Russia Is Betting That America’s F-35 Is Too Complex To Be Useful


It is looking like a bad bet.

by Michael Peck March 27, 2020

Key point: Still, it’s hard to argue with Drozdenko’s observations that war and technology are not the same.

Surprise! America’s F-35 stealth fighter is too complicated and expensive, claims a Russian military expert interviewed by Russian media.

Hard to believe, isn’t it? Yet while the Sputnik News interview might be dismissed as tendentious at best and propaganda at worst, it perfectly illustrates how Russia and the West view weapons technology.

“The F-35 is a very complex system and, as such, it has lots of holes, bugs and other things, and it is very difficult to debug it,” Dmitry Drozdenko told Sputnik News. “Like other problems, all this is because it is an excessively high-tech aircraft.”

Sound familiar? Russia would have made the same argument in 1943, when hordes of uncomplicated T-34 tanks faced formidable but heavily engineered and expensive German Tiger and Panther tanks. Or the American M-16 versus the AK-47, or the F-4 Phantom versus the MiG-21.

Americans are horrified when their soldiers don’t receive the most cutting-edge equipment. Russia is willing to sacrifice sophistication for simplicity.

Drozdenko also declared to Sputnik News that “unlike us, the Americans rely too much on stealth. However, radar technology is developing fast and invisibility is no longer a sure-fire guarantor of air supremacy.”

Dogfights haven’t gone anywhere,” he added. “They will fire from a distance the first day, but a couple of days later, we’ll be flying like we always did before.”

Note the words “flying like we always did before.” As far back as the 1950s, the U.S. thought the future of air combat would be aircraft engaging each other with missiles at long range (which proved a fallacy in the skies over North Vietnam). The whole concept of the stealth F-35 and F-22 is that they can blast a MiG out of the sky without the MiG knowing it’s there. But to Russia, the good ol’ days of close-range aerial knife fights aren’t over.

Drozdenko does make a point about the F-35 that would have many Americans nodding in agreement. “The Americans tolerate this plane because it’s a very big and expensive business with contracts running into trillions of dollars. While they keep making the F-35s, the Americans are modernizing their fourth-generation-plus F-18s and F-15s trying to bring them up to par with Russia’s Su-35,” he noted.

What’s important here isn’t the mudslinging about who has better weapons, or the merits and demerits of the F-35. As Drozdenko points out, technological advances like stealth are transitory.

It’s the rival conceptions of military technology, and by extension how to wage war. These are concepts rooted in history and circumstances. America’s wars over the last century have all been fought overseas, where the U.S. could tap its industrial and technological resources to field expeditionary forces plentifully supplied with advanced equipment. For Russia, the last century was marked by two immense invasions by the Germans, as well as huge land battles against the Japanese, the Poles and even other Russians during the Russian Civil War. Conflicts fought on underdeveloped, rugged or frozen battlefields are harsh on equipment.

Of course, these images are partly stereotypes. Russia is indeed capable of making advanced weapons such as hypersonic missiles. And while simplicity is a virtue, it has its drawbacks, such as Russian jet engines that wear out too quickly. American weapons may be costlier and fancier than they need to be, but they can be quite effective if used by nations that know to operate and maintain them, as the Israelis have demonstrated time and again.

Still, it’s hard to argue with Drozdenko’s observations that war and technology are not the same. “Imagine a BMW and a Russian Niva on a bumpy road somewhere deep in Russia,” Drozdenko says. “Which of the two will wear out? Technology is technology, but war is war.”

Michael Peck is a contributing writer for the National Interest. He can be found on Twitter and Facebook. This first appeared in August 2018.

Source: National Interest “Russia Is Betting That America’s F-35 Is Too Complex To Be Useful”

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


The F-35 Is Still Full of Must-Fix Flaws


Also, the gun isn’t accurate.

By Kyle Mizokami

Jan 31, 2020

The Pentagon’s annual F-35 report says that the controversial fighter still has 13 “must-fix” problems.

The F-35’s gun also suffers from misalignment issues, making it inaccurate in air-to-air combat.

The Pentagon decision to start building the jet early has led to an issue where hundreds of older jets still suffer from significant problems.

The F-35 Joint Strike Fighter still suffers from 13 serious flaws, including a gun afflicted with cracking and accuracy issues. The software that runs the jet also has nearly 900 bugs. The problem is complicated by the need to patch nearly 500 jets already built and in the wild.

The Pentagon’s director of operational test and evaluation releases annual reports on the progress (or lack of) on many weapons systems. The F-35’s annual report is particularly interesting given the jet’s controversial past. This year, the report notes several issues with the jet, including 13 “Category 1” deficiencies, which the manufacturer must address, and 873 software deficiencies. The F-35 is one of the most complicated flying computers ever made, running on more than eight million lines of code.

