DOT&E leaked memo suggests F-35 May Never Be Ready for Combat. F-35 pilot doesn’t agree.

Sep 20 2016 - 40 Comments

Here’s the latest chapter of the saga: F-35  pilot counters Director Operational Test & Evaluation (DOT&E) leaked memo.

Three weeks ago, a memo dated Aug. 9 (one week after the Air Force declared the IOC – Initial Operational Capability – of the F-35A) by Michael Gilmore, the Defense Department’s director of operational testing, obtained by Bloomberg News, highlighted several deficiencies.

“The program is actually not on a path toward success but instead on a path toward failing to deliver the full Block 3F capabilities for which the Department is paying almost $400 billion by the scheduled end of System Development and Demonstration (SDD) in 2018.”

According to chief of the Pentagon’s top testing office, at least 15 capabilities in the F-35’s current software version, known as Block 3i, are either still in need of a fix or aren’t ready for testing.

“Unresolved Block 3i deficiencies in fusion, electronic warfare, and weapons employment continue to result in ambiguous threat displays, limited ability to effectively respond to threats, and, in some cases, a requirement for off-board sources to provide accurate coordinates for precision attack. Although the program recently addressed some of the Block 3i deficiencies, many significant deficiencies remain and more are being identified by operational test and fielded units, many of which must be corrected if the program is going to provide the expected “full warfighting capability” described in the Operational
Requirements Document (ORD).”

The memo provides details about all the hundred deficiencies in Block 3i.

“Because Block 3i is an interim capability based on Block 2B, it has numerous inherent limitations that will reduce operational effectiveness and require workarounds if the F-35A in the Block 3i configuration is used in combat.”

There are limitations in the capability to perform Close Air Support missions (in a permissive or low-threat environment); limited weapon load; no gun capability; limited night vision capability; greater reliance on tankers due to limited on-station time; unacceptable sensor fusion; etc. You can read them all here.

A subsequent POGO article provided an in-depth analysis of the above mentioned memo with the following conclusion: “This DOT&E memo clearly exposes the Air Force’s F-35 IOC announcement as nothing more than a publicity stunt.”

On Sept. 16, a new story written by Major Morten “Dolby” Hanche, the famous Royal Norwegian Air Force F-35 pilot who provided first-hand accounts of what dogfighting in the controversial F-35 looks like to a pilot with a significant experience with the F-16, has been published by Kampflybloggen (The Combat Aircraft Blog), the official blog of the Norwegian F-35 Program Office within the Norwegian Ministry of Defence.

In the new post (reposted below under permission) Maj. Hanche, a U.S. Navy Test Pilot School graduate with more than 2,200 hours in the F-16, currently flying as Assistant Weapons Officer with the U.S. Air Force’s 62nd Fighter Squadron at Luke Air Force Base in Arizona, provides his take on the DOT&E memo.

Once again: “Dolby” is an F-35 instructor pilot from the Royal Norwegian Air Force, one of the Joint Strike Fighter customers. Needless to say, he may have a bias for his plane. Still, he’s a respected test pilot, making public claims and providing tons of interesting details about the aircraft that will help you making your own opinion on such a hotly debated topic.

Lack of perfection does not mean disaster – how I read test reports as a pilot

by Morten Hanche

Yet again, information from the «Director Operational Test & Evaluation» (DOT&E) has stirred critics into a frenzy over the F-35. The fact that the information was leaked seems to have agitated people even more. (We have our hands on classified documents!  Now we know it all!)  Yet again, the leaked memo described aspects of the F-35 which need improvement.  Yet again, the report resulted in press articles which painted a pretty sinister picture of the F-35.  The article featured in POGO («F-35 May Never Be Ready for Combat») serves as one such example.

I finished up writing this article before getting ready to fly another sortie in the F-35. Based on my own experiences flying the F-35A, I feel that the media´s interpretation of the previous DOT&E report is influenced heavily by unrealistic expectations – something which seems to be a trend.  I don´t see the point in countering every claim that´s being brought up.  First off, it´d make for a very long article.  Secondly, I would not be dealing with the bigger problem, which in my mind is a lack of understanding.

I fully expect the F-35’s most hardened critics to discount this article, regardless of what I write. However, some may choose to believe my story, based on the fact that I know the airplane and its capabilities as a pilot.  I don’t make my claims based on bits and pieces of information, derived from potentially unreliable sources.  They are based on experience actually flying and training with the jet for nearly a year

My goal is to shed some light on airplane development and testing; why we test, what we discover in testing and what a test report may result in. I write this based on my own experience, both through education at the US Naval Test Pilot School, but more importantly through working with the F-16 and the F-35, both operationally and in test settings.

