F-35 Lightning II

Can something that purports to do everything really excel at everything? Or to put it another way, will the F-35 Lightening II defy the Phillips Brooks adage “To be good for everything is to be good for nothing”? And at what eventual price? And how many will actually be made and for whom?


Lockheed Martin F-35 Lightning II

No fighter in the history of military aviation comes close to the Lockheed Martin F-35 Lightning II joint strike fighter – a truly transformational weapon system that provides quantum leaps in survivability and lethality.

• Provides the United States and allied governments with an affordable, stealthy 5TH generation fighter for the 21st century
• Brings stealth capability that is integrated throughout the aircraft with embedded antennas, aligned edges and special coatings and materials
• Meets multiple service requirements with a single-engine supersonic multirole fighter
• Conducts air-to-air and air-to-ground combat missions simultaneously with near impunity
• Carries a comprehensive sensor package that integrates vast amounts of battlespace information with allied forces in the air, on the ground, at sea or in space

The single-engine F-35 Lightning II will be manufactured in three variants:

• Conventional takeoff and landing (CTOL) for the U.S. Air Force
• Carrier variant (CV) for the U.S. Navy
• Short takeoff/vertical landing (STOVL) for the U.S. Marine Corps and the U.K. Royal Air Force and Royal Navy

With greatly increased reliability and ease of maintenance, the F-35 joins the world’s only other 5TH generation fighter, the F-22 Raptor, in defining the ultimate in fighter performance.

September 8, 2008: A would-be watchdog growls at Lockheed Martin

The DoD currently plans to spend more than USD 10 billion to produce fewer than 100 F-35s per year at peak production. USAF leaders would like to increase the production rate and add in a few more F-22s. That plan is irresponsibly unaffordable (which contributed to the recent departure of the Secretary of the Air Force and the Air Force Chief of Staff). The unaffordability will become even more obvious when the unavoidable F-35 cost increases emerge. The inevitable reaction, just as in past programmes, will be a slashing of annual production, the opposite of the increase the air force needs to address its inventory problems. The DoD fix is simple: test the F-35 less and buy more copies before the testing is completed. Two test aircraft and hundreds of flight-test hours have been eliminated from the programme, and there is now a plan to produce more than 500 copies before the emasculated testing is finished. This approach will not fix the programme but it will help paper over the problems and make the F-35 more cancellation proof in the Pentagon and on Capitol Hill.

It gets even worse. Even without new problems, the F-35 is a ‘dog.’ If one accepts every performance promise the DoD currently makes for the aircraft, the F-35 will be: “Overweight and underpowered: at 49,500 lb (22,450kg) air-to-air take-off weight with an engine rated at 42,000 lb of thrust, it will be a significant step backward in thrust-to-weight ratio for a new fighter. ” At that weight and with just 460 sq ft (43 m2) of wing area for the air force and Marine Corps variants, it will have a ‘wing-loading’ of 108 lb per square foot. Fighters need large wings relative to their weight to enable them to manoeuvre and survive. The F-35 is actually less manoeuvrable than the appallingly vulnerable F-105 ‘Lead Sled’ that got wiped out over North Vietnam in the Indochina War.

With a payload of only two 2,000 lb bombs in its bomb bay – far less than US Vietnam-era fighters – the F-35 is hardly a first-class bomber either. With more bombs carried under its wings, the F-35 instantly becomes ‘non-stealthy’ and the DoD does not plan to seriously test it in this configuration for years. As a ‘close air support’ attack aircraft to help US troops engaged in combat, the F-35 is a nonstarter. It is too fast to see the tactical targets it is shooting at; too delicate and flammable to withstand ground fire; and it lacks the payload and especially the endurance to loiter usefully over US forces for sustained periods as they manoeuvre on the ground. Specialised for this role, the air force’s existing A-10s are far superior.

September 19, 2008: A promptly issued rebuttal

Other erroneous allegations about the program were recently made in a letter distributed and written by industry-watchers Winston Wheeler and Pierre Sprey.

“It’s not clear why they attacked the Joint Strike Fighter (JSF) program,” said Tom Burbage, Lockheed Martin executive vice president of F-35 program integration. “It is clear they don’t understand the underlying requirements of the F-35 program, the capabilities needed to meet those requirements or the real programmatic performance of the JSF team.”

