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Senate wants assurance that F-35 will cost no more than stated  (Source: Lockheed Martin)
any cost overruns would be paid by contractor

The cost of the F-35 JSF continues to soar and delays continue to mount though the aircraft is now finally in production in some variants. As the aircraft stat to roll of the production assembly line, the Senate is taking steps to control the price of the fighter as the next low-rate initial procurement (LRIP) is set to enter negotiations.

The U.S. Senate Armed Services Committee has passed a bill on June 16 that required the LRIP-5 purchase set for 2012 to be at a fixed price. That means that any cost overruns in the development or production of the F-35 purchase will be absorbed totally by suppliers.

An emailed statement from the committee said, "The bill contains a unique requirement that the low-rate initial procurement contract for the FY11 lot of the Joint Strike Fighter (LRIP-5) program must be a fixed-price contract and the contract must require the contractor to absorb 100 percent of costs above the target cost." 

The previous LRIP-4 purchase uses a cost-plus award fee plan.

If the full Senate passes the bill, it will be legally binding. Defense News reports that the bill fully supports the Pentagon budget request for the F-35. The budget allots $3.2 billion to purchase Navy versions of the F-35 and $3.7 billion for the USAF version of the fighter. In total, the Pentagon wants 32 F-35 fighters in 2012 with 19 going to the USAF, seven for the Navy and six for the Marine Corps.

Defense News adds that a Defense Acquisition Board review to establish a new cost baseline for the F-35 has been postponed until this fall. The review has been rescheduled for late May before being reset to mid-June and the rescheduled again.

The effort to control the price of the F-35 program comes in part from the estimate that the F-35 program could cost as much as $1 trillion in operating costs.



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By Mudhen6 on 6/20/2011 4:10:24 PM , Rating: 5
You guys don't get it. Air combat has everything to do with preparation, and the outcome of an air battle is often decided before the first missile is ever fired. The simple rule is, whoever is faster and higher wins the vast majority of the time. However, being high and fast all the time is impossible, so big radars are needed so that enemies can be detected sooner so fighters can get higher and faster sooner.

Furthermore, all radars are capable of detecting stealth aircraft given a short enough range and a large enough doppler signature.

The fact that a radar is more capable of detecting stealth aircraft (or conversely, if a stealth aircraft is not actually that stealthy) doesn't matter as much as stealth critics think in the basic BVR scenario. This is because a stealthy aircraft, no matter how unstealthy, will still be able to detect a completely unstealthy enemy first (virtually every other fighter aircraft in existence); e.g. a 20% reduction in detection range is better than a 0% reduction in detection range. Detecting the enemy first means that it can speed up and gain altitude sooner, giving its BVR missiles more energy at the time of launch/expanding the No Escape Zone of the missiles.

Again, first detection is important because a) the highest and fastest generally win, and b) it's impossible for fighter aircraft to remain high and fast for any sustained amount of time, unless you are sitting in an F-22 specifically designed to supercruise at Mach 1.7 and 60 000ft.

The "stealthy better than not-stealthy" argument applies to missile evasion as well. Virtually all modern BVR missiles are guided by active radar - i.e. each missile has its own built-in radar. Naturally, these little radars have crappy range, so these BVR missiles rely on the mother fighter jet to guide it to the target until they can lock on to the target itself. If the target is stealthy (again, no matter how "unstealthy") this lock-on range is going to be reduced. Since the target is also likely to be launching its own BVR missiles, then again the stealthy(er) fighter is at an advantage because it can break away and run sooner than its non-stealthy enemy, because it doesn't have to support its own BVR active radar missile for as long.

No matter which way you look at it, until someone else designs a fighter both stealthier and faster than the F-35, it should be able to hold its own just fine against any current or projected airborne threats.


By Mudhen6 on 6/20/2011 4:46:18 PM , Rating: 4
BTW, that covers (albeit in a very simple manner) why the F-35 is fine for BVR combat. Of course, there's WVR combat, and the JSF critics are going to moan about how the F-35's dogfighting performance is "only" as good as an F-16 or F/A-18. Well, the truth about WVR combat is that no matter how amazingly agile your fighter jet is, dogfights should be avoided at all costs if you want to avoid being shot down.

