Monday, March 7, 2016

5 Years or You Didn't Know What You Wanted

ComNavOps so often hears comments to the effect that we can’t consider new weapons because it would take many years to produce a product and we’ve already spent too much time on the current version, however flawed, to start over.

Nothing could be further from the truth.  This kind of thinking is the result of having witnessed so many horribly mismanaged programs that we’ve come to believe that it’s normal.

The F-35 is the poster child for mismanaged programs.  Consider these time frames.

F-35 Lightning

RFP (Request for Proposal)            1996
Contract Award                                 2001
First Flight                                         2006
IOC                                                    pending
Squadron Service                             pending

That’s 10 years from RFP to first flight and 5 years from contract to first flight.  We’re still waiting, 20 years later for IOC (neglecting the Marines publicity stunt declaration of IOC) and it’s going to be a few more years before the Navy achieves IOC, yet.

By comparison, the F-14 Tomcat went from RFP to first flight in 2 years and IOC in 5 years, as shown below.

F-14 Tomcat

RFP (Request for Proposal)            1968
Contract Award                                 1969
First Flight                                         1970
IOC                                                    1973
Squadron Service                             1974

We can build a first rate aircraft in 5 years if we follow basic, common sense rules:

  • No use of non-existent technology
  • No change orders
  • No initiation of production without full design documents
  • No concurrency
If we do that, there’s no reason we can’t build a very good aircraft in 5 years, from start to full rate production.  If we can’t do that and we feel we have to change things as we go then we clearly didn’t know what we wanted in the first place.

Hand in hand with being able to build an aircraft in 5 years has to go penalties for failing to do so.  Here’s what needs to happen.

  • Program managers must be assigned for the full 5 years to ensure accountability.

  • Programs must be terminated after exactly 5 years if they have not reached full production.  No exceptions.  No extensions.  On the day after the 5 year anniversary, the program is automatically terminated regardless of how close the program managers claim it is (programs are always on the verge of completion – just ask the LCS or F-35).

  • Production can only start with DOT&E’s approval.  This will prevent stunts like the Marine’s IOC for the F-35 even though the aircraft is in no way combat ready.

  • If a program is terminated, the program managers must all be terminated from service and employment.  The only exception is if the program managers themselves recommend early program termination prior to the start of the 4th year.  If you don’t know within 3 years whether the program is viable then you shouldn’t be a program manager.

  • Successful program managers should receive major financial rewards.

The preceding must be Congressionally mandated – it must be law.

There you have it.  That’s how to prevent LCS/Ford/F-35 program failures and ensure timely introductions of new platforms.  If we can’t produce a new platform in 5 years then we didn’t really know what we wanted in the first place.

It’s a simple system.  Most great ideas are.


  1. I agree 100% with this. A follow on to the F-35C could actually fit Naval requirements better and benefit from some of the things the F-35 has developed much like the Tomcat did vis a vis the F-111.

    One thing I will say though; I think contractors in general, and Grumman in particular, had a sweet spot in the 60's and 70's in terms of balancing technological innovation and actually kicking product out there.

    The Tomcat wasn't perfect, but it was damned good (and could have been better had they followed the prescribed engine upgrade path).

    Heck, look at the LEM. The RFP was issued in 1961 and it was operational by 1969.

    Grumman designed a craft *with very little knowledge of the operating environment* and had it working in 8 years. It would be difficult to tell me that this was a less difficult engineering proposal than the F-35.

    Years later the Army was able to get the Big 5 working after Vietnam.

    Nowadays.... our acquisition programs have produced:

    Army: Multiple upgrade paths.... all cancelled after billions spent.

    Navy: F-35C; LCS; DDG-1000.... all years in the making. Utility arguable.

    Air Force: F-35A. We'll see about the LRSB. Is there even a path to replace the Minuteman III?

    NASA: the agency that went from Mercury to the Moon in 11 years is struggling to get a man rated rocket in the 6 years since the shuttle retired. And maybe, *maybe* have a replacement for the RD-180 russian engine by 2019. Maybe.

    We went from slide rules, pencils, and mainframes that took up wings of buildings to CAD; multi core processors and phones more powerful than anything in the Apollo command module and we've slowed down.

    The cynic in me blames politics, but I think it goes deeper than that. Not R vs. D necessarily, more government and contractor malaise and sclerosis.

    So, to relate back to the post... everything you say is correct. But I think we need something dramatic to shake the system to its foundations and get it working again. Someone like a Rickover, or a Teddy Roosevelt, or heck a Admiral Connolly. Sadly, I don't see any out there.

    1. Good comment. The only thing about wishing for a Rickover type person is that we need a SYSTEM that works, not a single individual who, through force of will, can make a broken system work one time. When that person is gone, we're left with a broken system.

      What I'm proposing is a system that will work for any project or person.

  2. Point taken. I was thinking though that we need this type of person to break through the resistance and establish the new system.

    I don't see anyone now doing anything like that. The closest I've seen is that 'Yes yes, the LCS was mismanaged at the start. But now its on track!!!'

    But you're absolutely right. We need a system. This needs to get torn down.

    I'd add one other thing, but I don't know if its workable.

    The F-35 is built in 48 states. Does it really need to be? And is there a way to discourage contractors from doing that? It seems like its just a jobs ploy.

    1. If a company can get the aircraft to production in five years, I don't care how many states or countries they use to build it.

  3. Here is a novel idea.

    Spend money on prototypes that actually work (like the F-16/17 and NOT the F-35 Fiasco). It would be cheaper to have 3 prototypes in development for production, rather than picking a contractor and then paying through the nose for getting to a production versions.

    Also DO NOT allow ANY changes for production. Force that into the next iteration of prototype.

  4. Im just going to play devil advocate here a bit.

    Because i do know what your really getting at here.


    A) what if because of enemy advancement the requirments change. Do we can the lot. Or extend the deadline ?

    B) do we always build using known established tried and tested. Or attempt to make a design better than the off the shelf, better than the enemys ?

    If we choose to build something better. Thats r&d. So ...

    C) what happens if the reasearch bit runs genuinly long. Do we throw away everything and loose billions. Or fall back on b) i.e making a fighter that effectivly everybody has already ?

    D) once we have b)'d enough. And enemy fighters are technologically more advanced to ours. Do we buy theirs ? or just give up and surrender ?


    1. Beno, just my $0.02 (or, are you from the UK? do you want Euro, either way...) I think there is a difference between what happened before with the F-14/15/16 and century series before in terms of technological advancement and what is happening with the F-35.

      The Teen series, and the century series, seemed to take good ideas and evolve them: Stronger jets; better aerodynamics, better radar, better missiles. Further, they also seemed to be catered to a specific mission (though they performed other missions later). Fleet interceptor/Air dominance/light weight dog fighting.

      The tech was there for all of those things, but they used better methods to improve it. I.E. the F-15 had better engines, avionics, and aerodynamics than the F-4.

      The F-35 on the other hand, chucked alot of that. I'd argue that perhaps the stealth shaping and skin were actually evolutionary from the F-117/B2/F22, and that was good. But the EOTS, sensor fusion, lift fan, helmet display, ALIS, and 8 MILLION lines of code were all major jumps.