Here are the facts:

• The F-35 is a racehorse, not a “dog,” as Wheeler/Sprey suggest. In stealth combat configuration, the F-35 aerodynamically outperforms all other combat-configured 4th generation aircraft in top-end speed, loiter, subsonic acceleration and combat radius. This allows unprecedented “see/shoot first” and combat radius advantages.
• The high thrust-to-weight ratios of the lightweight fighter program Wheeler/Sprey recall from 30 years ago did not take into consideration combat-range fuel, sensors or armament, which dramatically alter wing loading, thrust-to-weight ratios and maneuverability. We do consider all of this in today’s fighters.
• The F-35 has the most powerful engine ever installed in a fighter, with thrust equivalent to both engines today in Eurofighter or F/A-18 aircraft. The conventional version of the F-35 has 9g capability and matches the turn rates of the F-16 and F/A-18. More importantly, in a combat load, with all fuel, targeting sensor pods and weapons carried internally, the F-35’s aerodynamic performance far exceeds all legacy aircraft equipped with a similar capability.
• When the threat situation diminishes so that it is safe for legacy aircraft to participate in the fight, the F-35 can also carry ordnance on six external wing stations in addition to its four internal stations.

Other important facts:

• External weapon clearance is part of the current F-35 test program.
• The government has already proven that no other aircraft can survive against the 5th generation stealth that only the F-22 and the F-35 possess; it is impossible to add this stealth to fourth-generation fighters.
• The F-35’s data collection, integration and information sharing capabilities will transform the battlespace of the future and will redefine the close air support mission. The F-35 is specifically designed to take advantage of lessons learned from the F-117 stealth aircraft. Unlike the F-117, the ability to share tactically important information is built into the F-35, along with stealth.
• F-35 is developing, testing, and fielding mature software years ahead of legacy programs, further reducing development risk. The F-35’s advanced software, already flying on two test aircraft with remarkable stability, is demonstrating the advantages of developing highly-common, tri-variant aircraft. The software developed span the entire aircraft and support systems including the aircraft itself, logistics systems, flight and maintenance trainers, maintenance information system and flight-test instrumentation.
• Rather than relying exclusively on flight testing, the F-35 is retiring development risk through the most comprehensive laboratories, sensor test beds, and integrated full-fusion flying test bed ever created for an aircraft program. Representing only 25% of our verification plans, still the F-35’s flight test program is comparable in hours to the combined flight test programs of the three primary U.S. aircraft it will replace.
• The F-35 is one aircraft program designed to replace many different types of aircraft around the world – F-16, F/A-18, F-117, A-10, AV-8B, Sea Harrier, GR.7, F-111 and Tornado – flown by 14 air forces.
• In addition to 19 developmental test aircraft, the F-35 is producing 20 fully instrumented, production-configured operational test aircraft. No program in history has employed this many test vehicles.

“Simply put, advanced stealth and sensor fusion allow the F-35 pilot to see, target and destroy the adversary and strategic targets in a very high surface-to-air threat scenario, and deal with air threats intent on denying access — all before the F-35 is ever detected, then return safely to do it again,” said Burbage.

October 11, 2008: Italy opts against F-35 fighter early phase role

Italy’s decision to steer clear for now would not affect planned yearly increases in F-35 production quantities, said Cheryl Amerine, a Lockheed Martin spokeswoman.

Officials at the Italian embassy in Washington had no immediate comment. Amerine said she did not know the reason Italy had opted against taking part in the operational test and evaluation phase.

November 13, 2008: F-22’s Fate Left to Obama Administration

The Pentagon tossed Lockheed Martin a $50 million lifeline for the F-22 Raptor fighter jet Wednesday but left the next administration a plan that calls for ending F-22 purchases to speed production of the F-35 joint strike fighter.

originally posted December 2008

43 Replies to “F-35 Lightning II”

  1. Hey… you’re the one who gave me the key to the executive washroom and made me think about airplanes. BTW, I always knew (from before the beginning of time) how to insert my own hyperlinks and use block quotes.

  2. I did a post on UR about the KY thing. Crazy, but KY IS the home of the Creation Museum or some such.

  3. You mentioned the “state anti-terrorism law that requires Kentucky’s Office of Homeland Security to acknowledge it can’t keep the state safe without God’s help””

    Full Metal Bible

  4. “The city [Frankfurt, KY] is ringed with Praymores and the armories full of assault prayers?”

