face into the wind when starting?
The US Air Force says a strong tailwind is behind the flight line fire that has grounded yet another of its F-35 fighter aircraft. The F-35A caught fire while getting ready to fly an exercise from Mountain Home Air Force Base in Idaho. It was one of seven at the base for surface-to-air training. The fire happened while the …
That poor F-35 just can't get no respect. It can't fly into the wind and can't fly with the wind at its back.
The various US services don't want it and only the friendly-airways of some Allies say they might pay for some. The Chinese (and Ruskis and probably NORKS) are all working at defeating its famed capabilities.
Apparently the only ones who want it are the US defense parasites and their lackeys in congress. Why don't we park the fleet in their back yards? Fourth-of-July fireworks? Sure, start one of those babies up!
>The various US services don't want it
Are you sure the services want out of it? That would be very good news, and common sense. But I don't remember serving senior procurement-relevant members of the armed forces going on the record and suggesting to ditch it.
I am sure you can get dozens of anonymous pilots off the record. But the input from the boys and gals at the tip of the spear doesn't outweigh lobbyists, no sirree.
As far as the Marines go, they got the best end of it - the thing is crap partially because it is a multirole design saddled with all their requirements - so their incentive to bail is even less, they might as well pray that it will somehow muddle through into a decent aircraft at some point.
I cant remember the name of the story, so cannot find a link; but I remember an even more prophetic sci fi short.
The super-duper robotic warships defending the coast suddenly stared disappearing without warning - despite sophisticated radar systems, sensitive sonar systems and awesome fire power.
A recon unit was sent out to investigate and found out they were being attacked and deactivated by an old guy in a row boat, armed with a pair of electrical side cutters.
I think an even more insightful old sci-fi novel would be Tik-Tok. In it there is a US military project that so much money has been sunk into (it's an aircraft carrier) that nobody dares to cancel it. So each successive head of defence ploughs even more money into it in an attempt to make it viable. Despite the fact that it's a colossal failure from a strategic point of view.
It's a good novel, albeit old. About a domestic cleaning robot that kills someone and from there follows the natural progression through crime, to business to politics. The details of the technology in the story have aged and become out of date, but the politics seems to have not changed a bit.
One would expect the cream of scientific and engineering excellence to rise to the top, and in exchange for all our money that is invested in it, produce the best that money could buy.
Alas, what really happens, is someone pushes a particular design beyond the point where it should have ceased, for no better reason than they are dismayed by the prospect of losing it all.
So, the inevitable marketing campaign begins, where more and more money is spent trying to get the damn thing to work properly, while the budget for 'convincing' important people of its worth, climbs out of control until the end-game is reached where so much has been spent, that it becomes the only option we can afford so we press on, urged by the people who have been enjoying the expenses-paid ride and are planning their retirements for just before their baby becomes operational.
So many wonderful things in our past have come to us via this route that one would think we could have thought up an antidote for it by now. But here we are again. Our Harriers are gone and the F-35's will be here sometime never, so it's time we glued AK-47's onto Gladiator wings, and employed small boys to sit in wing pods to keep the magazines filled - because soon we're gonna need them.
Thats not the sherpas fault it is because your maintenance department didnt know squat about setting up the toe in.
TBH at least if we bought BL (or perhaps even built a fighter ourselves... tsr2 would still show the existing fighters up, and a modified supersonic harrier is certainly feasible), around a British engine (yes, Rolls Royce can still make engines), using some British computer trickery for the weapons (and British, not outsourced to India) we would have a product we could sell to others, have some money left in the bank and would have people in Britain employed by the British tax payer, spending their hard earned in the local community etc etc etc and perhaps we wouldnt be a broke country heading rapidly down the u-bend.
As much as the F-35 is a technological marvel, as a weapon of war it strikes me as an utter abysmal failure. Billions of dollars over budget, years behind schedule, and still barely functional. I'd rather have a single F-16 covering my tail than a squadron of F-35s. At least the F-16 has paid for itself multiple times over.
Out of interest, how does an F-16 pay for itself? I mean, war is a sinkhole of money from a Forces perspective (you pour money in, dead bodies come out the other end).
I know other parties have vested and profitable interests in war, is that who we're talking about?
