Archief van de maart, 2011

Mrt 24 2011

F-35 buyers from anxiety to paranoia over unpredictable costs

Gepubliceerd door onder Andere JSF landen

In an interesting analysis the Aviation Week journalists David A. Fulghum, Graham Warwick, Robert Wall, Alon Ben-David describe the rapidly growing concerns among potential F-35 buyers about new delays, new cost growth and decreasing initial operational capabilities:
Customers for Lockheed-Martin’s stealthy F-35 Joint Strike Fighter—among them Canada, Israel, Britain and Australia—are shifting their mood increasingly unpredictable costs.
Foreign analysts now expect JSF prices to significantly exceed even the latest Pentagon estimate, putting government officials in fiscal and political jeopardy as they try to craft a rational purchase plan for the fifth-generation warplane.

About the USA:

Adding new concern was congressional testimony by Lt. Gen. Mark Shackleford, military deputy to the assistant secretary of the Air Force for acquisitons, who says that ”we currently expect up to a two-year delay” in fielding the first operational unit, which shifts the date to 2018. The delay is being triggered by the most recent program restructuring.
Software is another area of imperfect cost estimates. The early software development packages are projected to be two years late for each block, the result of underestimating the time and resources required, and the need for new code continues to grow. As software is rebuilt and added, “costs have grown by 40 percent,” Sullivan says.

About Canada, Parliamentary Budget Officer Report

A new report by Canada’s Office of the Parliamentary Budget Officer (download here Full PDF) estimates that total program costs for the country’s 65 aircraft will be U.S. $29 billion which means a total program (through-life) unit price tag of about $450 million per aircraft in Fiscal 2009 dollars.
Canada’s report—“An Estimate of the Fiscal Impact of Canada’s Proposed Acquisition of the F-35 Lightning II Joint Strike Fighter”—came out March 10. The report predicts that average unit production cost for its F-35s will be $148 million with an additional $15 million for the engine, which brings the total to $163 million per aircraft. Cost estimates given to Congress last week say the fourth low-rate initial production batch, with engines, will cost $127 million per aircraft for the F-35A, $141 million for the F-35B and $158 million for the F-35C.
“It is not immediately obvious, given the available evidence, how the cost can be reduced to estimates predicted by Lockheed Martin over 10 years ago,” the Canadian report says. “Overall, F-35 development is now five years behind the schedule set at the outset of the program, and total [development] overruns are projected to exceed $21 billion, or 60% above the original goal.Unless there is compelling evidence to the contrary, it is difficult to see prices reducing to their original estimated level,” it concludes.

About Israeli: go ahead or postpone?

For Israel, a long, list of unique requirements from the Israeli air force (IAF) has almost disappeared for the first 19 JSFs. Options for installing Israeli weaponry produced a staggering price tag, while plans to fit the F-35 with Israeli electronic warfare systems were rejected for both technological and political reasons.
Israel’s defense establishment is divided on the question of whether to go ahead with procurement of F-35s, despite expected delays, or to postpone the program until costs and schedules are clear. Jerusalem is expected to be the first international customer for the F-35A with deliveries to begin in 2015. But recent discussions with the F-35 program and Lockheed Martin officials made it clear that there will be delays in delivery, with Israeli estimates varying from two months to two years.
The cost to Israel will be $145 million each for 19 A-model aircraft. But there is talk of using near-term F-35 funding for other projects. “Despite the F-35’s advantages, it will not be the panacea for Israel’s problems and most of its tasks can be performed with similar effectiveness through existing planes with one upgrade or another,” claims a February report by the Institute for National Security Studies.

About the United Kingdom

Britain is concerned about the cost of F-35 upgrades because of problems during earlier collaborations with the U.S. In its Lockheed Martin C-130J program the U.K. was forced to closely integrate upgrade plans with the U.S., rather than allowing indigenous modifications at a lower price as it did in the earlier C-130K buy. British army officers told Aviation Week that the computerized air-drop system was flawed, making cargo recovery in Afghanistan more difficult and dangerous. With the F-35, the situation is expected to be even more extreme, says a British government official.

The Canadian JSF audit also drew Britain’s attention. U.K. officials say its cost assumptions seem credible. As with Canada, they note that it has been difficult to properly assess underlying program costs. JSF concerns come as the British government is trying to adopt more realistic budget planning, with Defense Secretary Liam Fox vowing that only fully funded programs will proceed.

