All US F-35s grounded worldwide


By: Tara Copp and Shawn Snow October 11

The Pentagon announced Thursday it is grounding its entire fleet of F-35s, just days after the first crash of an F-35B led investigators to suspect there is a widespread problem with the advanced fighter’s fuel tubes.

“The U.S. Services and international partners have temporarily suspended F-35 flight operations while the enterprise conducts a fleet-wide inspection of a fuel tube within the engine on all F-35 aircraft,” the F-35 Joint Program Office announced in a statement Thursday morning.

“If suspect fuel tubes are installed, the part will be removed and replaced. If known good fuel tubes are already installed, then those aircraft will be returned to flight status. Inspections are expected to be completed within the next 24 to 48 hours.”

The office said the grounding “is driven from initial data from the ongoing investigation of the F-35B that crashed in the vicinity of Beaufort, South Carolina on 28 September. The aircraft mishap board is continuing its work and the U.S. Marine Corps will provide additional information when it becomes available.”

In the Sept. 28 crash in South Carolina near the Marine Corps Air Station Beaufort, the pilot safely ejected from the aircraft, which belonged to 2nd Marine Aircraft Wing, Marine Fighter Attack Training Squadron 501, known as the “Warlords.”

While the F-35’s U.S-based Joint Program Office had indicated that the grounding included aircraft purchased by foreign militaries, the British military signaled Monday that its entire fleet is not grounded.

「Contrary to reports, all F-35 jets have not been grounded. We have paused some F-35 flying as a precautionary measure while we consider the findings of an ongoing enquiry. Flight trials from @HMSQnlz continue and the programme remains on schedule #F35 @thef35 pic.twitter.com/yOOpSAFxZ0
— Ministry of Defence 🇬🇧 (@DefenceHQ) October 11, 2018」

The F-35 Joint Program Office has said safety is a top priority.

“The primary goal following any mishap is the prevention of future incidents. We will take every measure to ensure safe operations while we deliver, sustain and modernize the F-35 for the warfighter and our defense partners.”

The U.S. grounding comes after the Pentagon announced that a Marine Corps F-35B conducted the platform’s first-ever combat mission on Sept. 27. The Marine Corps’ aircraft launched from the amphibious warship Essex, striking targets in Afghanistan.

In April, a Marine Corps F-35B out the Marine Corps air station at Cherry Point, North Carolina, was forced to make an emergency landing when the aircraft fuel light came on.

The grounding news also comes two days after Defense News reported that Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis has ordered the military services to get readiness rates on four planes, including the F-35, up above 80 percent by next September.

According to data for fiscal year 2017, the most recent available, the Air Force’s F-35A models had around a 55 percent readiness rate, well below that target.

Although the Marine Corps is the first U.S. service to fly its joint strike fighters in combat, the aircraft has been used by the Israeli air force to strike targets. In May, Israel Defense Forces officials confirmed that the country’s F-35 “Adir” fighters had seen combat in two airstrikes somewhere in the Middle East.

The Marine Corps declared the F-35B operational in 2015, becoming the first service to integrate the joint strike fighter into its fleet. The Air Force followed by declaring initial operational capability for the F-35A conventional variant in 2016, while the Navy plans to declare initial operational capability for the F-35C carrier variant in February 2019.

The F-35 joint strike fighter is the most expensive program in the Pentagon’s history.

Currently, the U.S. military has purchased 245 aircraft from Lockheed Martin. The Air Force has 156, the Marine Corps has 61 and the Navy has 28, according to data provided by the joint program office.

The U.S. Air Force, Navy and Marine Corps plan to buy a total of 2,456 F-35s, at an estimated cost of $325 billion. In total, the aircraft program is projected to cost about $1 trillion to develop, produce, field and sustain over its lifetime, according to the Government Accountability Office.

The F-35B is the short takeoff, vertical landing variant of the aircraft, which allows the pilot to hover and land vertically like a helicopter — a necessity for the Marines, which typically operate from amphibious ships with smaller decks than aircraft carriers.

Because the problem is related to a fleetwide engine issue, rather than just in the F-35B models, it appears unlikely that the problem is unrelated to the short-takeoff and vertical-landing capabilities of the Marine’s design.

