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27 mai 2013 1 27 /05 /mai /2013 12:20
Un F-35 se trouve ici en montage final (Photo Lockheed Martin)

Un F-35 se trouve ici en montage final (Photo Lockheed Martin)

25/05/2013 par Nicolas Laffont – 45eNord.ca

 

Pour la première fois depuis le début du programme, le Département américain de la Défense note que le programme de l’avion de chasse de 5e génération F-35 de Lockheed Martin connaît une baisse dans ses coûts.

Dans un rapport annuel déposé au Congrès, le Pentagone indique que 78 de ses programmes vont connaître cette année une hausse des coûts d’environ 2,4%, soit 40 milliards $. Cette hausse serait dû en grande partie à cause de modifications comptables et de commandes plus importantes que prévues.

En revanche, le Pentagone précise que le programme de développement et de construction du F-35 de Lockheed Martin va connaître pour la première fois de son histoire, une baisse de 1% de ses coûts. Le programme est désormais estimé à 391,2 milliards $ contre 395,7 milliards $ comme l’indiquait le précédent rapport de l’an dernier.

Dans le détail, le rapport précise que la baisse n’a lieu que dans le sous-programme de l’avion en lui-même et non le sous-programme des moteurs.

Ainsi, les coûts du sous-programme de l’avion sont passés de 331,9 milliards $ en 2011 à 326,9 milliards l’an dernier (-1,5%), et les coûts du sous-programme des moteurs sont passés de 63,9 à 64,3 milliards $.

«C’est la première année qu’une réduction des coûts a été notée. Nous allons travailler avec le Bureau du programme du F-35 [au Pentagone] afin de mettre en œuvre des mesures qui se traduiront par de nouvelles baisses importantes du coût total du programme», a déclaré le porte-parole de Lockheed Martin Michael Rein.

La raison principale de la réduction est une baisse des taux de main-d’œuvre pour Lockheed, Pratt et leurs sous-traitants, ainsi que le fuselage qui a été revu et les estimations de sous-traitance.

Le rapport dit également que le coût moyen du modèle F-35A, hors coûts de R&D, a chuté à 76,8 millions $ par avion, comparativement à 78,7 millions $ un an plus tôt. C’est ce modèle là que le gouvernement du Canada souhaite acquérir.

Lockheed Martin développe trois modèles de son avion de chasse monoplace F-35, pour l’US Air Force, l’US Navy et le Marine Corps, ainsi que pour huit pays qui participent financièrement à son développement: la Grande-Bretagne, l’Australie, le Canada, la Norvège, le Danemark, l’Italie, les Pays-Bas et la Turquie. Israël et le Japon ont également placé des commandes.

Les plans actuels prévoient que la Défense américaine et ses alliés achèteront un total de 2 443 avions F-35 dans les prochaines années, avec une possibilité de 721 appareils supplémentaires, bien que de nombreux analystes estiment que la montée en puissance des pressions budgétaires pourraient finalement réduire le nombre total.

L’entreprise de défense américaine, Lockheed Martin, était de passage à Montréal ce mercredi 22 mai. Accompagnée du pilote d’essai et ancien membres des Forces armées canadiennes Billie Flynn et de représentants de l’industrie canadienne, Lockheed Martin a présenté son simulateur mobile de cockpit de F-35 et donné les dernières nouvelles de son avion phare afin de convaincre médias et opinion publique que son avion est le meilleur choix possible pour le Canada.

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27 mai 2013 1 27 /05 /mai /2013 07:20
Amid Big F-35 Deal, P&W Sees Challengesc

May. 26, 2013 - By AARON MEHTA – Defense News

 

WASHINGTON — Pratt & Whitney has signed a $1 billion contract for the fifth batch of F-35 Joint Strike Fighter engines and expects to sign a sixth contract shortly, according to the company’s head of military engines.

 

The low-rate initial production (LRIP) contract with the US military includes 35 jet engines — 32 for installation and three spares — as well as sustainment, support and spare parts. The engines will power 22 of the F-35As for the US Air Force, three of the jump-jet F-35Bs for the Marine Corps and seven F-35C carrier variants for the Navy. Through the first four LRIPs, Pratt has delivered 98 engines to the F-35 program.

 

“We were able to close the LRIP-5 contract for about a 6 percent price reduction relative to LRIP-4, so we continue to get good cost reductions,” Bennett Croswell, president of Pratt’s military engines division, told Defense News last week.

 

As part of the contract, Pratt has taken on 100 percent risk on cost overruns, a move Croswell described as proof “we have confidence in our ability to hit the cost targets.” He also said that taking on risk may facilitate the signing of LRIP-6, which he hoped would be done “soon.”

 

During the interview, Croswell highlighted Pratt’s “War on Costs,” a 2009 plan to bring the price of the high-tech F-135 engine down to that of the older F-119 design, despite significant upgrades to thrust and weight.

 

Since the delivery of the first production representative engine, costs on the F-135 have dropped by 40 percent, Croswell said. Those cost savings are also seen in the contract for LRIP-5, which saw a 6 percent drop in cost from LRIP-4.

 

Despite two well-publicized engine problems this year, Croswell said he believes the relationship between Pratt and the Pentagon’s F-35 Joint Program Office (JPO) is strong.

 

“I think we have a great relationship with [Air Force Lt. Gen. Christopher Bogdan, the head of the JPO], and as long as we continue to deliver, I suspect we will continue to have that relationship.”

 

In January, the Marine Corps’ F-35B variant was grounded following an engine problem during a test flight. The source of that problem was later identified as an improperly crimped line in the fueldraulic system. Nine days after the jump-jet variants were cleared to resume flights, the entire JSF fleet was grounded when a crack was discovered in one of the blades in the Pratt-designed engine. The following week, Bogdan heavily criticized both Pratt and Lockheed for “trying to squeeze every nickel” out of the program.

 

“I think the JPO customer is satisfied with how we handled the situation. Gen. Bogdan makes great points. He thinks that contractors should accept more risk on the program. I agree with him,” Croswell said, pointing to Pratt’s internal investment of $60 million of its own money as an example of how the company has taken on some of that risk.

 

Engine Sales

 

Despite the movement on F-135 sales, Croswell said the company knows there are challenges on the horizon.

 

A series of decisions to push F-35 purchases to the right has halved expected F-135 sales since 2009. Combined with the end of production on the F-119 and slowed sales on the F-117 and F-100 engines, the company is facing a production gap Croswell referred to as a “bathtub.”

 

He expects a total of 75 engine sales in 2015. While that number should increase in later years as F-35 sales grow, it leaves the company in a tricky situation of planning for the future while in a low period.

 

To help bridge that gap, Croswell said Pratt is looking for ways to use existing engine designs for new platforms.

 

“A lot of the newer platforms that are being considered for the future, they’re not going to buy a thousand of them,” he said. “So across the board, we need to find ways to deliver good propulsion capability without large development costs. So we are looking at any off-the-shelf engine we have. We’ll look at our whole suite of engine capability and see what meets the future requirements.”

 

As an example, he pointed to the Navy’s X-47B unmanned aircraft, which runs on an F-100 jet engine, an older model designed for the Air Force’s F-15 and F-16 fighters.

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27 mai 2013 1 27 /05 /mai /2013 07:20
Congress orders F-35 Software Plan

May 24th, 2013 by Kris Osborn - defensetech.org

 

Congress ordered the Pentagon to establish an independent team consisting of subject matter experts to review the development of software for the Joint Strike Fighter program.

 

The House Armed Services Tactical Air and Land Forces Subcommittee asked the Pentagon to submit a report by March 3, 2014 as part of the committee’s markup of the 2014 defense budget. The F-35 software program has served as one of the largest challenges for program engineers to keep on schedule.

 

“The committee continues to support the F-35 development and procurement program, and believes a software development review by the Department will ensure that the F-35 program remains on schedule to provide a fifth generation capability in support of our national security strategy,” the Congressional language states.

 

The JSF program developmental strategy is, in part, grounded upon a series of incremental software “drops” — each one adding new capability to the platform. In total, there are more than 10 billion individual lines of code for the system, broken down into increments and “blocks,” F-35 program office officials explained.

 

“Software development remains a focus area of the joint program office. We have a solid baseline and we need to be able to execute on that,” said Joe DellaVedova, F-35 program office spokesman.

 

Software drop 2B is undergoing flight testing at Edwards Air Force Base, Calif., and Naval Air Station Patuxent River, Md; software Block 2B builds upon the enhanced simulated weapons, data link capabilities and early fused sensor integration of the Block 2A software drop, DellaVedova added.

 

“With Block 2B you can provide basic close air support and fire an AMRAAM {Advanced Medium Range Air to Air Missile}, JDAM [Joint Direct Attack Munition] or GBU 12 [laser-guided aerial bomb]. This allows the plane to become a very capable weapons system,” he said.

 

Overall, DellaVedova said the F-35 program office has been making substantial progress. Software drop 3I, which is a technical refresh of Block 2B, is slated to by ready by 2016.

 

“This is complicated and labor intensive work but this has leadership focus from industry and government to deliver on the promise of the F-35. With its stealth and its enhanced situational awareness, the F-35 will provide a backbone for our forces for generations to come. Our progress continues at a slow and steady pace and we are focused on completing things within the schedule and budget we’ve been given.”