What smartphones tell us about technology development

I´ll start with smartphones, as another example of technology development. Admittedly, phones are somewhat different from a fighter airplane, but there are similarities.  A smartphone is a complex system of systems – just like a fighter jet.  The phones keep evolving with both new hard- and software.  It is not unheard of therefore that the manufacturers issue updates.  Updates which provide new capabilities, but which also aim to correct previous errors.

According to Wikipedia, Apple released its iOS 9.0 operating system to their iPhones and iPads on 16 September 2015. The 9.0.1 update was issued already on 23 September, followed closely by the 9.0.2 update on 30 September.  Then 9.1 on 21 October and 9.2 on 8 December 2015.

Such a frequent update rate might indicate that not everything worked perfectly from the start. Still, wouldn´t it be a bit harsh to claim that the phones didn´t work with the first four software versions?  Might the truth be a little more nuanced?  Can a smartphone be a good product, even if it doesn´t work 100% from day one?  Does a smartphone ever work 100%?  I have experienced various strange occurences with my phones over the years. Still, for me, having a phone with all its peculiarities has been more useful than the alternative – not having a phone.

This isn’t an article about phones. The point I´m trying to make is that technology development and testing is a series of compromises; compromises in reliability, in performance and in quality.  Only rarely is the world black or white.  A machine may work well, even if it doesn´t fulfill all specifications.  I´ll go on with a brief intro to how we typically test.

…technology development and testing is a series of compromises; compromise in reliability, in performance and in quality.  Only rarely is the world black or white.  A machine may work well, even if it doesn´t fulfill all specifications.

How we test a fighter jet

Testing of combat aircraft typically sees a disctinction between Developmental Test (DT) and Operational Test (OT). In short we can say that DT seeks to answer whether the machine works according to the design specifications, whether the machine is safe to operate and what its safe operating limits end up being.  OT on the other hand seeks to find out whether the machine can solve a particular task, like: «Is the X-YZ able to provide effective Close Air Support, in the presence of threat A, B and C?»

The test program for a machine like the F-35 is an enormous undertaking. The contours of the F-35´s test program are described top-level in the Test and Evaluation Master Plan (TEMP), totaling 1400 pages.  Each sub-test in the TEMP results in a detailed test plan for that event.  Especially in DT, a test flight is literally planned down to the minute, in order to accomplish as many test points as quickly and safely as possible.  Flight testing is an expensive undertaking.

A test program should discover most important errors and flaws. However, time and resources available make it unrealistic to uncover every single issue.  Risk is mitigated by testing the most critical components, like the engine in a single-engined fighter, to stricter tolerances.  The amount of testing is a statistically driven decision.  We know that there are things we don´t know, even at the completion of testing.  We also know that there are likely few gross or dangerous errors which haven´t been found.

Each error we find during testing is documented and characterized. The language and format used is to the point.  The test engineer and test pilot type up their findings and typically describe the situation «in a vacuum» – without regard for how costly or difficult it might be to address the issue.  Each issue is then related to the mission – how will this quality or problem affect the given task?

Such a test report might read something like: «The SuperToaster 3000 was evaluated for uniform heat distribution and time to crispy toast, at the National Toast Center of Excellence, with room temperatures varying between 65 and 75 deg F. The toasting temperature was selected by turning a dial on the front of the toaster.  Even with full crispyness selected, the toaster´s maximum temperature was low, and toasting of even the thinnest slices of white bread took more than 10 minutes.  During early morning breakfasts, the time consuming toasting process will result in cranky parents, the kids being dropped off late for school and correspondingly negative effects on their grades and later career opportunities.»

This mission relation was probably a little over-the-top – a little like how some media articles relate its tidbits of information to an imagined F-35 mission.  In isolation, a system may not work as advertised, but could there be a workaround?  (In the toaster-case, maybe cereal for breakfast?)

Anyway, after the issue is documented, the errors are then catalogued, debated over and prioritized. Test engineers, test pilots, design engineers and customer representatives are often involved in the dialogue that follows when something undesirable is discovered.  Together, these will have to agree on a path forward.  Completely understanding the issue is crucial.  Alternatives could be a re-design, accepting the flaw, mitigating the flaw procedurally or compensating by documenting the issue better. The team will have to compromise when prioritizing.  Even when developing a new fighter jet, there are limits to what can be fixed, based on cost, time available, test resources available and also the complexity of the problem.  Altogether, development and testing is an iterative process, where adjustments may have to take place during DT, OT or after the system is put into operational service.

