back to article ALIS through the looking glass: F-35 fighter jet's slurpware nearly made buyers pull out – report

The F-35 fighter jet project has been hit by yet another set of controversies including a kerfuffle over US data-slurping, flight control problems and its stealth coating melting at supersonic speeds. Once described by The Register as the ultimate vendor lock-in project, the F-35 is sold by Lockheed Martin as a package: not …

  1. Anonymous South African Coward Silver badge

    Looks like data slurping is here to stay, no matter what you may buy or use.

    Sheep/chicken/llama/goat farming in the boondocks, on the other hand, is starting to look more and more attractive.

    1. Commswonk Silver badge

      Looks like data slurping is here to stay, no matter what you may buy or use.

      Odd that this should come from the US - the country that wants to ban Huawei because it might do something not so very greatly different.

      1. IGotOut Silver badge

        And wants to stop Turkey buying Russian SAMs because they "may" send info back.

        It's all fun and games...

      2. sprograms

        The US doesn't seek to restrict Huawei because of what they may do, but due to who is going to be doing it. If you think there's a better side to join, go ahead. We went through that in the 1950's and 60's. Some gained and some lost due to their choices.

        1. JohnFen Silver badge

          "The US doesn't seek to restrict Huawei because of what they may do, but due to who is going to be doing it."

          Although I think that's a bit of a distinction without a difference, it would be understandable if other nations start restricting the use of US technology based on the exact same reasoning.

        2. the hatter

          Maybe just deal with, or ignore, the merely-possible potential problem. Intelligence agencies spy on people, that's their job. All governments lean on companies to make that job easier, either at a corporate level, at insider level or via subterfuge (or all of the above). I don't think anyone doubts the USA does this too, so why are the US leaning heavily on foreign governments to blacklist huawei ? Those nations can make their own judgement as to who is the biggest threat to them, and to which sectors. It's pretty much a commercial decision, USA can't compete with china, sad but true, but this boycott won't change that, nor will it make any other nations more secure.

          1. Roland6 Silver badge

            >so why are the US leaning heavily on foreign governments to blacklist huawei ?

            For reasons similiar to those deployed against Kaspersky, the issue isn't the slurping, but who does the slurping.

            The US is probably quite concerned about the UK not falling into line over Huawei, given they use the UK to spy on US citizens and hence are probably concerned that potentially Chinese agencies could gain intelligence on US/UK intenlligence operations...

            1. JohnFen Silver badge

              "the issue isn't the slurping, but who does the slurping."

              If that accurately reflects the attitude, then something is extremely wrong. The issue should be the slurping, regardless of who does it.

              1. Anonymous Coward
                Anonymous Coward

                "If that accurately reflects the attitude, then something is extremely wrong. The issue should be the slurping, regardless of who does it."

                FiveEyes has been slurping large amounts of data/metadata for decades. FiveEyes has largely been about bending the law - not directly snooping on ones own citizens but allowing another state to do it for you.

                Just because more of the population is now aware of the activities doesn't mean those doing the slurping wish to change their ways. And from the point of view of those slurping the data, their methods haven't changed significantly, we've just been kind enough to start providing information in more convenient forms for large scale processing.

                Whether the general population will allow the status quo to remain (ie. war on terror, think of the children, war on drugs, defending democracy etc) is yet to be seen.

                1. DCFusor Silver badge
                  Mushroom

                  Roll with it...

                  So, let the world know the state of your not-that-great F35's...get your adversary to prepare for situations they think you'll use them in - then do something different. The so-called intelligence game has always been worked that way.

                  The whole thing is headed toward either ineffectiveness at ground support - because you can't go low and slow to determine friend from foe and be stealthy too (no invisibility cloak yet exists) - or you can use "smart" ordnance, like you know, all those youtube clips of missiles just heat seeking flares, the sun, some am radio....

                  Yeah, that's going to be just fine. As a fighter, I think we have a thing called F22 that kicks butt even when the magic paint job that absorbs only short-wavelength radar has worn off after a couple flights. Yes, it's an expensive paint job (very, I know a fella who has made a fortune doing them). Seen the numbers for F35 - the real ones for what exists, not the projected fantasies?

                  F35 is a jobs and pork program, no matter the original intentions. It was going to save money over the A 10!

                  Not long ago, F 35's couldn't provide minimal percent readiness to fly due to ALIS simply not working, now it works well enough to slurp? Kind of makes the real intentions obvious.

                  It seems the hope was to get potential adversaries spending butter money on guns, but this isn't that credible a threat.

        3. fajensen Silver badge
          Flame

          The US doesn't seek to restrict Huawei because of what they may do, but due to who is going to be doing it

          Exactly. The US basically wants to replace the Chinese government with somebody more flexible, like Boris Yeltsin who will then let American Corporations asset strip the entire country and force China to use American Oil, American IT services, American Banking services and American Health services - all subject to American licensing payments and random sanctioning from different factions of Swamp People living in Washington.

          While the UK voted for that, China did not so the US-China trade war will go on for a Very Long Time!

    2. Mark 85 Silver badge

      In flight Alexis is coming to a fighter jet near you. "Hi, I see that you're running out of rockets. Shall I order you more and maybe a cup of coffee or tea while you wait?".

    3. macjules Silver badge

      Perhaps they could add an Alexa push button to the cockpit, for those little things like new paint job, some more ammunition (always presuming that the RAF still has a gun on the aircraft) or more fuel perhaps?

      They could even have "You just ordered more Sidewinder missiles, did you know that if you order another batch now we will throw in a free Nespresso machine with that order?"

      ∆ beat me to it

      1. Andy The Hat Silver badge

        "Alexa: Order Sidewinder Missiles"

        "People ordering Sidewinder Missiles for F35s also ordered Ray-Ban sunglasses, Berlin singles, stealth paint touch-up sticks and a plastic wok ... Do you wish to log into Amazon-for-Warplanes with your Facebook profile and use your 'hidden airfield in Afghanistan' delivery address?"

        1. Korev Silver badge
          Joke

          You sound like a Maverick

        2. PerlyKing Silver badge
          Headmaster

          Ray-Ban sunglasses

          Upvote for the humour, but I think it should be Randolph Aviator sunglasses for authenticity.

          1. Andy The Hat Silver badge

            Re: Ray-Ban sunglasses

            "I think it should be Randolph Aviator sunglasses for authenticity."

            Have an up-vote for outstanding sun-glass knowledge :-)

        3. CanadianMacFan

          Subscribe and save 5%.

      2. DropBear
        Trollface

        "Would you like those Sidewinders delivered to you hangar, or would you prefer our new Express In-flight Delivery...? If choosing the latter, please don't forget to disable any jamming equipment...!"

        1. Fruit and Nutcase Silver badge
          Black Helicopters

          Amazon Prime Target Delivery

          "Would you like those Sidewinders delivered to you hangar, or would you prefer our new Express In-flight Delivery...?

          Why invest in expensive military programmes - let Amazon Prime Target Delivery service delivery your choice of weapon directly to your intended target

          1. Ken Moorhouse Silver badge

            Re: deliver your choice of weapon directly to your intended target

            What happens if delivery is refused? Does it get returned to sender?

