th gen platforms into their inventory.
 

Colin Parkinson

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I don't know that answer.

But I suspect that anything is possible, if cash.

If you can stick a new fuselage center barrel in to an existing F18, add new wings, new engines, new radar and new avionics to an existing tail number I suspect that anything is possible as far as the accountants are concerned.

Similarly with sticking Sea Stallion engines on Chinooks and transmogrifying UH-1s to UH-1Ys.

Even old boats can become new again.

For the US I'm inclined to believe that now the production lines are open and the design is stabilized it is just cheaper to take a new aircraft off the line than try to keep track of all the individual changes involved in their older aircraft.

In our case, we buy the old aircraft and have them install the old tails on new aircraft off the production line while salvaging the remainders for whatever spare parts we can.

Accountants happy.
You mean like the majority of the Beavers flying around Canada, the Grandfathers axe of planes....
 

CBH99

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Keep up - the relevant comparison is "Australia" and "as old as ours" :sneaky:
Old used subs from the Brits that have been floating alongside for a while, literally rusting away. Only to purchase them and have to initially dump a ton of money into just getting them servicable - replacing CMS, weapon systems, and getting them safe enough to drive around. And since we purchased them, all in - was probably twice as expensive than just buying 4 new boats from someone. (Maybe even more than twice as much.)

Used Hornets from Australia, again with upgrades required. And the upgrades being slated to finish just before it's replacement starts to come online.


At least we keep it relatively in the Commonwealth family!
 

MarkOttawa

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USAF secretary souring (more than before?) on F-35A?

SECAF nominee walks a tightrope on F-35 procurement plans​

The F-35 joint strike fighter loomed like a ghost over the May 25 confirmation hearing of President Joe Biden’s pick for Air Force secretary, who famously called the program a case of “acquisition malpractice.”

If confirmed, Frank Kendall — who oversaw the program during the Obama administration as the Defense Department’s acquisition executive — will become the Air Force’s top civilian at a time when the service grapples with the decision of how many F-35 aircraft to buy, both in the near term and over the lifespan of the program.

But despite repeated questions from members of the Senate Armed Services Committee, Kendall said little to tip his hand on how he might further shape the program.

“The F-35 is the best tactical aircraft of its type in the world and will be so for quite some time. It’s a complex, expensive weapon, unfortunately. But it is a dominant weapon when it goes up against earlier generation aircraft,” Kendall told lawmakers when asked on his views on the aircraft.

“But the concern I have is that the complaints still come,” said Oklahoma Sen. Jim Inhofe, SASC’s top Republican.

The Air Force is evaluating its tactical aviation fleet, including whether to go through with a planned buy of 1,763 F-35As. Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. Charles “CQ” Brown has said that the service may seek out a low-cost, clean-sheet multirole fighter to replace its oldest F-16s — one of the platforms originally slated to be succeeded by the F-35.

Meanwhile, CNN reported earlier this month that Will Roper, the Air Force’s top acquisition official during the Trump administration, had sought to cut the Air Force’s F-35 buy to about 800 jets, further inciting worries about the program’s future.

During the hearing, Inhofe spoke about the Air Force’s 2009 decision to curb F-22 procurement from 750 to 187 aircraft. That cut has contributed to the F-22′s high operations and sustainment costs, which are endemic to small aircraft fleets.

“We watched this happen,” Inhofe said. “My concern right now is, what kind of actions could we take to make sure we’re fielding the number of F-35s needed to fight against Russia and China? It’s a different game all together now, we all understand that. But we are going to have to be dealing with the numbers.”

Kendall’s response fell short of promising to support the current program of record [emphasis added].

“We have to get to an affordable mix that meets our needs as driven by the national defense strategy. That’s what should guide those investments,” he said.

However, if sustainment costs are a concern, it will be important for the Air Force to continue buying F-35s in numbers that will allow the fleet size to grow and operations costs to become more economical, he said.

“If there is one thing that I think would drive costs down overall, it’s continuing to buy,” Kendall said.

“I know there’s an issue with the total number that’s been on the table for some years, what the requirement is. My own view at this point in time is that we’re well short of that number, and that [what] we should be working on most is getting the cost down and keeping the procurement at a rate that makes sense.”