Australia fears repeat of previous miscalculations

Australia has also been the victim of U.S. miscalculations in an earlier cutting-edge project. Its Boeing/Northrop Grumman Wedgetail surveillance aircraft is more than four years behind schedule as Canberra considers the F-35. The airborne early warning and control aircraft’s software cost and schedule problems mirror those of the F-35.
Others point to earlier disappointments with buying into advanced U.S. technology. A senior Royal Australian Air Force officer with insight into the Boeing/Northrop Grumman Wedgetail aircraft, summed up the dilemma of foreign purchasers: “It’s great kit and just what we needed, but it would have been so helpful and caused us so much less pain [with the government] if we had been told up front how big that radar was going to be [3.5 tons], how long it actually was going to take [five years over schedule] and how much it was actually going to cost [more than $4 billion].”

Aviation Week; 22-mar-2011; “JSF Cost Predictions Rattle Foreign Customers”

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Mrt 23 2011

All F-35 flying again, was power outrage maintenance mistake only?

Gepubliceerd door onder Global F35 News

Two weeks after the in-flight generator failure of F-35A prototype AF-4 all F-35s have been cleared to resume flight testing.

As Stephen Trimble of Flight International reported Wednesday March 23, 2011:
The clearance means that all 12 flying F-35s, including 10 flight test and two production models, have returned to flight status, with seven aircraft already flying since 16 March.
A root-cause investigation revealed the cause of the power outage involved a maintenance mistake, programme officials say. Too much oil was poured into the generator system, causing the oil to overheat and shut down the power system, Lockheed says.
Identifying the cause as a maintenance error means the design of one of the F-35’s most critical flight-safety components is not in question.

However, several hours after publication the story was pulled from the Flight International website again; it seems the good news was a little bit premature. So the question is: was power outrage a maintenance mistake only?

Source: Flight International; Stephen Trimble; 23-mar-2011; “All F-35s cleared to resume flight tests”

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Mrt 23 2011

Australian Defence Officials: no need to change F-35 planning

Gepubliceerd door onder Global F35 News

Australian Defence Department believers there is no need to review plans to spend more than $20 billion on 72 F-35 stealth fighters despite American program cost increases and despite a Canadian Parliamentary report that warns for delays and much higher final costs.

Canberra Times quotes an Australian Defence spokesma: ”Detailed analysis shows the JSF is the preferred and most cost-effective long-term solution for Australia’s air combat superiority’. (….) ”Many ‘independent’ reports on JSF costs are based on extrapolation of historical data from legacy fighter programs, and as a consequence, do not reflect actual detailed cost analysis undertaken by the US Government and the JSF Program Office.”

Comments of the Canberra Times: (Australian) Defence’s continuing reliance on the American cost, time and capability projections appears difficult to justify given recent high-level claims they could be subject to change with little or no notice.

The defence blogger Eric Palmer commented about “the Australian gamble with the F-35“:
Australian Defence has a poor record of making sure projects reach the warfighter with usable capability. Spinning the roulette wheel on the F-35 can only make this reputation worse. Maybe our elected officials will wise-up and demand some action. That action would be to put a pause on handing any money over for the F-35 program. Given the F-35s troubled situation, it is the minimum that should be done to help avoid a massive procurement disaster.

Canberra Times; 23-mar-2011; Blowouts don’t change F=35 plans

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Mrt 23 2011

From Canada: some hard questions about the F-35 purchase

Gepubliceerd door onder Global F35 News

Long-time journalist, Brian Stewart asks some hard questions about the purchase of 65 F-35 “Joint Strike Fighters” by the Harper conservative government.

Libyan operation shows lack of arguments to buy F-35

How curious it is to see Canada’s limited role in the Libyan operation being used to justify the proposed purchase of the super-expensive F-35 fighter jets.
I’d say the situation suggests exactly the reverse.
If anything, this UN-sponsored mission raises new questions about the wisdom of buying 65 of these Lockheed-Martin “Joint Strike Fighters,” which are still in the test phase.
Particularly when the price tag ranges from a low of $14.7 billion (government estimate) to a stunning $29 billion (Parliamentary Budget Office prediction).

Some questions ……..

So we should really be asking ourselves more hard questions. Like, just what will the F-35 missions be? How many fighters do we really need for training and deployment? As opposed to just want in order to look good in NATO?

And are there cheaper alternatives that can satisfy national security and foreign commitments?