The issue as described by the JPO indicates the issue is believed to come from a subcontractor who supplied the fuel tubes for engine manufacturer Pratt & Whitney.

A spokesman for the F-35s manufacturer, Lockheed Martin, said Thursday morning that industry partners were working with the F-35’s Joint Program Office to investigate the problems.

“We are actively partnering with the Pentagon’s F-35 Joint Program Office, our global customers and Pratt & Whitney to support the resolution of this issue and limit disruption to the fleet,” said Friedman, Michael, the spokesman for Lockheed.

The U.S. Government Accountability Office has projected a total lifetime cost of $1 trillion for the program. F-35s have already been delivered to the United Kingdom, Italy, Israel, Netherlands, Turkey, Australia, Japan, South Korea and Norway.

This story is developing and will be updated.

Defense News staff writers Aaron Mehta and Valerie Insinna contributed to this report.

Source: Defense News “All US F-35s grounded worldwide”

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.

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Pentagon delays F-35 IOT&E owing to software issues


Pat Host, Washington, DC – IHS Jane’s Defence Weekly

13 September 2018

The Pentagon is delaying F-35 initial operational test and evaluation (IOT&E) because of a handful of software issues. Source: US Air Force

Key Points
•The Pentagon is delaying F-35 initial operational test and evaluation owing to software issues
•This will further delay full-rate production

The Pentagon is delaying initial operational test and evaluation (IOT&E) of the Lockheed Martin F-35 Lightning II Joint Strike Fighter (JSF) because of several software issues, according to Defense Department correspondence released on 12 September by the Project on Government Oversight watchdog group.

Director of Operational Test and Evaluation (DOT&E) Robert Behler said on 24 August that he was delaying IOT&E until the F-35 programme updates versions of the aircraft’s operating software, mission-data files, Autonomic Logistics Information System (ALIS), and Air-to-Air Range Infrastructure (AARI) software. Dan Grazier, POGO military fellow, told Jane’s that the delay is significant as it will delay the moment the programme can legally begin full-rate production (FRP).

The next version of the F-35’s operating software, known as 30R02 and scheduled to be fielded in the next two months, should enable the aircraft to perform several key combat missions, including strategic attack, air interdiction, offensive counter air, and electronic attack.

Behler also declares that the programme uses the same version of AARI software throughout formal IOT&E. The currently fielded F-35 software, known as 30R00, has deficiencies with AARI that are addressed in the follow-up software 30R02. AARI, he said, must be functioning adequately to ensure test results are accurate, understandable, and defendable.

“Changing AARI software versions in the midst of IOT&E could potentially result in inconsistencies in data collection and affect the validity and adequacy of the test and evaluation,” Behler warned.

Grazier said AARI is the system at the test ranges that simulates enemy missile shots. He said to be consistent with testing purposes, the same software must be used to control the variable throughout the testing process. If not, testers will not be able to properly evaluate the F-35 because it will have a different variable involved.

Source: Jane’s 360 “Pentagon delays F-35 IOT&E owing to software issues”

Note: This is Jane’s 360’s report I post here for readers’ information. It does not mean that I agree or disagree with the report’ views.


Russia, China Could Soon Outmatch U.S. in Combat Aviation


R-37M / Photo by Reuben F. Johnson

New Russian air-to-air missile has advantage in speed and reach

BY: Reuben F. Johnson

July 9, 2018 10:40 am

KIEV, Ukraine—Russia’s Ministry of Defense (MoD) announced that a new weapon is very near completion of its test validation trials and will soon be placed into service.

If reports of its operational performance are accurate, it will threaten the survivability of every U.S. combat aircraft currently in service—particularly the newest U.S. fighter, the Lockheed Martin F-35.

The weapon is the Vympel R-37M air-to-air missile. Launched from a fighter aircraft, it is designed to hit targets at ranges of up to 188 miles, its warhead section contains 132 lbs of explosive material, and it is reported to be capable of speeds of up to Mach 6.

This missile gives Russian aircraft an advantage over U.S. combat aircraft in both speed and reach. The most advanced versions of the US-made Raytheon AIM-120 air-to-air missile top out at about Mach 4 and have a range of only about 110 miles.

Defense planners are alarmed at the number of fighters Russia plans to fit with this weapon.