Where are we with the F-35?

What is then the current state of the F-35? Is it really as bad as the commentaries to the DOT&E report and DOT&E memo might indicate?

Personally, I am impressed by the the F-35. I was relieved to experience just how well the F-35 performs with regard to speed, ceiling, range and maneuverability.  It would have been very problematic if the airplane´s performance didn´t hold up in these areas – there´s just no software update which is going to compensate a draggy airframe or a weak engine.  (Read more about such a case in the Government Accountability Office, then the General Accounting Office´s report on the Super Hornet).

When asked about my first flight in the F-35, I compared it to flying a Hornet (F/A-18), but with a turbo charged engine. I now can quote a USMC F/A-18 Weapons School Graduate after his first flight in the F-35: «It was like flying a Hornet with four engines!» (His point being that the F-35 can afford to operate at high Angle-of-Attack and low airspeed, but that it will regain the airspeed quickly when needed).  Another unintended, but illustrating example on performance came a few weeks back, when a student pilot failed to recognize that he had climbed through our temporary altitude restriction at 40,000´. The F-35 will happily climb past that altitude.

Another critical aspect of the F-35 is its minimal radar signature. Just as with the aerodynamic performance, the «stealthiness» of the F-35 is an inherent quality of the airframe itself. There would be no quick-fix to a disappointing signature. So far, my impression is that the F-35 is very difficult to find. We see this every day when training with the F-35; we detect the F-16s flying in the local airspace at vast ranges, compared to when we detect another F-35.

Sensor stability, and specifically radar stability, has been an issue. I´m not trying to downplay that the radar´s stability needs to improve, but I am not worried. What would have worried me was if the radar had poor detection range, or if the stability issues were caused by «external» factors like limited electrical power supply or limited cooling available. Fortunately, our biggest issues are related to software, and not performance.  I think it´s realistic to expect software issues like this to be resolved (just like iOS 9 eventually ended up working well).

Remember that we´re not trying to re-create another «Fourth Gen» fighter in the F-35. If we had set our aim lower, we´d likely have had an easier job of developing the airplane – it would have been easier to build the F-16 again today.  But is that what we need?  The F-35´s specifications are ambitious, and reflect a machine which will outperform the previous generation of fighters.  Having or not having that kind of military advantage eventually becomes a political question.  For now, our leaders think we need that military edge.

In this context, I would like to bring up another point. The F-35 is in its infancy as a weapons system.  Yet, it is being compared to mature systems like the F-16. The F-16 has been developed and improved for more than 40 years.  Correspondingly, certain aspects of the F-16 are more mature than the F-35 at this time.  Having said that, I will caution readers against believing that other and «mature» fighters are without their issues.  There has been an unprecedented openness about the F-35´s development.  The DOT&E report is one example on how media has gained insight into the F-35 Program.  I still ask; do those who write critical articles about the program really have a realistic baseline, from which they can reasonably assess the F-35?  Next, I´ll give some examples which have influenced at least my own baseline.

The sometimes messy world of fighter development

Credit: RoNAF

Many will agree that the F-16 has been a successful fighter design. The fact that it has been continuously produced since the 1970s should speak for itself.  The fighter has come a long way from where it originally started; as a day-only «dogfighter», equipped with heat-seeking missiles.  (How would that mission set compare to a post System Development & Demonstration Block 3F F-35 and its mission sets?)  Modifications to the «fully developed» F-16 started right away  One early and visible modification was the replacement of the horizontal stabilizers with larger «stabs», in order to reduce the F-16´s susceptibility to go out of control during aggressive maneuvering at high Angles-of-Attack (AOA).  Going out of control is a bad thing, and could lead to loss of both the jet and its pilot.  Since then, the F-16 has kept evolving through many different programs, aimed at improving both structural life and combat capabilities.Other fighters also bear visible marks of error correction. The Hornet-family provides some good examples of aerodynamic «band aids».  An example from the F/A-18 «Baby Hornet» is the vertical «fences» mounted on each side of the machine, just aft of the cockpit.  These were eventually added to mitigate stress on the vertical tails, which caused their supporting structure to fail.

