Wednesday, August 28, 2013

F-35 Critics: Same Sh*t, Different Century

Stop Me if You’ve Heard This One Before

(Update with the missing bits filled in and additional content after the original post below)

Fill in the Blanks:

Despite its ability to dominate the XX arena, the F-XX attracted a vocal and influential group of detractors who continued to fight a battle for small, cheap dogfighters. Gathering advocates from several walks of life, a splinter group of congressmen, journalists, aircraft designers, former fighter pilots, and military analysts marched under the banner of XX XX XX XX to demonstrate the folly of the F-XX…
...The XX who focused on money saw the F-XX as too expensive at $XX million, seven times the cost of an F-XX and twenty times the cost of an F-XX. They further argued that the airplane was XX XX and easy to XX that the pilot of a XX F-XX XX fighter could easily get inside the F-XX pilot’s OODA loop and wreak havoc. Ironically, the very argument XX XX used proved the case against them. The XX was XX, but its XX and superb XX not only gave the F–XX pilot the first chance to observe, orient, and decide, they also gave him the first chance to act. The XX had good arguments, but they were based on old information. A new paradigm XX XX, and it was the paradigm of a very large battlefield, with reliable missiles that could truly “reach out and touch someone.”
Hint: There is no correlation to word length and number of X's, 'XX' was used for every blank.

I’ll fill in the gap and blanks, along with the paragraph that followed and a link to the source tomorrow night.
Everything about warfare changes over time,,,,except 'man' 
And yes, I meant for the panorama pic to 'go wide'. Everything was too small otherwise

*********End of Original Post :: Update Below*********
The original of the excerpt above at the source reads:
Despite its ability to dominate the aerial arena, the F–15 attracted a vocal and influential group of detractors who continued to fight a battle for small, cheap dogfighters. Gathering advocates from several walks of life, a splinter group of congressmen, journalists, aircraft designers, former fighter pilots, and military analysts marched under the banner of the Military Reform Caucus to demonstrate the folly of the F–15. James Fallows eloquently expressed their credo in his best-selling book, National Defense. The reformers who focused on money saw the F–15 as too expensive at $20 million, seven times the cost of an F–4 and twenty times the cost of an F–5. They further argued that the airplane was so big and easy to see that the pilot of a small F–5-sized fighter could easily get inside the F–15 pilot’s OODA loop and wreak havoc. Ironically, the very argument the reformers used proved the case against them. The Eagle was big, but its radar and superb missiles not only gave the F–15 pilot the first chance to observe, orient, and decide, they also gave him the first chance to act. The reformers had good arguments, but they were based on old information. A new paradigm was emerging, and it was the paradigm of a very large battlefield, with reliable missiles that could truly “reach out and touch someone.”  
What immediately followed the above was of interest as well:
This did not mean that the day of the dogfight was over—far from it.

