Advanced Super Hornet

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Recently, Boeings Advanced Super Hornet performed a number of demonstration flights. These flights spoke to the hearts of critics and mouthbreathers alike. Aviation websites, forums, and blogs have been aflutter with comments such as ‘Now the Navy can ditch the F-35′, ‘JSF Program now doomed’, and my personal favorite comment ‘All de F35 salez belong 2 Boing’. Just so you know, yes, that is how they spelled sales and Boeing. This speaks ill of the current state of education in this country, but I digress.

While the Advanced Super Hornet appears to add benefit to an airframe in current service, I thought it wise to dig a bit deeper into Boeings media brief. Looking over this document, several things jumped out at me. I suspect this media brief was not perused by many of the less well spoke, or literate, JSF critics. Let’s examine a few things that stood out, and bring in a few other pieces of information relevant to the Advanced Super Hornet.

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In the briefing packet, Boeing is very careful to point out that the Enclosed Weapons Pod (EWP) can be carried on centerline and inboard wing stations. The reason for that can be traced back to a Navy requirement for the JSF stating that carriage of two two thousand pound class weapons was nonnegotiable. Boeing’s workaround was simply to add EWP’s. That is problematic due to the drag these pods will generate. Aviation Week’s Bill Sweetman, a long time JSF critic, went the disingenuous route, and offered up top speed and acceleration numbers for a clean Super Hornet. The data Sweetman offered up is also lacks altitude, making the data absolutely worthless. The figures Sweetman provided also account for the Advanced Super Hornet being fitted with engines that have yet to fly as well. I could go on a bit more about the the amount of incorrect data Bill offered up, but I’ll save my rant. Well done Bill! This is the level of crap ‘journalism’ I have come to expect from you. While you sate your raging hate boner, at least make true apples to apples comparisons to keep the exercise intellectually honest.

Paul Summers, Boeing’s F/A-18E/F and EA-18G programme director has gone on record stating a single centerline EWP ‘will have roughly the same drag profile as a centerline drop tank’. Note, he was very careful to discuss only a single centerline EWP, and not use of a centerline EPW with two inboard wing station mounted EWP’s. Drag is going to be a massive factor for any Advanced Super Hornet mounting three EWP’s. To keep things honest, the F-35C will not suffer from this, as the F-35 in all variants makes use of internal weapons bays. Take note of the weapons carriage discrepancy that exists between an F-35C and the Advanced Super Hornet. Notice, the F-35C can carry a full ton of weaponry over the Advanced Super Hornet.

Drag is something to be avoided for all kinds of reasons. In terms of fuel burn and acceleration, drag is not your friend. That being said, I do like the concept of the EWP. I just don’t like it for the Super Hornet, due in large to the drag issue. Adding to the drag issue is weight. Each EWP weighs two thousand and fifty pounds. For an aircraft with acceleration issues, EWP’s will be problematic from a performance standpoint, and we all know how people love to howl about performance specs. You can put lipstick on a Rhino, but all you have is a Rhino wearing lipstick.

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Moving on, we come to the Northrop Grumman designed Conformal Fuel Tanks (CFT). Range is an issue for carrier based aircraft, and the answer to that problem is increased fuel load. The addition of CFT’s would allow for an increase of thirty five hundred pounds of fuel. Thats great, but it poses a problem. The addition of the CFT’s adds not only weight from the CFT’s themselves (870 pounds), but also fuel weight. This weight, when added to the weight EWP’s, begins to add up quickly. Weight plays hell with the thrust to weight ratios that certain critics love to make much of.

This is not to say that all on the CFT front is doom and gloom. At subsonic cruise speeds up to Mach .84, the CFT’s produce no drag. At Mach .6, the CFT’s produce less drag than is found on a clean aircraft not fitted with CFT’s. Above Mach .84, drag does rise though. Boeing’s VP for the F/A-18 has stated that the drag level above supersonic speeds is comparable to that of a traditional four hundred and eighty gallon centerline drop tank.

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The above graphic I found particularly interesting, and slightly amusing. Direct your attention to the upper righthand corner. There, you will see a box marked with a CFT designator. Below, you see speculated range increases for an Advanced Super Hornet. Take note, the range without CFT’s is less than that of an F-35C. The most interesting part of this information box is what is written beneath it; with enhanced engines.

The problem is, those ‘enhanced engines’ are not what Boeing is making them out to be. Making promises relying half truths is frankly insulting. The figure of a twenty percent increase in thrust has been tossed about liberally around the internet. Now, a version of the F414 engine, known as the Enhanced Performance Engine, was examined nearly a decade ago. A later version of the EPE was offered for the Super Hornet submission to India, which ended up losing to the Dassault Rafale.

What the US Navy, the single largest customer for the Super Hornet, and the target for the proposed Advanced Super Hornet, will most likely end up with the the Enhanced Durability Engine version of the F414. Politics have made the EDE a certainty for the US Navy. What Boeing is leaving unsaid, is that the EDE would be capable of an additional twenty percent thrust during wartime. This wartime thrust increase would come at the cost of durability.

Weight increases for the Advanced Super Hornet dictate additional thrust is needed, lest performance of the F/A-18 E/F decrease from where they currently stand. Boeing’s assumptions depend on this additional thrust. Lack of a thrust increase renders most of the Advanced Super Hornet concept unworkable. Is it likely the US Navy will throw caution to the wind, ignore the sought after enhanced durability, and run these engines at wartime settings during times of peace? The simple answer is no, they won’t.

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Next we come to the matter of the Advanced Super Hornet’s level of stealth. As Sweetman and critics have opened the door for a direct comparison of stealth characteristics, lets examine the matter closer. What certain self proclaimed pundits on the internet fail to realize, is that stealth is not a solution which renders you magically invisible. What stealth does allow for is greatly decreased detection ranges.

A reduced radar cross section (RCS) is not something applied with a coat of paint. RCS reduction is achieved through design from the beginning. Internal design considerations must be taken, as external considerations must as well. Needless to say, manufacture of a Very Low Observable (VLO) requires forethought from design inception.

In Boeing’s media brief, much is made of the Advanced Super Hornet being ‘optimized for Day 1 low signature mission’. According to Mike Gibbons, Boeing VP for the F/A-18, the Advanced Super Hornet provides a fifty percent improvement of RCS reduction over the F/A-18 E/F. Gibbons stated these enhancements improve the Advanced Super Hornet’s frontal RCS, but he admits the Advanced Super Hornet is not an all aspect stealth design. Many F-35 critics wail over a perceived lack of all aspect stealth for the Joint Strike Fighter, which I have already show to be false.

Gibbons goes on to assert that this level of stealth will be ‘good enough’ for Navy missions in contested airspace. I find this to be a shocking claim. Lack of all aspect stealth places not only valuable aircraft, procured at great expense, in danger, but also far more valuable flight crew. Were he, or his son, going into contested airspace, over a nation with a modern integrated air defense system (IADS), would ‘good enough’ give him comfort? This does little to backup Boeing’s in brief claim of the Advanced Super Hornet being a ‘total survivability solution to counter emerging threats’.

