back to article F-35 targeting system laser will be 'almost impossible' to use in UK

US restrictions on the F-35 fighter jet's targeting system will make it “almost impossible” for training to be carried out in the UK, the Ministry of Defence fears – but its press office insists the constraints are normal. The F-35's electro-optical targeting system (EOTS) includes a target designator laser and a laser …

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  1. Yugguy

    None-story

    Use of equipment restricted while trials are conducted, with usage increased as trials are successful.

    1. boltar Silver badge

      Re: None-story

      I think you missed the point - the US are apparently restricting its use. Now perhaps I got it wrong, but we're buying these planes, not renting them. So it should be none of the US's damn business how we use them once we've handed over an extortionate amount of cash for aircraft than can barely replicate the VTOL functionality of the 1960s Harrier.

      1. Richard 81

        Re: None-story

        @boltar: Oh year? Check the EULA.

      2. BillG Silver badge
        IT Angle

        Re: None-story

        No, you missed the point. These planes are still in trials. If, during testing of the laser tracking system, something goes wrong, it makes debugging a whole lot easier if you know there are no other lasers or other optical devices in the testing area.

        Of course later testing will probably flood the area with lasers in an attempt to confuse the laser tracking system.

        1. boltar Silver badge

          Re: None-story

          "No, you missed the point. These planes are still in trials. If, during testing of the laser tracking system, something goes wrong, it makes debugging a whole lot easier if you know there are no other lasers or other optical devices in the testing area."

          We're not buying beta versions! Once they're paid for and flying over here there should be no more testing (other than pilot training) and debugging!

          1. thames

            Re: None-story

            @boltar - "We're not buying beta versions! Once they're paid for and flying over here there should be no more testing (other than pilot training) and debugging!"

            Beta? They're barely frigging alpha! The Pentagon (under orders from congress) has put a hold on more orders until the software is finished, and as a result LM is whining that they're losing money and can't afford to pay their suppliers. UK orders are also on hold because they're part of the same lots the US has put on hold.

            The planes will fly, and the UK can use the ones they've got now for pilot and ground crew training, but the planes are not ready for fighting a war yet. UK plans are to have the planes ready when the first new carrier is ready, with sea trials finished and crew worked up. The latter hasn't happened yet, so it's not a big deal from a UK perspective. The RAF plans on using the F-35B as a Tornado replacement (bomber) which can also operate from carriers, while the Typhoon (Eurofighter) will remain in use for air defence and air superiority with a secondary role in dropping bombs. Similarly, the US will still have the F-22 for air defence and air superiority.

            The countries that are feeling the pain on this one are the smaller ones that only have one type of plane and need to replace their entire air force, and whose existing planes are falling to bits from age. Denmark is a good example. They're looking at a gap between their F-16s falling apart from age and their new, not yet delivered, F-35s being ready for full service.

            As for the question of the laser targeting system, I don't know the details but I suspect it may be a safety issue until the targeting system has received full approval for service. At the moment they can't guaranty that it won't get confused when it sees someone else's laser and drop bombs on the wrong target, and that it won't point the laser in random directions and damage someone's eyesight. The Americans have big spaces to let things go wrong in, and article mentions that the UK has a few similar ones as well.

            1. Chris G Silver badge

              Re: None-story

              The F-35 saga to me has all the hallmarks of a new Windows OS, the main difference between win10 and this thing is that MS has hardly been able to give away 10 whereas everyone is paying through the nose for the F-35. In both cases there are funtionality and user problems, plus it seems that users will never fully own either to do with them as they like.

              F-35 = Warplanes as a service?

              1. Sirius Lee

                MS has hardly been able to give away 10

                What planet are you on? Is it really necessary to broadcast your bias in comment thread about the F-35? In a year there have been over 300 million installs which an article in El Reg today states is over 21% of the install base. Is that failure? The upgrade offer was not extended to Windows 7 users so I continue to use Windows 7 along with 68% of the rest of the install base. If I'd been offered the free route I would have taken it because Windows 10 is working just fine on 3 other laptops in the house but I take the view that if its not broke I'm not going to pay to fix it.