We still have time to reconsider. There’s some wriggle room in Canada’s arrangement with Lockheed Martin and delays with early production may now push delivery of the F-35s back to 2018.

What’s more, most NATO countries now appear to be cutting back on aircraft orders as well, so we’d be no exception.

In the meantime, shouldn’t we be asking ourselves whether a more modest procurement might, for example, free up more funds for our undersized navy, which every year is called out on some international or humanitarian deployment?

Like buying a new car after viewing only one model

Now the possible alternatives to the F-35 barely get a mention, and most of us may not know what they even look like, let alone cost. It’s like being told to buy a new car after viewing only one model.

I’m not against the F-35 if it turns out to be the best plane for our needs. But how far superior is it to the Boeing F-18E Super Hornet, a larger and more advanced offshoot of our current fighter, and which the elite U.S. carrier pilots will use along with the F-35.

Is there a deal to be had for Europe’s Typhoon “Eurofighter,” which will fly for NATO alongside the F-35 (and which competes for sales)?

The government argues that only the F-35 is fifth generation or a “stealth” fighter while the others are merely 4.5, which means not there yet.

But the F-35 is only partially stealth and, anyway, it’s not at all clear how critical the difference such an advantage would be given our usually limited overseas air role.

You can read his complete article on CBCNEWS/World.

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Mrt 22 2011

F-35 Flight Test Update March 2011

Gepubliceerd door onder Global F35 News

In Code One Magazine, supporting the Lockheed Martin F-16, F-22 and F-35 fighter communities, an update on F-35 Flight testing can be found:

“The F-35 Lightning II program completed 410 flights in 2010. As of mid-March 2011, 150 flights have been completed for the year to date. The program has completed a total of 697 flights since first flight in 2006.
The first production aircraft, F-35A AF-6, completed its inaugural flight on 25 February. It will continue flight tests in Fort Worth, Texas, before it is accepted by the US Air Force. The aircraft will then head to Edwards AFB to support developmental testing.
F-35B BF-5 was flown for the first time on 27 January and is the last STOVL assigned to developmental flight testing. As of mid-March, the five F-35Bs flying at NAS Patuxent River, Maryland, have completed a total of 316 flights and seventy-three vertical landings.

Source: Lockheed Martin / Code One Magazine 22-mar-2011

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Mrt 22 2011

Turkish Aerospace Industries expanding F-35 high-tech skills

Gepubliceerd door onder Global F35 News

Turkish Aerospace Industries, Inc. (TAI), a major international F-35 Lightning II supplier to Northrop Grumman Corporation has delivered a prototype of its first major structural element for the jet´s center fuselage, which Northrop Grumman produces for F-35 industry team leader Lockheed Martin.

Known as a destructive test article, the prototype all-composite air inlet duct reflects the growing maturity of TAI´s composite fiber-placed manufacturing processes, and the steady evolution of its role as a second source supplier of center fuselages for the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter (JSF) program.

TAI produced the air inlet duct at its composites manufacturing facility in Ankara, Turkey as part of a five-year, US$28.4 million contract awarded to the company in Sept. 2009 by Northrop Grumman.

“TAI has progressed steadily in learning the high-precision manufacturing processes required to produce parts for the most capable multi-role fighter in the world,” said Mark Tucker, vice president and F-35 program manager for Northrop Grumman´s Aerospace Systems sector. “Its continued success helps us ensure a smooth transition from our current rate of completing approximately two center fuselages per month to an eventual rate of one center fuselage per day.”

According to Tucker, the destructive test article will be used to validate the quality of TAI´s composite manufacturing processes. Deliveries of production quality inlet ducts are expected by the end of this calendar year.

“This delivery is another major step by TAI to demonstrate its commitment to the success of the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter program,” said Muharrem Dortkasli, TAI´s president and chief executive officer.

According to Dortkasli, the company has made significant investment since 2007 in new technologies and facilities required to meet F-35 program requirements. In addition to opening its Advanced Composites Facilities in 2008 and 2010, TAI plans to open a new F-35 JSF Center Fuselage Assembly and Coating Facility in 2011.

The delivery of TAI´s first air inlet duct follows a series of successful composites manufacturing training sessions conducted over the last two years for the company´s engineers and manufacturing specialists by Northrop Grumman. Held at Northrop Grumman´s Advanced Composites Center in El Segundo, the training included rigorous classroom and hands-on work to teach the TAI employees how to fabricate an F-35 inlet duct from start to finish.

