Washington’s recent fanfare may suggest that the Pentagon’s expensive and most controversial combat aircraft program has overcome all problems and accelerated development.
The price of development, purchase of 2400 copies and operation is currently estimated at $ 1 trillion, and, apparently, confidently went downward. Production of dozens of aircraft per year for the Air Force, Navy and Marine Corps has become easier. Daily come news about flight tests that give planned results.
But official statements.
Michael Sullivan from the Government Accountability Office speaking in Congress: “The program seems to have stabilized.
Air Force General Christopher Bogdan and the head of the program from the government, in a telephone conversation, said: "I am glad that I saw."
When War is Boring asked the representative of Lockheed Martin, Laura Siebert, about F-35, she said that “everything is much better” and the program has made “significant progress”.
But these praises are not deserved.
F-35, developed by Lockheed Martin and capable of being invisible to enemy radars, destroying ground targets and shooting down enemy fighters, is a matter of concern. All the latest, good news can not change the fundamental flaws in design, rooted in past decades.
Due to the clutter of compromises included in the design, mainly for the Marines, the F-35 is a defective fighter, seriously inferior even to the old Russian and Chinese aircraft, which can fly faster, farther and have better maneuverability. In air battles at high speeds, the F-35 "is overweight and not manoeuvrable," according to a report by Winslow Wheeler, director of the Military Reform project in state control from Washington.
And promising enemy aircraft designed to gain air superiority may prove even more deadly for the F-35.
It does not matter how smoothly Lockheed Martin and officials are promoting a new combat aircraft. Even the most recent F-35s produced are second-rate fighters where there is a stronger and more determined opponent in the air. This means a death sentence for American pilots sitting at the helm of the F-35.
The inferiority of the F-35 became apparent five years ago in a computer simulation conducted by John Stillion and Harold Perdue, RAND analysts from Santa Monica, California. Founded in 1948, RAND maintains close ties with the Air Force. The air force provides them with some secret data, and in return, RAND analyzes and possible scenarios of wars for government structures.
Stillion and Perdue in August 2008, during a computer simulation, simulated a scenario with a massive attack by the Chinese air force and naval forces on Taiwan, amid rising tensions in the Western Pacific. Suddenly, the Chinese squall rocket wiped out the tiny, outdated Taiwanese air force, leaving only American fighters based in Japan and on GUAM, to battle with Beijing in the hope of preventing a bloody invasion.
In the 72 simulation, Chinese fighters patrolled the Taiwan Strait. At the same time, the 26 of American airplanes were destroyed by the second Flurry missile at the airfield, and the F-10 22 fighters quickly spent all their missiles.
Next, the F-35 entered into battle with the Chinese, which were smaller by 16 units. When they started the battle with the enemy aircraft in the framework of the computer model of the conflict, the results of this simulation were shocking.
The newest American stealth fighter and the basis of the aircraft for future decades for the Air Force, Navy and Marines, lost to Chinese aircraft. Despite its vaunted ability to be invisible to enemy radar, the F-35 was completely destroyed. F-35 twice lost in the simulation of Stilion and Perdue, as they reported in their written reports on simulations, which later leaked to the press.
Analysts opposed the new aircraft, which will play only a minor role in the future. “Inferring in acceleration, inferior in vertical speed, inferior in capabilities,” they wrote. - Also has a low maximum speed. Cannot attack in vertical planes. ” Sometimes the missiles and the gun were not ready for use because of this, except for the first few seconds of the battle. In other words, the F-35 was not able to withstand enemy planes.
And as a result, officials refused such simulations of military actions. American pilots died in those computer strings. Taiwan’s capacity has dropped from 1 to 0. Almost a century of American air superiority ended there among the wreckage of American computer warplanes scattered throughout the Pacific Ocean.
In September, Lockheed Martin shot 2008 in the back by the simulators, insisting that F-35 was able to "effectively perform tasks in aggressive conditions" in the presented Taiwan script. RAND conceded, claiming that they did not have the task of analyzing the capabilities of the fighters in aerial combat, and Stillion and Perdui soon left the department they headed.
Stillin now works at the Center for Strategic and Budgetary Evaluations, in Washington. For the time being, it is currently listed as an employee of Northrop Grumman Corporation.
