The single strike fighter was designed to improve the combat capabilities of the US Army, but weakened it instead.
"The program seems to have stabilized," Michael Sullivan of the United States Audit Office told Congress. “I am inspired by what I have seen,” echoes Lieutenant General VVS Christopher Bogdan, the head of the program on the part of the government. Lockheed spokesperson Laura Siebert says he expects “more positive” articles than usual in the light of what she put it, of the “substantial progress” of the program.
But the chorus of praisers is wrong. The single strike fighter (JSF) F-35, created by Lockheed Martin Corporation for overcoming enemy radars, bombing ground targets and destroying enemy combat aircraft is problematic, as before. All recent seemingly good news will not be able to change the fundamental flaw in the design of the aircraft, the roots of which lie in the conflicting requirements for the new fighter.
Due to the heavy compromises in relation to the aircraft being created, imposed mostly by the Marine Corps, the F-35 is seriously inferior even to the old Russian and Chinese fighters, which fly faster and farther, and whose maneuverability is better. In the JSF lightning strike, “too heavy and too poorly armed,” says the director of the Strauss Military Reform Project for the Government Supervision Project, Winslow Wheeler.
And future enemy aircraft, designed specifically for air battles, may turn out to be even more deadly for the compromise JSF.
In fact, it does not matter how smoothly the work of the government and Lockheed are progressing over the new combat aircraft. Even a perfectly designed JSF is a second-rate fighter in air battles with the enemy for life and death. And this could mean a death sentence for American pilots flying the vulnerable F-35.
The inadequacy of F-35 was clearly apparent five years ago during a computer simulation organized and conducted by John Stillion and Harold Scott Perdue, two analysts at the RAND research and development center in Santa Monica, California.
In the course of the simulation year 2008 held in August, numerous Chinese air forces and naval forces, amid growing tensions in the western Pacific Ocean, are piling on a long-standing Beijing rival, Taiwan. A sudden blow to the Chinese missiles destroy the tiny, outdated Taiwanese air force, leaving American fighters based in Japan and Guam to fight with Beijing's planes.
In this scenario, 72 Chinese fighter patrols the Taiwan Strait. Only 26 American combat aircraft - survivors of a missile attack on their airfields, could intercept them. Among them are ten X-NUMX-motive stealth fighter F-2, which quickly spent their ammunition, leaving 22 smaller, 16-motive F-1 to fight with the Chinese. When, within the framework of a mathematical model, they began exchanging fire, the results were shocking.
The latest American stealth fighters and the basis of the future Air Force, Navy and Marine Corps did not reach the level of Chinese military aircraft. Despite their vaunted ability to avoid detection by radar, JSFs were erased from the sky. “F-35 are twice as inferior,” conclude in his later leaked summary into the press Sillion and Perdue.
Analysts expressed indignation about the new aircraft, which, speaking in all fairness, played a small role in the whole simulation. "Inferring in acceleration, in the rate of climb, in maneuverable capabilities," they wrote. “It also has a lower maximum speed. He can neither maneuver, nor take off, nor accelerate. ”
And partly because of this, the USA as a result lost the simulated war. Hundreds of computer-simulated American crews died. Almost a century of American superiority aviation ended among the wreckage of simulated combat aircraft scattered across the Pacific Ocean.
Even if these results could be challenged, the 2008 war games of the year should have been a wake-up call. From the mid-90-x, the Pentagon is completely dependent on the F-35, intended to replenish the declining arsenal of combat aircraft built, for the most part, in the 1970-x and 1980-x. Even if there was a small chance that the aircraft could not fight, the Pentagon would have to be very, very concerned.
Among the pathologies inherent in the F-35 design, the most destructive is the result of a peculiar institutional obsession with one of the three main clients of the program. Already at an early stage, the marines managed to drag for their version of the aircraft the opportunity to take off vertically.
A single strike fighter JSF is created in three versions - for the Air Force, Navy and Marines - all three options have a single fuselage, engine, radar and weapons. Wings and equipment for vertical takeoff differ from each model.
Together, all three versions of the F-35 were intended to replace nearly a dozen older versions of the aircraft from half a dozen different manufacturers - from maneuverable air force models, supersonic F-16, or slow-armored A-10, and ending with AV-8B with vertical takeoff, whose unique characteristics are not very combined with the features of other aircraft models.
The engineering tradeoffs imposed on the F-35 in this unprecedented need for versatility have impacted the performance of the new aircraft. Largely due to the volumetric fan for creating lift, which the marines demanded, the JSF turned out to be wide, heavy, highly resistive, and even close to failing in speed with the F-16, as well as not complying with the structural strength of the A-10. Having promised all the virtues of other planes, JSF did not show one in the end.
After winning the 2001 competition for the right to create a multi-purpose JSF, Lockheed headed towards eventually becoming the only active manufacturer of American aircraft of a new generation, giving competitors like Boeing to promote designs of old aircraft.
Which means that the worst of the new fighters in the world, which, as one Australian military analyst, who later became a politician, said, “will be killed in battle like whip,” may soon become the only new American fighter.