TAI is a second source supplier of F-35 air inlet ducts and center fuselages to Northrop Grumman. The Turkish company is slated to produce inlet ducts to support both the current production of center fuselages on Northrop Grumman´s F-35 assembly line in Palmdale, Calif., and the 400 complete center fuselages that it will produce in Turkey.

Deliveries of the TAI-produced center fuselages are scheduled to begin in 2013, as part the F-35 program´s sixth phase of low rate initial production. Since 2008, TAI has been producing increasingly complex components and subassemblies for Northrop Grumman-assembled center fuselages. The company delivered its first F-35 components to Northrop Grumman in late 2008, and its first structural assemblies for the jet in March 2009.

TAI´s modern facilities in Ankara are furnished with high technology machinery and manufacturing equipment that provide capabilities ranging from parts manufacturing to complete aircraft and helicopter manufacturing, assembly and flight tests. TAI also designs, develops and integrates aerospace systems and provides modernization and after-sales support services.

Northrop Grumman is responsible for designing and producing the center fuselage for all three variants of the F-35. The company also designed and produces the aircraft´s radar and other key avionics including electro-optical and communications subsystems; develops mission systems and mission-planning software; leads the team´s development of pilot and
maintenance training system courseware; and manages the team´s use, support and maintenance of low-observable technologies.

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Mrt 21 2011

Voor een A-team is alleen de F-35 goed genoeg…..

Gepubliceerd door onder Aanschaf JSF

De geregelde lezers van de posts op deze website herinneren zich ongetwijfeld nog het pleidooi van Kolonel Dr. Jan van Angeren uit het nummer van januari 2011 van het (prachtige) blad Onze Luchtmacht (zie JSFNieuws 17-jan-2011).
“De keuze voor het vliegtuig dat de F-16 moet opvolgen moet plaatsvinden op basis van strategische overwegingen. Dat wil bijvoorbeeld zeggen dat de vraag op de toestellen niet al te duur uitvallen van een tweede orde is. (….) De prijs die wij Nederlanders voor onze defensie betalen wordt al geruime tijd bepaald door onze ambitie en wat we ervoor over hebben om die ambitie waar te maken”.
Het commentaar van Kolonel Dr. Jan van Angeren vervolgt: “Als je er niet voor kiest om mee te doen (met de Amerikanen) – dat wil zeggen, om zo nauw mogelijk aan te sluiten bij de USAF-standaard – dan sta je er min of meer alleen voor. Je hebt dan ook weinig in te brengen als het erom gaat om de beste (of voor jou meest gunstige) manier van optreden te bepalen. Qua inzet mag je dan blij zijn als je de kruimels krijgt die je door het A-team nog worden gegund. Wat dat verder voor operationele gevolgen kan hebben, laat zich raden. Dat je qua beveiliging van jouw optreden aan de top van de prioriteitenlijst komt te staan ligt bijvoorbeeld niet voor de hand. Kies je er daarentegen voor om naar vermogen mee te doen, dan wordt die bereidheid om echt betrokken te zijn en je nek uit te steken hooglijk gewaardeerd – zo leert de praktijk. (…) maar conditio sine qua non is steeds dat je ook op het A-team niveau kunt meedoen. Om te beginnen kun je dan het best zoveel mogelijk dezelfde middelen gebruiken. Zo simpel is het!”.

Het A-team weer ik actie…….

Libië. Het afdwingen van de ingestelde no-fly zone. Het A-team weer bijeengeroepen en in actie. Zie hier de deelnemers lijst (minimale deelnemers):

United Kingdom; Royal Air Force:
4x Tornado GR4 2/9sq/15sqd.
14x Typhoon FGR4 3/11/29sqd (vanuit Italië).
4x VC-10C1K/K4 tanker 101sqd.
2x Tristar K1/C2 tanker 216sqd.
1x Sentinel R1 5sqd.
1x Nimrod R1 51sqd.
2x E-3D Sentry 8sqd


Frankrijk; Armee de L’Air:
6x Dassault Rafale B/C
4x Dassault Mirage 2000-5
2x C-160NG Transall/Gabriel
6x KC-135FR tanker
2x E-3F Awacs

Frankrijk; Aeronavale- vliegdekschip Charles de Gaulle
6x Dassault Super Etendard
8x Dassault Rafale M

Canada: Canadian Armed Forces
7x Boeing CF-188 Hornet; No. 3 Wing
2x CC-150 437sqd

