Because it's supposed to be able to dogfight, compromises in its other capacities have been reduced. Now we find out that, as everyone knew, it can't dogfight. So why even design it to do a mediocre job of dogfighting when they could equivalently eliminate that design constraint and allow it to do its other roles better?
The simple fact is that the military has tried to bite off more than it can chew by asking that the F-35 can do everything at once. Because the F-35A is slated to replace the F-16, other sacrifices have been made to make it sort of approach being kind of nearly as capable as the F-16. As a result, it is doing its other roles worse than what would be the case if the military instead accepted that one size does not fit all and removed that requirement.
Frankly, it doesn't matter how unrealistic the idea of dogfighting is. The military said 'make this thing able to dogfight at least equivalently to the F-16' so LM have gone away and made specific design decisions to try to achieve that. It's now fallen short of that target, and in doing so has also compromised other capabilities.
What really makes dogfighting unlikely, is the fact that United States hasn't fought anyone with airplanes in 40 years.
From everything I read, the F-35 is shit for two reasons. First, the Pentagon hadn't learned it's lessons from all the other times they tried to make one fighter for every service which almost always has failed. (The F-4 being the notable exception.) And Second, the Marines insisted on a damn VSTOL aircraft. Really, it's the Marines's fault. If ignored them (and really you should, because they're just insisting on duplicated effort), then you'd have much narrower, and thus maneuverable, airframe. The reason why the airframe is so wide, is because it must accommodate a lift-fan than isn't even installed in the Air Force and Navy versions. Even when the lift-fan is installed, the extra weight, and the need to take off and land vertically, causes the Marine version to have less range and less armaments. If you had cut the Marines out, you would have gotten the <a href="http://foxtrotalpha.jalopnik.com/amazing-photos-of-chinas-ne....
It's really a shitty plane, and what really pisses me off about it, is that this seems to be incredibly common place anymore. Read the <a href="http://foxtrotalpha.jalopnik.com/broken-booms-why-is-it-so-h... cluster fuck around the KC-X</a>. You can't read these things without wondering if the Pentagon doesn't actually know how to buy anything, and they're getting taken for a ride by overly complex (and thus very lucrative) contractors.
I don't think the Pentagon knows what it's doing. Actually, I don't think anyone involved knows what they're doing.
There were some actually good reasons to believe that dogfighting was a part of a bygone era. When those planes used in '68 were being developed, missiles truly had the kind of superiority that their designers expected them to have. Then better countermeasures and anti-missile tactics were developed, and suddenly dogfighting was relevant again.
The first part is again true today. Missiles are easier to update than aircraft. Taking an air-to-air missile from the 90's and ripping out the laughably outdated electronics and replacing them with a modern CPU and targeting software makes it able to completely bypass all countermeasures available to current fighters. Right now, if an enemy gets to lock a missile at you from within the envelope where you can't simply outrun the missile until it's engine runs out, you might as well immediately eject. Your evasive maneuvers are not going to beat a missile that is getting mid-course updates from it's firing aircraft, which can tell your decoys apart from your plane, and which can plan and simulate the optimal attack vector in ways that the 90's missile designers could only dream of. Near future missile designs using much improved engines like ramjets or the throttleable ducted rocket with a secondary ram combustion stage on the MBDA Meteor seek to increase the engine performance and longevity of missiles to the point that you really can't ever even outrun them.
So currently no aircraft can remain flying with missiles in the air. There is, of course, always the possibility that we develop new countermeasures that can beat modern missiles, returning dogfighting to relevance. However, even if missiles always beat aircraft in the future, that doesn't make a F-35 a good fighter. Because, if missiles always beat planes, why not just build lots of cheap planes with a lot of missiles?
Has any (unclassified) work been done on rear-mounted weaponry? I mean, if missiles can have modern CPUs and targeting software, can't the countermeasures have those as well? It seems like accurate, rear-mounted, auto-targeting machine guns (or heck, lasers for all I know) could still be an effective countermeasure, especially if you're in the position of trying to outrun one. That is to say, rather than trying to outmaneuver, outrunning would take you on a straight path, which would put the missile on a more-or-less straight path behind you until it hits. It seems like this is the perfect scenario for auto-targeting defensive cannons.
Upon further review it looks like Raytheon is also making one (again for tanks.)
Pilots' accounts of air combat in Vietnam routinely mention the firing of a salvo of missiles --rather than just one-- when a firing solution presented itself, due to the notorious unreliability of missiles.
And also, the sparrow had a decent hit probability -- that is, unless the target aircraft released chaff, in which case it was very unlikely to hit.
(If the answer is that they lack "mid-course updates from it's firing aircraft," that sounds like something that could be jammed.)
No maneuverability = no hit. Surface to air missiles are intended to target low, slow, or bulky targets and fighters are outside those categories.
And enough countermeasures they don't get picked off by ground-to-air missiles.
It's fast, lots of bandwidth, and it's totally unjammable. Or even detectable for that matter.
To my mind your best hope would be an EMP or a small missile-tracking gun.
Which also makes broadband frequency-hopping jammers similarly cheap.
Laser communications are being studied because they are impossible to detect, not because the existing communications are too easy to jam.
thats the real reason they believe dog fighting is dead. having radar, drone, and satellite control of the sky is far above and beyond important. who cares if your multi core cpu enabled missle has a .0001% more accuracy when you know when the enemy's plain is fueling up in the hangar?
the US doesn't believe its going to get into a fight with a peer competitor, that's why they are ill concerned with dog fighting abilities.
The primary advances are the ability to distinguish signals returned by chaff/flares from the real aircraft, and to have a model of the target aircaft's capabilities, so that on each targeting step the missile simulates the most extreme maneuvering it's capable in all directions, aiming the missile so that it is capable of keeping it's seeker on it and following regardless of how the plane flies. That's something that a higher tick rate is quite useful for.
Also, much like the weather, sometimes you can only make accurate predictions if you make a small prediction and correct it once you get feedback.
