A colourful Australian IT engineer and airpower zealot has published a stinging attack on the F-35 stealth jet fighter, which is to be purchased by military forces worldwide including those of the US and UK. Dr Carlo Kopp - to quiet applause from many in the aerospace world - says the F-35 "is demonstrably not a true stealth …
Why do the Aussies need even the F35?
Who are they going to go up against? A bunch of Roos carrying shoulder-launched AA Missiles?
when John McClaine can single handedly take out an F35 why worry about missiles?
There are no stealth aircraft
Non have ever been built, none will be. Even the 117 etc could be tracked not only by the UK Rapier missile system (built in the 80's !!!) but by civilian ATC radar as well.
It got to the stage where by the US military (and plane makers) stopped calling them stealth and started calling them low-observability aircraft. Their 'stealth' was not in the iron fillings put into black paint but the fact the pre-flight planning was done to fly around radar installations. This is OK for fixed radar but mobile radar setups easily capture ALL so-called stealth aircraft.
Steath, useful in concept, is not a reality but is a major money spinner for US arms manufacturers.
It's not quite correct that the Tumanskii Turbojets of the MiG 25 need to be scrapped after flying at Mach 3, they do however require a major overhaul.
Lewis - I really enjoyed this article: very fair and accurate I'd suggest. Forwarded to some contacts in Aus too :)
@Adrian : Rapier
Rapier couldn't track Argentine Skyhawks reliably I doubt it'd have a hope against an F117.
The F117's performance against a large sophisticated air defence system in Iraq should be plenty of evidence of it's capabilities.
"Stealthy" has never meant "invisible".
How about, er, not going to war with Russia?
Inferior low observability
compared to the F-22 (probably the world's premier air superiority fighter) may well be intentional in case the US ever finds it self coming up against them...
Well the Dutch were forced into this by their insane 100-day-long (post)Pim Fortuyn government.
Basically, in the early-noughties malaise a small populist party led by a flamboyant bald gay ex-communist now-rightwinger stirred up politics. Before any elections he got killed, so that a ridiculous number of people subsequently voted for this basically one-man party.
Strangely, the resultant party top was made up of about 50% ex-military cadre, and the only thing the subsequent (christian/centre-right led) government pushed through in their 100day regime was joining the JSF and agreeing to buy the stuff. I've never understood how this militarisation happened to a cheezed-off-little-men-anti-establishment party --- their platform was "liveability", in all its ecological, anti-poor and anit-immigrant facets, so "give cash to a few high tech firms with no other applications" was never a slogan.
The argument was that some minor parts built in Holland would bring in cash first, damn the billions expenditure later.
Is that the best preemption the author can come up with, that opposition to spending millions on a new toy is "old fashioned"? Not incorrect, or missguided, or niave, but "old fashioned"?
Bombing the sh*t out of 3rd rate powers with 2nd rate technology, is that not also terribly "old fashioned"?
I wonder if the manufacturers saw this damning assessment coming?
Mine's the invisibility cloak borrowed from Harry. Whadya mean you can't find it in the cloakroom???
Re: Why do the Aussies need even the F35?
Kangaroos with shoulder fire missles are a reality! It was in a demo once so it must be true!
Of course the demo in question is used as a re-use cautionary tale amongst programmers, but you can't expect managers to know the difference between reality and a demo with some programing bugs.
One page one the good doctors objections to the F35 claims of low observibility, zero pages countering those objections, 6 pages slagging the man and his history. Very balanced.
When the village idiot tells you that your house is on fire, it is considered wise to check that there is no smoke before you remind him that he is, in fact, an idiot.
Iran is the problem, not Russia or China, the US is just itching for a chance to start blowing them to bits, although we can hope that Obama is more open minded and into debate rather than war.
I think the real question is though, should we be leaning more towards this Aussie fella, who may very well have valid points about this fighter, or towards a pro-American journalist who thinks every bit of American tech is the best in the world and should be bought at any cost, even though the "crap" Eurofighter outperformed the Raptor in the US so badly the Americans cancelled the tests and sent the Eurofighter home.
Looking at Isreal for their opinion is a bit like asking a Scot what they think of Scotland. Isreal will buy whatever US tech they can get their hands on to keep the Americans happy whilst they commit war crimes with US tech in Palestine.