Steve O'Brien, vice-president of Lockheed Martin and a former fighter pilot, commented on computer modeling and spoke about its authors: “It was a policy, and the people who compiled the report did not have experience in piloting the aircraft,” he said, adding that many F-35 critics are self-appointed experts who live with their mom in the basement and put on slippers while going to work. ”
But Stillion and Perdue are both former pilots. Stilling flew RF-4, a reconnaissance aircraft, and Perdue flew the F-15 during the Gulf War. “I do not live with my mother in the basement,” answered Purdue.
Even if their results were controversial, the 2008 war simulation of the year should have been a wake-up call. Since the mid 1990-ies, the Pentagon has become extremely dependent on the F-35, which should replenish the declining arsenal of combat aircraft, built mainly in 70-x, 80-x years of the 20-century. If there is even a small chance that the new aircraft will not be combat ready, the Pentagon must be very, very concerned.
In fact, the military should have been concerned about this even 40 years ago.
“You need to understand that problems with F-35 are the result of the pathological decision-making practice of the military, which dates back to at least 60-s of the 20-th century,” explained Chuck Spinnay, a former analyst at the Ministry of Defense, whom one of the senators called the "conscience of the Pentagon."
Among the pathologies inherent in the F-35 today, the most destructive is a kind of obsession to get three planes in one. Already at an early stage in the Marine Corps (ILC) ordered the F-35 with vertical take-off and landing, like a helicopter. The fact is that the Marines have long insisted that their fighters be more unique. But this unique ability was rarely used in combat.
The F-35 is available in three versions, one for the Air Force, the Navy and the International Law Commission. The general in it mainly fuselage, engine, radar and weapon. Wings and vertical takeoffs vary by model.
All three versions of the F-35 are designed to replace about a dozen old types of aircraft, from a dozen manufacturers such as light F-16, armored attack aircraft A-10 and those AV-8B Harrier for the KMP, the first generation aircraft with vertical take-off, whose unique flight characteristics do not mix with the specifications of other types of aircraft.
The unprecedented need to make a super-versatile aircraft led to forced engineering tradeoffs in the F-35. Due to the large lifting fan for vertical take-off, the F-35 fuselage is wide, heavy, and has high resistance. It is not as fast as the F-16, nor as armored as the A-10. Jack of all trades, F-35 did not become the master of any.
And since the F-35 was specially created as a single, designed to replace almost every combat aircraft, the Pentagon has less and less choice of real alternatives. Winning 2001 in the competition for the creation of a multipurpose aircraft, the company Lockheed Martin was eventually to make it in the US the only current assembler of jet fighters of the new generation, leaving behind such a competitor as Boeing with its old models of combat aircraft.
As the Australian military analyst called it - this is the worst prospective fighter in the world. And he will soon become the only jet fighter for the US air force. Where once mighty American warplanes circled over the enemy, giving Washington a clear strategic advantage against any enemy, the United States Air Force arsenal is likely to be completely declassified in the coming decades, while any other country will have the latest Russian or Chinese fighters ( one of which, ironically, looks like an improved copy of the F-35, minus all its worst design elements).
If the unthinkable happens and a real war happens somewhere in the next 40 years, unlike computer modeling, it will break out either over Taiwan or in another hot spot of the world, many American planes will be shot down and many American pilots will die. Battles can be lost. Wars can fail.
The oldest of the approximately 50 prototypes of the F-35 currently in existence, which soared for the first time in December 2006, was barely seven years old. But the origins of the concept of the new aircraft are rooted much deeper in history, even before the time when China became a rising world power, and even before the advent of jet aviation. In many ways, the American universal fighter was born in the confusion and chaos of the bloodshed of World War II, in the jungle and battlefields.
In August 1942, the US marines landed on the shores of Guadalcanal, part of the Solomon Islands in the South Pacific. This happened less than a year after the attack on Pearl Harbor. The United States and its allies were still fighting against the Japanese forces. The landing on Guadalcanal was a surprise for the dumbass in Tokyo.
The lightly equipped marines defeated and pushed the Japanese forces into the jungle, capturing the unfinished airfield. Japanese ships, in turn, destroyed part of the Allied fleet. But nevertheless, during the battle, the Navy received an unsinkable aircraft carrier, and for several months the Japanese planes and ships were confronted by a small group of marines and a handful of American aircraft deployed to the island.
