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The Pentagon is battling the clock to fix serious, unreported F-35 problems (defensenews.com)
201 points by smacktoward 39 days ago | hide | past | web | favorite | 385 comments



I worked in defense contracting early in my career. White-collar welfare. Disgusting level of waste.


I work at a defense contractor. One of the guys in my row of cubicles has his wall plastered with political cartoons mocking welfare, social programs and anyone who thinks the government has a role to play in reducing poverty.

Every-time I pass this gentleman's desk, I see him playing solitaire on this computer. Defense contractors are adult daycare.


Think of the irony here.

Government is the one funding this guy’s adventures in Solitaire. What makes you think Government can do anything efficiently, let alone reduce poverty?


I am not lost on the irony. The military industrial complex has irony with layers of richness, second to none. The idea that private enterprise leads to greater efficiency can be thoroughly discredited by anyone who has stepped foot into an industry that manages rent-seeking.


Adam Smith had a thing to say about rent-seeking.

Trying to use rent-seeking to discredit free market economics is about as disingenuous as using movie piracy to discredit the Internet.


I'm surprised no Catch-22-style comedies have come out about contemporary military boondoggles.


You're right about poverty, and it's a shame, but I can live with the rest of it.

As a human, when I consider all of the ways that governments could be inept, killing humans tops the list of my favorites.

I only worry because I doubt that feature creep is handicapping other governments as well as it's handicapping mine.

Laws about keeping your dog on a leash only work if both dogs are leashed.


Why stop there? What makes you think human beings can do anything efficiently?


The nice thing is that, if left alone, one doesn’t need to be concerned with or frustrated by the inefficiency of others.

Markets work this way, and when individuals are left, for the most part, to operate in the same fashion the intrinsic efficiency of supply satisfying demand is better than anything we might, as a group, think up.


You must've skipped tragedy of the commons day in micro 101.


>a so-called "green-glow" night vision

Go to 28:30 (actual flight helmet recording) https://drive.google.com/file/d/0B30EHgj_ikFIOTlEeGh6UHFPOTQ...

”Use the force, Luke.”


Better link: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=faxuDFHJ3NY&t=28m30s

(the google drive never loaded for me)


What are the chances all of the negative press the F-35 has gotten is disinformation designed to mislead adversaries?


Very unlikely. Ideally you want your adversaries to be so afraid of how capable your new weapons system is that it acts as a strong deterrent.

Not only that, but a large component of the Joint Strike Fighter program was selling it to allied militaries. It would be silly to trash the aircraft publicly if you want a dozen other nations to buy it.


Most of it is fanboys or anti-fanboys.

You'd think people in software would be more familiar with having defects in your product not meaning doom or incompetence.


I hardly think the Office of the Director, Operational Test & Evaluation counts as an "anti-fanboy". And their reviews of F-35 progress of been the bureaucratic equivalent of damning.

Full report here: https://www.dote.osd.mil/pub/reports/FY2018/pdf/dod/2018f35j...

Article summarizing it here: https://www.flightglobal.com/news/articles/dote-delivers-ano...


If my product fucks up, someone can't buy something on the internet

If the F35 fucks up, people can die, international relations can be harmed, etc etc etc


The easiest way to defeat the aircraft is to cancel the program. I'd wager a lot of negative press the aircraft gets is pushed by adversaries who are scared to fight it.


Zero.


Has there every been a USA military aircraft built in the last 20 yrs that didn't have damning reports, tons of waste and over budget issues?


The F-35 has been in development for 27 of those last 20 years.


Probably, but we have no idea what it is. (We might find out in 20 years, though - I'd expect a pocket force of stealth UCAVs)

The US's 'black' planes have been remarkably successful, though that might be due to the fact that we never see their development and testing phase.


It's been like this for a long time: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PkrtxDdaWuM


There’s a few more zeroes in this one, it’s not even comparable.


Cost+ needs to die. Contractors should be forced to either meet their original bid or go bankrupt trying.


Disaster possibility 1 is that nobody bids on the project. It is too risky.

Disaster possibility 2 is that the original bid is met... but one critical feature is left out of the contract (overlooked) and is thus not in the result.

Disaster possibility 3 is that the company does go bankrupt. Uh, oops, we needed that company. Now we can't get parts for other products. This could be fixed via a huge bailout.


This is a problem that cannot be solved by hard and fast rules.

There needs to be a decision making process that can guide the R&D project.