Aggressors often found a way to deceive and befuddle Eagle pilots, and the huge F–15s could end up in a tiny furball with the little F–5s. Nonetheless, the battle arena was getting larger, and the training was improving as dissimilar air combat training spread to every Air Force fighter unit. To many, the issue was starting to change from who had the best hands to who had the best head. A new fighter force with new jets, new missiles, and new ideas was starting to define the parameters for aerial combat at the end of the twentieth century.
I've never heard anyone knowledgeable on the subject ever claim that the close in dogfight will never happen - It's just that now it will happen only after a lot of other things that you have to worry about first, that will kill you first, just to even get to the 'merge'
“If you come straight down the snot locker today, I will shoot two Sparrows at you and call you dead. If I am out of Sparrows, I will rip your lips off with a Lima [AIM-9L]before you can get to the merge. Questions?”
In reading Anderegg's accounts (written in 1999) of the relative dogfighting capabilities of the F-4, F-16 and F-15, there is a passage (pg.163) of particular interest to me:
At the F–4 Fighter Weapons School, Larry Keith and his band of radical, firebrand tactical thinkers—led by Joe Bob Phillips, Ron Keys, John Jumper, Dick Myers, Buzz Buzze, Tom Dyches, Jack Sornberger, Dave Dellwardt, and others—pressed hard to devise scenarios that honored the threat of a Sparrow streaking out at long range. Theirs was a losing battle, though, because the Sparrow’s record was dismal on the F–4. In the early 1970s, if an F–4 pilot briefed his adversary that a Sparrow shot from ten miles would be counted as a kill, he would be laughed out of the briefing room with hoots of “Get a grip,” or “You need a tally on reality.”
Gradually, though, the impact of the F–15’s combat capabilities started to sink in across the fighter forces. When F–15s from Langley went to Eglin to shoot missiles in WSEP over the Gulf, the AIM–7F success rate was four to five times higher than it had been on the F–4. Even more astounding was the success rate for the AIM–9L, which confirmed the engineers’ hopes for a one-shot-one-kill weapon.
It was a good thing the F–15 systems proved to be reliable at long range, because the aircraft sometimes did not do well in the classic, roiling dogfights. The F–15 was more powerful and more agile than any other fighter in the world. However, it was also the biggest fighter and very easy to see. When nose on, it had a relatively low visual profile, but as soon as it began turning, its enormous wing could be seen for miles. Some called it the “flying tennis court;” others called it “Big Bird.” F–4 pilots and WSOs licked their chops at the opportunity to get in a fight with Eagles before the F–15 got the Lima. The WSOs especially made no effort to hide their disdain for the new, single-seat jet. One Langley F–15 pilot went on a tour of F–4 bases to brief crews on what the new Eagle could do.
He was stunned to find that F–4 back-seaters at every stop could only focus on how the new jet would die wholesale in combat because it did not have that extra set of eyes to watch for threats.
Ultimately, the Eagle pilots could not be denied. They started walking into briefing rooms and telling their adversaries, “If you come straight down the snot locker today, I will shoot two Sparrows at you and call you dead. If I am out of Sparrows, I will rip your lips off with a Lima before you can get to the merge. Questions?"
In response, adversaries studied the lessons learned by AIMVAL-ACEVAL pilots on how to survive in an all-aspect missile environment. As the reliability of the missiles improved, the culture of long-range missiles slowly spread throughout the fighter force. Of course, clever pilots developed ways to defeat some of the long-range shots, but as they devised one counter, the F–15s developed new techniques based on the lessons of formation discipline, radio discipline, radar discipline, and shot discipline learned in the weapons schools and at ACEVALAIMVAL. The cycle of counter vs. counter vs. counter continued, but the fight did not start at 1,000 feet range as in the days of “40-second Boyd.” The struggle was starting while the adversaries were thirty miles apart, and the F–15 pilots were seriously intent on killing every adversary pre-merge.
The above (and the rest of Sierra Hotel) was interesting to me this time around for different reasons than the first time I read it. It is a fair summary of the difference between air combat capabilities in John Boyd's era and the present. If you read the whole book and a few other sources, you come to start clicking off in your mind things about the F-22 and F-35 that bring the fight to an even higher level. Things like what enables F-16s to even find F-15s in the first place to get a first visual is the radar and ground/AWACs control. This is not an option against the F-22 or F-35 if you are not flying in a 5th Gen fighter. Another is the ability of the F-35 to track, sort, an maintain contact with far more targets at one time without losing lock in the merge: the F-35's sensor fusion removes the ability of one 'Red Force' opponent to 'sneak by' while their opponents are otherwise occupied. I've said elsewhere that a plane with the F-35's capabilities (systems, range, stealth) won't be 'fought' like fighters of the past. Think of F-35s being fought as a pack of "wolves" or "velociraptors": the opponents will see what the F-35 drivers want them to see... and get shot down by the F-35 they don't see.

I 'do' game theory.

One of the most important facets of any game is 'who gets the last move?' Low observability, while employing techniques and hardware that enable you to keep situational awareness at all times, virtually assures you get the 'last move', and outside of bad luck or negligence you should get the first move as well.

Bonus! Know Your Reformer Sidebar:

James Fallows: Just another Liberal, Know-Nothing, Blowhard.

