Monday, June 19, 2017

“Fighter Aircraft” Design: Driven by Operational Requirements (Part 3)

With the world about to bear witness at the Paris Air Show (#PAS17) this week that the F-35 is NOT the 'pig' aircraft that the propagandist critics (all of whom have NO material knowledge of the F-35) have claimed, I decided it was time to finally publish this post and close out the series. All the contrived elaborate and ignorant ‘stories’ assembled from twisted factoids  that have surfaced over the years, are about to fall flat, and will trigger much denial, wailing and gnashing of teeth from those quarters.
Now is also an especially good time for me to close out the series because it will be a handy reference for later smacking down a piece of anti-JSF Dezinformatsia that surfaced (as a metaphorical rotting dead cetacean) this week.

Behold! O haters and doubters.....and weep.

Super-manueverability without Thrust Vectoring, Check...

And so we proceed…

The entire point of this series has been and is to illustrate that fighter design isn’t driven by opinions, whim, or fashion; nor is the implementation of it either the least bit capricious. To recap, Part 1 of this series was just an initial outline of what I intended to cover/accomplish overall. Part 2 was an extended ‘two-parts in one’ review of the evolution of fighter design requirements from the earliest days and up through the emergence of ‘supermaneuverability’. We reviewed the developments that influenced fighter designs up through to the ‘fourth-generation’ of fighters and we could even say included design trends that influenced the earliest aerodynamics of fifth generation design: the F-22.

This brings us up to the starting point for Part 3, still somewhat in the past, but not so far as to prevent us from getting to the present from there. In the introduction of this series, I had originally envisioned that in Part 3 we would:
..."break down a 1 vs. 1 air combat scenario into a high-level conceptual model of constituent phases and associated combatant states. Then we will apprise the F-35’s potential advantages and disadvantages”...
As it turns out, we can leverage one and a half decades of expertise from professionals to accomplish the first objective and do so in fewer words than I had initially planned. We will also use the same for framing the discussion to meet the second objective: quickly ‘apprising’ the “F-35’s potential advantages and disadvantages”. It should shock only those with less than a passing interest in, and/or superficial knowledge of the subject, that by the time the first Part 3 objective is met, the second objective will become largely self-evident.

“Aircraft Maneuverability” or “Agility” research probably reached its zenith (in the West anyway) with the extremely successful X-31 Enhanced Fighter Maneuverability Demonstrator program.

Before the X-31 even flew, it was already viewed as a key investigative tool for ‘applied agility’ research, and the only effort at the time to span all “applied” research areas of interest.

Figure 1. X-31 Spanned Applied Agility Research Interests

I was TDY to Edwards AFB for one program or another and we had just landed (it had to have been sometime in 1992 or January-ish 1993 at the latest) and while sitting on the ramp waiting for a crew van, we watched the X-31 return from a mission and work the pattern with its chase plane. The discussion, led by our own test pilots and flight test engineers, turned to wondering: Just how much any additional maneuverability that might come out of the X-31 program would actually translate into any REAL additional combat capability? This is a question of the same kind of ‘asymptotic limits’ that were addressed in Part 2.

As it turns out, we still can’t quantify an answer to that question because nothing about that time on up through to the present day was, or is, “static”. Changes and developments in all the other fighter aircraft capabilities and technologies kept evolving long after we hit peak ‘supermaneuverability’ with the X-31. But from Part 2 and what we are about to review, we can answer the question in general:
1) Maneuverability beyond the F-16/F-18 characteristics doesn’t really get you all that much more capability (effectiveness and survivability), and  
2) When costs involved are considered, there are cheaper/better ways to increase combat offensive capability and survivability than improving AoA, turn rates, or g-loads past the present state of the art.
We know these are the answers because those involved in fighter design and development have known them for a long time. From 1986 through at least 1995, the NATO member countries of France, Germany, the United Kingdom, and the United States collaborated on a major study1 to determine where future fighter design efforts should be targeted.

While I’ve been too busy to engage in substantial posting for a lot of reasons, another reason this post was so long in coming is the open source data has been fickle. I first typed out about 4K words (longer than this post) I had put to electrons just to go over the gory details in the study we are about to discuss. But after all that work trying to do justice to the contents of the study I found a copy of the original without a paywall in place. I slashed what I had written to leverage the source without saving the earlier version. Then the source disappeared again. If access reappears, I'll link to it.

The study had two major objectives:
• Through analysis and simulation, determine whether supermaneuverability is operationally useful in future air combat scenarios.  
• If operationally useful and technically feasible, determine the practical limits of supermaneuverability and full envelope agility.

The context of the study was obviously about the benefits of supermaneuverability in WVR combat. The authors referred to it as “Close In Combat” (CIC), of which choosing to engage in a turning fight is only one possibility. After all there’s not much point in doing a Danse Macabre if there’s no opponent within visual range to ‘appreciate’ it.

The study participants used the following definitions:
“Supermaneuverability is defined as very high levels of maneuverability and agility throughout the flight envelope of a fighter aircraft, especially beyond maximum lift.”  
“Agility is defined as the ability to change states rapidly with precision.”   
“Full envelope agility contains airframe, missile, and avionics attributes.”
It is important to observe here the recognition by the actual “experts” involved that the broadest definition of agility was important going in to the study. The definition of 'weapon system agility'  has become a somewhat standard one:

Figure 2. Weapon System Agility = Total Agility
(See also my backgrounder on modern Energy-Maneuverability,)

The study’s ‘statement’ of purpose was:
Previous analyses and manned simulations for close-in-combat (CIC), primarily emphasizing 1 v. 1, have indicated substantial improvements in air combat effectiveness when supermaneuverability (in particular, post-stall technology) was incorporated in advanced fighter designs. Recognizing that air combat scenarios are likely characterized by rapid transition from beyond-visual-range (BVR) to CIC involving multiple aircraft, the effect of supermaneuverability technologies on the outcome of this type of engagement needs to be determined.
This multi-national NATO-sponsored study began with manned simulation at Industrieanlagen-Betriebsgesellschaft (iABG), involving two piloted aircraft and three computer generated aircraft. Four pilots were trained on the baseline post-stall aircraft including avionics, weapons, and scenarios. After the training phase, the pilots jointly determined possible starting conditions (geometry, speed, weight, weapons load, number of runs, etc.).
The purpose of the manned simulation was to create a database to develop a digital pilot reaction model. The application of a batch model was necessary in order to generate the large number of computer runs needed to accomplish the project goals. The batch simulation strategy involved three different programs. First, the ‘Arena’ war simulation program was used to model a beyond-visual-range, many-on-many air battle and generate within-visual-range starting conditions. This was a valuable technique that got the study group past the ‘How do we set up realistic WVR combat starting points?’ question. Second, the Air-to-Air System Performance Evaluation Model (AASPEM) was used to model one-versus-one (1 v 1) engagements that were initialized under the Arena-derived starting conditions. Third, the Abductory Induction Mechanism (AIM™) was used to link AASPEM results to Arena as depicted in Fig. 3.

Figure 3. Source: Practical Limits of Supermaneuverability and Full Envelope Agility

As you can see by the parsing of function among different models, it wasn’t easy to do complex scenario modeling back in the 80’s-90’s. The primary models had to be linked because neither one could answer the questions ask if used as standalone devices. An evolved MIL-ASSPEM II was part of the USAF’s standard analysis toolkit as late as 2005. It might still be.

The study identified and used probability of kill, probability of survival, and exchange ratio as “the key parameters” using two types of weapons: missiles and guns. For each weapon type they assigned a probability of a kill (Pk) given a ‘hit’. Under a ‘massive-number-of-trials’ modeling effort, they established an average Pk of a (AIM-9L ‘like’) missile of 0.8 for each simulated missile fly-out. The Pk (given a ‘hit’) of the missiles being held constant may have made some of the long-term study quantifiable results more conservative ‘offensively’ and more optimistic ‘defensively’ than optimum, given the lethality enhancements seen with AIM-9 and AIM-120 developments ongoing at the time and later. The advantage of using a constant Missile Pk value is that it prevents missile lethality from dominating the calculations and masking nuances in outcomes due to other variations in the aircraft/missile (as a system) combinations. ‘Pk’ for the gun was more complex, and was based upon a function of the maximum burst length for one firing and the time duration of the gun hits within that burst.

The baseline “good-guys” (Blue aircraft) were assumed to have the ‘agility’ of the X-31, and the baseline “bad-guys” (Red aircraft) represented an “F-18 type aircraft”. Given the study timeframe we can probably assume the “F-18 type” aircraft comparisons were based upon the F-18C/D versions.

The study group ran multiple excursions of the 'sort-of-a-metamodel' they created, exploring the relative impacts of increasing aircraft and weapons capabilities on the outcomes of air combat engagements. A recreation of the contents in the matrix of different test cases explored and as summarized in the study’s Table 8 is shown in Figure 4.