You might be asking yourself what Boeing has done to bring about the claimed RCS reduction over the traditional Super Hornet. Shifting weapons stores into EWP’s was one large step. Moving to CFT’s from traditional drop tanks is another. From there, generous application of radar absorbent material (RAM) is a given. Also listed in the brief are prototype General Electric advanced engine inlet devices.

To give you a frame of reference, a MiG-29 has an RCS of 5 meters squared. The F/A-18 E/F has a frontal RCS of 0.1 meters squared. This RCS measurement means the Super Hornet just barely qualifies as a Low Observable (LO) platform, and not at all as a VLO platform. A fifty percent reduction in RCS for the Advanced Super Hornet gives us an RCS of .05 meters squared, assuming Boeing numbers are accurate. By comparison, the F-35 has an RCS of 0.0015 meters squared, as measured by the US Air Force. As these numbers were released to the public, it stands to reason that the F-35 RCS is actually lower. Sorry JSF critics, numbers don’t lie. The F-35 is several orders of magnitude stealthier than the Advanced Super Hornet, and comes with all aspect stealth. Luckily for critics, the F-35 and Super Hornet are not locked in some heated competition as certain critics love to pretend.

Left unmentioned by Boeing, are any planned efforts for IR reduction, emissions control, etc. When this oversight is pointed out, critics either outright ignore it, or make random gurgling noises before yelling ‘Squirrel!‘ and then continuing on with outlandish claims forecasting the impending demise of the F-35 program.

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In the image above, you see the proposed cockpit upgrade Boeing hopes to place in both the Advanced Super Hornet, and the F-15. In comparison to the traditional three screen Super Hornet setup, I must admit that I like where they are going. Oddly similar to the cockpit for the F-35, isn’t it? Critics start to froth at the mouth when you point that out. This is an upgrade I think the US Navy would be wise to invest in. Such a fleet wide upgrade could prove cost prohibitive though.

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Here we have the Infrared Search and Track (IRST) seeker. IRST is proving to be a capability air forces around the world are scrambling to integrate their aircraft. Some would say that the inclusion of an IRST on the Super Hornet or Advanced Super Hornet is a positive development, and I would agree. Where things go slightly sideways, is when certain critics see this, and loudly proclaim that this is another area where the F-35 has been matched, or even surpassed. I take issue with these claims. Notice, the IRST is oriented towards the aircraft front. This provides a limited field of view in comparison to the F-35’s Distributed Aperture System. A limited cone of view is far surpassed by three hundred and sixty degrees of view.

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Would you feel safer with this view of your surroundings, or a limited field of view?

For the Advanced Super Hornet, no radar upgrade is proposed. This would mean retention of the current AN/APG-79 Active Electronically Scanned Array (AESA). The APG-79 is a very capable radar. Some, outside of the defense industry, have claimed that the APG-79 is a superior radar suite to the F-35’s APG-81. While I admit that the APG-79 is a capable piece of hardware, it is intellectually dishonest of critics to overlook that the APG-81 is a generation ahead of the APG-79, and has a smaller emitter array. Hardware and software from the APG-81 has crossed over to the F-22 Raptor’s APG-77v1.

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Realizing that sensor fusion is the development that will revolutionize warfare of the future, Boeing is following a trail already blazed. Thus far, the Boeing capability has yet to be demonstrated, but a demonstration is currently scheduled for sometime in 2014. Using a tactical datalink, the proposed Advanced Super Hornet would share tactical information with other platforms, to include the E-2D, forming a common operating picture.

This is a capability I fully hope the US Navy adopts on each Super Hornet and Growler in service. Networked warfare is how the US, and many other nations will fight moving forward. While critics see this capability on the Advanced Super Hornet as a revolutionary development, they are missing the fact that it is already being done, and done to a larger degree.

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At this point, I could point out how the F-35 will one day be integrated into Aegis, but that might cause heads to explode. I can and will point out that in terms of integration and sophistication as it relates to sensor fusion, the F-35 is without equal. Critics can shout to the heavens that sensor fusion has arrived for the a platform other than the F-35, but it does not seem that sensor fusion has found its way aboard the Advanced Super Hornet in any form other than powerpoint. Fusing sensor data from multiple sensors is a software challenge. This is a challenge Boeing has not undertaken. A part of me hopes Boeing does undertake a major software development effort, so I can watch critics stutter while I remind them of their ridiculous claims that F-35 software would never come together. That day will be sweet!

On the topic of cost, and this is aimed squarely at critics, I think critics need to be honest with themselves. All of these proposed upgrades carry a cost. Even if these upgrades were applied to each Super Hornet currently in US Navy service, you are still looking at a low volume procurement program. Those are never cheap. If these upgrades are applied only to new build Super Hornets, foregoing the retrofit route, the total volume falls even further. Those who believe an Advanced Super Hornet can be procured for less than a full rate production F-35 are delusional. Come on critics, look at the filth you spewed about Lockheed Martin and their imagined profiteering. Would you make the same cries about Advanced Super Hornet cost overruns?

As for the Advanced Super Hornet representing a viable alternative to the Joint Strike Fighter program, that is an incredibly simpleminded belief. The US AIr Force is not a current Super Hornet operator. Remember that the Super Hornet traces its lineage to the YC-17, which the Air Force passed on in favor of the YF-16. The USMC could not make use of an Advanced Super Hornet aboard the multitude of amphibious ships currently in service. WIthout the F-35B, the USMC is relegated to nothing more than a predominately rotary wing force, with a smattering of carrier capable fixed wing squadrons. So you see, the Advances Super Hornet could never replace all variants of the F-35, and is not considered a replacement for the F-35C in particular. The peanut gallery will keep dreaming that dream though.

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Now that we are bringing this post to its conclusion, I will reflect on a few thoughts. First, its ridiculous that certain ‘journalists’  attempt to turn a company funded development program into a winner take all contest between two aircraft that are not in competition. Shameful Bill, shameful. Many of the proposed upgrades for the Advanced Super Hornet I would like see integrated into US Navy Super Hornets and Growlers. However, I do not see several of these upgrades ever entering active service with the US Navy, or any other nation currently operating the Super Hornet, that means you Australia.

When you examine the comparison between the Advanced Super Hornet and F-35, in my eyes, the F-35 comes out as the clear winner. The Advances Super Hornet is a powerpoint, with a few nonfunctional demonstration pieces. The F-35 is here now. Costs continue to fall, as we inch closer to full rate production. The future, for the F-35 at least, is bright.

~ by arcturus415 on August 30, 2013.

28 Responses to “Advanced Super Hornet”

  1. As you stated the F-35 is here now and costs continue to fall, as we inch closer to full rate production. At this time procurement in Canada is being delayed until a decision being made after the next Canadian national election which is slated for October 2015. The government intends to either announce a competition for the fighter contract sometime early next year, or defer the matter until the next. With the announcement of the Advanced Super Hornet I have a feeling they will announce a competition with the politicians minds focused on purchasing the Super Hornet and leaving international F-35 consortium. If Canada decides to take the cheap alternative, then that of course will leave the country behind everyone else..again. Remember I stated that billions of dollars in returned tax revenue will be generated when the contract starts, and Canada (as a partner nation) will have companies building large sections of the components. The thing that really amazes me about Canada is the inflexibility. Why on earth does Canada have to restrict itself to one fighter jet? I realize Such a course would allow the Harper government to cover its bases politically, but would also be costly and controversial. Mixed fleets are notoriously expensive to operate, due to the doubling up on maintenance, training, parts and the like. Why does it have to be either the F-35 or the Super Hornet? Why not both? Australia will be flying both. They already have the F/A 18 E/F in service and will also be acquiring a fleet of F-35 aircraft when they become available. And their Gross domestic product is way smaller than Canada’s Gross domestic product . Why does Canada feel they can only afford one type? Why not diversify our military a bit? We were supposed to purchase 65 why not buy a much smaller number of planes say 20 and open up the remainder of the contract to the Advanced Super Hornet.