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24 mai 2013 5 24 /05 /mai /2013 12:20
Pentagon: F-35 Program Costs Fell $4.5 Billion Last Year

May. 23, 2013 - By AARON MEHTA and MARCUS WEISGERBER – Defense News

 

WASHINGTON — The total price tag for the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter program fell $4.5 billion in 2012, according to a new government report.

 

This marks the first time in the F-35’s checkered history that estimators have lowered the projected cost of the program, the Pentagon’s most expensive acquisition effort.

 

The pricing, unveiled in the Pentagon’s annual selected acquisitions report (SAR), released Thursday, now projects development and procurement of the fifth-generation stealth fighter at just over $391 billion, still tens-of-billions of dollars more than originally projected.

 

The F-35 is just one of 78 DoD acquisition programs reviewed in the SAR. Collectively, the cost of those programs grew $39.6 billion — or 2.44 percent — in 2012.

 

Frank Kendall, the undersecretary for acquisition, technology and logistics, said it was the “first time in my memory” no program in the SAR breached any of the federal spending caps. If a program breaches a so-called Nunn-McCurdy threshold, it could be canceled unless recertified by DoD.

 

The Pentagon’s Better Buying Power initiative, an acquisition reform effort designed to improve the weapons buying process and get DoD more bang for its buck, has helped improve program performance, according to Kendall.

 

“There is some evidence that things are getting better,” he said during a May 23 speech at the Center for Strategic and International Studies think tank. “We’re going in the right direction, but there’s still a lot of room to do better.”

 

Earlier this year, Kendall rolled out an updated version of Better Buying Power, which continues to refine the acquisition process and make programs more affordable.

 

The SAR report breaks the F-35 program into two subprograms — the aircraft, built by Lockheed Martin, and the engines, made by Pratt & Whitney. Costs for the aircraft dropped $4.9 billion, or 1.5 percent, during 2012. At the same time, engine costs rose by $442.1 million, which the report primarily blames on “revised escalation indices.”

 

Overall, the average procurement cost per plane dropped from $109.2 million in 2011 to $104.8 million in 2012. The main driver of the reduction is a drop in the labor rates for Lockheed, Pratt and their subcontractors, as well as revised airframe and subcontractor estimates.

 

Unit Recurring Flyaway costs — the total cost for the platform, engine, mission and vehicles systems and engineering change orders — remained fairly steady, with the average of the F-35A variant dropping from $78.7 million to $76.8 million, and the Navy’s carrier variant rising from $87 million to $88.7 million.

 

The largest drop came from the Marine Corps F-35B jump-jet model, which dropped the average almost $3 million, from $106.4 to $103.6 million.

 

The operations and support (O&S) and cost-per-flying-hour estimates were not updated in the SAR. Instead, those figures will be released in concert with the annual F-35 Defense Acquisition Board (DAB), which is due out in the fall, according to an F-35 Joint Program Office official.

 

The SAR noted that the program triggered an administrative research, development, test and evaluation cost breach this year, but dismissed it as a result of relocating funds rather than a cost overrun.

 

“This is the first year a cost reduction was noted,” Laura Siebert, Lockheed spokeswoman, wrote in a statement. “We will work with the F-35 Joint Program Office to implement further cost saving measures, which will result in additional significant decreases to the total program cost. The top priority of the government/contractor team is to continue to cost-effectively deliver the F-35’s unprecedented 5th generation capabilities to the warfighter.”

 

The F-35 was not the only program to receive good news.

 

The Air Force’s Advanced Extremely High Frequency satellite program, a key part of the Pentagon’s secure communications network, saw costs for the fifth and sixth satellites drop $510.4 million, or 14.6 percent, since 2011, a result of “reduced estimate to reflect program efficiencies for production and launch operations.”

 

The Army’s procurement program for the UH-60M Black Hawk helicopter also significantly drove costs down, by 11 percent. Those savings came from a combination of multiyear contracting, an acceleration of the procurement schedule and a reduction in engineering change orders

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24 mai 2013 5 24 /05 /mai /2013 12:20
Plus de 70 entreprises canadiennes ont décroché des contrats pour le programme de F-35, le Joint Strike Fighter. Cela représente environ 450 millions de dollars. - photo Lockheed Martin

Plus de 70 entreprises canadiennes ont décroché des contrats pour le programme de F-35, le Joint Strike Fighter. Cela représente environ 450 millions de dollars. - photo Lockheed Martin

23 mai 2013 Marie Tison - La Presse

 

Les entreprises canadiennes qui sont déjà à bord du F-35 devront céder leur place, si le Canada opte finalement pour un autre avion de chasse.

 

«Les bénéfices industriels vont aux entreprises des pays qui achètent ou ont l'intention d'acheter le F-35, a déclaré Dave Scott, directeur de l'engagement des clients internationaux pour le F-35 chez Lockheed Martin, en marge d'une rencontre avec les journalistes organisée hier à Montréal. S'il y a un changement et si un pays décide de ne pas acheter le F-35, nous allons rectifier le tir et nous tourner vers d'autres pays.»

 

Il a spécifié que les contrats en cours seront complétés, mais qu'ils ne seront pas renouvelés. Comme la plupart des contrats sont annuels, les entreprises se retrouveront assez rapidement le bec à l'eau.

 

M. Scott a toutefois indiqué que Lockheed Martin procédera cas par cas: une entreprise qui fournit un produit exceptionnel pourrait donc réussir à faire renouveler son contrat.

 

Plus de 70 entreprises canadiennes ont décroché des contrats pour le programme de F-35, le Joint Strike Fighter. Cela représente environ 450 millions de dollars.

 

Le gouvernement du Canada avait annoncé son intention d'acquérir 65 appareils F-35, mais, à la suite de rapports négatifs, il a lancé un nouveau processus pour examiner les cinq appareils qui pourraient répondre à ses besoins: le F-18 de Boeing, le Rafale de Dassault, l'Eurofighter Typhoon d'EADS, le Gripen de Saab et le F-35.

 

Le directeur du développement des affaires d'Héroux-Devtek, Jean Gravel, a avoué que la perspective de voir Ottawa se tourner vers un autre avion de chasse le rendait nerveux.

 

«Lorsqu'il s'agit de suivre le cahier des charges de Lockheed Martin, ils ne sont pas obligés de renouveler avec nous, a-t-il déclaré à La Presse Affaires en marge de la rencontre d'hier. Mais il y a des pièces que nous avons conçues. C'est un peu plus solide.»

 

Héroux-Devtek fabrique des systèmes de verrouillage de portes pour le F-35.

 

Larry Fitzgerald, directeur général chez PCC Aerostructure Dorval, a noté que les chaînes d'approvisionnement des autres appareils considérés par Ottawa étaient établies depuis bien longtemps. Il serait donc difficile de s'y insérer. «Une occasion comme le F-35, on n'en verra pas d'autres dans cette génération», a-t-il affirmé.

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23 mai 2013 4 23 /05 /mai /2013 16:20
Lockheed Martin tente de séduire les Canadiens

22 mai 2013 Chu-Anh Pham - canoe.ca

 

Après un premier faux départ, Lockheed Martin tente de séduire les Canadiens avec son F-35 en entreprenant une tournée pancanadienne.

 

Au centre-ville de Montréal, l’entreprise américaine a même déployé un simulateur de la cabine de pilotage pour justifier la pertinence de son appareil pour l’armée canadienne.

 

Lockheed croit avoir le modèle le plus performant sur le marché : indétectable et vision à 360 degrés.

 

«C’est spécialement important en Arctique. On parle de mille de miles qu’il faut surveiller. C’est pas juste 40 miles devant nous qui est important, c’est d’un horizon à l’autre. Je vais être capable de sentir avec les appareils électroniques tout ce qui se passe au sol ou sur les bateaux», a expliqué le pilote canadien Billie Flynn de Lockheed Martin.

 

Selon lui, il n’y a pas de superflu : tous les outils sont importants.

 

«Les missions sont tellement compliquées que, à un moment donné, même si on voit tout ce qui se passe, on n'est plus capable de décider ce qui est important ou pas. Alors on a changé ça. […] Ce sont les ordinateurs qui décident ce qui est important ou pas, pas les humains.»

 

Le gouvernement fédéral doit remplacer ses vieux CF-18 avec l'achat de 65 appareils.

 

Ottawa avait déjà jeté son dévolu sur Lockheed Martin, mais devant l'explosion des coûts, maintenant évalués à 45 milliards $, il n'a eu d'autre choix que de recommencer tout le processus d'achat en décembre dernier.

 

Le F-18 Super Hornet de Boeing et le Rafale de Dassault sont deux autres appareils qui pourraient intéresser le gouvernement. Tout dépend de ses besoins, selon l’analyste Philippe Cauchi.

 

«Tous les autres avions sont quand même des avions retouchés, améliorés. Lui, c'est une nouvelle conception. L'invisibilité à ses avantages, surtout pour des missions à haut risque. Parce que le problème maintenant, c'est de perdre de l'équipage.»

 

Présentement, le F-35 a des retombées économiques de 450 millions $ au Canada, mais elles pourraient grimper à 10 milliards $ selon Lockheed Martin.