If you had to pick one person to blame for the lingering after effects of the so-called Military Reform Movement, you might have to pick James Fallows, I am in agreement with these parts (and most of the rest) of Marshall L. Michel III's  Doctoral Thesis as it frames James Fallows' role in bringing the Reformer Pox into the public domain and upon us (emphasis mine):
The problems with the F-15 led to heavier and heavier criticism from a small but vocal group of defense Critics who maintained America needed larger numbers of less costly systems, but their calls generally went unheeded until the liberal journalist and neoliberal James Fallows joined the Critics’ ranks in 1979. Fallows was anti-military and a perfect example of Samuel Huntington'’s thesis of significant tension between American liberal beliefs and the naturally conservative military establishment. At the time, Fallows was researching an article for The Atlantic Monthly considering new ideas about how to cut the military budget, and to find those who agreed with this view he went out on the “fringes” of the defense establishment. He became interested in the Critics, whom he found “kookie but convincing.” In the resulting October 1979 article, “Muscle Bound Superpower,” and later works Fallows decreed the Critics were military combat “experts” and unquestioningly took up their basic arguments: the American national defense strategy was flawed because the military leadership was incompetent, the weapons acquisition process corrupt, and high defense budgets were linked to high inflation; what America needed was a new strategy that embraced a much greater number of simple, reliable, and less expensive systems. Unspoken was the idea that the money saved would go into social programs. (Pgs 8-9)
Because Fallows believed that the large defense budgets were caused by “experts,” he eschewed anyone who was seriously associated with the defense establishment because they would understand, if not agree with, the philosophy behind the weapons the military was procuring. He also knew -- or sensed as a reporter that as Samuel Huntington noted, Americans love “defense iconoclasts and military mavericks.” To find them, Fallows later said he “deliberately left the mainstream of defense analysis and moved towards the fringe.(Pgs 295-296)

What a schmuck.

Thursday, August 22, 2013

F-35 Cost Estimates Drop; AvWeek Makes Motorboat Sounds


Tonight, I was curious as to how Aviation Week's ARES Blog would cover the news that F-35 Sustainment cost estimates were being lowered dramatically, and how the CAPE estimates to-date apparently involved some wildly unrealistic Ground Rules and Assumptions (GR&As). I should have let that 'itch' pass.

I suspect AvWeek must have taken exception to getting scooped by 'Slow Tony' Capaccio on a big aviation story, the kind that perhaps they should have found first. I 'suspect' so because when I dropped in to see what they had written, all they had was Sean Meade's '8/22 Frago' link to someplace with the rather dismissive title:  Analysis: Lower F-35 Operating Costs Should Be Taken with A Pinch of Salt.

I clicked on the link and...gasp! It was the oh so cogent (/sarc) Giovanni de Briganti I've taken to task before. I (or anyone else for that matter) could go to his faux aero-news website almost any day to find some low-hanging fruit to debunk, so I'm usually not even tempted to bother....unless a presumably 'authoritative' website points to it, and even then I've resisted because of the whole "fish/barrel" thing. As usual, there's A LOT wrong with de Brigante's nonsense, but because it's late, and it's not worth too much of my time to beat down on this kind of stupidity, I'll just note the most egregious nonsense I found in de Brigante's so-called  'analysis' has the added benefit of also being the easiest one to explain to John Q. Public. I quote (bold emphasis mine):
The Marine Corps has also radically changed its F-35 operations to claim lower costs. Lt. Gen. Robert Schmidle, deputy Marine Corps commandant for aviation, told Reuters that the Marines would fly their F-35Bs “in STOVL mode just 10 percent of the time, far less often than the 80 percent rate factored into the initial estimates.” ... 
...If STOVL is needed only 10% of the time, then it is, at best, a secondary capability, and is no longer enough to justify the F-35B variant’s exorbitant cost, both in terms of acquisition ($153 million, without engine, in LRIP Lot 5) and of operations ($41,000 per flight hour).   
Furthermore, if STOVL operations are limited to 10% of flight activities, it is hard to see how Marine pilots will ever gain enough experience to fly STOVL missions from small, unprepared landing zones on the beachhead – the main, if not only, reason the Marine Corps says the F-35B is indispensable.
Wow. Just. Wow. Let us note that Lt. Gen. Schmidle said they would be flying their F-35Bs (get ready to look for the key word here) “in STOVL MODE just 10 percent of the time".

STOVL "Modes" are for Doing 2 Things   

And you only want to be in a  "STOVL Mode" when you are doing those two things. Can you guess what they are Mr. de Brigante? No?

How about 'take off'.....

100th Short Takeoff
Source: LM Aero Code One Magazine
and 'land'?
BF-4's First Vertical Landing
Source: LM Aero Code One Magazine

Want to guess about what percentage of a normal sortie is spent taking off and landing? Way less than 10%. Which tells me the Marines will be practicing those STOVL takeoffs and landings quite a bit more than de Brigante's  so-called 'analysis' was able to identify. Pffft. Not much of an analysis.

de Brigante's 'logic' above is akin to telling you that your car doesn't need brakes 90% of the time, so that must mean you don't need brakes.