Credit: U.S. Navy

Another example from the Baby Hornet is how the stabs and rudders are driven to full deflection before takeoff. This modification was necessary to enable the Hornet to lift its nose during takeoff roll. The «band aid» added drag during the takeoff roll. Thus, the takeoff roll increased in distance, but no more than what was considered acceptable.  The «band aid» was an easy workaround to what could have been a very costly re-design of the airplane – compromises…

The more modern Super Hornet has a porous fairing where the wing-fold mechanism is located.  This was fitted in an attempt to alleviate a problem termed «wing drop».  The wing drop in the Super Hornet was described as an abrupt and uncommanded roll, which hampered air combat maneuvering.  The «band aid» partially fixed the wing drop issue, but at the same time introduced other problems related to reduced range and increased buffet levels.  These were still deemed acceptable trade-offs – compromises…

Even today, our modern-day F-16s live with many issues; errors which were discovered in DT, OT or operational use, but which haven´t been corrected. Either because of prohibitive cost, complexity or because no one understands the failure mechanism – what is causing the problem.  I´m not just talking about cosmetic or minor issues.  One example is that The Norwegian Armed Forces for a period of about 10 years could not operate its F-16s in single ship formations, in bad weather or at night.  The restriction was put in place because the Main Mission Computer (MMC) broke down relatively often.  The resulting operational limitations hampered both training and operations.  It took more than 10 years to diagnose and correct the issue, mainly because the failure mechanism was illusive.

The most outspoken critics of the F-35 couldn´t have known about our issues with the MMC in the F-16 at the time. If they did, and read that deficiency report, would they have concluded that our F-16s were non-operational, and incapable of fulfilling its mission?  I´m tempted to  think so, based on how isolated pieces of information about the F-35 often are misinterpreted and taken out of context.  Would they have been right in their conclusion?  I don´t think anyone could have made that conclusion, based on just the fact that «the MMC sometimes crashes».  The reality I know, working with fighters all my life, is not black or white.  There are nuances.  We work around and overcome problems.

Our F-16s still have issues today which will never be corrected. This is not dramatic or unexpected.  The normal state of affairs for a fighter is that we operate in spite of issues with structure, sensors, software and logistics.  We´re normally able to work around the major problems while we devise long-term solutions.  Some issues are temporary.  Some end up being permanent.  Compromises…  (I personally wouldn´t believe the salesperson claiming to offer a fighter jet which had zero issues).

I said I wouldn´t quibble over individual factual errors which the F-35´s critics present as truth. To me, a compelling argument for how well the F-35 works is evident by what we´re able to do in training. Three weeks back I was part of a four-ship of F-35s.  Our mission was to overcome an advanced airborne threat, while locating and destroying an equally advanced surface based air defense system.  After neutralizing these threats, we were able to destroy four additional targets.  All this prior to receiving the Block 3F capabilities.  Suffice to say that this mission would have been close to suicide with a four-ship of F-16s alone!

Salva

  • Sir leroy

    Good write-up, and it shows the fantasy that is the meme that F-35 is turning out to be a failure. The last couple of sentences, or the last paragraph, of the story tells it all. As Major Hanche narrates;

    “Our mission was to overcome an advanced airborne threat, while locating and destroying an equally advanced surface based air defense system. After neutralizing these threats, we were able to destroy four additional targets. All this prior to receiving the Block 3F capabilities. Suffice to say that this mission would have been close to suicide with a four-ship of F-16s alone!”

    DOT&E is starting to sound like drama queens! The F-35 test pilots finds problems, and then Lockheed Martin and the Program Office diligently goes on to correct them. The result so far is a stealth fighter that performs like no other. By far it’s a plane prefered by F-15, F-16 and A-10 drivers who transition to it (see the Heritage Foundation Study of 31 F-35 pilots). Go ahead and take the time to read the above story if you truly want to get informed. If you just want to bash regardless, well then – pass it over, say your piece and then go to hell! The U.S. and NATO don’t need to hear your disingenuous noise.

    We the U.S and our Western allies just have to proceed with the development of this the #1 5th generation fighter in the world. The #1 fighter in the world save the F-22. Period! One that far outperforms anything Russia or China could ever dream of making. For them, all that awaits their MiG, Sukhoi, Shenyang and Chengdu pilots is an A-ticket ride in a parachute. That is, if they are lucky enough to escape their dying plane. Put simply, should either belligerent nation start a war, F-35 is gonna shoot them down. Period! And End of Story.

  • sferrin

    3, 2, 1. . .

  • Phil Verhey

    to quote Michael Kelso: “BURN!”

    Have been shaking my head at people who are so narrowly focused on hyperbole to make the “iphone update” connection themselves for [what seems like] eternity… though i used comparisons to A models of various teen fighters to their present day forms.
    I guess some folks are ill-equipped to rationalise such things… [david ax] COUGH [justin trudeau] COUGH [tyler rogorway] COUGH

  • CharleyA

    “On Sept. 16, a new story written by Major Morten “Dolby” Hanche, the famous Royal Norwegian Air Force F-35 pilot who provided first-hand accounts of what dogfighting in the controversial F-35 looks like to a pilot with a significant experience with the F-16, has been published by Kampflybloggen (The Combat Aircraft Blog), the official blog of the Norwegian F-35 Program Office within the Norwegian Ministry of Defense.”

