No, Again, To F-35 Alt-Engine
by reader Ilsm
“No, Again, To F-35 Alt-Engine: Schwartz”, John Reed, DefenseNews.com August 4, 2010
The U.S. Air Force’s top general reaffirmed his opposition to the GE-Rolls Royce’s alternative engine for the F-35 Lightning II Joint Strike Fighter this week, saying that spending billions on the backup engine does not make sense in today’s fiscal environment.
“I don’t favor” the F136 engine, said Schwartz after an Aug. 4 meeting with the editorial staff of Defense News and Air Force Times. “I don’t debate the larger strategic question about the value of competition. This is a question of: if we’ve got a trillion-dollar deficit, if we’re not going to say no to that, what do we say no to?”
The general should have said, “the P&W engine is reliable, the needed production rate can be achieved and we have test data to support those conclusions”, there is no proof the P&W engine is producible and reliable, so the general relies on the DoD’s “concern” for the deficit.
The F-35 has one engine; if the single engine flames out and cannot be restarted the airplane becomes a lawn dart. The P&W engine installed in the F-16 in the late 1970’s was not reliable, even though it was an adaptation of the engine already flying on the F-15. When the USAF, who had not insisted the engine be reliable during acquisition, required that P&W fix the reliability the answer was “send more money” there is no warranty and no remedy when faulty designs are accepted. As a result the USAF restarted the GE engine development and deployed it enduring the lost aircraft utilization and crashes that occurred because the P&W engine was not well tested in the F-16 program.
The F-35 has quality issues, and cannot meet highly scripted test events because things break all the time. Say no to weapons which cannot be maintained because there is no money or time to design them properly. If followed to its logical conclusion: there is no room in the trillions in deficits for the F-35 which has not met test schedule much less passed anything.
General Schwatz should support high quality, and address why spending hundreds of billions to deliver up to 2000 F-35’s the DoD cannot get a quality engine.
Besides insuring against poor technical outcomes, there are enough engines for the F-35’s large numbers and long anticipated life to justify alternative engines with the better performing engine installed on a higher percent of the deployed aircraft. This is what happened with the F-16, after years of lost performance.
If DOD cannot afford to acquire reliable propulsion sources they can afford the airplane and should kill the F-35.
John Lehman, former Sec Navy reported in an article in Washington Post that the total ownership costs for the propulsion sections of the F-35 Lightning II is $100B. Jet engines are viewed as hardware that does propulsion.
The investment of $450M to insure against installing a defective engine is justified risk reduction.
That is I would bet half a percent of the total life cost for the engine that P&W will do an F-16, and the DoD will need a alternative engine to make the trillion dollar F-35 “stable” in terms of propulsion.
If USAF cannot provide test data it should get risk insurance. There is history.
Is the F-35 and what it could do worth a trillion bucks, given there is no test data to prove it or risk money to insure it?
I think you’re missing a “not” in the last sentence of the parent post. If DOD cannot afford to acquire reliable propulsion sources they can [not] afford the airplane and should kill the F-35.
And: The general should have [been able to say], “the P&W engine is reliable, the needed production rate can be achieved and we have test data to support those conclusions,” [however,] there is no proof the P&W engine is producible and reliable…
Thanks, I was “editorially challenged” the evening I wrote this.
What is going on here is that the Pentagon is trying to back load the costs of the F-35 boondoggle.
It does not matter that saving a billion dollars now costs 50 billion over the next 30 years, because spending the billion now makes it more likely that Congress pulls the plug, and all those generals lose their consulting gigs in retirement.
Let me ask a more fundamental question with the advances in drone tech who needs an F-35 at all? I suspect you can build a drone with the capabilities for a lot less. But the generals and fly boys would be out of a job, believing as the manned airplane controlled the air in WWII that it will do so now? One might need to build a drone control station on Diego Garcia but I suspect that a drone could dog fight with the best of them. Actually this would be repeating one of WWII lessons that more is better and you can have more drones than manned planes, and if you loose a drone, well its just money no one is hurt.
Naval Open Source Intelligence reports:
http://nosint.blogspot.com/2010/01/pentagon-underscores-commitment-to-f-35.html“Deputy Defense Secretary William Lynn on Thursday underscored the Pentagon’s commitment to Lockheed Martin Corp’s $300 billion F-35 fighter jet, saying the U.S. government and its allies still planned to buy 3,000 of the new fighters over time.”
I’m not sure I have the numbers after so long but: I think that in today’s dollars we spent something like $400 billion dollars on modern jets during the height of the Cold War — replacing flying brick F-4s Phantoms (all services) with super maneuverable, mission designed, fly-by-wire planes (not a pound for air to ground? Opps!).
Bought something like 5,000 F-14s, F-15s, F-16s and F-18s (though only 7 interceptor pairs were on call on 9/11).
Now that we are no longer facing an adversary across an Iron Curtain (I support the Vietnam War, BTW) with 10,000 jet fighters (or was it 20,000?) and 180 tank divisions (50,000 tanks they could actually man with reserve call up and don’t forget 10 parachute divisions). Just who are we going to fight with all this added muscle? Are we going to fly to another solar system to fight for the intergalactic air force championship?