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 …

  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
                  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?

  6. Joefish
    Joke

    Does this mean they have to shout "Behind you!"

    and wait for the enemy to look the other way before they can target them?

    1. Toltec

      Re: Does this mean they have to shout "Behind you!"

      What about persons with hearing loss or wearing iPods, plus there is the number of languages that the announcement would need to be made in.

      Clearly they will need to issue laser safety glasses to anyone within range, these should be to prescription if required and full training in their use given. Deployment of the aircraft will require a 60 day notice with letters sent to all households as well as adverts on TV and in the press. A team of carers should conduct house to military target calls to ensure everyone has their safety glasses and knows how to deploy them. Special cot or pushchair screens may need to be provided and notices at travel terminals and road connections should be erected for the safety of any visitors to the area.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Does this mean they have to shout "Behind you!"

        Clearly they will need to issue laser safety glasses to anyone within range, these should be to prescription if required and full training in their use given.

        With lasers, a basic mirror (or mirrored lenses) might be enough. Does that mean the US is now going to add mirrors to the list of stuff that is export restricted?

    2. Tony Haines

      Re: Does this mean they have to shout "Behind you!"

      It's a Heisensor; it only works if noone is looking.

    3. swarfega

      Re: Does this mean they have to shout "Behind you!"

      Surely a quick shout of "squirrel" would do the job.

  7. JeffyPoooh Silver badge
    Pint

    Wait until you see the next generation fighter...

    It will cost $240 Trillion each, and thus there will only be one.

    It'll be capable of shooting down up to 255 enemy aircraft at once. Which will lead directly to the following exchange...

    "Incoming enemy aircraft! Scramble the F-240T !!!"

    "How many enemy aircraft are inbound ?"

    "Two Hundred and Fifty... ..Six."

    1. lglethal Silver badge
      Mushroom

      Re: Wait until you see the next generation fighter...

      The next gen fighter jet wont have a meat sack inside, so it will be significantly cheaper, faster, and better.

      Until Skynet takes over of course and then we're all screwed but at least we'll have saved some money...

      1. Mike Richards Silver badge

        Re: Wait until you see the next generation fighter...

        'The next gen fighter jet wont have a meat sack inside, so it will be significantly cheaper, faster, and better.'

        Cheaper? Oh dear, in that case you're not doing it right.

        1. Richard 81

          Re: Wait until you see the next generation fighter...

          Yeah, you're never going to get a government contract with that attitude.

          1. Richard 12 Silver badge

            Half the per-unit price

            Need to buy four times as many

          2. veti Silver badge

            Re: Wait until you see the next generation fighter...

            You're missing the point. If you make it "cheaper", then you get less money. By definition.

            Whose interest is that in? Certainly not yours. Nor yet the armed services procurement people, because their boilerplate funding proposal says "Whatever It Takes" - and the more they spend, the more important they are. Only the poor old taxpayer would gain, and they are so distracted by every other issue you can imagine that the chances of their vote being swayed by this issue are infinitesimal.

      2. h4rm0ny

        Re: Wait until you see the next generation fighter...

        >>"The next gen fighter jet wont have a meat sack inside, so it will be significantly cheaper, faster, and better."

        I agree it's now time to replace pilots in military aircraft, but I don't think it will be cheaper. I mean pilots are certainly expensive but as a part of the TCO (R&D, manufacture, maintenance, profit margin), they're a small part. Where automation will make a difference is the willingness of our politicians to engage in war against non-equal parties given the reduced political fallout from lesser risk of bodybags returning home to be photographed by the media. But reduced cost...? Not unless a war with an equivalent power forces the government to lower profits for the manufacturing companies.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Wait until you see the next generation fighter...

          Where automation will make a difference is the willingness of our politicians to engage in war against non-equal parties given the reduced political fallout from lesser risk of bodybags returning home to be photographed by the media

          .. as already demonstrated by the daily US drone sorties. Personally I think countries doing this should at least have the decency to formally bury those they kill, and provide open records on why they thought the target was worth killing, and how much collateral damage there was many innocents were killed in the process (let's avoid political weasel words).

      3. JLV Silver badge

        Re: Wait until you see the next generation fighter...

        The Their next gen fighter jet wont have a meat sack inside

        Corrected for you.