Unless of course goals, progress, etc. can somehow be quantified. (But these are complex projects, complex goals, even coming up with relevant metrics is hard, and somehow coming up with one utility function is kind of impossible - without spending a lot of money on R&D for that, but then you're back to square one.)

That said, yes, risk should be better spread, but also the following are all critically related to public spending/procurement: Personal accountability and motivation, too big to fail, cartel/oligopoly, agent-principal problems, corruption, institutional deadlock, too much bureaucracy, bad responsibility-authority allocation, etc.


So the companies would go bankrupt and the project would remain unfinished


This is a terrible project for many reasons. The insane cost, a plane trying to be everything but master of none, and the whole concept of human piloted planes is so antiquated.

Air craft carriers are obsolete, the same way the carrier made the battleship obsolete in the second World War, but nations were slow to realize it. Missiles make the carrier obsolete today. If you look at China's fast missile boats, they know this already. However it's quite handy still for projecting air power against much weaker foes - which to be fair is what the USA does today.

Human planes are just silly though. Make drones, work on improving the ability to control then accurately remotely. They can out fly and out manoeuvre piloted planes at a fraction of the cost without risking the pilot's lives.


The big risk I see with drones is that with aggressive jamming and cyber attacks your drone fleet could ostensibly be crippled. But as you said a drone could easily turn harder than any manned aircraft could, loiter/patrol for far longer, and have a much smaller radar cross section since it wouldn't have to accommodate a cockpit. Sooner or later unmanned combat aircraft will dominate.

I also agree that the aircraft carrier will be supplanted at some point because of sophisticated anti ship missiles. But, if carriers can launch drones from much greater distances it will allow carriers to extend their usefulness for quite some time.


I think lots of smaller done carriers make way more sense than supercarriers when all it takes is one missile to sink them. Drones don't have the same runway requirements.

Jamming remotely piloted drones is a good point. A backup autonomous system can help there. But I don't understand enough about how easy it is to jam signals designed to work through jamming would be.


Backup autonomous system is how Iranians(not Russians or Chinese..) managed to take over and land completely in tact top of the line US drone. Autonomous fool proof weapon system that are actually given freedom to kill things are VERY far away.

I think looking at Russian commitment to EW is one of the possibilities of next step. Imagine war with no gps, barely functional coms etc. Basically go back 40+ years that is war vs adversary with good EW.

Now the counter is killing EW platforms as they necessarily emit.. so emit less or communicate less to not get fixed and pounded into the ground etc.

Manned platforms are not going anywhere any time soon. Humans are just too clever and adaptable


What do you do when your drone fleet gets jammed so you cannot communicate with them, or worse, they get hacked and the entire fleet gets turned back on you?


“The F-35’s logistics system currently has no way for foreign F-35 operators to keep their secret data from being sent to the United States.”

Wow.


countries that buy f35 don't really have secrets from the US anyway


That's why the NSA has been spying on the allies, right?


I hope you’re joking.


The US won't sell F35 to non-friendly countries, and friendly-countries are already in bed with the US intelligence-wise, where the US typically allow the other countries to use their intelligence-gathering systems, in exchange for the US to get access to the information they gather.

That ends up meaning that all intelligence that other countries intelligence-agencies end up collecting are available to the US.


I'm sure Norway and the US are friendly and exchange lots of information within NATO, but if Norway wants to tell the US how their F-35 moves between various caves for service I'm sure they want to do so in a high level intelligence exchange type of way, and not because some Lockheed logistics system automatically phones home about Norwegain F-35 locations.


Well, thanks to Trump exposing Israeli intelligence and requiring immediate extraction of an agent. Most countries are extremely wary to share shit while the dementia filled man is in the white house.


Its funny how I hear that a lot of UFO activity is really just "secret defense projects" that are not available yet, like there is some skunk works out there that is building stuff that is light years ahead of the state of the art. Meanwhile when we look at what the defense department is actually doing, they are building a plane that is trying to be all things to all people that defies the laws of physics with the expected results.


Reminds me of https://youtu.be/4xJBvKJht78 (The F-18: Just how good is it? (1980))


Just to add to your video there is this: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PkrtxDdaWuM (F-16, Sale of the Century).


Cute that they were worried back then about an expenditure of $4B.


I'm really of the belief, based purely on imagination, that a lot of the spending and research went into being able to make the F-35 autonomous with a switch.

