Assembling and Supporting the Joint Strike Fighter in the UK: Issues and Costs

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It gives you degree battle-space awareness. It gives you your flight parameters: Where am I in space? Where am I pointing? How fast am I going? The Joint Strike Fighter is still waiting on software from Lockheed that will make good on long-promised capabilities. He insisted that, despite a rocky start, the company is on schedule. Pentagon officials are not as confident. They cannot say when Lockheed will deliver the 8. Michael Gilmore, testified before Congress. Software is hardly the only concern. And what I am doing is I am investing millions of dollars in taking each and every one of those parts and deciding: Do we need to redesign it?

Do we need to have someone else manufacture it? Returning to the hangar, maintainers opened the engine-bay door to find that a brown hose carrying combustible fuel had separated from its coupling. It would have been a problem. A catastrophic problem. The pilot followed standard operating procedures when he was alerted to the leak.

The safeguards in place on the aircraft allowed the pilot to abort takeoff without incident and clear the active runway. There were no injuries to the pilot or ground crew. For clarification, the grounding was cleared three weeks after the event. General Bogdan, it turned out, would have a lot more to say in the course of a long and forceful interview in which he held up the Joint Strike Fighter program and the prime contractor, Lockheed Martin, to scrutiny and found both of them deficient on many counts.

Earlier this year, I wound my way through throngs of travelers as I waited for a call. Charlie explained that his choice of meeting location was less paranoid than practical: the J. And he did not want to bump into anyone. He asked that I conceal his identity so he could speak candidly. In the course of this and many other conversations, Charlie walked me through the troubled history of the airplane and tried to separate the rosy public-relations pronouncements from what he saw as the grim reality. Then they have to graduate to instrument conditions. What the program is saying is that the J.

But this program is on a much sounder, much more stable footing than it was a year or two ago. They cut corners. And so we are where we are. He strenuously denied the company cut corners or in any way compromised safety or its core values. On top of that: Produce three versions of the airplane—a conventional version for the air force, a short-takeoff and vertical-landing version for the Marines, and a carrier-suitable version for the navy. The idea was that a single stealthy, supersonic, multi-service airplane could entirely replace four existing kinds of aircraft.

And the expectation was that this new airplane would do everything: air-to-air combat, deep-strike bombing, and close air support of troops on the ground. To turn its X prototype into a fleet of F fighters, Lockheed has relied on two seemingly separate but equally controversial acquisition practices. Commonality simply meant that the three F variants would share portions of high-cost components like the airframe, the avionics, and the engines.

But commonality did not really come to pass. The original plan was that about 70 percent of all the parts on the airplanes would be common; the actual figure today is about 25 percent. Commonality, even at this reduced level, has unintended consequences. When a crack in a low-pressure turbine blade was discovered in an air-force FA engine earlier this year, Pentagon officials took the only responsible course, given that the part is used in all models: they grounded the entire fleet of Fs, not just the ones flown by the air force.

From the outset, Lockheed assured Pentagon officials that technological innovation, including heavy reliance on computer simulation, which could take the place of real-world testing, would keep costs down. The Pentagon bought those assurances and allowed the company to design, test, and produce the F all at the same time, instead of insisting that Lockheed identify and fix defects before firing up its production line.

Building an airplane while it is still being designed and tested is referred to as concurrency. In effect, concurrency creates an expensive and frustrating non-decision loop: build a plane, fly a plane, find a flaw, design a fix, retrofit the plane, rinse, repeat. Vice Admiral David Venlet, who managed the J.

At the time the F contract was written, the Pentagon was operating under a principle called Total System Performance Responsibility. The idea was that government oversight was unduly burdensome and costly; the solution was to put more power in the hands of contractors. In the case of the Joint Strike Fighter, Lockheed was given near-total responsibility for design, development, testing, fielding, and production.