    • The problem with that path, is that the Advanced Super Hornet is not necessarily ‘cheap’.Look at the cost growth of other programs. Its foolish to believe that suddenly, almost magically, the ASH will come in on budget, and on time.A certain amount of risk exists with ASH.

      Canada’s defense budget can’t support a mixed fleet. Such a buy would offer diversification, but at the cost of other defense spending. Canada wants its cake, and to eat it too. Sadly, that happening is incredibly unlikely.

  2. This article is bullshit. The F-35 is not here right now and none of its missions systems work. Lockheed keeps selling the a bunch of empty promises that on paper make the F-35 look better than every other aircraft, but in reality they have not shown any ability to make the F-35 deliver on those promises.

    The Advanced Super Hornet provides about 90% of the capability that the F-35 was SUPPOSED to provide at less than half the cost for the Navy. The Super Hornet is here right now and being actively used. This is merely an upgrade to our current aircraft.

    The F-35C can’t even land on a carrier because they put the tailhook too close to the rear landing gear. Fixing it would require stretching the air frame, which would destroy any commonality left with its sister variants and cause another drastic increase in the price. The F-35 is no where near being here and is no where near being able to work. It has turned out to be a complete failure and an extremely expensive one at that. The price to fix the F-35 and actually get it working dwarf the costs of making the upgrades for the Super Hornet.

    The only reason the Navy has stuck with the F-35 is because the Pentagon doesn’t want our international partners to pull out. One F-35 costs 3x that of a Super Hornet and the Navy hates it.

    • You claim ‘the F-35 is not here right now’, yet the Advanced Super Hornet is? A powerpoint presentation, with a few mockups on a test aircraft are a far cry from the Advanced Super Hornet being ‘here now’. You are correct that the Super Hornet is here being actively used, but a Super Hornet is a far cry from an Advanced Super Hornet. By all means, feel free to support your cost claims with supporting documentation.

      As for the F-35C tailhook, it seems you missed the Navy’s admission of providing incorrect wire dynamics models. Incorrect wire dynamics models were provided not only for the F-35C, but also the X-47B. An airframe stretch is not needed.

      Your claim that the Navy hates the F-35 is another claim I would love to see you back up with supporting evidence.

      I await the supporting evidence for your claims.

    • Out of curiosity Black Owl, might you be the same Black Owl mentioned in the link below?

      http://elementsofpower.blogspot.com/2012/07/dod-buzz-got-sockpuppets.html

      I suspect you are.

      • Hahahah. Yes. DOD buzz has the worst most uninformed posters on the internet. Over there, the PAKFA is a raptor killer. That’s about all you need to know to see how well they understand low observables, netcentric warfare, electronics, physics, etc. Pretty much an intellectual dumping ground for 18-22 y.o. douchebags with no military service, educational background other than forums, expertise, life experience etc.

  3. If want proof that the Navy doesn’t want the F-35 read the July 2012 issue of the Proceedings. Also read the June 2013 issue. The CNO hints at it several times, but the Navy is stuck in the program because if we pull out our international partners will pull out. Apart from that I will say that the upgrades to the Super Hornet are extremely low risk because they use existing tech and don’t require development of new technologies. I will also note that you did not disagree with me that the F-35 is not here right now because you know as well as I do that it’s a far cry from getting its combat systems to actually work.

    Hahaha!!! Wow… I didn’t even know someone was tracking me… I feel special. :) That’s honestly the first time I’ve seen that.

    Yes, that is me and I read through his arguments as to why he thinks I’m not a real midshipmen. The only thing he has to go off of is that I posted a lot and he thinks I shouldn’t have time to post like that. Pure speculation. I worked hard at the academy and I was an insomniac so I often posted in the early morning. I’m wondering why he didn’t ask me whatever it was he wanted to on another thread? I find that hilarious. Several of my comments were deleted too and I complained about it many times. He didn’t mention that for some reason. I’m in the class of 2013 and just graduated in May. I’m on TAD in Florida preparing to be a pilot.

    • Pointing towards articles in Proceedings is far from proof the Navy doesn’t want the F-35. Using your logic, I could point to an article in this months Proceedings, titled ‘Naval Aviation’s Transition Starts With Why’ as proof the Navy does want the F-35. Instead of pointing to articles, and ‘hints’, show me something official, from NAVAIR or the CNO, stating the Navy wants nothing to do with the JSF. You and I both know that is something you cannot do, due to such evidence not existing.

      Why would I disagree that the F-35 is not here right now? The JSF has not yet reached IOC, so its not surprising. So,the Advanced Super Hornet won’t require development? Are you sure that is the stance you want to take? The CFT’s are nonfunctional, the EWP’s are nonfunctional, the entire concept as peddled hinges on an engine, the EPE, that the Navy did not pursue. You can try with all your might, but trying to spin this into you and I agreeing on common ground is a wasted effort.

      In your response, you avoided my challenge to provide evidence of your cost claims. You further avoided the issue of an incorrect wire dynamics model being provided by the Navy. You attempted to provide evidence that the Navy hates the F-35, but that simply isn’t evidence at all. All in all, you failed to support your original claims. Nicely done!

      • Oh God, you still have energy for this. I’m just going to say that after doing this for 3 years I’m too tired of debating this topic. I just hate when people say that the F-35 is progressing well when it obviously isn’t. As for the Proceedings articles, I’m not merely pointing to the articles, but the words of the CNO himself. The CNO is what matters, not the articles themselves. Here is the evidence that the costs for the F-35C are 3x that of a Super Hornet. Anyone who is actually serious about this topic would have these numbers memorized by heart so I suggest you study up: http://www.finance.hq.navy.mil/FMB/13pres/APN_BA1-4_BOOK.pdf

        F-35C: $199.4 million
        F/A-18E/F: $65.3 million

        You also need to pay attention to what I was really saying in my argument. I wasn’t trying to get you and me to agree on anything. I was showing that you yourself went back and retreated from something you just said in your article up there because you know it isn’t true. The F-35 is not here right now at all. I just met you and I don’t care who you are. You’re article appeared in a google search and that’s how I saw it.

        I’m just going to say that all we can do is wait till next year. Next year a vast majority of our questions will be answered. If the Navy’s funds the upgrades for the Super Hornet, then I was right. If they don’t, then I was wrong. It’s as simple as that. Apart from that, right now there is a request on the FY 2015 proposition for funding for more Super Hornets, even though the Pentagon said that it wanted the Navy to end procurement in FY 2014. If that funding request survives the various revisions of the bill then the Navy will buy more Super Hornets to replace Legacy Hornets, meaning I was right. Until then, I’m done debating this. The clock is ticking and I just want to sit back and watch the whole thing unfold now.

