Reporter Debrief: Is The Air Force Turning Its Back On the F-35s?


By MITCH WERTLIEB & MATTHEW F. SMITH • MAR 7, 2021

After decades in development and hundreds of billions of dollars spent, the F-35 fighter jet has proven difficult to maintain, and its systems are plagued by inconsistencies, software deficiencies and cybersecurity vulnerabilities. Now some in the Air Force say it’s time for the military to cut its losses and move on, possibly to a new aircraft. What does that mean for the Vermont Air Guard’s fleet of the jets?

VPR’s Mitch Wertlieb spoke to David Axe, a journalist, author and filmmaker based in Columbia, South Carolina who’s a staff writer for Forbes, where he covers aerospace and defense and wrote about the F-35s in the article “The U.S. Air Force Just Admitted The F-35 Stealth Fighter Has Failed.” Their conversation below has been edited and condensed for clarity.

Mitch Wertlieb: Could you recap what a recent report from Air Force Chief of Staff General Charles Brown has to say about the F-35?

David Axe: He did not plainly say that the F-35 is a failure. He strongly implied it. Senior military officials rarely plainly say anything is a failure. That’s just not the way that the culture of the Pentagon works. What Gen. Brown said is that the F-35 is a Ferrari, and you don’t drive a Ferrari every day, you save it. The implication of his statement is that the Air Force needs a Corolla that it can operate every day.

That is not a surprise to anyone who has been following the F-35 program. It was evident more than 10 years ago that the F-35 would not be cheap, affordable and available in large numbers. It’s too complex, conceptually flawed, it’s mechanically unreliable, it’s got software problems and it’s expensive.

How expensive for taxpayers?

To buy a single F-35 cost about $100 million. To fly, it costs about $35,000 an hour. To put that into context, a new F-16 — that airplane is still in production after 40 years — cost millions of dollars less to buy, and about two-thirds as much, if not half as much to fly on an hourly basis.

Vermonters who were opposed to the jets being based in Vermont were concerned primarily by noise pollution issues; decibel levels, things like that. But some people argued that if the jets were to have a systems failure or something else that would lead to a crash, the impact on the densely-populated areas they fly over — cities like Winsooski, or Burlington — would be terrible. Whereas if they were being flown in Utah, which was also vying for the jets, it at least wouldn’t lead to more tragedy, if the plane crashed in the desert, let’s say.

Are there any concerns over these jets being in danger of air flight failure, or is this really more of a weapons failure kind of issue?

It’s a programmatic failure. The airplane is no more or less safe than any fighter jet or any military aircraft. No, the danger for the F-35 is not that it is going to crash on your house. The danger of the F-35 is that it’s a waste of taxpayer dollars.

The Air Force is going to buy these airplanes, whether we like it or not, and whether it likes it or not. It’s just not going to buy as many of them as it said it would. It’s not going to buy them as fast, and it’s going to buy them at higher cost and use them less than it thought it would. Because it’s just not reliable enough and cheap enough and simple enough to replace the airplane it was supposed to replace.

You said the Air Force is going to buy these planes, whether other people want them to or not, or even if they, the Air Force, wants to or not. What do you mean by that?

A program like the F-35 has momentum that even the Air Force itself could not halt.

It’s ultimately going to be a more-than-a-trillion-dollar program, over its life span of half a century. It’s going to support many tens of thousands of jobs, in probably every state, and jobs overseas, as well. It is the flagship program of a very large American company, Lockheed Martin, actually several very large American companies. It has strong Congressional support, even if an individual Senator or Congressman might object. So even if the Air Force said today, we want no more F-35s, Congress decides what the Air Force buys, and Congress can force the Air Force to acquire aircraft. It does it all the time.

What comes next? They’ve rejected the idea of buying more F-16s, so is the military going to pivot to a new jet now? And say, well, the F-35s didn’t work out the way we wanted, but the next one will?

The Air Force has already pivoted to new aircraft. There’s another stealth fighter in development, the so-called “Sixth Generation Air Dominance Platform.” That’s supposed to be a big, fast, heavy fighter to replace the F-22 in a few years.

There’s mysterious talk of some kind of fighter prototype that’s flown in the past couple of years.

But some folks in the Air Force have begun to talk about building a new “lightweight fighter.” So, another F-16 — not the F-16, but something like it: something cheap, small and reliable. So, you’re asking, can we buy something simple and cheap?

Well, that’s really hard for the American system to do, because our defense industry is powerful. It likes big, monolithic programs that are un-killable, [it likes] to pack it with all sorts of technology that a lot of people have a lot riding on. To have so many different parties within the military and within Congress and in industry invested in a single program that eliminating that program or even cutting back that program would hurt so many people that [to hurt or end the program] would become politically impossible.

There’s incentive in the way that we’ve designed our government and industry to create big, complicated technology that we can’t end.

Have questions, comments or tips? Send us a message or tweet Morning Edition host Mitch Wertlieb @mwertlieb.

Source: vpr.org “Reporter Debrief: Is The Air Force Turning Its Back On the F-35s?”

Note: This is vpr.org’s article I post here for readers’ information. It does not mean that I agree or disagree with the article’s views.