Much like you can get insanely high correlations on your predictions about the weather if you never predict more than 15 minutes out, the problem of predicting the other plane's response only become tractable when you can predict and correct over very short windows.
The higher clock rate doesn't just do more of the same faster, but rather, enable a sort of "phase shift", where the speed enables a new form of computation to work in a meaningful way.
Anti-missile missiles already exist (missiles designed to intercept air-to-air missiles are still a ways off.)
Then why don't they buy more AC-130?
they are more focused on drones for better or for worse
If they field this thing and try to rely on it, someone will build a purpose-built F-35 killer for a fraction of the cost and field 10x of them against it in battle; assuming anyone ever wants to have an air war with the US.
>they are more focused on drones for better or for worse
I agree drones and remotely piloted will eventually supplant piloted craft, but I think the Air Force is a generation of leadership away from that change.
If the past serves as a guide, it's usually the other way around.
That article also pointed out that for those reasons, the air force hates the A-10, despite the fact that it's actually the most effective planes for one of the most common mission types that they have. But it's not what they want to do, and it doesn't look like an F-15, so it's no good.
I imagine the option of having a microwaved Hot Pocket on a long mission without blowing the fuses would be nice.
Also, who are we fighting who would have a good air defense the second week of the conflict?
(Don't say China. China has replaced Confucianism with Waltonism, as in Sam.)
You can't. What you can do, is make attack aircraft more numerous, cheaper, and more expendable -- which almost certainly means unmanned. Manned combat aircraft are becoming dinosaurs for much the same reasons as battleships did.
Most MANPADS have warheads weighing less than 5kg, a few kg of HE is enough to cause significant damage but the A-10 was built to fly with half a wing, one engine, one rudder/elevator assembly, and a mountain of shrapnel stuck in the pilot's armored tub. MANPADS will get a mission kill on an A-10 but they aren't powerful enough to bring one down the majority of the time.
Stand-off attack with smart munitions is a different role than CAS; so this isn't so much F-35-can-do-CAS as F-35-is-sufficient-because-CAS-is-not-necessary.
EDIT: to be clear, I am characterizing the position here, not endorsing it.
It's been said before, turned out to be untrue before, and I see no reason to believe it this time. Until someone finds me some credible infantrymen who say that CAS isn't needed, I will not support putting boots on the ground without a strong CAS game.
EDIT: re: EDIT: Fair enough! Don't worry, I haven't downvoted you or anything like that. As far as that position, I feel like it is maybe not the most honest one from some folks since the F-35 has been touted by some as a platform with which to do CAS.
For close air support, maybe the
US wants to use fast, stealth
aircraft firing missiles to spots
specified with laser designators,
As I recall, at times the USAF
claimed that to kill tanks
an F-16 with a missile was better
than the A-10: Sure, the gun
on the A-10 is amazing, but the
A-10 flies low and slow and
should be vulnerable to, say,
MANPADS. The F-16 flies
higher and faster, fires a
missile, and then is out'a there.
Maybe the USAF wants the F-35 to
be better, still: Use stealth.
Sure, maybe soon the USAF will want
its missiles to kill tanks, etc.
fired from drones, maybe even
>For close air support, maybe the US wants to use fast, stealth aircraft firing missiles to spots specified with laser designators, GPS, etc.
Yeah, the Air Force always says that, and the ground troops always demand A-10's Apaches, etc.
>As I recall, at times the USAF claimed that to kill tanks an F-16 with a missile was better than the A-10: Sure, the gun on the A-10 is amazing, but the A-10 flies low and slow and should be vulnerable to, say, MANPADS. The F-16 flies higher and faster, fires a missile, and then is out'a there.
The Air Force always claims that they have a good reason to get rid of the A-10.
The fart-gun while awesome, isn't the real reason troops love it so much. The ability to loiter on station for a long time and keep enemy forces down in defensive mode is. Neither fast-movers, nor helicopters can loiter as long.
>Maybe the USAF wants the F-35 to be better, still: Use stealth.
Stealth isn't a panacea, it's a buff against the enemy's radar. And, yeah, drones/unmanned are the future.
Some versions of stealh try to lower
their heat signatures, e.g.,
hide the jet engine output from
the ground by an extension of the
part of the plane below the engine
and mixing the jet exhaust with cool
air. For the F-117, can get a
little view of its engine output
Looks like they tried to hide the
I love the old warthog, but in the days of drones, I can't see much of a use anymore.
They will absolutely defend themselves militarily over the dispute in the South China Sea or Taiwan.
They are quite keen to start a skirmish with their neighbours to assert their authority and dominance over the region.
They're heavily invested in us, both in terms of bonds and in terms of selling us stuff. Both of that goes away the second they challenge us militarily, and their economy couldn't take it.
In a ground support aircraft, slowness is good, because then it can turn over the battlefield. Anyway, the plane can take a huge amount of punishment and still fly.
Russia is going to continue to assert themselves against NATO's encroachment into the former USSR countries and China wants to be seen to be their region's unquestioned superpower. Both have a lot of political support internally to demonstrate their military strength.
Really, the biggest problem with the A-10 right now is that the airframes are getting old, but that's a problem with our entire aircraft inventory. e.g., the F-15 having been grounded multiple times in the past decades because of airframes literally giving out and breaking up in training flights.
The A-10 fleet is supposed to get rewinged to help with this; the USAF signed contracts with Boeing to build the wings before they started actively fighting spending money on anything that isn't the F-35.
As Iraq and Afghanistan proved, you need extremely close range support and sustained fire. The cannon on the A-10 is good enough for the sorts of targets they're dealing with, armor is rare, and it has significantly more mobility than the other best alternative, the AC-130.
What use is the F-35 when it can't linger, has extremely limited bombing capability, and can't strafe when necessary?
The A-10 is an extremely pragmatic solution to a messy problem.
I don't get why that is. The plane was designed in the 70s, when personal computers were the size of closets. Even if it was tight, I can't imagine new tech taking up more space than the old tech did, even if there's more of it.
That makes no sense at all. It is a nonsensical statement.