It all stems from the unwritten, unspoken cost of losing a war, or not finishing one. Losing a war is really, really expensive. This is the "cost" that the bean counters never let you put in the cost-benefit analysis, which leads to the general diminishment of a country's military during extended periods of peace (4 years +)... Winning a war is almost as expensive. The best outcome one can have is to put enough money into the armed forces and then never have to go to war in the first place. Of course, all that equipment and personnel have to look dangerous (and actually be dangerous) to be of any benefit.
So F16, within the intended limitations of the design, has been wildly successful in that role. Plentiful, affordable, clearly functional, and competent enough that you have to have a fairly sophisticated air defence (a relatively rare thing in today's conflicts) capability to realistically take one on.
Indeed, when they first started laying into Syria they sent pretty much one of everything over; F22, the lot. However the bulk of the work has been done by the F16s (and probably USN F18s). I saw the deployment of so many different types and F22 in particular (definitely not a ground attack platform) as a means to get the them some "combat experience", for no other reason than to be able to say to Congress "look, they're essential". To have to resort to such low tricks to secure continued funding for various aircraft types says a lot about the state of politics and government in the USA (weak, pork-riddled, ineffective, strategically unfocused), and is itself a damaging sign of weakness in the big strategic game. And so China, reassured, carries on taking over the Western Pacific.
F35, well that's different. Clearly if it could be made to work properly it would be quite a handful for anyone to take on (primarily thanks to its stealthiness and the missile system they're giving it). Clearly it's not there, yet. However the determination to complete it plays a role in deterrence, but until it is complete one runs the risk of having one's bluff called. Arguably not completing it now would be seen as a serious strategic weakness, a dangerous impression to give!
Arguably not completing it now would be seen as a serious strategic weakness, a dangerous impression to give!
Why? The US has almost as big a defence budget as the rest of the world combined, and whilst it will need a replacement for the various operational fast jets, it doesn't need the F35, and it face no imminent threat of technical superiority by any other country. In this discussion, it is worth recalling that trying to keep up with Star Wars was what bankrupted the Soviet Union. In this case the US is trying to bankrupt itself. Cancelling the F35 programme sadly isn't going to happen, but if it did, what would the Chinese or Russian's say? :
a) Good lord, they've scrapped a non-operational money sink! They've only about 3,000 fast jets in service, they must be defenceless - lets invade!
b) Holy sh**! They've woken up and smelt the coffee. We're in trouble now, because they might actually spend their money on stuff that works.
"The best outcome one can have is to put enough money into the armed forces and then never have to go to war in the first place"
This is OK, but the other side of that is avoiding spending so much on the armed forces that the rest of the system falls apart. Ronny Raygun almost managed it with SDI (the USSR managed to impode first) but sucessive administrations seem hellbent on finishing what he started.
" Clearly if it could be made to work properly it would be quite a handful for anyone to take on"
1: It's not stealthy, except on-axis from the nose
2: It's decidedly unstealthy with the weapon bay doors open (which it has to do to keep from oveheating)
3: Those missiles aren't going to help much when it can't surprise anyone and handles like a pig with wings.
The F16 was conceived as a cheap-n-cheerful aircraft to sell to other countries and use when they expensive F15's were in short supply; but over a number of years and weapon/system refinements it became nearly as effective as the F15 and replaced it in many areas/roles.
Although costing a fraction of the F15, it could match 95% of the F15's combat roles, especially when AMRAAMS replaced Sparrows as the air2air weapon of choice.
SO yeah, it saved money.
I hate to break this to you but the F-35 is the cheap-n-cheerful aircraft to sell to other countries and to use when the F-22 is in short supply. Of course they were worried about the cost of the F-22 and chose to change more of the mix to the F-35. Oops!
"" This conjunction of an immense military establishment and a large arms industry is new in the American experience. The total influence -- economic, political, even spiritual -- is felt in every city, every State house, every office of the Federal government. We recognize the imperative need for this development. Yet we must not fail to comprehend its grave implications. Our toil, resources and livelihood are all involved; so is the very structure of our society.
In the councils of government, we must guard against the acquisition of unwarranted influence, whether sought or unsought, by the militaryindustrial complex. The potential for the disastrous rise of misplaced power exists and will persist. "
There was an investigation into why the F-35 cost so much. Basically, everybody had a finger in the pie, piling up costs, delaying everything, adding one more stupid feature after another. And nobody was bringing it to a halt.
