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F-35 software block and high-tech helmet still pose challenges

After years of delays and running over budget, officials are finally reporting some good news on the F-35 Lightning II program. Back in May, the program had reportedly reduced its costs by $4.5 billion. Key Pentagon officials have stated the F-35 project is now on target despite key milestones that must still be met.

The announcement came when Pentagon officials addressed the Senate panel this week.

“On the whole, the F-35 design today is much more stable [than in previous years],” Frank Kendall, undersecretary of defense for acquisition, technology and logistics, told the Senate Appropriations defense subcommittee.

Kendall also stated that the F-35 program would be ready for an increase in production during the fiscal 2015 budget. However, he did add that deadlines for software blocks and the special high-tech helmet required to support the F-35 technology suite still pose challenges.


“There are a number of technical issues that need to be resolved,” Kendall said, including the tail hook for the Navy’s F-35C carrier variant that will undergo testing within the next few months.

Senator Dick Durbin, D-III, who chairs the subcommittee, said, "I think that this project is stronger today than it’s been. I think a fifth-generation aircraft is needed for our future, and I think we made mistakes along the way in the acquisition process. I hope today’s hearing will help us learn from those mistakes."

Supporters of the F-35 program still believe the aircraft is critical to allowing the U.S. to maintain air superiority. Maintaining air superiority is even more important with new fifth-generation aircraft emerging from countries such as China. The Chinese have been showing off a stealth fighter called the J-20 over the last year.

Source: Defense News



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RE: Bollocks!
By bsim50 on 6/20/2013 4:23:19 PM , Rating: 2
The F35 is a total joke. The thrust / weight ratio keeps falling as fast as the jets "G" rating (it now has the same wing loading as a Vietnam era F-105), it has poor traditional cockpit visibility. Costs have soared, the Navy still can't safely use the arrestor wire, the afterburner causes the paint to peel & bubble reducing its stealth, the fuel dump subsystem poses a fire hazard, the Integrated Power Package is unreliable and difficult to service, wing buffeting is horrendous (further reducing reliability and increasing pilot fatigue), the air conditioner fails to keep the pilot cool, they've had to remove the lightning protection to keep the weight down, engine replacement takes an average of 52 hours (instead of the "2 hours" specified), and it's "one trick pony" feature (ie, "It's so smart, it doesn't need to manoeuvre") doesn't work.

Helmet Mounted Sights can work *very* well when kept simple & in the real-time domain where initial target / missile cueing information is simply overlaid - but that's not how the JSF works. It works by creating a "virtual reality middleman" inside the helmet which "represents" the outside world, and the pilot interacts with the middleman, the supposed "advantage" of which is to allow the pilot to "see through the canopy" (unnecessary if the jet had decent visibility in the first place), etc, but the disadvantage is that it's no longer in real-time - it's massively "laggy" and plagued with stuttering / micro-stuttering, sensor lag & input delays.

"The JSF doesn't need to dogfight" is a joke given that's its targeting system which relies completely on EO-DAS + HMS is plagued with ongoing targeting issues, latency and jitter. Sometimes IRST contacts have "dropped off" for no reason, other times it's taken far longer for it to recognize an incoming large IR target as a threat. The onboard computer is not powerful enough and is already plagued with over-heating issues. It cannot be replaced without major cost and yet more delays. And the AESA radar + super-computer + A2G targeting pod electronics all squeezed into the nose-cone is like sticking a 20kw heater in there making it highly unstealthy to anyone with a decent FLIR / IRST...

What the F35 pilot sees can be over 1 second behind real-time (huge in any dogfight). This is what the "latency" issues are all about and they are nowhere near as easy to fix as simply upping the GHz on the CPU. It would have been FAR easier to give the jet decent all-round visibility and build a simpler but more reliable HMS that doesn't try and "stitch" a panoramic thermal display spanning multiple cameras, but rather simply overlay directional cues & estimated range of incoming aircraft / SAM's.

Weapons and data-link software bugs will probably be fixed, but I would hate to be on the team that has to "fix" the unfixable latency (or most of the rest of the above for that matter...) on the HMS which is an inevitable side-effect of its core-design.


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