Do we really need stealth these days? Probably not, with planes having the ability to counter most threats, the objective should be to get as much firepower over the target as quick as possible and cause as much damage as possible. We already have machines that can do that, stealth is about as relevant in modern day warfare as a sword. If they truly do have Stealth, and as Adrian pointed out, they seem not to, then as soon as the stealth is broken the tech becomes obsolete, is the F-35 good enough without any stealth to compare with other fighters and come out tops in a dogfight? Is it worth spending so much cash on a machine which claims to have stealth but isn't?
But the big question remains, which jets will the US use when they invade Iran, will it be the Raptor or will it be the F-35, I'm betting on the Raptor, the F-35 is just for the export market, nothing else, which seems to shout out "its not good enough for us, lets keep the best one and sell off the 2nd best".
Obviously what we really need is for Japan to stop being so pacifict and start producing the Mecha.
MacNamara's Department of Defense forced the F-111 on the USAF. It was designed to serve both the Air Force and the Navy, but the Navy managed to get out from under it--though it cost the officer who led the opposition his career. How Dr. Kopp imagines that the F-111 is a great airplane, I can't guess.
I concur Adrian
Can't speak in detail because thats how it is with my experience in these things but I concur with Adrian. All "stealth" aircraft are low really observability which means that yes they can be tracked but the signature is much smaller or different to what it should be. Any object in the sky can be tracked by radar but the trick is to camoflage the object (much like ground forces) to make it look different and hope that the enemy systems or users mistake it for something else. And as Adrian says there are also avoidance techniques for missing radar stations, it's no coincidence that the B2 has such a high operating ceiling or that the RAF train far more in low level missions. Not to forget some counter-measures like jamming etc. although in practice that is far more likely to alert an enemy to your presence.
Now the longer an aircraft is operated the more the shape becomes recognisable and many modern AA radars can be changed on wavelengths and patterns to recognise the newer aircraft. But they have to see them, observe them and do all that shenanigans.
To be fair stealth is a good word but is over-used probably by people like The Sun, because the planes have never been invisible to radar. Low observability is a much better term.
Rapier Field Standard C
@JonB: The Rapier B1 system used in the Falklands was not the FSC version which embarrassed the USAF one Farnborough Airshow *cough*... ;) Black Helicopters as I'm not getting drawn into a detailed discussion of its capabilities!
Germany is now called Ukraine
That is all that is to be said... Really...
The thought occurs...
...that what Lewis is (really) saying, is that Lockheed and partners have managed to come up with something almost like a present day F4 Phantom - it's not the best bomber, it's not the best fighter, it's not the best reconnaissance aircraft or defence suppression aircraft, but it may well be that it does all of the above sufficiently better than most others that it doesn't make sense to buy anything else?
I remember watching an interview with a very senior former McDonnell Douglas chap who said, basically, that everything about the Phantom was either wrong, or a dodgy hack to deal with a problem; it was hugely un-aerodynamic, the flipped-up wingtips and droopy tailplane were there as bodges because they had to be, and it still worked, because crucially, none of the likely opponents had anything better (or at least they didn't once they put a gun on it...). In this case, if they have pulled that off, they appear to have done so with a plane that has a lot right with it (and even has a VSTOL option - I invite you to consider the implications of trying to get a VSTOL Phantom...but not with a full mouth or if you're prone to heart problems... ;-) ). That would really be rather a good thing, especially for our cash-strapped military, and our death-tech guys at BAE are involved in the F35 too, so it's not a dead loss from the jobs and economy point of view either.
Anyway, good article.
This is an El Reg article written by Lewis! What on earth gave you the idea that it might be balanced?
I read this stuff because it's entertaining. If I want balance I'll try the Beeb.
Insert title here
It seems like the F35 is a C21st version of the F16 - a (relatively) low cost, light single engine multi role attack fighter. While inferior as a fighter to the F15 it was more than a match for anything else except the latest gen of soviet fighters (Mig 29 & Su 27) operated by soviet forces, as proven by the Israelis. The F16 also sold by the bucketload to NATO countries, without putting the UK & French aviation industry out of business.
The Typhoon is also a more capable fighter.
