back to article Uncle Sam tells F-35B allies they'll have to fly the things a lot more if they want to help out around South China Sea

British F-35Bs deploying to the South China Sea next year may not meet key reliability metrics set by an American government watchdog, its annual report has revealed. The US Department of Defense's Director of Operational Test and Evaluation (DOTE) warned that the multinational F-35B fighter jet fleet is lagging behind a key …

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  1. }{amis}{
    Black Helicopters

    !!!

    So far the B fleet is unable to meet its target of flying for 12 hours or more between critical failures.

    The target (That it cant meet) is the equivalent to ~10 sorties please tell me this is not normal for a combat jet!

    1. Imhotep

      Re: !!!

      It turns out that the gun fitted to the Air Force version can't hit what it's aimed at.

      Perhaps our new strategy should be to sell this to anyone but our allies, and restart the F16 line - or the proposed modification to the F22 that seems to ouperform both the F35 and F22.

      1. tony72

        Re: !!!

        It turns out that the gun fitted to the Air Force version can't hit what it's aimed at.

        Instead of Lightning, the MOD is considering renaming it the F-35 Stormtrooper.

        1. Sanguma Bronze badge

          the F-35 Stormtrooper?

          Don't you mean, the F-35 Colonel Mustard?

        2. Wzrd1

          Re: !!!

          Instead of Lightning, the MOD is considering renaming it the F-35 Stormtrooper.

          Nah, the upgraded name will be "Hangar Queen".

          Aka: Designated Parts List.

      2. RuffianXion

        Re: !!!

        What the actual what the actual fck? (I didn't mis-type that). I'm speechless. Zillions of dollars spent and it can't do what the F-86 could do?

        1. Sandtitz Silver badge

          Re: !!!

          Sopwith Camel could do this as well...

          Here in Finland the Ministry of Defence is pondering replacements for the ageing F/A-18 Hornets. They're testing Rafale, EF, Super Hornet, Saab Gripen and of course, F-35A. I'm pretty sure the powers that be have already selected F-35 but they're just putting on this charade to explaing why we bought the most expensive craft available.

          The fighter just needs to be good enough to deter Russia anyone from attacking, nothing more.

          1. Lars
            Pint

            Re: !!!

            @Sandtitz

            Mikä tahansa muu kelpaisi.

          2. macjules Silver badge

            Re: !!!

            Not sure if you have to worry about Russia. I think they are still licking their wounds from the last time they tried to attack Finland.

          3. EnviableOne Silver badge

            Re: !!!

            Super Rafael FTW, either that or the Indian Tejas or their AMCA

            The UK should have stuck with the project that came out with the Super Rafale

            1. EvilDrSmith

              Re: !!!

              Well, assuming you mean the Dassault Rafale, it could reasonably be argued that we did.

              The original Eurofighter program include France as well as the UK, Germany, Spain and Italy.

              France wasn't happy with aspects of the program (not least of which being that they were not program leads, if most reports are to be believed), so left and developed the Rafale.

              So the project that came out with the Rafale started off as the same project as that which came up with Typhoon (Eurofighter), and the UK stuck with it (and now operates Typhoon).

              And Typhoon is really rather good.

              1. Lars
                Happy

                Re: !!!

                "France wasn't happy with aspects of the program (not least of which being that they were not program leads, if most reports "in English" are to be believed).

                Or the French got fed up with the British insisting of being the program leads.

                eeny meeny miny moe

              2. ciaran

                Re: !!!

                Dassaut were producing "delta wing" fighter jets since a long time. The company building Typhoon was created from scratch. Typhoon and Rafale have a similar "delta canard" design. Which final design is probably the best?

                Have you noticed any design faults on the Typhoon?

                First the canards are so far forward that the pilot's view of the ground is blocked. OK for air-to-air, which was the Typhoon's original target.

                Then the wheels fold up laterally into the wings, making it more difficult to put extra tanks and heavy weapons close to the centerline - on the Typhoon they're all mounted wayyy forward. The wheels on the Rafale fold up longitudinally.