                1. Kiwi Silver badge
                  Linux

                  Re: MS has hardly been able to give away 10

                  ...The upgrade offer was not extended to Windows 7 users...

                  So... All those complaints from Win 7 users (including, IIRC, the lady who sued MS for $10G over lost business) about the attempts to force 10 on them was a figment of someone's imagination1? All those machines I helped fight to keep X from installing on despite the users constantly saying "no" were not real?

                  1 Can't possibly be my imagination; I'm not up to imagining numbers that large!

                  What planet are you on?

                  Ahem...

                2. x 7 Silver badge

                  Re: MS has hardly been able to give away 10

                  "The upgrade offer was not extended to Windows 7 users so I continue to use Windows 7 along with 68% of the rest of the install base. If I'd been offered the free route I would have taken it"

                  Yes it was.........

                3. Peter Bennett

                  Re: MS has hardly been able to give away 10

                  I stopped using Windows in favour of Ubuntu for couple of years, but bought a $100 (sic) Win10 tablet w keyb recently and it is great. Fair to say, maybe, they had to bring the price down, but there is nothing on the market that gets close to Win10 for general computing at that price.

                4. Mark Dempster

                  Re: MS has hardly been able to give away 10

                  Actually, it WAS available to Win7 users. Nothing earlier, though

                5. morgz84

                  Re: MS has hardly been able to give away 10

                  "The upgrade offer was not extended to Windows 7 users"

                  Yes it was!

          2. jbrias

            Re: None-story

            Unfortunately, the F-35 is a lemon...an expensive lemon.

      3. JLV Silver badge

        Re: None-story

        @Boltar

        in the US under very tight controls”

        Now, I rarely hesitate to cast the first stone at the flying pig. But what it reads like is that the Americans do not trust that laser near potentially affected systems, on their territory. On a related subject, there's an ongoing tug of war in the US between the Navy and another agency (EPA?) about the impact of sonars on whales and corresponding restrictions. Hardly means that sonar is useless on an attack sub. Nor that the UK is obligated to follow the US lead wrt to the laser.

        Do agree that having severe restrictions on laser training use might impact operational readiness. But that hardly seems like a big deal compared with all the rest. Not least the steadily dropping volume of F35s to be deployed - which will make it pretty useless in any serious operations against any big player. Read up on Tiger IIs if you want to catch my drift.

        1. DougS Silver badge

          Re: None-story

          I think a big reason for the restrictions might be the terrible publicity would result if there was an accident (whether in the US or another country does not really matter in this case) that blinded someone. There would be a lot of outrage, talk about how we'll end up blinding kids by mistake who are lucky enough not be blown up by mistake, and there would be pressure to remove the system or restrict its use in war (which is when the military would not want any restrictions at all, too bad for the people on the ground who look up)

        2. Vic

          Re: None-story

          Do agree that having severe restrictions on laser training use might impact operational readiness. But that hardly seems like a big deal compared with all the rest.

          It is very easy to be blinded to the essential uselessness of [their products] by the sense of achievement you get from getting them to work at all. In other words—and this is the rock solid principle on which the whole of the Corporation's Galaxy-wide success is founded—their fundamental design flaws are completely hidden by their superficial design flaws

          Vic.

      4. Ian Michael Gumby Silver badge

        @boltar ... Re: None-story

        Then have your pilots come train in the US.

        Note that they will be bringing an extra large extra suitcase to take back a bunch of electronic goodies when they make their pilgrimage to a local Best Buy... ;-)

        1. E 2

          Re: @boltar ... None-story

          The UK cannot afford to send it's pilots to the USA for training: the F35 cost too much and the pound is in the tank.

          1. Archtech Silver badge

            Re: @boltar ... None-story

            The significant fact is that the F-35 costs too much. Far too much. Far, far too much even if it worked. Which it apparently doesn't.

            What the UK needs is some good, inexpensive, functional workhorse aircraft. Until a better source is found, why not buy some Sukhois and MiGs?

    2. Tchou

      Re: None-story

      http://www.dassault-aviation.com/en/defense/customer-support/mirage-2000/mirage-2000-9/

      UK, ask for refund, buy 2x more aircraft that can actually fly combat missions.