The U.S. Air Force Just Admitted The F-35 Stealth Fighter Has Failed


David Axe, Forbes Staff

Feb 23, 2021,08:00am EST

I write about ships, planes, tanks, drones, missiles and satellites.

The U.S. Air Force’s top officer wants the service to develop an affordable, lightweight fighter to replace hundreds of Cold War-vintage F-16s and complement a small fleet of sophisticated—but costly and unreliable—stealth fighters.

The result would be a high-low mix of expensive “fifth-generation” F-22s and F-35s and inexpensive “fifth-generation-minus” jets, explained Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. Charles Brown Jr.

If that plan sounds familiar, it’s because the Air Force a generation ago launched development of an affordable, lightweight fighter to replace hundreds of Cold War-vintage F-16s and complement a small future fleet of sophisticated—but costly and unreliable—stealth fighters.

But over 20 years of R&D, that lightweight replacement fighter got heavier and more expensive as the Air Force and lead contractor Lockheed Martin LMT -1.4% packed it with more and more new technology.

Yes, we’re talking about the F-35. The 25-ton stealth warplane has become the very problem it was supposed to solve. And now America needs a new fighter to solve that F-35 problem, officials said.

With a sticker price of around $100 million per plane, including the engine, the F-35 is expensive. While stealthy and brimming with high-tech sensors, it’s also maintenance-intensive, buggy and unreliable. “The F-35 is not a low-cost, lightweight fighter,” said Dan Ward, a former Air Force program manager and the author of popular business books including The Simplicity Cycle.

The F-35 is a Ferrari, Brown told reporters last Wednesday. “You don’t drive your Ferrari to work every day, you only drive it on Sundays. This is our ‘high end’ [fighter], we want to make sure we don’t use it all for the low-end fight.”

“I want to moderate how much we’re using those aircraft,” Brown said.

Hence the need for a new low-end fighter to pick up the slack in day-to-day operations. Today, the Air Force’s roughly 1,000 F-16s meet that need. But the flying branch hasn’t bought a new F-16 from Lockheed since 2001. The F-16s are old.

In his last interview before leaving his post in January, Will Roper, the Air Force’s top acquisition official, floated the idea of new F-16 orders. But Brown shot down the idea, saying he doesn’t want more of the classic planes.

The 17-ton, non-stealthy F-16 is too difficult to upgrade with the latest software, Brown explained. Instead of ordering fresh F-16s, he said, the Air Force should initiate a “clean-sheet design” for a new low-end fighter.

Brown’s comments are a tacit admission that the F-35 has failed. As conceived in the 1990s, the program was supposed to produce thousands of fighters to displace almost all of the existing tactical warplanes in the inventories of the Air Force, Navy and Marine Corps.

The Air Force alone wanted nearly 1,800 F-35s to replace aging F-16s and A-10s and constitute the low end of a low-high fighter mix, with 180 twin-engine F-22s making up the high end.

But the Air Force and Lockheed baked failure into the F-35’s very concept. “They tried to make the F-35 do too much,” said Dan Grazier, an analyst with the Project on Government Oversight in Washington, D.C.

There’s a small-wing version for land-based operations, a big-wing version for the Navy’s catapult-equipped aircraft carriers and, for the small-deck assault ships the Marines ride in, a vertical-landing model with a downward-blasting lift engine.

The complexity added cost. Rising costs imposed delays. Delays gave developers more time to add yet more complexity to the design. Those additions added more cost. Those costs resulted in more delays. So on and so forth.

Fifteen years after the F-35’s first flight, the Air Force has just 250 of the jets. Now the service is signaling possible cuts to the program. It’s not for no reason that Brown has begun characterizing the F-35 as a boutique, high-end fighter in the class of the F-22. The Air Force ended F-22 production after completing just 195 copies.

“The F-35 is approaching a crossroads,” Grazier said.

Pentagon leaders have hinted that, as part of the U.S. military’s shift in focus toward peer threats—that is, Russia and China—the Navy and Air Force might get bigger shares of the U.S. military’s roughly $700-billion annual budget. All at the Army’s expense.

“If we’re going to pull the trigger on a new fighter, now’s probably the time,” Grazier said. The Air Force could end F-35 production after just a few hundred examples and redirect tens of billions of dollars to a new fighter program.

But it’s an open question whether the Air Force will ever succeed in developing a light, cheap fighter. The new low-end jet could suffer the same fate as the last low-end jet—the F-35—and steadily gain weight, complexity and cost until it becomes, well, a high-end jet.

If that happens, as it’s happened before, then some future Air Force chief of staff might tell reporters—in, say, the year 2041—that the new F-36 is a Ferrari and you don’t drive your Ferrari to work every day.

To finally replace its 60-year-old F-16s, this future general might say, the Air Force should develop an affordable, lightweight fighter.

Source: Forbes “The U.S. Air Force Just Admitted The F-35 Stealth Fighter Has Failed”

Note: This is Forbes’ report I post here for readers’ information. It does not mean that I agree or disagree with the report’ views.


