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British F-35B crash possibly caused by 'rain cover' left on during launch (theaviationist.com)
134 points by rwmj 2 days ago | hide | past | favorite | 268 comments





The implications, if that is the cause, are shocking. Forget about the deck crew and the pilot being blind morons. It means the flight computer for a plane that took twenty years and a trillion dollars to develop can't detect that there's a fucking cover blocking the engine.

How does a twenty thousand dollar sedan have a more robust readiness-detection system than a hundred million dollar airplane?


> a plane that took [...] a trillion dollars to develop

It didn't take a trillion dollar to develop. The trillion dollar figure includes acquisition costs (going to 2070) as well as operations and maintenance over the same period.

By the way, the F-35 isn't any more expensive than other aircraft. For example for the latest budget proposal (2022), the DoD plans to acquire 85 F-35s [1] for a total price of $85 BN, or about $150 MM per plane. At the same time, it plans to acquire 14 tanker aircraft KC-46 for a unit price of about $180 MM, and 9 cargo helicopters CH-53K for a unit price of $190 MM. Yes, you read that right, those are helicopters, they are not attack, but cargo helicopters, and cost almost $200 MM apiece.

[1] https://www.defense.gov/News/Releases/Release/Article/263871...


For anyone else confused, it's 85 F-35s for $12B, not $85B

It's also worth noting that these other aircraft are widely criticized as being excessively expensive as well, mostly because of the exact same issues with the acquisition process. For example the CH-53K is supposed to cost half of that, but because only 9 are being purchased this year the fixed costs aren't as amortized as predicted. And that's really the crux of it: the F35 acquisition was always going to be an 11 figure program, but the leading digit could have been a 1 instead of a 4, the price tag is the right order of magnitude, but there were still hundreds of billions of dollars wasted due to mismanagement.


You can say wasted due to mismanagement and not be wrong but also designing, building, and maintaining warplanes are among the most complex tasks humans have ever done, and I’ve been on plenty of teams that could barely manage a CRUD webapp so it’s not like being efficiently organized is easy and everywhere.

It should be impressive that such a thing is possible at all.

And, to be honest, it’s partially a jobs program to keep engineers employed and experienced in case there is a real need for immediate defense work.


Yeah, but they're not blowing money on the hard, complex parts, most of the cost overruns have been due to poorly thought out "cost saving" measures, for example producing the factory tooling before the plane if finished being designed, only to have to go back and redo all of the work when the design changes. Indeed the impetus for the project was to reduce costs by moving everything to a single airframe, based on a fundamental misunderstanding of the cost of aircraft development. At the same time many decisions were made based on maintaining political support instead of efficiency, which was always going to increase cost. Yeah, this isn't the the first time a project was poorly managed, and it won't be the last, but this is not an example of competent people giving it their best shot.

The claim that something is a jobs program is often used to justify not caring about waste, but that doesn't really make any sense. If your goal is to maintain a large pool of skilled individuals, it makes sense to do lots of highly efficient projects. When you do things efficiently, you can provide jobs to more engineers, and support a wider range of projects to maintain a more diverse skillset, plus you get more useful products out of the program.


> designing, building, and maintaining warplanes are among the most complex tasks humans have ever done

Most people who do complex, difficult jobs estimate for the complexity and difficulty. This project is both years behind schedule and at roughly twice its initial budget. There are also regularly reports of serious flaws in its day-to-day operation.

I believe it's fair to say both that the project is difficult and that this particular effort appears to have delivered a lower-quality product at higher costs and timelines than most of its peers.

> it’s partially a jobs program to keep engineers employed and experienced in case there is a real need for immediate defense work.

This is always true and they usually have better results.


I believe it's fair to say both that the project is difficult and that this particular effort appears to have delivered a lower-quality product at higher costs and timelines than most of its peers.

What are the peers of the F-35?


The Shenyang FC-31 Gyrfalcon is maybe sort of a peer of the F-35A/C. The Sukhoi Su-75 Checkmate might eventually be developed into a peer of the F-35A, but for now it's still a paper airplane. There is no peer of the F-35B.

You could say the same for a toy car that I made when I was 5 out of play dough.

That car has no peer.

A more relevant question to ask is... in head on air to air combat, is there a plane that can match it or beat it?


There are none, obviously.

In most ways it’s a cheaper less capable version of the F-22 except it’s not significantly cheaper. The VTOL version of the F-35 has few direct competitors but then again it’s making serious sacrifices for VTOL capacity.

My understanding was that the F22 is more for a forward stealth air platform that is also intense at air to air. The F35 in “beast mode” is a gun truck in military jargon and isn’t really all that stealth at all. The F22 and F35 are meant for quite different missions and they’re best paired together.

https://www.lockheedmartin.com/f35/news-and-features/raaf-fl...


The issue is the US military has more than just 2 aircraft. Sure, if it’s going to give up on being stealthy the F-35 can be a relatively slow gun rack with a pile of air to air missiles. Except giving up stealth and it’s lost most advantages over older and vastly cheaper aircraft.

Air to ground benefits from the extra carrying capacity but if you have air superiority then drones etc are again vastly more effective for the price. Sure, it’s got nice avionics right now, but that stuff gets replaced long before the aircraft gets retired.

That said we didn’t actually built that many F-22’s so we really needed something to pick up the slack.


You know what is impressive? Getting the CSS of any non-trivial app right. /s

More on a serious note, for the cost of one of these aircrafts, you can get more than 1/10th of their weight in gold. Either gold or the aircrafts are way too expensive, I think it is the latter. I wonder, what the Chengdu J-20 costs...


Is it really that complex? The best software engineers go to FAANG, not defense companies.

When the JSF program started, the only FAANG that existed yet was Apple.

Only a small proportion of the program involves software, and at that they were, for example, designing VR/AR helmets as a feature. What people are talking about being an entire industry was tacked on as a minor feature.

Imagine designing hardware where your single product is developed as computer tech advanced from 1993 to 2006 (program inception to first production flight, more or less)

There was an estimate that the program employed a quarter of a million people, because of how spread out contracts like this are it's hard to really come up with a comparison.

JSF is on a similar level of complexity of the entirety of Google, and has been in development about five years longer.


>the only FAANG that existed yet was Apple.

Which back then was seriously on the ropes, with SJ coming back to turn it around. Nobody would have listed Apple as an industry leading company. How times change.


And what does that say about society? If all of the companies in FAANG were to suddenly disappear, I think society would be better for it*.

Sure, people "depend" on FB for comms etc blah blah, but the world functioned fine before them if not maybe slightly less convenient. Netflix, come on. It's just entertainment. Nothing more. Google? Maybe search could be built to work again. Amazon? Maybe people actually buy local again. Apple? So we don't have luxury devices that cost more than some people make in a year.

*Obviously excluding the sudden loss of jobs. It's just a thought exercise.


It says that we haven’t seriously needed to actually defend ourselves in an extremely long time.

I don't think that's true. It's more like we value people to spam other people with ads and other trivial minutia more than other things.

when was the last time there was a credible threat against the United States that the defense industry was helpful in neutralizing?

Perhaps the reason for that is just having that defense industry.

Sounds like they don't need any help from FAANG engineers then.

Imagine if all of the FAANG engineers took their resources to make the place a better world <snark>. All of that energy on delivering the better ad could be so much better spent on <insert cause of choice here> instead of delivering ads and building the better big brother.

Sure, I agree. I just think defense is a weird thing to pick. Our governments need a lot of help with tech, I think the DoD actually needs less help than most other parts.


These companies exist because the market demands they do. If they disappear something else would fill the gap, swiftly. “Just” entertainment? That seems to me to be a better investment of effort than creation of war machines without a cause.

Aircraft engineering isn't all software though. There's a significantly non-trivial part that is hardware design (arguably the bulk of it), with incredibly tight tolerances, and often unique alloys. All of which can make or break a design.

Even just a single component, like the engine, is a massive engineering undertaking. If the company developing the powerplant under-delivers the entire program can be a bust.


Even if it was true that software engineers that don't work for FAANGs can't develop something complex (I doubt that's true, I'm sure there's plenty of skilled software engineers working at Lockheed Martin), FAANGs don't employ a lot of aerodynamicists, flight dynamicists, weapons engineers, material scientists, experts in radar technology etc. though, which is just a selection of the kind of specialists you need to develop a fighter jet.

Unfortunately, some of the smartest mathematicians and engineers that I know work for the 'defense' (should be named 'department of war' or 'offense') departments. They believe - which you of course may or may not agree with - that they are doing something for their country, and that the lack of pay is proof of their sacrifice.

What do you base this assertion on?

Prices?

You have been sorely misled

Imagine if this level of corporate welfare went towards social care, the environment or education. What a racket.