Drone warfare really is the next step and having full jets that appear to be piloted but are actually completely autonomous would put the US ahead by decades.


Starting with a manned aircraft is a terrible way to build an unmanned one. A good fraction of the weight is there to provide life support and safety for the pilot. The canopy is a huge compromise between aerodynamics and visibility. And for manned aircraft, it's worth spending 10x more to get a slightly lower failure rate, because pilots are so valuable. For unmanned aircraft, the reliability calculations are all different.


But it gives access to thousands of hours of training data for that particular aircraft across a range of different situations, and it allows you to test that ML model in real situations.

Moving to something lighter or more aerodynamic becomes a lot easier after that. If you look at the Boeing Airpower/Loyal Wingman UAV, it looks like its based on this concept quite closely.


That doesn't seem to be the route the XQ-58 is going, though. [0] It's an attritable stealthy missile/bomb truck - and at a projected unit cost of $2-3 million, they'd be cheaper than some US air-to-air missiles.

0: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kratos_XQ-58_Valkyrie


A remotely controlled UAV would provide more hours of training data for less money.


I’d like to question that premise. Why is having a full sized, expensive aircraft remote controlled be “decades ahead”?


It doesn't force others to enter into a public arms race with you. It's something you can do completely under the radar indefinitely. Of course the per unit cost of aircrafts will go down when you don't need to account for the safety features, and performance will go up dramatically, and the enemy will never know that there is nobody in the cockpit.


I highly doubt that. A fully autonomous air force would make your entire air force susceptible to hacking and thus your enemy could turn your entire fleet back against you with a single hack. That is an insanely huge risk.

As for remotely controlled drones, that suffers from jamming.


F-35 project is infinitely more valuable as its contuined production provides A LOT of employment and contracts. I sincerely don't expect the project ever end or deliver anything worthwhile.


What is the main problem with developing a remotely controlled fighter jet? Is it signal jamming? If so, why not make it autonomous? After all, we are actively developing self driving cars...


The optimal design for a 'jet fighter without a pilot' rapidly converges on a missile.


Does it though? I suppose it heavily depends on your definition of "fighter", but cranked-kite and flying wing designs have been the go-to for subsonic stealth jets and UCAVs. Under a "something that is intended to kill other planes" definition a subsonic stealth air-to-air platform with good sensors might qualify as a fighter, but many people seem to think "fast, hypermaneuverable" are requirements too. Confusing the goal with the method, IMO.

Another major design constraint difference between "unmanned fighter" and "cruise missile" would be the deployment and reusability goals. Cruise missiles tend to need to fit in launch tubes or under wings, while presumably an unmanned fighter would not be so constrained (and thus be able to use larger wings). And while cruise missiles are very single use, the sensors on an unmanned fighter may make it too expensive to discard that way.


Jamming, hacking, possibility of being exploited(thing adversarial ML) etc etc

If we get real self driving cars how long till someone figures what you need to plaster on a tree to fool ML into crashing a car :) now imagine full nation state behind such effort. The risk of not having human in the loop is just too great.

You also just can’t do anything limited. I mean you can have even now fighter jet just kill anything it finds that does not transmit id, good in war maybe not so good at other times. Aegis is old tech and it is automated to kill anything that looks like a missile in full auto mode.

Iron dome probably same thing, engages and fires on full auto. Now imagine you hook it up to some automated 155mm battery, the moment missile get painted, it would start counter battery, I am guessing the round would land in Gaza before the rocket hits Israel. Now how many people would be ok with this is another question.


I wonder if the jamming problem could be solved by having a satellite relay communication to the jet via a laser beam, assuming the receiver on the jet can be tracked precisely. Perhaps also having redundant communication relay links from nearby jets. That would be harder to jam, right? Adversarial attacks could happen, but given enough diversity in sensors and algorithms I think it could be made reasonably robust.

I mean, the benefits of a pilotless fighter jet are pretty significant: more maneuverable, faster, easier to design, and probably cheaper. I'm especially curious about fighter pilots' opinions about this.


We already have a fairly good auto pilot. The complexity lies in rules of engagement.


Can you give an example of such complexity?


It's a counterfactual speculation now, but what would have happened if there were two airplane projects, one designed for vertical takeoff and landing, and another for more general use?

What if airplanes had to be cranked out at a rate like the WWII Merchant Marine Liberty Ships: 2,700 of them from 1941-1945? (There's a restored one, SS Jeremiah O'Brien, at pier 45 in San Francisco.)