An engine shortage is the newest problem to hit the F-35 enterprise


By: Valerie Insinna   1 day ago

Correction 2/12/2021 at 6:23 p.m. EST: In an earlier version of the story, a defense official gave an erroneous target for power module production. The story has been revised with the correct number.

WASHINGTON — The F-35 joint strike fighter program is grappling with a shortage of the jet’s Pratt & Whitney F135 engine, and it could be months before the situation starts to improve, a defense official said Friday.

The problem, according to the F-35 joint program office, is twofold. First, the F135 Heavy Maintenance Center at Tinker Air Force Base, Okla., has not been able to process engines through scheduled depot maintenance as quickly as projected.

Second, maintainers are discovering “premature distress of rotor blade coatings” in a “small number” of engine power modules, creating more repair work and contributing to the backlog.

A defense official who spoke to Defense News on background called the issues a “serious readiness problem.” By 2022, roughly 5 to 6 percent of the F-35 fleet could be without engines due to scheduled depot maintenance as well as unscheduled engine removals caused by F135s in need of repair.

Leaders hope that corrective actions will keep the program from exceeding that threshold, but the defense official confirmed that as many as 20 percent of F-35s could be impacted by the engine shortage if those fixes do not work and no further action is taken.

In January, Ellen Lord — then the Pentagon’s top acquisition official — told reporters that the engine problems were one of the main maintenance issues found to degrade F-35 mission capable rates, which sat at 69 percent last month.

As a result of the engine problems, the Air Force has cut eight performances from the F-35 demonstration team’s 2021 schedule so as not to add onto the existing maintenance backlog, Bloomberg reported on Feb. 10.

According to the F-35 program office, the Defense Department first noticed signs of the engine shortage issue in early 2020. At the end of the summer, the department received an update that made clear that the F135 depot would not be able to process 60 engine power modules a year, as was previously expected, the defense official said.

Myriad factors contributed to the slowdown, including “an increase in the work scope that they were seeing within as they tore down the engine, the unavailability of tech data, some of the engineering disposition wait time, the lack of available support equipment and …depot workforce proficiency,” the official said.

This was coupled with a “higher preponderance” of degradation to the heat protective coating applied to the blades of the F135 power module.

In order to tackle the maintenance backlog, the Air Force is adding a second shift at the F135 Heavy Maintenance Center, which should be up and running by June, the official said.

The F-35 program office has already contracted with Pratt & Whitney for additional power module repair support, and its working with the contractor to obtain more training, support equipment and technical data.

“What we want to shoot for is it turning out power modules at about 122 days. We’re a little over 200 days today,” the official said.

Pratt & Whitney, a subsidiary of Raytheon Technologies, also introduced a hardware modification to engine blades in spring 2020 that is being incorporated in the production line and in engines going through sustainment, the company said in a statement.

“We continue to work closely with the F-35 Joint Program Office, the services, and the Oklahoma City-Air Logistics Complex to increase enterprise capacity across the F135 Maintenance, Repair, Overhaul & Upgrade network,” the company said. “P&W also recognizes the inherent challenges that the F135 program’s sustainment strategy is presenting, and continues to collaborate with the JPO and services to align on solutions to meet their needs.”

The Air Force is hosting a Feb. 17 summit at Tinker AFB where F-35 commanders will be able to discuss the program, including whether further short-term steps should be taken to ameliorate the F135 power module problem, but the defense official declined to detail what additional actions are possible.

At the very least, good news is on the horizon for solving ongoing issues with F-35 canopies, a separate problem that Lord cited as another major driver of unscheduled maintenance.

In 2019, the F-35 joint program office told Defense News that the problem revolves around transparency delamination, when the coatings of the canopy begin to peel from the base. When the issue occurs, the aircraft are temporarily taken out of service until its canopy is replaced.

However, GKN Aerospace — which produces canopy transparencies for all F-35 variants — was struggling to produce enough canopies to meet demand, leaving dozens of aircraft on the flight line awaiting replacements.

According to the defense official, there may be some relief to that problem in the near future. The program office recently added a second canopy manufacturer to the F-35′s supply chain: PPG Aerospace, which will begin producing F-35 canopy transparencies in May.

Source: Defense News “An engine shortage is the newest problem to hit the F-35 enterprise”

Note: This is Defense News’ report I post here for readers’ information. It does not mean that I agree or disagree with the report’ views.


F-35 Pilot Reveals the Disappointing Truth About the Fighter’s Cockpit


“I haven’t met anyone who uses it,” the pilot says about one pointless feature.

BY KYLE MIZOKAMI

JAN 26, 2021

  • An F-35 pilot says the Joint Strike Fighter’s cockpit is a technological wonder, using helmet-mounted displays, voice recognition tech, and touchscreens.
  • Unfortunately, while all of those features sound great in theory, in practice, they come up short.
  • At least one of the features is so useless, the pilot doesn’t know anyone who actually uses it.

The F-35 Joint Strike Fighter is probably the most advanced fighter jet flying today. The F-35, a.k.a. the “Panther,” is the first jet to use a number of new technologies designed to make it the most lethal and survivable warplane around. The problem? Some of those bells and whistles have landed with a resounding thud.