In the US, defense spending is ~700 billion, whereas the level of social care spending is about ~3000 billion.

Given the relative effectiveness of US healthcare and education, vs the US military, I’d sooner call US social spending a racket.


The true national security budget is around 1.25 trillion. For example nuclear weapons are not in the defense budget but in the Department of Energy budget.

https://www.pogo.org/analysis/2019/05/making-sense-of-the-1-...


That includes Social Security, which is wildly successful.

You could say the same thing about the military. It's been 76 years since 1945, and the US is still on top.

A bunch of Afghani people would beg to differ.

They'd be wrong. The US suffered a political defeat, not a military one. The US could flatten Afghanistan at any time.

Flattening a country isn't a victory. It's the act of a toddler not getting its way and then upsetting the gameboard so nobody gets to play.

I suggest you re-think your definition of victory.


Is Afghanistan on top of the world now? Did I miss that?

And far more Vietnamese, Koreans, and Iraqis.

Fair point, I just went with the most recent example.

I wasn't arguing, just augmenting. Your point was essential.


> That includes Social Security, which is wildly successful.

Wildly successful at giving away other people's money, but not wildly successful at sustaining itself without congress intervention every few years, to the point where the fund would collapse and cease to exist without intervention (ie. capital injection, ie. printing money).

I don't count that as "wildly successful" by any means.


Has congress actually added any money to the Social Security Trust funds, except in cases where they were first taking revenue away (ex. payroll tax breaks)?

I thought the issue of potential congress intervention was future funding, for full benefits, not current and past funding.

1937 to 2009 historical receipts/expenditures/balance: https://www.ssa.gov/history/tftable.html

1957 to 2020 reserves/income/costs: https://www.ssa.gov/oact/STATS/table4a3.html

Seems overall to have funded itself well?


Yeah, the fund is expected to run out in 2034 now. And then we'll see what happens.

https://www.ssa.gov/OACT/TR/2021/tr2021.pdf


Isn't the US military just another social security scheme? Except the main recipients are arms companies instead of the poor. Although the US military recruitment tactics of focussing on poor communities could also be seen as a social security scheme.

All of this is a contortion of the concept of social security, and you should lead with the redefinition.

You get back your own money, effectively. The money isn't 'given away', but invested in the survival, health and well-being of elderly people.

For regular SS, it's like an annuity. For the disability portion, it's closer to insurance or welfare

Do you think it would be better if our senior citizens, past working age, were just living on the street in poverty?

That's quite an unfair argument... it's not binary, either living on the streets or getting social security.

Personally, I don't think the government should be involved in your financial life at all, especially retirement. IRA's should be available to anyone, and maybe even required. The difference is you are in charge of your retirement, not politicians and their political objectives at the moment you just so happen to retire. Why would you want to trust the government with your financial future?

But, that's not to say some system run by the government can't work... it just says social security as was implemented doesn't work. We know it doesn't work because it requires printing money or raising the burden on today's youth unfairly. It doesn't work because the amount of money you put into the system doesn't equal what you will get out, and it doesn't grow with the markets or inflation. Few people can actually retire on social security because it pays so very little.

Any way you slice it... it's really, really tough to objectively call social security "wildly successful", which was the original contested assertion.


I'm not sure that's unfair.

With the state of wealth inequality in the states, the number of people living paycheck-to-paycheck, ever increasing attacks against the finances of the elderly in the form of scams and schemes, and our culture's dislike of multigenerational housing it seems like a choice between a government wellfare system like social security or tens of thousands to millions of impoverished, homeless elderly folks.

Libertarian ideals like "the government shouldn't be involved in your finances" seem fine in a perfect world, but reality is certainly not ideal.

Counterpoints? I'd also like to hear your thoughts on an alternative that takes care of those less fortunate? Thanks for your time! :)


> We know it doesn't work because it requires printing money or raising the burden on today's youth unfairly.

Debt financing is how we got out of the great depression and just about every major economic crisis since. Where would the markets be without government intervention in 2008? Where would the markets be now without QE? If "printing money" and "raising the burden on today's youth unfairly" are systematic failures, then it seems that American capitalism has been a sham for a long time.


I agree it has generally been a sham for a long time. If we actually believed strongly in free markets we would have let the various financial institutions die in 2008. I personally believe smaller regional players would have stepped in and we may have had a stronger recovery after a worse initial depression as those players fill the gap.

Let's also see the real consequences of the rapidly increasing inflation too in the coming years from the last couple stimulus bills. I wouldn't be too quick to look at QE as a panacea.

Seems like we've been treating symptoms instead of addressing various root causes for a long long time.


> you are in charge of your retirement, not politicians and their political objectives at the moment you just so happen to retire

How has the latter happened for Social Security? It's pretty much delivered as advertised. Would you trust everyone's fate to Wall Street?

> IRA's

Not everyone is equipped to handle investment, especially elderly people who are easily confused. And it creates reinforcing problems: If the economy is bad and Wall Street has a bad year, people need the money more but have less of it.

> it requires printing money or raising the burden on today's youth unfairly

How has Social Security required that? Why should today's youth have less burden their their predecessors, who paid for a many long-term investments that other generations benefited from?


Oh god let's please not add any for-profit subsidies to a broken pharma and healthcare system. It's a plague. I hope the drug price negotiation becomes law and actually saves as much as CBO score projects. I am less hopeful we'll ever be able to get a better healthcare system in the US

I'm 100% for clean energy though. But probably not going to happen; Manchin said specifically he doesn't want to subsidize 'what the companies are already doing.' Yet he's good with a bunch of coal and coal employee subsidies...

In a lot of circumstances I'd probably agree with his position but this is a crisis. It's like saying we shouldn't have invested in helping develop Covid vaccines because PHARMA is already doing it on their own.

There is a greater survival and health risk to think of. If money can help we should spend it.


I think they are like supercars. They cost a lot but that’s because two things: low volume and custom parts or components and special requirements.

It does in other countries!

Imagine how easy life would be if we didn’t pay over the odds for either.

Now add the expected maintenance costs over the life of the aircraft.

- How many hours of flight can the F-35 do before it needs to be hangered?

- How long does it take in the hanger?

- Can the F-35 even go supersonic without ripping off its anti-radar coat (thus becoming more visible as soon as it decelerates?)

- given the cramped space, how capable are aircraft carriers at F-35 repair? How many can they do at a time? What is the duty cycle of the F-35 on a carrier?

- Is the plane even finished the design phase?

The US should have bought 500 F-22 and given the Navy its own carte blanc design skipping the F-35 altogether.


"- Can the F-35 even go supersonic without ripping off its anti-radar coat (thus becoming more visible as soon as it decelerates?)"

Yes. One of the major improvements over the F-22 is the way the stealth coating works. Its baked in to the skin of the aircraft. It does not flake off, it does not need to be constantly reapplied. The F-22 and all other prior stealth aircraft, F-117 and B-2 are hangar queens because of their fragile stealth coatings. This is not the case for F-35. Not only is a game changer but it was also a requirement to make a carrier based stealth fighter actually practical.

"- given the cramped space, how capable are aircraft carriers at F-35 repair? How many can they do at a time? What is the duty cycle of the F-35 on a carrier?"

Just as capable at servicing any other carrier based aircraft. The F-35 its actually smaller than the super hornet in every dimension so space shouldn't be a problem. Its much smaller than the F-14 was. And its biggest servicing issue wasn't its size but the complexity of its swing wing.

"- Is the plane even finished the design phase?"

Ok, now I'm starting to wonder if you actually have informed criticisms or if you are just an F-35 hater and only want to spread FUD.


All carrier aircraft are typically brought into the hangar for several hours of maintenance after every flight. But if necessary the F-35B can be immediately refueled and rearmed on the flight deck and sent right out again in a matter of minutes.

Maintainers on a carrier can do fairly complex repairs, including engine replacement. If they need more working space in the hangar then other aircraft can be parked temporarily on the flight deck.

The F-35 is primarily a strike fighter so supersonic speed isn't that useful. The biggest problem with flying at supersonic speeds is it drastically increases fuel consumption, and the F-35B has a very limited fuel capacity. British carriers have no tankers.

As long as an aircraft is still in active production the design phase is never "finished". Updates will continue for decades. The F-15 design is about 50 years old and it's still not finished.

The F-22 production program was cancelled in 2011 because there was just no funding available. It wasn't possible to fight the wars in the Middle East, and procure more F-22s. Something had to give.


> The US should have bought 500 F-22 and given the Navy its own carte blanc design skipping the F-35 altogether.

Why? The F-22 is an air superiority fighter. The F-35 is a multi-role fighter. They're built for different purposes. It's crucial to understand the difference.