>and the sensors have placement requirements which conflict with the aircraft's configuration. All of this adds up to having to re-wire the aircraft, do a new layout, and move around a large number of parts.
Unless what you're really trying to say is that the stuff designed to fit a different specific aircraft can't be directly bolted on to an A-10, then I simply don't find those remarks credible. And if you are trying to say that, then you aren't being reasonable.
This is flat out wrong. The US fought Iraq twice, and Yugoslavia/Serbia, both of which had significant air forces. But in both cases the battle was so lopsided due to technological/numerical/logistical imbalances that the other side only had a few engagements before deciding to avoid doing so. In the first gulf war more than 2 dozen Iraqi aircraft were downed in air to air engagements. In the quasi-war that persisted between the gulf war and the invasion of Iraq there were numerous air to air engagements and downings of Iraqi aircraft. During the Kosovo campaign the Serbian military decided to try to test the mettle of their Mig-29s against NATO and got their ass handed to them by F-15s and F-16s. In the Iraq war the Iraqis decided to keep their aircraft grounded.
Meanwhile, command and control systems were being hit including communication lines and upper echelon meeting places. The F-117, for example, was hitting high level targets in downtown Baghdad in the earliest moments of the gulf war. And then airfields were being hit, taking out runways and destroying planes on the ground.
When the airplanes took to the sky they flew air superiority wings protecting bombing wings, and the battlespace is monitored by AWACS radar planes. So you have a high number of planes that are working in a coordinated manner and making use of tons of data from radar facilities and so forth vs isolated, unsupported groups of planes that have numerical inferiority.
That alone would be a huge advantage even if the technology and the training were identical, but when you add in the edge that superior technology and training provide it becomes overwhelming.
Also, most people know of the "Topgun" school, but most do not know the details. There were tremendous changes in the nature of aerial combat in the 1950s and 1960s as planes transitioned to jets and became capable of supersonic flight, onboard radar systems got added, radios became better, and a whole host of guided missiles became primary weapons systems. Air to air guided missiles have many limitations and need to be fired only under certain relative conditions of trajectory and airspeed between the attacker and target, and it's not always intuitive how to transition from a given relative configuration to one where firing a missile will have the highest chance of hitting the target. Additionally, maintaining an upper hand in air to air combat is tricky and requires a special set of skills.
In the 1960s there were two seminal works that laid the ground work for training pilots in the future. One was the Ault report, which was a very brutal look at the performance of American pilots in Vietnam up to that point. It's not to say that those pilots were doing poorly, only that they were making lots of mistakes that could be avoided with better training, especially in terms of knowing how and when to fire their weapons to have the greatest chances of a hit. The other was the combined work of Col. John Boyd and Thomas Christie in formulating foundational theory of modern fighter jet combat. They came up with the idea of the OODA loop (Observe, Orient, Decide, Act) and "Energy-Maneuverability theory". The basic idea of OODA loop theory is that a pilot should be cycling through the Observe-Orient-Decide-Act phases as quickly as possible (without compromising the quality of each phase), and in so doing will maintain an edge in encounters. This is because the whole system, not just the pilot, is like an organism, and the OODA cycle time is characteristic of the reaction time of the organism. Having a faster reaction time is advantageous and can make it possible to steal the initiative from an opponent or to dull the advantage of the opponent having the initiative. This applies regardless of the maneuverability of the plane a pilot is flying, though more maneuverable planes tend to encourage a faster innate OODA-loop. EM theory forms the theoretical framework around which a pilot maneuvers their plane to avoid being at a disadvantage to the enemy while working toward gaining an advantage and to coming into a configuration where releasing weapons is most effective. That training has been the basis for fighter pilot performance in western countries since then, and it's resulted in extremely capable pilots.
The F-4 was developed to be a Navy fighter and turned out to be a decent all-around fighter which the Air Force could buy. That kind of reinforces your point about design and development, really.
> I don't think the Pentagon knows what it's doing. Actually, I don't think anyone involved knows what they're doing.
All the right people are getting paid. They know exactly what they're doing.
Not really true. There's a reason why the A-10 is still flying and the Harrier is not.
> The U.S. Marine Corps has extended the retirement date of its AV-8B Harrier IIs in increments until 2030, and most of the fleet will remain active through 2027, according to Boeing, which supports the 1980s-generation strike aircraft. Harriers were originally scheduled for retirement in 2015.
Harrier introduced 1969
A-10 introduced 1977
Harrier II introduced 1985.
No, STOVL is the only way to deliver CAS from the combination of improvised forward ground bases and small-deck carriers that the Marines want to their air elements to operate from to keep up with the rest of the Marine force.
Fixed wing, non-STOVL jets (like the A-10) are fine for CAS, but require different basing infrastructure that isn't consistent with USMC operating needs, hence the AV-8B and the requirements for the F-35B.
CAS requires low airspeeds as well, which is a major benefit of STOVL aircraft, which can have arbitrarily low airspeeds on account of their hover capability.
Stealing the plans is the easy part. The challenge is building an integrated military system top to bottom, from engines to electronics. If it were so easy to keep up by stealing, China would have a dozen aircraft carriers by now.
China has successfully flown three pre-serial production prototypes that met spec. It's been spotted with ELINT and weapons hard points. Full production is slated for 2018.
However, they've been having severe difficulties with engine development. Most of the demonstration flights were done using outdated engines (usually the WS-10.) Once the production engine is functional (the WS-15), it should be able to lay claim to being a true Fifth Generation fighter and F-22 competitor.
If they can't get the WS-15 working, they'll probably have to buy Russian Su-35's NPO Saturn 117S engines used in the Sukhoi Su-35, which they've been negotiating, but it would make the J-20 more of a 4++ Generation fighter.
The front stealth shape is nearly identical to the F-22 Raptor, however it uses canards to give it some aerial superior advantages at a high angle of attack. But this comes with a tradeoff of some stealth, especially on profile as opposed to head-on, and sacrifices aerodynamic stability making it heavily reliant on its fly-by-wire system.