Are these machines so complex now that it necessarily must take a generation to develop a new one?


If there was ever a contender for the most complex _thing_ humanity has ever made, I think DoD bureaucracy is a strong favorite.



Could this be related to the fatal crash of the F-35 in Japan?


Japan recently lost one of their first F35s and the pilot. One wonders whether one of these problems was the cause of the loss of the airplane and the pilot, not pilot error.


The most recent report shows that the pilot lost spatial awareness.


Brewster Buffalo II.

Sounds good on paper, disaster in practice.


Why do so many people on hackernews appear to really know their stuff when it comes to aeronautics?

Between the F-35, the ethiopian crash, and plenty other related topics, I’m amazed at the quantity and quality of the comments.

I would expect this topic to be kind of niche, and not attract >100 comments everytime!


Perhaps the perceived shortcomings appear to be obvious to even the non-aeronautically trained?

I recall the MCAS issue being discussed here well before governments grounded the 737max. The FAA being one of the last to ground.

The F-35 issues appear to share those common in engineering. Over promising, over spending and not able to deliver on those promises, because no solution can satisfy all wants/requirements.

In my explicitly unqualified view, the F-35 tries to be everything to all services, yet my limited understanding on aeronautics is (similar to marine engineering); is the best designs are those that focus on a specific task.


To alter the picture a bit and complicate a lot more:

it's of course possible to make a new jet fighter/bomber/thing that satisfies all of the requirements. The issue is cost and time.

The F35 is a classic mega-R&D project. Like going to the Moon, fusion, self-driving cars, XUV litography [or the whole process/node change from 10nm to 7 or 5nm]. Costs are enormous, lifetime TCO is also very high. It's so complex and funding is so far from infinite, that it is and will be never "done".

We know these. Just as you can always tweak a nuclear reactor or atomic bomb design, just as you can always make better microchips, you can always make better jets.

It's also very similar to the JWST (James Webb Space Telescope) - the goal/design is pretty straightforward, just the engineering way to get there, is not. It calls for "tech" that's simply does not exist, and calls for systems integration of that tech on a level that simply cannot be adequately estimated/planned.

Fusion, the JWST and the F-35 have different principal constraints (the JWST seems the simplest, it is simply cost constrained - every part of the R&D/assembly/verification process seems so underfunded that all the other parts/participants have to wait for each other - and downtime is not cheap either, specialists can't just go and have a gig while they wait for others/testing/manufacturing; the F-35 is probably very bureaucratically constrained, a bit like ITER [the big international fusion project] - everyone has a small part in it, so there's is lots and lots and even more back and forth between everybody, problems are discovered, tweaking needs discussions, discussions with many parties are a nightmare, everything needs paperwork, because it's public money after all, etc.)

This does not make the F35 "bad", but of course begs the question of spending efficacy. Was there really no better way to spend all this money and achieve very similar goals? There probably was.

But. Usually these projects are a success even if the end result is useless. Because they fund R&D in many places.

For example a good overview of how mega-R&D translates into tangible innovations is the W7X brochure: https://www.ipp.mpg.de/987655/w7x_and_industry_en.pdf (Germany spent a few hundred millions euros, and most of that went to small shops iterating on their tech - which of course helps Germany remain competitive on the global markets).


I'm not remembering all the details (I think the F-102). They tried an all service fighter back in the 1950's and the Navy eventually put their foot down. My impression has been the F35 is spork with wings.


Are you sure it's not just a case of armchair engineering as in the case of armchair psychology?

Lots of HN comments pretend to know everything about depression and its cures despite posting totally incorrect information on the subject.

People here tend to speak with authority on many things they actually know next to nothing about.


> I’m amazed at the quantity and quality of the comments.

How do you measure the quality if you are not an expert?

Surely many are an enthusiast in aeronautics. There are plenty of documentaries and incredibly lots of information on the internet about aeronautics. And I believe that's still just some shallow information.


Lots of software people work in aerospace and military.


Relatively?

Find that hard to believe.


No, in absolute numbers.


Aeronautics is (still) an incredibly glamorous field, and fighter jets and aviation disasters are a stereotypical topic of fascination for male engineers. HN is all about the "cool", charismatic side of engineering, and it doesn't get much cooler than critiquing warplanes and analysing air disasters.