    And there you have it: a story written for a (Norwegian) program office publication, reprinted by permission. Hardly unbiased or without motivation, unlike the DOT&E whose job it is to make sure the US gets what it contracts for.

    • cencio4

      You failed to copy the rest:

      “Once again: “Dolby” is an F-35 instructor pilot from the Royal Norwegian Air Force, one of the Joint Strike Fighter customers. Needless to say, he may have a bias for his plane. Still, he’s a respected test pilot, making public claims and providing tons of interesting details about the aircraft that will help you making your own opinion on such a hotly debated topic.”

      • CharleyA

        I didn’t need to. The point I was making is that the article was originally published by a JSF program entity, and hardly expected to be impartial. And the test pilots are “employees” of the program – what would you expect them to say? Furthermore, if the DOT&E did not exist, most issues with the aircraft would never been known to the general public, outside of very visible catastrophic failures like the earlier spontaneous combustion (ok, uncontained turbine blade departure) on a joint civilian military airport. Finally, I’m a bit irritated by a Norwegian officer criticizing a US defense official that is doing his job to protect the public interest. We should be thankful that a system of rigorous oversight exists – too bad it wasn’t as rigorous as needed early on in this program.

        • Uniform223

          “And the test pilots are “employees” of the program – what would you expect them to say?”

          > You expect them to be upfront and honest. After all they’re the ones who have to strap themselves into the aircraft and are expected to fly it and fight in it. If something isn’t working right or simply flat out doesn’t work and they put on a fake smile and tell their commanding officers that “everything is okay” giving a thumbs up when in fact they are not, who do you think will pay the most in the end? So no I don’t believe that he is blowing smoke up peoples a-s-s-e-s.

          “Furthermore, if the DOT&E did not exist, most issues with the aircraft would never been known to the general public”

          > The OT&E’s job is government oversight. The DOT&E job is simply to go before congress and complain. The OT&E is to find problems and then find ways to FIX IT. It isn’t their job to public about things. Being open and transparent is part of checks and balances. Obviously there are issues with the aircraft but nothing has put a stop to the program. Often times what the DOT&E (“Dr”. Gilmore) reports are things that are already known and are being fixed. IF he was actually doing his job would REPORT BOTH problems AND SOLUTIONS.

          ” outside of very visible catastrophic failures like the earlier spontaneous combustion (ok, uncontained turbine blade departure) on a joint civilian military airport. ”

          > Neither the ground crews, contractors, pilot, and the DOT&E knew about UNTIL IT ACTUALLY HAPPENED. That was an unforeseen consequence after a culmination of unseen/unknown factors. With ONE aircraft that most likely had more than 100 hours of flight time in a fleet of over 100 that had over 10000 flight hours combined… that is a pretty good ratio. They found the problem, they came with an interim fix then formulated a permanent fix to it.

          ” Finally, I’m a bit irritated by a Norwegian officer criticizing a US defense official that is doing his job to protect the public interest. ”

          > Why would you be irritated? The Norwegian officer who IS A TEST PILOT knows more about the aircraft than a government official who doesn’t have a single hour of flight experience and reads off from second hand reports. Who would you trust more if you were buying a new car? The test driver who drove the car on the test track or the car salesman? Just because the guy is an appointed government official doesn’t automatically mean they are an SME. If there is anything I learned from the DOT&E is to take it with a grain of salt.

          “We should be thankful that a system of rigorous oversight exists – too bad it wasn’t as rigorous as needed early on in this program.”

          > Oversight is a double edge sword. On one side it offers transparency. One the other it becomes another bureaucratic obstacle during the entire path of development. Oversight is good so long as it doesn’t outright interfere or become a hindrance.

        • endrelunde

          Ok, a few things. Hanche is educated as a test pilot, but he does not function in that role here – he is an instructor pilot at the 62nd FS on behalf of Norway. Also, if you read what he actually writes, he is not criticising DOT&E, but the interpretation of their reports by the media, who seem to believe that unless those reports contain nothing but praise, the program is heading the wrong way. That is not a realistic baseline.

        • AstroNautilus

          You’re the only one speaking sense here. Good job

          • mrutte023

            And he has 2200 hours of experience on the F-16 and more than one year on the F-35,
            Oh wait!
            He has none of that!
            Good job indeed!. Talking bollocks….