Sure, with enough time and money, your guys might have been able to come up with a better design but if you can steal at least something to build off of, why not? It's cheaper to pay some kid hackers to steal it than design it.
It's drastically more difficult than that.
The US military also doesn't spend trillions on R&D - R&D is the light end of their budget ($80 billion per year for R&D, testing, evaluation). Operations, maintenance, and personnel are the principle costs of the US military budget.
You're talking about China (or Russia etc) stealing a fraction of that $80 billion total. The amount of that theft they can then actually put to use, is a further reduced fraction.
To a certain extent a modern fighter plane is just a missile platform. You want your missile platform to be fast and stealthed, and you want it to be able to fly close to the ground to make it harder to detect, which means making it maneuverable and at current technology levels probably forces it to be piloted. You want the survivability stuff - ECM, flares and all that.
At that point you're most of the way to having a modern dedicated fighter (like say the F-22). Could you leave off having detection equipment on the fighter itself? Maybe, but that would severely limit where you could operate - AWACS planes can't really operate in disputed territory (they tend to be modified civilian airframes, they don't have any of the things in the previous paragraph, because they want to carry large bulky radars). Radar and the like is a relatively small addition and opens up a lot of other mission possibilities - either escorting bombers in hostile territory or, these days, taking on a bombing role itself (modern fighters are large enough, and modern missiles heavy enough, and modern precision bombs light enough, that it seems like every modern fighter has at least some ground-attack capability). Interestingly enough the F-22 goes in the opposite direction - it's been described as a "mini-AWACS" and can provide targeting information to friendly aircraft.
Is it then worth using the same plane for close air support? It's arguable but IMO that part also makes sense. It's the STOVL requirement that really kills the F-35 - cut the lift fan, narrow the fuselage and you'd have a good aeroplane (which would still have software problems, but I'm not sure building multiple aircraft would have gone any better on that front).
So why even design it to do a mediocre job of dogfighting when they could equivalently eliminate that design constraint and allow it to do its other roles better?
All of the defence contractors are really good at implementing systems from requirement specifications. In this case, the requirement specification has been added to and added to by political desires until it represents an object that simply can't pass muster. Lockheed has some incredible engineering talent, but even they cannot implement a system that has specifications simply unachievable by current technology.
Something has obviously gone horribly wrong with the requirements capture stage of the program. The program sponsors (the military) have clearly asked for an impossible task. That's been bundled up in a specification and passed to engineers, who despite their best efforts are simply unable to make all the components play nicely together. Now we have a broken system because the subsystems just can't fit together. The textbook example is the VTOL aspect - a sleek and aerodynamic fighter can't afford to have a whopping great rotating turbofan in its guts, yet the requirements are both there.
If this isn't taught in systems engineering classes in 10-20 years as a case study on what not to do, I'll eat my hat.
Not so much as a military aircraft.
It seems no one is wondering what happens now - which is unfortunate, because there are serious strategic implications.
I don't think there's any in-between.
A tomahawk missile costs about $575k per unit, that lets you buy about 2 million tomahawks for $1 trillion. If you built a drone version that could loiter over an enemy airspace and then attack, sort of a tomahawk version of the Predator, you could buy a hundred thousand of them even if they were 10 million a piece.
You could also built UCAV fighters that could out-turn and fly most fighters by avoiding the need for the cockpit overhead and restrictions in g-force. Missiles make 40g turns, and drone airfames have been build to sustain 12-15g turning.
Are we spending a trillion dollars because the AirForce has a romantic notion of a human dogfighter in the seat when a guy with a joystick could do the job? Top Gun is a lot less interesting if robots or teleoperation is in play, but do we really that kind of engagement?
For a few hundred dollars I can jam your communications channel(s) to the drones. Asymmetric warfare sucks.
The problem is that once we're talking tens of millions of dollars and up -- no, you can't.
We're talking the swarm is likely operating in a shared point-to-point link mode, either using highly directional antennas that are essentially deaf to below, optical links, or (more likely) a mixture of both modes.
At 10,000 drones, they likely can form a stable mesh network over the city covering a wide enough area at a few miles in the sky that you're talking about having to run power plants or detonate magnets with high explosives to generate the kind of wattage needed to shout in to the directional communications gear.
Jamming a few hobbyist drones is nothing like jamming thousands of military grade drones, and the techniques you think will stop their communications aren't all that effective.
However, scanning the area under your bot swarm of amateur attempts to jam the network is probably a great way to target RF engineers in preparation for a ground invasion, and minimize their ability to improvise communications gear once the main communications networks are knocked out.
tl;dr: Taking out a $10,000,000+ swarm of military grade weapons isn't the same as disabling a few hobbyist trinkets, and may get you seriously hurt in the process.
Sure. If you're willing to build a new GPS system, because that's decently jammable for cheap.
Also are you proposing that all the drones will be individually piloted on missions as they are now? If so, I don't strictly have to jam the drones on the battlefield, I can just jam your satellite uplink or physically attack your operations centers. Add the cost of a plane ticket.
So far, we haven't used these weapons against any military that could be considered our peers. I wouldn't be so confident in our operational deployments without anything to base it on.
There are reasons why civilians might be reluctant to simply trust the confident assurances of random anonymous defense contractors.
Which is absolutely your prerogative, and I don't blame you. You make some very good points. I would hope you might also be able to see my perspective: reading "facts" that are incorrect and not being able to add real value to the conversation. Sure, I chose my job, and the frustration comes with the territory.
That's great, but you did not actually address the parent's point that GPS is jammable. Perhaps you are thinking of other methods of navigation that are accurate enough for long-term flying?
Enlighten us, please, rather than responding to people with your job description. Otherwise, you're not really adding anything to the conversation.
Also, jamming is far harder than you might think; anything you use becomes a really easy target.
Edit: After some thought, as long as your internal clock is accurate and you can keep an accurate orientation as to what's 'up', the stars should be able to give you arbitrary lat/long position. Weather + barometer + location + temperate gives you fairly accurate altitude.