Another problem unique to the Air Force’s variant: the built-in gun is not accurate. The Air Force’s F-35A model has a four-barrel 25-millimeter gatling gun. Janes, in its coverage of the issue, says the problem is due to muzzle alignment errors. “As a result,” Janes writes,”the true alignment of each F-35A gun is not known, so the programme is considering options for re-boresighting and correcting gun alignments.” Furthermore at least two jets have received “unsafe gun” cockpit alerts during air-to-air gun testing for reasons unknown. The F-35A gun mount housing is also cracking, another issue that will need fixing.

The F-35A is the only version of the jet with an internal gun. The Marine Corps F-35B and Navy F-35C carry a gun in a pod mounted to the outside of the aircraft and the guns have “acceptable” levels of accuracy.

Perhaps the most worrying problem with the F-35 is a continued lack of aircraft readiness. In 2018, then Defense Secretary James Mattis ordered U.S. warplane fleets to achieve an 80 percent readiness rate within one year. According to the Pentagon report, although individual F-35 units were able to achieve an 80 percent readiness rate “no significant portion” of the U.S. F-35 fleet in any service was able to achieve and go on to sustain an 80 percent rate. Air Force units scored the best in terms of readiness, while the Navy and Marines were significantly worse.

Why does the F-35 have so many problems a decade after production began? The U.S. government and manufacturer Lockheed Martin made a decision early on to use a concept called “concurrency” with the F-35 program. That concept calls for early production of the aircraft before the design is nailed down and the bugs ironed out, so the plane can get into the hands of pilots sooner. Once the plane was finally complete older planes would be brought up to the latest standard.

Concurrency is a mixed bag. It’s why one Marine Corps F-35 pilot recently logged 1,000 hours in the aircraft—but it’s also why every plane the pilot has flown so far has had unresolved issues. None of the 490 F-35s built so far are “complete,” not with 13 Category 1 issues still unresolved.

One major worry is that some of the oldest planes with the most issues may never be upgraded to a combat-capable configuration and spend their lifetimes trapped as training jets. While the Pentagon has committed to upgrading the jets, Congress must still appropriate the estimated $12-40 billion to do so.

Source: Bloomberg

Source: Popular Mechanics “The F-35 Is Still Full of Must-Fix Flaws”

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.


Assessmemt Tests Find F-35’s Gun Lacks Accuracy, on Cracked Mount


Time’s report “Gun On the Air Force’s F-35 Has ‘Unacceptable’ Accuracy, Pentagon Testing Office Says” yesterday says that Pentagon Testing Office found lots of flaws in F-35 in its latest assessment of F-35

The report says, “The number of software deficiencies totaled 873 as of November, according to the report obtained by Bloomberg News in advance of its release as soon as Friday. That’s down from 917 in September 2018, when the jet entered the intense combat testing required before full production, including 15 Category 1 items.”

“‘Although the program office is working to fix deficiencies, new discoveries are still being made, resulting in only a minor decrease in the overall number’ and leaving ‘many significant’ ones to address, the assessment said.”

Comment by Chan Kai Yee on Time’s report, full text of which can be viewed at https://time.com/5774422/f-35-military-jet-assessment/.


See Ya, F-35: The Navy’s 6th Generation Fighter Could Make Everything Obsolete


Here is what we know.

by Kris Osborn August 9, 2019

Anticipated decisions about a 6th-Gen fighter balance themselves upon the as-of-yet unknown maturity of various promising new weapons and technologies nearing a threshold of operational possibility.​

The Navy is currently analyzing air frames, targeting systems, AI-enabled sensors, new weapons and engine technologies to engineer a new 6th-Generation fighter to fly alongside the F-35 and ultimately replace the F/A-18.

(This first appeared earlier in the year.) (underlined by this reblogger)

The Navy program, called Next-Generation Air Dominance, has moved beyond a purely conceptual phase and begun exploration of prototype systems and airframes as it pursues a new, carrier-launched 6th-Gen fighter to emerge in 2030 and beyond, service officials explained.

Some important areas of consideration include derivative and developmental air vehicle designs, advanced engines, propulsion, weapons, mission systems, electronic warfare and other emerging technologies,” Navy spokeswoman Lt. Lauren Chatmas told Warrior earlier this year.

A formal Analysis of Alternatives, expected to complete this year, is weighing the advantages of leveraging nearer-term existing technologies such as new variants or upgrades to cutting edge weapons, sensors and stealth configurations – or allowing more time for leap-ahead developmental systems to emerge.

