Why the Air Force Needs the F-22

WSJ – By MARK HELPRIN

Cancelling the F-22 Raptor, the most capable fighter plane ever produced, is yet another act in the tragedy of a nation that, bankrupting itself, embracing moral decline, and apologizing to its enemies, is losing the will to prevail. In pursuit of false prosperities that have failed even the economy, America for three presidencies and an entire generation has diminished its arsenals, unbalanced its military, and forgotten its genius for strategy.

The campaigns in the Middle East have been like a knife cutting through water, leaving behind the ineluctable infill of countries as divided, unstable, and hostile to our interests as on the day we decided to remake them in our image. Nonetheless, we have recalibrated the armed forces to deal with perhaps a division’s worth of fluid irregulars worldwide, thus granting China, Russia, and Iran military holidays in which to redirect the balance of power.

Suppressing terrorism should not come at the expense of conventional forces but rather as a necessary and additional obligation to be accomplished with the left hand as the right is made stronger. The penalty for avoiding this will be Chinese military parity, Russia again a threat to Europe, a nuclear-armed Iran, and one country after another free to invade its neighbors, massacre its peoples, or launch pirates upon the sea…

The average age of Air Force fighter planes has more than doubled from 1960-1990 and is fast increasing. As the number of combat wings was nearly halved, and the U-2 and F-117 were eliminated in its anticipation, the F-22 became the keystone of American air power. With no new fighter on the horizon other than the F-35, it was as well a guarantee against placing every egg in one basket.

The original F-22 requirement for 750 aircraft has fared poorly over various administrations: G.H.W. Bush, 680; Clinton I, 442; Clinton II, 339; G.W. Bush I, 381; G.W. Bush II, 183. President Obama has inherited 186 as a result of congressional insistence, and the production lines are to be dismantled. The death of the Raptor is encompassed in the 2009 Posture Statement of the Air Force, with what irony one can imagine, that “The Department of Defense provided guidance . . . to eliminate excessive overmatch in our tactical fighter force.” In a triumph of international cooperation, China, which will field its own fifth-generation fighter in 2018 or 2020, is eager to help us eliminate excessive overmatch, as are Russia and even India.

We scrapped the F-22 in favor of a single strike fighter, the F-35, for all the services. Despite major technical problems it is scandalously slated to go into production before it is fully tested. A lesser airplane, it has neither the speed, range, nor electronic capabilities of the F-22. Who needs speed? With munitions spent amidst a swarm of enemy fighters, speed allows the survival of aircraft and pilot. And the F-22’s other characteristics superior to the F-35’s mean that when its munitions are spent there may not even be a swarm of enemy fighters.

We have thrown away our best aircraft, as we have—directly or by attrition—discarded good ships, armor, and fighting echelons. We have closed production lines, dispersed the skilled people who run them, and weakened the defense industrial base to the point that in a national emergency it cannot revive. Even the late Sen. Edward Kennedy, hardly a hawk, called the death of the F-22 “ill-advised and premature.”…]



Pentagon Reports Document Continuing Lockheed-Martin Failures

Center for Defense Information – Winslow Wheeler

Under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA), the CDI Straus Military Reform Project has obtained almost two years of monthly reports from the Defense Contract Management Agency (DCMA) on Lockheed Martin’s production of the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter. The documents do not paint a pretty picture, explains Straus Military Reform Project Director Winslow Wheeler.

The Defense Contract Management Agency’s (DCMA) most recent reports cover the months July through November 2009. The full reports are available below. Their major points, as summarized by Winslow Wheeler, are as follows:

  • The F-35 assembly line at Forth Worth, Texas is being cannibalized for parts to support flight testing. This may be the first time an assembly line has been cannibalized for parts. See the summary of the August report below.
  • The continuing and sometimes deteriorating nature of the delays at Lockheed-Martin’s (L-M) Fort Worth plant refutes the L-M contention that things are getting better, and that the F-35 program learned from the past and with new design techniques is avoiding the kinds of problems experienced by “legacy” aircraft programs.