      3. Tim99 Silver badge

        "always presuming that the RAF still has a gun on the aircraft" I understand some later Harriers did not have guns fitted because of problems developing the proposed ADEN 25mm cannon, but perhaps they could be fitted in a pod? Back in the days when the Cold War was hot, some EE Lightenings only had one missile fitted (Red Top? or Firestreak?). One rationale was that the Lightening pilot had to have a positive ID that an intercepted aircraft was hostile. This distance was so close that the fitted ADEN 30mm cannon were more than adequate.

    4. Sanguma Bronze badge

      Beef grazier

      Then you can listen to all the bull in the world you need, no more need to waste time with politics and politicians.

  2. Paul Herber Silver badge
    Big Brother

    F35

    It's the Facebook-35 isn't it.

    1. pavel.petrman

      Re: F35

      You mean posing as if trying to save the world with a half baked bundle of hi-tech things and failing miserably?

    2. Sanguma Bronze badge

      Re: Facebook 35

      "You and another five like this location. Another fifty have unliked you. The missile coming you way also unlikes you. Do you wish to like your ejection seat and parachute?"

    3. Mark 65

      Re: F35

      It's like Facebook in that it is a giant turd.

  3. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    USS Excelsior and transwarp drive anyone ?

  4. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Like Apple Maps Bad?

    Well, those countries could see what the Israeli's are up to? You know that Israel Geekheads will put a firewall around all that, and then add a drop in data monitor to back-slurp any/ all US Air Force info; and jam up the Turkish AF, to screw with them too!!

    1. BebopWeBop Silver badge

      Re: Like Apple Maps Bad?

      My assumption is that the Israelis - typically a combination of competent, realistic and opportunistic will take F35s when the US pays for them, deploy them carefully, identify where they can screw with potential rivals, and bide their time quietly. They take very seriously the ‘no friends, just occasionally shared interests’ philosophy seriously. For good reasons.

  5. Pascal Monett Silver badge

    America : the #1 hypocrite

    Its mouth is full of God and Freedom but while you're not looking, it rifles through your wallet, stalks you through your phone and captures everything you say, all while screeching hysterically when anyone else tries to copy it.

    Okay, let's admit for half a second that this data slurp was thought of "with the best of intentions". The fact remains that any country buying this airframe is basically giving Uncle Sam the complete overview of its strike capability. Ally or not, there is zero reason to accept this.

    Talk of pulling out is pure bunkum though - posturing by someone who wants to look tough to his political base but doesn't have the balls to go through with it. No pity here.

    More and more America is looking like your unwanted neighbor. He's a bully, a pervert and he's armed to the teeth. And you can't move out.

    1. Mark 85 Silver badge

      Re: America : the #1 hypocrite

      Possibly a remote shutdown switch if your country is behind on payments? Or suddenly decides it doesn't like the US anymore?

    2. Jellied Eel Silver badge

      Re: America : the #1 hypocrite

      Okay, let's admit for half a second that this data slurp was thought of "with the best of intentions". The fact remains that any country buying this airframe is basically giving Uncle Sam the complete overview of its strike capability. Ally or not, there is zero reason to accept this.

      Don't see why not. NATO members would be required to do that anyway, and ALIS functionality just makes it easier for NATO commanders (ie the American ones) to validate flight/strike plans (or just download the 'correct' ones) to ensure deconfliction (follow US objectives/orders, or there will be conflict on conflict. Or just 'unexpected' costs added to the maintenance routines). All this would help ensure there are no further 'friendly' fire incidents (like in Afghanistan recently), or just an ability to correct flight plans post-mission. It'll also ensure that strike packages are armed with the most effective (ie expensive) payloads to maxmise profits (I mean effect).

      I think the bigger challenge is, as usual Turkey, and what impact that'll have on component supply, or just aircraft maintenance. I'm guessing Israel have already got an opt-out on that one..

      1. OrientalHero

        Re: America : the #1 hypocrite

        NATO countries with the F35 will be using them in many non NATO operations.

        Historically, we've had operations in Bosnia, Falklands and Suez to pick differing examples of where Jolly NATO isn't involved. In fact Suez illustrates where the US is actively against the action. Yes it was a while back, but the joint efforts of WWII were much fresher then, but of no import.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: America : the #1 hypocrite

          "In fact Suez illustrates where the US is actively against the action".

          As far as I can see the Suez example invalidates your argument. The UK, France Israel had a nice invasion of Egypt in full swing when Eisenhower told them to stop it. Instantly everything went into reverse. "Yessir! How high, sir?"

          So there won't be any question of operations (unless utterly trivial) separate from US objectives. In fact all the F-35s sold will be essentially part of the US armed forces - just owned by a few foreign countries to make things look better politically.

      2. the hatter

        Re: America : the #1 hypocrite

        > NATO members would be required to do that anyway

        It's called politics, just because you're supposed to do something, even agreed to do something, doesn't mean you will do it, and do so openly and in a timely fashion. They are allies, not equals.

        If I bought the planes and want to tell the world that a squadron is mostly grounded because of mechanical issues, that is my perogative, regardless of it's actual readiness, or or where the airframes are being moved. If I want to reassure them that we stand strong with our ally, ready to support them against a hostile actor, though actually I'm not risking my people in those rattly death-traps, even though I sent a carrier of them to park nearby, it is not for my ally to nervously suggest I'm not putting enough budget into maintainance, nor for a rogue contractor to tip off our enemy that the call to arms is weaker than it looks.

        1. Jellied Eel Silver badge

          Re: America : the #1 hypocrite

          It's called politics, just because you're supposed to do something, even agreed to do something, doesn't mean you will do it, and do so openly and in a timely fashion. They are allies, not equals.

          Indeed, and with NATO, there's never really been any equality. Trump demands increased defence spending, NATO members respectfully suggest it might be a good time to rotate SACEUR between members. OK, so the CMC and Secretary General posts aren't always American, but then there's also the plan to create an EU replacement for NATO leaving that organisation redundant.

          But then war has always been foreign policy by other means. ALIS is then a way to force that policy. 905 EAW at Mount Pleasant gets shiney, new F-35s to replace it's Typhoons. Argies get argumentative again, and ALIS tells Dave, the RAF pilot "Sorry, I can't let you do that". Because the US has decided that this time, it's in it's interests to support Argentina, not the UK. US interests and policy in S.America are naturally different to the UKs after all.

          So a potential headache that F-35 'customers' would want to avoid, if they want a military that can act independently of someone elses policy. OK, that's always been a risk for the military, ie Argentina and Exocets, but could be mitigated by simple stockpiling.. Where ALIS is also a potential threat, ie noting an increase in training flights & orders for loud bits prompting a visit from the US Ambassador politely asking 'Planning to go somewhere nice, are we?'

          Then again, there are the other issues.. Like loss of stealth if you need to get somewhere (or away from somewhere) in a hurry, or just it's control issues if you try flying at high (which 20 degrees isn't) angles of attack. If they're not easily resolved, then the F-35 seems destined as a hangar queen that can't be used for much more than sneaky stand-off missions.. Where there are no S-500s, or Su-35's or Su-57's waiting. But such is defence spending. US developed the F-22 three decades ago, then the F-35 as a cut-down, exportable variant. Then Russia, China developed their aircraft & air defences to counter the US threats.. And the Su-57's wowing air show crowds seem to have a better handle on supermaneuverability & thrust vectoring than the US aircraft.