Russian tech is overreted as always - their newest aircraft are just re-engined Su 27s - 1970s soviet technology. Whatever else they claim to have on the drawing board they cannot afford to build or operate.
The real issue with the F35 is that the Royal Navy is having to buy the crippled VTOL variant because our brilliant government made the genius decision to build our new aircraft carriers without nuclear powerplants - therefore no steam catapaults - therefore no capability to operate normal aircraft.
On the subject of spending more money on the army instead of 'frivolous' new aircraft, ships and submarines: Am I alone in thinking that the first - if not only - duty of our armed forces is defence of the realm - meaning defence of Britain against foreign attack - meaning defending our seas and airspace? Not sending our army on pointless and illegal wars on the other side of the world.
...but "third rate nations"? That's a touch judgmental, don't you think?
...but could you TRY and play the ball rather than the man, Lewis?
F-35's true role
Some people seem to be missing the point - the F-35 is the natural replacement for the F-16, which was brought for the USAF as a mud mover primarily, but also to complement the more expensive and capable F-15 in the air superiority role. Comparing this plane to the Raptor is a bit like comparing the Tornado GR.X with the Eurofighter - not valid.
This project will keep on running because the US doesn't want to lose all those customers who fly the F-16 (and even in Europe's case, previously the pitifully inadequate F-104) to other suppliers. This is a political as well as a commercial calculation, to reinforce US leadership of NATO and other Western-leaning countries.
As for Stealth, it'll all become irrelevant pretty soon as the Russians will have kit in the next while capable of detecting these aircraft.
In the cold war people ascribed mythical status to some soviet machinery. After the cold war it has surfaced that some of their stuff was a bit crappy and other stuff was way more powerful than the western world had imagined.
Their electronics were a bit oldschool, their material science in engine tech was a bit behind. Their manufacturing lines didn't have a solid enough quality.
Aerodynamically their planes are quite superiour. In a test done by the US air force in India (IIRC) american pilots got to fly russian air superiority planes against F15s. The russian tech THRASHED the us tech (it was just pathetic).
The export versions of the planes like SU27 didn't even have the full radar system. US planes like the F15 and F16 have around a 20° slice in front of them which can be targeted by the rhe radar, The SU27 (domestic version) has around 200°field and targeting is helmet mounted, anything the pilot can see is dead.
The americans have been betting on not getting into close combat for a while and have made design choices based on that. If a F22 or F35 get into a close combat situation with a SU27 they are screwed. The swedish gripen might stand a chance as well as being designed for improved airstrips, the US planes need their 2km airstrips almost hoovered clean (just like the F15 and F16).
The Us planes are made for a situation where the owner has a superior position and is not subject to massive airstrikes. Basically for showing off and for agressive tactics.
The SU27 (and JAS Gripen) are made for defence as well, an enemy has penetrated into your country, you go up, dance, and win, possibly at short or medium range (you took of from a road 30km from the airfield which the attacker was heading for)
Add to that the idea that maybe these buying decisions are not made for practical reasons but largely for political reasons and greased by large amounts of brib.. I mean, grants from industry leaders to interested political parties..
Radars versus stealth
The remarks about "low visibility" are correct - no aircraft is totally invisible to radar (or other detection methods, including sound and infrared). However, it is the degree of diminished effectiveness that matters. If I can effectively reduce a radar's detection range of my aircraft from 200 NM to 20 NM, I have a better chance of finding an uncovered path through an enemy's radar perimeter. Yes, I may need to adjust as I go, as some radars are portable and that gap may not be.
But the key point that needs to be born in mind is that it is easier to build sensors to test a stealth/low visibility design than it is to build a stealth/low visibility target to test sensors. Radars, as an example of a sensor, are comparatively simpler (and that is one of their strengths) when compared to, as an example of a stealth/low invisibility platform, a fighter/attack aircraft. For radars, I can alter broadcast (continuous wave, phase array, etc) and frequency and power - a large enough test stand can examine a number of these variables in various combinations. It is almost impossible to give a particular radar a similar variety of airborne platforms to test against.
Given that the capability of all operational radars are known (there is no such thing as a "stealth" radar - once it begins broadcasting, its variables become readily known, which is one of the prime roles of surveillance aircraft. For a good account of the detection-change struggle for radars, see books on the Battle of the Atlantic by Morrison or Overy or others), then it is reasonable to assume that the designers of the F35 tested their platform against the large numbers of radar types available or projected to be available by potential adversaries. They did much the same with the F117 prototypes. The results of such tests have an impact, as has been at least implied by several earlier comments, on the tactics that are adopted.
