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F-35 program gets some good news and some bad news

One of original selling points of the F-35 fighter program was that it be cheaper to acquire since multiple countries would purchase the aircraft, making the cost per unit lower than it would be if one country footed the bill alone. Over the years as the program has been delayed, some countries have backed out or reduced the number of aircraft they want to purchase. This in turn has caused the costs for the program to increase.
 
Thankfully, there was recently some good news to report with the program -- South Korea chose the F-35 Lightning II as its next generation fighter aircraft. South Korea has agreed to buy 40 F-35A aircraft, with delivery of the first batch of jets scheduled for 2018.
 
South Korea had been deciding between the F-35, F-15SE, and the Eurofighter Typhoon.
 
The agreement makes South Korea the third foreign military sales customer for the aircraft joining in with Israel and Japan.
 
While the South Korean orders are definitely good news, some bad news also surfaced this week. We’ve learned that more software delays may slow the operational capability for the F-35.


Lockheed F-35B
 
“However, persistent software problems have slowed progress in mission systems flight testing, which is critical to delivering the warfighting capabilities expected by the military services,” General Accounting Office (GAO) inspectors concluded.
 
“These persistent delays put the program’s development cost and schedule at risk. [I]f software testing continues to be delayed, if funding falls short of expectations, or if unit cost targets cannot be met, DoD may have to make decisions about whether to proceed with production as planned with less capable aircraft or to alter the production rate.”
 
Special deployment of the problem-plagued F-35B STOVL version of the aircraft to be used by the U.S. Marines could be delayed by another 13 months if software development doesn't remain on track. 

Sources: Defense News, Defense News



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Why if we are
By Shark Tek on 3/26/2014 11:36:04 AM , Rating: 2
Why if we are so technologically advanced than in many decades ago the quality of the new advanced things has go down so bad?




RE: Why if we are
By Connoisseur on 3/26/2014 12:19:40 PM , Rating: 2
I think that's a gross oversimplification of the problem. Today's aircraft are FAR more advanced in terms of communications capabilities and information management than the aircraft of 20-30 years ago. As an example, just Google any pics of the original F-15 cockpit and an F-22 or F-35 cockpit and tell me which one you'd prefer to work out of. They're night and day different. The downside of all of this automation/user-friendliness is that there's orders of magnitude more computing power and coding work involved. Delays are pretty much guaranteed.


RE: Why if we are
By Strunf on 3/26/2014 1:16:06 PM , Rating: 2
Not really, the complexity of the products of our technology advance at the same rate our technology advances, what I mean by this is that the F-22 or F-35 may be far more complex than the F-15 was, however it's also true that 40 years ago they didn't had the technology we have today, the F-22 may be complex but the tools engineers and others have to make them are far more advanced, I would almost dare to say that it's probably cheaper and faster to make the F-35 than it was to make the F-15, 40 years ago the engineers were drawing stuff with pencils and the simulations were probably on a per need basis.

The difference between today and back then, is that back then the government treated the manufacturer like any boss treats its employees, if they asked something for tomorrow it has to be made for tomorrow and not for after tomorrow, the USSR was essentially forcing the US to be efficient on its arms race, and there was no margin for one delay after another.
Today it seems we have a government that doesn't really ask anything, so manufacturers being lazy as they are will stretch it for as long as they can, they aren't really lazy it's more profitable for them to say they will make a plane for 50 millions in 5 years, then they sign the deal and after 4 years they say the plane will cost 100millions and will be up and running in 3 years... and so on, it's everywhere like this and the worst is the government doesn't even try to either get a small refund for the delay or actually not pay the company at all.
If the government just added a note to the contract saying if the project takes longer they will not pay anything extra and will start deducing money from the bill I doubt there would be any more delays after that.


RE: Why if we are
By Hammer1024 on 3/26/2014 1:39:26 PM , Rating: 2
"...have to make them are far more advanced,..."

I'm sorry to burst your bubble here, but the tools used for these development efforts are about as advanced as 1995.

A big problem is that a lot of code is auto generated and no one looks at it because no single person can understand millions of lines of code. Not just 2 or 3, but 10's of millions of lines of code that are auto-generated by modeling tools.

It is a huge problem and there are no tools that can deal with them, much less a team of software engineers.


RE: Why if we are
By Strunf on 3/27/2014 8:50:21 AM , Rating: 2
I do a lot of CAD and the tools from 95 have nothing to do with the tools we have today, not only due to the increase in computing power everything can be done much faster but also we can do many more things, any mechanical assembly is today at least 10x easier to accomplish than it was in 95. In electronics it's the same, the software today is orders of magnitude more intelligent than what we had in 95. Today you can prototype things on the hour something impossible 20 years ago.

The lines of code aren't a problem, the code is written in blocks and then assembled together, and there are many tools to verify the code.

Now that there isn't a team of engineers I believe you, like I said companies have no real interest in making things go fast so why even bother...


RE: Why if we are
By FITCamaro on 3/26/2014 2:53:44 PM , Rating: 1
You have no idea what you're talking about.