 

Les fournisseurs canadiens doutent pouvoir décrocher mieux si Ottawa change de constructeur.

 

«Selon nous ça serait difficile. Si l'on prend le F-18 ou le Rafale, ils ont déjà une chaîne d'approvisionnement bien établie. Ils ont déjà des fournisseurs depuis 15-20 ans. Alors les opportunités pour nous seraient plutôt limitées», a affirmé le vice-président au développement des affaires de Héroux Devtek, Jean Gravel.

 

Pour l’entreprise Composites Atlantic, basée en Nouvelle-Écosse, une soixantaine d’emplois pourrait être créée si le gouvernement canadien maintient son choix avec Lockheed Martin.

 

«Si on va avec une autre plateforme, on ne sait pas ce qu'on pourrait avoir. Un vaut mieux que deux tu l'auras. Donc on est plus confiant de rester avec le F-35 en terme de création d'emploi», explique Claude Baril, président de l’entreprise qui possède aussi des installations à Mirabel.

 

Il estime que le projet F-35 devrait pouvoir lui permettre de rapporter 120 millions $ au total.

 

Lockheed a déjà livré 80 F-35 auprès de ses clients et compte en fabriquer près de 4000.

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21 mai 2013 2 21 /05 /mai /2013 07:35
CGI of the KFX Fighter Project (File Photo)

CGI of the KFX Fighter Project (File Photo)

21 May 2013 By Kang Seung-woo (Korea Times) – Pacific Sentinel

 

Lockheed Martin’s F-35 Joint Strike Fighter (JSF) is seen as one of strongest candidates to win the FX (Fighter Experimental) III project thanks to its stealth function. However, some critics are expressing concerns about the foreign military sales (FMS) program.
 
They say that should the U.S. aerospace and defense giant win the 8.3-trillion-won ($7.5 billion) bid, Korea will not be able to take advantage of the most-expensive procurement deal in history.
 
That’s because unlike direct commercial sales (DCS), the government-to-government FMS in which Washington would broker a contract between Seoul and Lockheed Martin is likely to restrict the U.S. company from transferring technology, which Korea plans to use in the project aimed at replacing its aging fleet of F-4s and F-5s.
 
However, Randy Howard, Lockheed Martin’s director of the Korea F-35 campaign, says Lockheed Martin is open to technology transfer and willing to make strong and solid commitments to help Korea with the project on the back of its track record.
 
“Lockheed is offering a robust industrial participation, offset, and technology transfer program. The offer includes the opportunity for the Korean industry to participate as a best value global supplier in the F-35 program, manufacturing the center wing and horizontal and vertical tails of the plane,” the American told The Korea Times.
 
Read the full story at Korea Times
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25 avril 2013 4 25 /04 /avril /2013 07:20
F-16s Step Up For Tardy F-35

 

April 24, 2013: Strategy Page

 

The U.S. Air Force has increased the number of F-16s it wants to refurbish to 1,018. Last year the plan was to refurbish a few hundred of its 22 ton F-16 fighters because their replacement, the 31 ton F-35 was not arriving in time. So far 11 F-35s have been built and another 19 are to be built this year. That’s too slow to deal with number of F-16s that are growing too old to fly. The air force is doing a similar refurb on 175 F-15C interceptors. It may take a decade or more for F-35 production to get to the point where most F-16s can be replaced. Until then the F-16s must be ready to get the jobs done.

 

This is one of several reasons why many nations upgrade their F-16s. Some of these nations are holding off on ordering F-35s (or cancelling existing orders), either because of the high price or doubts about how good it will be. Aircraft manufacturing and maintenance companies see a huge market for such upgrades. Half or more of the 3,000 F-16s currently in service could be refurbished and upgraded to one degree or another. That’s over $25 billion in business over the next decade or so.

 

The F-35 began development in the 1990s, and was supposed to enter service in 2011. That has since slipped to 2017, or the end of the decade, depending on who you believe. Whichever date proves accurate, many F-16 users have a problem. Their F-16s are old and year by year more of them become too old to operate.

 

No matter how late the F-35 is, the U.S. Air Force now plans to refurbish at least a thousand Block 40 and 50 F-16s. The work will concentrate on extending the life of the airframe, plus some electronics upgrades. The air force does this sort of thing frequently to all aircraft models. It's called SLEP (Service Life Extension Program), and this one is special only because it concentrates on very old aircraft and is intended to keep these birds viable for another 8-10 years.

 

Many air forces are finding that it’s more cost-effective to upgrade via new electronics and missiles and, as needed, refurbishing engines and airframes on elderly existing fighters, rather than buying new aircraft. This is especially the case if the new electronics enable the use of smart bombs or more capable air-to-air missiles. One of the more frequently upgraded older fighters is the American F-16. Even the U.S. Air Force, the first and still largest user of F-16s had always planned to do this with some of its F-16s.

 

The F-16C was originally designed for a service life of 4,000 hours in the air. But advances in engineering, materials, and maintenance techniques have extended that to over 8,000 hours. Because of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, F-16s sent to those areas have flown over a thousand hours a year more than what they would in peacetime. The current planned SLEP will extend F-16C flight hours to 10,000 or more.

 

The F-16 has proved to be remarkably adaptable and is one of the most modified jet fighters in service. The most numerous F-16 is the C model. The first version of this, the F-16C Block 25, entered service in 1984. The original F-16, as the F-16A Block 1, entered service in 1978. While most F-16s still in service are the F-16C, there are actually six major mods, identified by block number (32, 40, 42, 50, 52, 60) plus the Israeli F-16I, which is a major modification of the Block 52. Another special version (the Block 60) for the UAE (United Arab Emirates) is called the F-16E. The F-16D is a two seat trainer version of F-16Cs. The various block mods included a large variety of new components (five engines, four sets of avionics, five generations of electronic warfare gear, five radars, and many other mechanical, software, cockpit, and electrical mods).

 

The F-16 is the most numerous post-Cold War jet fighter, with over 4,200 built and still in production. During The Cold War Russia built over 10,000 MiG-21s and the U.S over 5,000 F-4s, but since 1991 warplane production has plummeted about 90 percent. Since the end of the Cold War the F-16 has been popular enough to keep the production lines going.

 

The F-16 can also function as a bomber and ground attack aircraft (although not as effectively as the air force experts would have you believe, especially compared to the A-10). It can carry four tons of bombs and has been very effective using smart bombs. In air-to-air combat F-16s have shot down 69 aircraft so far, without losing anything to enemy warplanes. Not bad for an aircraft that was originally designed as a cheaper alternative to the heavier and more expensive F-15.

 

Although the F-35 is designed to replace the F-16, many current users will probably keep their F-16s in service for a decade or more. The F-16 gets the job done, reliably and inexpensively. Why pay more for new F-35s if your potential enemies can be deterred with F-16s. This becomes even more likely as the F-35 is delayed again and again. Finally, the upgrade is a lot cheaper, costing less than $20 million per aircraft, compared to over $100 million for a new F-35. If your potential enemies aren’t upgrading to something like that, a refurbed F-16 will do.

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24 avril 2013 3 24 /04 /avril /2013 12:50
Fokker secures orders for additional F-35 work valued at 60 M Euros

Apr 24, 2013 ASDNews Source : Fokker Aerostructures

 

Fokker Aerostructures has signed two contracts for F-35 work with Lockheed Martin and Northrop Grumman, collectively valued at 60 million Euros. The two contracts are for the delivery of innovative composite structures including flaperons, outer leading edge flaps and in-flight opening doors for the next batch of 73 F-35 aircraft. This order will guarantee high quality work at the Fokker Hoogeveen site up to 2016, during challenging economic times.

 

Hans Büthker COO of Fokker Technologies and President of Fokker Aerostructures, adds that “after 50 F-35 aircraft have been delivered and over 80  F-35s aircraft currently in production, it’s encouraging to see that Fokker has once more been selected to deliver innovative products for the next batch of 73 aircraft. With a total estimated production of more than 3,000 F-35 aircraft, this is a major opportunity for our company in the decades to come in terms of employment and participation in the most technologically advanced aircraft program,  including proven spill-over effects in our commercial aerospace activities.

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22 avril 2013 1 22 /04 /avril /2013 17:20
Le F-35 va-t-il survivre aux coupes budgétaires nord-américaines ?

21 avril 2013 Par Olivier Fourt (Rediffusion) - RFI

 

Il n’y a pas qu’en France que l’on parle de réductions budgétaires dans la défense. Aux Etats-Unis, le secrétaire américain à la Défense, Chuck Hagel, a promis mercredi de « mettre tout sur la table » pour que le Pentagone réforme sa façon de dépenser un budget appelé à baisser durablement. C’est tout d’abord le fonctionnement de l’armée américaine qui est visé, mais certains programmes, comme le coûteux avion furtif F-35, pourraient faire les frais de cette nouvelle politique.

Le F-35 va-t-il survivre aux coupes budgétaires nord américaines ?
(03:01)
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20 avril 2013 6 20 /04 /avril /2013 16:35
'US to expand military ties with India, no decision on F-35'

 

Washington, Apr 19 , 2013  deccanherald.com (PTI)

 

US is looking forward to expand its military ties with India including the potential sale of F-35 stealth fighter aircraft, although no decision have been made so far, a top State Department official said.