For example, it may be the F35 is detectable by radar system A at 150 NM (but can see an F15 at 250 NM) and the enemy uses system A to oversee the battlefield which holds numerous targets that the force commander would like to address using the F35; on the other hand, system A can only see a B2 at 20 NM. On the battlefield, the enemy uses system B which, while movable, cannot see the F35 beyond 20 NM. Then the tactic might be to have the B2 kill any system A radars on its way over the battlefield while going after deeper targets, thereby opening up a path for the F35s. Using antiradar missiles with ranges well in excess of 20 NM, the F35s kill the system Bs and go on to deal with targets in the battlefield itself. The destruction of the Bs permits conventional attack aircraft to be used (F16, F15E, Typhoon, etc) for an even greater portfolio of targets. Again, this is nothing more than an example.
One other comment - the Foxbat was initially presented as the aircraft for which the West had no response. It's thrust was so great that no aircraft could turn with it, much less keep up. I still recall the classified presentation on the subject to my fighter group and the disbelief that many aircrew (we were a Phantom outfit) expressed. The briefers, as it turned out, were wrong and the aircrew were right. But that was the Cold War and the penalty for being wrong could have been utter disaster.
On the second footnote
The Russian aviation has a long standing tradition - Mig gets the publicity and export contracts, Sukhoi gets the job done. While Mig 25 had all the adverts it was old Su-15 carrying interceptor duties in Voiska PVO. It was a Su-15 which shot down South-Korean flight 902 and flight 007. For a reason. Because it was what did the job.
F35 is a fairly even match to a Su-33. So if the armies meet across the fields of Ger^H^H^HUkraine there will be lots of fun all around.
Ditto for F35 meeting the Su-27+ exports.
Why I hate the F-111
It killed off the awesomely beautiful TSR-2.
nah, no need to rename "stealth"
(from merriam-webster) stealth:
4: an aircraft-design characteristic consisting of oblique angular construction and avoidance of vertical surfaces that is intended to produce a very weak radar return
The world should have learned their lesson from before. Do not let Americans near VTOL tech they always ruin it. (osprey)
Anyway we all know the Typhoon is better.
@Sekundra : Rapier
Ah, fair enough, if they've improved it that much then they should rename it.
You wouldn't have thought they'd want to be associated with the Falklands variant.
Defence of the Realm and interests...
Whilst the UK might be an island, in this day and age, we're reliant on imports. And exports too... (as Palmerston demonstrated to the Chinese at Shanghai - http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Opium_War). At what point would the threat to them be enough to warrant "peace keeping/observation" deployments?
Blair demonstrated that you don't have to have public opinion on your side to send out the troops either! And that was ostensibly for "self defence" too based on the 45 minute dossier. The more cynical of course say it was for the oil.
Today, would dying pensioners in the cold snap due to lack of gas be reason to send troops into Ukraine? We didn't need to in this last gas debacle, because our storage solution was working and the amount imported from Russia is 2%. So it's not too improbable to see future deployments over UK interests...
My fighter's better than... what??
When was the last time any western combat aircraft did anything other than blow holes in defenceless middle eastern infrastructure...?
F-111 @Mike Richards
And conspiracists suggest the TRS2 was canned (boo hiss) because Wilson's government had a Soviet spy in it, and they a) wanted UK not to have a superior interceptor and more importantly b) it would be lots easier to steal the secrets of the F-111 were it on RAF bases as well as USAF.
Bring back the TSR2! A northern 'plane museum recently noticed the Germans making new FW-190s and in response have made a new Halifax[*], just in case they're up to something... so surely we can get some TSR2s together!
