I don't trust this outcome one bit and suspect something very similar happened here. I'm guessing the Pentagon is getting very sensitive to the increasing volume of accusations that the F-35 is a trillion-dollar garbage fire, and wanted to do anything to try and save its reputation. This result seems very suspicious in light of the previous evidence that the F-35 loses to both current- and even previous-generation fighters. Not buying it.
EDIT: Thanks to jljljl for correcting my faulty memory about the book. I get my pop-sci insight porn confused sometimes :)
I don't doubt the F-35 can dominate in simulations where there either is no WVR engagements or there are other aircraft to take care of those.
Also, aggressor aircraft were presumably 4th gen aircraft which leaves the question open how it would perform against other craft.
WVR = within visual range: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Air_superiority_fighter
On the flip side, the F-35 would have a Situational Awareness advantage and exploited this for both WVR and BVR engagements. The F-35 pilots won fairly by flying to their jets advantages.
scout.com article: Matt Hayden, US Air Force, also says he likes the F-35.
The F-35 is designed to fly into contested areas ahead other planes, use the sensors to get the lay of the land, relay that information to the fighters behind and optionally destroy any relevant ground targets. In the future the F-35 will also be capable of deploying and controlling a swarm of drones.
Older planes are always retrofitted with more systems, that's what the su-30/35 is (on the Su 27 platform) and similarly for super hornet, late block F-16s etc.
The problem is that those airframes are decades old and there comes a point when the power and cooling requirements just don't fit in the old frame any more.
We're buying Super Hornets as an "interim measure" for reasons passing understanding.
It was never going to be good at air-to-air. It's a strike fighter by name, which means it's intended to be basically an A-10 that can also do some air-to-air in a pinch.
There's a reason they operate the F-22 in the air superiority role.
With four seconds of bullets? https://defensetech.org/2015/01/02/a-tale-of-two-gatling-gun...
2. There was an unofficial war hardware porn series on HN a while ago, front page full of Boy's Own stuff, one of them being an article by a pilot who sounded pretty positive about the F-35's capabilities. So this is either a long-running PR drive or the plane actually doesn't suck
3. For US$401,722zn (since it's now a minute or two after I wrote point 1) I'd like to think that we can expect the plane to be, at the very least, OK
A problem is that it needs to replace a lot of different planes (a-10, f-18, f-16, harrier...) and those have different roles. It's likely to suck royally at replacing the A-10 for example, or to act as an interceptor for defending the airspace Norway and Denmark which have no alternative fighters to back it up - but if a decision is made to e.f extend A-10 life, or buy a light attack plane for that role, then F-35 numbers go down, and unit price up.
Basically the F-35 has to be bought to do things it doesn't do very well or very cost effectively because otherwise not enough will be sold for it to be economical
Additionally, are you factoring in the cost in training, maintenance and fuel for the larger force?
That's what I hear when people bandwagon bash the F35 without reference to avionics, comms, sensor systems, or low observability features.
In part, people are discontented that for the cost it's not as clearly superior in every way to the 4th generation as the 4th was to the 3rd. That's really because the manned jet fighter, like the smartphone or main battle tank, is a maturing technology.
The real frontiers of military innovation are in autonomous weapon systems and space warfare. So be careful what you wish for, I guess.
Am I the only one deeply troubled by Popular Mechanics articles making this ugly it's/its confusion in 2017. Is this really going to become a thing now?
F-16s and -18s aren't without their flaws either, and aren't stealthy at all.
"In the year 2054, the entire defense budget will purchase just one tactical aircraft. This aircraft will have to be shared by the Air Force and Navy 3½ days each per week except for leap year, when it will be made available to the Marines for the extra day."
but Law Number XI might apply to this audience the best:
"If the Earth could be made to rotate twice as fast, managers would get twice as much done. If the Earth could be made to rotate twenty times as fast, everyone else would get twice as much done since all the managers would fly off."
You are talking about replacing basically everything except the aircraft frame. A frame which is using decades old technology and lacks any form of stealth. And given that the entire point of the F-35 is the deployment of sensors within a contested environment not sure what the point would be.
F-16C Block 70 Viper II is about $80m each, so not much under a F-35A
Bear in mind that that's not the same type of price you're quoted when buying a car.
The weapon system program includes the cost of training technicians to maintain and fix it, training pilots to fly it, the projected cost of expected mid-life upgrades, and most often overlooked is the cost of disposing the airframes when they are to be replaced in the future. You can't just put it in a landfill, it's loaded with highly classified military equipment.
But, but, but...!!1 Now that they are in the field producing results the haters begin retreating to ever smaller and more qualified hypotheticals. I'm pleased with myself for not having participated in the stupid F-35 flame wars that have been raging for years with these people.