 

"We have made tremendous progress in the defence trade relationship. Now we're at USD 8 billion, we think there's going to be billion dollars more in the next couple of years," said Andrew Shapiro, the Assistant Secretary of State for Political-Military Affairs.

 

When asked about a potential sale of the fifth generation F-35 stealth fighter aircrafts to India, he said there might also be down the road some potential for it, but certainly no decision has been made regarding that.

 

It was earlier speculated that the US might offer the famed F-35 Joint Strike Fighter aircraft to India, following India's rejection of the F/A-18 and F-16 fighters in the multi-million dollar MMRCA deal.

 

"So we are on track," Shapiro told reporters in response to a question at the Washington Foreign Press Center.

 

He added that the Deputy Secretary of Defence Ashton Carter is heading up a defence trade initiative with India, which the US believes is making some good progress and will, hopefully, lead to even a greater pace of additional defence trade with India.

 

Last year, Shapiro had led the US delegation for the first ever political-military dialogue with India in six years.

 

"It was significant because we were able to help our Indian counterparts work through the challenges of inter agency cooperation on national security issues," said Shapiro.

"Indian officials' have remarked that this dialogue is especially helpful in helping coordinate between the various inter-agency partners in India," he added.

 

Responding to question on news reports that India might reopen its multi-billion dollar fighter jet deal, he said the American companies would have to consider if they want to participate in it.

 

"I wouldn't say we were kicked out (of the fighter jet deal). I would say there was a selection process where they made a determination to down select to the two and eventually to select the Rafale," he said.

 

"I have been reading in the Indian press various rumors about that transaction. We have no official communication from the Indian government and obviously if there was a reopening, US companies would have to consider whether they want to participate," Shapiro added.

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19 avril 2013 5 19 /04 /avril /2013 07:20
Australia to Study Electromagnetic Effects on F-35

April 18, 2013 defense-aerospace.com

(Source: Australian Department of Defence; issued April 17, 2013)

 

JSF Model to Study Electromagnetic Effects

 

The Minister for Defence Science and Personnel, Warren Snowdon, today unveiled a full-scale model of the F-35A Joint Strike Fighter (JSF) which DSTO will use to study the effects of electromagnetic compatibility and interference on the aircraft.

 

Called Iron Bird, the Australian-built model will be tested under simulated electromagnetic conditions during the acquisition and through-life sustainment of the JSF.

 

The study is a significant part of ensuring the protection of the JSF against electromagnetic environmental effects such as lightning and static discharge which can impair the performance and safety of aircraft.

 

The JSF is a fifth-generation aircraft with highly complex electronics, sophisticated software and a structural airframe made of composite materials. This exposes the aircraft to electromagnetic interference from both naturally occurring phenomena and man-made sources, including telecommunication transmissions and radar. The impact of these interferences needs to be well understood and appropriately managed.

 

DSTO has developed world-class expertise in the investigation of electromagnetic radiation impact on aircraft and is engaged directly with the United States JSF Joint Project Office to undertake this study using the Iron Bird model.

 

The data captured will help in providing potential reductions in the cost of owning the JSF fleet and enhancing the aircraft’s capability.

 

The DSTO test methods provide a rapid, cost-effective means of assessing and monitoring the JSF’s ability to withstand electromagnetic exposure and minimise any impact on its systems and performance. The research will support the verification for compliance and airworthiness certification for the JSF aircraft.

 

Australia’s first two F-35As are due to be delivered to a United States-based training facility during 2014‑15 when Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF) pilot and maintainer training will commence on the aircraft.

 

The Defence Science and Technology Organisation (DSTO) is part of Australia's Department of Defence. DSTO's role is to ensure the expert, impartial and innovative application of science and technology to the defence of Australia and its national interests.

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28 décembre 2012 5 28 /12 /décembre /2012 08:30
F-35: Still on Asia’s Radar?

December 27, 2012 By Trefor Moss - thediplomat.com

 

Several Asian countries are interested in the American F-35 JSF. But Canada’s U-turn on buying the jet won’t encourage Asian partners to sign up any time soon. Will the program survive?

 

For a stealth plane, the F-35 Lightning II Joint Strike Fighter (JSF) certainly attracts a lot of criticism.

It was the future weapon system that promised so much — enough for the United States and its allies to draw up wide-eyed plans for over 3,100 JSFs while the plane was still little more than an idea. The JSF was going to guarantee air superiority for the U.S. and its partners well into the middle of this century. But ever since rising costs, technical complexities, and missed deadlines have badly hurt the machine’s credibility, to the point where some critics advocate freighting the F-35 straight to the museum before it ever enters active service.

 

Of all the program’s setbacks, this month’s announcement that Canada was hitting the “reset” button on its procurement of 65 aircraft is probably the most serious. Ottawa, one of eight international partners working with the U.S. on the program, had been staunchly pro-JSF until an independent audit found that the fleet would cost $45.8bn over its 42-year life span — almost double initial government estimates. The reset doesn’t mean that Canada has dumped the F-35 entirely, but it would now look politically clumsy for the government to do another 180 degree turn and buy the jet after all. At any rate, Ottawa is examining cheaper alternatives.

 

Other partner nations are also wavering, but the biggest threat to the program could be in the U.S. itself, where up to $500 billion may need to be shed from the defense budget over the coming decade, in addition to cuts already agreed too. As the Pentagon’s most expensive program — currently pegged at $396bn for basic procurement and $1.45 trillion for total through-life costs — it is hard to see how the JSF could emerge unscathed, and for the U.S. to buy the 2,400 models the military desires, if huge savings from the defense budget must be found.

 

Despite all these uncertainties, a number of Asian customers and potential customers are still keenly tracking the JSF’s progress in the hope that it will eventually live up to its original promise. Australia and Japan have already ordered F-35s, though, like Canada, both have expressed misgivings about rising costs. South Korea is in the process of selecting a new fighter jet, with the F-35 one of three main contenders. Singapore is currently evaluating the aircraft. And India has been tapped by Washington as a future customer, in particular for the JSF’s naval variant.

 

Flight check

 

Lockheed Martin, the JSF program’s main contractor, is naturally more interested in trumpeting the aircraft’s progress, rather than dwelling on its missteps. And the program is undeniably moving forward. “The F-35 is making very substantial progress in its test program,” explains Dave Scott, the director of F-35 International Customer Engagement at Lockheed. With 16 aircraft now undergoing flight tests, Lockheed has “a high degree of confidence that [the testing program] will complete in 2016,” Scott says. Production aircraft are now rolling out of the factory. The DoD and Lockheed reached an agreement in November — after testy and prolonged negotiations — on the cost of the latest batch of 32 aircraft. The U.S. Air Force is preparing to begin pilot training in January. And down the line, the Marine Corps is planning to deploy F-35s to Japan in 2017.

 

This forward momentum strongly suggests that the F-35 program will endure, not least because the U.S. has hundreds of ageing aircraft that it needs to retire and nothing else to replace them with. It would also be unthinkable for the U.S. to dump its stealth fighter as China and Russia forge ahead with their own. But is the original goal of building over 3,100 aircraft still realistic? “Absolutely, that target is achievable,” Scott insists.

 

If Lockheed is to have any hope of building that many F-35s, it needs to encourage partners in Asia and elsewhere to keep faith with the project. But cost is the Catch-22: Lockheed needs more buyers to drive down the price, but concern over cost is what’s keeping those would-be buyers at arm’s length.

 

Locating the actual cost of an F-35 is perhaps trickier than spotting one on radar. The latest batch may be costing the Pentagon over $200m per copy, according to some estimates, though once in full production the unit cost could fall to under $100m. The information on price in the public domain may be ambiguous, but Scott says that potential customers are fully briefed on costs and receive assurances that they will not pay more than the U.S. itself. Costs are steadily falling, he adds, expressing Lockheed’s continuing “confidence that this will be a very affordable airplane along the lines of an F-16 or an F-18”. He admits, however, that the unit cost will partly depend on the number of aircraft being built.

 

Asian outlook

 

As the F-35’s principal cheerleader, Lockheed of course subscribes to the most optimistic of the program’s many possible fates. Not everyone follows suit. “In my opinion only the foolhardy or clairvoyant would risk saying anything definitive about a program like the F-35, as there are too many unknowns still to play out,” argues Simon Michell, the editor of RUSI Defense Systems at the Royal United Services Institute. But while cautioning against over-optimism, Michell agrees that, “if you are a nation that can afford it and is willing to wait, the F-35 is the best aircraft”. For Asian customers, “buying F-35 is also a political statement [as] it ties them closely to the U.S.,” he adds. “The looming presence of China is focusing minds on future strategic alliances.”

 

Japan ordered 42 F-35s back in December 2011. It remains contractually committed only to the first four aircraft, but it seems unlikely in the context of rising tensions with China that Tokyo would choose to back out, despite some alarm over the aircraft’s price tag. The Japanese are developing their own stealth aircraft, but its future is even less certain than the F-35’s. Lockheed’s Scott says that the company is on track to deliver Japan’s first four JSFs in 2016, adding that work is currently underway to set up an assembly line in Japan so that deliveries of the remaining 38 aircraft can begin in 2017.