Figure 4. Cases studied in "Practical Limits of Supermaneuverability and Full Envelope Agility"

The engagements were run under set conditions to control the number of variables. The following are the rules of engagement used for 1 v. 1 engagements:
• 120 second duration  
• No kill removals  
• Each aircraft started with same fuel load  
• Each aircraft had 4 missiles and a gun  
• Conditions for gun firing:  
- Minimum range = 500 ft  
- Maximum range = 3500 ft  
- Tracking delay = 0.2 seconds  
- Pipper size = 3.5 MIL (±2°)

All of these criteria were controls based upon expert analysis and historical records except the “No Kill Removals”. The ability to count wins and losses in a test run without ‘kills’ that would remove the killed aircraft from the equation allowed for many more engagements (trials) to add up within each computer simulation run. This approach in modeling was akin to the process of re-spawning adversary aircraft in Red Flag or similar exercises, though with a somewhat different purpose. Today, we would run more trials with actual removals because computer time is cheaper and the runs are faster.

What was learned

Figure 5. The Bottom Line of  Modern WVR Combat
In trying all the various combinations of possible enhancements (and degradations) the authors produced many relevant ‘findings’ associated with each of the design changes and combinations thereof.
1. Aircraft Agility Changes: Blue’s losses were serious, but Red Losses were even worse. Blue losses were seen as high (around 45%) for the baseline case; aircraft agility increased the red losses by 20%, while blue losses increased slightly.  
2. Enhanced Missile Capability: Blue’s losses were still serious, but Red Losses were even more severe. Blue losses were high (around 45%). However, red losses increased drastically to near 70% against the most capable missile option.  
3. Enhanced Avionics: Just improving avionics didn’t help Blue’s effectiveness or survivability. Overall, there was virtually no effect on exchange ratio or losses (which, once again, were around 45%) for the Blue Force.  
4. Combined Short-Range Missile (SRM) and Avionics Enhancements. Blue losses are again high (40-45%). Red losses were slightly lower than that for the same missile using baseline avionics, but still significant approaching 70%.  
5. Aircraft Agility with SRM Enhancements. Losses remained high (up to 52% for blue and up to 66% for red).  
6. Aircraft Agility with Avionics Enhancements. Red losses were again higher than blue losses (20% higher), but both remained high (above 45%).  
7. Combined Enhancements. Again, blue losses were high (48% for the "best" system). Red losses increased to beyond 70%.
The biggest benefit of EFM that could be drawn from the study was that EFM pays off significantly IF the A2A fight STARTS very ‘close in’ under 1 v. 1 situations AND inside the minimum range (Rmin) of the ‘then-era’ of Short Range Missiles with limited OBC (Off-Boresight Capability up to 30°), AND IF no further aircraft enter the combat (remains a 1 vs 1 engagement). Within the study, EFM largely enhanced gun firing opportunities that come well after the initial ‘long-game’ has been played and those outcomes settled. That advantage is now questionable with SRMs that have very high OBS capability. No one has to actually point anywhere near the opponent in WVR combat anymore to be able to take offensive action against that opponent.

And for the readers who just skimmed the WVR engagement outcomes above and didn't see Figure 5, let us now explicitly state that the WVR ‘short game’ IF it comes at all, during the course of this study was determined to be an unsustainable “loser’s game” between comparable opponents. This has now been known for decades, and findings such as these had to have influenced the definition of the F-35’s requirements.

Given that 1) ‘modern’ low observability predates this study significantly-- at least in the U.S.—and 2) low observability makes a foe far more lethal to 4th generation and earlier aircraft as well as more dangerous surface to air systems, it should speak volumes to any reasonable person as to why the design thrust of the F-22 and F-35 (and now others) emphasizes the reduction of susceptibility to being targeted in the first place, while (as in the case of the F-35) also emphasizes the ability to sense, discern, and assist the pilot in dealing with external threats as effectively and efficiently as possible.

We can be certain that the responsible agencies involved conducted manifold similar studies involving the effects and limits of low observability in combination with all other design drivers to produce the latest fighter designs. I can’t imagine what kind of thinking is required by the uninvolved to imagine the professionals make these kinds of analyses and force structure decisions without due diligence.

How many more pilots, planes, and support assets would ‘blue’ forces need to win a war of attrition if only WVR-capable “day fighters” and/or non-‘stealth’ aircraft are involved? This is an important question. After all, simple ‘less capable’ fighters are what all those earnest and/or Faux Reform critics advocate to varying degree when they are insisting the actual experts are doing fighter acquisition “wrong”. Advocates of less capable systems are advocates for a strategy of Wars of Attrition.

The frequency--how often WVR conditions would occur between aircraft (again, they were all non-LO aircraft) -- was to be a subject of the Arena runs of the future. I’ve not found the results of this effort in unclassified sources, but given what we’ve learned from all air combat that has occurred since that time, and experiences in major exercises such as in recent Red Flags, I would suspect WVR encounters, and certainly 'extended turning' fights, will become even more of a rarity.

Given the improved min-range performance of short-range missiles and future non-kinetic weapon solutions on the horizon, extended maneuvering fights might become extinct. At the very least, they could become ‘black-swan’ encounters not worthy of driving aircraft design in the future nearly as much as in the past, that is, at least for the foreseeable future.

How potential enemies see the future is indicated in how hard they work to either follow the US lead in design trends or in attempting to devise ways to mitigate the advantages sought by the U.S. and its allies. “Advantages” such as those that come from the capabilities of the Fifth Generation fighters.

The entirety of EFM-AASPEM work performed during the study was devoted to within-visual-range 1 v. 1 combat. Comparisons were made based on firing opportunities, exchange ratio, and losses. One really needs to read the study to understand the nuances of the findings, but by way of introduction to the findings, let us observe what key conclusions were drawn. [ My comments in brackets]:

The most significant contribution to operational effectiveness was increased OBC coupled with enhanced avionics (mainly due to helmet mounted displays). Further improvements were possible when Rmin [Minimum Range] was reduced. [Missile Rmins have been getting smaller, and off boresight capabilities have expanded wildly beyond any assumptions in the study since the report was published. The utility of an advanced HMD has been recognized as far back as the earliest F-15 requirements list. It’s good to see technology has finally advanced enough for the concept to have come of age in the F-35.]  
Missile and avionics enhancements have to be harmonized to fully make use of the improvement potential. It should be noted that missile/avionics OBC enhancements will provide even higher impacts in the many-on-many environment. [And the F-35’s integrated avionics/sensor fusion are now the epitome of this idea made real.] 
Aircraft agility contributes to a certain extent, although not as significantly as missile/avionics enhancements. To make full use of agility, new aircraft designs might be required concerning aircraft kinematics and aerodynamics. [‘Agility’ as defined by the research pointed to just the kind of design philosophy used for the F-35.]  
Conventional aircraft performance enhancements do not improve system effectiveness. If envisaged, they would also require new aircraft designs. [Asymptotic limits of maneuverability have been reached. Perhaps it is a plateau for the current technology available, but I would suspect there will have to be a breakthrough no one has yet identified as needing to happen first.]  
Degraded aircraft performance [Aero efficiency and Thrust to Weight for the most part] can hardly be compensated by enhanced agility. The degradation decreases the conventional turn capability which is a "defensive" potential. A decrease of this potential enables the opponent to generate increased firing opportunities. [In a WVR world fighters will still need to be able to turn and burn. Think of it as the lower limit of maneuverability isn’t going away just because the practical upper limit has been reached.]  
Degraded aircraft performance might be compensated by suitable missile/avionics enhancements. Although the same degradation concerning "defensive" potential applies, more firing opportunities can be generated earlier. [This is actually not a new thought. If Glenn Bugos’ history of the F-4 is to be believed (and I believe most of it is quite on target), much of the F-4 Phantom design was philosophical: driven by how best to divide the ‘capability’ between the missiles carried and the aircraft carrying missiles and to a lesser extent fleet radar support.]

Some of the last findings in the study report can be said to have become even MORE true since it was written [Brackets still mine]:
During the last 10-12 years, [and now two decades since the study report] there has been significant improvement in missile technology. Next generation missiles [ASRAAM, AIM-9X, etc.] have better seekers and more sophisticated fly-out capabilities to make successful use of better thrust vector control, thereby improving missile agility in the close-in environment as well as endgame performance. [The missile performance realized in today’s generation of missiles exceed that ever envisioned in the study]. In addition, [aircraft] avionics have improved to make use of high OBC. [And of what the study authors would have considered impossibly-high OBC.] These developments [through and past 1995 and that were and are ongoing] make the new generation SRM/avionics attractive; however, the high mutual loss rates [expected to increase further] with all type of enhancements will "stress" the recommendation to urgently improve situational awareness as well as beyond-visual-range effectiveness to avoid WVR/CIC. [And unsurprisingly has been incorporated into the F-35 design.]

“Fighter Aircraft” Design as Always is STILL Driven by Operational Requirements


Operational requirements have evolved continuously since the first fighters flew. It would be as large a folly to insist that a fleet of 4th generation fighters could meet the needs of current and foreseeable operational requirements as to insist a WWI aircraft could meet the requirements of a WWII operational environment.

Compare what we know now about ‘where’ air-to-air combat is going with the kinds of capabilities built into fighters like the F-35 and F-22, and what potential ‘near-peers’ are trying to build. Given the study findings, 5th generation fighter capabilities, and actual air combat history, WVR combat is now something to be even avoided more; something any A2A combatant would seek to avoid if at all possible and only to be endured if unavoidable.

