Friday, January 24, 2014

F-35LCS Almost Ready

The F-35LCS is the F-35 aircraft coupled with the imaginary technology of the LCS which is always just months away from completion, yet never works.

The LCS, whatever you think of the concept, was predicated on the use of technology that was largely non-existent at the inception of the program and remains, to this day, technically unachievable.  Supporters have claimed for the last several years that the technology, while suffering from some glitches that are expected in a program of this size and complexity, is fixable and would be ready in a matter of months.  Yet, here we sit – still without any of the promised technology and no reasonable expectation that it will be available for several more years, if ever.

The parallel between the F-35 and LCS is remarkable.  The F-35, whatever you think of the concept, was predicated on the use of technology that was largely non-existent at the inception of the program and remains, to this day, technically unachievable.  Supporters have claimed for the last several years that the technology, while suffering from some glitches that are expected in a program of this size and complexity, is fixable and would be ready in a matter of months.  Yet, here we sit – still without any of the promised technology and no reasonable expectation that it will be available for several more years, if ever.

Reuters (1) reports on a soon to be released DOT&E report that states that the Block 2B software needed for the Marine’s to put the F-35 into combat will slip by a year or more.

“Initial results with the new increment of Block 2B software indicate deficiencies still exist in fusion, radar, electronic warfare, navigation, electro-optical target system, distributed aperture system, helmet-mounted display system, and datalink…”

That’s OK, though, LCS defenders F-35 defenders say that the problems are fixable and are just months away from completion.  And so we wait for the F-35LCS to be ready.



14 comments:

  1. The F-35 is the Air version of the LCS with all the problems and BLOAT.

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  2. Only the F-35B was predicated on the use of technology that was largely non-existent at the beginning of the program. The A and C should have been easy. We've done stealth, internal munitions, and AESA radars on numerous aircraft.

    The distributed aperture system is new and unproven, but hardly a fundamental part of the aircraft. The avionics was new, and that always takes time to shake out. Shouldn't be a surprise.

    IMHO, the B largely screwed the whole program. It force a shorter, stubbier aircraft (with the attendant loss in transonic performance), had major weight issues, and relies on a complex, unproven VTOL propulsion system.

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    1. B.Smitty, don't do the LCS thing where history and requirements are rewritten to "prove" that the program is a success. The thing that was supposed to make the F-35 more than just a slightly stealthier Hornet is the magic, 360 degree, sensor fusion tied into the magic helmet. None of that existed at program inception and none of that exists now. Further, the automated maintenance system (ALIS?) which was supposed to drive operating and maintenance costs down did not exist and is still not functional. None of the supporting software existed and still does not exist in a combat-ready form and will not for several more years, if ever.

      The A and C should not have been easy and, indeed, have proven to be impossible, as yet. We have flying airframes which have no combat capability. Contrast that with the LCS which has sailing seaframes with no combat capability. Hence, the point of the post.

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    2. Ok. I see. The point of the post was to show the pitfalls with highly concurrent development and how both programs share this problem. I can agree with you there.

      The magic sensor fusion will require more work, but we can build a combat capable aircraft without it.

      Software always takes longer to build than expected. Features are often deferred to a later release.

      BTW, the F-35 is much more stealthy than a Hornet. Just not stealthy enough for what we need, IMHO.

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    3. B.Smitty, the concurrency was part of it but the post was also intended to show the folly and inevitable outcome of initiating production programs whose success is dependent on non-existent technology. It was also a simple observation about the similarity between the programs and, given their similar approaches, the not very surprising fact that both are struggling badly.

      The F-35 without the magic, 360, fusion, helmet capability is not combat capable other than in the same theoretical sense that a Fokker Triplane would be combat capable today. It could shoot but wouldn't have any chance of beating another plane. The F-35 has flight performance specs that make it a very average aircraft (below average when compared to the threat aircraft it's intended to engage) for air-to-air combat. The magic is what's going to make it a superior aircraft (or so the story goes). An F-35 without magic won't keep Flanker or MiG pilots up at night.

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    4. Stealth is still more important than the magic fusion, IMHO. And the F-35 still has a state of the art radar. The magic fusion will come, it will just take longer.