*No, not a flying example. But now there is one whole one in the world instead of none ;->
I think everyone is missing the point
hmmm, I aint sure why you're all blabbering on about who's got the best plane, air combat as well as most of modern warfare died with the advent of nuclear weapons anyway, like it was also said in this article.
the main benefit of all these super jets, is the technologies they bring with them, you make lots of interesting advancements when building military kit and this isnt a new saying either, so think of it like this,
1) you HAVE to have the best equipment IF you ever fought a war
2) but you never will, but you still have to have it
3) you build it and keep the best tech to yourself
4) commercialise all the cool stuff you can sell (radar? gps?)
think of it like a way to keep our level of tech constantly increasing without ever having to require that level of technology, better to keep improving and spend your money on something than let it sit in the bank and do nothing, right??
so, it's not about wars and planes, it's about planes and tech :D
get it right boys. I'll leave the rest to you guys :D
The spends 2.1% of GDP, this is far too little for what is the first duty of the sovereign nation state; the provision of external security to its population.
Don't underestimate Russian-made AA capabilities
The Vympel R-73 (AA-11 "Archer") was in service from '85 and comparable with the AIM-132 ASRAAM ('98), the AIM-9X Sidewinder ('03) and IRIS-T ('05) - far ahead of the short-range AA missiles of the US/NATO at the time. In a late-cold-war dogfight over the Fulda Gap, we'd have been decimated. Also, of note, is that those are all IR-guided missiles: low radar signature is about as relevant as the colour of the pilot's helmet.
Then there are the Serbians, with ancient soviet S-125s using very long radar wavelengths, downing an F-117. I hear shortwave (3~30MHz) signals have some interesting effects compared to X-band (7~12GHz) radars...
As for the F-111, the 'vark has some major advantages even today, for what it's worth. It's cheap, fast (50% faster than an F-35), has a huge range (4-5x that of an F-22/F-35), a large bomb-bay and already works with the Aussies' weapons. It's a damn fine Wild Weasel platform - by the time a SAM site has started painting it, it's launched ARMs, swept the wings back, and is heading away at Mach 2.5.
AC for obvious reasons...
Britain may be advanced enough that military spending is a fraction of social services, but this is not the case in some other (US) countries....
"Worst Case Analysis"
Military minds (not necessarily brains) generally assess combat situations with the opponent at their very best and themselves at their very worse. With that in mind, any new weapon will always be at a "tactical disadvantage". That's just the way it done. A system like that has the usual outcome of breeding better soldiers, systems, and etc.
We'll never really know until the neat air war opens, but if you'd like to get a flavor of near real world results goto: http://www.acc.af.mil/news/story.asp?id=123041725
You might find flaws with the approach, but with the Raptors flying the same exact sorties as other craft, the Raptors lost only one encounter. I think the final numbers were Raptor kills 244, "The Enemy" 1.
I err 'second' Sekundra
I, too, am aware of that incident and some other stuff, besides. Suffice to say, F-117 is not 'stealthy' to first world nations, at all, in the sense commonly understood and sold to the general public and gullible customers.
As regards smaller RADAR returns; if the weapon system can still achieve a guidance lock, it doesn't matter that you're 'different looking' and 'half as large as the real outline'. :-)
Black Helo for similar reasons, of course...
P.S. JonB - It was a reasonably capable system when sold, the fact that it was a bit 'dated' by the time the UK used that variant is hardly the fault of the system (well, not in that sense) or the manufacturer as it was never sold with assurances against those opponents (IIRC).
umm... don't think so.
"And in fact, this seems to be the true reason why the F-35 is so disliked in the aerospace world: because if it is even close to what its makers say it is, it has a fair chance of putting almost every other Western fighter make out of business."
That's exactly what was predicted with the F-16. It was comparatively VERY inexpensive yet, in the hands of a well-trained pilot, could outfly darned near anything in the sky. Boatloads of them were sold to just about everyone, even some Arab nations. Yet, so far as I know Saab, Dassault, BAE, et.al. are still making and selling fighters.
However the most important point of all, apparently missed by many here, is that a superior PILOT will win the day nearly each and every time, even when flying somewhat inferior aircraft. The F35 is inferior to the F22. It may or may not be inferior to anything made by Sukhoi or Mikoyan. However, I'll bet heavily on the US or western European pilot over any non-Israeli. It's all a matter of skill and training. The west and the Israelis have it. The Russkies certainly USED to (and may still). As for the others, who knows until the shooting starts?