Defense planning and foresight informed by experience and research, such as that embodied in the study we just reviewed, produces the requirements for future weapon systems that resulted in the F-35. I marvel at how much hybris the uninformed must possess to shamelessly assert alternate realities while second guessing legions of actual subject matter experts who have done the work day-in and day-out for decades to deliver viable solutions to defense requirements, and who have access to the kind of data and history needed to actually carry out such responsibilities.

The future of fighter design and design requirements will change as the operational environment changes. This is why as soon as one ‘generation’ of fighters is being fielded, work begins to define what will be needed in the next generation. Work on what became the F-15 began as soon as the AF got the F-4. The F-22 is descended from the first efforts to define what would be needed after the F-15 as the first F-15s were in development. Yes, we can envision some of these future changes (lasers anyone?) and can imagine how strategists and designers will cope with them. But the entire battlespace will continue to be reshaped beyond any analyst’s imagination and prevent them from peering too far into the future just as it always has been.

Nowhere in this series of posts, or in any other posts the reader will find here, is the assertion made that ‘maneuverability’ (however one defines it) is "unimportant"-- in the past, modern day or immediate future. This must be stated unambiguously up front because I've seen the tiresome broad-brush accusation of same made too often when anyone dares challenge some closely held belief as to maneuverability’s relative importance to fighter design, or dares challenge the vague reasons why many of the uninitiated think “maneuverability” is important.

A Request in Closing: If history repeats itself, when this post is referenced on a ‘board’ or comment thread somewhere, some yahoo is probably going to contest what I have written as “SMSgt Mac is wrong…”. As if their disagreement is with ‘me’-- when they’re really expressing their disagreement with…y’know…the ACTUAL experts I cited. I usually trip over these weak statements. while looking for something else, ages (sometimes years) after the mischaracterization of what I typed is displayed: long after the disinformation damage is done and everyone has since moved on to other topics. Soooo…If one finds this happening somewhere after this post, it would be much appreciated if a reader or two would reply in response that “SMSgt Mac said you would try that B.S. deflection”. Feel free to use the direct quote.

1. Practical Limits of Supermaneuverability and Full Envelope Agility; B.A. Kish, D.R. Mittlestead, G. Wunderlich, J.M. Tokar, T. Hooper, R. Hare, H. Duchatelle, P. Le Blaye; Proceedings from the AIAA Flight Simulation Technologies Conference, San Diego, CA, July 29-31, 1996; PP 177-187; AIAA Paper 96-3493.     

Sunday, June 18, 2017

Happy Father's Day 2017

Dads, you are terribly missed. But you live on in our hearts.

(Pics in Chronological Order)
Granddad (Left) Enroute to San Diego on the USS Langley's 1st deployment to the Pacific Fleet 1924.

Granddad riding with his buddy in SoCal Circa 1929-30 

Dad in 1952-3 Corpus Christi NAS, Texas

Dad hamming it up, Vung Tau SVN April 1966, A 'happening place'.

My late Father-in-law "Rusty" Wall, Da Nang SVN with the First F-4Es: 1969, 4th Fighter Sq, 366th Fighter Wing. 

Saturday, May 06, 2017

We Can't let an F-35 Myth Die!

The "Phone it in Edition"

The only thing worse than 'phoning it in'.... is doing so with incredibly poor timing.

28 April 2017
“For me, it’s my first time dogfighting against an F-15”….“Dogfighting is a test of pilot skill, but it’s also constrained by the aircraft’s capabilities and I’ve been really impressed by the flight control and maneuverability of the F-35.”

 4 May 2017 click-bait regurgitation of an article first written in 2015 
“Close in, the JSF does not have the maneuverability of the Raptor––or even a F-16 or F/A-18.”

When Majumdar first started at FlightGlobal he showed promise. Alas, unrealized to date.

Friday, April 21, 2017

Eats, Shoots, and Leaves: F-35 Edition.

Punctuation: It's important.


There was a poor article published at Business Insider (as if that is a surprise) on 18 April where the author did a mashup of an interview of a retired USMC Major and F-35 pilot with a bunch of factoids, a few facts, and...well, let's just call it a lot of  'other than facts', such as repeating the lie about the 2015 CLAW test being a 'dogfight' and claims like.
The F-35A's mid-mission T/W ratio is better than 1 to 1, good enough to have pilots saying that at typical WVR speeds it can out accelerate an F-16. The F-35A's wing reference area is greater than an F-16 so one presumes he was talking about 'wing loading' -- which isn't a big deal if you've got the thrust to overcome it. I would still dearly love it if some enterprising journalist ever asked how many thousand pounds heavier the early production F-35A (AF-2) with instrumentation is than the first production spec weight target aircraft that was built several LRIPs later. Because weight matters.

What the pilot, Dan Flatley had to say was pretty good and consistent with all the other feedback from the people who fly the F-35 are saying. I think it should have been made clear that his views as a syllabus developer were in no way relevant to the JSF program process and pace in opening up the control laws (the very purpose of that 2015 exercise and publically known a year in advance), but the BI author seems to tie the two together more than the pilot does.

Everyone in the test program knew the control laws start out conservative for safety's sake and over time as the envelope is tested, the control laws get loosened to get all the 'safe' performance out of a jet that possible.  I'd also want some clarifications, but that need comes from the author's mashup. One has to read very carefully to keep from mixing up what the author asserts and the correlations he draws on his own with the interview: what was actually quoted as coming from the Major. The author doesn't have the technical chops to draw the correlations he does make (see thrust/weight ratio), and to me, unless you already knew what was going on, the article just muddies the waters.

Poor Writing Causes Even Poorer Writing

So as if that's not bad enough, we now have a sterling example of how perverted 'copypasta' will take  a poorly written article and turn it into a misquoted source. Compare the BI excerpt with an excerpt from a blogger posting opinions on the subject. Who the blogger is isn't important, what's important is what gets changed in the original story.

Now here's the copypasta:

Ignoring the highlights in the second graphic, do you see what was changed and how the entire meaning of the passage was changed with it?
In the original, Major Flatley states:
"If you try to fly it like the fighter it isn't, you're going to have terrible results."

In the copypasta, the blogger quotes Flately as stating:
 "If you try to fly it like the fighter, it isn't. You're going to have terrible results."

I hope there's no need to explain how, why, and what meaning has been lost in the translation there.

The blogger then builds a whole rant based on a misquote he made in the transcription. I do not believe this was intentional, at least I hope it wasn't. BI doesn't allow simple copy/paste using at least some browsers, including mine, so the transcription was probably manual and prone to human error. But I have to believe preconceived notions caused the mistranslation from one site to the next. Why?
To make that kind of error, it seems you would have to want it to be as you perceived it to even want to post about it in the first place.

Too good to check

The saddest thing is, I checked the comments (69 at the time) and not one person called the blogger out on the error. Almost certainly for most it was because the error reaffirmed their own world view, and the rest seemed to just take it at face value that the quote was legit and correct, whether they agreed or disagreed. This is how B.S. thrives on the web.

Note: I found the blog post with a search engine while looking for the BI article. It was at a site I used to frequent and my curiosity was piqued. Considering the time of night, I shouldn't have bothered in retrospect.

Monday, February 06, 2017

President Trump & The F-35: He's Done the Impossible!

F-35 Costs coming down as expected. Deal with it.
President Trump set wheels in motion that have turned the long-standing 'F-35 is unaffordable' deception inside out. The whole world now knows the F-35 unit costs are coming down exactly as planned and for -- as any honest person who's been paying attention already knows -- the same reasons the program has been citing all along.

How did Pres. Trump spread the word/change the narrative so quickly?
He leveraged the mainstream media's 'narrative priorities' and the lockstep and unthinking pursuit of narrative to suit their priorities.

Kneejerk Media PWNED

Thanks to the media's rabid dislike/disapproval of President Trump and ANY of his actions,

1. We now have outlets like the Washington Post shifting their 'all negative' cost narrative found in past F-35 reporting to finding themselves having to not only acknowledge, but ASSERT the costs were coming down anyway, and AS PLANNED in an attempt to deny President Trump any credit for same.

2. And when the media latched, again in lockstep, onto the "costs were already coming down" story, LM's CEO casually mentions 'but' the President DID help, if only by sharpening the negotiations' focus on 'Costs'.

Heck, since this started we even got James Fallow's/Atlantic Media's quasi-serious DefenseOne quoting ex-CAPE officials the week after they retired saying:
Over the past five to six years, the F-35 program “has performed pretty close to the [budget] estimates,”

My take

President Trump's involvement/interest has helped topple an information blackout and for now a Faux Military Reform Industry meme. I'm reminded of the old quote:

A man may do an immense deal of good, if he does not care who gets the credit for it. 
I don't care what people think about 'why' the unit costs are coming down as planned. I'm happy just knowing that people know they ARE coming down. Driving the media crazy over it is just a Trump side-benefit.

Sunday, January 22, 2017

This Fighter Program's Problems are Outrageous!

Time for another round of Name That Program!