  • Malcolm Turncoat

    USAF still fighting the Battle of Britain? Missiles are the future of any sort of air warfare

  • Paul

    “Three weeks back I was part of a four-ship of F-35s. Our mission was to overcome an advanced airborne threat, while locating and destroying an equally advanced surface based air defense system. After neutralizing these threats, we were able to destroy four additional targets. All this prior to receiving the Block 3F capabilities. Suffice to say that this mission would have been close to suicide with a four-ship of F-16s alone!”

    To all the F-35 haters and drama queens—is there ANY 4th generation fighter in the world today that would be able to pull this off? Can a four-ship of just F-15s/Eurofighters/Su-35s/whatever successfully pull of what the F-35s just did without any losses?

    My guess is no.

    Here’s the coup de grace: the F-35 is only going to get better from here on out. Much better.

    The F-35 looks like it will be such a quantum leap in new capabilities, you might as well argue that we should go back to flying P-51 mustangs because you can buy 20 of them for every F-35.

    I suspect the actual fantasy is the idea that a 4th generation fighter can somehow beat or outfly the F-35. It’s only a matter of time before the F-35 shuts up the critics, just as the same happened to the F-16, B1, B2, and even the F-22.

    • Pocman

      I think you are misunderstanding something… no one thinks that a 4th generation fighter may beat the f-35 (except, maybe, some 5.5 in the right circumstances). The question is what could have been done with that money if it had been used properly.

    • Pacemaker4

      how many 40g missiles can you buy for one 6.5g bomb truck?

  • AstroNautilus

    The DOT&E reports are almost always the same year after year : the plane it’s not performing as intended despite 150+ examples produced: they fix one problem, 2 more flaws come out…but hey, we publish what this pilot has to say: it’s all good, just compare it with a toaster and an iPhone, they have glitches too.
    The comparison with the F-16’s flaws is just pathetic: Israeli’s modded planes (mainly local avionics and systems) were delivered in 1980, a year later they were already scoring kills and raiding osiraq reactor…
    The sadness.

    • energo

      Israel haven’t yet begun to operate the F-35, so I don’t see how your comparison is relevant.

    • mrutte023

      Tell that to the widows of the dozens of F-16 pilots who died in that period.
      Pathetic indeed.

    • Paul

      From Wikipedia: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/General_Dynamics_F-16_Fighting_Falcon

      “The F-16 has been involved in over 650 hull-loss accidents as of June 2016.”

      650 accidents from 1975 to 2016, or about 15.9 hull-loss accidents per year on average. How many F-35s have been lost to date? Funny how an “perfect” jet like the F-16 has been involved in so many accidents over the years, while the one that supposedly can’t fly at all has never crashed in flight to date.

      It’s funny how facts get in the way of blind criticism.

  • su34

    Norway is the biggest F35 customer aside yanks, almost their whole
    defense budget is allocated towards the flying trash truck (similar
    aerodynamics) – seen as their exclusive “secret” weapon against “russian
    aggression” – neglecting almost completely the other defense branches.
    So there are really big bucks, and gigantic interests involved.
    Who is more competent to judge? DD/DOT with a bunch of experts behind, or some joystick jockey which fell in love with his bird? Maybe the latter one also got some “incentives”… wouldn’t be a first.

    • endrelunde

      Not true in the slightest. Even under the previous long term plan, before the Government put another NOK 165 billion for defense on the table, the F-35 only consumed 30% of Norway’s procurement funds during the time it is being acquired.

    • mike webber

      No matter what the pilots say, haters can’t accept the fact that the F-35 is fast, highly maneuverable, accelerates like a bullet and has the range that would make 4th gens cry.

      Right above, it says

      “Personally, I am impressed by the the F-35. I was relieved to experience
      just how well the F-35 performs with regard to speed, ceiling, range
      and maneuverability.

      When asked about my first flight in the F-35, I compared it to flying a
      Hornet (F/A-18), but with a turbo charged engine. I now can quote a USMC
      F/A-18 Weapons School Graduate after his first flight in the F-35: «It
      was like flying a Hornet with four engines!» (His point being that the
      F-35 can afford to operate at high Angle-of-Attack and low airspeed, but
      that it will regain the airspeed quickly when needed). Another
      unintended, but illustrating example on performance came a few weeks
      back, when a student pilot failed to recognize that he had climbed
      through our temporary altitude restriction at 40,000´. The F-35 will
      happily climb past that altitude.”

