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F-35 Joint Strike Fighter (JSF)

CougarKing

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Another threat:

article source: The Diplomat

The F-35 vs. The VHF Threat
Amid the debate over the F-35's effectiveness, Yugoslavia offers some interesting insights into the VHF threat.

By Guy Plopsky & Fabrizio Bozzato
August 21, 2014


The heated and ongoing international debate regarding the combat effectiveness of the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter (JSF) in a highly contested environment has led many observers to question the fighter's survivability in the face of advanced Surface-to-Air Missile (SAM) systems and very high frequency (VHF) radars. Yet, few have examined the issue closely using lessons drawn from the only incident in which a stealth aircraft was lost in combat; when USAF Lt. Col. Dale Zelko's F-117 - call sign "Vega 31" - was shot down by a Serbian S-125 (SA-3) SAM system over the then Federal Republic of Yugoslavia during Operation Allied Force on the night of March 27, 1999.

Electromagnetic radiation is known to scatter from bodies smaller than its wavelength. This phenomenon, known as Rayleigh scattering, is often used by F-35 critics to point out that the aircraft could be detected by enemy radar operating in the VHF range.

Colonel Zoltan Dani, then commander of the 3rd Battery of the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia's 250th Air Missile Defense Brigade, managed to detect, and later down, Lt. Col. Zelko's plane. A series of in-field modifications carried out by the Yugoslavs further reduced the frequency of the 1960s vintage P-18 VHF acquisition radar under Dani's command, which enabled his men to detect Zelko's F-117 at a distance of 30 to 37 miles (50-60 km).

Because of their relatively long wavelength, VHF radars generally lack sufficient accuracy to guide a missile to a target on their own and are therefore used to cue higher frequency, shorter wavelength engagement radars to the approximate location of the target.

Despite inputs from the VHF acquisition radar, the S-band engagement radar of Dani's SA-3 battery was able to track the F-117 only at a distance of 8 miles (13 km), obtaining a lock and launching two missiles towards it only on the third attempt (the colonel would order his men to switch the engagement radar on for no more than 20 seconds for each attempt in order to avoid being targeted by NATO electronic warfare aircraft).

The advent of powerful, digital active electronically scanned array (AESA) VHF acquisition radars potentially pose a major challenge to the quick establishment of air superiority; however, a smart combination of the F-35's capabilities along with supporting platforms and systems could allow the JSF to maintain the upper hand.

It becomes evident that Dani's successful attempt had a lot more to do with excellent command skills on his part and the appalling use of tactics on NATO's behalf than it did with the equipment at his batterys disposal - strict emission control, frequent use of decoys and changed the location of his battery.

On their part, NATO war planners and pilots made several critical mistakes that proved fatal - assigning F-117s the same flight paths on each mission and often using unencrypted frequencies to communicate.

Taking advantage of these errors, the colonel would order his troops to monitor NATO communication channels, which, in turn, allowed the Yugoslavs to place the battery close enough to the approximate flight path of the stealth jet, detect it and obtain a lock.

Almost equally critical was the absence of effective standoff jamming support from electronic warfare (EW) aircraft during the mission. Although frequently being portrayed in the media as acting completely on their own, F-117s occasionally received very effective standoff jamming support from EF-111s when attacking targets in the heavily defended Baghdad area during the 1991 Operation Desert Storm.

Nowadays, standoff jamming support for stealth platforms has become standard practice whether the aircraft requires it or not. The importance and benefits brought forth by combining stealth and EW capabilities are well understood and new operational concepts are being developed. Spearheading the development of such a cooperative engagement capability (CEC) is the U.S. Navy with their Naval Integrated Fire Control-Counter Air (NIFC-CA) concept.

It is important to remember that the F-35 is no F-117. Designed with network-centric warfare and joint operations in mind, the JSF offers its pilot unprecedented situational awareness thanks to its ability to communicate and process data obtained from a multitude of both onboard sensors and those located on other platforms. Unlike the F-117, which had no radar, the F-35's powerful AN/APG-81 AESA is also capable of acting as a narrowband jammer that can be employed if necessary against engagement radars once the jet is deep inside enemy territory.

These features make the JSF a key "team player"; its capabilities and potential must therefore be viewed in the context of a CEC or collective system rather than as a single platform. Dynamic, network-centric CECs such as NIFC-CA will become all the more vital over the next two decades as radars and SAMs become increasingly sophisticated. Cooperative engagement will also grow in importance as the U.S. Air Force and Navy improve their interoperability and U.S. allies begin fielding more F-35s and Aegis equipped warships.