      • You say you are ‘too tired of debating this topic’, yet you came here, and proceeded to make broad claims. When asked to defend your claims, you are suddenly tired. How convenient. You hate when people say the F-35 program is progressing well, which it is, and I hate when uninformed individuals engage in uninformed tirades. Shades of Super Hornet fanboy run deep in you, based on your email address, and your incredibly entertaining comment history on several websites. These comments make plain your fanboy predilection for all things Super Hornet.

        On the matter of your Proceedings article proof, as it relates to the CNO, you are once again shifting the goalpost. At no time has the CNO spoken out against the F-35C. The articles support my position, not your position. “We need the F-35C; we need its capability,” Adm. Jonathan Greenert, the Navy’s top officer, said in March. Tell me, does that sound like the CNO is bashing the F-35C? Nope.

        You suggest I study up? Junior, I’ve had a laugh filled evening reading your comments across the internet. Frankly, if anyone needs to ‘study up’, its you. Throughout your many comments, you have displayed a total lack of all things aviation and procurement related.

        Next we come to your latest disingenuous comparison. A price comparison between an FRP Super Hornet and a LRIP F-35C is far from an apples to apples comparison. I suspect you know that though. Instead of an apples to oranges comparison, as you attempted, lets take a look at continued cost reductions across all variants of the F-35. Since you are ‘too tired’, I’ll save that lesson for a later time.

        At no time did I retreat in my response. Cling to that belief if you wish, but it is an inaccurate belief. The F-35 is still in testing. It has yet to reach IOC. These are not shocking revelations, but simple facts. Debate isn’t your strongpoint, is it?

        As for the last portion of your response, I will toss out a comment you made on DODBuzz.

        “If Japan buys Super Hornets now I am so going to rub it in your face.”

        http://www.dodbuzz.com/2011/12/16/boeing-f-35-hasnt-yet-won-in-japan/

        Notice, Japan selected the F-35. I’m far from awed by your powers of prognostication. The F-35 is here to stay. Deal with it.

  4. Sir, I am sorry, but I must admit that I have to agree Black Owl: This article isn´t appropriate:

    [Random links]

    Scincerely,
    Scarface

    • Isn’t appropriate? Tell me, how is a discussion of the flaws of the Advanced Super Hornet inappropriate? Perhaps it is inappropriate in the eyes of Boeing, and ASH proponents, but as a discussion, it is far from inappropriate. The comments section isn’t a dumping ground for article links about the F-35. As you chose to focus on the F-35, I will assume you have nothing to support the ASH. If you are going to shill for Black Owl, and individual who has made an ass of himself here and across the internet, I suggest you not do it here.

      • It clashes with his predetermined worldview, causing him to lash out with ignorant fury at the source of the unwanted cognitive dissonance. I find it quite enjoyable to watch. Good website Arcturus.

      • Thanks!

  5. I beg your pardon? I am no english native speaker, but did you just call me the lower end of the backside?

    I don´t know him or his intentions (whether he is a troll or not, for instance). But it seems to me, your article suggests values, which are unlikely true. One of these is your claim, the F-35 was instantly available. It does, on the contrary, still waits for IOC until at least 2018 (and not today). Another problem is, that your comparison of the ASH´s and the F-35´s flight performance seems highly unlikely, since there are several publications about restrictions and downgraded target goals of the F-35 (as I supported by the links). So this is the reason, why I posted those links (which are for sure no dump).
    In addition, it is commonly kown, that the US Navy criticised the F-35´s layout for having just one engine (which is a result of the Navy´s bad experiences with fighters like the A-7 etc.). A similar situation occured in the canadian competition: When someone asked, what happens, when the only engine aboard fails, the official answer was simply “It won´t.”. This is of course nothing but a proof of LM´s ignorance of the reality. They strongly try to promote the F-35 as a high performance fighter (envelope-wise), which it is not (counter examples: F-22, F-15, Typhoon, Rafale, Sukhois…). Even pretending, that jets and turbofans do improve in terms of reliability, modern carrier based fighters are usualy twin engine aircraft. On the other hand, the Super Hornet´s performance might be inferior (maneuverability, climb rate…) in comparison to, let´s say a Raptor, but there didn´t occur many reports about the SH concerning serious performance problems. There were also experts of US Navy and Israeli Air Force, who recently stated, that even the most advanced passive stealth will keep its advantage for maybe 5 to 10 years with regards to newest radar systems. And then, there will be the only alternative left: jamming. In the end, both the F-35 and the advanced Super Bug will get the Next Generation Jammer. Thus, they´re going to be on par on this aspect. But the F-35´s costs explode, while the Super Hornets already fly in action (only the new technoligies have to be tested and possibly improved). Since stealth erodes and the Super Hornet already has a moderate amount of low observability characteristics, it is cheaper, will have the same EW capabilities, while having most probably the same or rather likely better flight performances.

    In general, I don´t have many reasons to believe in LM´s respectable marketing behavior, since for example the american embassy provably used a significant amount of diplomatical pressure, to force the norwegian gouvernement to vote in favour of the Lightning II. Bribery might already be a (unfortunately) common practice, but extortion is a new dimension. So, to sum it up, the whole program cannot convince me, not in terms of its allegded technological superiority, not in terms of the large number of likely export costumers as a proof of its accomplishments, not in terms of the resulting costs. In the end, I am glad, that it won´t be my taxes which are to be paid for this fighter.

    Scarface

    • Go back, reread my response, and understand that at no point did I call you ‘the lower end of the backside’. Reading comprehension is key.

      It is true, the F-35 has yet to reach IOC. F-35B IOC will be seen with the USMC in 2015, and F-35A IOC will be reached in 2016. At no point have I claimed that the F-35, in any post covering the aircraft, that the aircraft is currently ready for service. The fact that IOC has not yet been reached makes that point clear to see. On the flip side of the argument you are building, the Advanced Super Hornet is not available either. The CFT’s used on the demonstrator were nonfunctional, as was the EWP. The engines are a problem as well, but like the other points, I made that very clear in the article. So, in short, the ASH is not ‘instantly available’, rendering the argument you put forth moot.

      First, the articles you posted were a ridiculous mishmash of links. Using an article from Vice as evidence of flight characteristics simply does not meet the burden of proof for an intelligently constructed debate, at least not if you wish to have any credibility here. Instead of pointing towards dated articles, I suggest you actually dig into the meet of F-35 maneuverability and performance. Below are a few links that may help.

      http://elementsofpower.blogspot.com/2013/04/the-f-35-and-infamous-sustained-g-spec.html

      http://elementsofpower.blogspot.com/2013/05/the-f-35-and-infamous-sustained-g-spec.html

      http://elementsofpower.blogspot.com/2013/05/the-f-35-and-infamous-sustained-g-spec_26.html

      http://elementsofpower.blogspot.com/2013/06/the-f-35-and-infamous-sustained-g-spec.html

      Tossing the ‘single engine = bad’ argument out there highlights your lack of understanding. I don’t mean that as a slight, but to point out what is obvious to me. Having two engines brings problems, in that it doubles the odds of a fault occurring. Any reliability engineer will say that very thing. What your argument overlooks is the reliability and survivability figures of the 135 engine, over figures from designs used in past aircraft. Take for instance the TF30 engine used in F-14’s, prior to the engine replacement program. These engines were the cause of many incidents. Sure, two were present, but the TF30 suffered from massive reliability and usability issues. The 135 engine does not suffer from the issues that plagued the TF30. Simply claiming that two engines is better than one is flawed reasoning. Have you, by chance, overlooked the A-4, which is a single engine carrier capable aircraft? It served the Navy and Marines well for many years, as well as foreign carrier aviation. As early as 1958, when the Navy was deciding between the F8U-3 and the F-4H, the single vs dual engine issue was examined, and found to not be a deciding factor. The RF8 served with distinction aboard carriers for years, while being a single engine aircraft. So no, the Navy has not criticized the F-35’s single engine layout.