    2. E 2

      Re: Wait until you see the next generation fighter...

      A sixteen bit avionics upgrade pack will be available for an additional $240 Trillion.

  8. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    thought we've already paid our war debt off...thought we didn't have to buy any more yank shite?

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      I think the general('s) plan was that we'd buy yank shite until all alternatives were completely destroyed... and then have no choice but to go on doing the same.

      Seems to have all gone to plan.

  9. Joefish
    Trollface

    Of course, the F-35Bs delivered so far have been for the RAF, not the Navy

    So are not yet cleared for seaboard operations. And then there's the way the US defines 'seaboard' as within 200 miles of the sea. And then there's the fact that it's impossible to get 200 miles from the sea in the UK. Don't worry, I'm sure someone's planned it all out. The Merlin worked out perfectly, after all...

  10. Tony S

    You couldn't make it up

    There was a really great film made some years ago, with Cary Elwes and Kelsey Grammer. The Pentagon Wars https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iDYpRhoZqBY - if you've not seen it, take the time to watch. But get ready for the WTF moments. (The way KG tries to hide how much money they've spent and how long they took, without a single functioning device.)

    Based on real events, it shows just how crazy the whole procurement system has become. What's quite sad is that all of the officers involved were promoted, apart from the one who blew the whistle; and he was dismissed the service.

    1. CanadianMacFan

      Re: You couldn't make it up

      If you want a crazy procurement system then take a look at Canada. Billions of dollars and a few years in and we have yet to start to cut steel on our new ships. We've badly needed to replace our fighter jets for a long time and we just put our 2nd or 3rd RFP for replacements. Etc, etc, etc.

  11. Tikimon Silver badge
    WTF?

    The world's first IOT aircraft? Predictable results?

    Am I the first to notice this debacle of an airplane is an Internet Of (broken) Things device? Think about it... it gets updates from the Mothership, shares all the data it collects with same, automatically orders supplies, has gaping security holes, and doesn't perform its intended functions well. Sounds like classic IOT to me. Therefore, it's behaving exactly as I would expect.

    I'll be off now to reminisce about the days when my fair country made amazing and capable warplanes. Guess we had our run...

    1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

      Re: The world's first IOT aircraft? Predictable results?

      ...and controlled by a central, remote, server.

      Lives may be at steak if the server goes down

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Childcatcher

        Re: The world's first IOT aircraft? Predictable results?

        Lives at steak, Rib-eye maybe?

    2. macjules Silver badge

      Re: The world's first IOT aircraft? Predictable results?

      Rather suspect it might more like the world's most expensive TITSUP.

  12. Uberseehandel

    Beat Up

    Is El Reg sourcing stories from Sputnik?

    MOD fears ??????

  13. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Tornado radar ...

    Why have I just remembered being told that the "ground hugging radar" fitted to Tornadoes in the 80s/90s (and one of the reasons the US was so keen to have the UK on board for Gulf War I, as they didn't have that capability) was actually a lump of concrete, and any "gee-whizz" low flying was actually down to the pilot ?

    1. SkippyBing Silver badge

      Re: Tornado radar ...

      Because someone was obviously confusing the two different types of Tornado. The air defence variant was initially delivered with concrete ballast rather than radars, the interdiction/strike version had a fully working terrain following radar, it's just the pilots could manually fly lower than the radar. Assuming they could see out the window.

      1. LeeE Silver badge

        Re: Tornado radar ...

        The Blue Circle radar was originally developed for the Blackburn Buccaneer and subsequently deployed in development Sea Harriers before being fitted to the development Tornado ADVs.

        1. Johndoe888

          Re: Tornado radar ...

          The Eurofighter was nearly fitted with a Blue Circle gun.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Tornado radar ...

      According to Rumour, the USAF Pilots would not fly a zero altitude. The old 'war games' between the US and the UK were canned when the US called foul at the RAF flying so close to the ground in thei Buccaneers that they left a sandstorm behind them which clogged up vital bits of kit on the yank planes. One RN pilot I ran into during Sea Harrier trials said that he'd flown through the top of a wave more than once in a Buccaneer.

      That was the whole idea. Fly in low under the Radar, drop your load and hightail it out again.

      1. MrT

        Red Flag...