      Combine that with having the platform try to do everything and the complexity is an order of magnitude higher than evolving everything.

      Compare that to what Grumman wanted to do with the Super Tomcat 21: Bigger glove for more fuel, better engines and aerodynamics to supercruise, improved radar, possible thrust vectoring.... all evolutions of existing technology that could have made a hell of a plane.

      I'd argue that a Super Tomcat 21 could already be flying and mated with a meteor or AMRAAM D could have given us a real honest to God deadly fleet defender. Mate it to LRASM and JASSM and its not a bad strike platform either.

    2. For some strange reason its 2 cents everywhere i think. No pound penny equivalent anyway.

      I think your proberbly right. For whatever reason F35 has bitten off more than it could chew.

      Back in cold war days you could evolve over several fighters in just a few years.

      Nowerdays not so much. We have tried to jump too far in one go.

      Lessons must be learned.

    3. Ben,

      A) Requirements don't change radically in 5 years. If you can't predict your needs and the enemy's capabilities for the next five years then you aren't a professional soldier.

      B) Always use proven. Always. Always. Always. Did I convey my point? R&D is where you improve and try new things and make the next generation aircraft.

      C) R&D can run as long as it needs. You can run a 100 year R&D program if you think it's worth it. You can build prototypes to your heart's content. When it's time to go into production you go with only what exists. Always. Always.

      D) If we do this, enemy fighters won't be more advanced. The F-35 has actually hurt new developments because they've stopped developing new stuff and are just focused on making (now old) technology fit and work. Keep R&D separate from production and let the scientists come up with new stuff without having to worry about deadlines and fixes and concurrency rebuilds.

      Be gone, devil!

    4. Look at History. It is only when you completely miss and have no kind of a dominant technology that you loose.

      The Sherman tank was no where a good as the Panther or the Tiger, it matched the Panzer IV only. But used correctly and in huge numbers it was good enough.

      Japan had more Carriers than we did and better Fighter aircraft. But we had enough to use and win at Coral Sea and Midway.

      No one should say don't use jet engines in this day but do you need a brand new engine that has maybe 10% more thrust for the same weight but is unproven? Not if you want to have manageable and sustainable Defense budgets.

    5. Sherman tank, incorrect, in fact, the fact that its turret and body were cast in one piece was a huge technological leap ahead of German tanks, which were hand welded together. So, you could make 10 Shermans for ever Leopard, at a fraction of the cost. Its and industrialisation technology difference, not something glamorous like a better missile, but, our wars are now industrial in nature, so, a much better tank in that regard.
      Japan had more carriers... at precisely no point in the war, they never had more than 4, US pacific Carrier fleet was 4 at the outbreak of the war, and something like 40 by the wars end. Yamamato himself said, we will own the Pacific for 18 months before American industrial power. Due to his brilliance, he managed to make that 30 months, still, he was right.
      Lastly, Japanese fighter aircraft had some better attributes, in 1936, by 1942, they were woefully inadequate in the only place that mattered. Pilot protection. US could build a new plane in a few days, Japan, maybe a little longer. A pilot, takes a year to train. They, like the Germans, invested down the wrong technology path.
      Or, if i was being less harsh, considering US GDP in 1940 was over 50% of the worlds total GDP, they never had a chance.

    6. "at precisely no point in the war, they never had more than 4"

      The facts differ as they say. At the beginning of the Pacific War, there would be 6 fleet carriers—Akagi, Kaga, Soryu, Hiryu, Shokaku, and Zuikaku—and two light carriers, Ryujo and Zuiho. The force that attacked PH had 6 carriers

    7. Sorry, 6 fleet carriers. Vs Americas 5 fleet carriers.

    8. Nate, the Japanese started the war with the fleet carriers,


      and the light carriers,


    9. As for the US navy having 'about 40 fleet carriers by wars end', my numbers make 16 Essex in commission by VJ day, 8 left of Independence class and 3 pre war carriers still afloat.
      You are looking at 25 or 26. Maybe a few less as Franklin was a burnt out hulk and a couple hadnt reached the pacific from the yards.

    10. Ztev,

      have you ever seen the Nihon Kaigun web page? He covers this a bit (with a theoretical scenario in which we lose Midway badly).

      His numbers aren't far off.

      What's amazing is the industrial production difference. One snippet:

      "The United States built more merchant shipping in the first four and a half months of 1943 than Japan put in the water in seven years. "

    11. Liberty ships were being built at a rate of one every 3 days, 8000 ton cargo ships, made largely of concrete, good for 2-3 crossings of the Atlantic (which is the other, separate huge war america was fighting concurrently). US industrial base, combined with UK industrial base was 70% of worlds production output at the outbreak of war.

      Yamamatto spent a lot of time in the US. He saw the behemoth, and knew what it meant for his country.
      ZTEV, your nitpicking the numbers is irrelevant, my point stands, the technological difference was astronomical. Germany started WW2 with 7 million horses, and by wars end 95% of German munitions had been hauled into position by horse. The US didn't bring one to Europe. The 25,000 Deuce and a half's that the Russians built/received as lend lease were still the primary movers in the Soviet economy into the 60's. Some still operating at cold wars end.
      The naval equivalent was happening to Japan in the Pacific.
      Japanese were brilliant, and fought well and truly above their weight class. But never stood a chance.
      The ability to produce so many hulls so quickly, meant every other nation was irrelevant. The technology gap was equivalent to being half a century ahead.

  5. Playing devil's advocate as well...

    What you're proposing is not a system but an incentive. There is so much that a SYSCOM program manager is not in control of that it would be difficult to hold that program manager completely responsible for a five year (and not one more day) development schedule without introducing real, systemic changes.

    System level requirements (not the requirement provided by a program office to a contractor, but CDD level requirements) need to be solid and not subject to extensive changes. OPNAV resource sponsors need more time in their positions, and an incentive to kill programs rather than treating a larger TOA as the primary objective. Good cost estimates need to be developed, and real funding profiles committed to. For technology development, ONR and DARPA efforts need to be better aligned with programs of record to allow seamless integration, to avoid typical scenario when massive R&D is still required after the delivery of ONR capability because it wasn't EMI hardened, or designed for shock, or something else. More work in general needs to be out there for contractors to bid on so that one big procurement doesn't provide an incentive for contract protest, and there is a true competitive environment, and one where if one program fails there is a real alternative to invest in. There is a lot of work to be done before an RFP even goes out in order for a program to be successful, and that is before any issues might be encountered during development with a contractor. The program manager stint would have to be longer than just five years to cover this timeline.

    I believe a contributing factor to the success of the F-14 was the concurrency in development and production of multiple similar platforms. Until relatively recently, aircraft development was marked by multiple platforms with relatively short life spans, all competing for resources but also spreading the funding out to multiple contractors to maintain a competitive industry base. There are notable exceptions (the B-52, for example) but look at the century series of aircraft and what work was being done in the 1970's compared to what work was being done in the 2000's. Per Wiki, the F-14 first flew in 1970, the F-15 in 1972, the F-16 in 1974, and the F-18 in 1978. The 1970's featured a number of aircraft that were successful by any definition but that required a significant investment by the Pentagon and a willingness to have multiple programs going after the same capability gap. I don't see that same willingness today...this would be perceived as redundant and wasteful.