      If you wish to retain a modicum of credibility, you might consider refraining from using any form of the ‘Lockheed denial of reality’ trope. It’s lazy, and unrealistic. Billy Flynn, the F-35 chief test pilot, who coincidentally flew for the RCAF for twenty three years, disagrees with your broad statement that the F-35 is not a high performance aircraft. It should be pointed out that Flynn has flown the Typhoon and F-22. Simply claiming that it is not, does not make it so. Tossing out the F-22, F-15, and Eurofighter Typhoon as supporting examples is disingenuous at best, as you are or should be aware, that those aircraft were designed from inception as air superiority fighters, whereas the F-35 was not. Despite that, Flynn, who has flown several of the more performance oriented of your examples disagrees, and I am inclined to take the word of the man who has sat over the controls, as opposed to your claim.

      Super Hornet performance issues are well known. Yes, the SH has high AOA ability, but it lags in other areas. Once again, do some research. While doing your research, I suggest you examine the known issues found during SH development, which required NASA involvement.

      RCS reduction is not trapped in a vacuum. As detection methods evolve, so do RCS reduction measures, and technologies. Many have rolled out the claim that ‘stealth is dead’, and those same individuals have been proven incorrect time and time again. If stealth is not longer an achievable goal, then why is it many nations are pursuing reduced RCS designs of their own? The existence of the Pak-Fa and the J-20 seem to work against your claim.

      The F-35 will not carry the Next Generation Jammer. The Growler will, sure. Due to the RCS difference between the F-35 and the Super Hornet, even the Advanced Super Hornet, the F-35 will benefit far more in a jamming environment. That much smaller RCS will allow for the F-35 to be lost in the noise of such an environment, whereas the larger RCS of the Super Hornet, or Advanced Super Hornet, will make that an incredibly difficult feat to achieve. So no, they will not be on par.

      Once again, you are making broad claims that are unsupported. You may have missed that F-35 costs have come down with each round of LIRP, and will drop further upon the start of FRP. The Super Hornet price will increase, as the Navy orders come to a halt. Lower production volume lends itself to higher production capability sustainment cost. Once more, I will laugh at your flight performance claims, that you seemed to have tossed in at the end.
      No one is saying you should believe everything Lockheed says. Do your homework, and examine those claims, instead of simply claiming everything is false. Knowledge is power, so empower yourself. As for your mention of bribery, I suggest you look into Boeing’s history of bribery. Internationally, you might also want to look into the problems Dassault has had with bribery, in their repeated attempts to find export orders for Rafale.

  6. I wouldn’t consider myself a sycophant of either plane. I generally hate sycophants in general anyway. I do think that polite discussion is absolutely necessary and this article is appropriate since freedom of speech still exists.. last time I checked.

    the ASH and the F-35 should not really be compared since their role, their generation and their costs aren’t even close. however, Governments at least try but usually fail when doing procurement from a “bang for your buck” point of view. I know that many here will snark at that concept but if you can’t afford the F-35 then you can’t afford it and you should look elsewhere. That is why Canada is looking at getting the ASH. I won’t provide links since anyone with a half clue of google search can find the articles and Boeing has already provided Canada with their latest numbers. I will talk about the technology in a later post but let’s stick with cost.

    From a cost perspective – FY2012 – F18 – 67 million flyaway cost.
    Boeing states that they can make an ASH will all options for an extra $10 million. Now, I know for a fact that the GAO produced a massive report in 2008 that showed that the average cost overrun of 75 weapon systems was about 40 percent. so a $14 million upcharge is a virtual certainty with the potential to go higher. This puts a new ASH somewhere in the $80 – $85 million range. The current FY2012 for the F35 is $153 million.

    so your looking at about $70 million cheaper. you can almost buy a 2nd ASH for that. In my humble opinion, Canada doesn’t really need a lot of F35’s since they have no carriers and since they are comfortably nestled right next to us.. they essentially get free defense from us just by virtue of location and there’s no need to go deep into the red with a fighter with no combat experience and questionable dogfighting capabilities. I will address this later.

    Boeing is also making a pitch to japan for the ASH and offering to give them a license to produce the F18 locally. This is a pretty good idea.
    Having the ASH along with the next gen growler jamming and the F-35 and there’s every reason to believe that you would be pretty safe from most belligerents. The big question is .. what ratio? that I can’t answer. It ultimately comes down to how many can Japan afford.

    I am hoping that Boeing does sell the ASH. Competition is always good and I am a little worried with all of these countries putting their eggs in one basket.. essentially betting the farm that the F35 will become the ultimate fighter that Russia and China and other possible enemies will not be able to deal with. If it doesn’t .. We’re screwed.

    • Sycophants have an unhealthy world view. Some might color me as an F-35 sycophant, but in my defense, I will state that I put forth the information and thoughts that I do, to counter the often blatantly incorrect drivel put forth by the APA crowd. Freedom of speech is an important part of any constructive dialogue. While all parties may not always agree, on this blog, freedom of speech will always be present.

      I agree, that the ASH and F-35 should not be compared. Unfortunately, critics, in their repeated attempt to diminish the F-35, opened that door. You and I also agree that not every nation can afford to procure the F-35. That being the case, those nations would be far better serviced by procuring aircraft with lesser capabilities, at a lower price point.

      One problem, as it applies to Canada procuring the Super Hornet, or ASH, is cost. If orders were placed today, the SH could be procured at a price point acceptable to the Canadian government. Should they wait, that price point will climb. That is due to Navy funding for the SH scheduled to end in 2014, with production to halt in 2016. Basing any Canadian purchase of SH on a strictly per airframe cost overlooks many associated costs. The Australian purchase grew in value in this same method.

      At current day per airframe costs, Canada could purchase further airframes, but again, that is at current day prices. That per airframe cost will rise, as production nears its stop date. Canada is unlikely to have interest in the F-35C, so I’m not really understanding your carrier comment. Also, I wouldn’t feel comfortable setting the top end potential upgrade price from SH to ASH under the 20-25 million mark. The Silent Eagle proposed to South Korea, while a somewhat downgraded Silent Eagle (Lack of canted tails being the most evident example) were quoted at one hundred million per airframe. It seems likely, to me, an ASH could easily reach the one hundred million per airframe mark.