Being more agile is not protective by any means in a "fair" WVR fight. This pretty much applies to all fighters, the F-22 included. In WVR range, if you have the technological advantage, unless you have the overwhelming advantage (say, you're higher and faster than your enemy and/or, but preferably and, you outnumber them), WVR combat should be avoided if possible, because it is the equalizer in air combat. Conversely, if you are up against a technically superior enemy air force, then you would do your best to get the fight WVR. The reason WVR fighting is "equalizing" is because with the advent of high off-boresight missiles (such as those that can hit targets behind the launching fighter jet), a Vietnam-era MiG-21 is about as dangerous as an F-22.

That's a bit hyperbolic, but there is a very real truth behind it: it doesn't matter how high the turn-rate of your fighter jet is, because missiles will always be able to out-turn your best turn. A missile will always be faster and more agile than a fighter jet. And with the advent of heat-seeking missiles guided by pilots simply looking out of the cockpit, all it takes is for an enemy pilot to see you with his eyes and pull the trigger to send a missile your way. And because heat-seeking missiles are fire-and-forget, the enemy pilot can shift his gaze to your wingmen and shoot missiles at each of them as well.

Worse still are big dogfights, sometimes called "furballs." These are bad because it's impossible to keep track of who is who with all the turning and zipping around fighter jets do; it gets impossible to keep track of everything, and the loss of situational awareness will probably result in everyone getting shot down.


By Amiga500 on 6/20/2011 5:34:42 PM , Rating: 2
quote:
That's a bit hyperbolic, but there is a very real truth behind it: it doesn't matter how high the turn-rate of your fighter jet is, because missiles will always be able to out-turn your best turn. A missile will always be faster and more agile than a fighter jet.


A good rule of thumb is that a missile has to be 4 times more maneuverable than a non-cooperative* target it is trying to hit.

*aware of and actively maneuvering to avoid.


By Mudhen6 on 6/20/2011 5:50:10 PM , Rating: 3
quote:
A good rule of thumb is that a missile has to be 4 times more maneuverable than a non-cooperative* target it is trying to hit. *aware of and actively maneuvering to avoid.


That's no longer true. Missile autopilots that incorporate proportional navigation to fly to their targets (read: ALL modern missiles) do not have to pull such high G's intercept maneuvers, which are severely energy depleting (= very bad).

Also, for the record, the max G of HOBS missiles like AIM-9X and Python 5 is something in the region of 60-100Gs, which is at least 6 times greater than the G-limit of any human (which dictates the G-limit of fighter aircraft).


By Amiga500 on 6/20/2011 6:10:54 PM , Rating: 2
4x is true. I could show it mathematically... but I couldn't be bothered.

Proportional navigation has been in use since the 50s! It is not a new approach to the problem!!

I have seen talk of 60 g max for the box-office - I've never seen talk of 100 (not saying its not true; just never seen those numbers).

But, as you know, the maneuvering of a short ranged AAM is not the same as a longer ranged AAM, such as the slammer or adder. Here, we are principally talking about long ranged engagement... which precludes the AIM-9X, Python, Mica-IR, R-77 and their new RVV-whateveritis.


By Bad-Karma on 6/21/2011 4:38:24 AM , Rating: 2
Mudhen6,

You need to point out to the community that the missile requires a much higher G tolerance due to the missiles much higher intercept velocity. Anything going at mach+ speeds can experience significant G loading with course corrections.

The missile not only has to overtake the aircraft (rear-aspect) but then has to compensate for the aircraft's maneuvering while its trying to get close enough for the proximity charge to be effective.

Unlike Hollywood's version, most missiles have a very short boost or thrust phase which is usually measured in seconds not minutes. Once the motor burns out the missile is left only with it's acquired speed to complete the intercept. Every maneuver the missile has to make eats up its' available energy needed to continue the engagement.