That's the issue, trying to make one airframe fill three drastically different roles and hence failing at all of them. Every time the F-35 turns in a miserable performance report its mission profile is changed to make it look like less of an embarrassment.

The F-35 wasn't intended to do everything. There are certainly those who have tried to make it do everything but that wasn't the intent of the program.

For example it was never meant to be an air superiority fighter. While it does have a great radar, missiles and even a gun on the air force version it was never meant to fill the role of an F-15 or F-22. The air force wants to replace the F-16 with the F-35.

The new Digital Century program shows the AF hasn't forgotten about the importance of dedicated platforms. However given the cost and development times of modern aircraft it takes a new approach to make them practical.

The navy has also been clear about the role of the F-35. It wont ever be used as an F-14 replacement. They are actually working on that separately.

As for other customers, different militaries have different missions and needs. It is true the F-35 is capable of filling most roles if needed. Some nations may rely on it as their air defense backbone. That's a secondary capability but when you only have the budget for one fighter and this is the only 5th gen on the open market then its defacto the best option.


The air force wants to replace the F-16 with the F-35.

Shame that in exercises the F-35 loses visual-range fights with the F-16 even when the F-16 is carrying external fuel tanks.

The issue is that it's almost universally worse than all the specialty aircraft it replaces at that specialty job. It's worse at fighting insurgents than the A-10. It's worse at dogfighting than the F-16. It's worse at air superiority than the F-18.

https://www.trtworld.com/magazine/us-admits-f-35-failed-to-r...


> The F-35 wasn't intended to do everything.

Yes it was... and Congress decided to tell the military what it needed instead of the other way around - hence the "jack of all trades, master of none" that is the F-35.

The F-16 is considered an air superiority fighter[1], although it is used in multi-role missions as well.

It's fly-away cost in 1998 was around $18.8MM[1], which is about $31.9MM today... or less than half the cost of each F-35.

Congress forced the idea of the F-35 onto the military as a low cost modern do-it-all aircraft. Then the Marines drove a huge part of the F-35 development, which ended up requiring VTOL/STOL capabilities etc, things no other branch wanted or needed and where subsequently ripped out of their variants anyway.

The final result are three different airframes that look similar, but don't share many parts, and don't outmatch the incumbent plane in each category (A-10 for CAS, AV-8B for VTOL/CAS, F-16/F-15/F-18/F-22 for AS and multirole, and probably a few others I'm leaving out).

So... why continue with the F-35? Sunk cost fallacy, mostly. It would be far better to take the lessons learned from this bleeding-edge program and apply them to new, purpose-built aircraft that each branch actually wants and needs.

[1] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/General_Dynamics_F-16_Fighting...


In Hearts of Iron, you play as a country during WW2.

As Germany, you face threats from Britain (ships, fighters and bombers), France (mostly land forces) and Russia.

What do you build?

Air superiority fighters win dogfights (F22 today) but are only useful vs Britain.

Close Air Support (A10 today) beat tanks, but lose in the air.

Multirole fighters (F35 today) work in all three theaters, but not as well as the specialists.

Given that the next war might be vs Russia (Crimea situation), Taiwan / China (Naval), or maybe even terrorists in Africa or Middle East, multirole is the obvious airplane to build today.

-----

So Air Force wants a multirole fighter that can take off from airstrips / airports.

Marines want a multirole fighter that can take off of Wasp Amphibious Assault Ships (ramp launch)

Navy wants a multirole fighter that can take off of their Aircraft Carriers (catapult launch).

This gives F35A, F35B, and F35C variants. But since they all wanted a multirole fighter, it makes sense to try to make the three variants as similar as possible. You want to standardize the gun, standardize the bullets, standardize the fuel, standardize the software.


> That's the issue, trying to make one airframe fill three drastically different roles and hence failing at all of them.

Really, you can thank the the F-4 Phantom II, F-16 and both versions of the F-18 (the A and C, which is a much larger aircraft) for this. All of these planes excelled as both fighter and attack aircraft, and showed it was possible to do both missions well enough.


The F/A-18 E is the Super Hornet, the A and C are the same airframe.

You are correct.

"Multirole" is just Pentagon speak for "smaller, cheaper, and limited, but still stealthy".

No, it doesn’t mean that at all. It’s differences can range from types of munitions to avionics. The fact you said a multirole fighter is more limited shows you really don’t know the differences. A multirole is actually more capable. A multirole like F-35 can do air superiority but it won’t outperform an aircraft designed specifically for air superiority like the F-22. The F-22 does not do air-to-ground strikes. The F-35 can.

The multirole fighter is not a new concept.


The F-22 has done air-to-ground strikes, its problem is just being too expensive.

Being capable of doesn't make it the primary role. Yes the F-22 can drop a few bombs... but that's the problem.. a few. It doesn't have the load capabilities or external pylons (without compromising it's stealth entirely) to carry significant munitions or preferred role-specific munitions to be really effective in CAS or ground attack. Nor is it's cannon a comparable replacement for the GAU-8.

> the F-35 isn't any more expensive than other aircraft. For example for the latest budget proposal (2022), the DoD plans to acquire 85 F-35s [1] for a total price of $85 BN, or about $150 MM per plane.

But isn't that in all probability the same kind of thing as large American IT companies do with their international subsidiaries, i.e. moving money around on paper to where it looks the best?

That is, Dell and Facebook and Apple and so on have their European headquarters in Ireland (where corporate taxes are the lowest, and on top of that they negotiate sweet deals to make it even lower), and pay the mother company "royalties" for "use of intellectual property" to siphon profits away to where they're hardly taxed at all. In a similar way, defense contractors make the sale price look like what they think gives the best chance to get the sale (including what the great unwashed public will "buy", so they don't put pressure on their politicians, and those in turn on the military, to reject it) -- but then add that money on to maintenance contracts or future development where it's less visible here and now.

Looking at just the stated "sale price" and thinking that that actually represents the "true cost" of a machine seems rather naïve to me.


> By the way, the F-35 isn't any more expensive than other aircraft.

Only because every time the development costs go up they agree to buy more planes so that they can keep the per-plane costs the same. The development costs are wildly disproportionate to other weapons programmes if you properly separate them.


> By the way, the F-35 isn't any more expensive than other aircraft.

It is more expensive. And the fact that all "modern" militaro-industriel projects goes over budget is just not an excuse to that.

The F-16 program (which the F-35 is supposed to replace) was around 10x less. Even inflation considered, this does not justify this fiasco.

Same goes for the F/A-18, the Su-35 or the Dassault rafale.

Even the damn entire Apollo program (inflation considered) was currently cheaper with an impact for the society of a complete different scale.

Maybe the question should be: Was the utility of this plane worth the cost ? And I can barely find any positive arguments to that. Specially when considering the conflicts USA has been in the last 20 years.


It's a work program, not an aeronautics program, and a very efficient way to take a large amount of tax payers money and make it end up in particular designated pockets.

Your comparisons ignore engine count. The KC-46 has two engines and the CH-53K has three engines. The F-35 has one.

If your single engine jet fails on a catapult launch, you've lost that plane, and the pilot has just a few seconds to punch out and save their own lives.


I have no idea what engine count should have to do with argument: my rowboat has two engines (if my partner is coming along), yet I'm willing to part with it for below $ 150 million. It's also safer than most military helicopters and fighter jets, although I won't vouch for its behaviour in carrier catapult launches.

I believe the real argument is something along the lines off "yeah, those planes are BIG compared to the F-35", plus something that accounts for the helicopter. Maybe its unit price doesn't benefit from a split-off development process before? Or its expected sales volume is even lower?


None of that matters if an expensive flying gun can't do what an inexpensive robot vacuum can do.

>Forget about the deck crew and the pilot being blind morons.

I thought aviation is THE industry that runs on procedures and checklists you need to tick before and after each flight to make sure the even if you're a complete klutz, nothing like this can ever happen. Did that go out the window?

>It means the flight computer for a plane that took twenty years and a trillion dollars to develop can't detect that there's a fucking cover blocking the engine.

This is pure gold. Even my robovac can detect when something is chocking the suction intake and shut down and send me a notification on my phone. The fact that a trillion dollar weapon missed this feature is hilarious.


The article says that this was a checklist item for both the ground crew and the pilot, and yet it wasn't spotted/fixed (did they even conduct the checks?). Multiple heads are definitely going to roll on this one.

But two things can be true:

- Procedures/checklists should have stopped this (and should be the primary way).

- The flight computer should know that air flowing into the engine is unusual when a cover is blocking it.

Also keep in mind that if both are fixed, this would be fixes from two different organizations (the British Navy and Lockheed Martin/F-35B's manufacturing chain).

This happened at peace time. I can imagine during a stressful wartime situation human error is more likely to occur, which is even more reason why computer sanity checks can be advantageous.