The missiles that preceded the R-37M had been exclusive to the weapons fit for the Mikoyan MiG-31 aircraft. The MiG-31 mission was almost entirely dedicated to shooting down U.S. strategic bombers and other large aircraft that might pose a threat to Russian air space, so these missiles were typically not often seen outside of Russian territory.

However, according to MoD sources, the Russian Aerospace Forces (VKO) are planning for Sukhoi model aircraft Su-30, Su-35, and Su-57 to all operate with the R-37M, in addition to the MiG-31. The missile will therefore be capable of being fired at almost any U.S. military aircraft in numerous theaters of operation worldwide and not just within Moscow’s territorial airspace.

The announcement has elicited nervous reactions from defense ministries and air staff commands from Poland to America’s allies in Asia. The only missile in the western arsenal that comes close to matching the Russian R-37M in speed and range is the ramjet motor-powered Meteor produced by the European consortium MBDA, which is not deployed on any U.S. aircraft.

There are also no missiles currently in the U.S. arsenal that match this Russian weapon’s performance. This has several nations asking if they should look at a purchase of the Swedish Saab JAS-39 Gripen fighter, which has Meteor already integrated into its fire control system.

Su-30SM and Su-35 model aircraft are operated by Russia’s military along the borders with NATO. Su-30 aircraft have buzzed U.S. warships and aircraft in both the Black Sea and in the Baltics, both aircraft were sold and are operated by the People’s Liberation Army Air Force in China, and the VKO have also based them at the Russian military aerodrome in Latakia, Syria—where they are frequently in close proximity to U.S. forces. There have been rumors for years of an impending sale of either Su-30SM or Su-35 or both to Iran in large numbers.

Defense experts are concerned about how soon the R-37M will be in service with the People’s Liberation Army Air Force. Chinese Su-35 aircraft have been seen recently transiting Novosibirsk while flying back to Russian flight test facilities further to the West. Speculation is that some of the aircraft are returning to evaluate having this new weapon added to their Su-35s.

Russian sources describe the guidance system on the R-37Ms as being equipped with a high technology “brain” that is “immune to jamming from electronic warfare systems.”

The F-35 is one of the aircraft most vulnerable to this new weapon, an air combat specialist told the Washington Free Beacon. “The aircraft does not supercruise and does not have the ‘acceleration to escape speed’ that other aircraft are capable of. The F-35’s stealth characteristics have also been designed to contend with an increasingly older generation of threats, which means the aircraft is more detectable to newer sensors and weapon systems.”

This is a serious concern for the future of America’s allies. Japan and South Korea are both F-35 customers and both have to contend with China’s PLAAF on a regular basis. The F-35 is also being marketed to nations directly threatened by Russia such as Finland and Poland.

A former MBDA official told the Free Beacon that plans are in the works to try to even the score by integrating the Meteor missile on the F-35, but not until 2024 or later.

Source: Washington Free Beacon “Russia, China Could Soon Outmatch U.S. in Combat Aviation”

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


No US Fighter Jet Is J-20’s Match


China’s J-20 stealth fighter jet. mil.huanqiu.com photo

At the press conference titled “China’s 10 star weapons 2017” on January 14, Chinese military expert Wang Yanan said that though very few technical details about China’s J-20 stealth fighter jet have been disclosed, judging by its large weapon bays, J-20 has much greater fire power than any of US fighter jets in service.

As F-35 is no match to J-20, US plan to surround China with F-35 stealth fighters has been frustrated. It now has to consider sales of F-22 to China’s neighbors. However, F-22 was developed more than a decade ago. It has to be greatly upgraded to include recently developed technologies such as networks-centered warfare, information and intelligence support, etc. However, if J-20 is able to coordinate with China’s satellites, AEW&C aircrafts and advanced drones, it will be a formidable weapon.

Source: mil.huanqiu.com “J-20, homegrown aircraft carrier elected as star weapons 2017: Expert explain” (summary by Chan Kai Yee based on the report in Chinese)


China’s Advanced Radar Better than or Equal to the Best in the World


China’s anti-stealth radar. mil.huanqiu.com photo

Recently CCTV showed the footage on a special theme titled “‘China’s magic weapons’ for export: Secret in seeing hundreds of miles away”, focusing on description of many types of new radar developed by the 14th Research Institute of China Electronics Technology Group Corporation. The functions of its radar include those for aircraft fire control, AEW&C, air and missile defense and detection of artillery location, etc. used on China’s homegrown aircraft carriers, Chinese Aegis warships, anti-stealth radar, etc. Some of their export versions have sustained the tests of real war abroad.