In a highly contested environment, teamwork and tactics are just as important as stealth.
 

a_majoor

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Various ideas have been floated to nullify LO aircraft and weapons since the idea of "Stealth" was first brought to the public's attention back in the early 1980's. While most of these ideas are technically feasible to some degree or other, AFAIK none of them are in widespread use today, and only one Stealth aircraft has ever been brought down in combat. This should suggest that getting at stealth aircraft is much harder than it looks (and aircraft designers and operators are constantly upgrading their bags of tricks as well).

WRT the CF-35, this is really a case of making the least worst choice. We have very limited funds and political will to expend on military matters of all types, so one aircraft which has the versatility to be used in multiple roles over the next 40 years is the only viable choice. Since we are expecting the aircraft to be operating in the 2050's, then looking at designs dating back to the 1970's would essentially mean we would be trying to fight with aircraft designs that are 80 years old on retirement. While the B-52 might be able to pull that off, in general this isn't going to end well.

We also need to consider how well we can actually forecast things. About the only constants we have are that we will be operating at great distances from home, and embedded in a larger alliance structure.

I am on record as saying a clean sheet of paper assessment of our needs would probably come up with a much different answer as to the sort of aircraft the RCAF "really" needs, but *we* have neither the in house means to build our own, or the resources to have them built for us. (B-1B or FB-23 strike aircraft concept for those of you who want to know. FB-23 concept is the lower illustration).
 

CougarKing

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More about the F-35's engine controversy since the recent engine fire last June:

Pratt and Whitney, Others Hid New F-35 Problems since May

Pratt & Whitney waited three months to publicly admit it had suspended deliveries of the engine that powers the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter, and only went public on Aug. 30, the day after Bloomberg News broke the story.

Pratt also waited until Aug. 29 to file suit against the supplier it accuses of having supplied sub-standard materials, which it says it detected in late May. Pratt’s statement also says it “is conducting a rigorous analysis of the material in question,” so it is not clear on what grounds it states “we are no longer accepting parts made from material provided by this company.”

Whatever the details, it is stunning to think that this delivery freeze has been kept secret for over three months, given this engine’s long history of problems, and the entire F-35 program’s troubled history of under-performance, cost over-runs and long delays.

Furthermore, it is of huge concern that it was covered up by government agencies named in Pratt’s statement: Defense Criminal Investigation Services, US Air Force Office of Special Investigations and the U.S. Attorney's Office, and the agencies they report to.


In an Aug 29 story, Defense News quoted US Air Force chief of staff, Lt Gen Walsh, as saying that Pratt & Whitney was working on a fix to whatever malfunction had caused the June 23 fire, but apparently forgot to mention Pratt’s suspension of engine deliveries.

Nor was the problem mentioned by Lt Gen Christopher Bogdan, head of the Joint Program Office which runs the F-35 effort, and other government and industry officials who extensively briefed the media at the July 4 christening ceremony, at the RIAT air show and at the Farnborough air show.

Bogdan’s silence on this issue is likely to cost him whatever credibility he had gained by publicly criticizing the performance of Lockheed and Pratt & Whitney when he took over the program.

The fact that the story finally leaked over the Labor Day holiday adds insult to injury.

This is one of the major holiday week-ends in the US, when public attention is at ebb – so leaking the story at that time clearly implies that maintaining secrecy was a concerted effort by the government agencies and industry involved to minimize public reaction.

And, of course, the reasons for the June 23 fire have still not been made public even though, as mentioned above, Pratt is working on a fix.

So the story now is as much about a cover-up as it is about management and supply chain lapses and failures at the two firms making the F-35 fighter and its engine.

Why cover up?

Avoiding more bad news over the summer was crucial to the program, as the F-35 was due to make its international début in July. Two F-34Bs were scheduled to appear at the christening of a Royal Navy aircraft carrier on July 4 in Scotland, and at two English air shows, where the British government was due to sign an order for 14 more aircraft.

All of the above paints a pretty dismal picture of the credibility of the F-35 program and of the ease with which it manipulates the media. But the media is not alone is having been misled:

-- Witnesses during June-July hearings by four congressional panels on the FY2015 budget also neglected to mention the engine delivery freeze. The cover-up is a slap in the face of these panels, whose reaction this week will be indicative of how seriously they take their oversight role.

-- Was the British government, the biggest foreign partner in the F-35 program, informed of this latest setback, and did it join the cover-up? Was this the reason it didn’t sign the 14-aircraft order, as expected?

-- Was the Italian government, the second-largest foreign partner, informed, and were the six other foreign partners who have contributed to funding development? Were they kept deliberately in the dark, or did they join the cover-up?

In other words, is this an international conspiracy to protect the F-35 from parliamentary and public scrutiny, or is it simply a domestic cover-up in the US?