There are a ton of ways that checklists can fail. For instance, when an item is 2x instead of separate items for left and right. When items are done in a series instead of one at a time. When time constraints force a rush. When items aren't read aloud. When checklists aren't completed. When those responsible for completing the items aren't present for the checks. When no one is following behind double checking each item.

There is a whole science behind checklists like this. Surgeons have been learning this lesson for over a decade now: https://www.advisory.com/daily-briefing/2015/08/04/checklist...

Also it is possible that the cover did not restrict air flow until the aircraft entered a cruise flight regime or a certain altitude. Often aircraft will have different intake bypasses for different flight regimes. However, a cover like this SHOULD have a pin and momentary switch similar to lockouts for flight controls. But if the cover was an afterthought, implemented by crews and not the engineers, that may not have been accounted for.


> Also it is possible that the cover did not restrict air flow until the aircraft entered a cruise flight regime or a certain altitude

Article states that the pilot attempted to abort takeoff, but ran out of runway on the ship. So, apparently the pilot knew something was wrong pretty soon after initiating takeoff.

edit: grammar


The aircraft was doing a VTOL take off. Maybe the upwards part went fine until it was required to start shifting forward?

It wasn't doing a vertical take off. It accelerates along the flight deck and uses the ski-jump at the bow to help it get airborne.

Things can get complicated when checklists have if-else-branches and loops.

Anything that has a list of lists, and if-else-branches can be really hard to get right. You walk into one wrong branch due to human error, mistakes just multiply from there.

Also the worse thing is- you are confident that you are doing the right thing, while just making more mistakes.


Don't forget checklist and alarm fatigue. When an alarm goes off every 2 seconds "Check air intake" because of changes in atmospheric pressure etc... When a checklist is 200 items long and your commander is asking why you aren't in the air yet. Organizational failure, when every other pilot in the wing is waiting to taxi because they skimmed the checklist and you are still checking freeze plugs and fuel.

Anyone in charge of this sort of mission critical stuff has to be willing to take it on the chin to ensure safety. If top brass isn't willing to take "safety" as an excuse for a delay or cancellation it's just going to propagate down and cause an accident.


yup any repeated interruption is indistinguishable from noise, and after a while you are just used to neglecting it.

>The article says that this was a checklist item for both the ground crew and the pilot, and yet it wasn't spotted/fixed (did they even conduct the checks?). Multiple heads are definitely going to roll on this one.

As it should be. If you're just ticking boxes on a checklist of a weapons system responsible for life and death situations, without actually performing said checks, you shouldn't be entrusted with this job. This is beyond incompetence.


It depends on how the checklist was structured/phrased though doesn’t it?

“Check for rain cover” isn’t as clear as “Remove rain cover from engine and stow in compartment labeled ‘Rain Cover’.”


In all fairness, Lockheed Martin made the cover bright red.

"Remove before flight" items often also have a long red streamer attached.

One possible engineering solution would be to make the cover out of a material strong enough to keep out the weather, but flimsy enough that if the engine was running it would suck it in and harmlessly shred/burn it.


It is non-excusible.

It is bloody red cover, sorry for the British f word. Just look ! It is strange to have that red thing.

Head rolling needed. Life and death in fighting situation.

Having said all that may be we should have that to baby sit these pilot. And ground crew.


Well, the British f-word is just that.

The Air Force had so much trouble with pilots attempting to land without lowering the landing gear (and it was on the checklist) that during flight ops an officer was stationed at the end of the runway whose sole job was to check each landing airplane having the landing gear lowered.

Looking at the picture that cover is hardly what I'd call signal yellow. I can imagine that on a dull day, at the end of a long shift, your brain could play some funny tricks with you causing you not to see them.

It boggles my mind they wouldn't have put some kind of NFC chips in it at least to chime an alert "check intake cover".

It also is truly strange it couldn't detect the airflow anomaly on spool up, and at least alert the pilot / launch officers.

Could have a pattern embedded for super easy image recognition and a simple computer running continuous recognition of aircraft taking off (I'm sure there's cctv)... There's just so many ways to help prevent such a mistake!

I don't envy the crew explaining this.


> I thought aviation is THE industry that runs on procedures and checklists

It is, but people sometimes get complacent and/or cocky and "dog" a checklist (run through each item without actually doing it). Incredibly dangerous, inexcusable behavior. I can think of two recent fatal accidents just off the top of my head that were missed takeoff items. I've personally seen pilots say flaps twenty out loud and then go right to the next item without even looking up. Meanwhile I'm looking right at the flap lever and it's set to zero. Don't get me wrong, I get it - when something goes right 1,000 times in a row, it can be hard to get your brain to really, truly understand that the success of this takeoff has absolutely no connection to any of the previous takeoffs. But overcoming that is part of the job.


>>I thought aviation is THE industry that runs on procedures and checklists you need to tick before and after each flight to make sure the even if you're a complete klutz, nothing like this can ever happen. Did that go out the window?

Just a day back they dropped a $10 billion(20 years in development) origami transformer-like robot telescope(jwst) on the floor because some one forgot to secure a clamp well enough to hold the piece in place.

So I'm guessing regardless of whatever people say about six sigmas, checklists and procedures, human errors just continue to happen regardless.


Something similar happened with a NOAA satellite in 2003.

https://space.stackexchange.com/questions/1783/was-the-noaa-...


>Even my robovac can detect when something is chocking the suction intake and shut down

I'm not sure I want my plane to just shut down if it ingests something.


And robovacs don't need to keep their motor running since they're not airborne so why the odd comparison? Obviously they both should react differently to intake blockage, my point was that even consumer devices have such detection features.

I do, if it's still on the ground when it happens.

I get your point, but no you don’t on an aircraft like this.

If you are on a takeoff roll with a heavily fueled and armed aircraft and it detects an ingestion it has no idea if running until it blows up will save lives or not. The pilot needs to make that call.

There are significant failures here, but without being on the scene or seeing the write up I can’t say what they are beyond the failure of both the ground crew and the pilot.

This is speaking as a 21 year Naval Aviation Senior Enlisted who has spent plenty of time on the flight deck.


I dont think the commenter above actually meant "shut down when not all is ideal". But having the aircraft scream at pilot that the airflow is unusual, possibly even suggest that it looks like as if the cover was on, and letting pilot decide whether to ignore this warning or act upon it....

Yea, I think the hard stop of my vacuum is fitting for its purpose: at worst my floor wont get vacuumed if its false error. But the aircraft lacking elevated and more concretely descriptive warnings about such crucial part of its powerplant is just wrong.


The cover was left on. You don't believe there's a moment between the plane being turned off and still and the plane moving too fast to stop where the computer should've said "what the fuck?" like, say, half a second after turning the engine on?

Aviation is the industry of procedures and checklists because it is more and more complex, never simpler. The complexity at some point is so big, people just start taking shortcuts, especially when they believe their experience will help them cutting corners.

Also aviation is not special in any way when it comes to human error. I know details never published about aircraft accidents in my country (pilots talk on the airfield, it helps us knowing what happened and what to avoid) and most were incredibly stupid human errors. I know people who crashed more than once with planes and kept doing stupid things, I personally know 4 people that crashed planes, one of them 3 times, and keep doing it. Pilots are not special, not even above average, and they keep doing things that are not expected. Being tired, bored or distracted makes it worse.


For the one who crashed 3x, what were the causes?

First time, skipping a maintenance task causing an expected problem (so it is not a technical problem). Second time, doing a risky maneuver he was not capable of doing properly in a plane perfectly capable, but he had very few hours on that type. The third time was recent, we did not meet since so I have no info yet.

Carrier runways use a slingshot to launch aircraft, it's not an unaided takeoff, the runway is not long enough to develop sufficient airspeed to take off on engine power alone. By the time the engine reports a lack of airflow in the intake, it might already be too late.

That carrier lacks a catapult.

It's a ski jump, the plane only needs a short roll.

The UK's carriers are "ski-jump" type, with no catapult. But for either type, the engine will typically be "run up" to full power before the aircraft starts moving.

There is always a nonzero error rate and always an error that never occurred for anybody to check for.

Nothing says the plane couldn't detect the lack of airflow, but when you take off from a ship and your engines don't work there's not a lot your flight computer can do for you.

Specifically, according to the press release, the pilot tried to abort takeoff while still on the deck but ran out of runway, meaning the plane was moving for at most a few seconds before the issue was noticed.


Well then maybe it's worth investing in a cover detector switch, just like my car can tell me I forgot to close the gas tank cap.

Again, the issue was discovered within seconds at most, there very likely is a sensor which told the pilot that the cover was on, but there wasn't time to do anything with that information besides eject.