US of America; USAF/ANG/AFRC
3x KC-10A tanker
8x KC-135R tanker
2x EC-130J Hercules
3x B-2
14x Boeing F-15E Eagle (Lakenheath)
12x Lockheed F-16CJ (Spangdahlem)
5x Boeing EA-18G Growler (US Navy)
4x AV8 Harrier (US Marines Corps)

4x Lockheed F-16AM 10Wing (vanaf Souda Bay, Griekenland)

6x Lockheed F-16 (vanaf Italiaanse basis Sigonella)

6x Lockheed F-16 (afkomstig van Bodø, opereren vanaf Souda Bay, Griekenland)
2x Lockheed C-130J-30 Hercules voor support
4x EdA F-18 Ala12
1x EdA B707

Italië (Italiaanse luchtmacht, vanaf Trapani)
4x AMI Tornado ECR
4x AMI Typhoon

Spanje (vanaf Decimannu, Italië)
4x Boeing F/A-18 Hornet
1x Boeing 707 (support)

Griekenland (vanaf Souda Bay)
4x Lockheed F-16

Quatar (vanaf Souda Bay)
4x Mirage 2000

Kolonel Van Angeren: “….meedoen in A-team, voorwaarde dat je beschikt over dezelfde middelen……..”. Zie de lijst hierboven: Mirage 2000, Super Etendard, Rafale, Tornado, Typhoon, welke “zelfde” middelen?

Het Nederlandse A-team? Waar?
(of hebben we onze bijdrage al geleverd middels een verdwaalde Lynx helicopter?)

Kolonel Van Angeren: Je nek uitsteken wordt hooglijk gewaardeerd, zo leert de praktijk”. Of is de operationele rek eruit voor ons A-team? Moeten we streven naar een toestel (de F-35) dat in gebruik nog 2x zo duur is dan de F-16 nu is, als we op dit moment al moeite hebben om pakweg 30 F-16’s operationeel te houden? Vraag het de jongens en meiden bij de squadrons maar eens! Zij willen wel!

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Mrt 16 2011

Pentagon/JPO Admiral Venlet about TBR, fatigue testing and software

Gepubliceerd door onder Global F35 News

The hearing of March, 15 2011 of the Subcommittee of the Armed Forces of the U.S. House of Representatives about the US Navy and US Marine Corps, and Air Force Tactical Aviation Programs was opened by testimony of the Honorable Ashton Carter, Under Secretary of Defense for Acqusition, Technology, and Logistics of the Office of the Secretary of Defense. Second speaker was Mr. David M. Van Buren, Acting Assistant Secretary of the Air Force for Acquisition of the U.S. Air Force and next was Vice Admiral David Venlet, Program Executive Office, F-35 Lightning II Program of the U.S. Department of Defense and responsible since June 2010 for the progress of the F-35 program.

They prepared a written statement to support their testimonies. Here some interesting words from their statement.

About the Technical Baseline Review (TBR)

Following the JSF Nunn-McCurdy criteria certification in June 2010, the F-35 Program Office conducted the most comprehensive review of the JSF program ever accomplished. A Technical Baseline Review (TBR) assessed the cost, schedule and technical risk of the work required to complete the F-35 System Development and Demonstration (SDD) program. The TBR was heavily dependent upon the technical strengths of Naval Air Systems Command, Air Force Aeronautical Systems Center and the Office of the Secretary of Defense.
The TBR involved more than 120 technical experts and differed from previous Joint Estimating Team (JET) assessments conducted by the Department’s Cost Assessment and Program Evaluation (CAPE) office in 2008 and 2009. While the JET reviews were top-down technical program cost and schedule assessments, the TBR was a bottoms-up technical review of detailed plans at the lowest levels. It also drew on knowledge from the aircraft and engine contractors as well as the government test bases, to gain a thorough understanding of the content of the work required to complete the development program.
TBR subject matter experts formed sub teams across the various technical disciplines of test and engineering. They completed assessments of approximately 80 percent of the remaining SDD costs via interviews and detailed analyses of program data and performance artifacts.
The TBR became the basis for additional program restructuring in the FY12 PB. The FY12 PB called for an additional $4.6 billion to complete the development effort, held F-35 procurement in FY12 at 32 aircraft, and reduced procurement by 124 aircraft over the FYDP in the FY12 PB. This restructure puts the program on solid ground, with realistic development and production goals and significant reduction in concurrency. As a result of the FY12-16 restructuring, the Air Force F-35A variant has been reduced by 57 aircraft, and the Department of the Navy F-35B and C variants have been reduced by 67.
The TBR drove several program changes to lower schedule risk associated with testing. The program has adjusted the flight test program to make temporary use of 6 LRIP aircraft in addition to the original 12 planned SDD airplanes, do now total 18 aircraft for use in flight test. The flight science portion of flight test has decoupled the three variants so that they may all proceed at their best pace and not impact any of the others. However, the mission system avionics (radar, electro optical/infrared sensor, data links, Communication and Navigation) is common for all three variants and is not being decoupled. Development testing of the common mission system and flight sciences for CTOL and CV is now scheduled to complete in the first quarter of 2016. The flight science testing for STOVL extends into the last quarter of 2016.