In an interview with the excellent aviation magazine Hush-Kit, an anonymous Panther pilot describes the F-35’s cockpit and interface system. The pilot says the cockpit itself is “beautiful,” full of screens that allow you to bring up an incredible amount of information about the fighter with just a few finger swipes, and customize the data to tailor it for the particular mission.

The F-35 is the first to use touchscreen technology. Unlike switches, which take up permanent cockpit space, touchscreens allow the same LCD screen space to be instantly repurposed. One minute, a display could be used to pull up data on an aircraft’s fuel reserves, and the next, it could help target an enemy position on a mountainside. That goes a long way toward simplifying the cockpit and not overwhelming a pilot with wall-to-wall physical switches, dials, and single-use displays.

But the problem with touchscreens, the pilot explains, is a lack of tactile feedback. Switches have a nice, satisfying click that instantaneously lets the user know they were successfully flipped. Almost everyone with a smartphone has touched a virtual button on a touchscreen, expected a result … and then nothing happens. The anonymous pilot reports failing to get a result from a touchscreen about 20 percent of the time: At present I am pressing the wrong part of the screen about 20 [percent] of the time in flight due to either mis-identification, or more commonly by my finger getting jostled around in turbulence or under G. One of the biggest drawbacks is that you can’t brace your hand against anything whilst typing—think how much easier it is to type on a smartphone with your thumbs versus trying to stab at a virtual keyboard on a large tablet with just your index finger.

Other problems include the $400,000 custom-fitted “magic helmet”, which replaces the heads-up display (HUD) as well as sensor displays. The F-35 pilot believes old-fashioned HUDs are superior due to their ability to better display information without the need to “shrink” it to fit the helmet’s field of view. The voice recognition feature also apparently goes completely unused: Voice input is another feature of the jet, but not one I have found to be useful. It may work well on the ground in a test rig, but under G in flight it’s not something I have found to work consistently enough to rely on. I haven’t met anyone who uses it.

Read about the F-35’s cockpit problems, as well as the pilot’s experiences flying the Panther compared to other aircraft, at Hush-Kit.

Source: Popular Mechanics “F-35 Pilot Reveals the Disappointing Truth About the Fighter’s Cockpit”

Note: This is Popular Mechanics’ article I post here for readers’ information. It does not mean that I agree or disagree with the article’s views.


F-35 saga of delays continues as full-rate production pushed back again


Garrett Reim By Garrett Reim30 October 2020

Save article

The F-35 Joint Program Office estimates that the stealth fighter will not complete initial operational test and evaluation (IOT&E) by March 2021 as predicted.

That means the US Department of Defense’s (DoD’s) full-rate production decision review will be further delayed to a date later next year, the Pentagon said on 27 October.

F-35A Lightning II landing at Eielson Air Force Base in Alaska

Source: US Air Force

F-35A Lightning II landing at Eielson AFB in Alaska

The DoD had expressed confidence as recently as August that the IOT&E process would be complete by March 2021, after multiple delays since the process started in December 2018. The Joint Program Office and DoD did not respond to questions about why the decision was delayed again.

A full-rate production decision, also called Milestone C, would guarantee multi-year orders to Lockheed Martin, securing it future revenue and enabling the manufacturer to pass back a bulk discount to its F-35 customers. A Milestone C decision is needed for US Congress to authorise a multi-year contract.

The start of full-rate production would also be a symbolic victory for Lockheed and the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter programme. The multinational fighter development and production programme began in the early 1990s, but has been repeatedly delayed due to design deficiencies with the aircraft.

The Pentagon’s top weapons tester, the Office of the Director of Operational Test & Evaluation, said in a report released in January that the F-35 had 873 unresolved deficiencies, and that new problems were being discovered regularly. The DoD says progress has been made resolving deficiencies, though the number of outstanding problems remains unknown.

To finish IOT&E and start the full-rate production review, the F-35’s capabilities and vulnerabilities need to be assessed in the Joint Simulation Environment. The DoD plans to use that software simulator to test the stealth fighter against a range of hypothetical air and surface threats, including those it expects to emerge within the next 10 years.

The DoD expects the Joint Simulation Environment to complete sometime in 2021, but not soon enough to enable the full-rate production review to finish by March.

“The F-35 [Joint Program Office] is preparing an updated project schedule based on measured progress to date,” says the DoD. “[Joint Simulation Environment] evaluation will inform the beyond [low-rate initial production] report, a statutory requirement for full-rate production decision review. Until the completion of the [full-rate production decision] review, production of the F-35 will continue in [low-rate initial production] in accordance with Congressional authorization and appropriation.”

Lockheed is technically producing aircraft this year as part of low-rate initial production lot 12. However, despite the label of “low-rate production”, the company plans to produce between 120 to 125 examples of its F-35 stealth fighter in 2020 (down from an anticipated 140 units due to coronavirus disruptions). It has previously projected peak production to hit 180 aircraft in 2024.