The cover-up also raises shareholder information issues for Lockheed Martin and United Technologies, Pratt’s corporate parent. Lockheed, for example, makes no mention of the engine freeze in its July 22 statement on second quarter results, although the F-35 program is so crucial to its future that it is specifically mentioned in its “Forward Looking Statement” regulatory warning.

Source: Defense-Aerospace
 

CougarKing

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So no Rafale, Typhoon or Gripen then for sure?

Reuters via Yahoo News

Exclusive: Canada seen buying fighter jets from U.S., not Europe - source
Reuters – 22 minutes ago

OTTAWA/WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Canada is likely to choose between two major U.S. firms when it buys a new fleet of jet fighters, excluding two European competitors, according to a source with direct knowledge of the matter.
The source, who spoke on the condition of anonymity, said Lockheed Martin Corp's F-35 stealth fighter and Boeing Co's F-18 E/F Super Hornet were deemed more suitable for the variety of tasks the military has laid out.

The source said that while the F-35 had scored well on the various tests laid out by the military, the Super Hornet was almost as capable and had the advantage of being cheaper.

If so, the choice would mean the widely expected elimination of Dassault Aviation SA's Rafale and the Eurofighter Typhoon, jointly made by BAE Systems PLC, Finmeccanica SpA and Airbus Group NV.

The fighter selection has proven enormously problematic for Canada's Conservative government, which in 2012 scrapped a sole-sourced plan to buy 65 F-35s for C$9 billion ($8.3 billion) after a parliamentary watchdog savaged the decision.

(...EDITED)
 

Rifleman62

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Bets that Canada purchases the Boeing Co F-18 E/F Super Hornet, justifying the purchase by ordering more than 65 and the RCAF's long experience on the aircraft.
 

Bird_Gunner45

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Rifleman62 said:
Bets that Canada purchases the Boeing Co F-18 E/F Super Hornet, justifying the purchase by ordering more than 65 and the RCAF's long experience on the aircraft.

I wouldn't be surprised at all by this, especially if the Liberals win in 2015. Former General Leslie has always had a special place in his heart (a heart 3 sizes too small for the air defenders of the world!) for the MLRS and I wouldnt be the tiniest bit surprised if this became the priority for purchase.
 

SupersonicMax

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Rifleman62 said:
Bets that Canada purchases the Boeing Co F-18 E/F Super Hornet, justifying the purchase by ordering more than 65 and the RCAF's long experience on the aircraft.

We would not get more than 65 because the SH is more expensive than what the F-35 will cost.  And while our Hornets and the SH are common, they are not the same.  I think buying the SH would be a step back from what we have.
 

Rifleman62

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Did not think/know the the SH was more expensive than the F-35.

The public/anti Harper/media perceives the F-35 as the most expensive a/c on earth. The optics of buying the SH, and more of them are favorable.

And while our Hornets and the SH are common, they are not the same.

Not the same but from the same bloodlines I would think!

You are the expert.

Do you want to bet?
 

Bird_Gunner45

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SupersonicMax said:
We would not get more than 65 because the SH is more expensive than what the F-35 will cost.  And while our Hornets and the SH are common, they are not the same.  I think buying the SH would be a step back from what we have.

I think you're the only person on earth that thinks that the F35 is cheaper than every other jet (so far you've said the Super Hornet, Gripen, Eurofighter, etc). Can you provide stats?
 

SupersonicMax

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I am not quite the only person on Earth that thinks that.

Just for the aircraft, the Ausies paid A$2.9B in 2007 or US$2.4B for 24 aircraft (US$100M per copy).  In today's dollars, it is US$115M a copy.  This includes the equipment you normally use with a combat aircraft (radar, EW, racks, external fuel tanks, etc). If we were to get SH, I believe we would get a similar kit the Ausies got.

The F-35 in today's dollars is worth US$98M minus the engine (LRIP 7).  The engine costs US$28M, for a total of US$126M for the whole package.  That for a low rate production aircraft with all the kit.  Once production increases, the price will go down.  It is forecast to be US$95M in 2018 dollars or US$87M a copy.  If we just want to match the SH price, the F-35 would have to cost US$125M a copy in 2018 or a 45% increase in price.

This is purely for acquisition and doesn't include support and upgrades.

Futere inflation based on inflation in last 4 years
 

Bird_Gunner45

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SupersonicMax said:
I am not quite the only person on Earth that thinks that.

Just for the aircraft, the Ausies paid A$2.9B in 2007 or US$2.4B for 24 aircraft (US$100M per copy).  In today's dollars, it is US$115M a copy.  This includes the equipment you normally use with a combat aircraft (radar, EW, racks, external fuel tanks, etc). If we were to get SH, I believe we would get a similar kit the Ausies got.