Once you start doing the math on "I'm going to keep 1,000+ nodes in a mesh network from operating a phased array capable of keeping a lock on the signal from a constellation of satellites", things like jamming become extremely non-trivial, and only operate over relatively short timeframes or with hugely vulnerable base stations.
Most people are thinking about the capabilities of a single drone -- that's really not the way to think about drone swarms. In much the way that it doesn't make sense to talk about the capabilities of cloud services like AWS in terms of the limitations of single computers or switches of hardware, but in terms of the ability of the system as a whole to emulate high(er) performance equipment.
Similarly, once we talk about real drone swarms acting as a locally networked, single functional unit, presenting itself as single emulated devices or functions that the drones carry out, the whole game changes from what's effective techniques against single, standalone drones.
So to recap, drone swarm's GPS downlink is probably a phased array or something like that distributed over the mesh network of drones (using the local radio gear as localized timing and positioning information between mesh nodes), and nowhere near as easy to jam as it is for a standalone drone (at least, for approximate location; then using cameras and local sensors for say, fine bomb placement).
tl;dr: The power of friendship works for drones too, not just comic book heroes.
I expect that military GPS signals do have some crypto to help prevent spoofing, but that doesn't do any good when you can't hear the signal over the enemy's noise.
Pentagon procurement is a shitshow, but the DoD has many brilliant radio, radar, and signals guys working for them directly, or indirectly.
Here's something for you to puzzle over:
Your missile has up-to-date topographical maps of an area, and as-up-to-date-as-possible maps of all known anti-missile sites in the area. Thing is that you're not going to know about all of the anti-missile sites: many sites are portable (thus they move around), and some remain offline and nearly impossible to detect until enemy command determines that that site can kill a missile.
If your missile doesn't have commlinks, how do you tell it to avoid anti-missile sites discovered after the missile was launched?
Additionally, a careful reading of the comment that you replied to will reveal that the Tomahawk has -since the 1990's- been a fully autonomous missile fully capable of flying a pre-determined path to a target. Indeed, that is the least interesting part of the missile's capabilities. In short, we've had "self aware" warhead-tipped "drones" since at least the 1990's.
I also assume that OP was refering to drones that could go through current missile defence systems because they can't be easily identified, neither visually nor with radar.
Yes, we (or at least you guys in the US) had them in the form of expensive, capable systems, but not at a smaller, cheaper or whatnot scale.
Also, can't Tomahawk launches not be detected by a some signatures they emit? I assume that modern mil space radar systems are able to do that.
The same could be said for manned fighters. Granted, you still have a pilot who's there and capable of making decisions independently of communications.
But, I imagine if you threw up enough interference to screw with a drone, you'd probably make some very pretty lights happen on an F-35's radar.
I'm surprised weaponized drones aren't displacing cheap rockets.
You can make a fairly valid parallel can be made with web designers and bad clients. You start off with a clear goal and reasonable costs and deliverables, and through iteration after iteration of needless revisions, terrible requests, and changed requirements you end up with a clown hat, a fart button, all in comic sans at 10x the original estimate.
Nobody wants to dogfight – the F-35 wasn't designed for it and modern strategy has nothing to do with it. You destroy the enemy with smart missiles long before either of you sees the other – F35 stealth is designed to delay detection as long as possible. This report takes the test completely out of context. It wasn't a wargame between A and B, it was a very specific situation under severe restrictions used to test the boundaries of the F-35's role. A real wargame would end with both sides never getting within miles. Not understanding the context of why the test was done leads to real misunderstanding.
As for drones - it is true they have a huge future, but they aren't the only solution. Modern air superiority battles are as much about stealth and electronic warfare as anything else. If your entire enemy is remote-controlled robots, your real target becomes the communications. There is very real value to having a human in the theater of battle – many of the strengths of the F-35 revolve around it as a platform for the interaction of many different communications, intelligence, and weapons assets ... the pilot is the command and control center for a whole network of activity which is much more resilient than remote control satellite RC planes and missiles.
Dog fighting only happens when absolutely everything else fails and both sides can bring each other into the stone age of point-and-shoot flying.
In a real war with a competent enemy, the first target (if we aren't all erased in a nuclear inferno) is going to be communications satellites.
Remember that a significant portion of how America fights battles is winning wars on paper so nobody ever thinks it's a good idea to start a real one, and by that I mean a war against a competent enemy playing at the same level – not regional conflicts and proxy wars like we've been fighting since WWII.
But in that case, if the F-35's real job is to serve as a sort of fast, stealthy Awacs, then surely it shouldn't incur all the compromises inherent in building a plane that looks like it was supposed to replace the F-16?
Air defences are difficult to overwhelm. Gaza/Hamas recently tried to overwhelm Israeli missile defence with primitive rockets with very no success. The rockets were very primitive but had the advantage of a short range, which is harder to defend against. OTOH, the intercepting missiles cost orders of magnitude more than the offensive rockets, so it might be possible to drain the ammunition supply.
"loiter over an enemy airspace" is only possible if you already have aerial control.
Overall, armies are conservative. It's dangerous to try and build a strategy around fighting styles that have never been tried at scale.
It's probably worth researching though.
This is the key, I think. As long as you can pound your enemy with cheap hardware forcing him to use up his more expensive one, you're actually successful in your attack - you're bleeding out their economy.
Remotely destroying things is not going to help us as a race. Keeping the human in the danger zone helps prevent violence, everybody has something to lose.
Well, there is nothing ethical about war. People in horses killed easily those not in horses. Then people in horses were killed easily with artillery as it improved.
The same happened with ships, making boarding unnecessary.
You know what they said about tanks when they appeared: they were not ethical. Then planes made possible to shoot someone kilometers away with heavy artillery(that before planes could not see far away). Not ethical at all.
Then came air bombers, the nuclear bomb. Today the US kills 10.000 people in Iraq annually with air drones just pushing buttons thousands of miles away.
It is already happening on one side. The only difference is when the other side starts using it too. Then we will consider it unethical(after decades using it on others).