          Such is the wacky world of defence. Guessing it's time to go drone, because that solves the barotrauma issues for the F-35. Kinda curious if you take the meat-support stuff out of an F-35, can you replace it with a drone control package? Which would possibly also help with it's obesity problem.

    3. AIBailey

      Re: America : the #1 hypocrite

      The fact remains that any country buying this airframe is basically giving Uncle Sam the complete overview of its strike capability

      I'm not a military expert, but it seems that there are many alternative planes out there that are faster / more reliable / cheaper / better armed / better armoured / more manoeuvrable / more easily maintained / unencumbered by severe operating restrictions *

      I'm sure that most countries that do buy any variant of the F-35 are doing so for mostly policical reasons rather than because this place represents the best option.

      * - delete as applicable

      1. A.P. Veening Silver badge

        Re: America : the #1 hypocrite

        * - delete as applicable add as necessary

        FTFY ;)

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: America : the #1 hypocrite

        Not really that many - According to sources that know better than me, only 3 European Aircraft would stand a chance against an F-35; SAAB Gripen, Eurofighter and Dassault Rafale.

        That's due to their having avionics to alert the pilot to the threat and the Meteor missile to engage it. It's hard to say with the Russians and Chinese as they don't advertise their capabilities but it's likely they'd lose 2 or 3 aircraft for every 1 F-35 or F-22.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: America : the #1 hypocrite

          "It's hard to say with the Russians and Chinese as they don't advertise their capabilities but it's likely they'd lose 2 or 3 aircraft for every 1 F-35 or F-22".

          Every single part of that assertion is extremely dubious.

          1. The Russians, at any rate, are far from secretive about the capabilities of their aircraft, many of which have been seen recently in action against terrorists in Syria. And we have all seen the astonishing manoeuvres of the Sukhoi fighters.

          2. The F-22 is an entirely different kettle of fish from the F-35. The F-22 was designed to be the world's best fighter, and quite possibly was - 15 to 20 years ago. It's still pretty good, but they don't have nearly enough because they turned out to be fabulously expensive to build and operate. (And they lost a bunch of them to an unexpected and wholly unpredictable hurricane, in the hurricane season).

          3. The F-35 was originally conceived as a cut-price approximation to the F-22 - which is probably the biggest joke of all, as the F-35 project has swallowed up far more money than the F-22 ever did. Plus, of course, the F-35 doesn't really work. It's the perfect example of the consequences of design by committee.

          4. How can you guess that the Russians and Chinese would " lose 2 or 3 aircraft for every 1 F-35 or F-22", when there are very few published facts about the US fighters - and of course the F-22 is far, far better than the F-35?

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: America : the #1 hypocrite

            1) It doesn't look like they've deployed their latest model variants to Syria (no reason to and harder to keep in service at a remote base so it's hard to judge. All the Sukhoi fighters are amazing at BFM and if they get within visual range I wouldn't bet against them.

            2) and 3) Agreed

            4) 3rd parties like India and Pakistan (who won't settle for the rubbish 'export' variants are paying between a third and a fifth for Russian/Chinese fighters as the US was charging Turkey for F-35's so they are probably designed with the idea of needing a spare in combat, plus their missiles are less effective so betting on needing twice as many but it all depends (on where the combat happens and how much support either side could count on from ground defenses and AEW.

            I'll just throw in that Russia right now doesn't seem to have a MiG-21 replacement to go against the Gripen, the F-16 or the J-10 in the single engine, lower cost range and are probably missing out on exports as a result, a lot of poorer countries can't afford to maintain readiness with twice the complexity and fuel burn.

        2. Adelio Bronze badge

          Re: America : the #1 hypocrite

          So very cheap. how much does a F35 cost compare to a chinese aircraft?

      3. EvilDrSmith Silver badge

        Re: America : the #1 hypocrite

        Surprisingly, not so much.

        Nations that are looking to buy F35 are not looking for a 'cheap' option, but one that will last in service.

        Some nations will buy from anybody, but a lot of nations limit their purchases for politics; if you are 'pro-west' (if that term still means anything), you won't but Russian or Chinese.

        So options for the nations that are looking at buying F35:

        F35 (A, B and C models)

        F15 (entered service in 1970's, so obsolescent*; big and expensive and expensive to operate)

        F16 (entered service in 1970's, so obsolescent*, though likely to outlast the F15,largely through the second hand usage)

        F/A18 E/F (derived from the A/B that entered service in early 1980's: so obsolescent*)

        Gripen: 1990's good relatively cheap and at lighter end of the options

        Rafale: 1990s; good, more expensive, more capable (also carrier capable)

        Typhoon: late 1990's. more expensive. Most capable (and with a fairly well defined upgrade path for its service life).

        Only Rafale and Typhoon are likely to remain credible frontline combat aircraft over similar lifespan to the F35.

        Then you have weapons compatibility issues, training requirements (can you share training with other nations that use the type and thus cut costs), and of course politics does play a huge element.

        *The F35 is likely (if it works) to be a nations front line fighter for ~30 years. The aircraft I refer to as obsolescent are still viable combat aircraft today, but are not likely to be in 15, 20, 30years.

        1. Jellied Eel Silver badge

          Re: America : the #1 hypocrite

          *The F35 is likely (if it works) to be a nations front line fighter for ~30 years. The aircraft I refer to as obsolescent are still viable combat aircraft today, but are not likely to be in 15, 20, 30years.

          I'm less convinced. So the good'ol F-15 has been extensively modernised and upgraded since inception and the -SE variant still waiting in the wings. So an F-15 with added stealth, speed, range, avionics, payload and all-round more bang for your buck than an F-35. Good enough for government work in most parts of the world. Unless perhaps you're S.Korea, in which case you're probably told you really want F-35s instead, so please try again..

          I still remember seeing a pic of an Israeli F-15 that landed having lost most of an entire wing. Kinda wondered what the pilots reaction was on seeing the extent of the damage, which may involve learning some Hebrew swear words.

        2. A.P. Veening Silver badge

          Re: America : the #1 hypocrite

          Gripen: 1990's good relatively cheap and at lighter end of the options

          As there is a further development of the Gripen (Gripen NG or Super-JAS), I don't expect the announcement of a replacement soon, but there will be one within fifteen years, those Swede aren't stupid and quite capable. I also expect the first country (outside of Sweden) to order them to be Switzerland.

          1. theblackhand

            Re: America : the #1 hypocrite

            "Gripen (Gripen NG or Super-JAS), I don't expect the announcement of a replacement soon, but there will be one within fifteen years, those Swede aren't stupid and quite capable. I also expect the first country (outside of Sweden) to order them to be Switzerland."

            Unlikely...SAAB have been asked to drop out of Switzerlands procurement programme as they don't have flight-ready aircraft. https://www.janes.com/article/89220/saab-pulls-gripen-e-from-swiss-flight-evaluations

        3. Wellyboot Silver badge

          Re: America : the #1 hypocrite

          Obsolete is a misleading term for weapons, it really only applies to them being fit for use at the start of a battle. A pike company is no use if the opponents have bullets in their guns but will beat any empty gun & bayonet combo.