It first describes the KLJ-7A active phased array radar used on FC-1/JF-17 fighter jet with a range of 170km.

According to a military expert who would rather remains anonymous, the radar is in the main equivalent to that used by F-35.

All new Chinese fighter jets including J-10, J-11, J-16, J-20, etc. will be equipped with such radar.

China’s SLC-7 anti-stealth radar is better in function than Israel’s EL/M-2080S multifunction phased array radar. It is able to tract more than 300km a ballistic target of 0.01 square meter radar cross section (RCS) and 450km, a ballistic target of 0.05 square meter RCS. Its maximum track altitude exceeds 30,000 meters. The radar’s high maneuverability enables it to move to a new site within 15 minutes.

According to Jane’s, the Institute has promoted for a few years its YLC-8B medium- and high-altitude three coordinates surveillance radar able to move on road and railway and at sea within 30 minutes. The radar has a range of 550km to detect and track conventional multifunction fighter jets and 350km, targets of low visibility. It is one of the best anti-stealth radar in the world.

The Institute’s SLC-2 artillery detection radar has proved its wonderful performance in real wars abroad. The radar can calculate the coordinates of artillery before its shell falls on the ground to enable suppress and destroy of enemy artillery. It can also help adjust the targeting of artillery to enable accurate hits.

China’s Type 052C/D Aegis destroyers use “Star of Sea” radar developed by the institute. It is a warship-based multifunction active phased array radar a generation more advanced than America’s SPY-1 radar.

Source: Global Times “‘China’s magic weapons’ for export: Secret in seeing hundreds of miles away” (summary by Chan Kai Yee based on the report in Chinese)


How Russia Is Trying to Make America’s F-22 and F-35 as Obsolete as Battleships


Charlie Gao

October 14, 2017

Ever since the development of stealth technology for aircraft, many different systems have been advertised as “stealth killing.” One of the more innovative solutions is the Russian Struna-1/Barrier-E bistatic radar system developed by NNIIRT, a division of the Almaz-Antey Joint Stock Company. Almaz-Antey is the premier air-defense and radar manufacturer in Russia; they make the Tor, Buk and S-400 anti-aircraft systems, as well as their respective search radars. The Struna-1 was originally developed in 1999. A further evolution of Struna-1, the Barrier-E system was later showcased for export at MAKS 2007. While it is not part of Almaz-Antey’s online catalog, it was shown alongside other radars at MAKS 2017. The system is rumored to be deployed around Moscow.

The Struna-1 is different than most radars in that it is a bistatic radar, meaning it relies on the receiver and transmitter of the radar to be in two different locations as opposed to conventional radar technology where the receiver and transmitter are located in the same location. Normal radar systems are limited by the inverse fourth power law. As the radar target goes further away from the transmission source, the strength of the radar signal decays as per the regular inverse square law. However, radar detection works by receiving reflections of the radar signal. With a conventional radar, this results in the received signal being four times weaker than that put out. Stealth works because at a distance, an aircraft can mitigate its radar returns to be small by scattering them and absorbing them using radiation-absorbent materials. This degrades the quality of the radar track so it is harder to distinguish precise information about an aircraft.

The Struna-1 solves this problem by positioning the transmitter in a different location than the receiver. The link between the transmitter and receiver has increased power relative to a conventional radar, as it falls off according to the inverse square law as opposed to the inverse fourth power law. This allows the radar to be more sensitive, as it is effectively acting as a radar tripwire. According to Russian sources, this setup increases the effective radar cross section (RCS) of a target by nearly threefold, and ignores any anti-radar coatings that can scatter the radio waves. This allows the detection of not only stealth aircraft, but other objects with low RCS such as hang gliders and cruise missiles. As many of ten receiver/transmitter tower pairs—each tower is called Priyomno-Peredayushchiy Post (PPP) in Russian publications—can be placed. Sources vary in potential configurations of the towers, but the maximum span between two single towers is 50km. This leads to a maximum theoretical perimeter of 500km.