Although the Air Force plans to continue buying 48 F-35As as part of its fiscal 2022 budget request, it intends downsize its buy to 43 aircraft a year from FY23 through FY26, according to Air Force talking points reported by Air Force Magazine [emphasis added].

It’s difficult to gauge whether Kendall will lead the Air Force in a different direction with regards to the program...

Mark
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MarkOttawa

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Swiss in the bag? Finns next?

Citing “Insiders” Swiss Public Television Says The F-35 Has Won The Swiss Air Force Fighter Jet Evaluation​

...
On Monday Jun. 21, 2021, the Swiss public television SRF reported that the Lockheed Martin F-35 has won the Swiss evaluation to find a replacement for F-5 Tiger and F/A-18C/D Hornet jets currently in service with the Swiss Air Force.

Three independent sources confirmed the “Rundschau” (a political and economic program on Swiss Radio and Television – SRF) that: “Both financially and technically, the stealth jet is well ahead of the F / A-18 Super Hornet, the Eurofighter and the Rafale. Defense Minister Viola Amherd (Die Mitte) therefore has no choice but to apply to the Federal Council to buy the F-35. The DDPS [Federal Department of Defence, Civil Protection and Sport] itself refuses to comment and refers to the confidentiality of Federal Council business. According to insiders, the preparations for the eagerly awaited Federal Council decision are well advanced. A media release had already been written about the purchase of the F-35 in draft – but the entire Federal Council could still decide otherwise.”

In 2014, when a referendum rejected the acquisition of the Saab Gripen (to replace the F-5E), the Swiss Air Force launched “Air 2030” program aimed to the selection of its future fighter. As part of the program, the service carried out the evaluation of four candidate aircraft: the Eurofighter Typhoon, the Boeing F/A-18 Super Hornet, the Dassault Rafale, and the Lockheed Martin F-35. A fifth candidate, Gripen E, was retired before its evaluation even started after the Swiss procurement agency, “formally recommended” that Saab stayed home as flight tests had been designed to only evaluate aircraft that were operationally ready in 2019.

On Jan. 10, 2020, armasuisse issued the second RFQ for new fighter aircraft to the government authorities where the four potential suppliers are located: Germany (Airbus Eurofighter), France (Dassault Rafale) and the U.S. (Boeing F/A-18 Super Hornet and Lockheed Martin F-35A).

“The second request for proposal is based on the analysis of the first proposal and on findings from flight, simulator and ground tests as well as audits with armed forces operating the evaluated fighter aircraft. In the second request for proposal, the companies contacted via the government authorities are requested to submit the most advantageous offer for Switzerland.

The proposal should include the following elements:

  • prices for 36 and 40 aircraft, including defined logistics and weapons, as a binding starting point for the detailed negotiations with the selected candidate after the type selection
  • offers for cooperation between the armed forces and the procurement authorities of Switzerland and those of the supplier country
  • envisaged or already initiated offset projects”

In September 2020, Swiss voters narrowly approved a CHF6 billion (6.49B USD) funding packet that allowed the Swiss Air Force to go ahead with the purchase of new aircraft.

Therefore, in spite of the criticism and well known issues, it looks like the F-35 has convinced the Swiss Air Force that it has an edge on its three competitors, not only from a technical point of view but also in terms of cost. According to the insiders who talked to SRF, Switzerland can buy a larger number of F-35s with the budgeted 6.5 billion USD than would be the case with the three competitors...

Mark
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CBH99

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Swiss in the bag? Finns next?



Mark
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Mixed feelings on this, but I'm sure my skepticism has already been addressed by strategic planners throughout various countries.

Obviously, the F-35 keeps winning every competition it's in. Once the classified data is shown to the potential customer, the F-35 seems to win in every single competition held. We just keep kicking the can down the road because f**king Chad - er, sorry, Justin - promised not to purchase it in one breath, then promised to have a fair and open competition in the next.

On the other hand, there may be some real advantages to NATO countries flying a few different models of frontline fighters. Logistics and ease of operations is one thing, but having some versatility against Russian or Chinese EW assets could be a huge benefit. All of the eggs in one basket is never a good idea. (Sort of speak.)
 
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