(Any of this seem familiar?)
XXXXXXXX noted that:  
(1) XXXXXXXX has revised the XXXXXXXX flight test program by decreasing the data collection requirements that were originally planned; 
(2) program documents state that, although flight testing is behind schedule, program decisions to reduce test points will enable the XXXXXXXX to regain lost time and complete development testing in XXXXXXXX, as originally planned;  
(3) XXXXXXXX program documents identified numerous deficiencies relative to the aircraft's operational performance;   
(4) the most challenging technical issue is XXXXXXXX; 
(5) until these issues are resolved through software or hardware changes that have been adequately tested, the cost, schedule, and operational performance impact of resolving these deficiencies cannot be determined;

(6) the XXXXXXXX remains confident that it can correct these deficiencies;  
(7) in addition, XXXXXXXX that assesses risk areas in the XXXXXXXX program stated in XXXXXXXX, that operational testing may determine that the aircraft is not operationally effective or suitable;
(8) a XXXXXXXX preliminary operational assessment report, which is classified and based on limited data and analysis, identified 16 major deficiencies with the XXXXXXXX aircraft but concluded that the XXXXXXXX is potentially operationally effective and suitable;  
(9) the XXXXXXXX has consistently stated that the XXXXXXXX will be developed and produced within the cost estimates established for the program;  
(10) certain key assumptions on which the cost estimate was made have been overtaken by events;  
(11) program documents state that the current development effort is funded based on the assumption that problems would not occur during testing;  
(12) unanticipated aircraft deficiencies have occurred, and most of the program's management reserve has been depleted;  
(13) since the flight test program has about 1 year remaining, it is probable that additional deficiencies will develop;  
(14) correcting current and potential future deficiencies could result in the development effort exceeding the congressional cost cap;  
(15) the XXXXXXXX unit procurement cost estimates are understated;  
(16) these cost estimates were based on what has become unrealistically high quantities of XXXXXXXX aircraft that will be bought; and  
(17) more realistic assumptions indicate that, although the total procurement cost will decrease, the XXXXXXXX unit cost will be more than the XXXXXXXX currently estimates.

Answer below the fold. Drumroll.....

Saturday, January 21, 2017

'Opti-Onics': Arrived in the Late 20th Century

Via x-ray delta one we find the visionaries at Bell & Howell understood Intelligence Strike & Reconnaissance (ISR) way back in the 1940s :

Source: XRay Delta One (James Vaughan)
Just envision that's a 'Predator' or 'Global Hawk' silhouette we see looking down on the battlefield.

B&H is still with us-- somewhat transmogrified--too.

Thursday, January 19, 2017

B-2's Bomb ISIS!

H/T Edpop at This is pretty much a repeat of what I posted at

It is interesting that CNN focuses on the body count.

It does gives proof to the old adage "If it bleeds it leads' but my, how 'Southeast Asia 1965' of them.

What's more important: Were the right terrorists killed. This is pretty much a repeat of what I posted at

Q: Why use B-2s?
A: So ISIS never saw us coming.

Q: Why 2 B-2s to drop 38 weapons when 1 can carry 80 500lb JDAMs?
A: To bomb both locations at the same time, like probably down to the last second unless they wanted to cause a response in one first by bombing the other. And more than 38-40 would have probably been overkill.

Q: Was this cost-effective?
A: Aside from killing the terrorists who would have carried out attacks in Europe and probably elsewhere now and later (CNN and their 'militants'....F*! both.) it probably:
a.  flattened their training facilities, weapons building capability and stockpile and the trainers of future terrorists,  
b. it will also make the survivors look up in the sky at night and loose their beauty sleep.
The immediate and later costs of letting any attacks happen probably far outweighed the cost of flying 2 B-2s and expending a few bombs.

There are some less obvious positives about this, given the 'international' interest in the region, but I will not air them here.

Now  expect some slacker in the media to use the 'kitchen sink' definition of $/FH to rail against the strike as 'wasteful' in 5...4...3...2...

On a personal note...

I had a very small role in fielding the Smart Bomb Rack Assembly (Smart BRA: gotta' love it). I suppose since they dropped only 38 JDAMs they could have used the Rotary Launchers (RLAs) but that's OK too, since I also played a small role developing and testing the smart weapons interface that allowed GATS/GAM then JDAMs etc. to be dropped as well.

I feel pretty good about all that right now.

Updated 20 Jan 17: Well now the reports coming in say 'over 100' JDAMs, and some specifically assert 110 JDAMs were dropped in two camps. It appears by some accounts there were to be up to four camps targeted initially but the terrorists had consolidated as well as relocated between the time the missions were conceived and executed. I'm sure the AF still enjoys it when targets bunch up. 
It would have been hard to move assets around the Middle East to hit Libya like this without contrarian interests leaking it beforehand, I still remember Operation Allied Force and how ops departures out of Comiso seemed to be on TV in real time. The message here is: you won't see us coming unless we want you to.   

As it perhaps looked like a last tasking from Former President Obama to our enemies, I imagine they were just as surprised as some of the media appear to be when a Buff and UAVs took out a few AlQaeda in Syria in followup

Wednesday, January 18, 2017

Not the 'Second Engine for the F-35' Cr*p Again!

Oh dear, if only the world was this simple.

Breaking Defense has an advocacy piece up at Breaking Defense titled: "Trump Wants Lower F-35 Costs, He Should Compete F135 Engine" from Retired USAF Colonel John Venable (who is now with the Heritage Center). In it, Venable tries to make a case for reviving a second engine effort for the F-35. But in typical AF 'advocacy style guide' fashion, elides right by many key factors to consider while throwing all possible arguments at the wall trying to make one stick. I wanted to just make a comment at BD, but since they've invoked the ads among the commenters in their comment threads their web page tends to crash on me for all but the shortest comments. Could be the times, could be my system (Adobe updater is always a suspect). In any case, here are my observations on the sales pitch Venable makes.  Read the whole BD article first to see the targets of my counterpoints.    

RE: Competition

‘Competition!’ is almost always a good thing in an open commercial and ‘free’ market, the kind of market most of us deal with every day. However, it is only a good idea sometimes, under certain conditions, in a monopsonistic (such as ‘defense’) market. At the risk of oversimplifying almost as much as the author, in a defense market a competition is generally ‘good’ for reducing risk and improving technical outcomes, but generally NOT good for reducing ‘cost’.
The body of defense acquisition research is awash with the whys and wherefores of when and how a program should invoke competition. Though people like to point to the Great Engine War history in this instance, they tend to forget that most of that ‘narrative’ was written before the history had fully played out. Later views on the utility and relevance of that competition to the F-35 are far more nuanced than simple invocation of the Great Engine War can convey. 
Not to put too fine a point on it, there are certain requirements for a successful (cost lowering) competition (see here for starters) and one of the most important set of conditions has to do with the total volume of work competed AND the rate to which it is to be performed. Two operations running at reduced capacity are NOT cheaper than one running at full capacity. So if the author and Heritage want to advocate competition in this case, they need to caveat that advocacy with a requirement to ramp up the F-35 production rates sufficiently and far enough ahead of any doubling of the number of engine suppliers to ensure sufficient and worthwhile demand for same.

Finally, given the program is looking to refresh F-35 engine technology, you better have the second engine supplier qualified and production ramped up yesterday if you don’t want it competing with the effort that now appears to be on the F-35's horizon (mid 2020s). How much so-called 'savings' can possibly accrue if there's only a couple of years production involved?

RE: F-35 Weight

Is the author aware that the F-35 variants are all at or below their target weights for the end of SDD? Is he aware that those target weights were set with an allowance for further weight growth already factored in? Is the author aware that weight growth in past aircraft (both the F-16 and F-18 spring immediately to mind) was driven primarily by scabbing kinds of needed systems (sensors, EW, etc.) onto them that are already integral to the F-35 design and already installed or have their weight already accounted for in the target weights?

RE: Thrust

Is the author aware that increased thrust has been available from the F135 for some time if is needed, but increased thrust will require changes/differences in the F-35B along with associated program cost increases to incorporate?

While we’re on the subject of cost, no doubt the author also has a plan to add a couple of $B to the program in order to finish development of a second engine, to include getting everyone on board with the idea AND happy about the extra cost involved including the cheapskates budget conscious and the faux military reform industry.

RE: 'Transonic Acceleration' and 'Sustained G' KPPs

Is the author aware that the transonic acceleration and sustained turn KPPS are only factors in the trade space below Lethality and Survivability requirements, and that their values are only relevant as contributors to the overall requirements? If the program is not concerned, the author ought to first find out 'why' before engaging in public handwringing. I've examined these KPPs before (here and here) so I get why the program isn't too concerned. As the KPP values were established with a mid-mission weight and payload involved, and assuming some degraded engine performance towards end of life, perhaps some of the author's concerns will be allayed knowing that similarly equipped F-16s in most cases couldn't do any better?

Since the author is a recognized top fighter pilot and ‘patch wearer’ who came of age in the aftermath of all-aspect short-range IR missiles, he surely must be cognizant of the fact that these two parameters have taken a backseat to instantaneous turn rate, time to corner speed, and low speed nose pointing: three measures of agility that from what the pilots are saying are where the F-35 excels.