Now we've wasted many billions on a hunk of junk, that will only fly in perfect weather. What is this jet, really? The reincarnation of the Pinto? Corvair?
Think P-39 Airacobra, WW2 aircraft which was pretty advanced, quite innovative and intended for air combat. Instead it had pretty massive problems in that role and was instead shunted to mostly ground attack roles*.
some of it sounds familiar (wiki):
"in the event of heavy rain the pilot's forward view would be completely obliterated; the pilot's notes advised that in this case the door windows would have to be lowered and the speed reduced to 150 mph (241 km/h)"
However in 1940 aircraft design and production cycles were in months, not in decades. You could also still use the P39 to do other things. Most importantly there were plenty of very good planes, designed by evolution rather than committee, waiting in the wings to take over its role. For each P39 you had a Tempest or P51 design.
Or you could also pick the F104 Widowmaker, which required, IIRC an upside roll to eject downwards, at least in the beginning due to its big tail (see recent articles about F35 helmet and pilot necks). That thing was quietly canned some years down the line.
Point is - aircraft designs can and do fail, sometimes. There are tons of fighter designs that either were abandoned or put into different roles while a replacement was procured. It doesn't necessarily mean the original designers were incompetent or corrupt. They just failed, perhaps by being too innovative.
The difference is, we now refuse to acknowledge the problem and are in full Emperor's New Clothes mode. There is no alternative design to fallback on - the whole point of the F35 program was to source all the eggs with one basket to reduce costs. Lobbyists, and the rather clever spreading of the pork all over, means that the F35 is likely to trump a lot of military and budgetary logic before it gets canned.
Anyone wanting to chuck the F35 is a peacenik clueless idiot, runs the official party line.
And we have no plan B.
* even the Typhoon was, IIRC, originally more intended for fighter duty.
** also the wikipedia entry makes the P39 sound quite a bit more successful than I recall reading about it in the past.
Indeed, the Typhoon was intended as a replacement for the Hurricane as a pure fighter. It was in fact quite successful as it was both faster and more manoeuvrable than a FW190, particularly at low altitudes. The thick wing did have the problem of sonic compression at speeds over 500 mph so the aircraft was redesigned with a "thin" wing. Associated changes required meant that the aircraft was different enough to need a new name, thus Tempest.
I wondered about that too as, on the face of it, it doesn't seem to make much sense.
On the one hand, surface-to-air is a defensive missile action, carried out by ground forces against attacking air forces but, on the other hand, the F-35 is supposed to be stealthy and invisible to the guidance radar used by those defensive surface-to-air missiles for detection and tracking.
<tongue-in-cheek>Perhaps it has finally been accepted that the F-35 is never going to work properly in the air and they're now seeing if they can be turned in to self-propelled ground-based missile launchers (not that the F-35 seems to be very reliable on the ground either).</tongue-in-cheek>
Now I love to bash a military white elephant as much as the next person, but...
The F35 is not unique in this respect. Just about any turbine-powered aircraft will have a tailwind limitation for startup, beyond which unburned fuel accumulation will cook the engine if you persist with the start (similarly to a hot start if fuel is introduced too early before the turbine is up to speed on the starter motor). One would expect that the start is computer-controlled though here....
On turbine helicopters, procedures will call for the turbine to be motored with the starter motor without the igniters active to clear this fuel (or leave it and go off and have a cuppa...), and maybe rotate the machine out of the wind if it can be moved easily.
I have to agree, you would think this would be standard operating procedure by now, but apparently not.
However, at least the aerospace industry is pretty good at avoiding repeated incidents. Right now, there will be a circular going round to update the starting procedure so that in the event of a cancelled start (and subsequent fuel build up), future start must be conducted into the wind.
Frankly, that should have been in the operating procedure from the start, but I guarantee it will be in there now.
Slightly off topic, but around 1962 I was an erk at an RAF flying training base. The jet trainers were De Havilland Vampires, twin boomed with the tail plane between. http://cdn-www.airliners.net/photos/airliners/1/5/1/0961151.jpg?v=v40
They would occasionally fail to start (too much choke?) and a bunch of us would have to lean on the tail plane to tip up the nose while a highly trained engine fitter swabbed out the excess fuel with a rag. I often wondered how the student pilots felt when they were suddenly looking up at the sky then let down a little bit too quickly.