        ... Nellis AFB commander reportedly had a photo of a large curved trench in the desert floor, taken after one of the contests in which the RAF took part. When asked, he said it was left by the wingtip of a Vulcan as it manoeuvred at extreme low level. Another Vulcan landed with cable fouling the tail, snagged as the plane flew under power or telegraph lines - at the time it the snagging, the plane was going up. A further example of the RAF pilots' flying skills was when one Vulcan flew in as a cover for two Buccaneers (Operation Skyshield IIRC, simulated attacks against the US eastern seaboard) - one radar blip became three as the two smaller planes broke cover from under the Vulcan's shadow. The way the RAF flew their 4-engined plane when it first attended the contest was such that one US pilot commented that he liked the new fighter jet, but he thought it a bit big, not realising that it could haul 21,000 lbs of bombs.

    3. macjules Silver badge

      Re: Tornado radar ...

      It was known as 'Blue Circle', being a well-known cement manufacturer at the time. The initial batch of Tornado F2 ADV variants had to use a bag of cement in the nosecone because the Foxhunter radar had not been delivered.

  14. Mike Richards Silver badge

    'Finmeccanica (which recently, and completely incomprehensibly, rebranded itself as “Leonardo”'

    Clearly a defence contractor who was inspired by an artist famous for getting very large amounts of money and never finishing the job.

    1. Rich 11 Silver badge

      Leonardo - not incomprehensible, but an inspiration

      https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Architonnerre

      Hopefully, though, the Italian boffins are thinking up something a bit more 21st century, though still ground-breaking.

  15. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Read between the lines

    Basically the Yanks don't want anyone "snooping" the laser targeting system to figure out how it can be defeated. Given the American history of blue on blue accidents there's a good chance that they have figured out how to communicate from the "target" to the aircraft with the new system to stop the flyboys killing our forces in the future.

    F35 laser paints the target, target says "Friend" - laser moves on to next target.

    1. LeeE Silver badge

      Re: Read between the lines

      I was thinking the same thing; rather than safety considerations, the usage restrictions may be due to the lasers using some trick modulation for some of its functionality and the US are trying to maintain some secrecy about it.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Read between the lines

      there's a good chance that they have figured out how to communicate from the "target" to the aircraft with the new system to stop the flyboys killing our forces in the future.

      F35 laser paints the target, target says "Friend" - laser moves on to next target.

      That's assuming the system prevents the idiot americans from actually firing anyway.

      1. PNGuinn Silver badge
        Pirate

        Re: Read between the lines

        "F35 laser paints the target, target says "Friend" - Computer says KILL."

        Or in the case of the Internet of Warfare Things - someone else's computer says "KILL"

        It's all to do with security see - we can't have the enemy shooting up our /sorry, your /forces.

        We MUST shoot first.

    3. Joefish
      Joke

      Re: Read between the lines

      Apparently the British variant reports:

      "Unexpected ally in the bombing area. Please wait for assistance".

      (In further developments, the Chinese have just discovered that it can be defeated by a barcode declaring yourself to be a medium sliced white loaf).

    4. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Read between the lines

      "Basically the Yanks don't want anyone "snooping" the laser targeting system to figure out how it can be defeated. "

      And given how the UK is riddled with foreign agents, you'd want to be doing tests in secure areas. The secure areas will probably still be compromised with foreign agents and monitoring equipment, but it is at little easier for the cops to prove it. They are the same cops that let a Russian asylum seeker get assassinated in 2006, so the US and most of NATO doesn't expect too much from UK security forces. I'm surprised the US even installed EOTS on the UK F35s, as there is no way the UK could protect the technology.

      1. Tom Malcolmson

        Re: Read between the lines

        Given that it was designed and manufactured in Edinburgh you have to assume that the UK protected the technology.

        Idiot.

        1. x 7 Silver badge

          Re: Read between the lines

          The laser was designed in the UK, the targetting system is American, and the special material which signals in response to the laser is very much American

    5. x 7 Silver badge

      Re: Read between the lines

      "F35 laser paints the target, target says "Friend" - laser moves on to next target."

      Yanks have had that technology for over 20 years, though I don't know if it was ever out into use, For obvious reasons I'm not saying how, though I expect the technology has moved on since I was made aware in the 1990's

  16. G R Goslin

    500lb?

    A 500lb bomb for a tank? Rather an overkill, surely?