Morpeh Robert Lecky described one of the personal episodes on Guadalcanal. Having rushed to the machine gun, an absolutely ineffective weapon against airplanes, he tried to use it against the Japanese Zero, flying at low-level flight. “I rushed into the trench, while the Jap shot us like a dash,” wrote Lecky in his memoirs “Helmet on my pillow.”
Fortunately, the Marine experienced an almost suicidal confrontation with Zero. But the structure of the ILC has changed forever because of the events that took place at Guadalcanal. “The lesson is that the USMC needs opportunities that allow them to bring their air forces with them, because the Navy aircraft carriers cannot always be in the right place,” says naval historian Ben Christie.
In the 1950 and 60, the ILC bought hundreds of new products of that time - helicopters. But what he really wanted was to get a fighter that could take off with or without aircraft carriers. Large landing ships had flat helipads, but they had neither catapults nor long runways to take off, just like regular Navy aircraft based on aircraft carriers.
The infantrymen wanted to get a fighter capable of taking off from short helicopter carriers and capable of landing vertically on the ground later.
A concept called “vertical-shortened take-off and landing” (V / STOL) or “shortened take-off and vertical landing” (CF) by engineers has been the subject of extensive experimentation and disasters. During the first years at the time of the birth of jet aircraft, all CF or V / STOL prototypes from 1946 to 1966 broke. KMP became interested in the V / STOL attack aircraft project, which was created under the guidance of government agencies.
Then at the end of the 60-ies, the British company created a new aircraft with a component of rotating nozzles that turned down for vertical flight, thereby allowing the aircraft to take off from short runways or small ships. The Marines simply blindly fell in love with this newest aircraft, nicknamed the “Harrier” (Harrier), in honor of the low flying hawk, and immediately wanted to buy it for their air force.
But the Navy has become the biggest obstacle. The agency responsible for financing the weapons of the marines did not want to invest in the aircraft, which was needed only by the ILC. At that time, the Navy, together with the Air Force, took the first steps to create a single aircraft for all combat arms from the F-111, with which the Pentagon could replace almost all the old aircraft using a single multifunction model.
Still, a small group of KMP officers by cunning and deception convinced Congress, the Navy and the US aerospace industry to take a chance with the Harrier. KMP ultimately bought more than 1990 of these planes before 400.
The alluring concept was very attractive in theory, but it turned out to be a disaster in practice. Basically, the problem itself lies in the concept of vertical takeoff. The plane uses vertical takeoff as a secondary function. Vertical take-off and landing should fall on additional engine elements. The engine runs continuously in all modes. As a result, there are three design flaws: a large, hot engine, almost without a safety margin, an unsafe airframe that must be light and with small wings to hold the plane with a weight less than lifting jet of the engine, also in order to save weight, fuel is minimized and combat load.
As a result, in the vertical mode, the Harrier carries much less armament than a conventional fighter and has a short range. During vertical takeoff, the jet stream melts asphalt, and all the dirt flies in all directions, including the engine, making it impossible to take off from roads or even prepared ground sites. In the 1991 war of the year, in the Persian Gulf, at the beginning of the operation, the vertical did not participate, because they had to take off from long-range airfields or amphibious ships, due to their limitations.
Of course, they can take off quickly and provide support to the Marines in a short time, but they were extremely vulnerable to machine guns and man-portable air defense systems. Even when it’s not a vertical take-off and landing, the vertical is capricious and difficult to fly, due to the complex of vertical flight control and small wings. Until the early 2000s, a third of all vertical bars crashed, killing 45 pilots. "Harrier was based on an absolute lie," says Pierre Spray, an experienced military engineer who participated in the work on the successful F-16 and the killer tanks A-10. “The Marines simply mythologized him because they wanted their own unique plane, and they wanted to use the landing ships as their personal carriers.”
The CMP is stuck with the concept of vertical takeoff for pathological reasons. The catastrophes of verticals, which reduced the number of the park, and their physical aging, led the KMP in the early 80-x to cooperate with the Defense Advanced Research Project Agency (DARPA) high-tech dreamers from R & D to create a new vertical. The plane was supposed to be supersonic, able to be invisible to the radar of the enemy, of course, take off and land vertically. In fact, three times better than the past, but false promises imposed additional requirements, which all were unrealizable.
After a decade of cash injections into Lockheed Martin and wind tunnel works, mainly through DARPA, the money flew into a black hole, and the dreamers came to the conclusion that the best way to bring the vertical to supersonic speed is to replace the rotating nozzles of vertical take-off engines with a large lifting fan mounted horizontally in the middle of the fuselage.
