Saturday, August 15, 2015

One Trillion Dollars Later, the Pentagon Manages To Produce the Modern Equivalent of the Brewster Buffalo.

"A group of Internet aviation fans once debated the subject of the worst fighter of World War II. Their hands-down favorite: the Brewster Buffalo. . . The Royal Air Force fobbed the Brewster fighter onto the Fleet Air Arm and British Commonwealth squadrons; the U.S. Navy gave it to the Marines. Pilots thought it was a sweet plane to fly, but noticed that the wheel struts sometimes broke, that the engine leaked oil, and that the guns sometimes didn’t fire. And when they flew it against the nimble fighters of Japan, too often they didn’t come back.
F'd: How the U.S. and Its Allies Got Stuck with the World's Worst New Warplane.
“The F-35 is double-inferior,” Stillion and Perdue moaned in their written summary of the war game, later leaked to the press. The analysts railed against the new plane, which to be fair played only a small role in the overall simulation. “Inferior acceleration, inferior climb [rate], inferior sustained turn capability,” they wrote. “Also has lower top speed. Can’t turn, can’t climb, can’t run.” Once missiles and guns had been fired and avoiding detection was no longer an option—in all but the first few seconds of combat, in other words—the F-35 was unable to keep pace with rival planes. And partly as a result, the U.S. lost the simulated war. Hundreds of computer-code American air crew perished. Taiwan fell to the 1s and 0s representing Chinese troops in Stillion and Perdue’s virtual world. Nearly a century of American air superiority ended among the wreckage of simulated warplanes, scattered across the Pacific.


Chiu ChunLing said...

The most important failing of the JSF project wasn't the design selected, the breakdown of appropriate standards for contracting it, or even the irreconcilable engineering challenges posed by the required capabilities.

The greatest failing was the idea of using one common design for nearly all of the advanced combat aircraft the U.S. and allies would field.

The idea of one "unbeatable" unit type that can be used for any mission appeals to commanders with limited mental faculties because it dramatically simplifies all their planning of missions, logistics, and contingencies. They forget that having only one type of unit also dramatically simplifies the enemy's task of identifying and asymmetrically exploiting critical shortcomings in your capabilities...and leaves you with few options to adapt once (not "if") they do.

The F-35 isn't the miracle of advanced technology we were promised back when the program was first started. In hindsight, it seems foolish to have been taken in by the hype that such a miracle was even possible, let alone guaranteed. But even if it were, making air dominance against near-peer adversaries in the foreseeable future dependent on any single design, no matter how superb, was a demonstration of pure idiocy.

There was one other thing that we were promised back when all this began. We were promised that the JSF would supplement and expand the existing capabilities of our armed forces, not eat the entire budget and demand the retirement of our best mission-specific aircraft (yes, I mean the A-10, no, it's not the only one) before the JSF even had actual weapons capability. I think we were also promised that the JSF would use technology that couldn't be easily stolen and copied by our most likely near-peer adversaries...oops (saving grace, they looked at the stolen designs and decided that an exact copy would be stupid, yay!)

The only sane option at this point is to terminate the F-35A and F-35C entirely, and focus on letting the Marines have as many B's as they want and can afford (unfortunately, terminating the F-35B isn't a sane option). But that's probably not on the table.

Josh said...

In air to air tests the f22 reduced an entire flight of f16s, the best current non stealth fighter in the business, before the f16s even saw the f22 on radar or visually. The f22s are that good. Nothing can touch them. And what gets built? The f35.

Anonymous said...

Yes, but does it have a fast internet speed and good games on the computer?

Corvette said...

F-111 all over again, when will they learn?

F-15 designed strictly as an air superiority fighter, still has no match, F16 and F18, purpose designed as low cost, high performance multi role platforms. Designed in the 70s and still rule the skies. A10, purpose designed to bust tanks, still best in the world at that job.

F35, tries to be everything, good at nothing, the F111 of our day. McNamra must be smiling in heaven as he is now off the hook as the stupidest procurement person in DOD history.


Nemesis said...

Well, the Brewster Buffalo was named 'Buffalo' for good reason - it handled like one!

But, in some instances, especially as used by the Finns against the Soviets during that world war, it at least gave as good as it got.

Completely outclassed by the Japs though and none of them made their way back to Australia from Malaya after the Japs invaded and took Singapore - that 'impregnable' British Fortress of the East.

As for the F-35, we have around a hundred on order - doesn't look too good a fighter so far, does it!

Millwright said...