Garrett Reim

Garrett Reim

Garrett Reim is a military aviation reporter based in Los Angeles. He reports on military aircraft manufacturers and operators in North and South America. Send him your confidential tips, press releases and story ideas via garrett.reim@flightglobal.com. Follow him on Twitter via @garrettreim.

Source: flightglobal.com “F-35 saga of delays continues as full-rate production pushed back again”

Note: This is frightglobal.com’s report I post here for readers’ information. It does not mean that I agree or disagree with the report’ views.


Air Force Wants Its XQ-58A Valkyrie Drone To Help F-22s And F-35s Talk To Each Other


An XQ-58 working as a stealthy data fusion and relay node would give America’s two stealth fighters the ability to fight together like never before.

A collage of Air Force F-22s, F-35s, and its new XQ-58A.USAF

The U.S. Air Force hopes to begin tests involving a Kratos XQ-58A Valkyrie stealthy unmanned aircraft acting as a data-fusion and relay gateway between its F-22 Raptors and F-35A Joint Strike Fighters early next year. This will follow a separate experiment to first demonstrate that the new data link, known presently as GatewayOne, can enable the two jets to share information without degrading their stealthy signatures, scheduled to occur next month.

Will Roper, the Assistant Secretary of the Air Force for Acquisition, Technology, and Logistics, outlined the plan, which is as part of what he called a “connect-a-thon” rapid experimentation concept, at a Defense Writers Group breakfast in Washington, D.C., on Nov. 12, 2019. Preston Dunlap, who holds the recently created position of “Chief Architect” within Roper’s office, had announced the first phase of the gateway experiment last week at a separate event that Defense One hosted.

F-22s have a unique Intra-Flight Data Link (IFDL), an LPI/LPD system that can only share information with other Raptors, and can only receive information via the non-stealthy and much more common Link 16 waveform. F-35s have the stealthy Multifunction Advanced Data Link (MADL), which also can’t share data with any aircraft that doesn’t have this system, though they can share and receive information across Link 16. As it stands now, only the F-35 has MADL, though the Air Force does plan to integrate it into its existing B-2 Spirit stealth bombers and make it a feature on its future B-21 Raiders. Both MADL and IFDL are also line-of-sight systems.

USAF

US Air Force F-22 Raptors.

Lockheed Martin did demonstrate the ability of F-22s and F-35s to exchange information via Link 16 in 2013, as part of an experiment known as Project Missouri. However, so far, this has not become a standard capability for either aircraft.

GatewayOne’s job will be to act as a transfer node for information passing between IFDLs on F-22s and MADLs on F-35s, as well as any other stealth aircraft carrying the latter data link in the future. The Air Force wants the December tests to be a proof of concept showing that it can do this job. For this phase of experiments, the service plans to install the system on a test stand on the ground and have Raptors and Joint Strike Fighters flying above try to send information through it successfully.

USAF

A US Air Force F-35A Joint Strike Fighter.

If GatewayOne works in that limited environment, the Air Force wants to then install it on an XQ-58A and test the system in the air sometime in April 2020. The service is working with Kratos to develop Valkyrie as a low-cost, stealthy platform that can work together tethered together with manned platforms in the “loyal wingman” role, as well as by itself or in networked swarms. These drones are supposed to be what the Air Force describes as “attritable,” meaning that they are cheap enough that commanders do not have to worry as much about whether or not they survive a mission.

What might come after that is unclear, but it is possible that this system could find its way onto various other platforms, manned and unmanned, to provide this capability. This would be similar in many respects to what has happened to the existing Battlefield Airborne Communication Node (BACN) communications hub, which can handle a wide variety of waveforms, including Link 16 and the Situational Awareness Data Link (SADL), the latter being another popular U.S. military data transfer system. The Air Force operates manned Bombardier E-11A and unmanned EQ-4B Global Hawk aircraft equipped with BACN.

TYLER ROGOWAY

A diagram showing how an F-15C/D carrying a Talon HATE pod will serve as a nexus between stealthy F-22s, other Eagles, and other assets, including ships and allied aircraft.

The service, in cooperation with Lockheed Martin, has also tested the U-2S Dragon Lady spy plane as a communications hub on an experimental basis. Just this year, as part of a test known as Project Riot, a U-2S acted a transfer node between an F-35 and a ground control station. The scenario involved the Joint Strike Fighter detecting a ballistic missile launch and feeding information to a missile defense command center to help with targeting that threat.

There is already a separate concept operation for F-35 data sharing that involves “daisy-chaining” information from one Joint Strike Fighter to another via MADL until it reaches an aircraft a safe distance away from the center of the action. That aircraft can then broadcast it onward to other platforms using Link 16 or up to a satellite above.

LOCKHEED MARTIN

A U-2S with an experimental communications node, identified by the gold-colored antenna protruding from the white section of the underside of the forward fuselage.

It’s hard to overstate how important it is for F-22s and F-35s to be able to rapidly exchange data with each other, as well as other platforms, while still maintaining their stealthy characteristics. Both aircraft have very powerful and multi-faceted sensor suites that can gather an immense amount of information to give their pilots a very good sense of what is going on in the battlespace around them. These aircraft often already act as “quarterbacks” for large aerial operations, including coalition efforts that also involve allied forces. In many cases, they are relegated to using voice directions to give crews in lesser aircraft directions, and even that may not be possible during a high-end fight.