In the old days, the Pentagon would have provided thousands of pages of minute specifications. For the Joint Strike Fighter, the Pentagon gave Lockheed a pot of money and a general outline of what was expected. Nailing down the true cost of the Joint Strike Fighter is a maddening exercise as various stakeholders use different math—along with byzantine acronyms—to arrive at figures that serve their interests.

According to the Government Accountability Office G. Full-rate production of the F, which was supposed to start in , will not start until The Joint Program Office, which oversees the project, disagrees with the G. For decades, American fighter pilots have achieved air dominance with the help of a heads-up display, or HUD. They are ubiquitous. They appear in civilian and military aircraft, in video games, and in the recently unveiled Google Glass. For fighter pilots, a HUD is not a gimmick. It is a lifesaver. It is impossible to wrap your head around the system until the system wraps itself around your head.

Rubino helped me put on the helmet. It took time to adjust to the reality projected in front of my eyes. Along with that artificial world I could see data: altitude, bearing, speed, and other information. Testing my newfound powers, I peered down at my legs and saw right through the floor of the aircraft.

Looking down to my left I could see the runway at B. When I turned my head quickly from side to side, the stitching that weaves six cameras into a single portrait appeared to fray ever so slightly. When I removed the helmet after 20 minutes, I had the somewhat unsettling feeling you might get after a day spent riding roller coasters. At first blush the helmet-mounted display struck Charlie and his colleagues as a major advance. But they were left with a nagging question: what happens if something goes wrong with the helmet? Visibility is critical to pilots of every stripe. It has proven to be a problem for some F pilots.

To understand the sensory impact of an H. Now imagine driving forward, and as your eyes glance down toward the pedals, the video feed in front of your eyes changes to reveal the road beneath the vehicle. Like other parts of the plane, the helmet-mounted display—with its newfangled gadgetry—works better on paper than in practice. Spatial disorientation is a potentially lethal condition in which a pilot loses his bearings and confuses perception with reality. A joint U. One cause of spatial disorientation is latency—when what is displayed lags behind what the plane does.

Because the resolution is so poor. That was knowable before the helmet was built. Take the matter of stealth technology, which helps an airplane elude detection. None of the helos have stealth.

UK faces increased cost of participation in JSF

Look at Desert Storm and the invasion of Iraq. Marine aviators did close air support and some battlefield prep as Marines prepared to move in. Not deep strike. Ask the commandant to name the date and time the Marines struck Baghdad in Desert Storm. Why invest in a stealth aircraft for the Marines?

To remain low-observable—military-speak for stealthy—the F must carry fuel and ordnance internally. That, in turn, impacts how long it can loiter over the battlefield not exactly a stealthy tactic to begin with and how much weaponry it can deploy in support of Marines below. It also has a mm. By comparison, the FB, which the Marines insist they will field in , will carry two AIM advanced air-to-air missiles which protect the F from other aircraft, not grunts on the ground and either two pound GBU laser-guided bombs or two 1,pound GBU J.

In other words, a plane that costs at least five times as much as its predecessor will initially deploy carrying one third as much ordnance and no gun whatsoever. Lockheed maintains that the F is outfitted with a series of hard points that will eventually allow the plane to carry up to 18, pounds of ordnance for the air-force and navy variants and up to 15, pounds for the Marine version.

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Having built the FA Nighthawk and F Raptor, Lockheed Martin has plenty of experience with the highly toxic coatings and svelte surfaces that help stealth aircraft go undetected. The company also knows that the technology is finicky and has the capacity to turn a cutting-edge fighter into a hangar queen. When the time came to cover the F with a radar-absorbing material, Lockheed changed its technology, covering the plane with a rigid coating applied in sections. As a result, the F is prohibited from supersonic flight while Lockheed Martin comes up with a fix—one that will require retrofitting the 78 planes that have already come off the production line.

The Footprint of the JSF/F Lightning II Military Jet in the Netherlands

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F-35 Lightning: The Joint Strike Fighter Program

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