    1. Rich 11 Silver badge

      Re: 500lb?

      They're Americans.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Holmes

        Re: 500lb?

        > They're Americans.

        Quite.

        Presumably about 50lbs of shell and explosive, and 450lbs of $100 banknotes

        1. harmjschoonhoven

          Re: 500lb?

          Presumably about 50lbs of shell and explosive, and 450lbs of false $100 banknotes

          FTFY

    2. jason 7

      Re: 500lb?

      I remember around 17lbs of metal slug was all it took to take out a Tiger tank in WW2.

      I wouldn't have thought Chobham armor required quite that, almost exponential, increase.

    3. NotBob

      Re: 500lb?

      There is no overkill, only open fire and reloading

  17. Spudley

    <quote>According to the Defence Ranges Safety Committee, the F-35 has only been cleared to use the designator laser “in the US under very tight controls”.</quote>

    Blue Leader: Bogie has flown out of our airspace. Should I pursue?

    Base: Uh, negative Blue Leader, you'll have to let him go; you'd get sued for export violations if you cross the border.

  18. JJKing

    F35 laser paints the target, target says "Friend" - laser moves on to next target.

    Let's hope the programmers spell "Friend" correctly. EVERYBODY will need to duck if they mistakenly don't include the essential letter r.

  19. JaitcH
    FAIL

    F35? Oh, the Dud from Lockheed Martin Aeronautics: over budget, late delivery, under performing

    This is most likely a Pentagon ploy to keep politicians critical of the whole scheme from getting to know the truth.

    This aircraft barely meets specifications ... so they re-write the specifications!

    Did they fix the pilots flying suit problems yet? Or the helmet? (F-35 helmet costs ISD$400,000 - 4 times that of predecessor) How about pilots under 136 pounds aren't allowed to fly any F-35 variant because they may die?

    Another 'design by committee' that fails.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: F35? Oh, the Dud from Lockheed Martin Aeronautics: over budget, late delivery, under performing

      You are Pierre Spray and I claim my £5

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: F35? Oh, the Dud from Lockheed Martin Aeronautics: over budget, late delivery, under performing

        "Sprey"

        Unless you were making some point about Mr Spray and his Jets, perhaps he designed Jacuzzis or shower hoses later? :D

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: F35? Oh, the Dud from Lockheed Martin Aeronautics: over budget, late delivery, under performing

          I blame my tablets spellchucker

    2. Pascal Monett Silver badge
      Coat

      Re: ISD$400,000

      Wow, a helmet costing four hundred thousand Imperial Star Destroyer dollars.

      That's what you call a sky-high bill !

    3. Matt Bryant Silver badge
      Stop

      Re: JaitcH Re: F35? Oh, the Dud from Lockheed Martin.....

      "....Another 'design by committee' that fails." LOL, you know it's bad when JaitcH can hyperventilate through the standard anti-Yank boilerplate! Firstly, the F-35 hasn't "failed", though it is taking a a lot longer to develop than expected. On the other hand, the majority of combat jets come in over-budget and after delays, and the F-35 has the added complexity of actually being three requirements in one project.

      If we compare it to the aircraft it's replacing most, the F-16, then it's hardly surprising there have been delays. The original F-16 was supposed to be a cheap dogfighter backup to the F-15 interceptor, but over four decades and a lot of money spent it has evolved into an expensive and multi-role aircraft. The F-35 is effectively doing the same journey in a lot less time, plus bolting in a lot of new technology and environments (stealth, naval catapult launch and retrieval, VTOL, helmet-mounted displays) that the F-16 designers never had to worry about. You could argue that it was silly of the designers to try the F-35 project as one big project, but to declare it a failure outright is very premature.

  20. Simon Harris Silver badge

    WW2 Paint-job.

    I trust that planes equipped in such a way will be painted in the WW2 tradition, open mouthed with big pointy teeth under the nose.

    At least then they'll look like sharks with frikkin' lasers.

  21. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    What happened to the Euro Fighter?

    Now that we've Brexited can we still use em. or does Germany want them back?

  22. Antron Argaiv Silver badge
    Happy

    On the "bright" side...

    ...we may have found a solution to the problem of those idiots who point lasers at aircraft.

  23. allthecoolshortnamesweretaken Silver badge

    Oh, this just keeps getting better and better...