Send 20 missle drones at any fighter or 100 into any deep bunker. It shouldn't be hard or expensive to fly missiles around the world anymore. An aluminum tube, some fuel, and a computer.
The F-35 could be the swarm leader and have the big computer capable of serving its 1000 drones without any outside support.
China or Russia could build this today and the technology is only advancing.
An AWACS, C-130 refueler, or a long-range bomber is probably a more credible C&C platform for the mission, setting aside the preference for proximity. Longer times airborne, more space for controls and controllers, meaning more missions can be managed simultaneously, more power (mitigating the electronic countermeasure threat by power in transmitters rather than proximity), and the potential capability of carrying many of these flying missiles within range of their target mission, reducing the range needs of the missiles themselves.
The refueler has the added bonus of literally being able to refuel them while loitering over a target area.
The downside, of course, are all the present downsides of drone weaponry (largely moral/ethical concerns). Cheaper to build, deploy, and use means a potential (I'd say probable) increase in their utilization (moral hazards here), without regard to potential casualties (rationalized locally as, "not our citizens/troops dying").
Ultimately, though, this is probably the endgame for weapon systems. It is financially the better option, it does reduce the risk to that side's citizens and soldiers (at least in the short term, long term political and economic fallout may be different), and practically anyone can already make a miniature airborne missile fleet now, though with poor range and precision at present.
You might even want the drones to fly behind using a wire-guided system so they can't be jammed.
Imagine the F-35 trailing a cable that spreads out to 1000 wires. It's basically just a way of giving one F-35 a thousand smart missiles that it could never fly itself.
The basic idea is used by MIRV ICBMS. You get the whole thing into enemy territory quickly and then launch more attacks than the defense can hope to counter.
1. Fly to the edge of enemy territory.
2. Launch your F-35 towards the enemy.
3. Launch 1000 drone missiles following the F-35 (maybe from a C-130)
4. Split off drone missiles in variable sized chunks according each target detected.
Just imagine an F-35 with a dozen F-22s vs an F-35 with 1,000 flying missiles behind it.
Interesting note from here https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/MQ-25_Stingray :
"Rear Adm. Michael Manazir has suggested that three of these UCAVs could fly with a F-35 for refueling and sensor operation."
Yes, a drone has its advantages, but there are certain other undeniable advantages to using a human pilot for military operations where decentralized decision-making is valued.
exactly. As high speed trading already shows humans just can't compete with computers in making decisions and acting upon them fast enough. Presented with 3d battlespace densely populated with thousands of various drones (and few planes) moving at all speeds/directions and possessing and using all kinds of weapons (guns, lasers, missiles of various ranges/types) the human brain (without implanted computer chip of course) would just lose to computers.
Your conjecture is compelling but: As I previously stated, this has yet to be conclusively demonstrated on any realistic scenario I'm aware of.
HFT and air combat are hardly similar problem spaces.
Wait does that mean like one aircraft for 15 aggressor PEOPLE and sites on the ground? They mention SAMs and things that sound like ground forces. That sounds like an awful ratio. You lose 120 million dollars for every 15 aggressors killed? A hostile state can cheaply churn out aggressors 15 at a time all day long.
I have no doubt the F35 is a capable platform, but this does not represent its standalone performance. If anything, the enemy forces will be primarily targeting the F22 and other strike crafts.
What about a real situation?
Insurrection in a city, and a budget of 10M$ for the defenders.
Cheap old schools baloons (like WWII), drones maybe, 1000 persons paid to watch and use high EM beams to direct at planes, maybe 2-3 hackers asked to read the papers on how iranians where able to spoof GPS signals to steal drone ....
I don't know, but war is assymetric. It has never been about who has the best weapons, but who can take with an inferior budget the expensive weapon of the opponents, using any trick possible.
The allies attacked the nazis on their weapon's greatest vulnerability: resources and energy.
That's the reason why the dam in Germany were bombed, and africa was invaded to cut access to oil/lubrificants.
Having complex weapons to fight in situation you don't know is stupid.
IED for instance are costing 100$, AK47 way less then USA guns. Still, Iraki & Afghanistan have proven they are efficient... against a better doted army.
Vietnam with cheap radars and missile batteries was a pain for USAF. And aerial domination did not helped win the war.
And well, given how it is a mess in middle east and how USA may not have the most solid allies there, what would happen if someone attacked the oil tankers or ridge?
F35 would still fly, but what about the economical situation? How long can USA debts inflates and still stays sustainable for USA's economy?
Remember Reagan triggered an arm race that resulted in USSR fall, not a military win. But, USSR army after that was way less of a threat.
So, yes, cool F35 can export and if you buy it you probably have a super weapon. Will it be a good cost/benefits investment though?
In my opinion we should scrap the whole manned fighter thing, as sad as that thought is, and create an army of expendable maneuverable drones that are affordable enough to throw them into combat.