    • mrutte023

      Oh, I prefer the real pilots, which you call joystick jockeys, over stupid internet nobody”s who have never been in the area of a cockpit, like you…

  • Sir leroy

    So you think China can build a stealth fighter? Yeah RIGHT! Thank you China for bringing this “space station” (soon to be a meteorite) down on our heads. I just hope it doesn’t injure (or worse, kill) somebody. What incompetence!

    China’s space station ‘out of control’ and on crash course to Earth

    “China’s first space station will meet a fiery end next year when the 8.5-tonne module comes crashing down to Earth, amid concerns authorities have lost control of the craft.

    The Tiangong-1 space station was launched in September 2011 and currently orbits Earth at an altitude of 230 miles (370km).

    But in July, amateur astronomers suggested China had “lost control” of the satellite, after Chinese media reported the country’s space agency had struggled to get in contact with it.

    Officials have now confirmed that after four and a half years in orbit, Tiangong-1 (meaning Heavenly Palace) is expected to plummet to Earth in late 2017.”

    http://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/asia/china-space-station-tiangong-1-crash-tiangong-1-out-of-control-a7319916.html

    Kids love your Toy Story ! & II figurines and dolls. But hi-tech things like space stations and stealth jet fighters? You know, the planes whose plans you stole from the US? Not your cup of (green) tea! Why even try?

    • disqus_STXkrV9NGc

      I don’t know what relevance the space station has to the F-35, really. The vast majority of your comments are either glorifying the US military, or belittling its rivals, all without true intellectual value.

      Tiangong-1 was only meant to operate for 2 years. It exceeded its purpose and is now decommissioned. The first Skylab had a similar story. In other words, it wasn’t a failure, and it’s replacement is being developed as we speak. Like all space stations, the end of Tiangong-1’s story involves crashing it into the South Pacific Ocean.

  • David James

    Good to here, sometimes Its hard to find the truth here, especially with so much money on the line.

  • veej7485

    Well SAID!

  • franciwzm

    In my opinion meteor variant production and integration for f35 gonna be crucial to fully exploit its bvr range capabilities. Even f22 would benefit if its weapon bays would have been large enough…An f35 with meteor could really ambush large rcs fighters ; getting within 60km is always a risk a part from a 1 vs 1 , nose vs nose scenario that never happens in real sky…

  • InklingBooks

    What’s the chief failing of the F-35? That it costs so blasted much no country, including the U.S., can afford to buy that many of them. And what’s going to happen in the first days of battle with a technologically advanced adversary? We will discover, with great pain, how little we know about their systems. A lot of F-35s are going to be shot down before the proper ways to use it in combat are discovered. Will there then be enough to carry on the fight? Probably not.

    Making matters even worse the F-35 is expected to wear too many hats. F-35s lost in attempted bombing attacks, and you don’t have them for combat air support.

    For real combat, not for chatting up at Pentagon tea parties, you need less-expensive and more specialized planes. A stealth plane should do well what has to be done with stealth but little else. Stealth imposes too many restrictions. A CAS plane should be rugged, able to survive close to the ground in combat situations where any soldier with a heat-seeking missile can see it and fire.

    • Uniform223

      “That it costs so blasted much no country, including the U.S., can afford to buy that many of them.”

      > Well if it cost so much why are there well over 100 of them? At LRIP more F-35’s are being produced than any other current 4th or 4.5 gen aircraft out there. The US can’t afford to buy many of them you say? I call male bovine excrement on that. The US is still planning to be the largest operator of the F-35. It the COST PER UNIT (not to be confused with total fly away cost) has been steadily declining when compared to previous production lots.

      According to a study made in Denmark, the F-35 offers the best “bang for your buck”.

      http://breakingdefense.com/2016/05/f-35-wins-denmark-competition-trounces-super-hornet-eurofighter/

      “And what’s going to happen in the first days of battle with a technologically advanced adversary?”

      > Do you know anyone else out there that is making an fighter/multi-role aircraft as advanced as the F-35? The Russian and Chinese competition might look good on the outside but on the inside, they’re not even in the same league. Russia and China are essentially 20 years behind and they are desperately trying to play catch up.

      ” A lot of F-35s are going to be shot down before the proper ways to use it in combat are discovered.”

      > What are you smoking or shooting into your veins?

      “Making matters even worse the F-35 is expected to wear too many hats. F-35s lost in attempted bombing attacks, and you don’t have them for combat air support.”

      > Do you even know what you’re talking about or did drop your pants and then do a hand stand with a face drawn on your a-s-s?

      ” you need less-expensive and more specialized planes”

      > Do you have a smart phone of some kind? If that is what you believe than you should take your smart phone and throw it away.