      The flight performance isn't magical (unlike the F-22), but it does look better once you consider the F-35 will be running clean most of the time, and Flankers will have a lot of draggy stores. Still, doesn't appear to be anything to write home about.

      I'm with you partially, though. I'm not a fan of the F-35 in A2A due to apparent compromises in beam and aft sector stealth, the aforementioned mediocre performance, and the lack of stealthy missile shots (four, maybe possibly someday going to six). The smaller Cuda missile could help here, maybe someday. It also doesn't have a big enough radar aperture to be a great BVR shooter.

      Still, it WILL have A2A capability, and won't be a total pushover. Stealth still should let it get the first shots off on a Flanker.

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    5. The F-35 is going to be only a fair fighter for several years until the magic tech is perfected, if it ever is. The problem is that both China and Russia are in the process of fielding F-22 level aircraft. The F-35 will be overmatched, maybe significantly, unless the magic tech is everything it's claimed to be and then some. The descriptions of the Russian PAK and the Chinese knock offs are more impressive than the F-35. Of course, to be fair, the Russian and Chinese aircraft may well have their own issues. We're committing to an already somewhat overmatched aircraft for the next couple of decades while the Russians and Chinese are moving ahead with superior products. Maybe ten or fifteen years ago the F-35 would have been impressive even with some problems but now it's being left behind even before it's entered service.

      On a related note, if you think the F-35 will solve its problems in short order and be everything it's claimed to be, you might recall that the F-22 is still struggling to achieve fully operational status.

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  3. I not sure I can totally agree with you here, there are several important differences about the design methods use in the programs.

    Where as the F-35 is a total new design, the seaframe of the started from existing civilian designs. Likewise the LCS electronics, sensors, weapons, and other systems were to either COTS, or currently avialable military systems. Yes they were to be assembled in using new specifications called the NVR, but basically it was a straight forward design. That why the builds were able to produce the prototypes so quickly.

    Therefore from my point of view thay are quite different programs.

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    1. GLof, you've missed the point of the post. The LCS seaframe is run of the mill, existing technology. What was supposed to have endowed the LCS with its value was the non-existent modules with hordes of networked, remote, unmanned, surface/air/subsurface vehicles creating an integrated web of surveillance and destruction. Of course, none of that existed when the program started and none exists today. Half of the wished for technology has already been abandoned and the other half has been dumbed down to the point of just trying to make existing technology work and even that's a struggle.

      The items you mention had nothing to do with the LCS' value. Those were just the seaframe. Similarly, the F-35 airframe has lots of existing technology but the tech that will make the F-35 truly superior didn't exist and still doesn't.

      The programs are remarkably similar. Both started as "leap ahead" wonder-weapons based on non-existent technology and both have failed badly, so far, due to the inability to conjure the futuristic technology for the air/seaframes.

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    2. Why didn't the Navy just develop the modules to be incorporated in/with other ships that already existed or that could be modified?

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    3. JI, I have no idea why not. I'll offer my speculation ... Two reasons. One, the LCS original concept was heavily dependent on remote, unmanned vehicles and the LCSs were designed to have multiple (stern and side) launch/recovery capability. Few or no existing ships have that capability or could be modified for it. Amphibious ships with well decks could do it, I suppose.

      Second, placing a module on an existing ship takes that ship out of its designed function while it performs the module task and that probably doesn't make sense, most of the time. For example, placing an MCM on a Burke turns a highly capable Aegis destroyer into a minesweeper. That's a very poor use of an Aegis ship. Likewise for an amphibious ship.

      As I said, pure speculation on my part. What do you think?

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    4. Gotcha', makes sense.

      What do I think? Ha ha ha, I depend on you and your commenters for the thinking. And thank you very much for what you're doing with this 'blog, by the way.

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    5. JI, happy to help and I hope you find the blog entertaining and occasionally educational. As far as commenting, don't hesitate to chime in. Common sense is more important than technical knowledge and we all have it - we just need to exercise it a bit more!

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  4. Well, technically, they're correct - the fixes *are* just months away from completion.

    Years are made up of months, after all.

    Heck, you could say that they're just days, or even just *hours* away from completion.

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