    1. "The 1970's featured a number of aircraft that were successful by any definition but that required a significant investment by the Pentagon and a willingness to have multiple programs going after the same capability gap. I don't see that same willingness today...this would be perceived as redundant and wasteful."

      I believe that we've fallen into the same trap that we did with McNamara and the whiz kids. I don't know that the assumptions of that argument are true.

    2. IP, you're quite correct. There are many more changes needed. I'm limited to a few paragraphs so I can't begin to cover all the various aspects. I would also put much more authority in the hands of the program manager.

      Regardless, all of the changes flow from the premise of a 5 year period and total responsibility and accountability. Without that, none of the other changes will matter.

      You're not playing devil's advocate, you're simply fleshing out the concept!

    3. IP, you also indirectly touch on another problem we have today and that is the desire to have a single aircraft that can do everything. We're moving in that direction, without a doubt.

      Previously, we had pure fighters, interceptors, light strike, heavy strike, EW, ASW, etc. Now we want one aircraft to do everything. The inevitable result of such a trend is the creation of a massively huge, single aircraft, too big to fail, with no alternatives and no concurrent technology development among competing companies. We need to return to single function aircraft and make them simpler.

    4. My devil's advocate position was intended to highlight the limitations of focusing just on the program manager. As you mentioned in the comment, the program manager would require significantly more authority in order to effect this kind of change. And we would have to think through all the implications of doing that...the system is intended to split the responsibilities for requirements (fleet), resources (OPNAV), and acquisition (SYSCOM), but that might be a source of the current woes.

      It's interesting to see that all of those platforms from the 1970's were initiated as single-role fighters, and then successfully evolved to multi-role. You could argue that the F-15E and the F/A-18E are new platforms, but the significant leveraging provided a sound starting point for additional capability.


    5. You know, it seems we gorgot quite a few lessons. Anyone remember not a POUND FOR AIR TO GROUND? Sure didn't seem to bother the F15 Strike Eagle and F14 Bombcat, they turned out pretty good in a different role.

      Wonder what the F35 would be like and where it would be if we had just stuck to the F35A version from the beginning and NOT compromised it with the requirements for the other models until -A version was done? We will never know....

    6. I have become convinced that the Boyd designs are the way to go.

    7. Alt, just to be clear, Boyd was completely focused on producing a pure, dogfighting, air to air fighter plane. His designs did not, and would not have, produced a good strike fighter, bomber, attack, interceptor, or close air support aircraft, as I understand it. One can make an argument for the Navy needing a long range interceptor rather than a pure fighter, for example, in which case Boyd's concepts would not apply. The F-14 Tomcat, which Boyd thought little of, was an interceptor, not a fighter.

      Also, Boyd developed his design criteria during a time when air to air missiles were still only marginally effective. I wonder how today's missiles with greater effectiveness and off-boresight capability would alter Boyd's criteria, if at all?

    8. Admittedly, I dont' have a fully fleshed out knowledge of Boyed and the fighter mafia. However, some of their ideas seem fanciful.

      From Wiki:
      "This concept was for a clear weather, air-to-air only fighter with a top speed of Mach 1.6 and max 5 1/2G turn, seeing the Blue Birds Mach 2.5 and 9G as unnecessary and inefficient, they also wanted the aircraft to be devoid of radar. Boyd and Sprey both proposed this concept to Air Staff but there were no changes to the Blue Bird.[11]"

      I like the EM theory as far as it goes. However.... I just don't see the original concept of a plane like the F-16 being effective today. Clear weather only? Limited/no radar?

      Like it or not situational awareness is huge. Speed can be tactically extremely important. And an enemy with SU-35's that can fight in all weather is going to make your life difficult if the weather gets bad and your fighters are sitting on the tarmac while he's bombing the crap out of you.

    9. You have to understand the era Boyd came from and what he saw as the AF's mission. He came from the end of WWII and Korea. He saw the AF's mission as air to air combat. Radar was still in its relative infancy as were missiles. Stealth was a non-existent concept. Missions, meaning dogfights to him, took place in daylight and were up close, one on one affairs where only maneuverability mattered (I'm simplifying). Once in a dogfight, speed not only doesn't matter, it's a detriment, in a sense. Dogfighting occurs at relatively slow speeds. From his perspective, radar didn't get you much that you couldn't see with your own eyes. For him, it was all about getting on the other guy's tail. There was no BVR in his world.

      How well do his theories translate to today? I suspect they would need some modification but his core fundamental principles still apply and we've forgotten them. The major "forgetting" is that he was all about single function with NOTHING extra added to the aircraft. Today, we're headed in the exact opposite direction. We want to add EVERYTHING to an aircraft so that it can do every mission. The inevitable result, of course, is that it will do none of them well. The F-35 wants to be an horizontal/vertical takeoff, A2A, ISR, CAS, EW, strike, long range penetration, etc., all in one airframe, and instead is not good at any of them. Boyd would spit on the F-35.

    10. That does make more sense. From what I understand, I need to know more about what his basic premise is as the AF's mission, or the role of aircraft in general.

      From what I've read he liked lightweight fighters; but didn't see a role for interceptors (hence his dislike of the Tomcat). If I'm right that's a premise I don't agree with. I like the idea of a design that is created for a single use. But I think there are multiple uses. Interceptors for one role, ground attack for another. Each should be optimized around that role.

      Maybe you can add functionality later (The F-16 isn't a bad bomber for certain missions; similarly the Bombcat had success) but that's just opportunism and expediency.

      As to the dog fighting... while I don't buy the F-35 'There will be no more dogfights' mantra; there is no use claiming that technology and experience have shown the guns/simple missile dogfight isn't the king anymore.

      A purist lightweight fighter is going to have a far more difficult today time against a meteor fired from BVR or a good HOBS missile at short range than it would have against the guns and missiles of the 60's and 70's.

      In short, I think that even a great single function design nowadays is going to have to be bigger with more toys than the purist ideal outlined in the LWF, or it won't work except in low intensity conflicts.

      Oh well. Just my opinion.

    11. @ Jim

      Boyd and his crew's ideas were possible, although the fighter would be a very "pure" air to air dogfighting and air superiority fighter.

      The fighter mafia logo was, "Not a pound for air to ground." Basically, this was an aircraft that was designed for air superiority and nothing else.

      To that end, it would have
      - Very high cruising speed
      - Very high fuel fraction (needed because the faster you go, you have very fuel thirsty engines)
      - Low bypass ratio engine or turbojet
      - Extremely aerodynamic design (likely a canard delta or something like a compound delta - like the Saab Draken), with low wing loading and high transient performance
      - Minimal electronics - no radar

      You have to understand that the Mach 2.5 speed you see on the F-15 doesn't happen very often. Only for brief periods during afterburner for a small fraction of the fighter's life. Most of the time it spends its time at subsonic speeds.

      What Boyd et al wanted was a fighter that would spend a high percent, perhaps most of its time at supersonic.

