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F-35 Hypothetical: Cancellation


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#21 Burncycle360

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Posted 09 March 2018 - 1803 PM

IIRC the skunk works book mentioned an abnormal spike in the RCS of an f117 during stand testing and it turned out to be a loose screw or bolt or something sticking out a bit further than it was supposed to
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#22 Brian Kennedy

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Posted 09 March 2018 - 1832 PM

I guess a similar-but-different question is, what if the F-35 had actually worked out to be the cheap-ish F-16 replacement that everyone kinda thought it was meant to be, and was fielded about ten years ago. 


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#23 Burncycle360

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Posted 09 March 2018 - 1920 PM

Maybe if they didn't try to roll in revolutionary advances into the development it would have been reasonable cost wise.

Leave that other stuff to parallel development using x-planes to work out the nuances and bugs first, where the budget can be accelerated or throttled as needed based on economic circumstances.
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#24 CaptLuke

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Posted 10 March 2018 - 1226 PM

I could see it. It takes very little deformation to cause the RCS return to be fowled when you're talking about something designed to return a 0.01m^2 area. The spec for the skin must be measured in mm.

 

If we take the "RCS the size of a metal golf ball" statement about the F-35 at face value, we're talking about 0.0014m^2, so roughly 7x less. 0.01m^2 is at the low end of the many estimates thrown around for the F117.

 

Regardless, your point is well taken and goes to one of the problems of over-emphasis on stealth: each meaningful decrease in radar detection range requires a greater decrease in RCS than the one before it, while each increase in stealth is more expensive in design/build/maintenance than the one before. It's a particularly vicious example of diminishing returns.


Edited by CaptLuke, 10 March 2018 - 1359 PM.

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#25 Burncycle360

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Posted 18 March 2018 - 2357 PM

I guess a similar-but-different question is, what if the F-35 had actually worked out to be the cheap-ish F-16 replacement that everyone kinda thought it was meant to be, and was fielded about ten years ago. 

 

Was thinking about this very thing.

The F-35 general arrangement is very similar to one of GD's LWF/ADF proposed layouts (Upper left here).  In fact, if it won instead of the F-16 arrangement we know today, the F-35 might be considered a "silent eagle" LO version!  (Although since it's much fatter it would only passingly resemble it and in reality be a completely different aircraft, kind of like Superhornet vs Hornet)

tOlW5mF.jpg

 

Quick reference comparison between F-35A and F-16C Block 50 (quick wiki)

F-35A Length/Wingspan: 15.67m / 10.7m
F-16C Length/Wingspan: 15.06m / 9.96m

F-35 Empty Weight: 29,000 lbs
F-16C Empty Weight: 18,900 lbs

F-35 Internal Fuel: 18,498 lbs
F-16C Internal Fuel: 7,000 lbs
 
F-35 Thrust (Dry/AB): 28,000 lbf / 43,000 lbf
F-16C Thrust (Dry/AB): 17,155 lbf / 28,600 lbf

The F-35 is nearly the same length and span, but carries ~2.5 times the internal fuel (plus room for ordnance) making it very thick and ~10,000 pounds heavier empty, completely negating the advantage of the significantly better engine.  This is akin to the military obtaining new lightweight gear to shave 10 pounds off a soldier's load, only to go ahead and add 11 pounds worth of other crap.  It's little wonder it's a dog, but it's defended by those saying it's system oriented rather than performance oriented (like the F-22).  The US can get away with this and just say the F-22 will always support operations, but some nations are using these as their primary naval and operational combat aircraft...


IMO, a more conservative approach with a reduced internal fuel load requirement  of 11,000 lbs (equivalent to F-16C with CFT, plus 10% to help offset the difference in SFC) would allow for a lighter (even when considering the naval requirements) less draggy airframe, and if you kept the 2D thrust vectoring of the F119 when designing the derivative you'd end up with an aircraft that can deliver 2x PGMs like the F-35, but generally outfight other 4 / 4.5 gen aircraft.  You'd be a bit heavier empty than an F-16 with CFTs, but would be cleaner and have a much better T:W.  The end result would be better instantaneous turn rate / nose pointing (with the ability to more rapidly regain lost energy), as well as superior sustained turn rate.