Does Mudhen6 = lawn dart driver?


By Mudhen6 on 6/21/2011 5:21:23 AM , Rating: 2
Yes, of course a missile needs to pull more G's than its target to intercept it. I just disagree with Amiga's "4 times" rule. In any case, you have missiles like the AIM-9X, Python 5 and the IRIS-T that are (rumored) to be capable of pulling something stupid, like 100Gs.

Given that the pilot is going for the kill shot and launches the missile within its no-escape envelope, which by its very definition is the part of the missile's employment envelope where it is impossible to run/maneuver the missile out of kinetic energy, I fail to see why energy is a problem.

Furthermore, none of this changes my point - the point that WVR is a technological equalizer and should be avoided whenever possible. An old MiG-21 with one of these next-gen SRAAMs will still be able to look through the canopy, acquire the target visually and launch his missile. At the very least, this first missile forces the target defensive, allowing the MiG pilot (or the MiG's wingmen) to position himself for a kill shot.


By Bad-Karma on 6/21/2011 5:55:05 AM , Rating: 2
I mentioned the loss of energy without the context (it's just after 0500 here)my apologies I should have elaborated.

Most countries that employ FSU equipment are also still on the same doctrine. We're constantly seeing BV max-range shots when they go into engagements and practice.

A lot of the time their fighters will line up on a target and fire as soon as they are close enough for the missile to acquire. wash-rinse-repeat.......

The Iraqis used to do this with their M-25s against our ISR and AWACs assets constantly throughout the 90s. If you get an early enough launch detection even slow moving HVAA can maneuver enough to cause the missile to exceed its flight envelope.

Medium to short range engagements are a different story and there I agree with you completely.


By Mudhen6 on 6/21/2011 6:17:05 AM , Rating: 2
No apologies necessary. And as for your earlier question, no, I'm not a Viper pilot. I didn't miss your question on purpose, I'm actually rather sleep deprived as well.


By Noya on 6/20/2011 6:20:12 PM , Rating: 1
What about IR tracking? Isn't that why all the revamped Russian jets have a HUGE optical sensor mounted to their nose?

I've just always read that it's easier (cheaper) to counter stealth technology than to invest billions to compete with it.


By Noya on 6/20/2011 6:24:18 PM , Rating: 1
And in WVR fighting, don't Migs easily take everything aside from an F22?

I recall a video with Superhornets vs a couple (East) German Mig 29's (from the Cold War no less) doing mock dogfights and the Migs kinetic performance destroys the F-18s.


By Mudhen6 on 6/20/2011 6:44:22 PM , Rating: 2
quote:
And in WVR fighting, don't Migs easily take everything aside from an F22?


No. This is fanboi bs. There is no fighter out there in existence that is superior to its contemporaries in every single portion of the flight envelope. For example, an F-15C may have a better turn rate than a Su-27 at 450 mph, while the Su-27 may have a better turn rate at 350 mph. The key to winning dogfights is "max-performing" your jet while coaxing the enemy to not do the same - e.g. if your fighter jet flies better at slower speeds, try to engage/bait your enemy into a slow speed dogfight.

Furthermore, it gets more complicated with weapons and fuel load. For every second of a sortie, a fighter jet has a different weight which affects its dogfighting performance.

quote:
What about IR tracking? Isn't that why all the revamped Russian jets have a HUGE optical sensor mounted to their nose?


Russian fighters have been sporting IRSTs since the days of the Soviet Union. And fighters like the F-22 and F-35 are designed so that it will be detected by any type of enemy sensor, whether IR, visual or radar, at about the same range.

Stealth features that counter IR may not be as effective as radar-defeating features, but then again, IR sensors have a much shorter range than radar sensors. Furthermore, IR sensors are passive - on their own, they cannot derive ranging information, which is important in optimizing the flight profiles of BVR missiles.

To derive range information from an IRST, you will need a laser-rangefinder (can be detected) or a datalink for target triangulation.