      I would argue for a larger Su-27 like analogue as well for a fighter, alongside a smaller Boyd-like design.

      This aircraft would, much like the Su-27 evolve into a family of designs.

      The key differences would be the deletion of radar, a tailess delta design (for lower wing loading and higher fuel fraction), along with much tighter spaced engines for the supersonic version (although a case could be made for widely spaced dual engines on the ground attack variants).

    12. @ Jim
      I should mention that to do that, Boyd and the Fighter Mafia didn't care about high speed, past say, Mach 1.8. It simply wasn't relevant to fighter interception.

    13. @Alt; sounds like I need to do more research. I'm still skeptical about the no radar thing; but it sounds like he'd be on board with the Flanker.
      Did he have anything against non fighter types (like interceptors).

      It would be interesting to me to apply Boyd type concepts to modern technology. I.E. if they ever get the adaptive engines working it would seem to fight nicely in; an engine that can move from high bypass for fuel efficiency when loitering or doing CAP to low bypass for high speed cruising.

    14. Just guessing but an adaptive engine would probably be the last thing Boyd would want. It would add weight and complexity - two things Boyd was death on.

    15. The bigger Boyd picture here is understand what makes a great aircraft. Boyd himself was focused on Fighters true, but Sprey using a rigorous requirements analysis process, and SOME of Boyd's EM work, produced the A-10 the best CAS A/C ever.

      Probably the biggest overall Boyd lesson is that mixing missions produces sub-optimal A/C FOR ALL missions.

      So applying Boyd in this context - Get the best Strike flyers in a room and figure out what makes a GREAT Strike aircraft, then focus and build ONLY that A/C.

      Only since the 1960s (thanks McNamara) have we started trying to make one item to do EVERYTHING. Because we haven't been in a Peer War we haven't seen that it will NOT do all missions well enough.

    16. The classic Jack of all trades, master of none problem.

      I'm a big believer of single role aircraft.

      As far as the engines go, as I indicated, a turbojet would be the way to go for a supercruise aircraft that spends most of its time at supersonic speeds.

      Adaptive engine is counterproductive to the type of aircraft they are proposing.

    17. "I'm a big believer of single role aircraft. "


      A&M: "Adaptive engine is counterproductive to the type of aircraft they are proposing."

      CNO" Just guessing but an adaptive engine would probably be the last thing Boyd would want. It would add weight and complexity - two things Boyd was death on."

      I suppose this is one place where we'd have to part ways.

      Engine technology is HUGE in aircraft. If they can get the adaptive engines working there is no reason not to go to them, IMHO given the increases in efficiency that could be gained.

      Piston engines were infinitely more reliable than turbojets early on and for awhile. It didn't mean that they weren't the future.

    18. I'll throw the giant caveat of 'If they can get it working'.

      I'm not talking an F-35 like 'lets put this baby in cuz it would be SWEET! We'll develop it while we design an airplane around it!'.

      I'm saying if the companies R&D shops can get it to a point where its reliable enough to justify putting in an aircraft.

    19. "I suppose this is one place where we'd have to part ways."

      It's not about you and Boyd parting ways. It's about understanding what his "mission" was. He wanted to create the ultimate, pure, CHEAPEST, air to air combat fighter possible. An adaptive engine would decrease readiness (more complex means more maintenance and more mechanical failures) and increase cost. Further, once combat starts, the adaptive engine would offer no benefit. It's benefits come only in certain portions of a flight and combat is not one of those. The added weight, however, would decrease the aircraft's performance.

      So, where you're parting ways is in determining what your "mission" is. Boyd knew exactly what his "mission" was. You, apparently, have a somewhat different mission in mind.

    20. Jim, I don't think that you quite understand what I am saying.

      An adaptive engine is totally counterproductive for the type of aircraft.

      I don't think the Boyd team was against better technology. They would just use more advanced technology differently.

      Things like higher inlet temperatures would lead to a better turbojet.

    21. Okay. I think that I'll bow out. I don't understand enough of his theory, or what he understood his mission to be, to intelligently comment on how it would fit into our current strategic environment.

      As to what my understanding is of our mission, my viewpoint is entirely from the late cold war air/land battle mission. I thought our High/Lo mix worked well for that type of environment, but again, more reading is required.

      I did see this (maybe worth a post, CNO?) of a bit of rationality out there?

    22. Jim, if you want to understand Boyd and his mission and philosophy, read the book "Boyd". Well worth it.

      In short, his belief was that you completely optimized for the mission. In other words, single function rather than multi-mission. Sound familiar? That's one of my recurring themes. His chosen mission was air to air. Therefore, he assembled every piece of data that existed related to A2A combat and, from that, came up with the ultimate A2A aircraft for his time. Not a single pound of machinery went on his aircraft design that didn't directly and most efficiently contribute to the A2A goal. Thus, an adaptive engine whose main benefit lies in the non-combat portion of the flight profile would be rejected. It would add weight and complexity without contributing to the A2A. And so on.

      Boyd would be horrified by the F-35 - a combination A2A, A2G, strike, EW, ISR, deep penetrating, network node, amalgamation of features that don't perform any of the missions well and costs a fortune doing it.

  6. Great stuff everyone! Love it!

    I can only add that F35 is TOO BIG TO FAIL, just like the major remaining banks, we have given up on diversity and quantity. USAF especially when they stated that they wouldn't buy anymore F15/F16s pretty much said so. USN at least kept the SH around.

    The big difference with the F14/15/16/18, as most of you have stated, is they weren't do or die fighters like today's F35. Lets remember that in the late 60s,early 70s, we still had a few F105/F106s, NAVY had F8s, A4s and A6/7s around, very mature fighters, not the best but no surprises. The F4 was still being produced, was pretty much at the top still and had potential for upgrades if the next F-series failed. Some F4s did end up with new radars, engines and further upgrades in the 80s so USAF or USN would have had plenty of time to release a new RFP if F15/F14 had completely failed. We should have NEVER let LMT or anyone else for that matter get in a situation where we have to stick with them no matter what happens, that was a very expense mistake that shouldn't be repeated.

    I'm not sure if this is true or not, if it reflects reality but also one big difference with today (F35) and older F-series is even when we had problems with the F15 (engines and radar), F14 (TF30 was really a crappy engine), F16 ( early versions were pretty much day only fighters) etc,etc,etc....the big DIFFERENCE I see is that if we had to go to war with EVEN the early versions, at least they worked somewhat, although all the systems or engines problems weren't completely solved, they could still operate!!!
    I don't get that sense with F35, it pretty much has to work AS A WHOLE WEAPON SYSTEM or it doesn't. There seems to be just so much integration of all the systems that if one fails, it looks TO ME that the whole system is down, which also is a big liability in a real war when shit happens, parts go missing, maintenance gets sloppy,etc and your F35 needs to be perfect to go to war, that's not good and a situation our military shouldn't be in. My 2 cent feelings....

  7. I was reading this thinking, I agree with most of what you're sayin COMNAVOPs, which i hate, as by nature I'm quite contrarian.