Seriously AvWeek?

You don't even cover the cost estimate reduction news, but you point to a juvenile attempt to diminish positive F-35 Program news.

I remember when Aviation Week was run by grownups for the aerospace community. Now?
Welcome to...
Frago Rock: Like another enterprise with a lot of silly nonsense, but with very little singing. 

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

F-35 CAPE B.S. Cost Estimates Proven to be.... B.S.

Not that I told you so...But I told you so.

H/T Spudman at and Colin Clark at AOL Breaking Defense

Just got home from work and I'm beat, but I can't let this one pass until tomorrow.

As regular readers, and those whom I encounter on the boards elsewhere (Hi there Vet Ops Analyst! ) already know, I've been pointing out the CAPE estimates for the F-35 have been bizarrely high for months years now. You didn't have to be clairvoyant to know this, just observant (and I suppose a little experience and familiarity with the program and subject probably helps).

The fact that each production lot of F-35's has come in progressively further under the CAPE estimates and much closer to LM's projected Cost Curve should have been a red flag to anyone without a bias against the F-35.

LRIP Production Costs Are Coming Down Fast: Pretty Much in Line With LM Estimates and Well Below CAPE Estimates
But until now, the CAPE estimates haven't been brought into serious question in the eyes of the media or the public. Perhaps this piece from Bloomberg will change things?
A fleet of Lockheed Martin Corp. (LMT)’s F-35 fighters will cost $857 billion over 55 years to operate and support, 22 percent less than previously estimated, according to the head of the Pentagon office developing the plane.  
The new estimate reflects the aircraft’s performance in 5,000 test flights over 7,000 hours, Air Force Lieutenant General Christopher Bogdan, the Defense Department’s program manager for the F-35, told the Senate Armed Services Committee in written answers last month that haven’t been made public until now.    

Colin Clark has a little more info on the problem with the 'internals' of the CAPE estimate for the F-35B in particular with a link to a 'Bloomberg piece: Marines Put F-35B Flight Costs 17 Percent Lower Than OSD.

Best Bit:

Among the questionable assumptions Schmidle highlighted is this whopper: the Office of Secretary Defense estimate developed by the Cost Assessment and Program Evaluation office (CAPE) predicted that the F-35B would be flown at full throttle in STOVL mode — which uses enormous amounts of fuel and utilizes the highly sophisticated lift fan system at much greater rates than the Marines project — about 80 percent of its time in the air.

Anyone who has watched the Harrier or the F-35B knows that Marines pilots rely sparingly on STOVL mode. It’s only used for a limited set of tactical moves and, usually, for taking off or landing the aircraft. The great majority of the plane’s flight time — could it be as much as 80 percent? — would be spent flying without using the lift fan and STOVL.

'Starry Night 2013'
CAPE O&S Cost Estimates Had (Have?) the F-35B Flying around in STOVL Mode at Full Throttle....
MOST of the Time
Clark gives a hat tip to an unusually informative Bloomberg piece (F-35 Support Costs Fall 22%, Pentagon Manager Estimates) by 'Slow Tony' Capaccio.  Inside it we find:
"effort remains to continue to find cost efficiencies and reduce this number even further" and “I expect these cost estimates to continue to go down over the next several years as the program matures,” Bogdan said.
Jennifer Elzea, a spokeswoman for the cost-assessment office that compiled the earlier $1.1 trillion estimate, said in an e-mail that she couldn’t comment on Bogdan’s reduced projection.

Heh. Now we get to see how long it takes for the CAPE estimates to actually go down, now that their 'problematic' nature has been found out.. My bet is it will be done gracefully over time, IF they can get away with slow-rolling this discovery.

Production costs going down. Support costs going down. All is proceeding as I have foreseen.

Wednesday, August 07, 2013

Remember Hiroshima and Nagasaki

A most moral use of force.

H/T Instapundit

Glen Reynolds offers two excellent links to outstanding and most timely content content for our review and reflection.

The first, is from the late Paul Fussell, whom I've never quite forgiven for his little book "The Boys Crusade" (a 'stain' on an otherwise quite good collection of work IMHO), but I set that aside to recommend the 'Insta-linked'  Thank God for the Atomic Bomb .

At the second link, Bill Whittle delivers a timeless, crushing body-blow to the 'revisionists' who grow bolder as age and time overtake our WW2 veterans and their memories.