Table 3 Reconstruction from “Advanced Fighter Agility Metrics
Andrew M. Skow, Willlam L. Hamilton, John H. Taylor; AIAA-A85-47027
10 = most important 
We won’t go into it here, but even these measures of agility may have been rendered less important with higher off-boresight and 'shorter minimum' range missiles (that's probably going to come in the next part or part after of my fighter design series by the way--still working on it).

In any case, advocating more thrust to improve these metrics is pretty hapless if one thinks about the speed regions involved. It's probably more important that the F-35 variants are meeting/beating their  weight targets.

So all the arguments for adding the second engine into the F-35, at least for the factors above, seem to be rather unconvincing. As to the decision to stop the GE engine effort, which was very immature, it made sense. How immature? As I observed in 2014:
In the spring of 2010, the F136 was only 700 hours into a 10,000 hour test program and had not been flight tested. No one knows what problems it would have encountered had it been fully developed. But in its cancellation, the F136 has become the mythical 'success-that-could-have-been-but-never-was' to the proverbial ‘some’ in the backbenches.
Let's keep the F136 the mythical success it is, at least as far as the F-35 is concerned.

Thursday, January 12, 2017

Drone Swarm Testing

The applications and ramifications are numerous, mind-boggling. For the paranoid, it probably has the added bonus of being scary as h*ll.
Sleep well.

Saturday, November 26, 2016

The Cuban Communist Despot Has Died

I join my Cuban friends in their celebration with a little something I've been saving just for this occasion: A fine American (Texan!) vodka that kicks the rest of the world's vodkas a**es.  I've had this in the cabinet so long that a deposit 'ring' formed in the neck of the bottle and Tito's has since changed its label.

And so a final update is in order...

I've been waiting too long, but nothing compared to how long those who he oppressed have had to wait. This isn't the end unfortunately, only the beginning of the end. I expect the era of the 'Commandantes' will now go out with a whimper without Fidel's 'cult of personality'. THEN the suffering will end once Raul and the last of his cronies pass into the 'dustbin of history'. 

Of course we should keep hurrying that day along 'some'.

Selected samples of older versions of the above below the fold. They weren't always featured in a post, but they were in the heading/masthead from almost day one.

Friday, November 18, 2016

"Pentagon Top Tester" Tests Nothing, But He Sure Can Whine

It's as if his phony-baloney job depends on it

Ah! The DOT&E memo leaked last month to Anthony “SlowTony” Cappacio by ‘someone’ has a follow-on. It is oozing out of the woodwork this time via the keyboard of a budding “Slow Laura” Seligman. No doubt the rabble will get their panties in a knot again, not realizing (or more likely: not caring) that it is essentially the same knot they tied last month: Gilmore doesn’t like the F-35 test program, doesn’t have the budget or technical knowledge to conduct a test himself (he’s a nuke physicist that went down the management track eons ago) and he just can’t shut up about his ‘concerns’ lest someone realize he and his organization are largely superfluous. Let’s break this memo down before the cycle repeats. It’s another hoot.

14 Oct 2016
SUBJECT: Concerns Regarding Progress and Readiness of the Joint Strike Fighter (JSF) Program for initial Operational Test and Evaluation (lOT &E)

‘Prophet Gilmore’ he ain’t.

The Director of DOT&E has concerns? Who knew?
Seriously, if the DOT&E Director didn’t have ‘concerns’ and let the DoD command chain know-- he wouldn’t be doing his “job”. The biggest problem with his ‘concerns’ as far as I am ‘concerned’ are:

1) The content of his reports and testimonies go outside his consequential knowledge base in asserting beliefs as facts or possibilities as inevitable, and/or
2) Presents his assertions on ‘risks’ and their consequences as if he were some soothsayer.
Whereas the above fairly summarize my objections to Gilmore’s performance, the DOT&E apparatus itself is another thing entirely. It is a political construct that was created for political purposes by politicians AND it has been used consistently by SOME politicians as an instrument for their own political machinations from day one, on down through to today AND, contrary to another political construct’s superficial analysis, can be shown to cost us taxpayers far more than the value we get out of any benefit in return. And though I've pointed it out for quite some time, I know I’m not the only person to recognize this.

Bottom line: We shouldn’t have to worry about how bad Gilmore is in the first place because his job shouldn’t even exist.

IF Gilmore’s outfit was worth a spit, they wouldn’t have to leak their reports and memos to the Faux Military Reform machine before the rest of us saw it. It’s the only way they keep their wall of illusion from falling over whenever reality leans on it. (Think P.A.C.E. )
Gilmore continues…

The purpose of this memorandum is to document my continuing concerns regarding progress in the F-35 JSF program as you prepare to conduct the upcoming Defense Acquisition Board review. In a memorandum dated August 9, 2016, I identified concerns to you, the Secretary of the Air Force and the Chief of Staff of the Air Force that, in spite of the recent Initial Operational Capability (IOC) declaration by the U.S. Air Force, achieving full Block 3F combat capability is actually at substantial risk. The primary concerns were that the program appeared to be prematurely ending System Development and Demonstration (SDD) and was not taking the necessary steps to be ready for IOT&E, which will be conducted using realistic combat missions fully consistent with our war plans and threat assessments. The program's limited progress since the memorandum continues to indicate clearly the program will not be able to deliver the full Operational Requirements Document (ORD)-required combat capability within the planned remaining SDD schedule….

This is where Gilmore places his stake in the ground. But since the program cannot by definition ‘complete SDD’ without delivering “the full Operational Requirements Document (ORD)-required combat capability within the planned remaining SDD schedule” will Gilmore’s reference to ‘prematurely ending’ SDD rely on some false belief about the use and purpose of the ORD, how ‘planning’ or ‘testing’, or risk management is ‘done’, or involve the presentation of transient situations as either insurmountable or permanent? Perhaps we’ll see again see DOT&E’s persistent cloying-on to raw program performance metrics as if the metrics equal program performance itself? Maybe we’ll again see Gilmore driving off into the ‘non-DOT&E’ weeds?

If past performance is an indication, I think we’ll find a bit of everything.

And so here it comes…

The reasons I have reached this conclusion include the following:
Continued schedule delays. According to the program's baseline mission systems software and capability release schedule, the planned release to flight test of Block 3FR6 mission systems software has slipped from February 2016 to December 2016, 10 months later than originally planned. This delay was caused in part by the need for multiple additional "Quick Reaction Capability" (QRC) software builds of Block 3FR5 to enable weapons testing to proceed and to reduce stability problems. However, since the program was funded to the baseline schedule, this 10-month delay in Block 3FR6 software indicates strongly that the program has shortfalls in funding and time to complete the planned testing of the remaining set of full Block 3F capabilities and necessary fixes. Moreover, releasing Block 3FR6 in December is another 3-month delay to the program's more recent estimate that this version of Block 3F software would be released to flight test in September.

Well, the program has asserted (and Slow Lara notes in her article) that any extra testing will be coming out of existing program funds. In any case, DOT&E’s charter is to ensure technical test sufficiency. Gilmore was/is essentially complaining about funds that aren’t tithed to the DOT&E coffers yet but he’s acting like that there will be no funds forthcoming. I would expect he knew the situation before the JSFPO made the fact public, so the question is why does he note only part of the circumstance? Was it because “JSFPO is working to provide” or “JSFPO has committed” to filling any shortfall in test dollars from other areas of the F-35 was too difficult to put in a report? Or was that fact an inconvenient truth against the desired DOT&E narrative? Active mitigation of risk is just as relevant as the ‘risk’. Unless, apparently, you are DOT&E. Anyway, if there were no funds to ensure DOT&Es pet testing could be done, his test report would be very short and easy to write: “Test failed because test could not be performed.” Whew! Good thing this is a non-problem.
This next paragraph is built upon absolutes that are conditional possibilities. IMHO it can be made MOSTLY correct with just a few caveats (in red) added.

Need to complete all planned and agreed-to developmental testing (DT). The program’s continued cost and schedule-driven plan to truncate planned DT points and prematurely close-out SDD would could shift significant risk to OT and the warfighter. This ill-advised action could would also discard either create test gaps OR safely reduce test requirements in the carefully planned build-up test content in the Test and Evaluation Master Plan (TEMP) .The TEMP content that might be removed was not included as an optional throwaway, but rather was content the Program Executive Officer formally agreed was required when he signed the TEMP. The program’s plan to ‘·quarantine” buildup test points that were in the Joint Test Plan (JTP) and planned to be flown by the test centers, skip ahead to complex mission effectiveness test points, and then delete the build-up test points as “no longer required” will only could delay problem discoveries and increase the risk to IOT &E, as well as to the men and women who will use the F- 35 in combat, or might have little or no effect on the end state capability. Additionally, the program will need to continue to allocate test points not in its current plans for characterization, root cause investigations, and correction of a large number of the open deficiencies and technical debt described later in this memorandum. The completion of the planned baseline test points objectives from the Block 3F JTP, along with correction or mitigation of significant deficiencies, is necessary to ensure full Block 3F capabilities are adequately tested and verified before operational test and, more importantly, before they are fielded for use in combat.