                The great one is how the Typhoon sales people have always criticized the Rafale for being designed to do everything from the beginning, whereas the Typhoon was specialized for air-to-air. But now they've stopped saying that because they're trying to compete as a multirole fighter

                1. EvilDrSmith

                  Re: !!!

                  Nope, I've not noticed any design faults on Typhoon.

                  There are design compromises, but they are not the same thing. One you missed by the way is that the Tornado RAPTOR reconnaissance pod apparently doesn't fit, so Typhoon could not seamlessly take over the recce role from Tornado.

                  Typhoon was designed to be exceptionally agile, and particularly effective in the air to air role (both within visual range and beyond visual range), but was always intended to have a full air to ground capability: In the RAFs case, the priority was to get a replacement for the Phantoms and Tornado F3s in the air to air role, both of which were considered to be inadequate in the 1980s. However, Typhoon was also designed to replace the Jaguar (finally retired from the RAF in 2007, and that was due to budget cuts, not because it was considered to be obsolete and no longer fit for service).

                  With Rafale, the French has specific requirements including that it should be carrier capable. That design requirement meant that it too had design compromises. The UK, Germany, Italy and Spain were not interested in carrier capability (perhaps with hindsight an error on the UK's part, although the FAA seem very convinced that they want VSTOL on the carriers, not Cat-launcher aircraft). The French also had requirements for the weapons fit on the Rafale (including that it could deploy their air-launcher nuclear weapons -more design compromises.

                  The Rafale is a very good aeroplane. I would certainly rate it as far better than the F/A 18. Had the UK chosen to go with conventional take off carrier aircraft, Rafale would have been a good choice.

                  But for what the RAF wanted and are using the Typhoon for, the Typhoon is better - for the really quite straightforward reason that the Typhoon was designed to do what the RAF wanted, and Rafale was designed to do what the French navy and airforce wanted.

                  1. ciaran

                    Re: !!!

                    Yea, I do agree, that's my upvote. Lets say "unfortunate" design choices and split the difference. I do think the Rafale is more polished, benefiting from the deep experience and single-mindedness of Dassault (at least at the time).

      3. ibmalone Silver badge

        Re: !!!

        I may be wrong, but I don't think the F-35 was ever meant to be higher performance than the F-22, just cheaper and possibly more versatile, with the option to export.

        1. Imhotep

          Re: !!!

          After reading the history of this project, I was taken aback to find out it WAS supposed to be a cheaper, lower tier fighter. I find comfort in their getting the lower tier part right.

          1. EvilDrSmith

            Re: !!!

            The F22 / F35 pairing is often compared to the F15/F16 pairing, though I think both the F15 and F16 started off as dedicated interceptors, with the air to ground capability added, whereas, while the F22 was also supposed to be air-to-air only, the F35 was always intended to be dual role (air-to-air and air-to-ground). As such, I believe it was supposed to be less capable in air-to-air than the F22, but also to be cheaper, since it was anticipated to be the new F16 'NATO-standard' fighter.

            Plus, the Americans refused to export the F22 to anyone.

            Of course, the F22 super fighter that was designed to be solely an interceptor has since been modified to drop bombs, because clearly, erm, something.

            After all, the USAF doesn't have enough F15s and F16s to drop bombs on AK-toting insurgents riding around in Toyotas.

    2. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

      Re: !!!

      "The target (That it cant meet) is the equivalent to ~10 sorties please tell me this is not normal for a combat jet!"

      Wasn't the ME 262 also limited to about 12 hours flying time before critical failure, ie it needed new engines. We've come so far since then.

    3. SkippyBing Silver badge

      Re: !!!

      That is almost entirely normal for modern combat aircraft. You've got lots of cutting edge systems that are essentially artisan due to the quantities produced. If you think that's bad jets in the 50s/60s such as the Supermarine Scimitar allegedly* needed 1000 man hours of maintenance per flying hour.

      *I've read this a lot but I have yet to find a definitive reference. Even so they needed a lot of work to keep them flying.

      1. phuzz Silver badge
        Thumb Up

        Re: !!!

        I've seen numbers of the English Electric Lightning putting it at over 100hrs of maintenance for one hour of flight (for example, the tires had to be replaced after ten landings, often less).