    So, i'll put it thus.
    Competition. Adversity. These are the things that are now lacking.So, when was the last time US arms industry wasn't a colossal piece of tax payer shit? Late 80's. When there was someone competing, that US was worried it might lose to. That it needed to beat. This brings out the best in people. Our successful consumerist western way of life goes a long way to proving that.
    Once your competition disappeared, you had no one to compete with, your arms industry just became a font of capitalistic protectionist, tax guzzling shit.
    Couple that with the fact that at the end of the cold war, huge swathes of investment were withdrawn from the arms industry, ill bet you the best and brightest went elsewhere, like the growing high tech industry (my fathers a prime example, he used to work for Elbit/Raytheon [i think, i was very young and dont remember exactly who] doing the missile targeting sequencing, in the 80's, in what was then an anachronistic programming language{but super secure}, and with the end of the cold war, segwayed into other tech industries. Sorry for the apocryphal story).

    My point being, theres no more threat to US hegemony, so, your military industry went from being a patriotic arm of your economy/defence industry, to a cash cow to milk the govt for all its worth.

    Predictions: short term, no difference, couldn't possibly get any worse really. Longer term, in about 15 years, when China/India start approaching near peer levels of competence/force projection (maybe, they may never get there, having to contend with each other) then your arms industry may return to its former level of efficiencies and utility.
    Till then, things will keep getting worse.

    My 2 cents, likely only worth 1.5 now considering the devaluating Australian dollar.

    1. Agree, USA has done a lot better when it's second place trailing, then suddenly, this country wakes up. Now, we are sloppy and don't care because we don't see China as a big threat like the old Soviet Union....

      My girlfriend works in a huge company that makes jet engines, she told her own son to leave and work for a start up or smaller civilian UAV company, it's far more interesting,more challenging and maybe even more lucrative. Working in the US defense industry is like working for a car or steel company, it's considered old and stale, not that much prestige, if you want to be a in real challenging high tech biz, go to Silicon Valley.

    2. Nate, that's an interesting take on the rationale for better development and acquisition performance. I have a slightly different take. I think the military leaders of the Cold War actually believed there was a chance that we would go to war with the Soviets. There's nothing like imminent combat to sharpen the focus, reduce waste, and eliminate gold-plating. When the Soviet Union collapsed we had no threat - therefore, no deadlines to meet and nothing to keep our focus sharp. Programs dragged out, projects were padded with unnecessary features, and the products suffered.

      We both see the end of the Cold War as a turning point though with slightly different reasons. Likely both are correct, in part.

      Good comment.

    3. "Working in the US defense industry is like working for a car or steel company, it's considered old and stale, not that much prestige"

      It doesn't have to be that way. And in fact its not in things like auto at least. You want challenging? Try being part of the team that brings the next F-150 to market. Nail it and you dominate the market. Blow it and you cripple your company with 3 other companies just waiting to eat your lunch.

      The defense industry should easily be like that, but there isn't nearly the competition. I get the feeling Grumman was like that. Lockheed maybe in the real skunk works days. Now? I don't know. The lack of danger in the 90's and the amalgamation of the industry giants may have sucked the air out of the room in a way that is impossible to put back without breaking up the contractors.

      Also, the faulty idea of saving money on the one stop shop plane makes it difficult to have competiton. In the old days CD can do light fighters, MD can do the Eagle, Grumman can do the F-14's...

      nowadays... lose the fighter contract and lose the ability to do business in that segment.

    4. Yes it was the 80's when we produced some of the best equipment. But I disagree with the reason.

      At the beginning of the 90s was when a fundamental shift in Defense development occurred. Before then, Defense was developing things that there was no counterpart in the commercial world. Microprocessors, semiconductors, materials, etc. were new items. These new items could be used in Commercial applications once developed.

      So companies took on DoD work because most of the development was Cost Plus (because no one had ever done this stuff) and then the DoD production was Fixed Price, and the COTS use was unlimited.

      IN the 90s that changed and the DoD now mostly integrates COTS equipment and so the DoD firms consolidated (Aspin's Last Supper to get rid of excess capacity) and also the DoD portions of companies were spun off and gobbled up by ALL DoD organizations.

      So now you have Companies that MOSTLY make DoD for the few things with NO COTS use (fighter A/C, warships, etc.) they have no commercial portions.

      So the incentive for companies changed and the Market changed. We lost the cross pollination between COTS and DoD.

    5. There was a lot of waste even during shooting wars I'd argue.

      Nazi Germany was perhaps the most famous with some of their super weapons.

      - An 800mm railroad gun (not a typo)
      - The V-series was arguably a waste given the cost vs the actual gains

      We could make a longer list, but even in real ways, there is a lot of waste.

      I agree with you on the auto market (I'm a former employee of 1 of the big 3 US automakers at their Canadian operations).

      It's a very competitive market and margins are very low.

    6. No system can overcome blatant stupidity and Nazi Germany certainly had a lot of that.

    7. There was also the Maus and arguably the King Tiger...
      For all the talk about the German Wonder Weapons, alot of them had key failures too. I've read where in some battles the Panther has serious losses... not to allied anti tank efforts, but rather because the transmission wasn't up to the task of moving the bulk of the tank reliably.

      @Alt - Thank you. The auto industry is very tough. I have several family members in it and I find manufacturing fascinating. I think the engineering in general tends to be very clever, and very fast moving too.

      To bring it around to the Navy I wish that we could actually create more of a shipbuilding industry in the US. It seems that especially for lower end things (like Frigates, etc.) that have the potential for a little more volume we could compete against the likes of BAE or South Korea.

      But I know little of the industry.

    8. @ Jim

      Although they could be lethal when they worked, German Tiger tanks were unreliable. More had to be blown up by their own crews in many cases than destroyed in actual combat (due to fuel shortages). Yes, the Tiger tanks did have frequent transmission failures.

      Although there is no record of a Tiger 2 ever having its front armor breached in WWII, it was still far from invulnerable.

      The Panther too suffered from reliability problems.

      It's also important to remember that the Tiger was a very expensive tank too so the opportunity cost argument comes in.

    9. Yep,
      Reliability, cost, manufacturing bottlenecks, Krauts should've stuck to Pz IV's. Easy to produce in mass numbers, good enough gun, quick enough, easy to maintain. All the things that made the t-34 and Sherman success's.
      Above story was endemic to German engineering efforts in the war. Ballistic missiles, that couldn't carry a very effective warhead or guidance, so far ahead of their time as to be useless in war. Jet fighters ready to fly in 1942, pulled down to become bombers instead. The above 2 programs alone could've sunk the German war effort.
      Stories innumerable like those.
      The real reason, well, not one real reason, many, but, Germany never went on a war footing.
      While 12% of the workforce went into the armed forces, Women were never integrated into the workforce, not like they were in England and America. That alone was a huge detriment to the German war effort/economy. Never mind not driving the huge social changes for Women suffrage enjoyed by their British and Yank counterparts.

      But the tech they produced sure was handy for the cold war adversaries.

      Vernan Von Braun :
      “Mr President, our Germans are better than their Germans”

    10. "While 12% of the workforce went into the armed forces, Women were never integrated into the workforce, not like they were in England and America. That alone was a huge detriment to the German war effort/economy. "

      I wonder if their whacked out race theories and hideous slave labor practices made them think they could fudge the numbers.