 

Neighborhood rivalry means that South Korea is more likely to procure F-35s in light of the Japanese program. Seoul is currently evaluating three aircraft — the F-35, the Boeing F-15SE, and the Eurofighter Typhoon — with a view to ordering 60 of the winning design, probably in 2013 (Scott says that Lockheed is unaware of when a decision might come). With a potential need to engage targets in North Korea, Seoul arguably also has more of a need for the JSF’s stealthy strike capabilities than most, although the F-15, which South Korea already operates, would be a safe fallback option if Seoul feels that too many “ifs” and “buts” still surround the JSF program.

 

Australia is the Asia-Pacific market where the JSF program could be in the most trouble. Having originally outlined plans to procure 100 JSFs, Canberra has only placed a firm order for two planes so far, and a serious internal debate is underway ahead of the publication of a new defense White Paper as to whether Australia should emulate Canada’s decision. An ongoing round of defense spending cuts certainly makes the JSF vulnerable. “There are two major areas where the government can cut defense funding,” explains James Brown, a military fellow at the Sydney-based Lowy Institute. “The JSF and submarines are the obvious targets.” While the Australian military continues to make its case for the F-35, “the arguments for saying that we need 100 are looking a bit spurious,” Brown reasons.

 

With funding in short supply, “the most likely option now is a small additional order of [Boeing F/A-18] Super Hornets,” Brown continues. A reduced F-35 procurement could then follow later in the decade, allowing Australia to save money in the medium term and remain on the sidelines while the JSF program matures.

 

Singapore, another potential buyer, could be arriving at a similar conclusion, with little news on JSF procurement emerging from the Ministry of Defense. “The key from Singapore’s point of view is the need to maintain a technological edge over its adversaries, and that’s what makes the F-35 attractive,” explains Tim Huxley, executive director of the Singapore-based International Institute for Strategic Studies – Asia. “Having said that, the decision from Canada and perhaps also Australia [to back out] suggests that MINDEF will be looking at this very closely indeed,” Huxley continues. “Rumors of 100 F-35 certainly seem to be unrealistic. They will buy, but they’ll be looking at a smallish buy, perhaps 20 aircraft.” As with the Australian option of acquiring more F/A-18s as a stopgap measure, Singapore could add to its F-15 fleet in the medium term, and buy itself more time to evaluate the JSF program as it gathers pace. “There’s no reason for Singapore to rush into a decision,” Huxley adds.

 

Lockheed Martin’s Scott also acknowledges some potential partners may want to soft-pedal. “In all my conversations [with potential customers] there’s a growing recognition that the F-35 is the plane that will provide security and stability,” he says. “The question now is, when is the right time to buy?”

 

India, the other likely Asian buyer, also has the luxury of time. New Delhi is still in the process of procuring the Dassault Rafale, and will only then begin to think about what might come next. That being said, there is already speculation that India is reducing its participation in Russia’s stealth fighter program with a view to instead joining the F-35 camp later in the decade.

 

Endgame

 

For all Lockheed’s boundless optimism that it can still break the 3,000 aircraft threshold, there is a real risk that if too many partners reduce the size of their orders and defer their procurements, the JSF program will never reach that critical mass — the point where the unit cost becomes truly affordable. The window of opportunity in which the F-35 can succeed would then be narrow indeed.

 

Procuring the most advanced 4th generation aircraft, armed with the latest weaponry, could be a viable near-term alternative for many countries, argues RUSI’s Michell, while stealthy unmanned platforms may be capable of fulfilling most or all of the F-35’s anticipated roles sometime in the 2020s. “Their time is coming,” Michell believes, though even then he expects a mix of manned and unmanned platforms to be retained by most air forces.

 

The attractiveness of the unmanned option will also be a cultural issue for the country in question. “Stealthy UCAVs are at least a decade away, but given the timescale for inducting the F-35s it would make sense to look at substituting UCAVs for the later phases of the F-35 program,” says Huxley. “Singapore has a particular affinity with unmanned platforms of all types, and they will be acutely aware of that option.” Australia, on the other hand, is more likely to see the manned F-35 as the long-term answer to its future air power needs. The Lowy’s Brown points out, “Our approach to air combat is very conservative; our air force is opposed to the widespread use of unmanned technology. And there’s now enough momentum in the F-35 program to give you the sense that it will get through to its conclusion.”

 

There is little doubt that as Western partners scale back their ambitions for the F-35, the U.S. is looking to new Asian partners to pick up the slack. With their participation, the F-35 program can still succeed. However, the program cannot afford any more stumbles if it hopes to convince Asian buyers that the F-35 is worth the money — and the risk — before newer, and perhaps cheaper, technologies take its place in the skies. 

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10 juillet 2012 2 10 /07 /juillet /2012 07:55
The F-35 decision: Disastrous implications for UK airpower

 

 

07/09/2012 James Bosbotinis - defenceiq.com

 

The May 2012 announcement by the Secretary of State for Defence that the variant of F-35 Joint Strike Fighter (or Joint Combat Aircraft in UK parlance) to be acquired for the Royal Navy and Royal Air Force was again being changed marks the third iteration in a decade-long process.

 

The decision to revert to the F-35B short take-off and vertical landing (STOVL) variant instead of the F-35C carrier variant, justified on the basis of the supposed cost of configuring the Queen Elizabeth-class (QEC) for catapult assisted take-off but arrested recovery operations (CATOBAR), has significant long-term implications for UK airpower.

 

The F-35B constitutes a substantially less capable asset than the F-35C, in particular with regard to range, persistence and internal payload, has a higher unit acquisition cost and greater through life costs and does not meet the UK’s deep persistent offensive capability (DPOC) requirement. This will require either the acceptance of a significant capability gap or the acquisition of another aircraft, that is, most likely the F-35A, to address the DPOC requirement. Moreover, the F-35B is projected to have an out of service date of 2042, whereas the QEC are expected to remain in service until 2070; follow-on systems (such as sixth generation optionally manned/unmanned maritime combat air systems) are projected to be configured for CATOBAR operations. The selection of the F-35B is thus neither cost effective nor the optimum long-term solution to UK airpower requirements.

 

This paper examines the implications of the F-35 variant decision for UK airpower, with a particular focus on the difference in capability between the F-35B and C, the DPOC requirement and the potential acquisition of the F-35A to fulfil it, and the loss of the strategic flexibility provided by CATOBAR. The paper will argue that the decision to acquire the F-35B is not cost effective and will leave the UK with a sub-optimal airpower capability.

 

Less capability at greater cost

 

The difference in capability between the F-35B and F-35C is significant. Due to the STOVL requirement, the F-35B has a shaft-driven lift fan integrated with its engine thus restricting the aircraft’s internal fuel capacity to 13,500 lbs; in contrast, the internal fuel load of the F-35C is 19,145 lbs. The difference in internal fuel is highlighted by the range and combat persistence of the respective aircraft; the F-35B has a mission radius of approximately 463 nautical miles and a time over target of fifteen minutes; for the F-35C, the figures are 613 nautical miles and thirty-six minutes respectively. These figures are based on a standard low observable configuration and internal payload of two 500 lb. bombs and two advanced medium range air-to-air missiles (AMRAAM) for the F-35B and two 2000 lb. bombs and two AMRAAM for the F-35C. The preceding figures highlight a second key difference in capability; the reduced internal payload of the F-35B, which again is due to the aircraft’s STOVL configuration. The F-35A and C are both capable of accommodating 2000 lb. class munitions in their internal bays, whereas the F-35B has smaller weapons bays which are limited to 1000 lb. class munitions. In UK service, the F-35B will carry the Paveway IV 500 lb. precision guided bomb, thus creating a capability gap with regard to the prosecution of targets requiring 2000 lb. class penetrating weapons (for example, bridges and aircraft bunkers). This capability gap could be overcome via the carriage of weapons externally, for example, the Storm Shadow air-launched cruise missile, albeit at the cost of the F-35’s low observability.

 

The difference in capability between the F-35B and C is compounded by the former’s greater cost – both in terms of unit acquisition and through life. The F-35B will have a unit cost of approximately $138 million compared to $117 million for the F-35C; according to figures in the latest US Department of Defense Selected Acquisition Report, the F-35B engine alone is projected to cost $27.7 million compared to $10.9 million for that of the F-35C. Projected through life costs for the F-35B in UK Service are estimated to be £1 billion higher than for the F-35C. If, as will be discussed below, it is necessary to also acquire the F-35A, the through life costs of operating a mixed F-35A/B fleet will be £2 billion above that of operating a single F-35C fleet. In addition, due to the superior capability of the F-35C vis-à-vis the F-35B, fewer of the former would need to be acquired thus generating additional savings. In this regard, the Telegraph in April 2012 cited a classified Ministry of Defence document which suggested that 97 F-35Cs could provide the same capability that would otherwise require 136 F-35Bs. The implications in cost terms are stark; 97 F-35Cs would cost approximately £6.8 billion, whereas 136 F-35Bs would cost approximately £11.26 billion: a difference of £4.46 billion.