      And yeah it cannot hover. This capability was already tried in the '60s...

      1. Matt Bryant Silver badge
        FAIL

        Re: Tchou Re: None-story

        "....mirage-2000-9....." Puh-lease, the Mirage 2000-9 is (a) a bargain-bin upgrade to an ancient design with (b) an old radar design (based on the '60s Cyrano) and (c) completely outclassed by the Typhoon, either in air combat or ground attack. There's a good argument that the Tornado is a better interceptor and ground attack platform than the Mirage! The Mirage 2000-9 also has zero stealth capability and no IR detection, making it vulnerable to being detected at very long range whilst blind to the F-35's radar stealth. Even with MICA AAMs it is doubtful a Mirage 2000-9 could defeat even the F-35B.

        ".....yeah it cannot hover....." The UK happens to need that hover capability, mainly for the RN, but also because it allows the RAF to deploy aircraft in emergencies to something other than the limited number of hard runways.

  2. NoneSuch
    Facepalm

    Ditch the American Crap Planes...

    ...and you can buy literally TEN TIMES the amount of the latest BRAND NEW Harrier model.

    http://nation.time.com/2012/07/09/f-35-nearly-doubles-in-cost-but-you-dont-know-thanks-to-its-rubber-baseline/

    1. James Hughes 1

      Re: Ditch the American Crap Planes...

      What brand new Harrier model?

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Ditch the American Crap Planes...

      Forget the harrier. We could have bought a job lot of F/A-18 Super Hornets for long-range strike capability and spent the rest on something that can loiter over a combat zone for extended periods, and still have a huge pile of money left over. We've got plenty of home-grown aircraft design skill in that area even if we're a bit crap at the high-speed jets these days.

      Too late now.

      1. This post has been deleted by its author

      2. h4rm0ny

        Re: Ditch the American Crap Planes...

        Indeed. It's articles like this that make me miss Lewis Page. We'd have had a nice angry article frothing with such details in his day.

        1. Hardrada

          Re: Lewis Page

          I hadn't seen his byline for a while... Did he leave for greener pastures?

          1. h4rm0ny
            Pint

            Re: Lewis Page

            Less left for greener pastures and more given his marching orders. He's legally forbidden from telling anyone why he left (not sure how they managed to swing that) so we don't know the specifics but a fair guess would be that either (a) his not towing the line on climate change offended the powers that be, (b) new ownership / directors wanted to put their own person in the top-slot or (c) major disagreement on direction with the owners. Whatever the reason, it was less pasture and more stun-gun to the head from what I gather.

            Shame. His long tenure at El Reg were a good period for the site and we lost their best writer on all things military and one of the few remaining editors that would run a piece that contested parts of AGW. I've noticed a subtle shift in tone since he left. You get a few more Kieran-style click-baity polemnics for example.

            Beer icon for Lewis wherever he is now.

            1. Hardrada

              Re: Lewis Page

              "Shame."

              Quite right.

              "His long tenure at El Reg were a good period for the site and we lost their best writer on all things military."

              I also enjoyed his airship coverage.

            2. Hardrada

              Re: Lewis Page

              "...one of the few remaining editors that would run a piece that contested parts of AGW"

              One of the best things about his LTA coverage was that he was skeptical about a technology that clearly excited him (in contrast to most green-tech coverage). He dug into details like buoyancy control, the size of the potential freight market, and the exact contribution to the greenhouse effect, making for an interesting and professionally useful read.

              It also makes it ironic that he took so much flak over AGW, since he was one of the few (only?) commentators to suggest any credible way to reduce the fuel consumed by air travel.

              Even scaling up 1930s LTA designs to the largest size that would fit in the three remaining US airship hangars (14.7 million cu. ft.) yields favorable fuel efficiency numbers: gross buoyancy of ~950,000 lbs., structural dead-weight of perhaps 300,000, fuel consumption of around 20,000 lbs. per thousand miles, and a top speed of ~100 mph.