The current analysis follows a now-completed Initial Capabilities Document detailing some of the sought-after requirements for the new aircraft, or “family of aircraft,” Chatmas explained.

Anticipated decisions about a 6th-Gen fighter balance themselves upon the as-of-yet unknown maturity of various promising new weapons and technologies nearing a threshold of operational possibility.

For instance, some now-in-development next-gen stealth technologies, including new radar-evading configurations, coating materials and advanced thermal-signature reduction are fast-approaching levels of combat readiness. Yet, absent a clear timeframe when, for example, new stealth or AI enabled sensors can ensure overmatch for decades to come, Navy developers are thinking it may make sense to push the current “art-of-the-possible” to the maximum extent. (This reblogger’s note: While China is developing revolutionary new technology for new generation of warplanes such as hypersonic ones, the US is sticking to “art of the possible” but yet impossible now.) (To Read Warrior Maven’s Report on Air Force 6th-Gen Prototyping – CLICK HERE)

This challenge, explored by a Naval Postgraduate School essay called “The 6th-Generation Quandry,” poses the question as to whether it might be equally if not more effective to postpone formal 6th-generation development until truly breakthrough advances emerge, while pursuing advanced variants of current, yet upgradable platforms in the interim.

The 2016 paper, from the Naval Postgraduate School Acquisition Research Program, cites a handful of current systems showing significant long-term promise. The paper sites “new models of the F-35 optimized for air combat,” the emerging B-21, drone-launching C-130 “mother ships” and “weapons truck arsenal planes” are positioned to optimize current technological progress.

These systems, including a B-52-like arsenal plane, unmanned fighter jets, AI-empowered sensors and new weapons with unprecedented range are designed to accommodate new iterations of AI, processing speeds, software upgrades and other incremental improvements.

According to this logic, there simply might not be enough of a margin of difference in performance between the best upgraded platforms of today – and something entirely new which could be built in the next 10 years or so.

Could these upgradable systems, fortified by new-iterations of stealth technology now being woven into the B-21, themselves be sufficient to propel naval aviation superiority for decades? This would alleviate the risk and expense of pursuing something truly “breakthrough” in the near term, potentially freeing up funding and resources to explore paradigm-changing air-fighter technologies for the long term.

Furthermore, current sensors, avionics and weapons systems are increasingly AI-reliant, a circumstance which makes it easier to greatly improve performance by integrating new algorithms, analytics or processing speed. In effect, all of this raises the question as to whether an entirely new airframe is truly needed to achieve overmatch in coming decades? By 2030?

These questions seem to be informing the current Navy rationale, which is to look at both new airframes as well as adaptations of the best of what’s available. The latter option brings its own advantages, because various industry developers are already building prototypes of 6th-Gen fighters with newly designed, stealthier airframes. Looking at applications of AI, miniaturized long-range sensors, targeting technology and drones operating with ever-increasing levels of autonomy – some contend that perhaps some of the most essential ingredients of long-term transformational technologies are, in effect, already here. This would be the basis upon which a nearer-term aircraft, drawing from some off-the-shelf-items, would be pursued.

Some of these decisions are also expected to be impacted by the success with which the Navy is able to keep extending the combat service life of the F/A-18. The Navy’s F/A-18 Service Life Extension Program has already extended the aircraft’s initial plans to fly 6,000 flight hours to 8,000 hours through a series of upgrades. Now, looking at the airframes and the state of cutting-edge avionics, the service is hoping to push its fleet of F/A-18s to 10,000 hours.

Navy officials tell Warrior these upgrades are significant and, in many cases, can bring the F/A-18 combat performance well into the future. Some of the adjustments start with the airframes themselves; Service Life “Assessment” Programs look to possibly replace the center “barrel” of the airframe and analyze the fatigue of the Nacelle (engine coating or skin), service officials say.

The F/A-18 upgrades also add new navigation technology, digital memory devices, mission computers, helmet-mounted cueing systems, Electronically Scanned Array Radar and an advanced targeting sensor called Infrared Search and Track, As a passive sensor, IRST enables better targeting while not emitting a signal, making it vulnerable to enemy electronic warfare attacks.

All Paths Point to 6th-Gen AI

There is widespread consensus that applications of AI appear to provide the framework for the most defining expected technological progress. In fact, a 2017 paper from a 16-nation NATO conglomerate of analysts, called the Joint Air Power Competence Center, raises questions about when, and how, AI may outpace the human ability to keep up. The essay, titled “Air Warfare Communication in a Networked Environment,” quotes Air Force Acquisition Executive William Roper from his previous role directing the Pentagon’s Strategic Capabilities Office, saying “AI is progressing beyond the human ability to interface with it.”