The F-35 in today's dollars is worth US$98M minus the engine (LRIP 7).  The engine costs US$28M, for a total of US$126M for the whole package.  That for a low rate production aircraft with all the kit.  Once production increases, the price will go down.  It is forecast to be US$95M in 2018 dollars or US$87M a copy.  If we just want to match the SH price, the F-35 would have to cost US$125M a copy in 2018 or a 45% increase in price.

This is purely for acquisition and doesn't include support and upgrades.

Futere inflation based on inflation in last 4 years

Source?
 

SupersonicMax

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Australia's SHs: http://www.defence.gov.au/media/DepartmentalTpl.cfm?CurrentId=6619

F-35 numbers: http://www.gao.gov/assets/670/661842.pdf#page=14
 

Good2Golf

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SupersonicMax said:
...I think buying the SH would be a step back from what we have.

Intriguing.  I have a friend who thinks that 'vintage' Hornet drivers that have views such as yours are most likely mistaken.  I tend to take his word for it, as he has north of 4,000 hrs on A's, B's, E's, F's and G's.  Of course, my perspective is based solely primarily on a second-hand opinion.

I would, however, be very interested to understand your thoughts on how a Rhino is a 'step back' from an ECP583 R2'd A or B model.


Regards
G2G
 

MilEME09

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If Canada still wanted the Advanced tech and such I would say go for the Advanced Super Hornet, it's conformal fuel tanks means longer range, and has 1/3 the radar profile of the super hornet and it has a stealthy weapons pod designed for it if needed for those types of missions.
 

ringo

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Buy 36 Superbugs at least 12 of which should be Growlers, followed by 36 F35's.
Snowbirds should convert to legacy CF-18's.
 

MilEME09

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ringo said:
Buy 36 Superbugs at least 12 of which should be Growlers, followed by 36 F35's.
Snowbirds should convert to legacy CF-18's.

And then our costs triple because we are operating two fleets of expensive aircraft. While I agree with Growlers to bring back our EW capability we lost when the Electric Voodoo was retired, a mixed fleet of super hornets and F-35's would in my opinion be a worse option especially for our maintenance budget.
 

h3tacco

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MilEME09 said:
And then our costs triple because we are operating two fleets of expensive aircraft. While I agree with Growlers to bring back our EW capability we lost when the Electric Voodoo was retired, a mixed fleet of super hornets and F-35's would in my opinion be a worse option especially for our maintenance budget.

The Electric Voodoo was never an operational EW platform like the EA-18G or EA-6B. It was an operational support/training aircraft that provided EW threat simulation similiar in concept to the EW T-Bird, Challenger and now Alpha Jet.
 

SupersonicMax

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Good2Golf said:
Intriguing.  I have a friend who thinks that 'vintage' Hornet drivers that have views such as yours are most likely mistaken.  I tend to take his word for it, as he has north of 4,000 hrs on A's, B's, E's, F's and G's.  Of course, my perspective is based solely primarily on a second-hand opinion.

I would, however, be very interested to understand your thoughts on how a Rhino is a 'step back' from an ECP583 R2'd A or B model.


Regards
G2G

I assume your friend is Ricardo Traven (Boeing's Chief Test Pilot for the Hornet).  While I highly respect him as a pilot, I think he may have some bias towards the Super Hornet.  Our Hornets are not what the American Hornets are.  They are more capable in a lot of ways  (R2 jets anyways).  Sniper being one of the things that make is a great platform and our custom software. 

If you look at it objectively, the baseline Super Hornet has the same radar we have (although an AESA radar can be acquired at a premium), same RWR, same Coutermeasure dispenser, slightly better jammer, inferior targetting pod and a non-custom software.  So, is the money well invested for 2 more stations and possibly an AESA radar?  Are those capabilities going to bring us to 2050?

At the very least, this should be a point of discussion both within the military (and I think it is) and amongts the media (and I do not think it is).
 

Good2Golf

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No, actually an Aussie coal-face guy.  I should also correct myself that he does not have E time, only A, B, F and G.  I think you'll find Boeing pitching APG-79 in the package, so it wouldn't be your current radar (-73).  Also, when folks come to appreciate that 'fully customized' s/w is not always the most supportable at the least cost, and that there is a balance to be made between the 100% that the operators/first-line supporters want, and the less than 100% custom that the weapon system manager may be able to sustainably support, that may affect how much better (or not so better) the current capability, which has not only an operational aspect, but so too a supportability aspect, is.

Regards
G2G
 
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