Of course instead of relying upon the pilot seeing that error message you could instead disable the plane so it can't even start trying to take off. But then you run the risk that your $200 Million dollar plane will be rendered inoperable by the failure of a $20 sensor which is obviously undesirable in a war environment.


> Again, the issue was discovered within seconds at most, there very likely is a sensor which told the pilot that the cover was on,

YM "within seconds" of after he started rolling? That's obviously too late. Why shouldn't it say that as soon as the pilot "switches on the ignition" (i.e, tries to start the engine) or thereabouts?


You car probably doesn't have a switch for this. It detects that there is a leak in the tank when running an emission compression/vacuum test on the tank. And if this is the case, you can pull over safely and put it on. Your car doesn't crash.

I said gas tank cap, but I actually meant the cover. Sorry not sure what the right word is. The little door that you open to access the gas tank cap. And yes there is a physical switch that is depressed when that door is properly closed.

> It means the flight computer for a plane that took twenty years and a trillion dollars to develop can't detect that there's a fucking cover blocking the engine.

Of course the computer "could" do it. And maybe it did. That doesn't mean that precautions were followed, or that some sort of lock out feature for this would even be desirable design feature for a war machine to begin with.


It didn't cost a trillion dollars to development. The trillion dollar number everyone always loves to throw around is for the total lifetime cost (i.e., to 2070) to $1.5 trillion in then-year dollars which also includes operations and maintenance.

The F-35B costs (currently- it's growing by the day) roughly a third of a billion dollars each in acquisition cost alone.

That's over a quarter billion pounds.

To put that in perspective: the pre-primary and primary education budget for the entire country, in 2016, was 800 million pounds.

Do you think MPs will hand-wring about this plane being flushed down the drain as much as they do about fiscal prudence in early education expenses?

I wonder if UK teachers spend their personal funds on school supplies like teachers in the US do.


> To put that in perspective: the pre-primary and primary education budget for the entire country, in 2016, was 800 million pounds.

That doesn't sound right. This page says the UK spent 31 billion on pre-primary and primary education in 2020

https://www.statista.com/statistics/298910/united-kingdom-uk...

(If that has a paywall, try googling for the info, which is how I was able to view the page.)

Please help me understand the discrepancy or edit your comment.


Its not right -- there are about 4.6M primary school publicly funded students in the UK.

Source : https://assets.publishing.service.gov.uk/government/uploads/...

The UK did not spend 173 pounds per student for a year of education -- the 30B cost leads to per student spending of about $6500, which is starting to approach a reasonable figure.


I don't think your spending figures are right. An up to date F-35 does not cost anywhere near 330 million.

I personally love that number.

That number has kept me employed for 7 years so far and will continue paying my rent cheques long after its necessarily.

Long live the global murder complex.


Note that the article only states that the ground crew found the cover floating in the water. It didn't actually say the aircraft took off with it on.

It may be, eg, that it had been taken off properly but got (or was left) loose on the flight deck and blew up into the intake of the jet as it was taking off.

Something for the ground crew to fix, for sure, but not necessarily a catastrophic failure of standard checking procedures.


So why dont they release the flight deck cctv to prove this or is it more likely a crap coverup?

So the engine a joint effort between Lockheed (designer) and Rolls Royce (builder), https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lockheed_Martin_F-35_Lightning... makes me wonder if Rolls Royce used their turbine blades on this aircrafts engine? https://www.theengineer.co.uk/rolls-royce-single-crystal-tur... https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S187770581...

You see the US Lockheed C-130 Hercules has a different flight computer compared to the British version namely because of the use of different engines, the US engines are not as powerful and the USAF fly within the parameters of the flight computer, but the British Lockheed C-130 has a cut down flight computer which allows more risky manoeuvres because the Rolls Royce engines are more powerful, so they can land and take off on shorter jungle runways, stepper climbs things like that, ideal for security services operations. The Apache Helicopter is the same, the US engine is not as powerful as the Rolls Royce engine so you can do more in the UK version of the Apache.

So I wonder with this one if it really is a crap coverup or not? There's a lot of technology built into these things and as we become more reliant on technology to help fly these things instead of the more natural mechanical elements of control from years gone by, there's more vulnerability being introduced alongside the de rigueur complexity.


This sounds like British propaganda to me. When you have multiple engine choices for an aircraft from multiple manufacturers they all build the engines to the same specification so the power levels are identical. The UK engines are no more powerful than the US engines in the same vehicles.

Dutch, British & US private contractors, some ex military working as aircraft fitters on USUK & European military aircraft, informed me. Alot is farmed out to private businesses and everyone likes a drink whilst swapping stories.

I know some of the things these aircraft fitters have to put up with when "upgrades" come through for things that break, the CAD designers are a world apart from reality on the ground and hasn't that always been the case?

However health and safety alongside better record making & taking is constantly improving things... slowly.

Its not British propaganda. I could go into how easily fabricated mill certificates are to keep engineering firms happy whilst maximising profits for metal stockholders. Its hard to trace engineered metals.

The weakness with goods and services is the end user is usually not in a position to test independently due to lack of finance and/or knowledge, so trust is still inherently exploitable.


It depends. The UK Apache is license built by AgustaWestland instead of Boeing and does indeed have a more powerful engine.

It was the same for the UK's F-4s, which had a Rolls Royce Spey that put out significantly more thrust than the GE J79s in US F-4s.


It's possible (I would say likely) that there was a warning light. During normal aviation takeoffs, there are procedures that govern when it is too late to abort, and procedure dictates that it is safer to attempt flight. For a carrier, I imagine that point-of-no-return is about a few feet from stationary.

Mate Rimac from Rimac Automobili claims [0] that engineering a car is far more complex than engineering an aircraft, because:

1. the expectations the manufacturer places on the operators are wildly different (eg: car drivers won't deal with checklists, type ratings, etc.)

2. the expectations the operators have from the manufacturers are wildly different (eg: car drivers care about their UX and the perceived value, whereas pilots mostly care about their job security)

[0] In German: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PALxDIxRrns


Planes like this are built on the edge of what is possible. They might be over priced and have huge budgets, but that doesn't mean you can just throw more money at it to add more "stuff" and come up with a better plane at the end.

They are an optimization problem. Anything you can get done on the ground is a gold mine if that means you do not have to cart more sensors and wiring and computation and potential information and procedures that the pilot has to deal with in the cockpit.


As someone who knows nothing about aviation or engineering I’m a little surprised that a “rain cover” for a fighter jet engine is even a thing. Does that mean these jets can’t fly in the rain?

Any openings on planes are usually closed when parked in order to prevent birds and other critters from getting inside and causing random damage.

They lost a B-2 bomber because of moisture in a sensor. ($1.4 billion - oops). https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/2008_Andersen_Air_Force_Base_B...

And a 757 that was thought to have crashed due to pilot confusion, caused by instrument error, ultimately because the pitot tube covers were left off and the hole is just about the size a mud dauber likes. https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Birgenair_Flight_301

They are not morons. These things happen all the time.

The issue is the fact that whereas in 1945 fighters cost about as much as a few 'fancy cars', fighters are now 200 homes. Of course, they should be thought of as 'flying weapons platforms' ... but still.

$16M F16 would be one thing, but a $120M piece of kit ... that hurts.

I'm wondering how well the 'downgraded' variations of F18++ or 'some new fighter' will fill the gap or if Boeing can make a 'cheap F35'.


The F-18 is totally incapable of operating from UK Royal Navy carriers. There are no serious plans to build some new manned fixed wing VSTOL fighter. The F-35B will be the only available option for the next 20+ years.

If they had to build Harriers, they could. I wonder what 1970s Harriers, with upgraded comms, radar and weapons would be like? Maybe 'good enough' in a lot of situations. If they didn't spend 20 years integrating some overly complicated 'Meatverse Helmet' etc. i.e. they took a 'build it now' wartime footing ... I wonder what they could build ...

No they couldn't build new Harriers. The production line was shut down years ago. The supply chain for many critical components no longer even exists. The production workers with essential knowledge have mostly retired. It would take many years to try to recreate, and at this point it would actually be more expensive than just buying more F-35B's.

The US did make over 15,000 P-51 mustangs, so there were some economies of scale playing in their favor.

Not that an F-35 could ever cost $600,000 like a P-51 but it is worth noting I think.


A current gen F-16 actually costs fairly similar to an F-35, if sold to the Israelis at least.

> sold to

Isn't that one of those "circular economy" things? As in "Here, we're giving you X amount in defense aid, and you're buying from us Y things with it."


Quite possibly, but my point is that a modern F-16 is not this buy-one-get-one-free bargain implied by the comments on any F-35 article.