A new, but unproven concept took the idea aside at the beginning of the 1990-s, and the marines came out calling for Congress to begin a mega-program to purchase their supersonic, invisible and vertical fighter-takeoff and landing. In 1993 and 1994 The Navy and Air Force also wanted a new fighter jet, which had a similar design and the same invisibility for radar, like the F-117 and B-2. So there was a chance for all three people who wanted to get their car, and Congress, at about the same time, was allocating tens of billions of dollars for the development and purchase of new aircraft.
“Congress did not think that we could not afford it,” said Lt. Col. Harold Blot, a pilot of Harrier, who led naval aviation in the middle of the 90s. Lawmakers asked Blots and others involved — can they combine three new fighters into one universal model?
Such multi-role fighters had a different past, some were successful, but most were still unsuccessful. The F-111, the 1960's universal fighter, became too complex, heavy and expensive, as each task increased the amount of equipment installed in it. The Air Force eventually bought only a few hundred of the initially planned 1500 instances.
More massively, the Navy, the Air Force and the International Maritime Commission bought the less complex F-4, they fought with Vietnam and almost the entire Cold War. Congress hoped that it would be possible to create an F-4 heir for the 21 of the 20th century, which could equip all branches of the military and at the same time make it stealth, which would save a lot of money in the long run. But the concept of a new universal fighter, known as the “Single Light Fighter” (CALF), led to a fatal mistake. The F-4 was an ordinary airplane with a classic airfield take-off and landing. But, “we spent 40 years to get a plane that is more versatile,” explained Blot, which meant vertical takeoff and landing.
Despite the history of failures, Congress bought the idea of a single stealth fighter. But the desire of the legislators who voted for the risky concept did not appear out of nowhere. This is partly the result of Lockheed Martin’s targeted lobbying campaign. Most likely, this company will then win the competition for the construction of a new aircraft.
Lockheed Martin made her name on the list of interceptors, reconnaissance planes, and bombers. F-117, the world's first combat stealth aircraft was a product of Lockheed Martin. Aggressive corporate acquisitions, as well as the release of the best-selling F-16, raised Lockheed Martin's profits by several times. These steps allowed Lockheed Martin to capture a larger market share.
Meanwhile, secret tests of DARPA allowed to prove that the vertical can also fly at serhzvukovyh speeds, and this laid the foundation of the company for the emergence of a universal fighter. Of course, the tests gave a lot of theories, but this is not work in real conditions. “The necessary technologies are still underdeveloped,” the official reports said. However, Lockheed Martin experimented with promising technologies that could in the future be adapted for the Air Force and Navy.
With just a replacement of parts for vertical takeoff, one aircraft turned into what the marines needed, remaining fast, and the Navy and Air Force received in the classical configuration a machine with a radius of action similar to that of ordinary aircraft.
I am sure that Lockheed Martin and DARPA already had a ready-made concept of a universal fighter to the beginning of the competition. In 1996, Congress gives instructions to the Pentagon to organize a competition for the construction of a new aircraft. General Dynamics, Boing and Lockheed Martin introduce concepts. However, Lockheed Martin has worked with DARPA since the 80s, and this is an obvious advantage. “This was not a truly competitive struggle,” Spray says about the competition for a new fighter. “Other companies were somewhere far behind.”
General Dynamics, whose main ideas were bought out by Lockheed Martin, dropped out of the competition. Boeing, with its awkwardly crammed supersonic prototype called X-32, which, because of its air intake, looked like a thick sea bass with an open mouth, in short, turned out to be inconspicuous.
But he started flying from September 2000 of the year. The vertical take-off test was to take place in June of the following year. Boeing engineers had to literally rip off non-critical elements in order to gain the desired weight, and this is a glaring drawback. The company made a lot of efforts to prevent this fact from getting into the press, but it could not pass by government services.
The Lockheed Martin X-35 had fewer crashes, it was sleeker and more efficient than the Boeing plane because Lockheed Martin had a head start in two decades and did not need to be reworked for tests with a vertical takeoff by June 2001. October 26 Pete Aldridge, head of armament procurement, said at a briefing at the Pentagon that Lockheed Martin won the $ 19 billion-dollar product development contract, now known as Joint Strike Fighter (JSF) or F-35.