Geeking out about this kind of topic is routine for people with an interest in engineering. And let's be clear: it really is just a matter of geeking out, people getting a thrill out of playing at "appearing to really know their stuff".


The HN audience is very big. So having 20-30 who are specialized in very niche domain becomes quite probable. Unlike Reddit, HN gets moderated heavily for useless and troll comments. The noise is reduced.


I've asked myself this too, and it occurred to me that there are a fair number of people on HN who are "older" (even older than me!) and Defense/Aerospace were pretty common places for techies to work in, say, the 80's. Often the only game in town.

That, and I think tons of tech-oriented people love flying machines, and a good exit or a fat Google salary makes it much more realistic to exercise that passion in real life.


There's been a decade of smart (at least seeming) people complaining about how badly conceived and pointing out the various issues with the plane are. So at this point distinguishing between people who have the experience to know what they're saying and people who have read a lot about the F-35 program is going to be a bit tough in a vacuum.


Sadly, most of the 'informed' comments here are anything but. 60% seem to just wanna trash on the military, 20% took a flight on a cessna once and think theyre pilots, 10% knew a guy in the 'defense industry' and 10% are bleating their political opinion, poorly dressed in technical garb. Take it all with a gargantuan pile of salt.


"appear to really know their stuff when it comes to aeronautics"

Are they? How do you know that?

https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gell-Mann_amnesia_effect


[flagged]


Not sure why this is downvoted. The nature of conflict has changed many times through history, obsoleting state-of-the-art technologies (which arguably the F-35 is unconvincing at) from a bygone era.


I think it is because the "nutcases" (a rude term BTW) were specified to be on one side of the political spectrum, and that the country chosen for the example of "persuading the American electorate" (later referred to as "Gullible people") also implies something about one side of the political spectrum. Overall, the comment strongly implies that one side of the political spectrum has the "nutcases" and "Gullible people".

That just isn't very nice.


[flagged]


> Well, when did left wing anybody engage in violence against right wing anything?

https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/2017_Congressional_baseball_...


>Well, when did left wing anybody engage in violence against a right wing anything?

Bike lock guy? That guy who kicked a woman filming him at an abortion rally? There's a whole bunch of inciting online all the time, but we ignore that. There's been a whole bunch.


They voted for Trump because they voted against Clinton.


Timing is impeccable: Trump is about to sell a bunch of F-35's to Poland, so let's hit them with a "cluster of damning reports" to sour the deal.

If you read the actual article, you'll see that most problems are either fixed already or aren't as severe the headline would make you believe. But nobody really reads the articles.


they made a loud-as-hell flyover of DC today in celebration


In your scenario, who is behind the "cluster of damning reports"? Liberals? Poland? Russia? China? Defense contractor competitors? I agree with the second part of your comment.


Could be anyone. Could even be several parties simultaneously feeding information to the media. The only unlikely party is the competitors, since it's not in their interest (in this case) to shit on Lockheed.


One point five trillion dollars.



>controlled flight into terrain

Uhm what? Presumably no pilot will fly into terrain if in control.

That whole thing just reads like a nightmare project


Controlled flight into terrain can cover incidents such as flying in limited visibility using instruments where the instruments aren’t wrong, the pilot is conscious and in control, but gets task focussed or misinterprets a signal and takes deliberate action that ends up in an unplanned lithobraking event.

Flying limited visibility or with horizon obscured is a typical scenario for controlled flight into ground. Some pilots will also feel less confident with a particular implementation of the artificial horizon.

Then there are transition states between particular instrument assisted flight modes (“autopilot”) and manual flight modes, as well as assisted flight modes where the pilot and the computers disagree on the appropriate course of action (similar to, say, automatic trim of horizontal stabiliser in aircraft with engines slung under the wing). The pilot might switch modes and assume control over pitch and yaw but the computer was handing over control of throttle. So the pilot ends up fighting the computer for control rather than actually flying the aircraft.

Labelling it “pilot error” can cause investigators to stop looking for the root cause. “Controlled flight into ground” leads to the question “why would an otherwise competent pilot do what this pilot did?”


"Controlled flight into terrain" is a euphemism (one of several) for "pilot error". It's a term of art in the aviation safety industry for "the aircraft didn't break, it wasn't in an unsafe state like a dive or spin, the pilot just flew it into the ground".