Aussie point of view
In some ways for Australia the choice of the F-35 to replace BOTH the F-111's and the F/A-18 is a bit baffling as both aircraft served very different purposes for which the F-35 doesnt completely replace either. The F/A-18 is a superb superiority fighter, the F-111 a strike bomber (ie a bomber with some fighting capability). The F-111 also has a superb range (ie it can hit Indonesia (Australia's only real threat) and return). The F-35 is a fighter that is not a focused superiority fighter and it is designed to have bombing capabilities although not as good as the F-111. It also has a severely reduced range over the F-111.
So in that respect if the aim of this purchase was to keep the status quo the F-35 isnt the best choice. The best would be a combination of F-35's and F-22's (with possibly a few FB-22's if they ever get made). However the F-35 isnt for sale now (and probably wont ever be!), and Aus really could never justify the HUGE expense of an F-22 fleet. To counter the drawbacks of the F-35 Aus has purchased a number of inflight refueling aircraft to give it the range it needs, the government is buying more F-35's then we currently have F-111's and F/A-18's (or at least they were last time i looked) so basically for once our government seems to actually have thought there way through something.
As has already been mentioned, if your after the best fighter in the world you will try to get a hold of the F-22, if your after the next best and are willing to pay exorbitantly you'll buy the Eurofighter, however if your after something affordable, which will do the job against most enemies that the nations who are buying it are likely to face, you'll buy the F-35. Its not rocket science!
Oh and for the comment that the Americans are just going to keep the F-22's and sell the F-35's to export customers. The Yanks are continuously reducing the number of F-22's there buying because of the exorbitent costs and already have over 400 (if my memory holds out) of the Carrier Variant F-35's on order (more then the rest of the worlds orders combined!)... As for the conventional variant i hate to think how many are going to be produced for the yanks alone!
The Russians are good at math & physics. The Soviets were far ahead of the west on understanding non-linear dynamics. AFAIK one place an understanding of non-linear dynamics is very useful is designing high performance aircraft - all those gnarly gas/fluid flow equations.
Paris because she knows a thing or two about fluid flows.
Regarding aircraft roles.
If Oz et al cannot expect to fight the USA or Russia then one might argue that there is no strong requirement for air superiority fighters.
When fighting yer typical 2nd/3rd world country mostly I think you need to be able to bomb stuff, and a couple dozen cruise missiles will take out most of their radar systems.
So the F35 might be a good fit for all the 2nd tier first world nations.
New kit! Cracking good show
Every time a new plane comes out I test it by building it, covering it in methylated spirits and chucking it out out of my bedroom window while it's on fire. Like all the loons who have chipped in with their tuppence worth here.
What? Real planes. Are you mad sir?
Is an irrelevance.
Wars these days will either be between 2 second rate nations or between a modern western nation or Russia and a second rate nation.
With the differences in training and resources second rate nations have no chance of getting air superiority and then the fighting will move on to guerrilla street fighting where air power is important but a couple of spitfires would achieve the same as a F22 or F35 or whatever.
If the UK (for that is all I am really interested about) was to be involved in a war with another equally equipped and funded (or more so) country then air superiority would matter little once the nukes started flying.
Also I heard a report that the F35 and F22 have at best stealth that gives teh return radar signature equivalent to a pigeon or similar. So really all you have to do is get your radar to fla up any pigeons that are flying at 200 knots or more and then you send up the Typhoons to hand them their arses. Anyone want to buy some Typhoons? I believe the UK government has a few hundred on order that we don't need, have no use for and can't afford.
Excuse me? An IT Engineer? Why is this even taken seriously by anyone?
I Think It's Terrible
I think it's terrible that, in the 21st Century, we still have countries like Russia and China to worry about, instead of them, and all other countries, being, like Australia and the U.K., firm allies of the U.S., and also of all the world's other democracies, like Taiwan or Georgia or Israel, and not threats to them in any way.
Radar return the size of a pigeon
You'd be amazed how few radars pick up pigeons. The point of a return that small is it massively reduces the range the contact is detected at, I think you're getting back to WW2 levels of detection where the night fighters had to be within a few miles of the enemy bomber to pick it up.
One day the world will grow up and stop spending billions upon billions of useful money on pointless toys and fireworks for the elite few to play with, and perhaps start trying to address more immediate problems, such as getting food and water and medicine to places that haven't got it, in this apparently enlightened and technologically advanced day and age in which we live.