        Aircraft have got more complex over the years, because they are more capable*. More complexity means more hours of maintenance.

        *(eg, the F-35B can carry about three times the bomb load of a B-17, and drop it about 100 times more accurately).

        1. SkippyBing Silver badge

          Re: !!!

          Yes, the Lightning's wheels were very narrow to fit in the wings, consequently the tyres were run at quite high pressure. Hence they only last ten landings or so, which considering the shocking endurance of English Electric's finest can't have taken long.

          1. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

            Re: !!!

            To be fair the Lightning (me262) wasn't intended to last that long

            One last ditch mission to try and take out a few of the Russian (Allied) bombers before they dropped their bombs on Blighty(Fatherland)

            The F35 is never going to go into combat against any modern airforce, it's far to expensive to risk, its job is to fly around for 20-30 years generating support contracts

            1. Robert Grant Silver badge

              Re: !!!

              The F35 is never going to go into combat against any modern airforce

              That sounds like the best outcome.

              1. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

                Re: !!!

                >That sounds like the best outcome.

                For the people selling the plane perhaps.

                For the poor squaddies getting killed because they have no helicopters, transport or close air support because fighters are waycooler and the budget has been spent

              2. 's water music Silver badge

                Re: !!!

                >>The F35 is never going to go into combat against any modern airforce

                That sounds like the best outcome.

                It might be if it were not also available for weddings and (not) bar mitsvahs

            2. EVP Bronze badge

              Re: !!!

              “expensive to risk, its job is to fly around for 20-30 years generating support contracts“

              I’m afraid you’re right. Buy hey, if everybody had them, it would end all wars. “F-35 - Good for peace, good for GNP!” (from L-M marketing slides).

              Bad jokes aside, superior* weapons are always bad for peace. ~Zero risk to take out inferior enemy troops, guess what does to the threshold to initiate a war?

              *When latest Service Pack has been installed and license keys have been paid for.

              1. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

                Re: !!!

                >superior* weapons are always bad for peace

                Not necessarily, eventually you get weapons that are too valuable to risk.

                In WWI that was the Royal Navy, now it is a carrier battle group or anything in the air force built after 1970

                1. CrazyOldCatMan Silver badge

                  Re: !!!

                  get weapons that are too valuable to risk

                  Which is exactly what happened in the Dreadnaught era - which is why there was only one (inconclusive) naval battle during WW1 since the ships were simply too expensive to risk.

                  And people wonder why repeat our mistakes - because those in power refuse to learn from history.

            3. Legionary13

              Re: !!!

              The F-35 was designed to transfer money from the US (and foreign) governments to Lockheed Martin and it is doing that very well.

              The secondary task - being a viable military aircraft - is rather harder especially as it is crippled by stealth technology which several Russian radar systems can circumvent. That's not going to stop the really important payment of bonuses to the LM execs. Tough on the aircrew and those they support.

              1. Arthur Daily

                Re: !!!

                The stealth technology is BS. 1/4 wavelength means any UHF radar will see it easy. So the only stealth is angled panels that reflect radar, as long as the frequency is not too low. The Russians do have sets that operate over a wide range, as do the Chinese. Think SS400. Plus if their 5G gets in, there will be an app to detect aircraft - if its not raining.

                The Americans assume a saturation cruise missile strike will defang such nasty missile sites so it is safe for the F35 to fly in. Oh wait, the Israelis had some faster jets shot down or shredded, so old assumptions are very suspect. After 2-10 minutes on afterburners, mission survival for the F35 with bays open to vent heat, will be hot targets indeed.

            4. John Smith 19 Gold badge
              Unhappy

              "its job is to fly around for 20-30 years generating support contracts"

              Never read about flying boondoggle without hearing the voice of actor Ronny Cox

              Jones: I had guaranteed orders. Upgrade programmes. Who cared if it didn't work?

          2. Booty003

            Re: !!!

            I've just built the 1/48 kit of this. Lovely it is too....!!!

      2. Sorry that handle is already taken. Silver badge

        Re: !!!

