Mark Collins – F-35: How Much Less Bang for the Buck (how many?)?

Lots of detail at Flightglobal:

Reduced F-35 performance specifications may have significant operational impact

The Pentagon’s decision to reduce the performance specifications for the Lockheed Martin F-35 Joint Strike Fighter will have a significant operational impact, a number of highly experienced fighter pilots consulted by Flightglobal concur. But the careful development of tactics and disciplined employment of the jet may be able to mitigate some of those shortcomings.

“This is going to have a big tactical impact,” one highly experienced officer says. “Anytime you have to lower performance standards, the capability of what the airframe can do goes down as well.”

The US Department of Defense’s decision to relax the sustained turn performance of all three variants of the F-35 was revealed earlier this month in the Pentagon’s Director of Operational Test and Evaluation 2012 report. Turn performance for the US Air Force’s F-35A was reduced from 5.3 sustained g’s to 4.6 sustained g’s. The F-35B had its sustained g’s cut from five to 4.5 g’s, while the US Navy variant had its turn performance truncated from 5.1 to five sustained g’s. Acceleration times from Mach 0.8 to Mach 1.2 were extended by eight seconds, 16 seconds and 43 seconds for the A, B and C-models respectively. The baseline standard used for the comparison was a clean Lockheed F-16 Block 50 with two wingtip Raytheon AIM-120 AMRAAMs. “What an embarrassment, and there will be obvious tactical implications. Having a maximum sustained turn performance of less than 5g is the equivalent of an [McDonnell Douglas] F-4 or an [Northrop] F-5,” another highly experienced fighter pilot says. “[It’s] certainly not anywhere near the performance of most fourth and fifth-generation aircraft.”

At higher altitudes, the reduced performance will directly impact survivability against advanced Russian-designed “double-digit” surface-to-air missile (SAM) systems such as the Almaz-Antey S-300PMU2 (also called the SA-20 Gargoyle by the North Atlantic Treaty Organization), the pilot says. At lower altitudes, where fighters might operate in for the close air support or forward air control role, the reduced airframe performance will place pilots at increased risk against shorter-range SAMs and anti-aircraft artillery…

Pilots will have to make extensive use of the F-35‘s stealth characteristics and sensors to compensate for performance areas where the jet has weaknesses, sources familiar with the aircraft say. But engagement zones and maneuvering ranges will most likely be driven even further out against the most dangerous surface-to-air threats…

Read the whole story, F-35A seems least affected. More from the same author:

What’s the operational impact of reducing the F-35’s performance specs?

See also: “Pentagon F-35 Testing Report… ” and this at AW&ST’s “Ares” blog. Plus a comprehensive article at Defense Industry Daily:

The F-35′s Air-to-Air Capability Controversy

[The least of the RCAF’s concerns going by history; our air force has not engaged in a dog-fight since WW II as far as I know.]

As for what our National Fighter Procurement Secretariat is looking at and what the consequences may be (a mixed fighter force?):

F-35: Canadian Government Open to a “Bridging” Fighter Buy?

And another comprehensive DID article:

Canada Preparing to Replace its CF-18 Hornets

Finally–just in time?

The End Of An Era: Burbage Leaves F-35

Earlier about the fellow, who did quite a bit to bamboozle our government:

Which Lockheed Martin Executives to Believe? [2011]

Canadian Government has no idea what the F-35 will cost… [2010, scroll down to Update]

Mark Collins, a prolific Ottawa blogger, is a Research Fellow at the Canadian Defence & Foreign Affairs Institute

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2 responses to “Mark Collins – F-35: How Much Less Bang for the Buck (how many?)?

  1. A knowledgeable friend observes:

    “Reducing the sustained g loads sounds like a move to keep the weight from increasing because of structural strengthening required to have an airframe that can take the strain. Weight is a fundamental in fighter design because every pound has an influence on some other component, i.e. beefing up some other part thus more weight. Pretty soon you need a more powerful engine which may not weigh more (good luck) but will burn more fuel.”

    And we all know the F-35 has had weight problems:

    Really resolved?

    Mark Collins

  2. Another comprehensive article, from Aw&ST, is at this post:

    “F-35 JSF Testers Report Progress, Problems”

    Mark Collins

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