The cause, nature and implications of the “stand-down” mentioned in the November report could well be important, but are unreported by the press and are a matter looking for explanation…

2009 DCMA Joint Strike Fighter (JSF) Reports:

July

August

October

November

Related Link:

Star-Telegram: Documents detail serious problems with F-35 program



F-22 Assertions and Facts

July 2009

Assertion: F-22 maintenance man-hours per flying hour have increased, recently requiring more than 30 hours of maintenance for every hour airborne.

Facts: The F-22 is required to achieve 12.0 direct maintenance man-hours per flight hour (DMMH/FH) at system maturity, which is defined to be when the F-22 fleet has accumulated 100,000 flight hours. In 2008 the F-22 achieved 18.1 DMMH/FH which then improved to 10.5 DMMH/FH in 2009. It’s important to recognize this metric is to be met at system maturity, which is projected to occur in late 2010. So the F-22 is better than the requirement well before maturity.

Assertion: The airplane is proving very expensive to operate with a cost per flying hour far higher than for the warplane it replaces, the F-15.

Facts: USAF data shows that in 2008 the F-22 costs $44K per flying hour and the F-15 costs $30K per flying hour. But it is important to recognize the F-22 flight hour costs include base standup and other one-time costs associated with deploying a new weapon system. The F-15 is mature and does not have these same non-recurring costs. A more valid comparison is variable cost per flying hour, which for the F-22 in 2008 was $19K while for the F-15 was $17K.

Assertion: The aircraft’s radar-absorbing metallic skin is the principal cause of its maintenance troubles, with unexpected shortcomings.

Fact: Stealth is a breakthrough system capability and it requires regular maintenance, just like electronics or hydraulics. The skin of the F-22 is a part of the stealth capability and it requires routine maintenance. About one-third of the F-22’s current maintenance activity is associated with the stealth system, including the skin. It is important to recognize the F-22 currently meets or exceeds its maintenance requirements, and the operational capability of the F-22 is outstanding, in part due to its stealth system.

Assertion: The F-22 is vulnerable to rain and other elements due to its stealthy skin.

Facts: The F-22 is an all-weather fighter and rain is not an issue. The F-22 is currently based and operating in the harshest climates in the world ranging from the desert in Nevada and California, to extreme cold in Alaska, and rain/humidity in Florida, Okinawa and Guam. In all of these environments the F-22 has performed extremely well.

Assertion: We’re not seeing the mission capable rates expected and key maintenance trends for the F-22 have been negative in recent years.

Facts: The mission capable (MC) rate has improved from 62% in 2004 to 68% percent in 2009. And it continues to improve, the current MC Rate in the F-22 fleet is 70% fleet wide.

Assertion: The F-22 can only fly an average of 1.7 hours before it gets a critical failure that jeopardizes success of the aircraft’s mission.

Facts: Reliability is measured by Mean Time Between Maintenance (MTBM). One of the F-22 Key Performance Parameters (KPPs) is to have an MTBM of 3.0 hours at system maturity, which is defined to be when the F-22 fleet has accumulated 100,000 flight hours. Through 2008, F-22s averaged 2.0 hours MTBM while the fleet has accumulated 50,000 flight hours. The F-22 is on-track to meet or exceed 3.0 hours of MTBM at system maturity, projected to occur in late 2010, and the latest delivered F-22s, known as Lot 6 jets, are exhibiting an MTBM of 3.2 hours.

Assertion: The plane’s million-dollar radar-absorbing canopy delaminates and loses its strength and finish.

Facts: The F-22 canopy balances multiple requirements: mechanical strength, environmental resistance, optical clarity and other requirements. Initial designs for the canopy did not achieve the full life expectancy of 800 hours. The canopy has been redesigned and currently two companies are producing qualified canopy transparencies that meet full service life durability of 800 hours.

Assertion: The F-22 has significant structural design problems that forced expensive retrofits to the airframe.