  24. laurence brothers

    Geez, if that was the only problem it would be in fine shape for a project that's 10 times as expensive as it should be.

    But 2 out of 3 planes are sidelined at any moment, and at present they are forbidden from flying in the rain.... So I'm afraid a 24-plane F-35 order won't even fill out a single operational squadron, and you'd better hope the enemy agrees to fight only on sunny days.

  25. /dev/null

    "Selex ES, a wholly-owned subsidiary of Finmeccanica..."

    Actually, Selex ES is no more - all Finmeccanica subsidiaries (such as AgustaWestland and Alenia Aermacchi) were folded back into the parent company, shortly before it renamed itself after the chap from Vinci.

  26. Magani
    Facepalm

    There's a simpler explanation.

    "These include a ban on any optic devices being within 33km of the aircraft when the designator is switched on, and no observers being allowed within 9km of an F-35 operating its designator laser."

    They don't want anyone watching while they're hunting Pokemons with the HUD.

    1. Jellied Eel Silver badge

      Re: There's a marketing explanation.

      "The F-35 offers an unprecedented and revolutionary level of stealth characteristics to vastly redue it's probability of detection, with state of the art measures to reduce optical detection from a ground breaking 33km, and can remain undetectable by observers at ranges of up to 9km in attack mode."

      It's just another way of ensuring that all targets can be prosecuted, especially if they take pictures of an F-35 in action. Given that's likely to be quite an exclusive snap for a number of years, the US is simply protecting it's image rights.

  27. -tim

    Is using the laser against the law?

    21 CFR 1040 is the chunk of legislation that covers laser use in the USA and it applies to the Department of Defense. Somehow I don't think they are using weak class IIIa laser for their targeting system. Optical devices might be bureaucratic speak for telescopes or binoculars.

  28. Dangermouse 1
    FAIL

    Finnmeccanica rebranded as Leonardo - but their corporate website is leonardocompany.com. Which says to me that no one thought to check the domain name was available before spending a few million on rebranding...

  29. This post has been deleted by its author

  30. paulc
    WTF?

    So it's not 'eyesafe' then?

    n/t

  31. PassiveSmoking

    We can't let you use this system yet...

    ... because the fact that we've sold you yet another overpriced lemon is "classified".

    God I hate this plane and the money grubbing fools behind it.

  32. amanfromMars 1 Silver badge

    When the Military Option is a Too Big to Sell and Failed Boondoggle ...... ‽ .

    And whenever the objective to target is an invisible and intangible moving subject with enlightened threads of intelligence evidence to follow/exploit/clone? ........ What is wrong with y'all? Open up your hearts and minds to what is defeating you every time you fail to think originally.

    amanfromMars replying to Archibald Buttle Aug 2, 2016 5:42 AM and commenting on http://www.zerohedge.com/news/2016-08-01/chinese-success-curbing-capital-outflows-spells-disaster-high-end-new-york-san-fran-

    Hi, Archibald Buttle and Cognitive Dissonance,

    Here is some NEUKlearer HyperRadioProActive IT which charts an alternate course with surreal means and means of action.....

    Methinks the real virtual reality is the competition between accelerating despotism and struggling markets and that, Daily Bell Ringers, is a Great CyberWar WareFare Game which does not suffer nor offer the Input to Output of Fools Engaged in a World Series of Follies.

    And how can/will MainStreamMedia ignore it, if it is to remain a credible force of vital information with future intelligence leading in an agreed arranged direction? To spin false yarns and seed crooked trails renders one as the deceitful enemy to be thoroughly crushed and perfectly destroyed.

    The whole truth in any and all of its forms, both within and outside of IT and AI, is a Divine Master and Heavenly Mistress. ..... http://www.thedailybell.com/news-analysis/goldman-analysis-neglects-world-destroying-crash/#comment-2816454124

  33. Hardrada

    Is it clear that this is a safety issue vs. a security/secrecy one? Maybe they've done something 'special' to evade jamming and they don't want to make it easy to reverse engineer...

    The US has a long history of restricting new planes - letting the F-117 out at night only, allowing front photographs of the B-2 but no derrière shots, maintaining a no-man's-land around air bases used for black projects, etc..

    That's what I would have assumed from the details if not for the rest of the article.

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