If these two fleets can more readily share that information between each other and with other aircraft, as well as other assets, including ships and ground forces, they can help build an even more complete operational picture. It can also allow these different assets to exchange targeting quality information to actually engage threats. This means that a stealth platform can use information from third-party sensors while using its own emitters as sparingly as possible to reduce its own vulnerability.

Stealthy aircraft can also use their LPI/LPD sensors once they have penetrated into densely protected areas to find targets and then feed that information to non-stealthy platforms, which can then employ stand-off weapons from a safe distance against those targets. The U.S. Navy is also exploring similar concepts of operation as part of its Cooperative Engagement Capability and Naval Integrated Fire Control-Counter Air (NIFC-CA) programs, which you can read about in more detail in this past War Zone piece.

Installing this capability on the XQ-58A makes good sense, too. Acting as a low-cost communications and data relay in high-risk environments, as well as helping push information from MADL and IFDL over the horizon, sounds like a perfect job for such a platform. Being able to process signals from either data link could also enable F-22 and F-35 pilots to exchange control of one or more Valkyries operating as a loyal wingman on the fly, as well.

If GatewayOne works on the relatively small XQ-58A, the Air Force could likely migrate GatewayOne onto other platforms, as well, making the capability more widely available. Assistant Secretary of the Air Force Roper also made clear that he is looking at this particular connect-a-thon as a concept for driving rapid innovation and procurement, something he has become an outspoken advocate of, in general. If this works, he is hoping that it could help in the development and acquisition of new communications solutions, as well as other new capabilities, including low-cost satellite networks, which could broadly help the service expand its ability to share information and reduce the vulnerability of these critical data-sharing networks to both physical and non-kinetic attacks.

“We’re making it up as we go, right? There’s never been anything like this,” Roper said at the Defense Writers Group breakfast, according to Defense News. “We need a way for people to propose connections and get into the pipeline.”

“The good news about that is [that Congress and the Pentagon] don’t really have to believe us for very long,” he continued. “Just let us get through a few connect-a-thon cycles and if we’re failing miserably, then that should tell you something about the future of the program.”

If the GatewayOne effort proves successful it could be an extremely important step forward for how F-22s and F-35s, along with the XQ-58A, work with each other, as well as other U.S. military assets. This, in turn, could have a significant impact on how American forces share information across the battlefield, in general.

Source: The War Zone “Air Force Wants Its XQ-58A Valkyrie Drone To Help F-22s And F-35s Talk To Each Other”

Note: This is The War Zone’s report I post here for readers’ information. It does not mean that I agree or disagree with the report’ views.


China’s Latest Aircraft Capable Of Tracking F-22 Raptors, F-35 Jets & US Experts Do Not Disagree


Published 10 hours ago on September 7, 2020

By Nitin J Ticku

China’s first carrier-based fixed-wing early warning aircraft (AEW) has successfully made its maiden flight and become only the second country after the United States to have successfully developed such a platform.

The new Xian KJ-600 AEW is going to boost the People’s Liberation Army Navy’s (PLAN’s) combat capability with its far-reaching eyes. “China’s aircraft carriers currently rely on early warning helicopters to do the job, but they can only carry smaller radars, have limited speed, and only cover a radius of about 200 kilometers, while a fixed-wing early warning aircraft can cover about 400 to 500 kilometers,” Wang Ya’nan, chief editor of Beijing-based Aerospace Knowledge magazine, told the Global Times (GT).

The PLAN currently has two aircraft carriers. CNS Liaoning, which was originally a Soviet-era vessel which is 67,500 tons, 999 feet long and 246 feet across.

CNS Shandong which is China’s first domestically built aircraft carrier was commissioned last year by President Xi Jinping. It can carry at least 36 J-15 fighter jets on its flight deck, unlike Liaoning which could carry only 24.

It has conventional propulsion systems and uses a ramp to launch J-15 fighter jets, the spearhead of China’s carriers, like CNS Liaoning. The ship also deploys several types of helicopters. “It features the advanced Type 346 S-band AESA radar system,” said a CSIS note on the vessel.

According to reports, the KJ-600 was spotted in satellite imagery of the Xi’an Aircraft Industrial Corporation’s airfield at Xian-Yanliang in central China.

The Xian KJ-600 is a twin-engine, high-wing cargo aircraft and airborne early warning and control aircraft. “There is no evidence yet if the KJ-600 can operate on China’s current two aircraft carriers, the Liaoning and the Shandong, which use ski-jump flight decks without catapults,” Wang told GT.

China’s third aircraft carrier is expected to use a flat flight deck with electromagnetic catapults, which will be compatible with the KJ-600, the analyst added. The KJ-600 is expected to be deployed on Type 003, China’s third aircraft carrier that hasn’t been launched yet.