These individual towers have relatively low power consumption, and they do not emit as much energy as traditional radars, making them less vulnerable to anti-radiation weapons. The towers are mobile, allowing for forward deployment in times of conflict. They rely on microwave data links to communicate with each other and a centralized monitoring station, which can be located at a significant distance from the system. The distributed nature also allows the system to keep operating if one node goes down, albeit with less precision. The low height of the transmitter and receiver towers (only 25m off the ground) make Struna-1 very good at detecting low altitude targets, a target set that conventional radars often have trouble with.

Limitations of the Struna-1 include a low detection altitude. The nature of the system results in the detection range being a rough biased parabola between the receiver and transmitter. This limits the detection altitude to around 7km at the tallest point, with the maximum detection range going down as one gets closer to the transmitter/receiver towers. The transverse size of the detection zone is likewise limited, being around 1.5km close to the towers to 12km at the optimal point between the towers. The small size of the detection zone limits the use of the Struna-1 system as a tripwire, it cannot replace traditional radars as an overall search mechanism. However with its high precision tracks of stealthy aircraft, it would serve as a good counterpart to other longer-band radar systems such as Sunflower, which provide less precise tracks of planes. The Struna-1 cannot act as a targeting radar due to its inability to provide constant radar illumination tracking a target, so it cannot be used to guide in semi-active surface-to-air missiles.

While the Struna-1 bistatic radar is not a be-all end-all detection solution for stealth aircraft, it could pose a significant threat to stealth NATO aircraft in a future conflict. Strike aircraft with stealth features are particularly vulnerable, the strike role tends to favor flight profiles that might cause aircraft to fly into the Struna-1’s detection range. In tandem with other modern “stealth-defeating” radar systems, the Struna-1 could provide critical information to an adversary on the position and movement of stealth aircraft.

Source: National Interest “How Russia Is Trying to Make America’s F-22 and F-35 as Obsolete as Battleships”

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-20s Are Not Toys but What China Relies on for Air Supremacy


J-20 new prototype no. 2021 uses WS-10X engine. Photo: fyjs.cn

Quite a few high-ranking officers, politicians and military experts give me the impression that when they make comparison between the weapons of similar kind developed by different nations, they regard the weapons as toys instead of what a country relies on for its national security.

When the US designed its F-22 and F-35, it assumes that others have no stealth fighter so that its stealth fighter jet may shoot down enemy fighter jet with missile before the enemy is even able to detect its stealth fighter. Therefore, more attention was paid to stealth than the fighter jet’s maneuverability in dogfight.

Moreover, US military strategy focuses on break enemy’s anti-access/area denial (A2/AD) as the US regards attacking and subduing its enemy as the key to its national security. As a result, US stealth fighter jets shall be capable of penetrating enemy air defense and be equipped with air-to-ground weapons.

China, however, develops its stealth fighter J-20 to resist enemy attack so that it regards as the key J-20’s capability to grab air supremacy from others’ stealth fighters. If a J-20 and its enemy flies at the speed Mach 2, it has only 2.3 minutes before the two meet suppose that their radar is good enough to discover enemy stealth fighter 150 km away. Suppose J-20’s missiles go at Mach 4, it takes 1.5 minutes for the pilots to find that their missiles fail to hit. Then they have only 0.8 minutes left not enough for a second missile attack. Therefore, J-20 must have better dogfight capabilities than F-22 and F-35 as of all the countries in the world only the US F-22 and F-35 are designed with the capabilities to break other countries’ A2/AD and to attack their homeland.

That is why China is satisfied with its J-20 in spite of the radar visibility from its back and its lack of the capability to penetrate enemy air defense. Analysts may be happy that J-20 is inferior to F-22 and F-35 in those respects but neglect J-20’s capabilities in grabbing air supremacy.

However, US military is not so carried away by their analysis as to risk attacking China with F-22 and F-35. They want to develop B-21 to attack China.

Now, there is news that new J-20s use better engines with radar invisibility from their back and greater vector thrust. The analysts shall not be unhappy as J-20 is utterly incapable of attacking US homeland even if it is capable of penetrating enemy air defense.

Article by Chan Kai Yee