By yxalitis on 6/21/2011 1:03:14 AM , Rating: 1
quote:
Russian fighters have been sporting IRSTs since the days of the Soviet Union. And fighters like the F-22 and F-35 are designed so that it will be detected by any type of enemy sensor, whether IR, visual or radar, at about the same range.

On this you are dead wrong, IR sensors are PASSIVE, you cannot tell if an aircraft is tracking you, as there are no emissions to detect.


By Mudhen6 on 6/21/2011 2:18:50 AM , Rating: 2
quote:
On this you are dead wrong, IR sensors are PASSIVE, you cannot tell if an aircraft is tracking you, as there are no emissions to detect.


RTFQ. I said that IRSTs are passive sensors in the next line. Furthermore, the IRST being passive does not make it any less susceptible to IR stealth measures - nothing you said contradicts my statement.

However, IRSTs may have laser-rangefinders, and these are considered active, not passive.


By danjw1 on 6/21/2011 5:53:12 PM , Rating: 2
quote:
Worse still are big dogfights, sometimes called "furballs." These are bad because it's impossible to keep track of who is who with all the turning and zipping around fighter jets do; it gets impossible to keep track of everything, and the loss of situational awareness will probably result in everyone getting shot down.


I have never been a member of an aircrew, but I did work as an Avionics Technician in the U.S Navy. IFF and HUD should prevent friendly fire incidents in a furball, most of the time.


By Mudhen6 on 6/21/2011 7:09:35 PM , Rating: 2
I was under the impression that it's not so much the friendly fire but the loss of situational awareness that makes furballs dangerous.


By danjw1 on 6/21/2011 7:23:35 PM , Rating: 2
That is why today's fighters have Heads Up Displays(HUD). It allows them to see which targets are friendly and which aren't. If they try to target an aircraft the computer matches a friendly or not friendly target based on data from the datalink from the CIC systems that are directing the fight. They also have a display in the cockpit that shows where friendly/not friendly aircraft are. The F-35 will have an even better system, in that HUD is displayed on his helmets visor. So anywhere he looks, he will be able to see the HUD. The new system is refereed to as Helmet-Mounted Display System (HMDS). This should greatly improve situational awareness for the pilots.


By Bad-Karma on 6/22/2011 4:14:52 AM , Rating: 2
For US and coalition aircraft it is SOP to turn off IFF and Mode4 before entering into the combat zone. Anything that emits can be used for targeting against it. And yes the datalinks are available but very few aircraft are equipped with the hardware to use it. And most of the links are only through satellite.

SATCOM is LOS (line of Sight) only. In a "furball" your heavily maneuvering which can cause sat-com receiver antennas to lose sync. Besides if your close enough that your actually dog-fighting an enemy then you're better off keeping your eyes on him, not studying your displays.


By Amiga500 on 6/20/2011 5:32:53 PM , Rating: 2
quote:
This is because a stealthy aircraft, no matter how unstealthy, will still be able to detect a completely unstealthy enemy first


Arggh.

Detection and localisation is/will always be done by active offboard or passive onboard sensors - unless you want to effectively hold out a big sign saying "shoot me - shoot me!"

You do know GCI can and will enable both sides to detect and localise each other using off-board sensors, this will occur beyond their respective engagement envelopes. Then both sides will seek to maneuver to their advantage (for a long range missile engagement). The F-35's poor performance will badly count against it here. Even the Su-35 will be able to run around the F-35 at a distance, then able to instigate the attack at its choosing (unless big brother F-22 is around).

quote:
b) it's impossible for fighter aircraft to remain high and fast for any sustained amount of time, unless you are sitting in an F-22 specifically designed to supercruise at Mach 1.7 and 60 000ft.