      Though the Japanese defense budget has expanded, somewhat, I’m not sold that the budget can support multiple aircraft procurement programs. An F-2 replacement is needed, as multiple airframes were lost during the tsunami. A Growler purchase by Japan would be a wonderful upgrade for their capabilities. I agree, ratio is key, but can the Japanese defense budget support a multi design ratio at all?

      I don’t see it likely that Boeing will have widespread success in an attempt to sell new build ASH’s. Instead, I see elements of the ASH being sold, in packages, as upgrades to the existing fleet, both here, and possibly in Australia. The Australian possibility is an uncertain one though. Were I Boeing, I would focus my efforts on a potential 6th ten aircraft, that could assume or supplement the role of the F-22, and retiring F-15’s.
      The F-35 wasn’t designed to be the ultimate fighter, but a system designed to operate within a framework of systems. It won’t work alone, but as a part of a much larger military framework, and in that role, I feel it will do well, and continue to evolve into a more capable platform than many can envision. Only time will tell.

      Have you been following the India/Russia Pak-Fa disagreements?

      • yes, I’ve been watching the brouhaha. India doesn’t want anyone else other than russia and india to have it and russia wants to sell more. as I understand it, Russia wants more money from india and is bellyaching about production licensing.

        That being said… The T-50 looks pretty cool but not very stealthy if the numbers are true. I’ve heard from sources that it has 3D thrust vectoring but then others say it has 2D thrust vectoring. I’ve heard of some wild claims of an “artificial intelligence” system. BAH..HAHA!

        There must be some serious propaganda coming out of Moscow these days.

        I guess the big question is… In a T-50 vs. F35 matchup..

        who wins? assuming the pilots have the same level of skill.

        I’ve seen all of the various youtube footage.

      • It has been an interesting series of events. Work share is a problem, but the far larger issue is India seeking an export restriction. Part of me suspects the whole thing will come crashing down, but we shall see.

        The T-50 is an incredibly good looking aircraft. Stealth will be the problem, from our point of view. Russia has a goal, and their freshman effort could have been far worse. At least the ‘plasma stealth’ bit isn’t being tossed into the rumor mix.

        That matchup is one many have thought about. In my eyes, it would all depend on a series of variables. Location, weather, supporting assets in the area, etc.

  7. Of cause, most probably I don´t have a complete overview to the topic. But I backed most of my arguments about the F-35´s shortcomings with links (that don´t appear here anymore, did you delete them?). If they were still available on this site, everyone would see, that they are indeed of a certain quality (one was itself again linked to an official test document) and of numerous origins, whereas you refer to another blog…
    When I state, that this article was not appropriate, I don´t mean, that you were not allowed to write what you write. So your claims, I tried to reduce your freedom of writing, is out of context. Completely out of context. On the other hand, it´s your website, where my links don´t appear. Interesting.
    The reason I am writing here is, because I got the information on several occasions, that the F-35 has many problems to struggle with. You can believe it or decline to do it. Your blog, your choice. But when you are stating informations which are apparently wrong, you should not be too suprised, if there are appear contradictions. This is my contradiction.
    To be honest, my interest is not really just focused on the Super Hornet. But I am very well aware of the frequent doupt which arise upon the JSF program.
    From a distant point of view, you could improve your credibility, if you made the links I postet visible again. Again, your choice.

    Cheers.

    • You most certainly lack a complete understanding of the material you seek to debate, and it appears you also lack a basic understanding as well. The articles you use as proof, in the hope of validating your line of argument, are far from credible. It appears that you are a reactionary reader, incensed by inflammatory headlines. These headlines are nothing more than half-truths, relying on out of context pieces of information, and in several cases, outright willful misinterpretations. A simple reader takes what they read from the media at face value. My advice to you, is don’t be a simple reader. The one link you posted, to the 2012 OT & E report, is the single valid source you offered. Unfortunately, that document is dated, and fails to take into account the fact that solutions to problems mentioned already exist, and in many cases, are already in use.

      The blog I pointed you towards is a blog belonging to an individual in the aviation industry, who also served in the USAF. His thoughts and opinions are ones worth considering, and are ones found to be on the money each time. That you dismiss that resource, while also pointing to your ‘articles of a certain quality’ points toward your ingrained bias against anything that proves incorrect your beliefs. How can you expect to be taken seriously in a debate, or an intelligent conversation, when you operate with such a bias? Before you call into question the credibility of others, I suggest you take a long look at your own credibility issues.

      At no time did I interpret your statement that this article was ‘not appropriate’ as evidence that I am ‘not allowed to write it’. You are taking the statements others have made, and attributing them to me. I have not claimed that you are attempting to reduce my freedom to write what I choose. Reading comprehension is once again your achilles heel. That being the case, your response to a statement I never made is the statement that is ‘out of context’. You might also wish to refrain from constructing conspiracy theories around the links I removed. I stated very clearly that the comment section is not a dumping ground for links.

      Once again, you are making the claim that the information I am putting forward is incorrect. As I suggested earlier, I suggest you do your research. During that research effort that I am confident you will not perform, you would find that I am using vlid information, that is publicly available. This ongoing straw man argument that you continue to spew is growing tiresome. Once again, I will point out that this is not an F-35 debate, but an article on the Advanced Super Hornet. You have stated that you are not focused on the Super Hornet, which is apparent from your insistence on turning this into an F-35 debate.

      Moving on to the material you offered up as evidence, lets examine the flaws in each article, shall we? In one of your articles, many claims are made. Much is made of the fact that a test aircraft operates with a chase aircraft, with this being used as an indictment of a lack of airworthiness. I find this incredibly amusing, as it overlooks the common use of a chase aircraft during flight testing. Is this really an article you feel is filled with credibility, when they misunderstand such a simple fact? This specific article goes on to make damning accusations about limitations placed on high AoA maneuvering. What I find most entertaining about that specific accusation, is that if overlooks the fact that high AoA testing began in fall of 2012, and was completed a week after your articles publication date. Once again, this is not the stuff credibility is made of.

      I find another of your offered publications amusing for other reasons. Much is made about reduced Key Performance Parameters, as it applies to transonic acceleration, and G-spec. Unfortunately, the author never bothered to research what the F-35 KPP’s actually are. A total of nine KPP’s exist, and are seen in the OT&E report you offered up. These are Radio Frequency Signature, Combat Radius, Sortie Generation, Logistics Footprint, Mission Reliability, Interoperability, STOVL-short takeoff distance, STOVL-vertical lift bring back, and Maximum Approach Speed. Sustained turn and transonic accelerations are not Key Performance Parameters. So you are aware, the F-35 is meeting its KPP’s. It should also be pointed out that all three variants of the F-35 have significantly better transonic acceleration than the Super Hornet, despite the lowered performance specifications.

      This entire line of argument is one that the media has used previously. Entertainingly, this line of argument is being used by the very same journalists that once used the same argument against the Super Hornet. For simplicities sake, I will use statements made by Bill Sweetman, since he loves advocating for the Super Hornet, while vomiting a near endless amount of anti-JSF vitriol. To add icing to this cake, I will include findings from the GAO.