For instance, “smart sensors” able to gather, analyze and organize vast volumes of combat information in milliseconds, using AI-fortified algorithms, are now being built into airframes themselves to combine new sensing technology without increasing an aircraft’s radar signature. The absence of an external antenna, pod or structured array of some kind removes otherwise more radar-detectable structures from an airframe.

Smart sensors and smart antenna arrays with adaptive properties would be embedded into the structure of an aircraft,” an essay from Jain University’s International Institute for Aerospace Engineering states. ( “Sensor Technology and Futuristic Of Fighter Aircraft, “ Jain Univ).

At the same time, while massive increases in sensor ranges, data-sharing and long-range connectivity will continue to bring as-of-yet unprecedented advantages to warfare operations, there are also challenges which emerge as combat becomes more networked. Referring to this phenomenon as creating clusters of “embedded ISR,” the Joint Air Power Competence Center paper warns of security risks and what it calls “hyper-connectivity.”

New much-longer range sensors and weapons, incorporating emerging iterations of AI, are expected to make warfare more disaggregated, and much less of a linear force on force type of engagement. Such a phenomenon, driven by new technology, underscores warfare reliance upon sensors and information networks. All of this, naturally, requires the expansive “embedded ISR” discussed by the paper. Network reliant warfare is of course potentially much more effective in improving targeting and reducing sensor-to-shooter time over long distances, yet it brings a significant need to organize and optimize the vast, yet crucial, flow of information.

Not everybody in the network needs to see and hear everything. There needs to be a hierarchy, and a backup architecture for degraded network operations,” the paper writes.

These types of challenges, wherein vast amounts of ISR data needs to be aggregated, analyzed and organized, are precisely what AI and high-speed processing can address. Using advanced algorithms and real-time analytics, computing power can instantly identify and disseminate key moments or items of combat relevance, thereby establishing priorities and massively quickening the human decision cycle.

AI-informed combat decisions, enabled by accelerated real-time analytics, allow human decision makers to draw upon otherwise inaccessible pools of data. Algorithms can integrate new information, instantly compare it against vast amounts of stored data, and come to informed conclusions without requiring human intervention. Often referred to as easing the “cognitive burden,” AI and iterations of man-machine interface, can perform time-consuming or otherwise impossible information-analysis tasks, all while a human functions as ultimate decision-maker in a command and control role. While AI is quickly advancing toward being able to discern and organize seemingly subjective information, there are many decision-making abilities and problem solving faculties regarded as unique to human cognition.

Osborn previously served at the Pentagon as a Highly Qualified Expert with the Office of the Assistant Secretary of the Army – Acquisition, Logistics& Technology. Osborn has also worked as an anchor and on-air military specialist at National TV networks. He has a Masters in Comparative Literature from Columbia University.

Image: BAE.

Source: National Interest “See Ya, F-35: The Navy’s 6th Generation Fighter Could Make Everything Obsolete”

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


J-20 Showed off Super Maneuverability in October 2019


National Interest said in its outdated 2019-April-23 article “The Real Top Gun: Could China’s J-20 Fighter Beat An F-35 or F-22 in a Dogfight?” that China’s J-20 stealth fighter jet “lacked the maneuverability necessary to prevail in close engagements with enemy fighters. Relatively modest aerobatic displays in the Zhuhai 2016 and 2018 airshows” so that it concluded that China’s J-20 cannot beat F-35 or F-22 in a dogfight.

Sorry, its information is outdated, in mid October 2019, J-20 showed off its superb maneuverability with full load of weapons in a display to mark the 70th anniversary of the founding of PLA Air Force. That was because it has been equipped with world most powerful fighter engine WS-15. I provided the information of China’s success in developing WS-15 in my post “At Least 3 Batches of World Most Powerful WS-15 Engine Delivered” on September 1, 2019.

Comment by Chan Kai Yee on National Interest’s article, full text of which can be viewed at https://nationalinterest.org/blog/buzz/real-top-gun-could-chinas-j-20-fighter-beat-f-35-or-f-22-dogfight-53847


US Military to Fall Behind China’s despite Huge Budget


Forbes’ article “Building The Air Force We Need To Meet Chinese And Russian Threats” begins by saying, “In January, the Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA) released its unclassified assessment of China’s military capabilities, with the telling subtitle: ‘Modernizing a Force to Fight and Win.’ As DIA director Lt. Gen. Robert Ashley explained: ‘China is building a robust, lethal force with capabilities spanning the air, maritime, space and information domains which will enable China to impose its will in the region.’ He went on to emphasize: ‘…the PLA [People’s Liberation Army] is on the verge of fielding some of the most modern weapons systems in the world. In some areas, it already leads the world.’”