  5. When does the ZK clean up crew come in? Around 4:30am, you say? Just like the way the street sweepers used to scour Freemont Street each night… that is, before the place was transformed into The Freemont Street Experience or whatever it’s called these days. I hate Las Vegas, but not for the reasons that you all probably think. My hatred (maybe that’s too strong a word) is mostly directed toward the crystalline pattern of endlessly repeating drone habitats eminating in every direction across the surface of the earth outward from Downtown and The Strip… each block including the exact same pattern of several gas stations, a sprinkling of franchised restaurants (such as Olive Garden, Chuck E Cheeze, Carls Jr., MacDonalds, Subway), a fire station, a mobile home park, a grocery store, a dry cleaner, several cheap Chinese restaurants, a day care center,a tattoo parlor, a few hair and nails joints, the usual dispersion of Starbucks, Coffee Beans and similar caffeine emporiums, ye olde pawne shoppe, and check cashing establishments. After driving through about a dozen of these, one after the other, you really start thinking “was this matrix of garbage all necessitated by the layout of the neighborhoods? Could it not have been done differently, with some greater amount of creativity and aesthetics employed? But that would probably interfere with optimizing the efficiency of getting drones in and out of their tile roofed 3 br, 2 ba anvils hung about their necks, slow down the trash trucks, and in other ways interfere with masterplan thinking, and the more convenient layout of utilities and such. So anyway, if I never have to go back to Las Vegas it would be perfectly okay. But if I did have to return, I recommend the Revolution Lounge at Mirage.. and there used to be a cool club called Tabboo, but you need a Fitzgeraldian hottie so the goons tending the velvet rope get all slack jawed and forget to collect the $20 cover from you and you laugh your way into the place thinking “at last I’ve found a slightly less artificial environment inside a profoundly artificial environment — we’ll park our camels here and call it an oasis.”

  6. BTW, did you know that a flying saucer is one of the most maneuverable and stelthy shapes known? Nano nano.

  7. i don’t know. but back in the day, the aviators would be all happy and jerking off and stuff about flying around in thier fucking tin cans and shit. all i ever wanted was like a jeep and a platoon of crazy 19 yo kids supplied with various light weapons, and somplace to use them. pizzaro was absolutely the fucking shitz.

  8. And speaking of Las Vegas, there is an interesting article featuring the city in the recent Time magazine (Dec. 15 issue) entitled “Dying for a Drink”.

    Here are some interesting factoids from it:

    Las Vegas gets 90% of its water from Lake Mead.

    The average Las Vegasean uses 165 gallons of water a day.

    There is a 50% chance that climate change (drought) and increased demand could cause Lake Mead to dry up by 2021, or in about 12 years.

    The city’s water czar says “Failure is not an option”.

    Wanna bet?

  9. I hope they’re getting better at software, ‘coz last time even us dumb aussies cracked the codes for the F-18.
    Buy one, crash ten free…


    Die mother fucker in my assymetrical game of death.

  10. Oh yeah,
    “Overweight and underpowered: at 49,500 lb (22,450kg) air-to-air take-off weight with an engine rated at 42,000 lb of thrust, ”

    So how the fuck does it take off vertically then?
    1lb of weight needs >1lb of thrust to take off.

    Or can it only do this with 1/2 tank of fuel?

  11. I have not had the time to read through the articles related to this post so forgive me if this was covered-

    This is an article written by Gates outlining what should be the priorities in the Pentagon. I believe this was actually written prior to Obama selecting him as SecDef, though the article is Dec/Jan issue. The gist of the article that the Pentagon needs to be more forward thinking- what is the saying about the military always preparing to fight the last war?


    It would appear that stealth aircraft, F22/F35, may not be a priority in Gates’ operation. Very interesting article overall, but if you’re short for time, here is a synopsis on Slate


  12. If my comments have to await moderation I’d like to be able to delete it myself. Is that doable?

  13. “Holmes, is it true that they have chrome fire hydrants in Las Vegas?”

    While we await his reply, let me just say that they’ll be gold plated before they turn out the lights there, with flow meters on them.

  14. And, the Mirage will have to resort to using real lava for their outdoor volcano show, to conserve on precious water. The PR department will tout the upgrade.

  15. Hello? Yeah? Hey its me. Yeah, I’m down here at Taboo. It worked. Yeah I got in. Now what the hell am I supposed to do with all these Fitzgeraldian hotties? And guess what bro, they stole the goddam velvet rope, and I’m worried. Then they… What? Bullshit. Get down here right now genius. You and your bright ideas. We got trouble. Huh? Yes, “we”, smart guy. Bring lots of money and some cigarettes. OK. Hurry up. Yeah thanks. Bye. OK. Yeah bring that too. OK OK. Thanks. Just get your ass down here. Bye.

  16. Ooops. Sorry bout that. He’s always going off. He’s got this thing about Louise Bryant, Jordan Baker and Marlene Deitrich. And he goes over the edge when anything… anything!… reminds him of Zelda Fitzgerald, water color sky flashbacks through martini glasses at dawn, or breakfast at Denny’s in a tuxedo, alone or in combination.