About the fatigue testing; stopped until October 2011

In November 2010, durability testing on the STOVL fatigue test article, BH-1, found stress cracks on the Station 496 bulkhead. In LRIP lots 1 through 4, there are 29 US STOVL aircraft in production flow. Different modifications (a blend, strap modification or new design dimensions) based upon access to the target location are required for STOVL aircraft depending on the state of manufacturing of each aircraft. Durability testing will re-commence in October 2011 after the fatigue test article is repaired. The delay in durability testing will not impact the flight test schedule, and the changes for production are anticipated to be incorporated in the current manufacturing plan and delivery schedule.

About the several issues with software development

The development of F-35 Mission Systems software, a component of the Air System Software, is proceeding according to a schedule adjusted as an outcome of the TBR. As a matter of fundamental process discipline, no new software blocks were created, no functionality was pushed to later blocks, and no capabilities were removed as a result of the TBR.
Pay attention to the used formulation, “no new software blocks created; no push to later blocks as a result of the TBR. True, but misleading by its suggestion. Indeed, the push of key functionality, needed for the warfighter, was pushed to future software blocks long before this TBR.

The Mission Systems Block 1 software has demonstrated stable performance in flight test, and will be delivered with LRIP 1, 2 and 3 aircraft. We have demonstrated, in the initial Block 1 release to flight test, expected functionality of the primary sensors, including radar, electronic warfare, Electro-Optical Targeting System, Distributed Aperture Sensor, and Integrated Communications, Navigation, and Identification. Block 1 maturation will continue through 2011, with an update this fall to include Multi-Level Security capability. Block 2 software, planned for delivery in LRIP 4 and 5 aircraft, introduces multi-ship network functionality, with the first release to flight test planned at the end of 2011. Block 3 software, having just completed requirements review, will complete the SDD development stream and provide full Operational Requirements Document (ORD) compliant capabilities. Final Block 3 software is planned to deliver to flight test in 2015, to allow completion of the mission system development in the first quarter of calendar 2016.
Mind the latest words, they forget telling the HASC the software is delayed for over 4 years and that this means that in fact the IOT&E stage cannot start before Q1-2016 and it means that the early birds ordered by UK, USAF and RNLAF to support the IOT&E could have been ordered one or two years later, saving lots of money in the crisis-hot defence budgets.

Source: David Van Buren / Vice Admiral David Venlet; JPO Statement HASC Testimony 15-mar-2011

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Mrt 15 2011

Testimony US-GAO’s Michael Sullivan: JSF progress still lagging

Gepubliceerd door onder Ontwikkeling JSF

On Tuesday March 15, 2011 at 11:30 a.m. EST a hearing started of the Subcommittee of the Armed Forces of the U.S. House of Representatives about the US Navy and US Marine Corps, and Air Force Tactical Aviation Programs. Main subject was the progress and funding of the Joint Strike Fighter program.

Key note speaker was Mr. Michael J. Sullivan, Director for Acquisition and Sourcing of the U.S. Government Accountability Office about his findings in the F-35 program.

Statement of Michael Sullivan, US-GAO about Joint Strike Fighter

In a written statement, supporting his testimony, Michael Sullivan provided the members of the Committee on Armed Services of the US House of Representative with a clear overview of the current status of the F-35 Program.