The prototype Xian KJ-600 AEW plane. IMAGERY FROM PLANET LABS INC

Experts have pointed out striking similarities to the US’ Grumman E-2 Hawkeye. As reported earlier by EurAsian Times, images surfaced on the media showed a new Chinese carrier-based Airborne Early Warning (AEW) aircraft named KJ-600, strikingly resembling the US Navy’s E-2C Hawkeye- twin turboprop with high mounted long straight wings that fold for carrier storage. The radar is carried in a large rotodome atop the fuselage. Lastly, the tail is split into several smaller vertical stabilizers, like bombers of World War II.

Two decades ago, the US pressured Israel to scrap the AWACS deal because the spy plane would give China a strategic advantage over America’s AWACS aircraft in any conflict over Taiwan. This acted as a major dent in Israel-China ties.

Israel has recently signed a $2 billion deal with India which includes plans to sell its Phalcon AWACS. Under the deal, India and Israel plan to jointly manufacture arms supplies and defense equipment.

Beijing-based military expert Li Jie told Global Security in January 2018 that the aircraft can detect Lockheed Martin’s stealthy, fifth-generation F-35, and F-22 aircraft. Unconfirmed reports have said that Chinese radars are capable of tracking the F-22, although the PLA dismissed such reports claiming that it sent warships and helicopters to an area in the East China Sea after detecting the Raptor.

While the Chinese report might be easily dismissed as propaganda—it is not beyond the realm of possibility. In fact—it’s very possible that China can track the Raptor. Stealth is not a cloak of invisibility, after all. Stealth technology simply delays detection and tracking,” wrote Dave Majumdar for US magazine – the National Interest.

Source: EraAsian Times “China’s Latest Aircraft Capable Of Tracking F-22 Raptors, F-35 Jets & US Experts Do Not Disagree”

Note: This is EurAsian Times’ article I post here for readers’ information. It does not mean that I agree or disagree with the article’s views.


US’ F-35s Jets Not Really Stealth As German, Russian Firms Expose Its Loopholes


Published 8 hours ago on August 26, 2020

By EurAsian Times Desk

If there are any aircraft that are most sought-out for anywhere across the world, they are America’s elite set of F-35 fifth-generation stealth jets. Renowned for their stealth technology, the jets have enabled the US to stamp absolute air dominance as it provides the Air Force, Navy, and Marines a supreme jet that is simply unmatchable.

But what sets the F-35 a cut above the rest is its Electronic Warfare (EW) system, considered to be world’s most advanced system, coupled with its stealth technology, which makes use of its integrated stealth design, to make not only the most survivable combat aircraft ever built, but to make it invisible to detection or tracking by radar and other sensors.

However, despite US President Donald Trump reiterating the same beliefs of the fighter jets being “truly invisible and simply impossible to be seen with the naked eye”, a German defense contractor, Hensoldt has debunked such myths by stating that its newly invented radar system, named TwInvis, which reportedly it tracked the jets for nearly 100 miles.

According to a press report, TwInvis was set up at the 2018 Berlin Air Show in Germany, which was participated by two US Air Force F-35s, which were tracked by the radar system for over 93 miles (150 kilometers).

The passive radar system, which operates by studying electromagnetic emissions in the atmosphere, thinks radio station signals, Television signals, cell phone tower signals, and commercial radars, can detect aircraft moving through this invisible sea of signals by “reading how the signals bounce off airborne objects”.

However, it can only be used as an early warning radar by detecting a stealth fighter’s approach and is still not sophisticated enough to guide radar-guided missiles. Although, according to press reports, TwInvis can still provide enough location data for an infrared-guided missile to search for a target’s hot engine exhaust.

Moreover, the radar system could be refined with complementary systems to make it more effective in stealth detection, forcing adversaries to purchase even expensive passive systems.

The second contender for pinning a hole in F-35s ‘invisibility’ myth are Russia’s S-400 surface-to-air missiles, which are considered by far the world’s most advanced air defense systems, boasting the ability to successfully intercept any stealth technology currently available in the world.

As reported earlier by the Eurasian Times, Tod Wolters, the commander of U.S. European Command and NATO’s Supreme Allied Commander for Europe explained – “You cannot operate an F-35 in the vicinity of an S-400. They won’t talk to each other, and what the two military devices will aim to do, certainly the S-400s against the F-35s, is to exploit the F-35’s capabilities.”

Ever since the deployment of Russia’s S-400 Triumph (NATO reporting name: SA-21 Growler) within Russian borders in 2007, it has garnered an impression of being one of the most lethal air defense systems in the world and purchase orders from China, Turkey and India only added to its reputation.

Source: Eurasian Times “US’ F-35s Jets Not Really Stealth As German, Russian Firms Expose Its Loopholes”

Note: This is Eurasian Times’ article I post here for readers’ information. It does not mean that I agree or disagree with the article’s views.


China’s stealth fighter goes into mass production after thrust upgrade


  • The J-20B has overcome agility problems to finally be considered a fully fledged fifth-generation fighter, military source says
  • Aircraft still will be fitted with Russian engine but ‘Chinese version could be ready in a year or two’
China’s first J-20 stealth fighter jets entered service in 2017. Photo: AP

A modified version of

China’s first stealth fighter jet, the J-20, 

has formally entered mass production, with upgrades earning it a place as a fifth-generation fighter jet, according to a military source close to the project.