 

The cost of converting the QEC for CATOBAR operations – the justification for reverting to the F-35B - although stated to be in the region of £2 billion for HMS Prince of Wales and substantially more for HMS Queen Elizabeth (whilst noting that each ship is projected to cost approximately £2.5 billion) is also subject to much debate. In March 2012, the Telegraph reported that the Assistant Secretary of the US Navy, Sean J. Stackley had written to Peter Luff, Minister for Defence Equipment, Support and Technology, informing him that the CATOBAR conversion would only cost half what the Ministry of Defence were projecting. The possibility that tensions within the Ministry of Defence regarding Carrier Strike, impinged on the CATOBAR conversion cost analysis, resulting in flawed risk assumptions (for example, pertaining to the installation of the electromagnetic aircraft launch system) and thus inflated cost projections, cannot be ruled out. Taken together with the above F-35 cost data, the debate regarding the CATOBAR conversion cost and the reduced capability of the F-35B, the argument that the decision to revert to the STOVL solution for Carrier Strike constitutes the most cost effective option for the UK appears to be fundamentally flawed.

 

The DPOC Requirement

 

Since the demise of the Royal Air Force’s Future Offensive Air System (FOAS) programme (the intended replacement for the Tornado GR 4) in 2005, the JCA has been expected to fulfil the post-FOAS requirement. This requirement, the deep and persistent offensive capability (DPOC), cannot be met by the F-35B. The decision to acquire the F-35B will either require the acceptance of a capability gap or the acquisition of a second F-35 variant, most likely the F-35A. The acquisition of a mixed JCA fleet has been considered previously and has also been considered as part of the 2012 variant debate. This would involve significant extra cost because of the need to integrate UK weapons into the F-35A, the additional cost of maintaining a mixed fleet and ensuring the compatibility of the aircraft with Royal Air Force air-to-air refuelling (AAR) assets. The latter would involve either the configuring of UK AAR aircraft – the new Voyager A330-200 – for boom AAR operations (Airbus Military has developed an Aerial Boom Refuelling System for the A-330-200) or adapting the F-35A for hose and drogue refuelling. Lockheed Martin reports that provision has been made for the fitting of the necessary equipment for hose and drogue refuelling within the airframe, albeit at additional cost.

 

The DPOC requirement is of central importance to the future of UK airpower. The Tornado is due out of service by the end of this decade whilst the Typhoon does not meet the DPOC requirement and needs investment to attain a full multi-role capability. The limited range, persistence and internal payload of the F-35B, especially with regard to the lack of an internal 2000 lb. penetrating munition capability, will not provide the level of strike capability that is required, in particular for initial operations against an adversary’s strategic targets defended by a still-intact integrated air defence system. The reach of the F-35B can be extended via external carriage of the Storm Shadow cruise missile. This would enable the F-35B to engage targets at ranges of up to approximately 713 nautical miles (based on an F-35B radius of 463 nautical miles and a potential Storm Shadow range of up to 250 nautical miles) with the stand-off range of Storm Shadow keeping the launching aircraft outside of the range of air defence systems (excepting perhaps the Russian-made 40N6-equipped S-400 or Chinese-made HQ-19). However, the F-35B/Storm Shadow combination would only be effective in the context of not having to penetrate deep into an adversary’s airspace due to the F-35B’s low observability being compromised via the external carriage of ordnance. In contrast, the F-35C may potentially be capable of engaging targets at ranges similar to or exceeding that of the F-35B/Storm Shadow combination whilst only carrying internal ordnance. The National Audit Office in its 2011 report on Carrier Strike gave the combat radius of the F-35C as 650 nautical miles whilst other sources have stated this figure to be in excess of 700 nautical miles. Most notably, a 2002 conference paper prepared by a member of the JSF Program Office gave the F-35C’s radius as 799 nautical miles (the same source attributes the F-35A with a 703 nautical mile radius and the F-35B a radius of 496 nautical miles).

 

The strategic implications of the F-35B’s limited range and internal payload are significant. The limited range of the aircraft will increase the requirement for AAR support for both sea and land-based operations; this is especially significant for early operations in a crisis or conflict where the provision of land-based support assets may be restricted or not yet available or vulnerable to attack. With regard to Carrier Strike, the core rationale for carrier airpower is the provision of independent airpower – a dependence on land-based support assets impinges on this critical aspect. The relative value of a British contribution to a coalition’s combat airpower will also diminish due to the selection of the F-35B. This is because other likely coalition partners, for example, Australia, Canada, Denmark, Italy, Norway and The Netherlands will be operating the F-35A which can engage a broader range of targets at greater range than the F-35B. In addition, the loss of interoperability with the US Navy will compound the relative decline in the importance and utility of British combat airpower in a coalition setting. In this regard, it is important to note that in order to enhance integration with the U.S. Navy, the U.S. Marine Corps will acquire the F-35C in addition to the F-35B. This marks a significant departure from previous plans to transition to an all-STOVL force with the F-35B replacing STOVL AV-8Bs and conventional F/A-18C/Ds and EA-6Bs.

 

As the US reorients its force structure and doctrine toward the Asia-Pacific and Air Sea Battle, the UK, in order to maintain its desired position vis-à-vis the US, should seek to ensure that its force developments are relevant. The shift from the F-35C to B and away from a CATOBAR configuration for the QEC runs counter to this.

 

Moreover, unless the UK opts for a mixed JCA fleet, that is, acquires the F-35A with the additional cost of running such a fleet, the UK’s land-based airpower capability will also be sub-optimal. This again highlights the flawed nature of the decision to shift from acquiring the F-35C to the F-35B. The F-35C is the most capable version of the F-35, could fulfil the UK’s DPOC requirement from both land and sea, and would ensure that the UK possesses a robust and credible offensive air capability.

 

The Implications of a STOVL QEC

 

The most significant implication of the shift from a CATOBAR to STOVL configuration for the QEC is the loss of strategic flexibility and long-term growth potential afforded by CATOBAR. This goes beyond the F-35 variant debate and encompasses issues such as embarked intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance assets, the resilience of Carrier Strike in the event of the F-35 programme being delayed or failing and the long-term viability of Carrier Strike.

 

The latter is far more uncertain following the shift to STOVL. This is because the F-35B has a projected out of service date of circa 2042, whereas the QEC are intended to remain in service until around 2070; unless the ships are then refitted for CATOBAR operations, Carrier Strike capability would be lost by default.

 

The UK has also foreclosed potential future cooperation with the US in the development of next generation systems such as the F/A-XX (the F/A-18E/F Super Hornet and EA-18G Growler replacement), unmanned air systems such as the X-47B and unmanned carrier launched airborne surveillance and strike system and follow-on sixth generation systems.

 

In operational terms, the ship-air interface in a STOVL environment is no less complex than for CATOBAR operations. STOVL operations require more deck space than CATOBAR to enable the short take-off run and due to deficiencies in the F-35B’s performance, in particular the aircraft’s vertical landing bring back capability (the weight of payload permitted for a vertical recovery), ship-borne rolling vertical landings (SRVL) will be required (alternatively, any munitions being carried could be dumped prior to landing – an expensive approach considering the cost of precision guided munitions). A SRVL recovery will require as much deck space as a traditional CATOBAR recovery and can be expected to become routine due to F-35B performance shortfalls, through life technical risk and increasingly expensive weapons. The requirement for sustained investment in embarked training at sea for both aircrew and support personnel and the regular, sustained embarkation of the air group to ensure basic operational proficiency remains for STOVL as it would for CATOBAR operations. 

 

The F-35B’s performance limitations will also impinge on the effectiveness and credibility of UK Carrier Strike. The British government has not revised its policy regarding the size of the QEC air group, which will remain centred on just twelve F-35s. Based on the figures given in the aforementioned Telegraph article, 40% more F-35Bs are required to deliver the same effect as a force of F-35Cs. In essence, to deliver the same effect as twelve F-35Cs, the QEC should embark sixteen or seventeen F-35Bs. Therefore, the currently envisaged number of F-35s will need to be increased in order to provide the required capability. In addition, as discussed above, the F-35B has a reduced reach and punch compared to the F-35C, in particular with regard to the prosecution of hardened targets. The shift therefore from the F-35C to the F-35B will substantially reduce the capability of UK Carrier Strike and have a concomitant impact on its credibility in terms of constituting a force for influence and deterrence.

 

Conclusion

 

The decision to switch from the F-35C to the F-35B, and with it from a CATOBAR to STOVL configuration for the QEC, holds significant implications for the future of UK airpower. The limited range, persistence and internal payload of the F-35B reduce its military utility, in particular with regard to the prosecution of hardened high value targets and its increased dependence on AAR support, thus impinging on the capability and credibility of British airpower and its relative value to coalition operations.

 

Moreover, the variant switch does not constitute a more affordable option for the UK. The F-35B has a higher unit acquisition cost, greater through life costs and does not fulfil the UK’s DPOC requirement which will either necessitate acceptance of a serious capability gap or investment in other systems (such as the F-35A at considerably greater through life cost of a mixed fleet) to address the requirement.