      “The Navy and Boeing have intensified a propaganda campaign. Unfortunately, the campaign is likely to damage their credibility in the long term, because it focuses on a few basic statements which don’t mean anything like as much as the casual reader is meant to think. For example: ‘The airplane meets all its key performance parameters.’ This is true. In 1998, as it became clear that the Super Hornet was slower, and less agile at transonic speeds than the C/D, the Navy issued an ‘administrative clarification’ which declared that speed, acceleration, and sustained turn rate were not, and never had been Key Performance Parameters for the Super Hornet. Apparently, some misguided people thought that those were important attributes for a fighter.”
      Bill Sweetman, Watch Your Six Maverick, Interavia Business & Technology
      Feb. 1, 2000

      “The Navy’s operational evaluation of the Super Hornet ended in November, and the report is expected in late February. It will probably find the Super Hornet to be operationally effective and suitable, because the impact of any other recommendation would be devastating, but the Navy will have to do some deft maneuvering to avoid charges that the report is a whitewash.”
      Bill Sweetman, Super Hornet Gathers Speed, But Critics Keep Pressure On
      Interavia Business & Technology, March 1, 1999

      From the 1996 GAO report, titled F/A-18E/F will Provide Marginal Operational Improvement at High Cost, found here http://www.gao.gov/assets/160/155498.pdf

      At sea level, the F/A-18C’s sustained turn rate is 19.2 degrees per second, while the F/A-18E’s sustained rate is 18 degrees per second. The instantaneous bleed rate of the F/A-18C is 54 knots per second, whereas the F/A-18E will lose 65 knots per second in a turn.

      At 15,000 feet, the F/A-18C’s sustained turn rate is 12.3 degrees per second, while the F/A-18E’s sustained rate is 11.6 degrees per second. The instantaneous bleed rate of the F/A-18C is 62 knots per second, whereas the F/A-18E will lose 76 knots per second in a turn.

      Aircraft acceleration affects an aircraft’s combat performance in a number of ways, ranging from how quickly the aircraft can reach its area of operation, to its ability to close the gap in an air-to-air engagement or to evade air-to-ground missiles. Navy data shows the following:

      At 5,000 feet at maximum thrust, the F/A-18C accelerates from 0.8 Mach to 1.08 Mach in 21 seconds, whereas the F/A-18E will take 52.8 seconds.

      At 20,000 feet at maximum thrust, the F/A-18c accelerates from 0.8 Mach to 1.2 Mach in 34.6 seconds, whereas the F/A-18E takes 50.3 seconds.

      -At 35,000 feet at maximum thrust, the F/A-18C accelerates from 0.8 Mach to 1.2 Mach in 55.8 seconds, whereas the F/A-18E takes 64.85 seconds.

      -The F/A-18C accelerates from 0.8 Mach to 1.6 Mach in 2 minutes 12 seconds, whereas the F/A-18E takes 3 minutes and 4 seconds.

      Amazing how the times and aircraft change, but the complaints remain the same, isn’t it? So, seeing some well known critics making the same complaints we see them making now, why should their attempts to lobby for the Super Hornet to fill the place of the JSF be taken at all seriously? The GAO data I included specifically for you.

      The track record of F-35 critic claims is very telling, in that their batting average is abysmal. Here are but a few.

      -The F-35 couldn’t land vertically on ship….until it did.
      -The F-35 couldn’t reach the 9G threshold…until it did.
      -The F-35 couldn’t perform AoA…until it did.
      -The F-35 couldn’t fly at night…until it did.
      -The F-35 couldn’t drop, launch, or guide ordnance…until it did.
      -The F-35 would never make it beyond a handful of airframes produced…until it did.

      Are you seeing the pattern?

      Instead of pointing to issues found during a developmental test program as reasons the aircraft is unsuitable, you might remember that the primary purpose of a developmental test program is to identify deficiencies so that they can be corrected.

  8. Part 1 – Rebuttal

    I should have talked more about the role for F35 as far as Canada is concerned. My comment about Canada not having carriers was borne out of my personal beliefs of what I see the F35 as. I’ve never seen the F35 as a dogfighter nor purely a defense fighter. I see it more in use as a deep stealth striker which is something that Canada doesn’t need.

    I realize that my using an average of 40% cost overrun is not that large but that’s how I start with my number estimates and that’s all that it is. The real question to ask here is.. “If I were Boeing, How much can I sell an ASH for to a foreign country and get them to bite and still make money?“ If I were to stick to flyaway costs. I know that number isn’t that good but let’s just stick with it since it’s an established number. I do not honestly believe that any country with half a brain would be willing to pony up $100 million or more for an ASH. That’s too high. We all know what happened with South Korea and their 7.7 billion dollar max bid for 60 jets. The only surviving bid was for 60 F15 silent-eagles. I can see why most of South Korea’s high command signed a protest letter saying not to buy them. I can’t blame them. The so-called F15 silent eagles aren’t all that silent and at $128 million per. That’s a frightening joke. There must be a lot of support and spare parts written in to the bid because there is no F15 made that would be worth that much. The $128 million per is not the flyaway cost but is a much higher full blown support cost.

    I am sticking with $85 million per ASH airframe because anything higher and I don’t seen any foreign country willing to buy them and then the only thing left for Boeing is to sell upgrade packages which won’t make Boeing much money. You might be able to sneak in a price of $90 million per but I still think that they’ll go looking elsewhere with the price that high.

    I have a part 2 addition in another reply so look for it.

  9. Part 2 – ASH tech explained

    1. Stealth – There is NO argument here that the F35 blows away any version of the F18 when it comes to pure stealth. I’m not sure why you would do such a thing. The cost increase to try to even make the F18 close to the F35 would increase the cost of the F18 close to the F35. This would be stupid on Boeing’s part. What the ASH is offering is a natural moderate level of stealth increase via evolutionary methods. I can also confirm a 50% reduction in the RCS. This is pretty significant but still not close to the F35 and arcturus is right. The stealth war
    can’t be won in this context. Where I differ with arcturus, is that the F18 was built with many layers of different capabilities and not put all of your eggs in one basket. (i.e. stealth)

    When Mr. Gibbons mentions the fact that this level of stealth would be ‘good enough’ in contested airspace. I believe that what Mr. gibbons is talking about is dogfighting. All of the stealth in the world isn’t going to do you any good if you catch a bullet in your engine. Granted, 95% of the time.. aerial combat these days is largely relegated to slinging missiles at each other but both the F35 and the ASH will each have a cannon. Surviving combat is more than just stealth, it’s a matter of several factors like survivability, stand-off weapons, training, acceleration, turning radius, climb rates, and advanced electronics just to name a few. The ASH is going to get a plethora of upgrades that will “collectively” enhance it’s survivability and capability when in combat.

    More Stealth would be nice but it comes with a massive cost increase and the R&D funds would be better spent in the other areas of the ASH, so in general, I am siding with Mr. gibbons. Remember, unless you are physically invisible… I could potentially still pump a few bullets
    into your engine.. and at $153 million a pop.. that’s a pretty expensive loss. What Boeing is offering is “stealth on a budget” and so far it looks pretty decent.

    2. Engines – There is no doubt that the ASH will need more power if it’s going to compete in the next decade and beyond. The F414 has a couple of tested prototypes. The EDE and the EPE. D = Durability and P = Performance. The first test for the EDE was confirmed in 2006 although testing was probably earlier. The earliest news releases I could find mention this engine back in 2001. Initially, this version produced 15% more thrust with no loss in durability or an increase in durability but with no thrust. This has evolved into the EPE program that was partially funded through the U.S gov and should yield a 20% increase in thrust and possibly a small fuel efficiency increase (albeit a piddly 1%).