  8. There is a bigger problem with such long development cycles.

    They are immensely expensive. Not only is the R&D expensive, but they don't seem to be producing any of the promised savings in unit costs or operating costs.

    That means that there is the idea of opportunity cost. Why is there so little money? Because programs like the F-35, the LCS, and similar programs are drawing a huge sum of cash.

    Maintenance, training, and other essentials of operating existing ships too have been drawn to fund such weapons systems.

    1. The opportunity cost of the F-35 is huge. The F-35 is strangling the rest of the military. All the services are foregoing needed acquisitions, updates, and maintenance in order to keep the F-35 buy alive. It doesn't matter whether you favor the F-35 or not, the fact is that it's devastating the rest of the military.

      Good comment.

  9. Very much liking the idea of R&D being a seperate function. As it should be, but its speculative funding your expecting companys to self fund.

    Now BAE has done this with Tyrannis. But thats a dead cert money back winner thats now government funded.

    I cant see them doing this "normally" ?

    1. That is my point above. They used to do new development on a Cost Plus basis with a limited fee (10% vs the Markets expected 18-25%) because they could make more on the production runs and on the transition to their Commercial sectors.

      That is what has changed. We now have to look at Market fundamentals (Wall St expects AT LEAST 18% ROI). Paying a company a CPFF with the LEGAL max of 15% will not make the Street happy for a publicly held company.

      Furthermore if production (really COTS integration in a lot of cases) can then be competed to anyone then we will continue with the existing system.

      Because the business model has changed it is perhaps time to think about going back to the Government Arsenal system for the pure Military Items (Nuclear Carriers, Submarines, Tanks) and then outsource to commercial shipyards for the non military unique items (Surface Ships, Aircraft, vehicles). This would at least save the profit on the pure military items and the Commercial factories may put a brake on change orders.

    2. The military can fund R&D to whatever extent they want and can convince Congress to go along with. We do this now. DARPA issues R&D contracts all the time.

      Of course, every dollar spent on R&D is a dollar not spent on production so it will force the military to make tough choices but that's as should be.

    3. DARPA projects seldom get adapted by the Services, same with ONR, etc. They don't have an advocate in the Requirements/procurement system.

      That said I agree we can cut R&D contracts any way we want. But unless you recognize the Fee expectations and legal limits you will have a disconnect.

      A small private company will accept 5-15% fee, a large publically held company cannot do that, their Board and Shareholders will revolt.

      Remember in the COTS world the GROSS Margin on a project has to be 40% or greater or the feel their engineers should be working on something else.

      I am just saying consider the business model when looking to fix things.

    4. Most R&D projects don't pan out. They lose money. It's up to the CEO to determine what projects are worth spending on and have a reasonable chance for return on investment. If the project is too iffy then the company won't accept the contract. If DARPA thinks it's worthwhile then they'll pay enough to entice a company, whatever that is. This is just supply and demand and free market in action even in the R&D world.

      Different standards apply in the R&D world but the same basic business principles hold.

    5. Perhaps the F-35 technologies wouldn't have gotten out of R&D on their own if they hadn't been force fed into the production process. This is (or should be) Darwinian survival of the fittest R&D.

    6. CNO

      Yes most R&D projects fail even in the COTS world. BUT the companies receive no profit on the work and therefore are VERY good at saying what it will be and how long and how much to build it. ALSO they are VERY good at monitoring progress and able to pull the trigger and kill a project that is not going to make it to market in time or when the market has moved on them.

      This is NOT the case with DoD Contractors now and that is the big change. They do not control their response to the market or the project. They also HAVE to make >15% ROI while performing.

      So they get as close to the 15% legal limit as they can, they spend a huge amount lobbying for a steady cash flow, and they only have an incentive to make a program bigger, more complex, and longer.

      We have to examine the fundamental business atmosphere to address the situation.

    7. "DARPA projects seldom get adapted by the Services"

      Which always blew me away... I mean, maybe I misunderstand what its for. LRASM seemed like a perfect use. Some of the other stuff... I understand you want blue sky stuff. But Maybe there should be a middle level of DARPA.

      The DARPA we know and love does the blue sky stuff (Hey look! An iron man suit!) where the middle one does more practical research 'Hey look, a supersonic AShM....' or 'A ships generator that's 25% more powerful...'

    8. "This is NOT the case with DoD Contractors now and that is the big change. They do not control their response to the market or the project."

      You seem to think that defense industry companies are bound to take on R&D whether it's good or bad and regardless of the prospects that they will make money on it. That's not the case (and I'm sure you know that). They're free to decline projects that they don't believe are good and will, ultimately, make them money.

      Honestly, I'm not really sure what you're arguing for or against. This is just basic business. I fear I'm missing your point. Try again?

    9. Jim, DARPA already handles all levels of projects. I'm not sure what else you're asking for or suggesting.

    10. I'm reacting to the claim 'DARPA projects seldom get adapted by the services'.

      I'm suggesting that if it has all sorts of levels of R&D but very little of it every makes it to our forces, then the D in the DARPA name is pretty weak.

      If GM has an R&D arm that they pour millions into, but that a very small percentage of that R&D ever generates a real improvement in cars, then they are just pouring millions down a hole to no use. Maybe it makes a super duper wall air conditioning unit, but that's no use to GM, and GM should stop funding it unless they can start getting things that make their cars better.

    11. Guys

      CNO you are correct CEOs CAN turn down work. BUT they DON'T. No CEO of a DoD publically held company is going to turn down work. The ONLY reasons they do not chase work is if it is a new customer, if the fee will be less than B&P money, and if there are many companies competing for the same work. Then they will make a No-Bid decision, but it is based on probability of winning.

      This is because they are captive to DoD (they don't have other lines of work anymore). So they take ANY work they can win. However, because the profit is lower than Wall St expects, the incentive is , again, to make it more expensive, complex, and last longer.

      CEOs get judged on BOTH Fee and Revenue. Fee can be lower if Revenue is up, Revenue can stay flat as long as fee goes up. Revenue & Fee cannot go down or else bonuses get cut.

      Take a look at GE selling its appliance Division. It makes money has a storied brand. So why are they selling? To move into more PROFITABLE areas. DoD Companies are NOT structured to do this.

      After 30 years in Defense Acquisition (10 in service, 20 in contractors), and having been a Program Manager, Proposal Manager, System Engineer, etc. I can tell you that the Chicago Freshwater School of Economics free market theories do not apply to Defense anymore.

      If you want to address long development times, overly complex and expensive systems, you have to understand what motivates the folks building this stuff.

    12. "... then the D in the DARPA name is pretty weak"

      You may be misunderstanding what the "D" stands for!

      Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency

      It's all about research and identifying and developing new technologies. By definition, most won't pan out.

    13. "If you want to address long development times, overly complex and expensive systems, you have to understand what motivates the folks building this stuff."

      I completely understand what motivates defense industry companies. Every existing incentive is to maximize the length of time a project lasts, minimize the quality, etc. That's what a company does - it seeks to maximize its profit. That's why it is up to the military to exercise the reason and restraint that is needed. Industry won't do it! My proposal imposes incentives to do that within the military.