Remember I wrote the above paragraph could be made MOSTLY correct by adding caveats. It still has problems in that it is built upon a presumption of ‘technical debt’ (clever soundbite there BTW). Unmodified, this paragraph tries to sells an idea that the consequences of a ‘problem’ are serious, without proving the ‘problem’ itself is even a serious problem. Gilmore will now attempt to prove a problem in the crudest of fashion—using the crudest of numbers. Let’ let him run a couple of paragraphs here while he builds his straw man. As a ‘bonus’ fun exercise, try to find all the places where he keeps talking in absolutes about what is merely possibilities or opinions, we won’t belabor the point anymore, because now you can’t help but see them for yourself.…

Insufficient progress in F-35A, F-JSB and F-35C flight sciences testing. Although progress has been made in all variants, each is behind in planned test point completion for the year, as shown in the table below (data as of the end of September).


Planned Points

Thru Sep 30, 2016



Thru Sep 30.2016

Planned Points for














• Insufficient progress in F-35 mission systems testing. As of the end of September, the program had only accomplished 2,069 mission systems test points against the goal of 3, 189 and the plan of 3,709 for the year. Despite falling farther behind and carrying a significant number of open deficiencies, the program has decided to terminate testing of Block 3F software as scheduled in CY 17 due to inadequate funding to complete the planned testing in the JTP. As a result of this decision and ongoing software delays, the program has deleted two full software releases from their mission systems schedule, removing Block 3FR8 and replacing 3FR7 with additional contingency QRC software builds of3FR6, which will now be the last full developmental software release. The outcome of these decisions is that the remaining number of software releases to complete Block 3F development is currently insufficient to support adequate testing to identify and correct deficiencies prior to IOT&E and use in combat. Although the 3FR6 release in late 2016 is planned to have full Block 3F capabilities, some of those capabilities will be tested for the first time in that release and will certainly not be mature enough to be effective without additional testing and the necessary additional time and resources. In particular, additional builds of software to characterize and correct deficiencies, each of which will also require regression testing to verify fixes, will be needed. These problems are exacerbated by the proposal to quarantine test points described above. Despite these delays, and the fact that some of the "full" Block 3F capabilities are just beginning flight test or have not yet started (i.e., gun accuracy testing), the program still plans to terminate flight testing as scheduled in early 2017 and finalize Block 3F.
Gosh, the root cause of all the hooey Gilmore spouts in those two paragraphs could be caused by anything, including any and all of the following:
·         Gilmore presumes all test points are created equal, vs. there being the ability to eliminate test points through the analysis of other test points to reduce duplication.
·         Gilmore presumes all test points are mandatory vs. there being some that are perceived as optional from the get-go: contingent on upon the outcomes from predecessor test activity.
·         Gilmore has never heard of “replanning“, or “rethinking a plan“ based upon knowledge gained since the last plan was issued.
·         Gilmore mentally equates more test cycles as being good, when if your software is getting more stable, more test cycles will just waste everybody’s time and money.
·         Gilmore thinks he understands the risks of test compression more than the developers.
·         Gilmore thinks he knows how to manage risk better than those who are actually managing risks.
Gilmore proceeds…
Insufficient time and resources to conduct all required weapons delivery accuracy (WDA) events. The program completed a surge of weapons test events in August and is analyzing the results. While some of the events appear to have been successful, several WDAs unsurprisingly had significant issues that either required control room intervention or the employment of the weapon was likely unsuccessful. Despite making some progress, the program still has not completed the full set of planned test events for Block 3F weapons in the TEMP, with 13 WDAs remaining, excluding the multiple gun scoring events, which must also be completed. Due to the limited time and funding remaining in SDD, the program has prioritized completing testing of new and deficient Block 3F mission systems capabilities over completing the remaining WDAs. While completion of Block 3F mission systems is necessary, the WDAs are also an integral part of successfully completing required development and adequate testing of full Block 3F capabilities. Each of the planned WDA events is an essential end-to-end test of the full fire-control chain. Conducting all of the WDAs is the only way to discover problems that otherwise will be realized in operational test and/or combat. For example, one of the recent AIM-120 missile WDA events required control room intervention to direct the pilot when to launch, as there were no shoot cues or launch zone indications displayed to the pilot due to an outdated AIM-120 missile attack model within the mission systems software. Due to their importance and the distinct differences among them, all of the planned WDA events must be completed during DT; otherwise, these events will have to be completed before or during IOT &E, which will delay discovery of deficiencies and the completion of IOT&E while adding to its cost.
So. Gilmore STILL doesn’t like how the program prioritizes, deals with unexpected events, or apparently conducts/eliminates as many test points as possible in a test even when there’s a missing display element that otherwise would have prevented the test from proceeding. Noted.
But hold on. Doesn’t that partial test count towards ‘building up’ to a fuller test later?--Something Gilmore advocates whenever he yaps about it? ---i.e. when it is convenient?  And how important was it to get all the data that has been collected through August ‘analyzed’ first to ensure the remaining testing was not adversely impacted until the missing display was ready?
And let us observe that it takes more than a little chutzpah to bring up future test needs when the actual need is not fully quantified (except in ‘planned test points’ of course) when analysis of the last relevant testing is still underway. The jet’s not done yet. OK. We get it.
But isn’t it interesting how Gilmore glosses over the actual progress made in August in completing the WDAs? If his audience was told that 13 WDAs were completed in that one month, might that indicate a far-less harrowing situation than Gilmore portrays with only another 13 WDAs to go? Any bets that the remaining WDAs won't be easier to set up since those setting them up will be leveraging lessons learned from experience? 
WDAs traditionally have taken a longer time because of what it takes to organize and set up test assets and conduct dry runs. If you blow up one target, you need another one ready at another spot if you want to retest in anything less than a month at best in my experience.  Doing as many as the F-35 did in August required a lot of work orchestrating multiple ranges and test support organizations. The 30 or so weapons tests (13 of them WDAs) the F-35 program accomplished in August is a sign of a program capability to complete a very complex set of test challenges, and all Gilmore can do is play ‘kid in the back seat'; whining about “why are we not there yet?”.
Gilmore is handwringing over a possible 1-2 month schedule hit at most... unless it’s not really that important to the program then it might be nobody except Gilmore cares about how long it will take and where it will occur. Worst case, something is missed in DT and gets cleaned up in OT (it better not be in combat AFTER OT for Gilmore’s sake). He makes an absolute assertion that the WDAs are something that MUST be done in development test, when in all actuality as far as the warfighter is concerned, a miss in DT will only be a problem if the operational testers actually miss it in OT as well. Things ARE more expensive to resolve the later the problem is discovered. It all comes down to risk management and finding as many big things as early as possible, knowing it is impossible to catch every problem before it escapes to the next level of testing.
Gilmore is at the least flicking boogers at the program's risk management approach. At the most, Gilmore is insisting ‘all must be known’ and ‘all risk eliminated’ with WDA performance in an operational environment BEFORE the ‘operational test’, then mustn’t one then wonder: What is the freaking purpose of that operational test in the first place?