Facts: The F-22 had a series of structural models that were tested throughout its development in a building block manner. Lockheed Martin completed static and fatigue testing in 2005 on two early production representative airframes. The results of those tests required upgrades to the airframe in a few highly stressed locations. Follow up component level testing was completed and structural redesigns were verified and implemented into the production line. For aircraft that were delivered prior to design change implementation, structural retrofit repairs are being implemented by a funded program called the F-22 Structural Retrofit Program. Structural reinforcements are common during the life of all fighters and have occurred, or are occurring, on the F-15, F-16 and F/A-18.

Assertion: The F-22 has a significant design flaw in the fuel flow system that forced expensive retrofits to the airframe.

Facts: The F-22 fuel system has not required redesign. Similar to other aircraft, the systems on the F-22 are continually being enhanced by a reliability and maintainability improvement program. For example, early fuel pumps turned out to not be as reliable as desired and have subsequently been replaced by more reliable pumps.

Assertion: Follow-on operational tests in 2007 raised operational suitability issues and noted that the airplane still does not meet most of its KPPs.

Facts: The F-22 has 11 Key Performance Parameters (KPPs). The F-22 exceeds 5 KPPs (Radar Cross Section, Supercruise, Acceleration, Flight Radius, and Radar Detection Range). The F-22 meets 4 KPPs (Maneuverability, Payload, Sortie Generation and Interoperability). The remaining 2 KPPs are sustainment metrics (MTBM and C-17 Loads) that are to be evaluated at weapon system maturity — which is defined as 100,000 total flight hours and is projected to occur in late 2010. These two sustainment metrics are on-track to be met at 100,000 flight hours.

Assertion: The F-22 costs $350M per aircraft.

Facts: The F-22s currently being delivered have a flyaway cost of $142.6M each, which is the cost to build and deliver each aircraft. This number does not include the costs for research and development (that were incurred since 1991), military construction to house the aircraft, or operations and maintenance costs.

Assertion: The F-22 needs $8 billion of improvements in order to operate properly.

Facts: Similar to every other fighter in the U.S. inventory, there is a plan to regularly incorporate upgrades into the F-22. F-22s in their current configuration are able to dominate today’s battlefield and future upgrades are planned to ensure the F-22 remains the world’s most dominant fighter. F-22 Increment 3.1, which will begin entering the field in late 2010, adds synthetic aperture radar (SAR) mode in the APG-77 radar, and a capability to employ small diameter bomb (SDB). Increment 3.1 is in flight test today at Edwards AFB, CA. Increment 3.2 is being planned and will add AIM-120D and AIM-9X weapons along with additional capabilities.

Assertion: F-22 production uses a shim line and national spreading of suppliers has cut quality, thus the F-22 lacks interchangeable parts.

Fact: The F-22 does not have a shim line. During the earliest stages of production while tooling was undergoing development, there were a few aircraft with slight differences which were subsequently modified. The F-22 supplier base is the best in the industry, as demonstrated by the aircraft’s high quality and operational performance. All operational F-22s today have interchangeable parts.

Assertion: Are these accusations in the recent lawsuit valid?

Facts: We believe the allegations are without merit. While we are aware of the Olsen lawsuit, the Corporation has not yet been served in this matter. We deny Mr. Olsen’s allegations and will vigorously defend this matter if and when it is served.

Assertion: The F-22 has never been flown over Iraq or Afghanistan.

Facts: The F-22 was declared operational in 2005, after air dominance was achieved in South West Asian Theater of conflict. Due to the absence of air-to-air or surface-to-air threats in these two theaters, stealthy air dominance assets were not an imperative. 4th generation fighters operate safely and effectively supporting the ground war in Iraq and Afghanistan. The best weapon may be the one that isn’t used but instead deters a conflict before it begins. Just as we have Trident submarines with nuclear weapons, and intercontinental ballistic missiles that were not used in the current conflicts, we need air superiority capabilities that provide deterrence. The F-22 provides those capabilities for today’s contingencies as well as for future conflict. It is important to remember that the F-15 was operational for 15 years before it was first used in combat by the USAF.