This is an aircraft for hostile environments - guns and bullets and missiles and other pointy bangy stuff - and also hostile environments - wind, rain, hail, sand, dust, heat and cold - and also hostile environments - sea, swell, spray, short runways and moving decks.
All I've seen so far says I should be only operating any variant of these from a Californian Airport in a cool summer ...
Bit scary for the "Defence of the Realm" and all that ...
Very true, but that's only used after the engine is properly ignited and running under its own power, plus the really hot bit will be just behind the aircraft anyway when in use.
A hot start is generally when excess fuel is ignited at too-low a level of RPM so that the turbine blades in the hot section of the turbine exceed their safe operating temperature - even transiently.
Since the blades in the hot section are usually operating close to their melting/deformation point even when everything is working OK (and only don't melt due to clever cooling holes), a temperature excursion will lead to a hot section inspection being required at the very least to see if any of these blades have deformed/fused
If it has done a reverse flaming fart up its own jacksey like this which needed extinguishing (as opposed to an over-temperature tell-tale warning), then they will probably need to strip it down to get rid of the extinguishant out of the turbine anyway.
This can happen on any turbine engine. In fact, a lot of helicopters for instance have a "no tailwind at startup" demand in their operating manual, or at the very least strict limits. (Helo turbines are very sensitive to fuel building and hot-starting due to their compact size and restrictive expansion/power section)
Without wishing to appear disrespectful to our American cousins, have we in the UK learned nothing from experience? The only other occasion (post WW2) when we bought operational war-planes from the USA was when we bought F-111s. In case you are wondering why the RAF and Navy never actually got them, it is because the contract was cancelled before we took delivery. Why? Because the thing was way over budget, way behind schedule and didn't meet its performance targets! Does this sound familiar?
We ended up paying for them anyway - even though we never got them - because the idiots at the MOD had apparently signed the contracts without reading the small print!
At least on that occasion, we still had other aircraft of our own manufacture on which we could fall back.
This time, the idiots in charge scrapped our Harriers and their carriers before the replacement had even flown in prototype form! As a result, we will be without a useful carrier borne aircraft for over a decade, and reliant on the charity of the US - or France (!) - should we need one!
Even when we do get them, they will be far too few and far too expensive to risk in actual operations. And all being paid for with money that we really can't afford to spend.
It makes you want to weep!
Oops! Forgot that one! - But wasn't that given to us as a sop because of the political furore over the F-111?
BTW, the F-111 did finally become an almost respectable aircraft, bit it reached that goal far too late, and was pretty much obsolete by the time it entered service. The swing-wing mechanism also made it far too heavy - a trait it shares to some extent with the Tornado.
The problem with trying to make something that is both a fighter and a bomber is that it ends up as a jack-of-all-trades and master-of-none.
Far cheaper and easier to build the right tool for the job! Follow the good old Unix philosophy: "Do one job, and do it well"!
"the F-111 did finally become an almost respectable aircraft"
The F-111A did, but there's a reason it's called "the pig" by its fliers and has nothing to do with the Aardvark designation.
The F-111B was cancelled and lessons learned from that begat the F14 and F15 as "better, cheaper" aircraft (ironic that the F16 is a "better cheaper F15")
However the primary lesson learned from the F111B debacle was how to setup the system so that it COULDN'T be cancelled - which is why the F35 is still here.
Not strictly warplanes but US sourced military aircraft nonetheless Chinook, Apache, Tristar, Sentry, C17. Chinook was a lemon and cost millions to bring up to UK spec, Apache looks like it needs replacing already, so that just leaves some transporters which were developed from tried and tested civilian aircraft.
Have to agree US procurement by the UK military has not had a good track record! Harrier II should have been kept, the upgrade to GR9 was only completed in 2007 so they were pretty fresh aircraft, they would still have 2 years left in service even without further updates!
If you checked wreckedexotics.com you'll see plenty of high-performance craft are felled by powertrain fires. On a weekly basis!
It seems high performance equates to heightened fire risk. Though why that would necessarily be seems odd.
Anyway: F35 joins the high-flying ranks of Ferrari, Lamborghini, and even Jaguar!