The writer of the article blames former US Secretary of Defense Robert Gates for ceasing production of stealth fighter F-22 as he predicted that China would not have any stealth fighter jet by 2020 but why did he no change his mind to regard China’s military development as a “threat” when China tested its J-20 stealth fighter for the first time when he visited China in 2011? Because he was arrogant and did not believe that China would succeed in satisfactorily developing J-20 by 2020.

Now, Pentagon has changed its mind and begun to take China’s military development seriously. However, the US lacks funds to substantially increase its military budget. With much smaller budget, China is still able to catch up with and surpass the US. What if it substantially increase its budget? China has lots of funds to do so.

How can the US stop its own decline and China’s rise?

Think about that.

Comment by Chan Kai Yee on Forbes’ article, full text of which can be viewed at https://www.forbes.com/sites/davedeptula/2019/02/11/building-the-air-force-we-need/amp/.


Why Russia Doesn’t Fear America’s F-35 Stealth Fighter


Americans are horrified when their soldiers don’t receive the most cutting-edge equipment. Russia is willing to sacrifice sophistication for simplicity.

by Michael Peck December 29, 2019

Key point: Technology is technology, but war is war.

Hard to believe, isn’t it? Yet while the Sputnik News interview might be dismissed as tendentious at best and propaganda at worst, it perfectly illustrates how Russia and the West view weapons technology.

“The F-35 is a very complex system and, as such, it has lots of holes, bugs and other things, and it is very difficult to debug it,” Dmitry Drozdenko told Sputnik News. “Like other problems, all this is because it is an excessively high-tech aircraft.”

Sound familiar? Russia would have made the same argument in 1943, when hordes of uncomplicated T-34 tanks faced formidable but heavily engineered and expensive German Tiger and Panther tanks. Or the American M-16 versus the AK-47, or the F-4 Phantom versus the MiG-21.

Americans are horrified when their soldiers don’t receive the most cutting-edge equipment. Russia is willing to sacrifice sophistication for simplicity.

Drozdenko also declared to Sputnik News that “unlike us, the Americans rely too much on stealth. However, radar technology is developing fast and invisibility is no longer a sure-fire guarantor of air supremacy.”

Dogfights haven’t gone anywhere,” he added. “They will fire from a distance the first day, but a couple of days later, we’ll be flying like we always did before.”

Note the words “flying like we always did before.” As far back as the 1950s, the U.S. thought the future of air combat would be aircraft engaging each other with missiles at long range (which proved a fallacy in the skies over North Vietnam). The whole concept of the stealth F-35 and F-22 is that they can blast a MiG out of the sky without the MiG knowing it’s there. But to Russia, the good ol’ days of close-range aerial knife fights aren’t over.

Drozdenko does make a point about the F-35 that would have many Americans nodding in agreement. “The Americans tolerate this plane because it’s a very big and expensive business with contracts running into trillions of dollars. While they keep making the F-35s, the Americans are modernizing their fourth-generation-plus F-18s and F-15s trying to bring them up to par with Russia’s Su-35,” he noted.

What’s important here isn’t the mudslinging about who has better weapons, or the merits and demerits of the F-35. As Drozdenko points out, technological advances like stealth are transitory.

It’s the rival conceptions of military technology, and by extension how to wage war. These are concepts rooted in history and circumstances. America’s wars over the last century have all been fought overseas, where the U.S. could tap its industrial and technological resources to field expeditionary forces plentifully supplied with advanced equipment. For Russia, the last century was marked by two immense invasions by the Germans, as well as huge land battles against the Japanese, the Poles and even other Russians during the Russian Civil War. Conflicts fought on underdeveloped, rugged or frozen battlefields are harsh on equipment.

Of course, these images are partly stereotypes. Russia is indeed capable of making advanced weapons such as hypersonic missiles. And while simplicity is a virtue, it has its drawbacks, such as Russian jet engines that wear out too quickly. American weapons may be costlier and fancier than they need to be, but they can be quite effective if used by nations that know to operate and maintain them, as the Israelis have demonstrated time and again.

Still, it’s hard to argue with Drozdenko’s observations that war and technology are not the same. “Imagine a BMW and a Russian Niva on a bumpy road somewhere deep in Russia,” Drozdenko says. “Which of the two will wear out? Technology is technology, but war is war.”

Michael Peck is a contributing writer for the National Interest. He can be found on Twitter and Facebook. This article first appeared in 2018.

Source: National Interest “Why Russia Doesn’t Fear America’s F-35 Stealth Fighter”

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