At the top-secret facility in Palmdale, California, Lockheed Martin’s 200 engineers were having fun at that moment. They had every reason to celebrate the victory. The Pentagon needed thousands of F-35 to begin deliveries from 2010 to the ILC, Navy and Air Force, replacing almost every model of aircraft in its fleet - in other words, to make it a monopolist. After the start of production, the program, as expected, should have cost at least $ 200 billion.
But this figure, even taking into account two decades of inflation, seemed unrealistically low. Among other problems, there were also fundamental flaws in the concept of vertical take-off, which inexorably spilled over into JSF after the 20-year development, which increased delays, complexity and cost.
The last vertical was equipped with rotating nozzles for lifting thrusters, and the F-35 has a new type of lifting system that combines the turning main nozzle of the engine in the rear of the aircraft, 90 degrees down.
Simultaneously with this turn, a complex system of shafts and gears is launched, the hatches of the horizontal, lifting fan, installed in the center of the aircraft behind the cockpit, open. Together, the air jet and the nozzle of the turned engine produce more than 18,5 tons of thrust. This is enough to lift an almost 20-ton aircraft straight from the ground.
The lift fan developed by Lockheed Martin along with DARPA in the early 1980-s was the only acceptable solution that they could come up with to add to the vertical take-off and the possibility of supersonic flights with stealth capabilities that require nothing from the plane hung or stuck out of the case.
But this combination of characteristics was expensive for all three models of the F-35, even those two of them that take off according to the classical scheme. “The requirements of vertical take-off were practically dictated to everyone, since this is the gray cardinal of the structural elements for all three,” said Peter Zhloba, an analyst at Air Power Australia for Think tank.
In addition, the F-35 lifting baseline fan has launched a cascade of problems that make it harder, slower, more complex, more expensive, and more vulnerable to enemy attacks. This was evident in the 2008 year, in the simulation of the war in Taiwan. Of course, Vice-President of Lockheed Martin O'Brien rejected this assessment, arguing that the F-35 is a stealth, and the sensors and aerodynamics will make it better than other aircraft. “This is not a rocket,” he insisted.
But in many ways, the production of F-35 has become rocket science, as it has grown into a more complex structure. In the original X-35 from 2001, there was an advantage: it was the usual prototype of the aircraft without the need to carry weapons. But the pre-production F-35 must be armed. And, to maintain a smooth shape, for the stealth capabilities, the weapon must be located inside. The bomb hole is usually located along the centerline of an airplane, and in F-35, a centimeter for the fan is reserved for 127. Consequently, vertical takeoff and stealth are incompatible.
To reduce the cost of all three models, for the Air Force with the base F-35A, for the Marines with vertical take-off F-35B and for the Navy F-35C, with larger wings for landing on aircraft carriers, almost the same fuselage was used.
Therefore, the lifting fan from the F-35B is invisibly present in all models, because of it the fuselage should be “slightly larger than the aircraft we are replacing,” said Tom Burbag, a former high-ranking executive of Lockheed Martin. in 2013 year. The extra width violates the important design principle, which in the aerospace field is called the “area rule”, giving the narrow cylindrical fuselage the best aerodynamic results. Breaking the rule on the F-35 triggered a domino effect caused by a lift fan for the marines, which increases the volume and consequently reduces the acceleration, and also reduces the space for fuel, which reduces the flight distance. Thus, the critics are right in asserting that supersonic speed cannot be effective in combination with vertical takeoff and stealth (the latter of which are no longer effective).
“We are dealing with the laws of physics,” Bourbague said during a PR campaign when news about F-35 began to have a negative effect on the program.
But the negative facts about the combat capability of the F-35 continued to accumulate. Adding a lift fan to a new aircraft allows you to install only one jet engine instead of two, like on many other fighters. Two engines provide greater safety and survival. The bulky lift fan built into the fuselage behind the pilot blocks the view to the pilot in the rear hemisphere. About this deficiency one of the test pilots F-35 said that he would not like to receive a new aircraft after each of its destruction. That is, he can be shot down in any air combat with enemy fighters that you cannot see behind.
O'Brien said that the F-35 will have sensors, including video cameras built into the fuselage for viewing the situation at 360 degrees around the aircraft, which more than compensates for the limited rear view. Critics claim that the resolution of video cameras is much worse than that of the unaided eye, and completely insufficient for the distant, tiny, minimally contrasting points in the sky that pose a mortal threat that can destroy you.