Read the full statement “Joint Strike Fighter - Restructuring Should Improve Outcomes, but Progress Is Still Lagging Overall”, download with this link US GAO-11-450T Joint Strike Fighter; 15-mar-2011″,

Summary What US GAO Found

DOD continues to restructure the JSF program, taking positive, substantial actions that should lead to more achievable and predictable outcomes. Restructuring has consequences—higher up-front development costs, fewer aircraft bought in the near term, training delays, and extended times for testing and delivering capabilities to warfighters. (1) Total development funding is now estimated at $56.4 billion to complete in 2018, a 26 percent cost increase and a 5-year schedule slip from the current baseline.
(2) DOD also reduced near-term procurement quantities by 246 aircraft through 2016, but has not calculated the net effects of restructuring on total procurement costs nor approved a new baseline. Full-rate production moved to 2018, 5-year delayed.
(3) Affordability for the U.S. and partners is challenged by a near doubling in average unit prices since program start and higher estimated life-cycle costs. Going forward, the JSF requires unprecedented funding levels in a period of more austere defense budgets.
(4) The program had mixed success in 2010, achieving 6 of 12 major goals and progressing in varying degrees on the rest. Successes included the first flight of the carrier variant, award of a fixed-price aircraft procurement contract, and an accelerated pace in development flight tests that accomplished three times as many flights in 2010 as the previous 3 years combined.
(5) However, the program did not deliver as many aircraft to test and training sites as planned and made only a partial release of software capabilities.
(6) The short takeoff and landing (STOVL) variant had significant technical problems and deficient flight test performance. DOD directed a 2-year period to evaluate and engineer STOVL solutions.
(7) After more than 9 years in development and 4 in production, the JSF program has not fully demonstrated that the aircraft design is stable, manufacturing processes are mature, and the system is reliable. Engineering drawings are still being released to the manufacturing floor and design changes continue at higher rates than desired. More changes are expected as testing accelerates.
(8) Test and production aircraft cost more and are taking longer to deliver than expected. Manufacturers are improving operations and implemented 8 of 20 recommendations from an expert panel, but have not yet demonstrated a capacity to efficiently produce at higher production rates. Substantial improvements in factory throughput and the global supply chain are needed.
(9) Development testing is still early in demonstrating that aircraft will work as intended and meet warfighter requirements. About 4 percent of JSF capabilities have been completely verified by flight tests, lab results, or both. Only 3 of the extensive network of 32 ground test labs and simulation models are fully accredited to ensure the fidelity of results. Software development—essential for achieving about 80 percent of the JSF functionality—is significantly behind schedule as it enters its most challenging phase.

Continuous stream of design changes

In a program where testing was supposed to be “verifying what is already known” there is a remarkable stream of design changes. Adding risc, costs and problems in the global supply chain. Read the GAO testimony, page 8:
Specifically, the program has not yet stabilized aircraft designs—engineering changes continue at higher than expected rates long after critical design reviews and well into procurement, and more changes are expected as testing accelerates. Also, manufacturing cost increases and delays in delivering test and production aircraft indicate need for substantial improvements in factory throughput and performance of the global supply chain.
Program Has Still Not Fully Demonstrated a Stable Design and Mature Manufacturing Processes as It Enters Its Fifth Year of Production.

Engineering drawings released since design review and the number and rate of design changes exceed those planned at program outset and are not in line with best practices. Critical design reviews were completed on the three aircraft variants in 2006 and 2007 and the designs declared mature, but the program continues to experience numerous changes. Since 2007, the program has produced 20,000 additional engineering drawings, a 50-percent increase in total drawings and about five times more than best practices suggest. In addition, changes to drawings have not yet decreased and leveled off as planned.

The Program now anticipates 10.000 more design changes in 2013 than anticipated in 2007. This will have costly consequences in a program with so many aircraft in early production. With a major risk, there will be more of the same:
With most of development testing still ahead for the JSF, the risk and impact from required design changes are significant. In addition, emerging concerns about the STOVL lift fan and drive shaft, fatigue cracks in a ground test article, and stealth-related issues may drive additional and substantive design changes.

Especially the last remark about “stealth-related issues” and “substantive” design changes needs attention.

The absence of fully accredited labs

Page 13 describes how the JSF test program relies much more heavily than previous weapon systems on its modeling and simulation labs to test and verify aircraft design and subsystem performance. But only 3 of 32 labs and models have been fully accredited to date. One of the arguments in the JSF program was that “the program was unique by its use of ground labs and flying labs, like the well-known CATbird. Accreditation is essential to validate that the models accurately reflect aircraft performance.