Agreed, but under the circumstances a high price sticker also makes everything look better ...

to my understanding the f35 is actually pretty price competitive with other offerings. The price keeps going down as more and more are sold

The NEXT version of the software will surely add this check!

Wait for the subscription-ware version where you need to pay 2 Billion per year to the defense contractor for the feature.

That sounds like what we have now. We just haven’t formalized it. :-(

That'll be another hundred billion dollars and five years tho. Maybe by then they'll install some functioning cannons on these.

>How does a twenty thousand dollar sedan have a more robust readiness-detection system than a hundred million dollar airplane?

because the car industry is driven by market forces, not government corruption driven monopolies. I'm not sure why anybody thinks the US military is anything more than a paper tiger after the last few decades of failure, highlighted by the failed withdrawal from Afghanistan. I feel bad for the countries that got pressured into buying the F-35


>I'm not sure why anybody thinks the US military is anything more than a paper tiger after the last few decades of failure, highlighted by the failed withdrawal from Afghanistan.

I dunno about that, but the military industrial complex made absolute bank though, for which the taxpayers generously picked up the tab.


I think the absolute incompetence the Navy has exhibited in failures to move their ships around the Pacific without running into things is a better example.

Ship collisions have always been a problem; the USN happens to operate many large ships.

Ultimately it's the pilot's responsibility to do a visual inspection of the entire aircraft. Of particular importance are the propulsion components and the control surfaces. We can blame the ground crew for missing an item on the checklist, but the pilot should have caught it.

Those covers are red for a reason, so that they're easy to spot and remove. Furthermore, the ladder to climb into the cockpit is right next to the intake, and if you see one, you have to check the other side. How was it possibly missed?


> How was it possibly missed?

Since you asked, here’s one idea:

- Did you notice the rain covers are present in the second photo in the article? I had to do a double-take because they’re very dark. I suspect they’re less obvious compared to other aircraft.

- Was the launch at night? If so, is the deck of this carrier appropriately lit wherever this plane was parked for inspection?

This is pure speculation. My point is you can have all the checklists in the world but bad design could contribute significantly to a process failure.

It sounds like this was a test flight of new equipment on a new carrier. I’d expect some design issues to be uncovered at this stage.


The color in the image is misleading. They are very bright red. Honestly, I have no idea how this could have happened without at least two people simply not doing their job, at all.

I thought everything that needs to be removed before takeoff needs to be bright orange/red?

...and flagged. It shouldn't just be a panel/plug, there should be a ginormous length of red webbing attached with a "you can't miss it" "REMOVE BEFORE FLIGHT" text in white (on both sides of the webbing) as well. It's not like we haven't been doing that for fifty-plus years or anything. That was old news when I was in the service [mumble] decades ago and our quaint training films on type were nearly twenty years old at that point (which should be a clue right there that I'm Canadian).

Perhaps the millenials in charge of designing this most recent fighter tired of your grandfather's rain cover aesthetic, and modernized them to feature Hoefler Whitney and more muted colour palette. :-)

I mean, there are certain lessons that each generation seems to have to learn anew.

It just that one would expect this to not be one of them.


Someone tell Elon...

It looks red to me. And probably more contrast/color with actual eyes. That photo is during the day and bright behind it cameras aren't great at that.

The incident occurred around 10:00 GMT in the Mediterranean[1] so I don’t think it was dark out.

[1](https://www.bbc.com/news/uk-59323895)


I think this is not true in military aviation. I’ve heard it’s a sign of trust in the aircraft’s ground crew for a military aviator to walk out, strap in, and blast off, trusting that the ground crew has done their job thoroughly and correctly.

> I’ve heard it’s a sign of trust in the aircraft’s ground crew for a military aviator to walk out, strap in, and blast off, trusting that the ground crew has done their job thoroughly and correctly.

To be sure, military aviation doesn't give a flying fuck about virtue signaling. The name of the game is checklist and enumerated procedure compliance or GTFO the flightline/deck; it doesn't matter if you're a fighter pilot or maintenance ground crew.


I don’t know who practices that, but it’s not a very professional approach. The only time I’ve known that to happen has been for quick reaction alerts, when it’s considered an acceptable risk to save time.

For normal operations the pilot doing their own check isn’t a lack of confidence in the ground crew, it’s the prudent, smart, and responsible thing to do when playing with people’s lives and very expensive aircraft. I’ve never known ground crew to get upset over it.


Air Force Thunderbirds: https://www.aopa.org/news-and-media/all-news/2012/march/31/m...

(Which means I’m only partially right, but I admit mostly wrong. I’ve also seen strong evidence that the Blue Angels do something similar, but can’t quickly find a reference.)


I can’t speak to the Thunderbirds, but I know that on the Maintenance side getting accepted to the Blue Angels is HARD. They are extraordinarily picky, and the application process is demanding.

The people who go tend to be the ones everyone hates at the front line squadrons because they are the sticklers for doing things right and putting in the work to do it right AND fast. Most others will cut corners on one or the other without oversight.


Ah yeah, the Blue Angels do the same. It’s all part of the show for them, with the aircraft parked in view of the public and a big deal made of the pilots walking to the aircraft and there being a smooth and rehearsed synchronised starting process.

I don’t really understand why they do it, to be honest. Most other military display teams, including the famous Red Arrows and Frecce Tricolori, just do regular startups with all the usual preflight checks.


This is the stupidest thing I've ever heard. It makes sense for something that you personally own and maintain yourself i.e. a Cesna. Do you expect Air Force 1 pilots to do walk around? Astronauts? Submarines?

These are mostly war machines that have to be scrambled asap, meaning the pilot is expected to jump in and fly. To alter that during peacetime would be silly, as you want to establish habits.


The pilots of Air Force One do in fact do pre-flight inspections and walks around, yes. I’ve seen them do it personally. All military pilots do their own pre-flight inspections, including checking inlets, exhausts, the undercarriage, and flight surfaces.

But don’t take my word for it, here’s a video I found as literally the first result when googling for it, showing a USAF F-22 pilot conducting a full pre-flight walk around inspection: https://www.dvidshub.net/video/149526/f-22-walk-around

Before saying something is the ‘stupidest thing’ you’ve ever heard, it might be worth first making sure you actually know what you’re talking about.


Most Air Forces are nowhere near as professional as USAF so they might be much less likely to be enforcing pilot pre-flight checks.

There are no shortage of horror stories about what is found when USAF pilots get deployed to train pilots in other Air Forces.


Unless you’re talking about dysfunctional developing world air forces like the Afghan Air Force I have difficulty believing that, and even then I’d question it. I can’t say I know how every single force operates, but I’ve seen a few African air force crews doing preflight preparations and in all cases the pilots did their own inspections. It’s really basic operational stuff.

The USAF is also not any more professional than other developed world and NATO air forces, who all have similar procedures in any case.


I've seen many pilots of my commercial aircraft (737 typically but A320 as well) do walk arounds. I even heard one say "I saw something funny hanging from the <something> so the maintainence crew has to come back and repair it."

All pilots, no matter what aircraft they fly, do the pre-flight walk around. Too many people died by not doing it, so they do.

Ward Carroll has a detailed video demonstrating the F14 preflight check:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LcuBmucjyUI


>I’ve heard it’s a sign of trust in the aircraft’s ground crew for a military aviator to walk out, strap in, and blast off, trusting that the ground crew has done their job thoroughly and correctly.

If that's true, that sounds kinda weird. Military aviation should run on procedures and checklists with redundancies.

When someone hands you an unloaded gun, you don't just trust that it's unloaded even if it's their job, but you check yourself there's no round in the chamber first before handling it.

Same with fighter jets, checks should be made by crew and pilot to ensure nothing escapes.


That is simply not true.

I think it's unfair to blame a military pilot specifically, as they are part of a much larger machine, where the responsibility for that part of the team effort has been clearly delegated. F1 drivers aren't blamed for a loose wheel nut after a pit stop, Airline pilots aren't blamed for a gear failure etc.

The comparison to F1 drivers and airline pilots is a faulty analogy. F1 drivers can't be responsible for a loose wheel nut because there is literally nothing they could do to know about or fix the situation.

In this case, though, it is the pilot's responsibility to do a visual inspection before take off, which he clearly failed to do.


Of course they could be, they could hop out and check, but of course that task was intentionally and purposefully delegated away. You might be right about a visual inspection being the pilots responsibility, I am not privy to their actual checklist. But it isn't unthinkanle to have tasks delegated in high pressure high risk environments, and not all responsiblities fall onto the pilot.

How to shoot down a F-35B crash:

"Dealing with what caused the F-35B crash, the British media outlet The Sun reports that it may have been a “cheap plastic cover” that was left on during take-off."

Of course, this may be a simple strategy, red herring, to fool unfriendly nations, but...