          For the F15 & F16 while the basic airframes are a late '60s / early '70s design, all the avionics & weapon systems are up to date on new build aircraft and the US is seriously looking at replacing it's old F15C/D fleet with new build F15X based on the current version going to Qatar, after all these designs are known to work and last a long time.

          Stealth is only needed for first strike missions to take out the anti air capability an opponent has (air & ground based), after that even 60 year old B52s (or Tu142 if you prefer) can safely trundle over and rearrange everything from 50,000 ft.

          1. EvilDrSmith Silver badge

            Re: America : the #1 hypocrite

            Yes, to a degree.

            I (very vaguely) touched on aircraft updates (FA18: it's happened, Typhoon: it's planned to happen), but the question is how long can you keep upgrading a design and keep it 'first tier'.

            The F15 / F16 will never be full stealth, since their airframes weren't designed that way. Replacing lots of airframe bits with modern (radar translucent) composites will reduce their Radar Cross Sections, but not to true 'Stealth' levels, and likely not even that close to the 'low-RCS' ('semi-stealth') of Typhoon (and I think also Rafale) which were designed from scratch with these materials in mind, and which do actually feature 'stealth shaping' in certain aspects, where it didn't compromise the basic aerodynamics.

            Whatever you do to an F15, it's not going to have the aerodynamic agility of Typhoon, nor is it ever likely to obtain super-cruise ability (Typhoon, Rafale, F22, F35).

            Maybe the F16 or whatever will prove that you can continuously upgrade an aircraft design and keep it as good as anything else until the time comes that manned fighters are abandoned, but if you are only going to operate one type of aeroplane, and you want it to be a 'first-tier' design enabling you to take on anything else that you might meet, is that a gamble you want to take?

            The British, Germans and Italians all have shiny new Typhoons, that are expected to last into the 2030's, the French have Rafale (Ditto) and the Japanese have got F35, yet all are already developing future fighter programmes (and I think the Spanish - Typhoon users - may be involved with the Franco-German programme). The assumption is clearly that after 30-40 years, even with upgrades, these designs will be at the end of their lives

            Of course, if you fight an opponent with no significant air defence (because they never had it, or because you broke it), then you don't need the 'first tier' capability, and any old bomb truck will do (to a greater or lesser extent)

            1. Anonymous Coward
              Anonymous Coward

              Re: America : the #1 hypocrite

              It's also not just the airframes (assuming the airframe is solid) but the ability to integrate with newer command and control or newer weapons platforms.

              Not having the required power and space to put in platform X is just as likely to result in military aircraft becoming obsolescent.

              And we haven't even covered the challenges brought about by politics (both internal within a country and external between countries).

    4. Sanguma Bronze badge

      Re: America : the #1 hypocrite

      There was a Soviet joke in the Seventies, about Brezhnev wishing to impress his aged mother. So he takes her everywhere, shows her everything he's got - and he's got quite a lot, since he's the big shot in Soviet politics at the time - but his mother gets more and more agitated. "What's wrong?" Brezhnev asks, "As you can see, I've made quite something of myself." "It's not that," his mother replies. "I'm terrified that the Bolsheviks'll come back again ..."

      I'm sure Paul Revere would be most upset at the chaarges laid against the descendants of his and his Minute-Men, but I expect he would be even more upset at the charges being proved true ...

  6. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    It's not running Windows 10 is it?

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      >It's not running Windows 10 is it?

      No, WFWG as it's been that long in development.

      1. Ochib

        You mean, Windows For Airframes

        1. hplasm
          Happy

          Ha.

          Windows for Targets.

  7. JimC

    And this children

    is why we should have preserved our native military aerospace industry...

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: And this children

      We did. BAE Systems is currently in the early development phase of a next-generation UK fighter, currently code-named Tempest: https://www.baesystems.com/en/feature/the-future-of-combat-air

      One of the reasons we bought into the F-35 is because, believe it or not, it was being pitched by the Americans as a relatively low-cost alternative, the idea being that it would replace so many other aircraft that this would result in a lower price....

    2. Roland6 Silver badge

      Re: And this children

      >is why we should have preserved our native military aerospace industry...

      Only problem was that the UK economy couldn't support the level of military spend necessary to kep ahead of the US, so the government sold the UK IPR to the US as part of our WWII debt repayment...

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: And this children

        See the wonderful (but deeply depressing) book "Empire of the Clouds", passim.

        Politicians should have been tried and imprisoned for treason - since we don't hang people any more.

        1. Andytug

          Re: And this children

          +1 for the reference, an excellent book.

      2. Wellyboot Silver badge

        Re: And this children

        We could have easily maintained it but our politicians chose not to.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: And this children

          Yes, that's where the treason came in.

  8. sprograms

    Current military fighter aircraft are extremely difficult to maintain. The US (and probably most EU) Air Force has serious trouble training and retaining mechanics with the skill to do the job, combined with willingness to put up with very long hours and a relatively subordinate rank. Maintaining sufficient spare parts, having them in time, is the major headache both air wing and ship commanders. There are probably more benefits than drawbacks to the data-slurping, once ALIS functions are standard.

    1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

      On a recent visit to RAF $name, the local military personnel referred to the base as BAE $name because there are so many contractors these days. There are systems the RAF guys need to use but aren't allowed to repair or maintain and don't get trained for. It sounds like vendor lock in.

      1. Electronics'R'Us
        Holmes

        Been on both sides of this fence

        Many years ago I was an aircraft maintainer in the Fleet Air Arm (airborne radio, radar, sonar, doppler) and in those times all equipment was repaired to component level in workshops that were on the base (or ship as the case may be) by naval personnel; to achieve that we went through a great deal of training (my basic training in avionics was 7 months as I recall). I went through 4 different (higher level) technical training programmes.

        That training was (and is) expensive, but troubleshooting was possible by skilled and semi-skilled people as we understood the underlying principles of electronics and the applications involved*.

        Some of the repair work involved module swapping (because some modules were sealed units) but the majority was component level repair. This predates electronically interconnected systems and therefore a radio (for example) could be repaired without being concerned about how other equipment would fare based on that repair. The effective link between systems was the aircrew.

        In the old (but effective) McDonnell Douglas F4 Phantom II, the chap in the back controlled the radar to maintain a lock on a target, the pilot drove the aircraft based on the movement of said control, manually selected a weapon (usually a missile for air to air) which had independent operation (heat seekers which produced a tone when locked) or was (again) linked via the pilot who could switch the radar to continuous wave transmission (for a semi-active missile such as the Sparrow).

        In modern aircraft, avionics is an interconnected system of systems and requires very expensive and sophisticated test equipment; often the processor boards are bought by the equipment manufacturer (often from Curtiss Wright) and if they fail the units are sent back to Canada for repair.

        All this complex avionics is what allows us to operate modern aircraft with a single person doing everything (they are as much systems management as anything else these days) but at the cost of the electronics being beyond the ability of a mechanic or even technician in many cases to do component level repair.

        A modern fighter links the radar information to the weapons system (stores management as not everything attached is a weapon - think external fuel tanks) and even to the flight controls as the mass and aerodynamic profile of the aircraft changes when something gets fired or jettisoned so it has to compensate for that.