Strangely enough the Finns liked the Buffalo and were quite successful with it against both the Russians, and for a time, the Germans. Nothing in the U.S. fighter inventory was capable of reliably defeating the A6M Zero and Oscar if our pilot was so foolish to engage one in its preferred altitude and fighting style. Yet the AVG was successful against both types by not fighting the other guy's fight ! Its also worth noting it took until late '43 early '44 for the U.S. to produce an aircraft, the Grumman Hellcat, capable of taking on the Zero, Oscar and Tony's at any altitude and type of fight.

The F-35 is a reprise of the GD F-111 which, too, was conceived as a "one size fits all" aircraft for all the services with the same results. IOW, a true child of the liberal reasoning. Alas for the american taxpayer the outspoken maverick of the USAF, John Boyd, is long dead. He would have, given opportunity, killed this monstrosity before it left the design computers. And those in the military or defense industry outspoken enough to cite its many faults or foolish enough to outfly early examples with current inventory machines soon found themselves up a dead end alley.

Anonymous said...

To be entirely fair to the Brewster Aircraft Corporation, the Buffalo gave fine service for Finnish pilots against the Russians during the war, despite most of the Russian aircraft it faced being, on paper, superior in every way. Perhaps the Finn pilots were just that good.

In any event I want a do-over. The F35 was designed thirty years ago. It's a Cold War concept, a semi-stealthy deep-penetrating strike aircraft designed to make supersonic attack runs at treetop level into East Germany and Czechoslovakia, into the teeth of the Soviets' very best SAM systems, to drop tactical nukes on rail yards full of Russian troops hundreds of miles behind the front line.

Against North Korea, against ISIS, against Iran, the F35 has no purpose and no mission. It isn't nearly as good a dedicated air-to-air platform as the F22, even with the new Barracuda air-to-air missile under development at Lockheed-Martin, developed specifically to make the F35 a bit less toothless against enemy jet fighters. It's not much of a bomb truck. The capacity of its internal weapons bays is miniscule, and if they bolt hardpoints under the wings for rockets and missiles... it isn't stealthy any more, and they might as well get F4 Phantoms out of mothballs.

It gets worse. For these mediocre capabilities, it's also hideously expensive, as you might expect of a program 20+ years past due and over budget since inception. Every F35 (or F22, for that matter) that we field costs us an entire squadron of F15s/F16s/F18s.

If I were Emperor of the World the F22 and F35 would have been killed when the Berlin Wall came down. The only good thing--the ONLY good thing--to have come from the R&D money spent on them is the engines. The Pratt & Whitney F135 is a BEAST. Publicly available information credits it with being able to generate 28,000 pounds of thrust without afterburners, 43,000 with afterburners (for reference, if you put two of these engines into an F4 Phantom--and it appears they'd actually fit--the old Double Ugly would have a thrust/weight ratio of over 2:1 clean and nearly 2:1 with a combat load). Put these engines into F15s, F16s, and F18s, modernize the electronics, let them carry the Lockheed-Martin Barracuda missiles for air-to-air, and call it good.

The Iranians' newest combat aircraft is the "Azaraksh," a fifty-year-old F5 Tiger we sold to the Shah, with a butterfly tail bolted on to make it resemble an F18. The Norks are still using the Shenyang J-6, a Chinese copy of the sixty-year-old MiG-19. We are in much greater danger of spending ourselves bankrupt on useless toys than we are of our likely opponents outfighting us in the air.

Anonymous said...

The guys who are comparing the F111 to the F35 clearly know nothing about the F111, otherwise they wouldn't be flapping their cockholsters.

Once the stupid MaNamara-specs were eliminated from the F111 program (carrier capability, fighter role) and the plane was allowed to evolve into what it should have been from the very beginning (long range, low level, super fast, nuclear capable tactical/strategic bomber) it was an amazingly good aircraft for that mission.

It could maintain Mach 2.5 at altitude until the wings melted. It could fly at 600 knots at 200 feet AGL in the mountains. It could carry multiple B61 nukes, PGM's and targeting pod, or +20,000lbs of conventional ordnance. The EW version was an outstanding long endurance platform for radar suppression and countermeasures.

The '111 also proved that VG wings were a workable solution for extending the flight envelope of high wing load aircraft, and helped give us the F14 and B1a and B1b.

The F111 was a good bomber, with a good long service life, and to compare it to the F35 is an insult.

JWMJR said...

My uncle was an active Navy fighter pilot from Guadalcanal until the end of the war. He once said the Buffalo had all the flight characteristics of a brick.

Chiu ChunLing said...

I tend to believe that the F-35B (or a conceptual descendant) might have eventually proved to fill a vital niche in the air-strike capabilities of smaller expeditionary forces dealing with certain kinds of asymmetric threats. It probably won't ever be worth what it's already cost, and world history is sweeping us into uncharted waters of near-peer adversaries, but one can see the possibilities of what it might have been.

If only someone hadn't had the bright idea of relying on it to do everything it obviously can't.