Software growing bottle-neck

Software is a rapidly growing concern: Software providing essential JSF capability is not mature and releases the test program are behind schedule. Officials underestimated the time and effort needed to develop and integrate the software, substantially contributing to the program’s overall cost and schedule problems atesting delays, and requiring the retention of engineers for longer periodsSignificant learning and development work remains before the programcan demonstrate the mature software capabilities needed to meet warfighter requirements. The JSF software development effort is one of the largest and most complex in DOD history, providing functionality essential to capabilities such as sensor fusion, weapons and fire control, maintenance diagnostics, and propulsion. JSF depends on millions more lines of software code than the F-22A Raptor and F/A-18E/F Super Hornet.
Good progress has been reported, however: Delays in developing, integrating, and releasing software to the teprogram have cascading effects hampering flight tests, training, anaccreditation. While progress is being made, a substantial amount of software work remains before the program can demonstrate full warfighting capability. The program released its second block, or increment, to flight test nearly 2 years later than the plan set in 2006, largely due to integration problems.

Software Delivery to Flight Test Slips:

Block 0.1 Flight Sciences: Planned 2006; delivery 2007.
Block 0.5 Initial Mission: Planned 2008; delivery early 2010.
Block 1.0 Initial Training: Planned 2008; delivery early 2012.
Block 2.0 Initial Warfighting: Planned early 2010; estimated early 2014.
Block 3.0 Full capability: Planned mid-2011; estimated mid-2015.

Some capabilities has been moved to “future” blocks to make the currently planned blocks “lighter”. In normal speak: less features for more money and years later. Countries supposing to get certain necessary operational capabilities in Block 3 will receive them in Block 4 or Block 5; in 2018 or 2010; and paying “sustainment and upgrade” contracts to pay for it.

Concluding Remarks

Michael Sullivan ends his testimony with these concluding remarks:
The JSF program is at a critical juncture—9 years in development and 4 years in limited production–but still early in flight testing to verify aircraft design and performance. If effectively implemented and sustainethe restructuring DOD is conducting should place the JSF program on a firmer footing and lead to more achievable and predictable outcomes. However, restructuring comes with a price—higher development costs,fewer aircraft received in the near term, training delays, prolonged times for testing and delivering the capabilities required by the warfighter, and impacts on other defense programs and priorities. Reducing near-term procurement quantities lessens, but does not eliminate the still substantial and risky concurrency of development and production. Development and testing activities will now overlap 11 years of procurement. Flight testing and production activities are increasing and contractors are improving supply and manufacturing processes, but deliveries are still lagging.

US GAO, Michael Sullivan; testimony 15-mar-2011 US House of Representatives.

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Mrt 15 2011

USAF F-16 Block 25 service life extension to 10.800 hours

Gepubliceerd door onder Aanschaf JSF

In a document prepared March 14, 2011 by Staffers of the members of the Subcommittee of the Armed Forces of the U.S. House of Representatives one may read some interesting details about the planned life-extension programs of the F-16 Block 25/32.

The Air Force operates a strike fighter fleet of F-22, F-15, F-16, and A-10 aircraft.
(….)The Air Force believes that targeted actions are required to address capability and capacity gaps which include F-22 modernization, F-35 acquisition, legacy service life extension program and modernization and investments in preferred weapons capabilities.
(…) Recent delays in the F-35 program have required the Air Force to fund a structural sustainment program for F-16 blocks 25 to 32 so that those aircraft can achieve a service life extension from 8,000 to 10,800 hours. Additionally, the Air Force plans for fund a service life extension program (SLEP) for 300 F-16 blocks 40 and 50 aircraft so that those aircraft can also be operated to 10,000 hours. The Air Force believes that the structural sustainment program for F-16 blocks 25 to 32 and the SLEP for F-16 blocks 40 and 50 aircraft can contain its strike fighter shortfall to 32 aircraft within the next six years.
The Air Force is also concerned about a strike fighter capability gap and believes that F-22 modernization and F-35 acquisition are essential to close the 5th generation capability gap which would enable strike fighter operations in the most stressing integrated air defense environments. Additional F-35 production and development schedule delays will increase the Air Force’s capacity and capability risks.

Service life of Norwegian, Danish and Dutch F-16s seems to be only 6.000 hours and life extension isn’t possible as stated by the respective Ministers of Defence in Norway, Denmark and The Netherlands. In 2001 these countries decided to participate in the F-35 Program, because “Replacement of the F-16 would be urgently required around 2010″. Dutch F-16s have flown between 3.500 and 4.000 hours at this moment.


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