The moment was marked at a ceremonial unveiling of the modified J-20B stealth fighter jet on Wednesday attended by many senior military leaders including Central Military Commission (CMC) vice-chairman General Zhang Youxia, the source said.

Zhang is the second-ranked vice-chairman of the CMC and is in charge of weapons development for the People’s Liberation Army.

“Mass production of the J-20B started on Wednesday. It has finally become a complete stealth fighter jet, with its agility meeting the original criteria,” the source said.

Thrust vector control (TVC) allows pilots to better control the aircraft by redirecting engine thrust.

In 2018, China debuted its J-10C multirole fighter –

fitted with a WS-10 Taihang engine  – at the China air show in Zhuhai, putting the aircraft through its paces in a performance that indicated that China had succeeded in thrust technology.

Chinese engineers

have been developing high-thrust turbofan WS-15 engines

for the J-20, but that work has fallen behind schedule.

“The Chinese engine designed for the J-20s still failed to meet requirements, but its development is going quite smoothly, and it may be ready in the next one or two years,” the source said.

“The ultimate goal is to equip the J-20B fighter jets with domestic engines.”

Powerful Dragon v Raptor: how China’s J-20 stealth fighters compare with America’s F-22sPowerful Dragon v Raptor: how China’s J-20 stealth fighters compare with America’s F-22s

Powerful Dragon v Raptor: how China’s J-20 stealth fighters compare with America’s F-22s

China’s first batch of J-20s entered service in 2017 when the US decided to deploy more than 100 F-35s to Japan and South Korea that year.

The J-20 was meant to be a fifth-generation fighter jet on a par with Lockheed’s F-22 Raptor and F-35 Lightning multirole strike fighters.

Fifth-generation fighters are defined by their stealth technology, supersonic cruising speed, super manoeuvrability, and highly integrated avionics.

But the earlier version of the J-20 was described by Western media as a “dedicated interceptor aircraft” because of its lack of agility.

“The launch of the J-20B means this aircraft now is a formal fifth-generation fighter jet,” the military source said, adding that Chengdu Aerospace Corporation (CAC), which manufactures the J-20s, had received “heavy orders” from the PLA.

CAC set up its fourth production line in 2019, each one with a capacity to make about one J-20 a month.

China’s J-20 stealth fighters ready for combatChina’s J-20 stealth fighters ready for combat

China’s J-20 stealth fighters ready for combat


The F-35 Lightning II Can’t Fly Near…Lightning


Weakness is its middle name.

By Kyle Mizokami

Jun 26, 2020

  • A key F-35 safety system is sustaining damage in Air Force service, forcing the office that overseas the F-35 program to recommend flight restrictions.

  • Under the new guidelines, F-35 jets should socially distance from lightning, maintaining a distance of least 25 miles.

  • The faulty systems could cause a F-35 hit by lightning to literally explode in midair.

The F-35 Lightning II strike fighter is temporarily barred from flying near actual lightning. More than a dozen Air Force F-35s were discovered with damage to a system designed to prevent catastrophic damage from lightning strikes. The damaged systems place the aircraft in danger of exploding if the airplane were hit by lightning in mid-flight.

A Plane Like No Other

What It’s Like to Fly the F-35

The problem is with the Onboard Inert Gas Generation System (OBIGGS) is a safety subsystem common in modern airplanes. A typical OBIGGS system diverts air from the aircraft engine and separates the nitrogen, injecting it into the jet’s fuel tanks. The more inflammable nitrogen present the less flammable oxygen, helping reduce the possibility of fuel tank explosions. Wartime damage aside, one way a fuel tank explosion might take place is as a result of a lightning strike.

Inspectors at the Air Force’s Ogden Logistics Complex discovered damage to the tubes that funnel nitrogen into the fuel tanks in 14 out of 24 out of F-35As inspected. The problem appears limited to the Air Force’s F-35A model. The U.S. Navy and Marine Corps, which operate the -C and -B versions of the F-35, have not seen similar problems.

According to Defense News, manufacturer Lockheed Martin paused F-35 deliveries to look into the issue with aircraft on the production line. The company believes that the problem is being caused “in the field after aircraft delivery” meaning while in the hands of the Air Force. There are no reports as of yet in the hands of foreign F-35 operators, though that sample size might still be pretty small so far. Air Force Magazine’s 2020 almanac lists the Air Force and Air Force Reserve as currently operating 203 Lightning II fighters, the most of any air force worldwide.

For now, the F-35 Joint Program Office, which overseas the global F-35 enterprise, is recommending that F-35As avoid lightning and thunderstorms. The jets should maintain a distance of 25 miles from either type of weather, until the source of the problem is found and a fix is implemented.

Ironically, this is the second time the Lightning II has been prohibited from flying near actual lightning, after an earlier problem was discovered with the OBIGGS in the early 2010s.

Source: Defense News.

Source: Popular Mechanics “The F-35 Lightning II Can’t Fly Near…Lightning”

Note: This is Popular Mechanics’ article I post here for readers’ information. It does not mean that I agree or disagree with the article’s views.