Also, makes me think about the MiG-29 which has special opening on the top of the engines so it can tak-off/land on unpaved runways: https://www.quora.com/How-is-the-Mikoyan-MiG-29-able-to-take...


I highly doubt the initial story since it doesn't really make sense. There are tons of checks before takeoff. Jets also go full throttle during takeoff so this isn't something that would just show up during the roll

I agree with you, this doesn't make much sense. The source quote is saying that someone saw a red cover in the water. How would the cover survive going through an engine? It should be shredded. Also, if the cover was left on it would have been sucked into the engine as soon as the pilot turned the engines on or when he when to full power before taking off. Makes more sense if a cover was left unsecured on the flight deck and was sucked in during take off. It still would be shredded though I would think.

Yeah, I can't see it quite happening the way the Sun intimates. Can't rule out FOD ingestion, but highly impropably could it have been an intake covers left on.

Is there a roll on an aircraft carrier?

There is on this one, it's a jump ramp carrier, not a catapult launch.

I understand now better why my country (Switzerland) wants to purchase 30-ish of those for "National Skies Protection". It is well in line with their past strategies and accomplishments:

1) Provide a sky patrol, but on only on office hours (9 - 17).

2) Buy for 1B CHF worth of radar, that would unfortunately lock on cows pasturing.

3) Buy for 0.5B CHF worth of software, then discard it because it's incompatible.

4) etc, etc, etc ....


(1) is hilarious. Do they also expect enemy combatants to make an appointment and provide the location of the meet :D

They’re a neutral nation surrounded by countries which are at the moment friendly. Neutrality incentivizes them to stay armed and to do their patrols but Switzerland has no reason to expect a war from France, Germany or Italy anytime soon.

> no reason to expect a war from France, Germany or Italy

Liechtenstein, on the other hand...

https://www.warhistoryonline.com/history/witzerland-invaded-...


Well, also large numbers of French, Germans, and Italians commute into CH every day, attacking your own citizens is considered bad.

Switzerland would also be bombed flat in the event anyone dedicated enough to go to war with the world's bank actually did so.

This is where people would go "ah but [shelters, etc.]", but there would be nothing to leave the shelters to return to. The kind of opponent they would actually face in a conventional conflict is likely not a just one.


Well let’s say I do concede the point; it’s a good thing they are a neutral and armed nation with their own Diplomacy Corp and Intelligence surrounded by friendly nations.

I wasn't really arguing anything in particular I just think the [Swiss equivalent of a wehr-aboo, i.e. people who go on holiday to Switzerland and come back telling stories about how secure it is] don't understand the kind of opponent the Swiss might actually face.

They require strict observation of Robert's Rules of Engagement.

it was subcontracted to france and italy. i think they now do provide this service 24/7 due to minor backlash. however, the time a jet is in the air, the "enemy " is already in another country.

Could you possibly adopt the Irish model and just get someone else to do it?

Germany have a few working planes i think.


  > Germany have a few working planes i think.
Oh, yes, history has proven that we want cats guarding the milk, ahem, Germans protecting other European nations from invasion. ))

We are well past that mentality here. Germans basically keep EU going not only financially which I consider a win overall for Europe despite its drawbacks.

Not another Versaille hanging over them to humiliate and keep the nation poor to piss off somebody down the line.


Yes, of course, I'm well aware that Germany of today is not the Germany of 1939. Otherwise I wouldn't have Bosch appliances at home. ))

  > Germans basically keep EU going not only financially
This could be interpreted as meaning that Germany _has_ conquered all of Europe, finally!

It was intentionally tongue in cheek.

I love the EU nations online =)


Indeed! Let's protect our col...common wealth ourselves!

Do you have more info on (2)? I couldn't find any info from a quick google search.

yes, in french, via ggl translate:

"Apparently it works in the plains but in the mountains, when for example a cow moves on the slopes, the radar identifies the animal as an enemy object", explained the Minister of Defense, Ueli Maurer.

to my knowledge, no cows have been hit by missiles so far.

https://www.rts.ch/info/suisse/6619651-un-nouveau-radar-de-l...


I mean as a swiss person, your biggest industry (watches) exists almost entirely out of "it looks cool". Rich Militaries buy the F-35 because it's a cool toy, in the same way a rich businessman buys a Patel Phillipe. Not because he needs to tell time, but because he wants to have something fun to play with and look at when he has free time.

i don't think our biggest industry is watch nowadays.. but i agree with your explanation!

If the source here is The Sun then we should really not take it at all seriously. The Sun are about as reliable as Reddit comments for factual accuracy.

-- Possible stupid question here (apologize, I'm not an expert) --

How can a cheap plastic cover block the engines of a fighter aircraft? Even if they forget to take it off, shouldn't it be destroyed by the jets?


This article is literally repeating an article from The Sun, a tabloid with a better track record of reporting on royals caught on holiday with their knickers off.

There are a lot of covers on ports and weapons on a combat aircraft sitting on the flight deck, the implication is that it was the inlet covers, which is impossible, the engine wouldn't have operated with those on and they are kind of obvious. It's much more likely this was a cover on something like a pitot tube or AoA sensor.

It's also possible that something just blew off the deck and it had nothing at all to do with crash, The Sun is reporting on some hot tip from the shipboard rumor mill, not the Ministry of Defense.


I thought it might be some other (non-engine) cover too, but the more I thought about it, the less likely that seemed. I seriously doubt a pilot would eject just because of a lack of airspeed indication, for example. The airplane is still flying, and if the pilot knows the airplane well they can still land it.

It's probably not too much of a conjecture to assume that these fit in front of the stator vanes and would be effectively supported by them, so would not come in contact with the the rotating turbine blades. Even if the turbine blades could create a vacuum, the maximum pressure it would have to hold is 14 pounds per square inch bridged between the vanes. I'd also guess that "cheap" is relative and they are using something between high-end commerical and engineering-grade plastic (still way cheap compared to the composites on the aircraft), and that this could withstand the pressures for at least the few seconds/minutes it took to fire it up and toss it in the drink.

I'm more surprised that they didn't notice it in firing up the engines - don't they run it briefly to full throttle as part of their checks? Seems it would at least sound badly off-tune, but what do I know...

Major fck-up all around...


None of it makes any sense at all.. there's no way one of those covers can stay on during engine startup without a million warning lights going crazy in the cockpit, there's no way the cover could possibly not get ingested during an engine runup.

And this was a carrier takeoff, so the engines would have been held at maximum thrust prior to launching off a catapult and possibly would have been run at afterburner as well. The inlet flow for that would develop far more than 14psi as the volume of air ingested is enormous. The mass of air ingested is measure in tons per second.

I think this is just incompetent journalists. Not that I've ever done pre-flight on an F-35 but there are probably MANY protective covers that have to be removed during preflight.

It most likely was another cover left on which did not impede takeoff but threw the systems for a loop after takeoff and the pilot wasn't well trained enough to figure out an emergency procedure on such short notice.


>The inlet flow for that would develop far more than 14psi as the volume of air ingested is enormous.

The max difference is 14 psi because that's atmospheric pressure.


Yes, this does make little sense at all

If it is actually a full inlet cover, there will be _zero_ airflow, so just < 14psi pressure on the cover. (I was just answering how it could avoid being ingested if it was a full cover.)

If it is some other smaller cover on some auxiliary inlet, it might make more sense, as it could definitely screw up the sensors, airflow, whatever, and not get ingested.

I'm sure we'll all be really interested to see what really happened, 'tho I'm not sure we ever will.


> this was a carrier takeoff, so the engines would have been held at maximum thrust prior to launching off a catapult

This plane uses vertical take-off.


On the QE it uses short take off (ski jump) and vertical landing.

HMS Queen Elizabeth doesn't have a catapult.

Which of course means the engine had to have been at full thrust.

I doubt you'd be able to get up to full thrust with the covers on though. If it wouldn't be sucked in and shredded/burned (in which case it wouldn't be seen floating in the sea), it wouldn't be possible to get the amount of airflow you ned to get it up to full thrust for takeoff.

I agree this whole story is conjecture.. And a cover floating in the sea doesn't mean it would have had anything to do with this plane.


Agreed. In the past, people have been sucked into the intake of jets on a carrier, I don't think a canvas rain cover is going to be able to block the intake. At worst maybe it'll scratch up the blades on the way through. Hell, I half expect the covers are designed exactly so they aren't substantial enough to damage the engine if they get sucked in by accident.

Not a stupid question. The explanation doesn't make sense, for many reasons. A large one being the sheer number of people who would have to be blind to a red cover over the engine intake that they all know is not supposed to be there.