You mean like the F-22, PAK-FA... and probably the J-20 (which I still maintain is more an interdiction bomber than an A2A fighter)? Oh, and the F-22 goes a helluva lot quicker than Mach 1.7 in supercruise. ;-)

Don't forget, compare the F-35 to its contemporaries.

quote:
No matter which way you look at it, until someone else designs a fighter both stealthier and faster than the F-35


Nah - there is a trade-off. It (the other plane) doesn't have to be both, if its 90% the RCS [or rather, 110% the RCS :-)] and 120% the kinematic performance, then you'd pick the other plane.


By Mudhen6 on 6/20/2011 5:45:17 PM , Rating: 2
quote:
Arggh. Detection and localisation is/will always be done by active offboard or passive onboard sensors - unless you want to effectively hold out a big sign saying "shoot me - shoot me!" You do know GCI can and will enable both sides to detect and localise each other using off-board sensors, this will occur beyond their respective engagement envelopes. Then both sides will seek to maneuver to their advantage (for a long range missile engagement). The F-35's poor performance will badly count against it here. Even the Su-35 will be able to run around the F-35 at a distance, then able to instigate the attack at its choosing (unless big brother F-22 is around).


GCI, AWACS, and other EWR/SIGINT assets would be the very first things hit by F-22s. Clearly, I've simplified things by not considering these elements you mentioned, but the simple fact is if AWACS/GCI/etc. is present, it will likely be in support of the F-35.

quote:
You mean like the F-22, PAK-FA... and probably the J-20 (which I still maintain is more an interdiction bomber than an A2A fighter)? Oh, and the F-22 goes a helluva lot quicker than Mach 1.7 in supercruise. ;-)

Don't forget, compare the F-35 to its contemporaries.


What contemporaries? The PAK-FA is nothing but a paper tiger at the moment, and little is known about the J-20, but if you extrapolate from the previously terrible avionics, missiles, build quality, mediocre flight envelope and non-existent stealth of previous Chinese aircraft, I'm pretty the F-35 will be able to hold its own.

quote:
Nah - there is a trade-off. It (the other plane) doesn't have to be both, if its 90% the RCS [or rather, 110% the RCS :-)] and 120% the kinematic performance, then you'd pick the other plane.


The point being is that it's not enough to be energetically superior to the F-35, as the Flanker derivatives are. You need both stealth and energy, and currently there is no aircraft in the world that is comparable to the F-35 when both are considered (save the F-22, which destroys the F-35 in every respect).


By Amiga500 on 6/20/2011 6:17:14 PM , Rating: 2
quote:
GCI, AWACS, and other EWR/SIGINT assets would be the very first things hit by F-22s.


You think the OpFor are gonna line up waiting to be hit? Especially if they can detect/localise the F-22s? (Admittedly, a much harder target to kill than the F-35 - but mission kills are more than possible - especially given the limited numbers that can be committed to any deployment.)

quote:
What contemporaries? The PAK-FA is nothing but a paper tiger at the moment


Paper tiger? Its been flying for over a year now.

Strictly speaking, it is every bit as operational as the F-35...

quote:
little is known about the J-20, but if you extrapolate from the previously terrible avionics, missiles, build quality, mediocre flight envelope and non-existent stealth of previous Chinese aircraft, I'm pretty the F-35 will be able to hold its own.


I cannot disagree with that. As I said, I don't even believe it is primarily an A2A fighter.

quote:
You need both stealth and energy


Fundamentally disagree. VLO is a means to an end. You do not need VLO to achieve the same end-objective. Always be aware of that.


By Mudhen6 on 6/20/2011 6:34:55 PM , Rating: 2
quote:
You think the OpFor are gonna line up waiting to be hit? Especially if they can detect/localise the F-22s?


What can possibly stop an F-22 four-ship from taking out an AWACs? Or any other target? These targets would be actively emitting, and would be easy prey for a long-range volley of AIM-120C/Ds.

I mean, are you kidding? Not even an opposing force of F-22s will be able to reliably stop a flight of F-22s supercruising at almost Mach 2 towards a target AWACS/EWR site/etc.

quote:
Paper tiger? Its been flying for over a year now. Strictly speaking, it is every bit as operational as the F-35...