 

In addition, the configuring of the QEC for STOVL operations generates uncertainty with regard to the long-term viability of UK Carrier Strike beyond the service life of the F-35B, and is however likely to necessitate fitting CATOBAR equipment in the long-term. The shift to a STOVL configuration for the QEC also imposes a substantial limitation on the long-term growth potential for UK Carrier Strike. This is especially with regard to possible UK involvement in US programmes developing future maritime aviation capabilities, in particular those relating to unmanned air systems which would offer substantial improvements in persistence, intelligence, surveillance, reconnaissance and strike capabilities (especially satisfying DPOC requirements) compared to current systems and that offered by the F-35. This also applies at the level of UK airpower. Any future combat air system (manned or unmanned) the UK seeks to acquire will either have to be STOVL (to ensure compatibility with the QEC) or restricted to land basing, thus removing the potential for the UK to minimise the number of fast jet types it operates. The acquisition of the F-35C would enable the UK to acquire future air systems, designed for CATOBAR, which do not suffer the performance limitations imposed by STOVL, and are equally capable of operations from land or sea. This would at least ensure commonality (the development of and requirements for an interoperable force are beyond the scope of this paper) between Fleet Air Arm and Royal Air Force types and contribute to maximising the flexibility of UK airpower.

 

Simply, the contention that the F-35B constitutes the most cost effective option for the UK and the ‘right decision for the long-term’ does not stand up to scrutiny. The decision to acquire the F-35B requires greater expenditure at a time when the defence budget and wider economy is under significant pressure. The decision will deliver a sub-optimal capability and will reduce the flexibility, long-term growth potential and, ultimately, the strategic credibility of UK airpower. 

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13 mai 2012 7 13 /05 /mai /2012 11:44
F 35 britanniques : what a mess[*] !

 

13 Mai 2012 Jean-Dominique Merchet

 

Le revirement de Londres sur le choix du futur avion de combat F 35, annoncé jeudi dernier, illustre le désarroi dans lequel se trouve la défense britannique. Des finances publiques à sec, des forces armées littérallement lessivée par dix ans de guerres (Irak, Afghanistan), une industrie qui a perdu des pans entiers de ses compétences et, cerise sur le gateau, des politiques, très divisés, qui ne savent pas où ils veulent vraiment aller.

 

En comparaison, la situation française apparait exceptionnellement favorable... mais il n'y a pas lieu de s'en réjouir. Car, volens nolens, le destin de nos pays est lié. Le Royaume-Uni est, pour l'heure, le principal partenaire militaire de la France. Son affaiblissement est au final notre affaiblissement.

 

Revenons au F 35... en sachant bien que ce n'est qu'une étape de plus dans une longue descente aux enfers. Il y en aura d'autres, et elles se décideront d'abord aux Etats-Unis, puisque Londres a fait le choix de s'en remettre à Washington pour équiper son aviation. Et que le programme de F 35 (l'ancien Joint Strike Fighter) de Lockheed n'est pas à proprement parler une réussite. Trop complexe (trois versions très différentes) et trop cher : le dernier rapport du Congrès américain parle de 400 milliards. Ce n'est pas fini, car les avions ne sont toujours pas en service et on ne sait ni quand, ni qui sous quelle forme et en quels nombres ils le seront un jour.

 

En décembre 2006, le gouvernement britannique annonçait sa décision d'acheter 135 F 35 dans sa version B. Cette version est à décollage court et atterrisage vertical (STOVL, en anglais). C'est la version développée spécialement pour l'aviation de l'US Marine Corps et qui doit succèder aux Harriers britanniques.

En octobre 2010, le gouvernement britannique (qui entre temps est devenu conservateur) change de cap. Il est décidé d'acquérir des F 35 mais dans sa version C, celle de l'US Navy. C'est un appareil naval traditionnel conçu pour décoller d'un porte-avions avec une catapulte et y apponter avec un brin d'arrêt (Catobar, en anglais). Moins complexe techniqument, l'appareil est à la fois moins couteux et plus performant en terme de capacités d'emport (carburant ou armement). Il oblige cependant à disposer de porte-avions pouvant le mettre en oeuvre. Le nombre d'appareils que Londres souhaitent acheter est réduit, mais le chiffre exact n'a pas été rendu public. En tout cas, pas 135...

Nouveau contre-ordre, jeudi 10 mai 2012 : le secrétaire à la Défense Philipp Hammond annonce aux Communes que Londres a décidé de revenir à l'achat de la version B (STOVL) ! La justification est la suivante : même si l'avion est moins cher, l'adaptation du futur porte-avions Queen Elizabeth se révèle hors de prix : la facture de l'adaptation a doublée, pour atteindre 2 milliards de livres (2,5 milliards d'euros...) ! Une somme proprement folle. Et l'avion ne sera pas disponible, au mieux, avant 2023, dans douze ans... Passons sur le fait que les Britanniques construisent deux porte-avions, sans savoir que faire de l'un des deux (Prince of Wales) puisqu'il a été jugé trop cher d'arrêter le chantier. Quant au reste de l'aviation britannique, elle repose sur l'Eurofighter Typhoon, qui n'est pas non plus la réussite du siècle, en matière de coûts et de performances...

 

De ce côté-ci de la Manche, on fait grise mine. Le choix de 2010 apparaissait comme la volonté de Londres de se rapprocher du modèle français pour, à terme, envisager un groupe aéronaval commun. Cette perspective s'éloigne, même si l'on avait beaucoup exagéré les possibilités de rapprochement en la matière. En effet, poser un avion sur un porte-avions est une chose, le mettre en oeuvre en est une autre. On a vu des Rafale se poser sur des porte-avions américains et participer à quelques exercices, mais imaginer que les avions français ou britanniques puissent être mis en oeuvre, de manière opérationnelle, à partir de porte-avions de l'un ou l'autre pays est une pure vue de l'esprit. Ne serait-ce que parce qu'il faut tout le soutien mécanique et l'armement des avions : il faut beaucoup de place et beaucoup de monde pour s'en occuper. Où les mettrait-on ? On oublie aussi un peu vite que le F 35 C (Catobar) est plus lourd (plus de 31 tonnes, à pleine charge) et qu'il ne pourrait pas être mis en oeuvre par le Charles de Gaulle. Les Américains développent d'ailleurs, à très grand prix, des catapultes électriques. Bref, on a un peu rêvé, comme on le fait depuis plus dix ans, sur un porte-avions franco-brtiannique. L'annonce de jeudi n'est qu'un douloureux retour au réel.

 

Très réelle aussi, l'inconséquence du choix des pays qui se sont embarqués dans le projet F 35... et qui s'en mordent les doigts. L'avion n'est pas là, il siphonne leurs crédits de recherche-développement et même les Britanniques découvrent qu'ils n'auront pas accès aux codes-sources, les secrets les plus précieux pour un programme de cette complexité. En clair, ils se sont mis entre les mains des Américains et financent la destruction d'une capacité européenne (ou autres, pensons au Canada, au Japon...) de concevoir les futurs avions de combat. Belle réussite !

 

* "Quel b*** ! "... pour les non-anglophones

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10 mai 2012 4 10 /05 /mai /2012 22:25
Londres choisit le F-35B aux dépens de l'entente franco-britannique

 

 

10.05.2012 Le Monde.fr avec AFP

 

Au plan diplomatique, l'une des conséquences du revirement britannique est que les avions français Rafale ne pourront pas se poser sur le pont du "Queen Elizabeth", dépourvu de catapultes.

 

Le choix du F-35B américain pour équiper les porte-avions britanniques, annoncé jeudi 10 mai à Londres, constitue un coup dur pour le concept d'interopérabilité au coeur de l'entente franco-britannique en matière de défense.

 

Le gouvernement britannique hésitait entre deux versions de l'avion de combat fabriqué par la même société américaine Lockheed Martin pour équiper la Royal Navy et la Royal Air Force (RAF): le F-35B à atterrissage et décollage vertical et le F-35C lancé par catapultes. Il a finalement renoncé à se doter du F-35C du fait de "l'augmentation inacceptable [du coût] et des délais" qu'impliquait un tel choix. L'installation d'un système de catapulte et de récupération "cats and traps" sur le pont du Queen Elizabeth, futur porte-avions britannique qui reste à construire d'ici 2020, aurait entraîné un retard de trois ans et un surcoût de 2 milliards de livres (2,5 milliards d'euros) par rapport au devis initial, a plaidé Philip Hammond, l'actuel ministre de la défense du Royaume-Uni au sein du gouvernement de coalition de David Cameron.

 

La coalition des conservateurs et libéraux démocrates avait pourtant, en 2010, préconisé d'adopter le F-35C, plutôt que le F-35B initialement retenu par le précédent gouvernement travailliste. Le premier ministre David Cameron avait à l'époque vanté aux députés l'interopérabilité du F-35C avec les porte-avions français et américains. Jeudi, le porte-parole de l'opposition travailliste pour les affaires de défense, Jim Murphy, a immédiatement dénoncé "l'incompétence" gouvernementale.

 

PAS DE RAFALE SUR LE PONT DU "QUEEN ELIZABETH"

 

Au plan diplomatique, l'une des conséquences du revirement est que les avions français Rafale ne pourront pas se poser sur le pont du Queen Elizabeth, dépourvu de catapultes. Or l'utilisation croisée des porte-avions était au cœur du projet de coopération bilatérale franco-britannique esquissé à Saint-Malo en 1998 et relancé à grand renfort de publicité par David Cameron et le président Nicolas Sarkozy lors de la signature du traité de défense de Lancaster, en novembre 2010.