        In the mid-90s, I used to play a combat flight sim called "US Navy Fighters". You had a selection of the US Navy's contemporary carrier-capable combat aircraft available for each mission. After every mission, you had an allocation of man-hours that you could use to repair or maintain your fleet. Obviously, taking damage during combat quickly put you behind the eight ball maintenance-wise, which is how the game placed an emphasis on Not Getting Hit!

        Fortunately, there was also an unlimited number of A-7s available to you as a fallback, for when your F-14s, F/A-18s etc. were all too worn out or damaged to fly. They were the equivalent of the forfeit car in a Top Gear challenge, but at least you could "expend" them with impunity.

        So what the RN needs is an unlimited supply of A-7s.

      3. Wzrd1

        Re: !!!

        If you think that's bad jets in the 50s/60s such as...

        Please do note, that was 5x - 70 years ago.

        As in, I was born in 1961, I don't need maintenance after 12 hours of work. Oddly, neither did the B-52 or F-105, both of which are 1950's aircraft. Nor did the F-16, FA-18, F-15 and oddly, the F-22.

        1. phuzz Silver badge

          Re: !!!

          All of those aircraft (indeed, all aircraft) require maintenance after flight, even if it's just a quick checkup.

          Numbers on military aircraft are hard to find, but for the B-52 I found a source from 1957 saying that after 25 flight hours (or three flights), it requires a post-flight check, which takes 12-15 man-hours, not including the pre-flight checkup. I suspect BUFFs take a bit more looking after these days now that they're all fifty years old or more.

          1. Pen-y-gors Silver badge

            Re: !!!

            Of course they need maintenance. But there's a difference between a check-up, new tyres and spark plugs, and a wipe-down with an oily rag, and a 'critical failure' in less than 12 hours.

            1. CrazyOldCatMan Silver badge

              Re: !!!

              critical failure

              Out of interst, what do they define as 'critical failure'? Wings falling off? Computers not powering up? Cockpit drinks holder not extending?

        2. CrazyOldCatMan Silver badge

          Re: !!!

          I was born in 1961, I don't need maintenance after 12 hours of work

          Speak for yourself.. I'm 4 years younger and I certainly do!

    4. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: !!!

      Now we know what the B stands for in F-35B

      Beta release.

      1. Legionary13

        Re: !!!

        It's in homage to the Golgafrinchan B Ark.

    5. Beachrider

      Re: !!!

      I don't think that ANY of the other VTOLs (which F-35B is) have high MTTF. F-35B maintenance procedures ARE evolving to improve MTTF, though.

    6. Arthur Daily

      British Leyland is in charge of F-35B production line

      British Leyland (USA) said to work for 10 hours is a miracle, beating the expecting one sortie and one full overhaul target by spades. Like our cars, each plane is a precision master crafted pride of the factory.

  2. DufferAlert

    Cargo cult Agile

    Multiple MVPs? 6 months release cycle?

    1. Oh Matron!

      Re: Cargo cult Agile

      Agile release trains, with wings

      1. Headley_Grange Silver badge

        Re: Cargo cult Agile

        One wing at a time would be more agile.

  3. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Harrier

    “The F-35B continues to be the only modern fighter jet capable of operating from Britain's two new aircraft carriers”

    What about the Harrier?

    Oh, sold those!

    1. vtcodger Silver badge

      Re: Harrier

      Maybe the Chinese can sell you folks an aircraft carrier. If they can conjure up a hospital in ten days, slapping together a warship in six months or so should be no big problem. Or maybe HMAS Melbourne is still around stashed in some obscure inlet disguised as a shrimp farm. It had an excellent record for sinking destroyers. True, they were friendly destroyers, but that's more sinkings than most modern aircraft carriers can claim.

      1. Mike 16 Silver badge

        Re: Harrier

        ---

        Chinese can sell you folks an aircraft carrier.

        ---

        Just make sure you strip out all the Huawei comms gear, or U.S. won't let you have (well, _buy_) those F35s.

        Hmmmm, might be just the strategy.

        1. vtcodger Silver badge

          Re: Harrier

          The Chinese might throw in a few J-15s which the Russians claim are illegal knockoffs of their Su-33 carrier based fighter. Your pilots and maintenance folk can read the Chinese manuals, right?

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