Source: http://hatch.senate.gov/public/_files/F22AssertionsAndFacts.pdf



JSF – Mid Year Check

Aviation Week – Posted by Bill Sweetman

If February was a bad news month for the Joint Strike Fighter, with the program boss fired, a 13-month delay in test and a two-year slip in Air Force initial operational capability, look out for March. A Government Accountability Office report is rolling down the tracks, along with a Selected Acquisition Report (SAR) which, as we told you in Defense Technology International a month ago, is almost certainly going to record a critical Nunn-McCurdy breach.

Meanwhile, the flight test program continues to log an all-time slow record. In the first half of FY2010, as of Friday, the JSF program logged 35 sorties, and progress to date looks like this. (Thanks, JoBo.)

blog post photo

That’s a small improvement over the 51 flights in the whole of FY2009, but hardly encouraging in view of the 5,000-plus test missions yet to be flown. In its March 2009 report – based on data that’s now a year old – the GAO noted that 1,243 test flights were planned for FY2010. (At that time, we accurately predicted that the program was not going to hit its FY2009 goal.)

The total sorties flown now stand at 155 – and almost two-thirds of those were performed by AA-1, the non-representative and now retired first prototype.

The core of the problem could be what Lockheed Martin says it is:  simply delays in building aircraft. Bob Cox of the Fort Worth Star Telegram has a detailed story based on Defense Contract Management Agency (DCMA) reports.

They portray a manufacturing disaster, with tasks running months behind schedule and suppliers unable to meet deadlines because they were not given final designs in time. To get airplanes in the air, parts were removed from airframes further back on the production line – which in turn have to be repaired in the same time-consuming out-of-sequence manner. And the delays are already rippling into low rate initial production, with the first two deliveries slipped into the last quarter…

…Remember this distinction:  The Donner Party was on track. They were not on schedule.

But the trouble with the “it’s all late deliveries” argument is that the program has accomplished so little with the aircraft that it has managed to complete.

Comparison 1:  Three years after starting flight tests, the F-22 – in most ways a more challenging design than the F-35, had supercruised and flown to high angles of attack and zero airspeed, performing throttle snaps throughout the envelope. It had logged 830 hours. (High-alpha testing on the F-35 won’t happen until late 2011.)

Comparison 2: A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away – towards the end of 1995 – the Eurofighter EF2000, as some Pollyanna had named it, had notched up 81 flights in 18 months of testing, about the same rate as JSF today.

That was when I started hearing reports about show-stopper problems with the so-called “carefree-handling” jet:  it could get itself into flight conditions that took a lot of time and altitude to get out of. I was talking to people who knew that the in-service date was going to be 2005 at the earliest.

I was working with the BBC’s Panorama news show on the story. BAE Systems was very far from gruntled, and sicced one of London’s top libel lawyers on us. Our sources went to ground and the story that emerged was milder than what we knew to be happening.

The Typhoon did enter service in 2005, after the very difficult qualification of the automatic low speed recovery system.

So, the last time that a major program moved as slowly as this, there was at least one show-stopper problem that nobody knew how to solve, and that had been swept under the rug successfully and at great expense. And it involved more than forgings and bolts.



FY2011 Pentagon Budget Will Ask For $10.7 Billion For JSF

Aero-News – $4 Billion Requested For New Strategic Bombers

With the dust hardly settled on the federal government’s FY2010 budget, a draft of the Obama administration’s spending request for next year shows a request nearly for $11 billion in the next budget round for the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter. It also seeks $4 billion over 4 years for development of a new long-range strategic bomber.

Defense News reports that the budget, due to be sent to Congress by February 1st, will cut several programs as well, such as the C-17 and the F-136 alternate engine for the F-35. But the budget nearly doubles the purchase of the MQ-9 Reaper UAS.

The draft calls the F-35 program “most important”, and asks for $10.7 billion for continued development and the purchase of 42 of the Joint Strike Fighters. The summary of the draft document also says that $4 billion will be requested for “a portfolio of initiatives to improve long-range strike capabilities.” Those include both efforts to upgrade both the B-2 and B-52 fleets and “Later in this [2011-2015] time frame, funds are available to begin developing a new bomber and cruise missile.”