      Part of what we need to do is migrate away from mammoth projects with products that attempt to do everything. That's militarily (tactically) unsound and bad for the defense industry. We need to break projects into smaller chunks so that each project is not an all or nothing result for industry. I have only a few paragraphs per post so I can't possibly detail the entire procurement restructuring that is required.

      Before anything else can happen, though, the military needs to cut the cord with the defense industry. It's not the job of DoD to save the defense industry from itself. That's industry's job. If some companies can't adapt then they'll die and someone else will take their place. Promoting and encouraging smaller companies is one of the things the military needs to do so that there is competition ready to step in when one of the big companies can't or won't perform.

    14. I agree completely.

      Only one thing I would tweak. The current procurement system can do everything you want with smaller project snd contracts.

      The issue is two fold.

      One (and I know you agree here) the Government has lost the knowledge to system engineer smaller projects into a larger one. So the cry is that the Contractors have that knowledge and it is the same if not cheaper to let them do the whole thing. Heaven forbid we hire more Government expertise.

      Two - there is no money in it for the existing Flag Officers and CEOs. So how do you change the Culture.

      As I said the current system will work just fine if someone knows what they are doing and uses it correctly.

  10. "Because the business model has changed it is perhaps time to think about going back to the Government Arsenal system for the pure Military Items (Nuclear Carriers, Submarines, Tanks) and then outsource to commercial shipyards for the non military unique items (Surface Ships, Aircraft, vehicles). This would at least save the profit on the pure military items and the Commercial factories may put a brake on change orders."

    You mean like going back to a model like Mare Island shipyard making US ships?

    I like the idea... but the really expensive stuff always seems to be the cutting edge stuff.

    I still think that we kill ourselves with our 'transformational' obsession.

    What would have been better? DDG-1000 at 3 a copy, or a larger, better but still relatively conventional CG follow on to the Tico's?

    1. Now that is actually an interesting debate. Its easy to see the failures.

      But both your suggestions are going to be good ships. Which offers the greatest utility ?

    2. I think alot depends on how much we can keep the costs down.

      If the DDG-1000 is Flight IIA 'Burke priced then no one is (much) of a debate about them.

      Cost is killing us. We are in this weird spiral in which we want to add complexity to contain costs (multi purpose platforms, minimal manning, I think even concurrency) but then just end up with more expensive per unit costs and struggle to do what we need to as we guess wrong about technology or kind of flail about what the units are going to do.

      LCS is a great example. Modularity! Minimal manning! Mission modules! It'll be deployed on site! But it has to be big enough to transit the ocean! Its like an aircraft!! Its a Patrol Craft! Its for littoral swarm fighting! Its for blue water presence missions! Now its a Frigate! It's survivable! It doesn't have to be survivable! Its cheap (ish).

      If LCS civilian based boat with a 57mm cannon and a conventional drive, conventional manning, and it goes 28kts, it can do pretty much all the missions it can do now can we do it for $250 million? I would think so. Is it transformational? No. Is it going to 'reduce manning costs?' only by being smaller than a burke. Can it do all the missions the $600 million one can? Pretty much.

      But we are out of the simple mission oriented business.

  11. Hello Comnavalops et al, I'm a Big time fan and long time reader, i ckeck your blog nearly every day! Just thought I'd pass on this little tidbit that is never ever mentioned in best fighter conversations

    As a die hard navy fan, I learned something recently that put a big smile on my face! f15 fan bois and flyers make a big stink about third 100 air to air victories but the f14s have 160! Air Victories nearly all Iranian air force A models. Also without awacks or advanced flight controllers. Most against Iraqi MIGs and sukhois! Supposedly unrepentantly confirmed or so Wikipedia indicated with volumes of reference materials. But I just feel like shooting that from the rooftops!

    The tomcat has been shot down 3 times by enemy aircraft, and 5 times total! I'd say damn impressive!

    Thanks, Rob!

  12. CNO,

    The other issue is the misuse and overuse of "cost plus" and similar forms of contracting. Every USD emphasizes "fixed price" contracts, but the DOD fall back is cost plus, which leaves the taxpayer 100% exposed to contractor mismanagement.


    1. Cost Plus is the correct contract type for Development. There are ways to incentivize the Fee such as Award fee, Incentive Fee or Fixed Fee.

      Fixed Price is when you know what you want (Production).

      In fact Lehman almost broke Textron and Boeing-Bell on the V-22 by converting the Development Contracts into Fixed price so that he wouldn't have to deal with overruns.

      But better to look good in the press rather than do the right thing.

    2. Cost Plus is not the correct type. That's an open ended, bottomless pit. The correct type is Not To Exceed (if taken to the contract limit, it becomes, in essence, a fixed price) with small increments of work so that both sides are free to walk away at any point for any reason.

      The military's problem is that they issue enormous open ended contracts (cost plus) with no performance requirments or stop points and then are surprised when the costs run away.

      Not To Exceed with small increments of ACHIEVABLE steps.

    3. "Not to Exceed" is not a contract's a method used in contracting when the work (whether it’s a cost or fixed price type of effort) needs to get started and the contract has not been effectively definitized either in work scope (requirements) or performance scope (cost/schedule). It doesn't obligate the contractor to continue working when the funding expended is equal to the not to exceed amount. What you are referring to as "Not to Exceed" if taken to the contract limit is really just a fixed price development contract. The pendulum of contract types has swung in both directions in the last decade...there was a push for more fixed price development contracts a few years ago but that emphasis has seemed to wane in the last couple of years.

      Any cost type contract (fixed fee, award fee, incentive fee, whatever) can be incrementally funded with no obligation by the contractor to continue work once the funding is exhausted.

      Fixed price type contracts typically require the work to be fully funded at contract award, which makes large, long-term (more than two to three year) development projects difficult since those are typically funded over several years and the metrics for RDTE funding is related to expenditures and not obligations.

      I have seen some development efforts be switched from cost to fixed price part way through, but it puts an enormous burden on the government acquisition community to be sure that the requirements are good, and that includes not just design requirements but qualification and testing requirements. It obviously can be done but its unfortunately the exception rather than the rule.


    4. Not to Exceed is most certainly a contract type. We issued them all the time when I worked in industry. I stated in my comment that it becomes a fixed price contract if taken to the limit.

      The key is small increments rather than massive, open ended projects.

    5. This may be semantics, but there isn't a NTE contract type in DoD contracts, at least not as defined in the FAR. NTE is typically used during an Undefinitized Contract Action (UCA) to bound the exposure while the contract requirements and funding levels are negotiated.

      I cannot speak to NTE as a contract type between companies/contractors.

      In DoD contracting, there are two basic contract types - Cost and Fixed Price. Cost is a best effort, with fees adjusted as actuals are recorded against the contracted cost. Under a fixed fee, cost over-runs are covered by the government but no fee would be earned on the cost over-runs. The government could end the effort by stopping the funding of the effort, and the contractor is under no obligation to continue efforts if funding is exhausted. Under Fixed Price, the product must be delivered, regardless of the final cost.