Yes, but given the track record of the Russian military, how many PAK-FAs do you expect would be flying by their anticipated IOC of 2015? Just compare the IOCs of their Su-27SM and KA-50 programs with the (roughly) equivalent American programs, the F-15C MSIP and AH-64D.

The Russians have dozens of prototypes, but scarcely any actual next-generation equipment.

quote:
Fundamentally disagree. VLO is a means to an end. You do not need VLO to achieve the same end-objective. Always be aware of that.


Of course you don't "need" it. It (VLO) just makes everything infinitely easier. You don't have to fly as fast, or climb as fast, because you are stealthy and you're enemy is not.


By Reclaimer77 on 6/20/2011 7:00:28 PM , Rating: 2
quote:
What can possibly stop an F-22 four-ship from taking out an AWACs? Or any other target?


A close ranged air-burst nuclear weapon. Other than that...not a damned thing.


By Amiga500 on 6/21/2011 4:41:54 AM , Rating: 2
quote:
I mean, are you kidding? Not even an opposing force of F-22s will be able to reliably stop a flight of F-22s supercruising at almost Mach 2 towards a target AWACS/EWR site/etc.


Oh come on. Your brighter than that.

If an F-22 flight has to ingress through an S-300PMU/S-400 SAM belt, which is at the same time protected by opposing fighters with long ranged AAMs - they have no guarantee of being able to reach their target. The -120 D has a range of what... 80 km? Some of the S-300's missiles have a range nearly treble that!

It'll be the usual regression to using cruise missiles to hit everything hard - then following up with air attacks - which begs the question - if loadouts are so limited to maintain signature, why bother? The JSF can put 2 2Klb JDAMs or 8 SDBs on the ground during a flight... the F-15E can put 6 2Klb JDAMs or 10-20 SDBS (dep on station wiring upgrades).

-More generally-

With money always being finite - everything reduces to cost benefit. I simply don't see the F-35 as being worth while. They should have told the marines to forget about VTOL and just built an upgraded F-22 instead. You can keep most of the kinematic performance, most of the VLO performance, you have a larger frame for hanging stuff on while maintaining signature, 2 slightly detuned engines for reliability and reduced cost (albeit still a bit more expensive than 1 engine), commonality of parts, commonality of mechanic training, a cheaper development program and a means to get airframes in the field now (or rather, then), with incremental software upgrades coming later.

Alot of pluses there... not too many negatives (VTOL being the only big one really)


By Bad-Karma on 6/21/2011 5:25:12 AM , Rating: 2
quote:
They should have told the marines to forget about VTOL and just built an upgraded F-22 instead.


The corp is always sucking hind tit when it comes to equipment, resources and technology. They could never field more than a unit or two of F-22s, let alone keep up with the ops and MX costs. Even the Navy is parking a lot of their birds stateside to help pay for parts and MX for the wars. Stateside Navy pilots aren't getting a lot of hours lately.

The Marines are really in a bind with the F-35 Acquisition. What they really need and want is the CAS ability of an A-10 in a VTOL/VSTOL package for use with their Amphib Assault Ships. The 18 has served them well but of course those are limited to full size carriers, which of course belong to the Navy. And the Navy doesn't always have the big carriers where the Marines need to be. This is why they have so much at stake in the F-35, even if it isn't a perfect fit.


By 91TTZ on 6/21/2011 10:53:07 AM , Rating: 2
quote:
They should have told the marines to forget about VTOL and just built an upgraded F-22 instead. .... Alot of pluses there... not too many negatives (VTOL being the only big one really)


The problem with that reasoning is that the STOL capability was a very important factor for them. The Marines use the F-18 on full sized aircraft carriers and Harriers on the smaller helicopter carriers that they operate. These aircraft are going to be replaced, so the F-35C is going to replace the F-18 and the F-35B is going to replace the Harrier. A (carrier variant) F-22, F-18, or F-35C will not work as a replacement for the Harrier because they can't take off or land from a helicopter carrier.


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