That didn't last long.
While you can most certainly argue against the ethics of war, if you're going to permit war as a reality of human existence, then I'd say it's quite unethical to insist on waging said war with technologies that put your soldiers at any further risk than necessary.
It's not like we aim to fight fair wars.
Before manned US fighters enter a war zone, cruise missile attacks, HARM missiles, and stealth bombers usually take out the air defense system and bomb runways. The US really hasn't faced a challenge to air superiority in decades.
I'd prefer we find other ways to keep out of war rather than a few hundred pilots at negligible risk.
On a policymaking level, I can't think of too many air strikes called off from fear of the airmen's lives. Fear of terrorist reprisals, foreign policy debacles and ending up with people on the ground are far bigger issues to be considered which won't go away with drones.
Three Danish defence experts pointed out that while the F-35 is the most advance plane "available", it doesn't matter. While dogfighting is out date, high tech is equally useless. Neither Denmark nor the US have been in a conflict since WWII, where the advanced features of the F-35 would have made any difference.
Unless you decide to go to war with Russia or maybe China, the F-35 is so far beyond what you would reasonable require that the cost is completely unjustified.
Sadly for Denmark we pissed of SAAB and they will no long bid to deliver plane to the Danish Royal Air Force, despite them having having a suitable plane.
There are three nations I know off (Norway, the Netherlands and Belgium), where Wikileaks cables have revealed that the governments had reached an agreement to stack the deck in favour of the F-35 ahead of the official competitions. The Belgian Minister of Defense even went so far as to assure the US embassy that we would be buying them, years ahead of any public decision or even an evaluation of the options.
We have 2 capable European 4.5G alternatives - the Dassault Rafale or Eurofighter Typhoon - which would be able to perform the same duties while also supporting further development of European technology in this sector.
For the countries I mentioned earlier, the 4.5G Gripen NG would likely be just as adequate for any roles in any conflicts they would ever be part of, while being much, much cheaper to purchase and operate than any of the alternative options.
Instead of encouraging competition among developers and funding the design of European fighters (while also supporting the European economy a little), they're buying jets that are incapable of doing most the the stuff that it says on the box, sending billions of taxpayer money over to the the US military complex.
Notable complicating factor: Rolls Royce builds the lift fan for the F-35B. So panicky late attempts to cram cats into the CVs were cancelled after 3 months, because pork.
Meanwhile, the Eurofighter Typhoon was originally intended to be a carrier-capable fighter with an arrester hook and beefed up undercarriage, until France flounced from the consortium and went it alone with Rafale. An upgraded Rafale or a Typhoon derivative with carrier ops baked in would be entirely possible, cheaper than the F-35B, and vastly more effective as a fighter.
Also Italy and Spain, for the same reason.
Or were these fleets built from passed-on UK carriers?
Edit: Just did some research, and apparently the countries mentioned here (UK, France and Spain) are currently operating STOVL design carriers.
I did wonder why the decision was made to go for the STOVL version of the F-35 when the new carriers are obviously large enough to support CATOBAR - that explains it perfectly!
"We are going to spend an extra $25M on each fighter, in order to save on training costs."
$3.5Bn (we're buying on the order of 138 of these turkeys: the F-35B, as required for the STOVL role, costs $25M more per unit than the F-35C or A) will buy you a lot of CATOBAR training.
I could see a mix of models being bought eventually with a lot fewer than 138 F-35Bs.
The Norwegians planning to buy F-35s as well. This risks leaving the whole of Northern Europe exposed to a Russian strike. (Actually considering the existing F-16s are outdated the exposure is already there but it looks like the new investment will make it worse.)
What I don't understand is why is the Eurofighter Typhoon not on the table?
Edit: not really modern, but Belgium, the Netherlands and Poland have another 150 F16s between them. Poland also has 30 or so MIG 29s.
Isn't the exact reason for such planes to be able to have a credible defense vs. Putin and his ilk, so as to not tempt Russia to make advances on Europe. AFAIK, Denmark is patrolling the skies of the Baltic nations vs. Russia right now. I don't think Denmark wants to do that in an obsolete 1970s fighter plane.
The F-35 looks like a disappointment, but we can be 100% sure it will be able to carry the newest weapons-systems for the foreseeable future. That begs the question; is it preferable to have ageing weapons on a nimble plane, or the newest weapons on a clumsy plane?
I don't feel Europe has the luxury of skipping the F-35 (or equivalents, which the Saab is not, AFAIK) for a successful successor, when Putin is going crazy with propaganda inside Russia.
You can bolt very advanced weapons onto the Gripen, or the Eurofighter, but you can also buy two or three times the amount of planes.
European countries, as least not the small one, will just buy less planes if the cost goes up. So it might be better to have more of a 1990s plane, than a few of a 2015 era plane.
we're close to the turning point where for air superiority a fleet of missile armed drone seems the cheapest and more effective way to go
but we just love to design the best thing that would have won the previous war. I guess if that effect is known in psychology, because I see it even in the day to day life at way smaller scales.
I wouldn't be surprised if in the near future we see a drone capable of taking F-35's, F-16's, and any other human piloted plane out of the sky.
Why not put the newest weapons on the nimble plane? I don't see why you wouldn't be able to put the newest weapons on an F-16. Requires more electronics on the plane? You can put new electronics in an F-16. Planes get updated all the time.
SAAB dropped out twice, first time because the requirements for the plane kept getting changed so only the F-35 would qualify (SAAB was able to prove that the JAS 39 Gripen could match those requirements).
The Eurofighter is still an option, as is the Boeing Super Hornet.
Denmark is a level 3 partner in the F-35 program, and mostly work with the US when going to war, so interest wise the F-35 is politically sensible. We just don't have the money to fly the F-35 (my personal opinion).