  17. Compliments of the house, we just sent a vicodin flight and a box of robustos over to ComradeZK’s table. The scotch will pour, the girls will head to the dance floor… and ComradeZK will dance with them all (as is his custom).

  18. dave, i wonder if they have a high-res version of that poster for print outs? I’d love to post it in the hallway at work.

  19. Hey, didn’t The Grande Army have a few victories? I recall some scenes within the Arc de Triumph in Paris.

    I guess losing the last one is the most critical. Waterloo.

  20. http://www.atimes.com/atimes/Middle_East/KJ20Ak03.html

    Our friend Spengler writes (in part):

    The question is: what does Russia want from Israel in return for refraining from arming Iran?

    The answer may lie in the world’s response to the virtual cancelation of the American F-22 program. Fewer than two hundred of the fifth-generation American stealth fighter are likely to be built, and the US will export none of them. America’s efforts are concentrated rather on the F-35, a cheaper, more versatile and less advanced aircraft. For the first time since World War II, America’s rule of the skies may be challenged by its failure to invest adequately in the next generation of American aircraft. Russia and India already have agreed on joint development of a fifth generation fighter aircraft based on existing Russian airframes. Russian quality control is notoriously poor and Russian avionics are backward. If Israel joined the consortium, the product might challenge the F-35 in the world market for military aviation.

    Russia has only a few cards to play, but these cards are important: the proliferation of its anti-aircraft technology enhances its bargaining power. Were Israel to strike Iran during the next few weeks, it might do so not as a proxy for the US, but as part of a broader agreement with Russia. America may have missed the point of Russian policy. The entire issue of sanctions on Iran may seem like diplomatic idiocy to the Russians; the question, in Moscow’s judgment, may come down to a digital decision: either attack Iran, or don’t. Russia wants to benefit in either case, but it probably prefers to prevent an historic enemy on its southern border from acquiring nuclear weapons.

    The United States may cast away its technological edge in air power without a second thought, but Russia understands that superpower status today depends more on military technology than any other factor. No one can control the failed states and soon-to-be-failed states of the region; one can only contain them.

    Part of Spengler’s problem is that he assigns too much significance to Israel. Moreover, I doubt that the Russians take the Iranians all that seriously. There’s probably quite a few Russians scurrying about in Iran in any case, to say nothing of Chinese.

    Bomb Iran? (There he goes again.) Ha ha ha.

    Imagine that… a Russian/Indian/Israeli fighter? I wonder if the electronics are designed not to work on Saturday? This seriously sounds like the weed-addled fantasy of some Mad Magazine writer. Jesus H. Christ. I definitely need a drink.

  21. “America’s efforts are concentrated rather on the F-35, a cheaper, more versatile and less advanced aircraft.”

    Oh please. I would say for the forseeable future nothing can touch this jet. And its more affordable so we and our allies can have 3500 of them. The F22 was overkill. But just in case we’ve still got 200 of those too.

    They say the only time the Sukhois can beat a pack of F35s is when they’re (mid-air) refueling.

    “If Israel joined the [Russia/India] consortium, the product might challenge the F-35 in the world market for military aviation.”

    Wow what a huge stretch. When? Hahaha.

    Maybe he doesn’t know Israel is already a partner for the F-35, so… er… I guess they’d have to bow out of that.

  22. Not to change the subject, but commercial aviation is getting really goofy.

    Southwest Airlines Debuts ‘Green Plane’ With Environmentally Friendly Interior Materials


    Here’s a better idea. Rather than re-carpeting 737s (and re-covering seats in eco-friendly faux leather) how about we just skip the sentimentalities, eliminate all the grandma trips and Orlando getaways, and save the fuel. Stockpile it for the F-35s.

  23. I can’t even imagine how much fuel is combusted transporting stuff to Iraq and Afghanistan on a daily basis. It’s gotta be way more than what fighters are using, that is, on a daily basis. I’ll leave this question open for now, until we can track down the prodigal intern.

    In any case, lets save some fuel for grandmabunn visits and Mickey, Donald & Goofy debacles on the undoubtedly complex Dreamliner. I can hardly wait!

  24. Fuel consumption estimates.

    Sohbet Karbuz article regarding the early days (2001-2005)


    and then Karbuz again more recently…


    Its an incomplete picture but obviously the daily requirement for fuel has continued to be enormous.

    (sorting this out and drawing conclusions is more JR’s specialty, so I will hereby defer [i.e. got my hands full, I’m still trying to sort out the Mick Taylor saga])

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