Fear Really IS the Mind Killer

About here is where Gilmore falls into the usual practice of pointing out ‘deficiencies’ of the current, and interim, software/hardware configurations. He’s been whining about the ‘gun test’ schedule since at least 2014, and does so this time around.
Pentagon’s ‘Top Bean Counter’ Wants to Count Beans His Way Dang It!
This next paragraph is a two-part whine by Gilmore. The first 1/3 is a whine about the DT schedule, which is pretty much the same schedule he’s never liked. He asserts it doesn’t look like the DT schedule will support the OT schedule the way he WANTS the OT schedule to be run (more on that in a minute).
Remember: DOT&E is testing NOTHING. DOT&E vetted the test requirements, now they’re just holding the camera.
Insufficient progress in gun testing. Planned gun testing continues to fall farther behind as the program works through design deficiencies, test discoveries, and the resulting modifications to the test aircraft. Despite the limited time remaining in SDD, the program still has not completed initial flight sciences testing of the F-35B gun pod, started ground testing of the F-35C gun pod, or attempted an aimed gunshot using the Helmet Mounted Display System (HMDS) on any variant. Based on discoveries during F-35A flight sciences gun testing, required changes to vehicle systems software are being added to Block 3FR6 to attempt to mitigate yaw induced by the gun firing in the F-35A, as well as expected pitching moments when the gun pod is fired under the F-35B and F-35C-this adds further to the substantial burden of problems 3FR6 is supposed to correct. The first flight testing of a properly modified F-35A gun from a mission systems aircraft with 3F software, aimed by the Gen III HMDS, was planned to start in October but will likely not begin until 2017 due to continued delays.
Gilmore spends the next 2/3 of the paragraph wringing his hands over the program schedule risks from stuff left to test and having to fix stuff found in earlier testing. He provides an opinion as to when a specific configuration (as specific as possible given the vague and unquantifiable ‘properly modified’ caveat anyway), without indicating if and when in 2017 would test completion become a problem. 
This next paragraph is Gilmore ‘deficiency’ bread-and-butter:
Ineffective operational performance. The performance of earlier Block 3F versions during DT to date shows significant operational shortfalls. An assessment, based on OT pilot observations of DT missions, of the operational utility of Block 3FR5.03 software to support planned IOT &E missions, including Close Air Support, Destruction/Suppression of Enemy Air Defenses, Offensive and Defense Counter Air, Air Interdiction, and Surface Warfare, rated each of the mission areas "red" and unacceptable overall, with significant deficiencies in capabilities and/or performance shortfalls.
Interim capabilities have deficiencies and operational shortfalls. He left the ‘as expected and per the plan’ part out though.
Numerous remaining deficiencies and technical debt. The program's recent decision to eliminate two full software builds and delete TEMP- and JTP-required testing due to software schedule slips and funding shortages is inadequate to address the large number of significant open Deficiency Reports (DRs) remaining in SDD. This plan assumes no further significant discoveries in SDD; however, even in the unlikely event no additional discoveries are made, the program is running out of time and budget to properly test and verify the required fixes for the existing DRs. The program currently has 146 Category 1 and 1,033 Category 2 "active" open DRs, along with 16 new DRs, since the last deficiency review board on September 26, 2016. Of the 1,179 DRs, there are 528 that are being categorized as "Open Under Investigation" (OUIN) and 385 categorized as "Open Awaiting Fix Verification" (OAFV). All of the 385 OAFV DRs require flight test activity by the Integrated Test Force (ITF), and a large percentage of the OUIN will need flight test points to gather root cause data. None of these test points are currently allocated or accounted for in the ITF flight test priority. The scope of unaccounted-for DRs and the program's intention to terminate flight testing early demonstrate clearly the need for additional resources to complete SDD.
This is mostly more bean-counting without any indication as to how important those various beans are. In the end it is more ‘test sausage’ that Gilmore manages to avoid explaining how any of it is ‘made’.
How the DRs will be closed will vary by DR. If history is any guide, the important ones will be addressed by priority and as efficiently as possible. Some hits will be obviated by current planned Block 3F builds and will simply go away. Some will even be determined to be immaterial, irrelevant, or at worst ‘nuisance’ gripes that the Customer decides aren’t worth the trouble/cost to get rid of. I would suspect a good many of them are matters of the paperwork not catching up to reality, or (my favorite) simply unachievable due to the tyranny of math and poorly conceived requirements.
That last is my favorite because I was once on a program doing a job that every year would give me a request for engineering disposition of a DR against an allegedly “high ICAWS false alarm rate”. The problem wasn’t with the failure system reporting performance, it actually reported false alarms per flight hour at a rate an order of magnitude lower than legacy systems. The problem was the system hardly ever failed and generated a real ICAWS event. Since you can’t divide even a small number by zero and not get an infinitely high false alarm rate, the superior system could never 'meet the spec'. The spec was a legacy spec that was meaningful—as long has you had enough REAL failures to count. I don’t know if they ever got the paperwork cleared up on that one: some accounting systems appear impregnable. That one sure was for me at least.
Let’s take Gilmore’s ALIS b*tches in one swoop.
Shortfalls in the Autonomic Logistics Information System (ALIS). The program continues to experience delays in the development and fielding of ALIS. o The latest version of ALIS in development - version 2.0.2 - was planned to be delivered by August 2016, as the Air Force had expected it to be fielded prior to their declaration of Initial Operational Capability (IOC), but it has yet to successfully complete testing and likely will not be fielded until early 2017. The key additional capabilities in ALIS 2.0.2 include propulsion integration, which will allow uniformed maintenance personnel to download and process engine data with the rest of the aircraft data in ALIS following flight. Currently, the propulsion data must be processed separately by Pratt & Whitney field service representatives.
•Delays in ALIS 2.0.2 development have also delayed the development of ALIS 3.0, the planned final release of ALIS software for SDD. Because of these cascading delays and additional emerging service and partner requirements, including critical security enhancements, the program adjusted development and fielding of remaining capabilities and has moved content out of ALIS 3.0 into post-SDD releases. The cumulative effect of these deferrals and unresolved deficiencies on suitability will be evaluated during IOT&E.
Big question here is what is the program impact of all the ALIS schedule deviations? Is it a show-stopper for the warfighter? Will it drive higher costs that will have to come outside the program? Is Gilmore being shy about telling us if the answers to the first two questions were troublesome?
Just kidding on that last question-- I’m certain if there were real problems with the ALIS impacts Gilmore would have mentioned each one two or three time by now.
Next stop for Gilmore is in an area I’m very interested in, but his feigned (I hope) naiveté as to when and how ORDs are modified is not very credible.
• Inconsistencies between contract specifications and the ORD. The program has accepted numerous changes or deferrals to contract specifications, while not receiving formal relief from, or changes to, the associated requirements in the ORD. As an example, the program office, in coordination with the Services, determined that the specification requirements for gun accuracy could not be met with the new ammunition planned to be used, the Frangible Armor Piercing (F AP) round for the F- 35A and the Semi-Armor Piercing High Explosive Incendiary-Tracer (SAPHEI-T) round for the F-35B and F-35C. The program office completed a specification change to the contract to delete the old requirement for gun accuracy and lethality, but did not add the new planned specification values nor complete any requirements changes for the ORD. As a result, the program now apparently has no contract specifications for either air-to-air or air-to-ground lethality and engagement performance; however, the program still has approved air-to-ground ORD criteria that have not been adjusted or changed, which are not possible to achieve due to the change in ammunition. The JSF stakeholders, including the Services and Joint Staff, should immediately conduct a requirements review of the ORD versus the contract specifications to identify documentation or performance shortfalls as the program closes out SOD.
Let’s put Happy’s perplexed mind at ease about the apparent disconnect (as if he didn’t already know). All we have to do is talk a bit about the nature of changing ORDs and Contract Requirements
Changing The ORD
The F-35 Program’s Joint ORD (JORD) is ‘owned’ by DOD’s Joint Requirements Oversight Council (JROC). Programs are loath to ask ORD owners to modify ORDs up to and until a requirement is either seen as unachievable or inadvisable. The JROC’s are loath to let any program off the hook for a requirement until it is both necessary and justified. I know this point doesn’t set well with the conspiracy theory types, so besides being true, it’s often fun to point out to the mouth breathers.
Changing the Contract Requirements
The Customer is always loath to change a contract spec beneath the contract requirement until it is known that the spec is truly unachievable or unneeded. The contractor may recommend change or elimination years before the Customer agrees or disagrees because each spec is a piece of a larger picture, and that picture becomes better known the further the program goes toward completion. In the F-35’s case the requirements are mostly about ‘W’ Lethality, ‘X’ Survivability, ‘Y’ Supportability, and ‘Z’ Affordability. There is a trade space between those requirements and each requirement has performance specs below them that also create a trade space below the requirements to achieve the right balance of W, X,Y,Z requirements that comprise total system capability.
Aligning ORD and Contract Requirements
Contract changes will be recommended. Those contract change requests, if the ORD is affected, will generate requests for ORD changes. It takes time to shake out the changes, and Gilmore can rest his punkin’ head knowing the process is working and that eventually all his little requirement beans will line up in neat rows and columns for him to count up and down, and side to side to his heart’s content. And it won’t make one whit of difference to the warfighter if DOT&E counts them now or come final judgement day.

Core F-35 DT Problem: Gilmore’s Attitude About OT Sucks

All that has come before and all of which Gilmore is about to dump in the next few paragraphs can be fixed with one simple attitude adjustment by the DOT&E. Director Gilmore! Repeat after me:
I know it can. I know it can. OT CAN be done incrementally!
Inadequate preparations for DOT&E. The program office and some other JSF stakeholders have proposed a "phase-start" for IOT &E, based on the assumption that the modification schedule for the fleet of OT aircraft will provide some aircraft earlier with which testing could begin. Besides the modifications to the OT aircraft being substantially late to need to start IOT &E (see immediately below), the full Block 3F flight envelope and weapons clearances, along with a verified Block 3F mission data file, will not be available before May 2018, according to the program's most recent schedule estimates. DOT&E will not approve a "phased start" for IOT&E that violates the spin-up and test entrance criteria, as outlined in the TEMP (list of criteria attached), which was signed and approved by the F-35 stakeholders, including the JSF Program Executive Officer. (Note that these criteria include a detailed and definitive definition of the agreed composition of full Block 3F combat capability.) This includes the requirement for all 18 U.S. OT aircraft and the US Partner OT aircraft to be in the Block 3F production-representative configuration. The full fleet of OT aircraft, with the full Block 3F capabilities including envelope and weapons, is required for the efficient and effective execution of spin-up mission rehearsals and for successful execution of the complex IOT &E plan, which includes four-ship and eight-ship test trial missions. These are common-sense, long-agreed-to criteria that must be satisfied to conduct a realistic and rigorous test of the Block 3F capabilities that will actually be fielded so that our warfighters will know what the aircraft truly can and cannot do in combat - the inviolate reason for the test.
Late plans for modification of OT aircraft. The TEMP requirement to provide production-representative Block 3F OT aircraft for IOT &E has been well known for more than seven years; however, the program has not adequately planned nor contracted for the necessary modifications, including the Technical Refresh 2 (TR2) processor upgrades. This failure to develop an adequate plan for providing modified OT aircraft does not relieve the program of the IOT &E spin-up and test entrance criteria. Late discovery of issues during development - such as those requiring the extensive modifications to provide an operational gun system or the ability to carry the AIM-9X missile throughout the employment envelope on the F-35C - are continuing and should be expected for a program as complicated as the JSF that is experiencing significant development and testing delays. However, these issues must still be addressed with modifications to the OT aircraft. Expecting DOT &E to allow IOT &E to start without a full complement of fully production representative aircraft, as agreed to and documented for years, is a recipe for a failed test, especially in light of the aircraft availability issues mentioned later. Failure to meet the TEMP entrance criteria means not only that the program is unready for operational test - it means JSF is not ready for combat and, therefore, certainly not ready for a Block (i.e., Multi-Year) Buy or full-rate production.
I like the skillful misrepresentation of ‘Block Buys’ as parenthetical ‘Multi-Year Buys’ there at the end, Gilmore. Let us also note here that the Block Buy question is STILL none of your or DOT&E's business.