To compensate for the reduction of internal fuel,  plan for LO drop-tank assemblies under the wings as options (2x 4,000 lbs or so) that, when jettisoned, takes the pylons with it.  This would surpass the F-35A's internal fuel, but likely not any extra range since the arrangement is draggier.

I found a picture with a rough idea of what this could look like (guess from some video game fantasy...)

c2qrTQQ.png

 

For day one operations IMO it should be supplemented heavily by stealthy cruise missiles (SSGN, Fleet, Air Launched, etc) and wide band / wide aspect stealthy UCAV for when cruise missiles have insufficient range to knock out those first critical, known C4I / IADS nodes.  Those would be cheaper to develop and stay useful longer.  Backed by broadband regional jamming for general protection, and own AESA jamming (when matured) for local strike package protection, you'd end up with a far better all around F-16/F-18C replacement IMO, and more complementary to the century series acting as bomb trucks.  Keep the streamlined conformal EOTS (IRST/Designator), but ditch the distributed aperture system for faster development.

Then it's time to develop a HARM variant of the AIM-120D to better allow for bay volume constraints.


Edited by Burncycle360, 19 March 2018 - 0012 AM.

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#26 Jeff

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Posted 30 March 2018 - 1119 AM

Not sure of the veracity of the organization that put this out but it's pretty detailed.

 

F-35: Still No Finish Line in Sight

 


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#27 DKTanker

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Posted 30 March 2018 - 1144 AM

Be that as it may, the IAF has used the F-35 on missions over Syria and have even over flown Iran.


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#28 Josh

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Posted 30 March 2018 - 1148 AM


Source? The Iran story in particular seems to stem from a Kuwaiti news agency, which I trust about as much as Pravda.
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#29 a77

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Posted 02 April 2018 - 0010 AM

I guess a similar-but-different question is, what if the F-35 had actually worked out to be the cheap-ish F-16 replacement that everyone kinda thought it was meant to be, and was fielded about ten years ago. 

 

Not that the latest F-16 sale was not cheap $90 million to 165 million (its hard to know the exact price becuse sale normaly include spare parts, ground support equipment, traning etc) but a "clean" F-35A cost $94 million (ony the plane)

 

The R&R cost of F-35 has been insane, but the production costs of a F-35A will atlest be similar to a late F-16.
 


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#30 CaptLuke

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Posted 02 April 2018 - 1956 PM

Not that the latest F-16 sale was not cheap $90 million to 165 million (its hard to know the exact price becuse sale normaly include spare parts, ground support equipment, traning etc) but a "clean" F-35A cost $94 million (ony the plane)

 

The R&R cost of F-35 has been insane, but the production costs of a F-35A will atlest be similar to a late F-16.

 

Not really an apples to apples comparison:

  • LockMart has a lot of incentive to keep F-16 costs as high as possible, both for "good" reasons (extract the most cash from a declining product line) and bad reasons (don't make the F-35 look bad)
  • Costs for the F-35 do not include rework nor the fact that LockMart can make a lot of money back on massive support charges, neither of which applies to a new F-16
  • By far most importantly, F-16s are being bought in single year, small unit buys compared to multi-year, high volume buys for the F-35.  This alone gives the F-35 a huge price advantage over any other production fighter.

It is worth remembering that the price of an F-22 was coming down to the $100M dollar mark when the program was cancelled.  That's not the same 'base year' dollars, but it's also at a much lower volume.  When all is said and done, I doubt we'll ever see an F-35 less expensive than an incremental F-22 would have been.


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#31 ferongr

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Posted 03 April 2018 - 1315 PM

Doesn't the F-35 require a lot more extensive ground equipment for all the electronic wizardry too? Is procurement and maintenance of that equipment included?


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