        The active sticks and throttles in the F35 are connected to the flight control system so the envelope is not exceeded making the aircraft much simpler to fly but that adds significant complexity to the design of the equipment.

        The point is that the level of expertise required to diagnose and repair this stuff is far higher than it was in the 70s and 80s.

        It is not unusual for a design engineer to get involved in the repair and test of many of these systems.

        Because of that, when an airframer (be it Lockheed Martin or Boeing or anyone else) selects a manufacturer for a particular piece of avionics, they usually ask specifically for a long term support quote for the equipment manufacturer including BAE Systems (which is often required by the end user incidentally) so that they do not have to provide that level of support themselves, which means local repairs are by box swap (as they always have been at flight line level anyway) but 3rd line (repair depot) support is often done by people specifically trained on a particular piece of kit (a modern mission computer for example is a very complex beast).

        This ultimately ends up (well, it should) costing the end customer less.

        When we look at the spares situation, these boxes are expensive to make (especially if they have to withstand gunfire vibration - a very nasty test) and they are designed to have as long a MTBF as possible (a requirement in years is not uncommon) so the end user does not want to have unnecessary (and costly) spares locally (quite apart from the logistics issues for forward airfields) so using a tool such as ALIS makes sense (if it works, of course).

        What could be achieved in a workshop at an airbase with suitable ordinary test equipment in the 70s and 80s is not achievable with modern systems; end customers do ask for the STTE (special to type test equipment) and get perhaps 2 or 3 of them for diagnosis (which is what is done at RAF $Name) but any actual component level repairs are carried out by the manufacturer of the equipment.

        * It could be argued that the training involved produced a large number of highly skilled people which was a boon to the economy after their service so the initial expense of the training has to be balanced against the gain to the wider economy. In my case I went from junior electrical mechanic (2nd class) (the lowest form of life in the Royal Navy) to ultimately being a chartered engineer and design authority for flight safety critical avionics so it could, and did, happen.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Been on both sides of this fence

          Thanks for your long and truly brilliantly educational comment! Real expertise is at such a premium nowadays, and usually shouted down by trumpeting politicians and screaming hucksters.

          Just one remark concerns me:

          "The active sticks and throttles in the F35 are connected to the flight control system so the envelope is not exceeded making the aircraft much simpler to fly..."

          Like the Boeing 737-MAX, then?

          1. Electronics'R'Us
            Thumb Up

            Re: Been on both sides of this fence

            The active sticks and throttles control system (active inceptors as BAE Systems likes to call them) is multiple redundant (the only part that is not and cannot be is the actual stick and throttle but that is taken care of by really heavy duty engineering and testing).

            The testing carried out for all new boxes is extensive and is deemed safety critical so the development and verification was to DO-178 and DO-254.

            I know that because I used to work with the design team and indeed did some of the design work myself.

            The F-35 is a fly by wire aircraft, so this is not a 'bolt-on' as appears to be the case with the 737MAX.

            1. A.P. Veening Silver badge

              Re: Been on both sides of this fence

              the only part that is not and cannot be is the actual stick and throttle

              I think you are overlooking the wetware component of the flight system, aka the pilot.

    2. Ken 16 Silver badge

      The Swedes are really the only ones who seem to have cracked it with the SAAB Gripen. It has amazing operational availability figures, low purchase and running costs and probably the best situational awareness avionic suite out there.

      1. fajensen Silver badge

        The Swedes took a very long time to realise that they were getting screwed over by Pentagon. They basically will be very leery of depending on anything America controls or influences for their defence (while keeping up a friendly mask in front of their "allies" - of course).

        In Swedish, but Google Translate kinda works:

        http://mikaelnyberg.nu/2014/04/19/pentagonkonsulter-ledde-forsvaret-till-skroten/#more-985

    3. fajensen Silver badge
      Facepalm

      .... serious trouble training and retaining mechanics ....

      Only because the neoliberal frauds running the defence crap-show have now become too greedy and venally corrupt to be leaving even the tiniest sprinkling of crumbs for anyone else.

      Of course there is no trouble retaining skilled staff if one treats them well and pay decent money, but if we did that, according to "The Experts", the Entire Western Civilisation would certainly collapse the very day after and China would eat our lunch. It is Much Better, indeed the pinnacle of Fiscal Responsibility to throw billions into the combined black-holes of the likes of Carillion, G4S, Chris Grayling or whatever the latest tech/big-data fad is, so nothing goes to waste on low-caste people!!!

      There are probably more benefits than drawbacks to the data-slurping, once ALIS functions are standard.

      Sure, if we want to bomb something then we first have to persuade ALIS, which means a chat-session with the BOFH/PFY in ALIS-customer who will tell us to: "Raise a ticket like everyone else!"

      ALIS will thus save the lives of thousands of random 3-rd worlders and probably millions of EUR on unused high-tech weaponry!

  9. Chris G Silver badge

    Buying this aircraft seems to be roughly on par with buying a bridge.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Like a bridge...

      But the aircraft costs far more.

  10. HildyJ Silver badge
    FAIL

    F-UP-35

    The F-35, from it's beginning, was over-purposed, over-speced, over-engineered, and over-priced (not to mention under-tested). When confronted by the latest Russian fighters the advice seems to be aviod a dog fight - climb (but not to steeply or you'll crash) and flee (but not at supersonic speeds or your coating will burn off). It does two things really well - generate profits and reelect politicians.

    If there were such a thing as a nefarious hacker, I suspect the ALIS would allow him to label all existing spares as inoperable, label all in-service parts as malfunctioning, and ground the fleet.

    The sad thing is that nobody would notice because the fleet gets grounded periodically anyway.

    1. _LC_ Silver badge
      Holmes

      Re: F-UP-35

      Let’s face it, the reason the NATO keeps attacking "3rd" or "2nd" World countries is that those are the only ones that CAN be attacked.

      When attacking a country, which is "up to date" on technology, all of your fighters, ships and submarines are worthless. Stealth fighters show up on the radar. Stealth ships do to – and submarines are detected as well. All will be gone at the push of a button. ;-)

    2. Anonymous South African Coward Silver badge

      Re: F-UP-35

      "Superiority" by Arthur C Clarke.

  11. Allan George Dyer Silver badge
    Paris Hilton

    Please explain...

    "billions more are being spent upgrading RAF airfields for the vertical takeoff F-35B"

    I thought the whole point of VTOL was that they could be flexibly deployed because you didn't need extensive airfields.

    1. _LC_ Silver badge

      Re: Please explain...

      The problem is that the thrusters torch and rip open the ground. If you land on a runway or somewhere else, cavities form. So if you want to take off and land several times in the same place, you need a "special" - extra hardened - ground.

      1. DCdave

        Re: Please explain...

        Re-locate to an extinct volcano? Ticks the getting re-elected box too, because how cool?

      2. MJI Silver badge

        Re: Please explain...

        So how did they cope with the Harriers?

        1. _LC_ Silver badge

          Re: Please explain...

          I presume that they made them start normally where the ground didn't permit a vertical start.

        2. A.P. Veening Silver badge

          Re: Please explain...