RE: Why if we are
By NAVAIR on 3/26/2014 11:06:35 PM , Rating: 2
+1

The software/hardware used is not like anything used in the commercial market. Custom CPU architecture, boots straight into application. Comment's based Naval Maintenace Management experience.

One of the V-22 crashes happen when one of the 2 engines caught fire, crew T-handled engine (cut fluids) and the flight computer killed the other engine to compensate from loss of horsepower from the first engine. This was one of the crashes in the development phase; 1990's.


RE: Why if we are
By Kefner on 3/26/2014 5:37:49 PM , Rating: 3
Mr. Strunf, what you've just wrote is one of the most insanely idiotic things I have ever read. At no point in your rambling, incoherent comment were you even close to anything that could be considered a rational thought. Everyone in this post is now dumber for having read it. I award you no points, and may God have mercy on your soul.

In all seriousness, I work in this industry (not on F-35, but very similar work) and can tell you that you are soooo far off. Government doesn't ask for anything???, that's what drives a lot of extra costs. Most of these extra costs are the Government asking for things outside of scope. I am not trying to place all blame on the Government, as mentioned, these are insanely complex systems, and there WILL BE issues to be resolved, more so than you can imagine. Too many people want to have a say in what gets done, what goes beyond scope, and what new fancy thing they want to throw in last minute, but don't want to pay much extra for it, and don't want to hear about the 5 million other things that have to be updated to accommodate these additions. Low informed folks like yourself drag folks under the bus, when you OBVIOUSLY haven't a clue as to what you are talking about. Faster to design/build/test/and deliver F-35 than F-15??? My god you haven't a clue and should just ban yourself from posting for awhile.


RE: Why if we are
By Strunf on 3/27/2014 9:18:48 AM , Rating: 2
Funny thing I do plenty of engineering, so I know what I'm talking about... That the government may add some things half way sure I can accept that but saying that it's this things that are responsible for most of the delays that's totally bull, even roads and other public works go more often than not outside the dead lines and costs.

As for the other things you said, it's the XXI century even a coffee machine is complex, like I said things are more complex but the tools used to build them are far more complete too.

Anyone thinking that the F-15 was easier to build than a F-35 has never seen what projects from the 60s looked like...


RE: Why if we are
By Kefner on 3/28/2014 12:01:12 PM , Rating: 2
Are you engineering Tonka Toys???


RE: Why if we are
By amanojaku on 3/26/2014 12:36:46 PM , Rating: 2
Because advanced technologies like electronics, electromechanics, and programming are new relative to classical mechanical technologies. Predecessors of modern electronics can be traced back to 1906 with the creation of the diode (or even the 1850's if you consider basic vacuum tubes). Fundamentals of electromechanics can be traced back to the late 1700's with the first telegraph machine. Modern programming techniques date back to the 1980's (the '60s, if you're a hardware programmer).

Mechanical devices have been around since the wheel ( ~3500BC ).

And physics has been around since, well... forever.

It used to be that one person could research, develop, build, and refine something. Now you pretty much need a team and computers. The "easy" challenges are gone.

That, and many companies are just cheap, lazy, and inefficient.


RE: Why if we are
By FITCamaro on 3/26/2014 3:01:18 PM , Rating: 4
The problem is that the government is cheap, lazy, and inefficient.

Instead of taking realistic estimates, the government bids for the cheapest person with good past performance. But if someone with acceptable risk bids a lot lower and still has decent past performance than someone else with a higher bid, lower risk, and good past performance, the government will go cheap.

Then as it turns out that the bid was completely unrealistic, they expand the contract. Add in the government usually not really knowing what they want which creates an endless amount of change requests that delay, change, add, and/or scrap features, costs and development time balloon out further.

Even the highest bid generally isn't an honest, realistic bid of the amount of time and money that the project will take to complete. Because you can't win government contracts bidding that way. And even if you did and won, it'd still be wrong because the government doesn't go into a contract with all the requirements defined. It creates, deletes, and changes them as the subject matter experts(an oxymoron usually as they might know their field but they generally don't know how to best design things) see the product develop and want things changed according to how they see it being best effective.


RE: Why if we are
By BRB29 on 3/27/2014 8:34:03 AM , Rating: 2
You have no idea on how contracting works.

The government put out a list of what it wants. Any contractor that can accomplish will enter the bid. It's not a regular bid at all. They have to actually demonstrate a product when it's military hardware. Both Lockheed Martin and Boeing designed their prototypes, flew it, measured its capabilities, etc... thew whole works and then it's up the Generals and Government executives(SES grade) to decide.

What happened was that Colonels and Generals put in charge of the project change duty stations. Your duty station is only 2-3 years depending on your rank and position. The government executives can change jobs too. Every time a new person gets in, they have a bright new idea and add to the list.

Then you have the other problem of this plane being multi purpose instead of single purpose like an F15. Every branch needs certain features or capabilities. For example, the USMC needs STOVL for obvious reasons. The Air Force wants high capacity for bombing missions and the Navy wants high power dual engines to take off from carriers.

With these complicated machines, there are probably at least 20 teams developing different parts for it at the same time. Whenever there's a change, you have completely screwed up at least one project and they have to start over. Project management is extremely hard and that's why you get paid megabucks for it.