              I've taken the Amtrak from Seattle to Minneapolis, and the generous luggage allowance and freedom from TSA nude-o-scopes was very nice. Doing it in half the time, without track noise, at an altitude that gives you a more interesting view than either a train or a jetliner, and on 2.5 gal. of fuel per passenger would be relatively painless as climate change mitigation proposals go, especially with lie-flat seats.

              The only alternatives that I've seen have involved high speed rail, and the bills of material for the two systems aren't close.

              I've often heard greens say that 'the deniers never offer solutions.' Bull. Not only was Lewis more serious than most of them, but nuclear power has been reducing atmospheric CO2 for half a century, much longer than solar of wind have been viable. If you accept the positive feedback loop in their models, then the associated CO2 reductions have a bigger impact per ton than their own tardy solutions.

              1. h4rm0ny

                Re: Lewis Page

                I couldn't have put any of that better myself. Great points. Airships and nuclear power are too of the technologies I would ardently love to see more of.

      3. Ian Michael Gumby Silver badge

        @AC Re: Ditch the American Crap Planes...

        Did the UK build a new aircraft carrier capable of launching an F/A-18?

        1. macjules Silver badge
          Coat

          Re: @AC Ditch the American Crap Planes...

          HMS Tony and HMS Cherie could probably be converted, but not sure about the electronic catapult requirement.

          On other points: hopefully the UK Link 16 network is not managed by either BT or Sky ..

        2. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: @AC Ditch the American Crap Planes...

          They were designed to be converted to run electric catapults - which have had teething problems but are already being incorporated into the newest US carrier. Unfortunately the usual graft and corruption inherent in defence created a budget overrun of a few extra billion, so we're lumbered with the F35B.

          The thing is a huge white elephant. We only bought it because, well, I'm not entirely sure, except possibly something to do with wanting fancy hovering jets again. They're no Harrier though. If we'd gone with conventional jets the carriers would have had much more flexibility and we could have afforded a full complement for both carriers, instead of essentially mothballing one of them the moment it's christened.

    3. Matt Bryant Silver badge
      Facepalm

      Re: NoneSuch. Re: Ditch the American Crap Planes...

      "....the latest BRAND NEW Harrier model...." There is no new development of the Harrier line. What you could have said is that we should just continue developing multi-role Typhoons, plus buy more of the UK Army's preferred ground-attack platform, the Apache.

    4. Tchou
      Trollface

      Re: Ditch the American Crap Planes...

      Part of the problem is making it fly combat mission, the other significant problem is the unique maintenance software that is a complete pile of failed crap.

      You Brits would be better off buying Dassault Rafale or even Mirage 2000-5 (modernized).

      Actually battle proven.

      Or the brand new Sukhoi 35, which is far from the US over-engineered, Java ridden, sad joke.

      To quote a US General : "This fighter can barely turn anyway. It can only deliver payload in clear skies."

      1. E 2

        Re: Ditch the American Crap Planes...

        The F35 runs Java? OMFG. I expected C++ at the least and C at best. Or is the code written buy new ugrads working in lowest-bid sweatshops? Can see it now: pilot launches missile, HUD scrolls 100+ lines of exception messages...

        1. macjules Silver badge

          Re: Ditch the American Crap Planes...

          Be very thankful: the original spec called for Flash.

      2. Peter Bennett

        Re: Ditch the American Crap Planes...

        Java? You're having a Van der Graaf ain't ya?

      3. Archtech Silver badge

        Re: Ditch the American Crap Planes...

        So basically the F-35 is a multi-role fighter that turns out to be capable of nothing but ground-attack. For which the A-10 is far superior. And if you want proper bombing, the B-52 still does a good job.

        The most hilarious part of the whole sorry mess is that so much effort has gone into making the F-35 "stealthy". Everything has been sacrificed to that. Pity about the gigantic flame-belching engine, which the simplest infra-red detector can see coming hundreds of miles away. And the simplest infra-red homing missile will have for lunch.

        1. Matt Bryant Silver badge
          Boffin

          Re: Archtech Re: Ditch the American Crap Planes...