          Smaller (especially lighter) planes, that aren't even capable of a vertical take-off when the tanks are topped off (and need aerial refueling just about immediately after a vertical take-off with a full weapons load), so somewhat less powerful engines.

        3. imanidiot Silver badge

          Re: Please explain...

          The harrier was lighter and spread the output of the engine over 4 nozzles instead of 2 big ones. The engine design also meant the exhaust was cooler for the Pegasus than it is for the F135.

          Maximum output of the Pegasus 106kN, output of the F135 in hover mode 181 kN. That's close to 8 metric tons of extra force in a hotter, more focused bundle.

        4. AIBailey

          Re: Please explain...

          As others have already pointed out, a Harrier couldn't perform a vertical take off when fully loaded (it was more of a party piece), but could perform a short take off, using partly vectored thrust to provide extra lift on top of that generated by the wings.

          For this same reason, Navy harriers that returned from sorties with a full weapons load and plenty of fuel remaining might be required to reduce weight by dropping external fuel tanks or weaponry in the ocean before they could land vertically.

          Why the F-35 can't do a short take off on a normal runway instead of full vertical isn't clear.

      3. Allan George Dyer Silver badge
        Angel

        Re: Please explain...

        Now I understand why I'm not raking in the commission... I couldn't keep a straight face when explaining that this new VTOL aircraft I was selling for $billions was sooo powerful that it needed special ground to take off from, but don't worry, we've got a whole department that can install special ground in all those hard-to-reach places you might want to fly from, it only costs more $billions (plus delivery).

        1. Jellied Eel Silver badge

          Re: Please explain...

          we've got a whole department that can install special ground in all those hard-to-reach places you might want to fly from, it only costs more $billions (plus delivery).

          Contact Haliburton for a quote. Alternatively, I guess you could investigate adding porta-pads or easily replaceable pads to your Field Upgrade and Repair Kits. Harrier's got sold on the idea that they didn't always have to operate from a nice airfield, but I'm guessing the F-35 is waaay to complicated to try that.

          1. imanidiot Silver badge

            Re: Please explain...

            To be fair, even the Harrier couldn't operate from unprepared ground. It needed a sturdy pad too and yes, even the harrier did a lot of damage to the ground. It was just much more limited than with the F-35B. The standard flightdecks of carriers designed to handle the blast of conventional afterburner jet engines could handle the Harriers output for a limited time. The F-35 is just too much.

            1. Jellied Eel Silver badge

              Re: Please explain...

              The F-35 is just too much.

              Not a flaw, but a feature. Or I'm guessing a bunch of engineering problems to solve. Just flood the deck as the F-35 lands to keep the deck cool. Ok, so billowing steam clouds could limit visibility, but it's an all-weather fighter. Or just designing it so it doesn't roast it's belly on landing, or suck hot exhaust into it's intakes when it would prefer cooler, richer air to maintain hover. Or just add it to 101 things to do with an F-35. New firebase? Need to de-veg a security perimiter? You need an F-35 doing a few low, slow orbits, not an armoured bulldozer!

              (also amused myself thinking about the return of large naval artillery. Would make for an interesting business plan give lack of customer demand, and you can't exactly wander into Home Depot and pick up an 18"+ rifling button. Kinda hard to do that sort of heavy engineering when you've allowed most of your heavy industry to decline)

      4. Down not across Silver badge

        Re: Please explain...

        The problem is that the thrusters torch and rip open the ground.

        Reminds me of an airshow at Duxford where the commentary went like "Don't burn up my runway!" when Harrier was showing off hovering fairly low.

  12. SundogUK Silver badge

    We should have just bought the Super Hornet and been done with it.

    1. EvilDrSmith Silver badge

      Well, for most uses, the RAF already has the Typhoon, which is significantly better than the Super-bug (and the F35, for that matter), so the only reason to get F18 would be for carrier use, in which case we would probably be better off from a capability point of view in getting Rafale (though I suspect the politics of buy US or buy French (EU) would be viewed as more important than little things like actual capability).

      But neither F18 nor Rafale do VSTOL, and the Royal Navy (having plenty of experience in ship-borne aviation, including conventional fixed wing and VSTOL) decided that they wanted VSTOL, meaning F35B as the only option.

  13. MJI Silver badge

    Worst thing about F35

    Was cancellation of F136 engine.

    We would have had that in ours.

  14. steviebuk Silver badge

    What happened...

    ...to just hiring engineers to look over the planes. I would hope that aren't totally relying on the software so they can make a group of engineers redundant to "save costs"

    1. the hatter

      Re: What happened...

      You must be new here. The only thing that puts computers into second place on the list of 'reasons why things TITSUP' is humans. Save the humans to check the bits that computers can't, and to recheck the computer-checked bits sometimes to make sure nothing's amiss there (and feed back which checks are unreliable).

  15. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Dreadnought of the skies

    These high tech fighters seem to be a lot like Dreadnought battleshipss - fantastically powerful, and so fantastically expensive that in war you probably daren't ever venture outside Scapa Flow in case you lose one. So ultimately only useful for flying the flag and intimidating local warlords. If you factor in the possibility of losing one by accident in any deployment, it would probably be more cost effective to use the £100 million to bribe said local warlord to retire to Switzerland with a boatload of coke and hookers!

    1. CliveS

      Re: Dreadnought of the skies

      "so fantastically expensive that in war you probably daren't ever venture outside Scapa Flow in case you lose one"

      Dreadnoughts of the Royal Navy were involved in several engagements in the North Sea between December 1914 (Scarborough) and August 1916 (after which the Germans abandoned the idea of using the High Seas Fleet and switched almost exclusively to submarine and torpedo boat actions).

      In the Mediterranean the Austro-Hungarian and Italian navies did mostly keep their capital ships in port, mainly because there wasn't much to do with them. For these nations, possession of Dreadnought class vessels more more from national pride than any strategic requirement. Austro-Hungary did lose one of its dreadnoughts during an attempted surprise attack on Otranto in 1918.

      Russian dreadnoughts saw action in the Black Sea on several occasions between 1914 and 1917.

      French dreadnoughts operated in the Mediterranean throughout WWI, as convoy escorts and as enforcing a blockade on the Adriatic.

      United States dreadnoughts also saw service, with both Florida-class ships seeing service on Atlantic convoy escort duties and alongside the British Grand Fleet.

      It wasn't the cost and risk of losing them that was the issue, so much as the limited range of applications for dreadnoughts. 99% of the time they were overkill.

      1. _LC_ Silver badge

        Re: Dreadnought of the skies

        As you can see by glancing over the dates, big ships ended when airplanes came around. A single (cheap) airplane could sink any gigantic ship and turn all those seamen into fish fodder.

        1. Jellied Eel Silver badge

          Re: Dreadnought of the skies

          A single (cheap) airplane could sink any gigantic ship and turn all those seamen into fish fodder.

          Unless that gigantic ship had a lot of AA defences. Politics sank the dreadnoughts, with the Washington Naval Treaty kind of ending their reign, so a limit on individual capital ship tonnage and combined fleet tonnage.. Along with other conditions limiting gun size, so <=16" for battleships, and <=8" for carriers. Robert K Massie's Dreadnought book is great for explaining the background & politics.