In this case, though, it seems to be used incorrectly because it's being applied to a problem that causes the aircraft to be difficult to control. A plane that is too hard to fly isn't the pilot's mistake.


> Presumably no pilot will fly into terrain if in control.

The history of flight has many instance where this has happened.

A very common cause is bad visibility mixed in with mountainous terrain.


Controlled flight into terrain used to be one of the leading causes of aviation accidents. All it took was for the pilot(s) to get disoriented, distracted, or make a bad miscalculation, particularly at night or in cloudy weather.

Ground warning sensors and training are better now so there's less of it, but you still get it from time to time.


For the trillion(s) that have gone into this fighter, one could wonder if there were other better uses of that money.

Even if defense is a necessary evil, it should be obvious by now that electronic (cyber - forgive me) warfare is the future of military.

Why attack with physical weapons when you can literally shut down the power to an entire country? Or jam its communications en masse. Or cripple its transportation infrastructure.


There is no "future of warfare" in terms of just being one thing.

When guns came out, they said it would be the end of warfare. Instead of spending years training archers, you could pull farmers from the fields, put together huge armies almost overnight. When machine guns came out, it was the end of warfare. How could massed formations fight against so many rounds going downrange at the same time?

This continued on with aircraft, aircraft carriers, nuclear weapons, missiles, and so forth. Nuclear weapons are especially interesting because instead of eliminating war, it looks like they eliminated formal war, pushing all that conflict down into police actions and non-state actors.

All those other things stuck around. What became really tough is that you had to integrate all of those other things together so that you use that right tools in the right way, almost like putting together a symphony. Cyber is the same way. What we're seeing now -- and I'm a firm believer we are currently in a cyber war -- are a lot of different actors seeing how hard they can push things. It's a war without any conventions about what "fighting fair" means. Bad place for us to be.

I think the F-35 has been a giant disaster, but that's part of a different discussion about military priorities versus strategic planning.


But I think you need to take a step back and ask what the point of a military is.

If the point were actually about defending one's country, then there are surely more effective ways to spend the money.

By all appearances, the modern military is just a convoluted way to funnel public money into the pockets of a few contractors and corporations (whose investors and shareholders win). It's an immensely inefficient way to skim money from the general population.

One might say the modern military is more precise, suggesting that we care about avoiding civilian casualties. However, the US drone use blows that theory.

If the goal were to defend a country from terrorists (modern invaders), then we would be concerned with right wing extremism which is responsible for more deaths than foreign "terrorists".

Lastly, if we were just concerned with human lives and longer lifespans, we would be putting most of our money into combating heart disease.


>>But I think you need to take a step back and ask what the point of a military is.

I completely agree. I think at the heart of the United States is a terrible vagueness and corrupt idea of why we have a military.

They to call it the War Department. While that certainly doesn't sound very nice, it cut to the direct point in having a military: fighting a war. That made it a lot easier to reason about.

So what's a war? A war is when people are doing something you don't like and you want them to stop. You have tried talking and reasoning with them and that didn't work. So you have to figure out other ways of making them stop fighting you.

That's it. You don't need guns, tanks, or even explosives. If you can make those other people over there stop fighting you, they surrender, you win.

At some point, probably around the time of WWI, mission creep started taking us into all kinds of places that either wasn't a war or we didn't like admitting was a war. So we started changing the language, setting up all sorts of units and programs that were only tangentially-related to war, and so forth. I read at some point when Bush was president we had military operations in over 80 countries.

Now most of those operations were peaceful: medic clinics, training, and so forth. You could argue that they were strategically fighting a war -- happy, trained people tend to be happier. But that sure looks like social programs, diplomacy, and police action than war. Don't get me wrong: these may be great things to do. My point is that if you stretch the language so far, then pretty much any damned thing you want to can be considered part of the military. Or a war, for that matter.

Based on this, and the ton of inertia and corruption that's been associated with war fighting since forever, I really don't think we can expect the Department of Defense to act in a sane manner. My gut tells me that we built the F-35 because we thought that's what we were supposed to do: come up with new, expensive tech that's better than the other guys.

We're going to need to get back to funding DoD to fight wars: real, live, in-person conflicts where the other guys need to be convinced to stop fighting us. That's going to take a ton of re-organization and strategic planning that I don't see happening any time soon. (Also, agreed with your statement about tunneling money to contractors, and defending the country. We've come a long, terrible way from the idea of a citizen soldier defending his home.)