> Anyway, let’s wait for the official investigation to provide more confirmed details about the incident and its root cause(s).

so I opened this article and did a ctrl-f for "pitot" or similar, didn't find any mention to a pitot tube or pitot-static sensor.

somehow doubt that an entire engine air intake cover was left on... they're huge and the engine wouldn't have spun up correctly, or would have sucked it in.


The article links to a Sun tabloid news article as a source, and the BBC article/a defense minister who said:

> Mr Wallace added that operational and training flights onboard HMS Queen Elizabeth are continuing despite the incident.

and presumed the root cause was well-known.

Since they used the Sun, maybe take it with a grain silo of salt.


Next time we have a real war I have a feeling there will be some very interesting dumb "hacks" used against all of these smart weapons.

We already had that in Afghanistan. Our LAVs were being defeated by IEDs, so we spent a lot of money making mine rollers. The mine rollers were then defeated with 10 cents worth of lamp cord to separate the pressure plate from the explosive.

In Afghanistan we were spending lots of money to not kill civilians and cause a PR nightmare. If we didn't care, we'd have carpet bombed the place. Or developed and used chemical weapons.

In a real war, we'll be using tactical (not strategic) nukes to take out carriers and bases and supply lines, not toys that avoid collateral damage.

If shit hits the fan, the strategic nukes come out and we all die.


> the strategic nukes come out and we all die

To borrow from the Bronze Age conflicts between the Egyptians, Hittites, et al, you don't want to annihilate your adversary because you still have to trade with them. Wars are just a strategy to establish a more favorable trading position.


except when it comes to Carthage, then you have to salt the earth to shut Pliny up.

and purge excess males from the population

That's naive. Strategic and tactical bombing did jack shit besides kill or at least make life miserable for lots of civilians, and destroy lots of land for the foreseeable future in Vietnam.

Afghanistan is highly mountainous. Carpet bombing doesn't work very well for caves.


We pulled our punches in Afghanistan.

Commanders on the ground were asking for air-dropped landmines to cover the areas that Bin Laden could have been using as an escape in Tora Bora in December 2001. Air-dropped land-mines would have made navigating those mountains much more difficult for Bin Laden, and may have killed him on his escape.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/GATOR_mine_system

---------

They may use IADs, but we have far better equipment for that strategy. We can deploy our mines from airplanes and just blanket an area if we so choose. But of course: this strategy means killing innocent civilians who accidentally walk on the mines.

--------

Difficult Terrain works for both sides. Sure, its difficult for us to move in, but that also makes it difficult for the enemy to move around. Doubly so if landmines are secretly littering areas.


> to not kill civilians and cause a PR nightmare

Estimates sit at around 240,000 deaths, great job.

Still better then the Iraqi genocide mind....


> Estimates sit at around 240,000 deaths

You're of course referring to total estimated deaths over 20 years from all supposedly war-related causes (which includes poverty), not civilian deaths directly attributable to the US. The Taliban - as the blood-thirsty conquering force attempting to enslave the population of Afghanistan for the past several decades - is responsible for most of those deaths.

It's funny how many people try to pretend the Taliban don't exist, their murders don't exist, the consequences of their conquering don't exist, and their aims don't exist, when it's convenient.

The actual civilian deaths in Afghanistan by the US is a very small fraction of the number you're quoting, which is the point of the parent comment. The vast majority of violent civilian deaths were from the Taliban and associated groups, via suicide bombings and other intentional mass murder events.

And the vast majority of all deaths during the Iraq civil war, were Iraqi on Iraqi murders. The US stepped in-between the warring factions and tried to stop it, which cost a lot of US blood and treasure.

This isn't hidden magic information. It's right there in the estimates along with the number you quoted out of context. They break out how they arrive at the death totals.


This is a lot of words to say:

"We destabilised a region and are responsible for the MASSIVE number of civilian deaths as a result."


The US destabilized Iraq, leading to the Civil War. Not like they’re innocents in the matter.

Compare to the Soviet-Afghan war where the Soviets were not so nice.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Soviet%E2%80%93Afghan_War

> Civilians: 562,000–2,000,000 killed

Most civilian deaths during the US war in Afghanistan appear to be from the Taliban themselves.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Taliban

> According to the United Nations, the Taliban and their allies were responsible for 76% of Afghan civilian casualties in 2010, and 80% in 2011 and 2012.


The military is bored and loves to spend money on shinies.

Everyone works hard to un-learn the most important lesson of war: In war, more of something beats less of something.

And it isn't simply a "morer is betterer" argument, even strategically if you can place assets in multiple concurrent locations even if those assets are "dumber" then you're forcing the enemy to split their force into multiple beachheads.

Embraer EMB 314 Super Tucano ($18M~) Vs. F-35A ($79M~). One F-35A obviously beats one Super Tucano but does it even have enough weapons onboard to beat 4.3? What if you split your Super Tucanos between two locations, which one is the F-35A going to defend?

And the Super Tucano is even the endgame here, the endgame is drone swarms. $1M~/ea and you have a 79-1 ratio, and it is indefensible and laughably so.


Not this again. You'd have to have an army of suicidal fanatics to get them to take off in Super Tucanos against a squadron of F-35s or any American jet really. The F-35 is just going to BVR lob unavoidable AMRAAMs. Add some F-15/18/22s to the mix as well and it will be a good old turkey shoot.

> And the Super Tucano is even the endgame here, the endgame is drone swarms. $1M~/ea and you have a 79-1 ratio, and it is indefensible and laughably so.

"Drone Swarms" You either are just describing guided missiles which already exist or an actual drone aircraft capable of threatening an F-35 which would require similarly capable sensors and engines. It's not going to cost $1M.

Take this as a grain of salt because it's a player in a sim fighting AI. But I love it as an example of what a lone fighter can do against less capable aircraft. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=w5FrxsBG_H8


> One F-35A obviously beats one Super Tucano but does it even have enough weapons onboard to beat 4.3?

https://www.raytheonmissilesanddefense.com/news/feature/armi...

"The F-35 can carry up to two AIM-9X missiles on its wings and four AIM-120 AMRAAM missiles internally."

Also- in the future:

"Lockheed Martin is developing a weapon rack called Sidekick that would enable the internal outboard station to carry two AIM-120s, thus increasing the internal air-to-air payload to six missiles"

So yes.


The primary threat is surface-to-air missiles, not other aircraft. A Super Tucano is simply not survivable against modern SAMs, nor does it have the sensors necessary to attack hardened ground targets. The F-35 at least has a chance.

The F-35 isn't completely stealth, it only offers a reduced sized signature for an aircraft of its size (no aircraft is completely, but the F-35 isn't even the best the US has in terms of stealth it isn't even in the top three).

Before stealth small nimble aircraft avoided anti-aircraft fire by flying low where the horizon and or terrain would keep them shielded or provide physical barriers against missile intercept. That of course requires good low altitude, long duration flying which is also something the Super Tucano happens to excel at.

I'd argue that the SAMs is an argument for "morer is betterer" since you're essentially pretending that the F-35 has perfect stealth instead of limited stealth, and relying on it being never shot down as your win condition (as opposed to building in losses and utilizing strategies not dependent on a technological advantage).


That's just complete nonsense and displays a fundamental misunderstanding of reality. There is no such thing as "completely stealth" or "perfect stealth" , just varying degrees of observability. Terrain masking is only even possible in limited areas, and flying at low level (dense air) drastically reduces range. Turboprop aircraft like the Super Tucano also can't carry the sensors necessary to strike certain targets in all weather conditions; there's no place to even put a large radar.

The days of building mass quantities of cheap, expendable tactical aircraft are simply over. Even if we were willing to tolerate higher aircrew casualty rates that approach is no longer cost effective. It's just too expensive to train more pilots and maintain larger numbers of aircraft in peacetime even if the initial procurement cost is lower. You have to look at the full lifecycle cost to achieve the target level of capability.

For naval aviation the constraints are even stricter. A carrier can only fit a fairly small air wing, so it's essential that every aircraft be highly capable. Even if that means the aircraft are extremely expensive, it's still more cost effective than building another carrier.


> Before stealth small nimble aircraft avoided anti-aircraft fire by flying low where the horizon and or terrain would keep them shielded or provide physical barriers against missile intercept.

Yeah, and then they started to be shot down and had to be ordered to stop flying low while the stealth aircraft kept flying right over the capital, like in the case of the A-10 and F-117 over Iraq in 91.


The F-35 is useless for long engagements, dead if it gets into a dogfight, and can't fly near thunderstorms or it might explode.

This is assuming it doesn't suffocate its pilot to death, because Lockheed still can't get the oxygen system to work properly.

The finest plane $350M (and climbing) can buy (for the F35-B variant. The A variant is down to "just" $100M or so.)


Like a cluster bomb which sprays out rain covers. Devious!

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