          So we went from a scenario where naval guns were 18", lobbing 3000lb+ shells 40kms or more to 155mm or less guns, and battlegroups geared around defending the carrier. If they're fitted with deck guns at all. But figure on a dreadnought having 4+ turrets with 2 or 3 guns each, and you have something that can lob around 36,000lbs of fun down range in a 'Nice beach/harbour, we're taking it' kinda way. Per salvo..Then of course theres space for lots of missiles.

          But that assumes you can get in range, but dreadnoughts were also heavily armoured. Carriers, less so, so they need to stand off to stay safe, which means strike aircraft have to fly further.

          I keep hoping that some day, battleships and dreadnoughts come back into fashion.. Like if we can get railguns working. If not, I guess the UK could park a lot of AS-90s on our 'aircraft' carriers. The UK did some ship-to-shore diplomacy in Libya with HMS Liverpool, and probably a lot cheaper than air strikes.

          1. JLV

            Re: Dreadnought of the skies

            Only one class of ships carried 18” guns, the Yamatos (Everyone else was at <=16”) See how well both of them fared against aircraft. Or poor Bismarck against err.. biplane Swordfish.

            What sunk the battleships was aircraft, end of. Bombs and torpedoes can be carried hundreds if not thousands of kms to hit a ship.

            Now we have ASMs and even DF21-type ballistic missiles so it’s even more one sided.

            1. Sanguma Bronze badge

              Re: Dreadnought of the skies - Pre-Dreadnoughts of the Skies

              Two points - One: battleships were the ultimate in Naval Artillery and aircraft were ultimate in Over-the-Horizon Artillery; Two: an aircraft is a lot cheaper and has a lot smaller complement than a battleship.

              So you shoot down a few aircraft, and maybe kill twenty three-seater aircrew. So you sink a battleship and kill 15 000 sailors and specialized naval fighting crew.

              Add up the costs - twenty aircraft at 2 000 000 units each, with three aircrew for each aircraft, sixty in total, each costing about 80 000 each to train. Versus a battleship costing 220 000 000 000, and each sailor and specially trained crewmember costing a minimum of 30 000 and perhaps a maximum of 600 000 to train. (All prices are estimates of current prices only.)

              Which is going to hurt the taxpayer the most, both in the pocket and the heart?

              They just couldn't justify the battleship any longer.

              1. Jellied Eel Silver badge

                Re: Dreadnought of the skies - Pre-Dreadnoughts of the Skies

                They just couldn't justify the battleship any longer.

                Or didn't want to. Naval aviation is the future, so create justifications to support that decision. The mighty Bismark was sunk by a Fairey, so build carriers! But then that wasn't exactly true, ie Bismarck was damaged by HMS Hood and Prince of Wales, and fleeing. The Fairey attack then crippled Bismarck's steering, allowing the Navy to catch & sink it. Torpedos weren't very reliable or effective, and given Bismark's massive armour, neither were shells.

                So you shoot down a few aircraft, and maybe kill twenty three-seater aircrew. So you sink a battleship and kill 15 000 sailors and specialized naval fighting crew.

                Something of an exageration. Iowa class battleships started with a complement of 2,700 and ended with 1,800 after upgrades and more automation. For me, the issue is more about what damage you have to do before the capital ship is combat ineffective. So basically for a carrier, you just have to do enough to prevent flight operations, which rely on skilled crew and sensitive kit.. Where a fragile aircraft also has disadvantages. And it's force projection is pretty much limited to 20 or so aircraft, some of which would be defending the carrier.

                Loss tolerance and psychological effects are right though, ie Bismarck could have killed King George, or the Prince of Wales. It was a propaganda win to sink the Bismarck, but came at great cost, ie the loss of Hood and pretty much all hands. But capital ships were, and always will be vulnerable to stuff designed to counter them. So a risk with our new carriers, especially when we're told-

                The UK Foreign Office said it was "almost certain" that a branch of the Iranian military - the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps - attacked the two tankers on 13 June, adding that "no other state or non-state actor could plausibly have been responsible".

                Might be worth asking the survivors of USS Cole about that statement. Or the crew of INS Hanit.. But a lot of the arguments for/against make assumptions about the role of the Navy. Libya involved a lot of relatively short-range engagements, but relied on air strikes because no battlewagons. The US's Pacific campaign during WW2 required a lot of islands to be cleared of a relatively small number of Japanese forces. So a lot of F-35 sorties needed to repeat that, or battleships doing the rounds. And development of naval artillery kind of stopped once doctrine changed. The US developed it's 18"/48 gun pre- and then during WW2, but didn't put it into production because 16" guns were good enough for government work. No idea what a 21st Century large naval gun would look like, but probably a lot more capable than a 1920's design.. But would almost certainly result in something that can deal with an IRG speed boat or a Libyan Toyota for less than a $100m+ F-35 armed with $200k+ missiles.

                OK, so being biased towards the needs of the green bits of combined operations, I might favor the return of the battleship. Or I guess in an ideal world, a combination of carrier + battleship. But budgets won't stretch to that.. Which I guess is also the F-35's challenge. It needs to do everything, so ends up with compromises. On the plus side, American's B-52 'BUF' gets a little buddy, the SLUF.. Stubby Little Ugly.. Fighter.

                1. JLV

                  Re: Dreadnought of the skies - Pre-Dreadnoughts of the Skies

                  Big US carriers carry 80-100 planes, not 20.

                  If you’re really all for shooting up a beach, I suppose an Iowa class could do the job. You get there, then you shoot. But 30-40km ranges aren’t super great if your opponents can start hitting you from 500k away, with aircraft. Or 100+ with missiles. And unlike a beach, can move to stay away from your 40k radius. And navies generally don't spend all their time salivating about their next amphibious landing support extravaganza.

                  The Zumwalt class did investigate having a latest-gen, all-out, 155mm to do precisely what you mean, precision shore support. When the number of ships got whittled down to 3, per-shell cost was nearing the $1M mark, so that got canned.

                  The Dreadnoughts were no failure in 1906 however. They basically said: if we armor up and make almost all of our capital ship guns big long range ship killers, then we’ll stroll over any ship that doesn’t specialize and has its armament distributed to mostly shorter range, less serious, stuff. Before aircraft, that was an extremely valid choice. The Dreadnoughts are known for rendering entire generations of other ships obsolete immediately, not for being a waste of $.

                  The real F-35 lesson there is that we don’t know if the fantastically expensive, all-eggs-in-one-basket F-35 program won’t be also be rendered obsolete by some future shift in military tech. That could be autonomous, no-pilot, air to air drones (China is quite good at robotics and has incentives to assymetrize). Better SAMs. Or it could be area denial tech keeping US carriers farther away than the F35s relatively limited combat radius. Or something that defeats the stealth factor, which is its one real advantage. Any hot war with China is also going to show up the F35s short combat radius - China itself is a pretty isolated country in terms of where Western countries can operate from - you’re not talking Fulda Gap garrisoning.

                  In all this, I’m grudgingly admitting that pilots do generally wax enthusiastic about the F35 lately. It might fulfill its mission competently, for a while. But it seems like a very narrow view of future warfare.