    It is my belief that the 414 engines can be increased to yield the 26,400 lbs of thrust promised without any loss in durability. If Boeing offered India the EPE engine in 2011 then I have to believe that the engine is more than just ink on a page. I believe that it exists and that it works although some additional testing will be needed to get any government to sign off on it. I’ve also heard that this new engine doesn’t necessarily have to run at the extra 20%. It’s possible to set it up to do a 10 or 15% increase and gain a marginal improvement in durability, which I think is something that Saab was looking into for the Gripen. It’s all in what you want but you can’t have everything not even the U.S. Government.

    Boeing rated their engine to be at a technological readiness level of 6. The next step up, level 7 would require the engines to be installed in a plane and flown. Since the first ASH flight didn’t include them, then it stands to reason that flown engine testing would have to be done in the very near future, like 2014, or else as Arcturus says would flush this whole program down the tube and it just might.

    I think that the U.S. is in a perpetual state of warfare so running the new engines at a higher setting is pretty much mandatory and if the U.S. buys the new engine then they will absolutely run them at a higher power setting. Performance almost always outscores durability as long as the engines aren’t constantly falling apart which the F414 engines
    don’t. I won’t bother with the 2 engines is better than one argument. Only when all of the compared engines have the same ‘relative’ reliability and durability does that argument win. The F414 engines are very reliable. They have millions of hours of flight time so they are a
    pretty safe bet. If I were a combat pilot, I would feel better having 2 engines if I’m being shot at but that’s just me. There is some extra technology requirements to make 2 engines work in tandem but I feel it’s worth it.

    3. CFT’s – The conformal fuel tanks are in my opinion absolutely necessary. They fit neatly into the airframe and only slightly increase drag above mach .84. The external drop fuel tanks can be gone which I personally would love to get rid of which will in the long run, improve stealth and range. I would expect that the new engines and the new CFT’s would be tested at roughly the same time since they are dependent on one another. If you are going to install a new engine then you might just as well install the new fuel tanks while you are at it.
    The tanks also lower the bringback weight which save a little wear and tear on the jet.

    4. EWP – The EWP situation is such that this is the only realistic approach to enhance stealth and still carry weapons at the expense of drag which will slow you down. Everyone knows this. The only way to fix it would be to mostly, if not entirely redesign the airframe which essentially creates a new aircraft and Boeing isn’t going to do that. This is a compromise fix. It’s not the best but at least it’s an option.
    My biggest complaint is that Boeing is doing this so late in the game. If they had started testing sooner .. like 2 or 3 years sooner then I think they would have a much better chance at getting sales and working out the kinks. The enhanced engines will push thrust back up to higher levels with the extra drag but will lower fuel efficiency.
    This is certainly not the best situation but it is a moderate upgrade path. If you have some super hornet’s and you need to attempt a stealthy strike against a target then at least having these available gives you an option and more options are always good.

    5. Avionics – I think arcturus and I are on the same page. I like where they are going and I would also like to see this added and retrofitted to all super hornets. I would also like to see the super hornet upgraded to the APG-81 version but I think the cost increase would be too much and I think Boeing knows it too.

    What is the ASH??? It is true that the ASH is technically little more than a powerpoint presentation with a few non-functioning pieces. Testing, however, is rarely done with all of the additions at the same time. This type of upgrade is usually tested in piecemeal fashion. When the CFT’s are built and ready to be tested, it’s my belief that the new engines will also be installed and tested. The initial test was partially for show and partially to crank out some numbers and spark up the conversation for Boeing to gauge the level of interest.

    However, I believe that if Boeing has gone this far then they must think that all of these upgrades can be done without breaking the bank and can be done using available technology. This could very well be a last ditch effort to save the F18’s and that may be partially true but the F18 is still a pretty decent fighter. I don’t care what anyone says about it. It does what it’s designed to do and does it without costing a ridiculous amount of money.

    Can the ASH bridge the gap between 4th gen and 5th gen fighters?

    Answer: Yes and no.

    It will never match the F35 or any other true 5th gen fighter in the area of stealth without a major redesign. The avionics can be upgraded to 5th gen capabilities but would come with a higher price tag. The engines, EWP’s, CFT’s all add some performance, range and stealth enhancements. In the end it all comes down to cost ratio’s. If I could put 2 ASH’s in the air for the cost of 1 F-35 then I would say “Sign me up!” but I just don’t have the numbers to know if that’s even possible but I sincerely hope that Boeing can sell this to the U.S and our allies. I do not like the idea of having only a single supplier for fighters.

  10. The Advanced Super Hornet would be an excellent fleet defense fighter. It’s improvements over the Block II Super Hornet are substantial. Add the capability of the E-2D, and you have some very interesting possibilities. Now, the strike mission is another matter. I’m not sure I would want to face a double digit SAM system in a Super Hornet. I don’t think I’d want to do it in an F-35 either. Why don’t we leave SEAD to unmanned systems!

  11. The advanced Super Hornet would be great at fleet defense. More gas is always a plus. The integration of an internal IRST sensor is very welcome. Now, if GE can deliver 20 percent more thrust, I think we will have a real winner. The fleet will also need the F-35C to perform the strike mission. Sure , it can do air to air, but penetrating a modern IADS is what it was designed for. We need both.

  12. arcturus415 writes:

    “The problem with that path, is that the Advanced Super Hornet is not necessarily ‘cheap’.Look at the cost growth of other programs. Its foolish to believe that suddenly, almost magically, the ASH will come in on budget, and on time.A certain amount of risk exists with ASH.

    Canada’s defense budget can’t support a mixed fleet. Such a buy would offer diversification, but at the cost of other defense spending. Canada wants its cake, and to eat it too. Sadly, that happening is incredibly unlikely.”

    I don’t believe this is true. In the 1960s and 1970s, Canada maintained mixed fleets of fighter jets. It had the Northrop-built CF-5 fighter jet for the ground strike and light interdiction role, and the CF-101 Voodoo for the air interdiction role. It also had the CF-104 Starfighter, which was used in the tactical nuclear strike role in Germany up until the early 1970s.

    The F-18 replaced all of these fighter jets with one aircraft that could more or less do it all. Ever since then, the government has had the idea that it could maintain an air force on the cheap with just one type of fighter aircraft. Whether Liberal or Conservative, governments in Canada have always tried to do defence on the cheap, with the end result that Canada often can’t handle its share of the collective defence burden within NATO or within a continental context. Canadians are generally loath to spend on defence because they conflate big militaries with the US military, which frequently sticks its nose into places it doesn’t belong in well-meaning but often misguided attempt to play globo-cop.

    The problem-plagued and so far very expensive F35 doesn’t fully cover all the roles that the competing F-18 can. What the F-18 mainly lacks is stealth and the sophisticated electronics the F-35 has. Conversely, the F-35 lacks range, something that is extremely important given how geographically vast Canada is.

    • Which roles does the F-18 cover that the F-35 cannot? Have you examined the range of the F-35 and compared that range to the range of the CF-18?

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