Speaking of None of DOT&E’s Business

•Inadequate aircraft availability (AVA). Although AVA is not an entrance criteria, if the program is only able to achieve and sustain its goal of 60 percent AVA, the length and cost of IOT &E will increase significantly because the expected combat-ready availability of 80 percent was planned for in the TEMP and is needed to efficiently accomplish the open-air mission trials with the number of aircraft planned for IOT &E. The fleet of operational test aircraft, currently consisting of 8 F-35A and 7 F-35B aircraft, averaged an AVA of approximately 50 percent over the last 6 months (through the end of September), as shown in the table below. Although slightly better than average AVA of all of the Lot 3 through Lot 5 aircraft - from which the OT aircraft were produced - this is well short of the 60 percent objective and not adequate to support the flight rate of test trials planned for IOT&E. The table below also shows the maximum and minimum monthly average AVA over the last 6 month period, for reference, and indicates the wider variance in the OT fleet, as would be expected from a smaller sample size. Over the same six-month period there has been no readily discernable trend of increasing or decreasing availability for any of the groups of aircraft, supporting the assertion that availability has flat-lined and will not improve significantly prior to the start of IOT &E.





F-35A OT (8 A/C)




F-35B OT (7 A/C}




Lots 3 thru 5 (76 A/C}



Two things about this paragraph bug me no end. The repeated assertions of Gilmore’s beliefs as absolutes by this point are merely annoying
1.       Gilmore is clinging to a TEMP that is based upon an 80% AVA and the program has always planned a 60% AVA rate as a goal? Why hasn’t Gilmore fixed that disconnect yet? Is he setting the program up to now be blamed for something he would be equally responsible for?
2.       Gilmore is attempting to tie past and present availability rates to future availability rates without explaining WHY the AVA cannot be higher in the future. Claiming current rates are relevant to future rates without showing additional support for that assertion is highly suspect, as that assertion can be shown to be a non-sequitur. Any maintenance or ops puke can tell you the number one determinant in aircraft availability (given adequate spares) is flying schedule and how other priorities stack up against the flying schedule. It is a fine balance that is needed to get maximum AVA out of a fleet. On the one hand, if you have a flying schedule that doesn’t let maintenance touch the jets at the intervals they should, the AVA will drop because maintenance cannot keep up with the breakdowns. On the other hand, if you are not scheduling to fly the jets as much as they can, there is no impetus to fix jets as soon as possible to make them available: maintenance/service work is stretched or deferred and the AVA drops. My studies have found that the MOST military fleet AVA you can ever get over a sustained period of time is about 80-85% depending upon aircraft type. External operational factors/decisions and budgets having nothing to do with aircraft capability can and will limit the availability of even ‘perfect’ aircraft.
Then Gilmore goes back to more issues related to the aforementioned attitude problem:
• Insufficient progress in air-to-air range instrumentation (AARI). AARI has not yet been tested in the F-35. In fact, the required DT of AARI has not yet been planned. Despite the limited time remaining in SOD, the AARI OT must be completed in time to support a fly-fix-fly correction cycle so this TEMP-required system is ready in time to support and not delay IOT&E.
• Inadequate Fusion Simulation Model (FSM). Corrections to this model, which is currently too unrealistic to be used for IOT &E, are required and must be put on contract to ensure FSM can support IOT &E requirements.
• Inadequate Virtual Threat Insertion (VTI). The task of adding missing threats required for IOT &E to the VTI-associated reference table must also be put on contract as soon as possible. This will ensure threat messages from AARI for required threats can be recognized and displayed by FSM on the F-35 cockpit displays during IOT &E.
• Inadequate United States Reprogramming Lab (USRL). Upgrading the USRL to the necessary Block 3F configuration is late to need to enable the USRL to begin the development of Block 3F mission data files (MDF); the latest projection is that the USRL will not be able to start building basic Block 3F MDFs until February 2017. However, because of the inadequate tools provided to the USRL and the complexity of the MDFs, the USRL estimates that it will take approximately 15 months to create, optimize and validate the MDF for IOT &E. Also, because the program failed to order the required signal generators, the Block 3F MDFs will not be optimized against several fielded threats of significant concern. The inadequately equipped USRL increases the likelihood of failure in operational test, and, more importantly, in combat.
The following paragraph is just more Gilmore insinuating himself into areas that are none of his business that he WANTS to make his business. After the Block 3F configuration is tested DOT&E’s F-35 charter is complete.  This is just another sales pitch by Gilmore, proffered to keep DOT&E’s Non-Value-Added A**es in their feathered bureaucratic nests.
Sadly, I’m certain ‘some’ will listen.
• Substantial Risks to Follow On Modernization (FoM). Despite the significant ongoing challenges with F-35 development listed above, including the certainty of additional problem discoveries, the proposed modernization schedule is not executable. Even with the significant ongoing SOD delays and problems delivering full Block 3F capabilities, the program still plans to award contracts to start simultaneous development of Blocks 4.1and4.2 in 2018, well prior to completion of IOT&E (and possibly before it has even started for the reasons detailed above), and therefore lacking understanding of the inevitable problems it will reveal. Also, the proposed aggressive modernization plan and overlapping schedule for Block 4 increments do not depict adequate schedule and resources for formal operational testing. In addition, due to the cost and complexity of the proposed additional capabilities in Block 4, sufficient test resources, including enough test aircraft, will need to be available. Furthermore, because of program concurrency resulting in the fielding of multiple configurations, (i.e., different avionics processors) additional configurations of test fleet aircraft will be needed. For example, enhancements and fixes of mission systems software for aircraft with TR2 processors will be needed while capabilities are developed and tested simultaneously for aircraft with new open architecture Technical Refresh 3 (TR3) processors. Due to the hundreds of aircraft that will already have been produced, the program and Services will be sustaining aircraft with TR2 processors with versions of Block 4 software for 10 to 15 years before all aircraft can be modified to the TR3 configuration.
BTW: making a big deal out of having a mixed fleet of TR2 and TR3 processor aircraft is a Red Herring, used apparently to increase the memo’s page count. The mixed fleet was the plan. It is not unexpected, not unprepared for, and certainly not a 'problem'. Gilmore can take some smelling salts and stop fainting already.
Gilmore closes by reiterating all the risk, deficiency, ‘inevitability’, and ‘you need me for Block 4’ horse sh*t that he’s already spread.
For all the reasons stated above and described in my previous memoranda, the F-35 program clearly lacks sufficient time and resources to deliver full combat capability and be ready for operational testing and deployment to combat if it is unwisely constrained to operate within its currently planned budget and schedule. The program should now be provided the additional resources required to deliver full Block 3F combat capability; i.e. to complete all the testing (including regression) needed to rectify a substantial number of existing critical deficiencies as well as the new deficiencies that will inevitably be discovered during the remaining Block 3F testing.
Failure to adequately finish SDD will result in far greater risks and costs than completing it now. First, since the program clearly will not be able to start IOT&E in August 2017, as indicated in their program of record, the program's plan to draw down staffing and test infrastructure in CY17 to close out SDD would occur at a time when the program should be aggressively using the full capacity of the current test resources and experienced personnel to complete testing, address deficiencies, and ensure full Block 3F capability is delivered and ready for IOT&E and combat. Second, if the program continues with plans to close out SDD prematurely, it will carry the high risk of failing and having to repeat the approximately $300- million operational test, and failing for many years to provide the full combat capability Block 3F has long been meant and claimed to provide. Third, the unresolved technical debt will spill into FoM. where it will take longer to fix and cost more to address than if rectified now. Finally, the combination of unfinished SDD work and the likely follow-on operational test would significantly delay, and increase the cost of, achieving the important FoM capabilities which are urgently needed to counter current and emerging threats.
I therefore recommend very strongly that the program be restructured now and provided the additional resources it clearly requires to deliver its long-planned and sorely needed full Block 3F combat capability.
Gilmore’s 8 Page Memo in Bullet Format:
1.       Gilmore says schedule delays bad!
2.       Gilmore says much risk ahead!
3.       JSFPO wants incremental OT to accommodate delays, reduce risk and keep schedule!
4.       Gilmore has piece of paper that he likes that says NO to incremental OT!
5.       Gilmore/DOT&E doesn’t want to count incremental beans!
6.       Gilmore says Replan/Stretch the SDD Schedule so OT schedule stays same!
7.       Gilmore says keep DOT&E employed!