But there are many other problems with F-35 related to aircraft design, some of which are due to the inexperience of subcontractors, others arise from poor control by short-term government controllers who were lobbying during the development of F-35.
Stealth Lockheed Martin F-117 was developed for some 30 months by a close-knit team of 50 engineers under the guidance of experienced chief designer Alan Brown and under the control of seven civil servants. Brown says that he exercised strict control over the design, delved into all the proposed features of the aircraft, which could increase the cost and delays, which would distract the manufacturer from the main goal.
F-35, on the other hand, designed around 6 000 engineers under the guidance of state controllers who didn’t stay long in their place, with no less than 2 000 supervisors. The mixed staff is partly the result of the sophisticated design of the F-35. Also added complexity and bureaucratic delays with any engineer or manager who added his own idea or special element, changing subsystems or specifications on the plane, which already had the most complicated drawings. And inexperienced managers allowed to do this.
“The whole question is that with the advent of F-35 the country received from us?” Brown complained, which is now retired. Many of the problems with the F-35 began in 2004, when Lockheed Martin acknowledged that the F-35B for the Marines was significantly overweight, in part because of a lifting fan. Ironically, the fan and other elements of this design prevented the new plane from flying up vertically due to its weight.
“The shortened take-off / vertical landing option will have to be cut by 1,3 tons to fulfill the requirements,” wrote Lockheed Martin manager Robert Elrod in the annual report. Lockheed Martin in a panic threw more people, spent a lot of time and money at the expense of the government to make a redesign, which, ultimately, cut a lot of excess weight mainly due to the removal of the protective elements of the structure and parts of the fuselage, which have become thinner and less rigid.
O'Brien said that in the end, all three options for F-35 benefited from losing weight. The redesigned F-35, although it has become somewhat lighter and more maneuverable, has also turned out to be less durable and less secure. An analysis of the Pentagon showed that the elimination of five kilograms of weight was worth duplicating systems that made the F-35% 25 more vulnerable when fired by the enemy.
Problems multiplied. It was originally planned to spend $ 200 billion on the development and purchase of almost 2 900 units of aircraft with the launch of the series in 2010. But the price of the F-35 steadily increased, and the timing with its commissioning was repeatedly shifted to a more distant future. Today, the cost of developing and producing 2 500 new aircraft, while reducing plans for 400 fighter aircraft, is about 400 billion dollars, plus another trillion dollars for operating over five decades of their use.
The Pentagon allocated additional funding from 2007 to 2012, since it had to replace with something old age-off existing A-500, F-10, F-15 and F / A-16, in fact 18 percent of the entire US fleet . But the F-15 was not ready to replace them. The first is not enough combat-ready F-35 with incomplete software and capable of using only a few weapons systems, according to plans should appear before the end of 35 year. In the same year, Boeing intends to stop assembling F / A-2015E / F under a contract with the Pentagon. Only F-18 and F-15 for foreign customers, produced jointly by Boing and Lockheed Martin, will remain in production.
Two years after F-35 takes off in 2015, he can really become a monopolist in production, unless there are additional orders from the USA or from foreign customers for F-15, F-16 or F / A-18. F-35 can be openly recognized as the worst fighter in the world and become the only available choice for purchase by the US military.
Instead of enhancing the Pentagon’s fleet, as planned, the F-35 will make future war strategies risky. In 2012, Frank Kendall, the chief procurement officer for the Pentagon, said in embarrassment about F-35 that he was "acquired by necessity."
But Kendall meant only delays and additional costs. He didn’t name the more terrible flaw that was discovered by John Stillion and Harold Perdue in a computer simulation of the war in 2008. Regardless of when and at what price the F-35 will appear, due to the details of the vertical take-off in the new fighter, it aerodynamically turned out to be the equivalent of a brick that completely loses to the newest Russian or Chinese aircraft.
To add salt to the wound, one of the most modern Chinese military aircraft prototypes looks like a pirated copy of the F-35, which can also become a better-quality clone, wisely deprived of the most compromising features of the American aircraft. It is possible that in a future war the American F-35 may be shot down faster by its more deadly clone of Chinese manufacture.
F-35, which could have turned out
At least twice since 2007, Chinese hackers have stolen F-35 secret information from developers. As Defense Minister Chuck Hagel said: “Poorly protected computer servers could have become the place from which detailed design characteristics were taken, and traces of hackers seem to lead to the Chinese government and their military.”