Because you don't need much in resources to run a command center on diesel generators that can scramble some Russian surplus jets from the 1970s to start bombing runs on your carrier group. Electronic warfare is the next edge on the battlefield but you still need traditional weapons. There is a certain advantage to not have cutting edge tech in every facet of your society, how are you going to hack the power utility when they are still running the same equipment from the 50s?


You don't need a broken trillion dollar jet to combat 1970s jets. Our F16s would do that job nicely, even if the maintenance cost is high (but nothing on the scale of what the F35 costs to even operate).

You can disrupt 50s utility equipment with radio/em. You don't need a trillion dollar jet for that.

I'm just saying that we're spending money on the wrong stuff. And we're doing it in a HUGE way. There's a reason we do that, and it's not because of defense concerns...


“Lockheed Martin plans to implement a software fix for the flight control system.”

Now where have we heard that before. Software patches to fix inherently unstable hardware. Move fast and break shit.


F-35 and all fighter jets all use and must use by design synthetic stability, without computer control the airframe would be impossible to pilot. You need this aerodynamic instability to be maneuverable. If you don't have it turning is very slow. Flight characteristics are very much dependent on software. It isn't a glitch or a "move fast break shit" but a fundamental design feature of fast maneuverable planes.


How does an F-14 and others of the same vintage fly? Isn't that all hydraulic servos? Not trying to be an ass, just curious.


The last couple generations of fighters have moved away from airframes that are passively stable (imagine a car or something that requires no control to remain upright).

Newer designs are only stable when their attitude is constantly monitored and adjusted by control software. (To continue the metaphor, imagine a Segway or a pogo stick, more agile than a car)

The benefit you get from giving up passive stability is increased maneuverability in the case of fighters.


Nice analogies! Thanks.


For the F-14 that doesn't seem to be the case

https://wikipedia.org/wiki/Central_Air_Data_Computer

They had flight computers that did ultimately actuate the control surfaces.


What actually moves the surfaces hasn't changed radically. It's a question of whether there is a computer that controls the servos, or just a stick that does it.

A stable plane can fly with a stick controlling surfaces. Just like an ordinary cessna does. An unstable plane has to fly by wire, where a person moves a stick to ask the computer to tell the computer to roll the plane, and the computers calculate the necessary control surface movements and tells the servos to move.

More importantly, the computer tells the servos to move the surfaces many times per second just to keep the plane straight, because it's not stable. Looking at a modern jet fighter from the outside it's hard to see just how unstable in they are. You can get some idea by looking at where the weight is (in an empty plane) vs where the surfaces are. They are built like a dart, but with the wing in the front and the weight in the back. Look at where the engine (the thing that weighs a lot in an empty fighter built from composites) starts in this cutaway: right under the tail! It's a backwards dart. https://www.slideshare.net/SaabGroup/saab-gripen-3d-cutaway


The F-14 and fighters of similar era have nothing on the F-16 and F-18 in terms of maneuverability.


> Move fast and break shit.

Ironically, also a core fighter pilot mantra to the detriment of flightline maintainers and field support engineers alike...you might call it a symbiotic relationship.


If the military-industrial voting complex (defense companies geographically spreading manufacturing operations over key swing congressional districts), I believe more can be done than most think. I believe their key influence is what props up US military spending that the pentagon does NOT want [1].

[1]: https://www.military.com/daily-news/2015/01/28/pentagon-tell...


if what?


Lots of countries burn money on labor and goods they don't need, they just call it "socialism" instead of "defence". The US might be better off of they acknowledged that the fruits of this particular labor weren't going anywhere real.


Turning that on its head, is “defense” (a euphemism used to justify wars) really worth it compared to better healthcare and bridges that don’t fall apart?


> Lots of countries burn money on labor and goods they don't need, they just call it "socialism" instead of "defence"

I suppose in your eyes, 'need' is a loaded term. Maslow's hierarchy of needs, while subject to some debate, has become a popular consensus on what the term means. Many socialist policies are in favor of universal health-care, food and housing programs etc. which sit at the foundation of the hierarchy.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Maslow's_hierarchy_of_needs


> Lots of countries burn money on labor and goods they don't need, they just call it "socialism" instead of "defence"

Got any examples?


I wouldn't know anything about this except that there was one excellent example on Hacker News the other day, about whaling in Soviet Russia: https://marginalrevolution.com/marginalrevolution/2019/05/on...




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