          "So basically the F-35 is a multi-role fighter that turns out to be capable of nothing but ground-attack. For which the A-10 is far superior....." Well, yes and no. The Warthog, whilst truly excellent for close air support, isn't very good at interdiction or strategic strikes. You also have the inter-services rivalry problem that the soldiers like controlling the close air support, which is why the US and the UK bought Apache helicopters and gave them to the soldiers and not the flyboys. One trick the F-35B can do that the A-10 can't is act as a supersonic interceptor. For a lot of the air defence tasks in Europe and the US, the threat is still Russian bombers, and the F-35B has the range and carries all the right AAM in numbers to allow it to be a useful secondary interceptor, especially given the way it can integrate datastreams with other aircraft and air defence systems. An F-35B could do a reasonable job standing in for an RAF Typhoon intercepting Russian bombers probing the UK defences, but an A-10 couldn't. Then, consider that a cheaper Predator drone can do a lot of what a Warthog can do (minus the big cannon) without putting a pilot in harms way, and you can then see why the A-10 is going the way of the dodo.

          "....And if you want proper bombing, the B-52 does a good job...." Certainly, but it needs a massive amount of support to do so. Ignoring the fact the existing B-52 fleet is very old, your B-52 can't wander alone into contested airspace at low level, it needs to go in high, with lots of fighter cover and EW support. The reason the UK, like the other European nations, doesn't have a big bomber fleet is we can't afford one, and we definitely can't afford the additional large number of support aircraft a fleet of B-52s would need to be successful. So we need aircraft that can sneak in at lower levels, such as Tornado, drop a few bombs on those strategic targets, and scarper. According to the marketing, even the F-35B should be able to do that much better than the B-52, using stealth and small size to avoid detection.

          ".....Pity about the gigantic flame-belching engine, which the simplest infra-red detector can see coming hundreds of miles away....." Er, no. Firstly, head-on the biggest amount of IR comes from air friction, which is actually much greater on an aircraft going supersonic. Secondly, you need line-of-sight to detect IR, so a subsonic jet following a nap-of-the-Earth approach (which is what bomb-laden RAF F-35Bs are likely to be doing) will not be easy to spot with IR detectors. Add in stand-off missiles and an RAF F-35B has a good chance of successfully hitting a target before it is detected.

          One of the indicators that the F-35 won't be completely useless is that Israel has recently added a second order for them, though the Israeli plans for their use is thought to be more for stealthy interdiction and strategic strikes rather than air defence.

      4. Matt Bryant Silver badge
        FAIL

        Re: Tchou Re: Ditch the American Crap Planes...

        "....Dassault....." The Typhoon already does far more far better than any of the Dassault products, and it also battle proven. It also doesn't come with the massive issue of being tied to the whims of the French unions. And none of the Dassault jets can hover, which is kinda key to the RN requirement - duh!

        "....Sukhoi 35....." "New"???? It's a hideously old design, completely outclassed in air-to-air combat by Typhoon and likely to be by the F-35 seeing as the CIA stole the plans for the Russian radar systems years ago. It also has no stealth capability, no VTOL, is unreliable, has zero stealth and doesn't work with the NATO missiles it would need to carry. Seriously, read some background material before posting such tosh.

  3. Stevie Silver badge

    Bah!

    9 km? Is that half a mile in the original spec?

    1. Argh

      Re: Bah!

      Probably 5 miles rounded up?

      Also 33 km would be 20 miles rounded up.

  4. TRT Silver badge

    33km ban...

    on optic devices? So not near the pub, then?

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Pint

      Re: 33km ban...

      :o)

  5. Pascal Monett Silver badge
    Trollface

    In other news . . .

    US restrictions on the F-35 fighter jet's flight authorization process will make it “almost impossible” for any country to launch them without per-flight White House approval.

    But keep paying monthly to maintain hope.

    1. 8Ace

      More subscription models..

      F-35 or Fighter365 ?? Also be interested to know what info the US can harvest from the aircraft's systems once they are (if they ever are) in service with the other nations

      1. Fruit and Nutcase Silver badge
        Joke

        Re: More subscription models..

        @ 8Ace

        Also be interested to know what info the US can harvest from the aircraft's systems once they are (if they ever are) in service with the other nations

        "Windows for Warbirds", based on Windows 10?

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