In addition, the summary says the budget will ask Congress for $9.6 billion “for the acquisition of a variety of modern rotary wing aircraft.” The list includes:

  • $1.4 billion for Army UH-60 Black Hawks.
  • $1.2 billion for Army CH-47 Chinooks.
  • $2.7 billion for V-22 Osprey tiltrotor aircraft.
  • $1.7 billion MH-60R/S Seahawks for the Navy.

There will also be a request for funds to stand up two “combat aviation brigades” creating a 12th active duty brigade next fiscal year, and put the initial funding in place for a 13th brigade in 2015.



A Timely Jolt for the F-35

New York Times – Editorial – Published: February 15, 2010

Fixing the Pentagon’s dysfunctional procurement system takes more than just killing off anachronistic projects like the now-terminated F-22 jet fighter. It also requires rescuing vitally needed programs from poor military management and private sector cost overruns.

That is why we are pleased to see Defense Secretary Robert Gates taking strong steps to revitalize the struggling F-35 Joint Strike Fighter program.

A cost-effective F-35 is critical to the future combat needs of the Air Force, Navy and Marines. The project already is years behind schedule and nearly 50 percent above its originally estimated cost. That is clearly too much, especially with the Pentagon planning to buy almost 2,500 of the planes over the next 25 years. That comes to a total cost of $300 billion — provided nothing else goes wrong.

Mr. Gates means to see that it does not.

This month, he removed the Marine in charge of the program, Maj. Gen. David Heinz, and said his replacement would be a higher-ranking officer with more authority to keep a tighter rein on private contractors’ performance. Reinforcing that message, Mr. Gates also announced that he would withhold, at least for now, $614 million in progress payments from the prime contractor, Lockheed Martin.

The money should not be released until Lockheed has significantly improved its performance.

This insistence on accountability would be considered normal in most private businesses. But it is virtually unheard of in the cozy world of military procurement. Mr. Gates clearly wants to get the attention of other Pentagon managers and contractors. We hope he has.

The F-35 program was supposed to be the prototype for more effective defense procurement. Like the far more expensive F-22, the plane incorporates stealth technology and can successfully engage enemy fighters in air-to-air combat. But it also is built to support ground combat units in today’s wars, like the Air Force F-16 and A-10 and the Navy F-18 it is intended to replace.

And because one basic design underlies the Air Force, Navy and Marine versions, it can be produced far more cheaply. That lower price tag will let the services buy more new planes each year, a military gain as well as a budgetary one.

Besides removing General Heinz and penalizing Lockheed, Mr. Gates has wisely added a year to the development phase of the F-35 contract, giving Lockheed time to straighten out as many problems as possible. But as he correctly recognizes, some production — next year’s budget calls for 42 of the planes, 10 less than planned — must go ahead now so the services can begin incorporating F-35s into their fleets. The Air Force, in particular, will need F-35s to replace the canceled F-22.

Mr. Gates will have to keep monitoring the performance of Lockheed Martin and General Heinz’s successor and personally intervene again if needed. The F-35 program is too necessary and budget dollars too scarce to permit further waste or delay.



Tanker request has more than 230 changes, keeps basic form

Seattle PI Blog

Air Force and Pentagon officials made more than 230 changes from the draft to final request for proposals for new aerial refueling tankers but kept the approach that may make Boeing the only bidder.

“Where we haven’t changed things is in the basic requirements for the airplane,” Deputy Defense Secretary William Lynn said in a Webcast news conference Wednesday afternoon. “In the end this is about what the Air Mobility Command needs to meet the warfighting needs of the nation.”

The 179-plane airborne gas station contract is estimated to be worth $35 billion. The stakes in the competition are huge because of the money and jobs involved, the fact that the new planes would replace ones that are an average 49 years of age, the fact that this is the Pentagon’s third try to award a contract for new tankers and because Pentagon officials are using the competition, in Lynn’s words: “as a flagship for acquisition reform.”