It doesn't matter if the Super Hornet, Eurofighter or the Gripen is a little dated, they will have to last 30 years or more, like our current F-16s. So they will be dated for most of their lifetime anyway. The F-35 would limit the number of planes we can buy, the expert evaluation from earlier this month is that it would be better to have more plane, but less advanced. Link to a Danish article: http://ing.dk/artikel/derfor-skal-danmark-have-mange-kampfly... (ing.dk/Ingeniøren is the Danish engineers union)
I think there's an unspoken non-political agreement in Denmark, that when it comes to military actions, we'd rather build our connections with a party of resolve (be they wrong or right) than a fragmented alliance.
On top of that, Denmark has a special treaty with the EU, which states that we will not and can not join military forces. The Danish politicians wanted to go further into the EU adventure than the population in Denmark, so at first we voted "no" to a EU treaty which we then accepted the second time around, given these 4 "reservations" (no EU citizenship, no EU currency, no EU defence policy, no EU meddling with our "internal laws").
War is also an economical concern that the russian understood: it is all about the price of defense vs attack.
So CCCP developed the crude and cheap SAM batteries that where a pain in the ass in vietnam for the USA, israel...
It does not matter if a plane is good, it should just be thought in terms of the right price compared to the opposable defense of the enemies, and the balance with other tasks.
But what is more important than winning battles is winning war, and USA clearly lack something of a peace corp that would not antagonize local population, and help to maintain peace and social concord do some genie while they ... hum not occupy but ... help other countries.
Most countries are just fighting inefficiently without doctrines nowadays which stirs instabilities.
I would prefer to support an efficient dictatorship that would win war once for all and fast, minimizing the the overall victims than inefficient/corrupted republics that seeds discord someday.
Hum, by the way, russia lowered its budget USA said it was good news: they fired officers and trained soldiers hired more sergeants. Russia is making its army fitter for war with less money.
Oh! And some antique planes Tu95? flew other UK with armed nuclear missiles in January/February this year and UK could not send interceptor because they are waiting for the F35.
Let's say that time to market for F35 is a little to long too. War is not about gadget like planes. It is about people dying, social unrest, political instabilities, resources, economy and power.
Power to send others than your family die for a cause that does not exists, to fight other poor people commanded by other powerful people. No US/Europeans/radical politicians lost kids in wars with the same proportion as the population recently, did they?
Regardless of this choice, I would say that EU countries/companies should seriously collaborate on making a good UCAV, that's the future. Maybe the Neuron https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dassault_nEUROn is a good first step, but it would be great if Germany and UK participated too, or on the next iteration of the project. On big projects like that EU needs to be united.
I do absolutely agree that there's no good reason why the EU at large shouldn't be able to produce a modern, top of the line fighter jet. We have the engineers, the means of production, a market to sell said jets, some European countries are already amongst the biggest arms dealers in the world, it doesn't make sense to me that countries of the EU would buy American jet fighters (with all due respect to the USA).
The funny part is that a fighter jet program starting now on the basis of an existing, successful design has a good change of getting completed before the f35 becomes fully functional, since all the issue on getting all the crammed feature to work nicely together.
Seems the UK have also ordered a shedload of F35s to replace a number of different roles in the RAF including the carrier launched Harrier jets. We've since sold the Harriers to the US which is quite telling really.
The UK's harriers were shagged after years of use, they were sold to the US so they could be cannibalised for spares. Plus we only had the GR versions which were not fighters, the Sea Harrier was retired even earlier.
The UK needs a STOVL multi-role fighter because of the Navy. The RAF are ordering the same planes because then they can fly them off the carriers as well. The cat and traps option on the carrier wasn't really a flier as no-one has managed to get a reliable EMALS catapult working. The US at one point was going to pay us to be the guinea pig for EMALS, but that's rather a risk if it hadn't worked out.
Never going to happen though.
It's almost as if everyone decided to plan for a war but no one was competent enough to bring weapons.
Maybe everyone involved can try boring and nickel-and-diming each other to death.
The Dutch air force is going to be reduced to about 30 F-35s. We've always had about 100 fighters, but the F-35 looks like it's going to be the end of the Dutch air force.
Do you have any info? I can only find basic press releases about SAAB not bidding because they did not expect to win against a plane that Denmark helped develop.
Is there more history? Sounds interesting.
The terms of the bidding is tweaked as to be in favour of the JSF/F-35, making it hard to bid, even if your offer is better.
It will be volunteers who just managed to steal the keys to the aircrafts.
According to Aviation Week, a reputable defense and aviation source, the F-35 has been doing loading tests. Meaning that if this report and dogfight happened then it was against a electronically limited F-35 against a platform that is very mature and limits understood. Here's a link to the story in question: http://m.aviationweek.com/defense/f-35-flies-against-f-16-ba...
That's the best praise that the lead test pilot will give it?
Also, did you have a look at those comments at aviationweek? Not a lot of love for the F-35 among readers there.
The F-35 is highly politicized, and that political fight takes place on the battlefield of public opinion, with both sides trying to manipulate the public with propaganda. And many here on HN are playing their roles perfectly, responding to the propaganda like mice responding to stimuli in a maze.
We're all susceptable to it and I try hard to learn to recognize it. I think a good sign of propaganda is the choice of phrasing. If someone is trying to manipulate you, they often try to arouse anger and outrage -- angry people aren't open to reasonable discussion and other opinions, so if you get people outraged on your side then they are innoculated against other arguments. You can see the lack of balanced, smart analysis and the widespread expression of outrage here. Someone trying to inform you will take a much different approach, carefully presenting information and avoiding distorting your understanding with provocation. For example, consider the phrase, "New stealth fighter is dead meat in an air battle" -- clearly it's meant to arouse and not inform.
The article represents the analysis, abridged and without context, of one tester in one test of a system that's in its test phase and not meant to be in production for 1.5 years. There are many other articles, representing individuals' opinions (including test pilots), some that praise the F-35 and some that criticize it.
I'm not saying the F-35 is a good deal; I don't know. I don't know much at all about fighter planes (and reading the comments, I know more than many here). I don't know if dog-fighting is relevant; maybe it's gone the way of broadsides in combat between warships (and better dog-fighters are like Henry Ford's 'faster horses'). I don't know if the problems described by the test pilot are bugs of a test system (that's why we test!). Think about the state of your systems 1.5 years before production -- they may not look so great.