In September, JNXX, the latest prototype of the fighter, made its debut in China, as it were, confirming Hagle's accusations. The new Chinese aircraft, built by Shenyang Aircraft Corporation, has an inexplicable external similarity with the F-2012. The same two tail keels, the same chiseled fairing, the same wing shapes. “This, of course, suggests that the Chinese got their hands on some data about the F-31 glider,” said Richard Aboulafia, vice president of the Teal Group from Virginia. But J-35 lacks many of the features that were included in the F-35: “Mostly or completely absent vertical take-off,” expert Bill Sweetman wrote in Aviation Week.
The J-31 does not have a lift fan and other vertical takeoff elements. Simplification, apparently, allowed Chinese engineers to optimize the plane, increase speed and acceleration, maneuverability and flight range, with the addition of a good view to the pilot. Due to the fact that the construction was not built under the fan, it takes quite a lot of internal volume.
"This happened, perhaps because China does not have data on the operation of the lifting fan, and therefore the Chinese have removed it," emphasizes Richard Abulafia. But for a country that presented two prototypes of combat stealth aircraft during the past two years, this still seems unlikely. More plausibly, China is capable of assembling a lifting fan and the aircraft itself, but decided not to.
F-35 is a compromise, and a combat aircraft cannot be simultaneously maneuverable as F-16, armored as A-10, invisible as F-117 and have a vertical takeoff as "Harrier." The plane can combine some of these qualities, as is the case with the stealth F-22. However, it would be unjustified to expect that one model of a fighter will be able to do everything with the same quality. It is foolish to believe that a fighter will be able to take off and land vertically without serious limitations in aerodynamics, and also to do something else besides that qualitatively.
The design of the fighter, like any engineering project, requires a choice. F-35 is the embodiment of ambivalence in the desires of the government and Lockheed Martin, unable to recognize that some things cannot be realized. Air Force Lt. Col. Dan Ward and a specialist in arms procurement said: “With the F-35, did we have a strong misunderstanding of his main task, who was he supposed to arrange, the Marine Corps, Navy or Air Force?”
In contrast, the Chinese J-31 does not attempt to be three planes at once. Surrounded by rivals with strong air forces - India, Russia, Japan and the USA, with no pressure from the Marines, he makes a fighter that makes sense to China in priority air battles, and not because of some historical fears. Admittedly, of course, illegal copying of the model, but they have their dividends, without a lift fan, and without puzzling, the designers were able to install long weapon bays in the center line, making the J-31 thinner and, therefore, likely to be fast and maneuverable in any case, faster and more maneuverable than the F-35, and in ten years there may be a lot of them, and they may collide among themselves in battle.
If the simulation of Stiliona and Perdue ever materializes, and the United States will fight against China in the air, then F-35 can be beaten out in the sky by Chinese-made F-35 clones that fly better because they have never had a vertical takeoff.
Engineer Spray said he hopes that the Pentagon will eventually come to an understanding and recognize the bitter truth that their new universal fighter with a disastrous vertical takeoff could mean the end of a half-century when the United States really dominated the sky. “My prediction: F-35 will become a dead end, and the program will be closed after the 500 machines are built,” he added.
Strauss Schheeler, director of the Military Reform Project, supported the replacement of the F-35 with the upgraded A-10 and F-16 taken from storage, as well as with orders for the Navy for the new F-18 to save the production line. These steps would “stop the ongoing decomposition in our Air Force,” according to Schöeler.
Ward says that any future combat aircraft must have clear and specific requirements, unlike the F-35, which has a wide range of tasks and incompatible principles. Development time should be fast, the budget should be small, the overall concept should be simple, and less detail as possible. “You will not do something if complexity is your main goal,” he said.
Spray warns that it may take years of expensive experiments and retraining of American engineers to understand the rational design of the fighter, which was lost during the development of the F-35 program. At the same time there should be a series of inexpensive, based on prototypes of cars of different competitors, which would compete with each other to identify the winner not for show.
Such investments in talented engineers will be better than continuing to spend a budget on a project that may not be promising, because you need to build a lift fan for marines who are worried about past battles on the fields of World War II, and not about what is really needed today. day.
In the future, a useless, universal fighter will be a big headache for the United States, according to Wheeler, but if it isn’t finished with it, everything will be much worse, “there will be too much needlessly spilled blood of our pilots”.