    6. NTE is not a currently used DoD contract. I'm saying it's a needed contract type. What we're doing now isn't working.

    7. CNO

      I love your blog, but you are wrong here.

      As stated by the other Anon, a Cost Plus contract only requires best effort from a contractor. The Government also only has to fund the definitized amount (Cost and whatever fee type was used). Once that money is spent, the contract ends, period.

      Now you can break a large cost plus up development contract into a number of SubClins that would be smaller and with staggered starting dates. So the first CLIN could be figure out what we are going to build, and you don't like the answer, then DON'T excise CLIN 2 which might be; design the thing identified in CLIN 1. This goes on through the development process.

      NOTE AT ANY TIME when the money is spent the Government can walk away. This EXISTING structure does what you want to do with your new type of NTE contract.

      The problem is, as I started commenting on, DO NOT KNOW HOW or DO NOT WANT TO USE the existing system in a more intelligent manner. AND you have the CEOs and DoD Contractors badgering them to NOT use it and instead issue giant winner take all and bundle EVERYTING in it contracts.

      Again the solution to this is - people first, ideas second, technology third. We have idiots running the henhouse, they have no ideas, and technology is not gonna help them save money.

    8. I agree with everything you said. So, what am I wrong about?

    9. That we need an NTE type of contract.

    10. The point of an NTE contract is to break a major program (typically and R&D one) into bite size chunks that are affordable and have cost limits. If we can achieve that with existing DoD contract types then I'm all for it. However, I've seen zero evidence of that, hence, my call for an NTE contract that forces that behavior.

      Honestly, there's not really anything to disagree with.

    11. Also, please note that NTE is not a new type of contract. It's a standard contract used in industry. I've both issued and worked under such contracts many times.

      It may be new to DoD but so is responsible program management!

  13. It would be interesting to compare with other modern programs like the Russian PAK FA and the Chinese J-20, J-31.

    1. Puskal, I don't recognize your name so, welcome!

      I'm missing the thrust of your comment. What are you suggesting would be interesting to compare? the aircraft? the program? the cost? the contract structure? something else?

    2. I would consider the average time to implement comparable projects and not the design of the 60s I'm not defending F35 but can today's projects require more time to implement?

    3. The average time to implement has become massive not because of any inherent quality of "today" but, rather, because we've completely lost sight of how to run a project and because we're attempting to run the R&D concurrent with the production. R&D takes a long time! That's why "today's" projects take so long. Sadly, we've come to believe that this is normal and it's not.

    4. Maybe, maybe not.
      I dont think he's right but Puskal's got an interesting point.
      Russias PAK program has been running for decades with nothing tangible to show for it.
      TAJAS has been running for what is now over a quarter of a century, nothing to show.
      Eurofighter, well, it took a very long time to get off the ground and only recently has integrated the full strike capabilities. No mention of the F-22 but again, as anything other than air superiority, its taken decades to achieve.
      Maybe modern systems are so convoluted it really does take so long to develop.
      Thats the point i think he's trying to make.
      I dont agree with it
      Gripen shows that. Textron's scorpion, took very little time, and despite no sales, appears to be a competent if cheaper craft.
      China doesnt seem to take anywhere near as long to develop craft, but that may not be applicable, they cheat, steal, and use foreign parts all the time.

      But, he does make an interesting point.
      Its not just US defence industry that is screwing up on modern developments when it comes to aircraft.

    5. The Pak FA was started around 2002 after the Mig MFI was cancelled after they run out of money with the end of the cold war, another plane that flew but didnt get into production was the forward swept S-37.
      So they were busy with real airframes.
      Some new technologies were used for the upgraded Su35
      Nothing to show for it?
      The Pak DA is the strategic bomber and like the US has been more of a concept.
      Money is no longer available like the days of the Soviet Union, but that has affected western programs like Rafale and Eurofighter. For the US it meant the F-22 was ended early

  14. Ztev.
    Nothing to show for it.
    New tech being ret-conned into older models, you can't use that as a bench mark for successful development. AESA radars being shoehorned into F-16/18/15's are developments of the F22/35, but you dont count that as a success for those aircrafts developments. If you were going down that path, you'd call IAI's Levi a successful program (3 operational flying craft, 2 more part finished), as it gave Israeli tech firms a huge boost in terms of developed technologies etc that went into their aerospace industries.

    When i say nothing to show for it, i mean, PAK is no where near flight ready. You tell me, form current status how close they are to being production ready. Sure, the ancillary technologies that you devolve into your legacy fleet is nice (examples, off bore sight missiles, helmets with integrated VR to let you shoot at any angle while looking 'through' your feet, etc etc etc) but the developed craft isn't going anywhere fast.

    PAK is now 14 years into its development cycle, with huge Indian cash injections to keep it running.
    TAJAS is close to 40 years in development, and, no where near production ready (doubt that craft will ever be).
    It could just be that these things are very hard to make these days.
    Or, without conflict/existential threat, we're just too complacent and not very good at finishing what we started.


    Turns out the higher ups are coming around to your way of thinking.


  16. Let me ask a question thats been nagging me; what happens when the f35's stealth advantage gets degraded or worse, negated by let say some innovation in radar? What will be its effectiveness then or justification for the price for development and procurement? (The f22 at least had performance as a fail safe.)

    1. Presumably, you're asking what happens to all aircraft, friendly and enemy, if stealth becomes less effective. Stealth never provided invisibility. Stealth just made radar detection harder. If that advantage is negated, then all aircraft become more detectable. When that happens, A2A combat becomes a more long range affair. Aircraft will be detected and engaged at longer ranges.

      The F-35 has electro-optical (EOTS), EW, and IR sensors as well as radar to help it target enemies and detect/avoid incoming missiles.

      Of course, this assumes that the technology works as advertised which, so far, it hasn't. The sensor fusion and helmet display has been problematic, to say the least.

    2. You persumed correctly. Take away the stealth from the f35, then compare it to the f18 or a su33. Dose it still even compete?

    3. None of us have any idea about actual aircraft performance and certainly less so about Russian aircraft. All we can do is look at isolated specs like payload, fuel, g-limits, acceleration, etc. and make guesses. Take a look at the public specs and see how you think they compare. Let me know what you conclude.

      Approach it without bias. The F-35 is not without capabilities despite what some critics would have us believe. It compares badly to its projected enemies and is ill-suited to its role (whatever that is) but in your scenario of negated stealth, it is not without useful characteristics.

    4. Hows this:
      Computing power and radar strength are a generation ahead. The ability to target and queue multiple targets concurrently, gives the F-35 abilities its predecessors simply dont have.
      The helmet with the Augmented reality, superimposing terrain/targets (essentially allowing pilot to see through his craft) and AA and ATG missiles that can shoot in a 180 degree (or greater) ark, again, leap the aircraft a generation forward.

      It may not fly as well, or turn as fast, but, it is a generation ahead of the aircraft you sighted as possible competitors.

      My 2 cents. If stealth works, and, its supposed to fly as part of an air supremacy platform, BVR and target queuing provided by awacs platforms, etc, its not a piece of ####. Its just being made by lock-mart, so, its going to take another decade to make all these goodies work properly.


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