And in the following decades, the US Air Force may completely yield to the air force of any country with the latest models of Russian or Chinese combat aircraft, one of which, ironically, seems to be an improved copy of JSF, minus all its flaws.
Chinese J-31 seems to be based on American F-35
The lift air blower developed at the beginning of 1980's by DARPA and Lockheed Corporation was the only ready solution for the aircraft’s ability to take off vertically, plus supersonic speed and the ability to remain invisible to enemy radar, the latter of which required the aircraft to have smooth outlines, and nothing was suspended outside.
But this mixture of characteristics cost dearly all three aircraft variants, although the two of them did not need the ability to take off vertically.
Adding a lift fan to the basic design of the F-35 turned out to be a cascade of problems that made it harder, slower, more complex, more expensive and more vulnerable to attack the enemy - which became more apparent as a result of a simulation of the war over Taiwan.
To reduce costs, all three aircraft options are essentially the same fuselage. And to meet the requirements of the availability of a hoist fan and bomb compartments presented in all three options, the “intersectional part” of the fuselage should have been “much more than those planes that we replaced”, reluctantly agrees Lockheed head Tom Burbage.
But the problems continued to arrive, and their solution was gradually eroding from the ability of F-35 to fight. The addition of a hoist fan forced to abandon the second engine, which is present in many other fighters. The bulky fan built into the fuselage immediately behind the pilot blocked the rear view from the cockpit - a drawback, which, as one of the pilots put it, would lead to the fact that "the aircraft will be shot down every time."
Lockheed Vice President Steve O'Brien said that the sensors of the aircraft, including video cameras built into the fuselage, which scan 360 degrees around the aircraft, more than compensate for the rear view limitations. Critics objected that the resolution of the video is much worse than the look with the naked eye, and it is completely insufficient to track and recognize tiny dark points in the sky, each of which can be ready to destroy the enemy fighter.
Many problems came together in the 2004 year, when Lockheed was forced to admit that the option for the marines was overweight, in part due to the addition of a lift air blower. Ironically, the addition of a fan and other equipment designed for vertical takeoff threatened that the plane would be too heavy to take off.
In a panic, Lockheed allocated more people, time and money (not forgetting to bill the government) for reconstruction, which allowed to get rid of most of the excess weight - in fact, by getting rid of safety equipment, and making the fuselage elements thinner and less durable.
O'Brien said that the weight loss ultimately benefited all three fighter versions. But the reconstructed Joint Strike Fighter, although somewhat lighter and more maneuverable, also became less durable and safe for flight. In particular, according to the Pentagon’s analysis, getting rid of valves and fuses made the fighter 25 percent more vulnerable to enemy fire.
The problems multiplied. Initially estimated to cost about $ 200 million for the development and design of 2900 aircraft, expected to debut in combat use in 2010, the cost of the fighter constantly increased, and commissioning was constantly postponed. Today, the cost of developing and producing 2500 new aircraft swelled to $ 400 billion, plus another trillion dollars in maintenance over the next five decades.
To help block overspending, between 2007 and 2012, the Pentagon wrote off nearly 500 existing A-10s, F-15s, F-16s, and F / A-18s - that is, 15 percent fleet air fighters, even before the F-35 would be ready to replace them. The naked and unarmed F-35s, with only half-finished software and only a few samples of compatible weapons, will not be ready for combat use before 2015, for which Boeing planned to discontinue the production of its F / A-18E / F-x - the only one besides JSF produced Pentagon fighter models (F-15 and F-16 fighters are still manufactured for foreign customers by Boeing and Lockheed, respectively).
When, after two years, the first ready-made F-35 finally makes its first normal sortie, it can really be the universally recognized worst new fighter in the world, and in the worst case scenario, still be the only new fighter that will be available for purchase by the US Army .
Instead of breathing new life into the Pentagon’s air arsenal as planned, the JSF devoured it little by little, which threatens the future strategy of the war. In 2012, an embarrassed chief of arms procurement for the Pentagon, Frank Kendall, called the F-35 "a negative practice of acquiring weapon models."
But Kendall meant only new program delays and cost increases. He did not mention the more threatening flaw that surfaced as a result of Stilion and Purdue’s 2008 military simulations: regardless of when and at what price the F-35 will go into service, because of its vertical takeoff equipment, it is the aerodynamic equivalent of flying brick - completely losing the latest Russian and Chinese fighters.
Wheeler advocates replacing the F-35 with the updated A-10 and F-16, as well as the new F-18 from the Boeing conveyor. These steps would “prevent the continued deterioration of our air force,” he argues.
Experienced design engineer Pierre Spray, who had a hand in creating agile F-16s and fighters tanks A-10, warned that it might take American engineers years to re-learn the ins and outs of creating supersonic fighters lost due to the growing F-35 monopoly, and the only way to do this would be to finance low-cost competition based on mock air battles between rival prototypes.
But this expenditure of time, talent and funds would be better than the continuation of the financing of an overgrown all the estimates and terms of a combat aircraft, which, being burdened by a lifting fan, can neither maneuver, nor climb, nor accelerate.
Replacing the useless universal American fighter would be, as Wheeler believes, a headache, but the continuation of the program is even worse. F-35, he writes, "will cost too many lives to our pilots."