 

La nécessité du maintien de capacités aéronavales fortes, trente ans après la guerre anglo-argentine aux Malouines, en Atlantique Sud, constitue un argument fort dans le débat en Grande-Bretagne sur les risques réels ou supposés des coupes budgétaires dans le domaine de la défense. Jeudi, Philip Hammond a expliqué : "La décision concernant les porte-avions, prise en 2010, était légitime à l'époque, mais les faits ont changé et nous devons changer notre approche en conséquence. Ce gouvernement ne va pas aveuglément poursuivre des projets sans considération pour l'augmentation des coûts et des délais."

 

"C'est un autre rendez-vous manqué pour des raisons secondaires", a déploré Etienne de Durand, expert auprès de l'Institut français des relations internationales, dans une interview au Financial Times. Le partenariat inédit scellé en 2010 par les deux principales forces militaires européennes prévoit notamment la création d'un corps expéditionnaire commun s'inspirant de la brigade franco-allemande, le partage de laboratoires pour tester leurs arsenaux atomiques et des partenariats industriels sur les drones et les missiles. Le rapprochement exprime un souci commun de mutualisation et de réduction des coûts en période d'austérité.

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3 juin 2011 5 03 /06 /juin /2011 23:00

http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/7/73/Rafale2_ag1.jpg

 

Jun 3, 2011 By Bill Sweetman Aviationweek.com

 

Washington - The European fighter development community’s views on the Joint Strike Fighter (JSF) have become more negative since 2005-06, and this is not, primarily, the result of marketing. The commentary expressed in offline meetings at conferences and shows is much more negative than on-the-record statements suggest.

 

People at Saab, Eurofighter and Dassault are of one voice on JSF and do not believe it will deliver its promised affordability, whether in acquisition, upgrades or operational cost, or that it will deliver capability on its present schedule. They expect that when JSF emerges from development, its stealth technology will be less valuable than expected, and that it will be inferior in other respects to European products.

 

The non-competitive selections of the JSF by the Netherlands, Norway and Canada are attributed to three main factors: political pressure by the U.S. (suspected for years but confirmed in 2010 by WikiLeaks), U.S.-oriented air forces, and political vacillation enabled by the fact that full-rate production JSFs are not available for order.

 

This worldview underpins the Europeans’ determination to keep their programs alive until the JSF program runs its course, or unravels, as they expect it to.

 

India’s decision to eliminate all but two contenders for its Medium Multi-Role Combat Aircraft (MMRCA) requirement was a blow to Boeing and Saab, the companies in the losing group who had reason to hold out most hope in the competition (see p. 21). For the survivors, Eurofighter (Typhoon) and Dassault (Rafale), it means a bruising duel to win the contract and—for the winner—a major challenge to fulfill it.

 

Indian officials say the winners scored highest on technical grounds, which is not surprising. Typhoon and Rafale are larger and more powerful than Saab’s Gripen. The former is better at high altitude and the latter excels in payload and range. The European fighters also have a more contemporary aerodynamic design than Boeing’s Super Hornet.

 

But a word of caution—what is being offered in both cases is not what is coming off the production line today. Boeing’s Super Hornet proposal seems to have been close to the in-production F/A-18E/F Block 2, with the exception of General Electric’s Enhanced Performance Engine (EPE) version of the F414. Gripen NG rests on a development program that is well underway.

 

Whether Rafale or Typhoon is selected, the program will aim to achieve several things simultaneously, including co-developing improvements such as an active, electronically scanned array (AESA) radar and Meteor air-to-air missile (AAM) integration; dealing with obsolescence issues that are inevitable in long development cycles; transfering technology and launching joint indigenous production; and transplanting a complex all-digital aircraft into the Indian air force, all on a tight timescale.

 

If Rafale wins, and is also successful in Brazil, Dassault and its partners—Safran and Thales—will be doing much the same thing, 9,000 mi. from India.

 

Good luck with that. The Indian customer, however, may take the view that the burden of risk will fall on the contractor—and ultimately its domestic government stakeholder, which is unlikely to want to see problems erupt into public finger-pointing.

 

Boeing and Saab, meanwhile, can take comfort in depicting the Indian decision as something less than an outright repudiation of their approach to fighter design and the market. Boeing can present it as a choice to not rely on the U.S. for a principal weapon system, and Saab can point out that either finalist represents a move to closer ties with the major powers of Europe.

 

The current competitive situation of the three “Euro-canard” fighters, however, is shaped by economic, operational, technical and historic factors, and whether one or all survive into the 2020s as viable programs depends on all of them.

 

The historic factor dates to the mid-1980s, when France and the Eurofighter partners went their separate ways. Germany and the U.K. argued that one-nation programs no longer had the critical mass to compete with those from the U.S. France believed multinational programs without a clear leadership structure were impossibly cumbersome.

 

Both arguments were right.

 

Rafale works, but is being built at such slow rates that costs are high. To increase rates would be to starve other national programs of resources. Typhoon’s production and upgrade program has been successively delayed and restructured as the sponsoring nations have wrangled over how much should be spent on each step, and when.

 

Sweden escaped these outcomes because it had always structured its fighter programs differently. Design, integration and most manufacturing remained in Sweden, but subsystems such as the engine, radar and weapons were co-developed with foreign partners or imported. Combined with a uniquely authoritative and highly skilled government arms-development agency, Gripen’s development has been affordable on a national basis.

 

Technically and operationally, Rafale and Typhoon are more different than the distant view suggests. At its conception, Typhoon was expected to enter service at a point where Tornado, developed by three of its four partners, would be at its mid-life point. Combined with the emerging threat of the MiG-29 and Sukhoi Su-27, this drove the design toward air-combat performance, with a configuration that accommodated large radar and a standard, low-drag, six-missile load-out, and aerodynamics and propulsion optimized for agility (including supersonic maneuver) and acceleration.

 

The RAF considers the Typhoon second only to the Lockheed Martin F-22 in the air-to-air regime. Armed with Meteor ramjet-powered AAMs and equipped with a high-end infrared search-and-track (IRST) system, it will be more formidable yet. The problem is that few customers face adversaries with large or modern fighter forces.

 

Also, there is a difference of approach among the four Typhoon nations. The U.K. has recognized since the early 2000s that the Typhoon will have to take over some or all Tornado missions and developed an interim air-to-ground precision-strike capability. But the other partners have not seen this as an urgent need (and are less involved with air operations in Iraq and Afghanistan), so funding for definitive solutions has been slow to materialize.

 

Nonetheless, the Typhoon team continues to promote future variants, including evolved designs with thrust vector control (TVC)—which, among other things, improves handling with heavy external loads—and even a carrier-based version, which is of interest to India (and to the U.K. if JSF has problems). TVC is linked to carrier landing capability, as it permits a trimmed approach at a lower angle of attack and overcomes a problem with earlier “Seaphoon” studies—the big radome that interposed itself between the pilot’s eyes and the ship.

 

afale, by contrast, was designed to permit a one-type air force for France, including the navy, with missions ranging from close air support to nuclear strike. The result was a small aircraft with the ability to carry a large external load and lower top-end performance than Typhoon. Another tradeoff was to accept less radar range in return for flexibility and light weight, with the relatively small passive phased array of the RBE2.

 

The Rafale has impressive capabilities, including discretion, which the French prefer to the term “stealth.” Rafale visibly shows more marks of low-observables technology than its contemporaries, and there is evidence that its Thales Spectra electronic warfare system has an active cancellation mode.

 

The Rafale team has, since the mid-2000s, done reasonably well at keeping its plans to mature and upgrade the aircraft on schedule. It can self-designate with the GBU-12 laser-guided bomb and carries the Sagem AASM extended-range, precision-guided weapon family. For the destruction of enemy air defenses mission, presentations show one Rafale targeting with radar from outside lethal range, while another approaches in terrain cover and delivers a pop-up AASM. The latest version to be tested is the imaging-IR model. Rafale is also operational with the Thales Areos multiband, long-range oblique reconnaissance pod.

 

Stealth, meanwhile, appears to be the hallmark of Gripen development, in that it is moving forward under a shroud of non-publicity. Sweden has taken the strategic decision to retain a small but capable air force, which will be based on Gripen until at least 2040. The only currently planned route to that goal is through the JAS 39E/F Gripen NG.

 

The next milestone is the return to flight of the Gripen Demo prototype, equipped with the E/F’s new avionics system, designed to reduce the cost of upgrades by partitioning mission systems from flight-critical functions. Selex Galileo is pushing forward with the Skywards-G IRST—the first system of its type to operate in dual IR bands—and the Raven ES-05, the first wide-angle AESA.

 

The first new-build Gripen NG is due to fly in 2012. Reports describe stealth enhancements including diverterless inlets. The enhanced performance (EPE) engine would be a useful addition—at its highest reported rating, its non-afterburning output would be over 90% of the maximum thrust of the C/D’s RM12 engine, although Saab may elect to take a smaller thrust boost combined with longer engine life to reduce ownership cost. GE claims that the EPE is relatively low-risk.

 

There’s a lot of work to be done if European programs are to remain viable, but so far, industry considers it worthwhile.

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