      “A stealth plane should do well what has to be done with stealth but little else. Stealth imposes too many restrictions”

      > You’re doing a hand stand right now aren’t you?

      “A CAS plane should be rugged, able to survive close to the ground in combat situations where any soldier with a heat-seeking missile can see it and fire.”

      > First part of that sentence is old thinking. The last part of that….

      https://media.makeameme.org/created/youre-stupid-and.jpg

      • Henrik_dk

        About the Danish claim of “best bang for the buck”, let me just, as a Dane, say that the political process here was to get the F-35 and then make it look like it was the best choice.
        You know, SAAB even pulled their Gripen out of the contest before it began, because they felt that “the winner had already been chosen in advance”.

        The mentioned report was heavily criticised for having written the conclusion in advance, then “adjusting” the facts until they fitted the conclusion.
        Among other things they reduced the effective flight hours of the other airframes, despite documentation otherwise, so that it looked like they would be more expensive per flight hour than the F-35.

        This is not a pro or con the F-35, (even if I feel it is maybe not the best choice for Danish needs), it is merely to point out that you can basically not use the Danish reports for anything, since they only serve as excuses for the already taken political decision.

    • FoilHatWearer

      It’s not that the jet is so horridly expensive (the F-15s and F-16s were $30 million each–OVER 40 YEARS AGO). The problem is that the US Government spends obscene amounts of money on dumb stuff, like $400 billion on a single round of bank bailouts.

    • OG_Locc

      “What’s the chief failing of the F-35? That it costs so blasted much”

      Um, it already costs less than the Eurofighter.

      • ronsnyder

        Not to the U.S. taxpayer. Both planes average out at about $180 million per copy.

  • FoilHatWearer

    “May never be ready for combat”. The memo doesn’t say that at all, that’s just media melodramatics. Take a look at the F-16 safety record, which is publicly available on the USAF aviation safety website. In the 1980s, the F-16 was falling out of the sky with frightening regularity, losing 10-20 aircraft per year in training accidents and killing 40 pilots. The F-35 hasn’t seen anything like this. They have yet to lose an aircraft. The DOT&E report listed about 20 discrepancies on the F-35. That would’ve been an absolute dream for the F-16 in the 80s. General Dynamics and the government spent billions on upgrades just in the 1980s to get the F-16 where it should be for safety and fighting effectiveness. That’s no unusual. If you wait until an aircraft is really ready to field it, you’ll be 50 years in testing and the plane will be long obsolete before its first deployment.

  • disqus_STXkrV9NGc

    Look, I don’t care about the F-35 or the J-20. I just appreciate intelligent discussion. Your comment was mere slander. All you did was tout how great America is and ridicule how backwards China is.

    Just for your information, China currently boasts the world’s largest middle class. A class in society that’s been shrinking in the US for the past few decades. If you were to stay one step ahead, you wouldn’t dismiss your rival as a joke.

    • Sir leroy

      “you wouldn’t dismiss your rival as a joke.”

      And you wouldn’t dismiss America as a declining superpower. Our best economic years lay ahead, and so too does the strength of our military power. There is no nation on Earth that can defeat the U.S. military, and it’s gonna stay that way for decades to come. Lastly, our economy will remain a juggernaut. We still have a standard of living that most of the world drools over. Why do you think so many from around the world immigrant here? Even many Chinese.

      • disqus_STXkrV9NGc

        I’m not saying the US doesn’t remain a superpower. It’s still the largest economy and has a relatively high standard of living (definitely higher than China and Russia).

        I’m saying you’re too proud to admit that others are catching up. Or maybe it’s the opposite. You’re becoming insecure of the US’ superiority that you have to degrade other countries to make yours truly seem like the shining city on the hill.

        To quote Arthur Schopenhauer, “Every miserable fool who has nothing at all of which he can be proud, adopts as a last resource pride in the nation to which he belongs; he is ready and happy to defend all its faults and follies tooth and nail, thus reimbursing himself for his own inferiority.”

        Don’t take it personally.

        • Sir leroy

          You are free to post what you want. Here. Don’t try it in China. That’s why the U.S. will remain #1. People have faith that they are free to think and say what they want, live under the rule of law, invest where rules apply, and most of all have their kids unshackled by communist party doctrine. China is a chained nation. They will remain in shackles for a very long time.

        • Renato Dallarmi

          Uhmmm it actually is not, I believe the EU is.

  • energo

    su34,

    In one post you incorrectly claimed that:

    * Norway is the biggest F35 customer aside yanks

    * almost their whole defense budget is allocated towards the flying trash truck

    * neglecting almost completely the other defense branches

    You might want to check your facts more thoroughly.