                  Outside the China factor, nothing justified going all $$$$$$ out on _one_ 5th gen aircraft, right now. With the China factor, doing so basically gambles that the Chinese will try to out-fighter the F35 (and Western pilots) on its own turf rather than accepting they can’t and seek alternatives. Counting on your enemy to play to your strengths rather than your weaknesses isn’t super clever.

                  It’s a 40 year, 1.5T$ bet. The UK doubled down on it by buying a F35-only carrier.

                  1. Jellied Eel Silver badge

                    Re: Dreadnought of the skies - Pre-Dreadnoughts of the Skies

                    If you’re really all for shooting up a beach, I suppose an Iowa class could do the job. You get there, then you shoot. But 30-40km ranges aren’t super great if your opponents can start hitting you from 500k away, with aircraft. Or 100+ with missiles. And unlike a beach, can move to stay away from your 40k radius. And navies generally don't spend all their time salivating about their next amphibious landing support extravaganza.

                    But that's what navies are for.. Keeping commerce flowing, or stopping it via blockades, or just running an escort service. But figure on say, GW1. Iraq decides to help itself to Kuwait. Allies decide that's terribly unsporting and they should go away.. Which involved getting huge quantities of vehicles, equipment, ammunition, fuel, spares etc etc ready to perform an eviction.. Which would have been a whole lot harder if Iraq had decided to capture or destroy say, King Abdul Aziz Port. Which would naturally have upset the Saudis, but such is politics. Then we'd have had to retake the port, or recreate D-Day but without the naval artillery support used then to support the landing.

                    Ok, so there's no real getting around the range limit for naval artillery, other than it could probably be further than WW1 vintage guns. But there's also no real getting around the reliance on sea-lift capacity given wars (or just trade) relies on shipping.. which is why cuts to naval budgets are a bad idea..As is trying to create 1(ish) multi-role fighter to replace all the existing F-s & ending up with something that's massively over budget, and less effective than aircraft it's meant to render obsolete (F-15s, A-10s etc etc.) Or just an operationally limited aircraft, ie Israel apparently has to be careful with it's F-35 for fear of revealing too much of it's capabilities (or weaknesses) to Russians sitting across the border.

                  2. Sanguma Bronze badge

                    Re: Dreadnought of the skies - Pre-Dreadnoughts of the Skies

                    "Or it could be area denial tech keeping US carriers farther away than the F35s relatively limited combat radius."

                    Right. You understand the PRC's strategic interest in the South China Sea, don't you? China's learned from the experience of the Opium Wars.

                2. Sanguma Bronze badge

                  Re: Dreadnought of the skies - Pre-Dreadnoughts of the Skies

                  "The mighty Bismark was sunk by a Fairey"

                  Ah, but the mighty HMS Repulse and the HMS Prince of Wales were sunk by aircraft of the Imperial Japanese Navy. And that's not forgetting the Battle of the Coral Sea, either.

                  It's a general military rule that all other things being equal, the side with the longest-range artillery has the advantage. One of the only situations where this doesn't apply is where one side has the guts to get in closer - see the Battle of the River Plate for an example, or the battle of HMAS Sydney versus the Imperial Kriegsmarine's Emden.

                  1. Ken Moorhouse Silver badge

                    Re: the side with the longest-range artillery has the advantage

                    Hmm, not so sure of a lot more counter-examples going back to Biblical times (David and Goliath), Francis Drake vs The Armada, and the German V-rockets in WW2 (where the range was long, but accuracy poor), to name a few off the top of my head.

                    1. JimC

                      Re: counter examples

                      Notsure about your counter examples. David outranged Goliath, Howard's ships outranged Medina Sidonia's, and Lancaster bombers outranged V2s.

            2. OssianScotland Silver badge

              Re: Dreadnought of the skies

              Does HMS Furious count?

  16. nematoad Silver badge

    Further reading.

    As an insight on how these projects are pushed through I recommend "The Pentagon Wars" by Col. James G Burton.

    It's a good read and shows the manoeuvring, game playing and down-right fraud involved. HildyJ is right. This whole thing is just a fine example of "pork barrel" behaviour involving the air forces, politicians and the defence industry lining their own and their friends pockets.

    This ALIS business is just the icing on the cake.

    1. A.P. Veening Silver badge

      Re: Further reading.

      This ALIS business is just the another layer of icing on the cake.

      FTFY.

      1. hplasm
        Holmes

        Re: Further reading.

        "This ALIS business is just the another layer of icing on the cake."

        And the cake is a lie...

        1. A.P. Veening Silver badge

          Re: Further reading.

          And the cake is a lie...

          How can something, that isn't there, be a lie? In that regard, it rather resembles a spoon.

  17. GrapeBunch

    For quite a while I've thought that Canada's scuttling of its AVRO Arrow super-sonic jet was due not so much to Prime Minister Diefenbaker's qualms about carrying nuclear weapons, as it was due to the best efforts of the US Military-Industrial-Political complex, whether overt (but covered by Canada to avoid embarrassment) or covert, or even psychological. I still have no evidence, but the events of the last couple of decades have done nothing to make me revise the theory. As long as it's the USA's game, they profit by it.

    1. JLV

      The AVROs entire class of superfast interceptors lasted only 10 years or so. see F104, F106. Took the USSR all the way to the Mig 25 to learn that lesson. Pretty soon those one trick ponies were, in pretty much all air forces, superseded by planes carrying guns , able to dogfight and carry out multirole missions.

      1. Sanguma Bronze badge

        Vietnam

        The US threw the whole enchilada at the Vietnamese, both North and South. When they started getting the wrong end of the stick from the North Vietnamese MiG 21s, and the only jet fighter they had that stood a chance against them was the USN Phantom, which wasn't that maneuverable but better than many others, they had a change of heart and started specifying something other than straight-line performance.

        There were two things holding the North Vietnamese back from winning the air war over North Vietnam - their avionics, and their tactics. If they had copied the winning tactics of the Western Allied air forces instead of taking the Soviet version as-is-where-is, and had roughly equal avionics, they would've beaten the USAF and USN forces. (MiG21s were merely more maneuverable than most of the USAF and USN fighter jets - Mikoyan i Guryevich had learnt a hard lesson from WWII when their high altitude interceptor the MiG 3 had been outclassed in actual combat by the likes of the Yak 3 - 9 and the La 7.)

  18. Ken Moorhouse Silver badge

    Re: aircraft's stealth coating to blister and fall off

    They've got to use Lockheed Martin-approved consumables otherwise these things will happen.

  19. allthecoolshortnamesweretaken

    So, you spend a shitload of money on a plane that may or may be not the bee's knees.

    And then you spend another half-shitload of money on something that

    1. could probably be done cheaper and more efficiently by a couple dozen of seasoned NCOs with phones, faxmachines and microfiches

    2. may or may not have an "remote off-switch" feature

    3. when hacked (no, not "if") will tell your adversaries precisely what missions are planned when and where, state of readiness, full system capabilities, performance, what have you

    That it?

  20. Matthew "The Worst Writer on the Internet" Saroff

    The Most Important Thing about ALIS

    It is effectively an off switch.

    If the Pentagon does not like that you are doing joint exercises with the wrong type, or Lockheed is in a payment dispute, they can shut down your fleet.

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