Proposals will be due within 75 days of the request, with 120 days after that for government evaluation.

Officials from Northrop and partner EADS have said they won’t bid without changes to criteria they see as favoring Boeing’s smaller 767-based tanker over their Airbus A330-based plane.

On Wednesday, Air Force Secretary Michael Donley rejected the contention that the criteria favor Boeing.

“We believe both offerers are in a position to win this competition,” he said. “We hope and expect to have a good competition.”

But Donley also acknowledged that it was difficult to write criteria that did not appear slanted, saying: “After all, the airplanes are different. We can’t help that.”

Officials said they have a plan to ensure a good price from Boeing should Northrop not bid, but declined to give details Wednesday.

“We have options,” Donley said. “We’re just not in a position to say how we would proceed at this point.”

Asked about influence from the White House, whose current occupant is from Boeing’s headquarters city of Chicago, Lynn said: “The White House had absolutely no involvement” in drafting the request.

“All of the requirements were done to meet the needs of the Air Force and to get the best possible deal for the taxpayer,” he said.

Supporters of the Northrop-EADS bid have recently intensified a push to get the Air Force to split the buy between both tankers.

“We’ve evaluated it,” Lynn said. “We think it will cost the taxpayers more, and we oppose it.”

Northrop spokesman Randy Belote didn’t react much Wednesday, issuing a statement saying: “Northrop Grumman will analyze the RFP and defer further public comments until its review of the document has been completed.”

Jean Chamberlin, vice president and general manager of Boeing’s Air Force Tanker Program, issued a statement saying: “We’ve said consistently that it is up to the Air Force to determine the KC-X requirements for a new generation of tankers. It’s our responsibility to respond to those requirements.”

Chamberlin went on to say Boeing officials “are disappointed that the RFP does not address some of our key concerns,” including that it does not account for last year’s World Trade Organization interim ruling that European governments provided improper subsidies to Airbus Aircraft, including the one that is the basis for the Northrop-EADS plane.

Addressing that in a written version of remarks to lawmakers Wednesday, Carter said final resolution of this case and a European counterclaim about U.S. aid to Boeing could take years, the 2009 Defense Authorization Act requires finalization of both before assessing impact on defense contracts and applying sanctions based on a ruling must happen within WTO processes.

Carter also addressed Northrop complaints that data the government gave Boeing about Northrop’s previous bid could skew the new competition, saying: “The release was authorized and appropriate and does not in fact create an uneven playing field.”

See reaction from politicians here.

The request would award the contract to the lowest-priced tanker that meets 372 mandatory requirements, after adjustments for warfighting factors and costs of fuel and needed adjustments to facilities such as runways, ramps and hangars. But, if the costs are within 1 percent, the Air Force would consider 93 nonmandatory factors.

The non-price factors and adjustments mean the competition is not a simple price shootout, as some critics have alleged, Lynn said. “The reason you can be sure this isn’t a price shootout is it is actually possible to have a higher price and to win this competition.”

Ashton Carter, the Pentagon’s acquisitions chief, said the 1-percent trigger for the nonmandatory requirements reflected the amount the Air Force Mobility Command felt the nonmandatory features were worth…

UPDATE (Flight Global): USAF receives three proposals for KC-X, but Antonov team admits concerns


Related Previous Posts:

FY2010 Defense Appropriations: Drawing The Line On Defense Business As Usual?

X-47B Integration Testing, A New Bomb Truck, And A F-35 “In The Bush” Rather Than The F-22 “In The Hand”

Operation Petticoat, UAV Airmen Pilots, And Morphing Wings

America’s Two Air Forces

GAO Report: Actions By DoD Mgt Needed to Overcome Long-standing Challenges with Service Contracts and Weapon System Acquisition

Related Links:

Aviation Today: Wyle Aircrew Performs First In-flight Refueling of Joint Strike Fighter Short Takeoff/Vertical Landing Variant – F-35B

Keep Our Tanker: Senator Jeff Sessions Floor Speech on Tanker

Mitchell Institute: The Tanker Imperative (PDF)(36 Pages)


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