The only reason I know this is because I've been on all 3 sides(military, federal and civilian).

If you want to confirm anything I said, you can watch the documentary about it on Netflix(there's actually more than one). They will tell you the same story but probably get more technical.

If you have no idea what you're saying then at least say "in my opinion" instead of talking like you know.


RE: Why if we are
By BRB29 on 3/27/2014 8:36:24 AM , Rating: 2
BTW Boeing was the lowest-bidder and they did not win the contract.


RE: Why if we are
By Grast5150 on 3/27/2014 2:24:27 PM , Rating: 2
I would say you have no idea how contracting with the government works. Your assessment is probably true for corporate contracts but not the government.

Fit is correct. The government never has all of the requirements ad/or fully qualified requirements in the RFP. This is the reason why development of responses to RFP's for large government projects can take years. Any company which want to respond to the RFP has to evaluate all of the requirements. Many times the requirements are so broad it take months/years of negotiations to actually hammer out requirements which are documentable and tied to a requirement in the contract.

As such, the final contract is never 100%. Change orders happen all the time which as Fit stated expands the cost and timelines. The issue is the piss poor ability of the government (pick an agency) to manage a project of any size.

Cost overruns are due to primarily to many chiefs/stakeholders with no one having supreme authority to approve/deny changes.

later...


RE: Why if we are
By DougF on 3/26/2014 2:40:31 PM , Rating: 2
As others have mentioned, one reason is the airframe, avionics, and systems are far more complex/capable than previous generations of aircraft. Another reason for increasing costs and development time is the integration of information. Originally (1st - 3rd generations) all information was integrated in the pilot/aircrew. Few of the systems talked with each other and each had it's own display in the cockpit. 4th generation (F-15s, F-16s, etc), had some integration, and 5th generation are fully integrated, leading to very complex software (millions of lines of code) to manage the information, process, and display with as little latency as possible.

Theoretically, the learning curve on the F-22 and F-35 should lead to shorter development times for future platforms, but I'll just wait and see what happens.


RE: Why if we are
By Grast5150 on 3/27/2014 2:29:50 PM , Rating: 3
Doug,

I think you are half correct. Yes the airframe, avionics, and systems are much more complex. However you are missing the aspect of scope creep. In my experience, each of the armed forces had their own specific requirements for the f-35. since the contract was signed in 1996, I have no doubt that requirements for additional capabilities have been added and altered from the original contract.

this all adds to the complexity and many time requires the vendor to go back up-date previous completed systems to meet the new requirement.

Military contracts are known for having too many chiefs/stakeholders without any supreme authority to keep change requests within reason.

Later...


RE: Why if we are
By Solandri on 3/26/2014 4:57:03 PM , Rating: 3
I liken it to cell phone batteries. When battery tech improved and power consumption by components dropped, they could've used it to improve the battery life and give us back a phone which could work for 2-3 days between charges. Instead, they used it to reduce the size of the battery and make the phone smaller. So battery life has not improved despite batteries having improved tremendously.

Likewise, the advanced tech can be used to make planes better, or cheaper, or multifunctional. They've opted for multifunctional. In the F-35's case, unrealistically so. That plane has been tasked with so many different jobs (fighter, bomber, VTOL, close air support) I think most of us suspected from the moment it was announced that it was going to be a boondoggle. The theory was that by using the same airframe for all those tasks, money could be saved in development and spare parts costs. But the reality is jack of all trades, master of none. That's what you get when you let politicians legislate design, instead of letting the engineers come up with the best solution to each specific problem.


Massive mistake by SK
By chucky2 on 3/26/2014 12:23:36 PM , Rating: 2
SK already uses a bunch of F-15K's. They should have went advanced F-15K or F-15SE, maybe 40 of them, and deferred the other 20 they wanted as a special F-35 squandron to be procured once F-35 proved itself viable (it's a joke right now). If it did, get the 20 F-35's. If it doesn't, expand the advanced F-15k/F-15SE order for another 20. Done. Far less risk, cost, at least as much mission capability (which they'll likely never use anyways), etc. I'm sure Obama sent word to SK that they'd be getting F-35 whether they liked it or not. Got to try and mitigate the F-35 failure by any means necessary...




RE: Massive mistake by SK
By Bubbacub on 3/27/2014 5:51:51 PM , Rating: 2
South Korea is one hundred percent dependent on the USA for their previous, current and future existence.
There is no situation where south Korea will do anything other than what the DOD recommends/wants.

If they end up spending a few hundred million more on fighters it is small fry in the overall geopolitical scheme of things.


By Arsynic on 3/26/2014 11:33:11 AM , Rating: 3
Them stirring up shit in Ukraine is sure to boost some sales.




By encia on 3/29/2014 6:15:18 PM , Rating: 2
From http://au.ibtimes.com/articles/542876/20140312/f-3...

"A submission to buy involving Australia's purchase of 86 F-35 Joint Strike Fighter, worth $90 million each - the most expensive military purchase to date - is to be presented to Cabinet's National Security Committee for approval any day from March 12 until March 16."




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