I do know that propaganda like the OP reduces public knowledge; it doesn't increase it.
EDIT: Edited to be a little less obnoxious.
It's definitely frustrating that we can't seem to get a straight story about what's going on. I mean, it's gotten to the point where USAF generals thought they could get away with literally telling airmen that speaking to Congress positively about the A-10 is treasonous (this being related because the USAF wants to kill the A-10 to divert the funds to the F-35).
The story about suppressing other opinions is bad, but I think that's typical in any workplace: Undermining your boss' and your co-workers' careers will get you in trouble anywhere.
I also couldn't help but note that there's a Raytheon sponsorship banner at the top of the page and a conspicuous amount of positive Raytheon coverage when I was looking for articles.
They may be a totally credible source, but on the surface it doesn't feel like I'd get a straight story there either.
EDIT: Anyway, I didn't say you'd get the straight story, I said you'd get the other side. They do provide some very informative defense policy info that I don't see mentioned elsewhere.
I'll keep an eye on them, but the handful of articles I've read through so far definitely feel like they've been run through a PR filter rather than a reporting one and that's not just limited to the F-35 coverage.
>The article represents the analysis, abridged and without context, of one tester in one test of a system
If what you're waiting for is some kind of controlled comprehensive experiment and lots of data, that's something you'll never get. It's something that the pentagon may even not get until many years of operation, and something that neither they nor Lockheed will ever share with the public. You'll have to make your decisions about the issue with imperfect information.
>I don't know if dog-fighting is relevant;
If it isn't, why build a fighter?
Re: The propaganda. It exists on all sides of this F-35 debate. The author makes no secret of the fact that he is not a fan of the program. I also don't see much in the way of inflammatory language in the article that the author is supposedly trying to use to elicit anger or emotion. So, I am not sure what you're on about in that respect.
The F-16 was designed expressly to win dog fights, but today most F-16 combat missions are air-to-ground. So when designing the plane to replace the F-16, it might make sense to take that balance of missions into account.
If you stop (successfully) designing aircraft to win air-to-air engagements, an opponent can focus on winning air-to-air engagements, and pretty soon it'll be their aircraft that are being used in ground attack roles ;)
Propaganda works. The F-22 and F-35's success is scaring a lot of autocratic nations hoping to catch up to US air power. Meanwhile, Russia and China's stealth attempts are laughably terrible, yet we never hear about those. They're not at the top of reddit and HN. I think sites like HN and reddit encourage a groupthink because of the upvote mechanic at play. Certain narratives win out. Typically what a white suburban college-aged male thinks how the world works. Hence, long diatribes about how awful the US is how wonderful China, Iran, and Russia are. Its concentrated angst, not intellectual discourse. College age identity politics wins out, per usual on the internet. That includes a strong anti-military aspect and a bizarre pro-autocracy/anti-democratic aspect as well, usually sold under the threat of political correctness. Of course Iran, China, and Russia are just as good as the EU/US in terms of human rights, economies, public policy, etc. Anything else would be racist.
Pretty much any voting based forum will become a lowest common denominator crapfest. Some topics are just more hot button than others and someone is going out of his way to make sure the F-35 is one of those topics.
I can't imagine how many lives the F-35 would have to save (or combatants to kill, not sure how these equations are calculated) for the money to be "a good deal". You can't put a price on human life. If we could, how much would the average life that was lost on september 11th be valued? In the billions?
Interestly, anyone engineering human safety, and anyone dealing with its consequences, including the courts and insurance industry, all have to. For example, designing a car, you can always make it safer and more expensive, but where do you draw the line? What are the ethical and legal requirements? What will customers pay for? There is a number out there for the value of a life and also one for serious injury (major loss of function), but I don't remember what they are.
More importantly, there is far more than the pilot's life at stake. There are the other soldiers, sailors and pilots who die because they are now unprotected. There are the civilians who suffer because the mission fails. And there is the security and safety of the entire nation and its allies -- if Western air forces don't have effective fighter planes, it increases the threat to democracy and liberty around the world. It sounds dramatic, but those are the real stakes.
This is generally context sensitive and inaccurate. Engineers are attempting to limit liability, courts are attempting to compensate, and the insurance industry is attempting to limit compensation. These are not honest evaluations of human value, but rather honest evaluations of the market value of a human. The F-35 had better save millions of lives.
The average was $3.1M per civilian victim and $4.2M per emergency responder, totalling $10.6 billion in compensation.
The highlight for me is the last line:
The fact that the F-35 is maybe not really a good fighter
at all is reminiscent of the question that we’ve been
asking for years — if you don’t really need competitive
maneuverability, than why do we need a fighter at all?
Here's what a Eurofighter test pilot had to say about the F-35 kinematics claims:
Isn't this the entire problem with this program? The weapons avionics still don't work. The HMDS still doesn't work. The DAS still doesn't work. The reports I've seen recently all suggest that we're still years away from all the high-tech wizbangery we've been promised actually working and being usable in combat.
This airframe will have been in development for over 20 years before it's fully combat capable. Think about that: an entire generation of pilots will conceivably have served and retired in the time it's taken to get this aircraft working. That's unprecedented.
Making strong assumptions like stealth always working (it doesn't), as well as longer range sensors being able to always compensate for the f35's sluggishness is foolhardy. Besides couldn't you retrofit most of the new sensors on previous gen planes? It's been done before. What if the f35 faces an opponent that's as agile as the previous gen with the same sensor range?
imo The F35s aren't truly multi-role. They're improved stealth bombers and not fighters.
my only question is why was the f22 cancelled? EDIT: apparently it was more expensive than the f35.
The best deal is probably the Silent Eagle. It's an F15 with a bit of stealth (fixed the terrible inlets, tail, etc.) and some other very reasonable upgrades. The SuperHornet isn't bad either, even for non-carrier use.