Like Clockwork, The Peanut Gallery Tries Again

In a pathetic, yet amusing and expected move, the Anti-JSF crowd is hard at work trying to preempt positive news on this weeks F-35B sea trail. Desperation is a foul oder, but no one has clued the peanut gallery into the fact that they might want to get a new scent for this season. This is just one of several articles to pop up on the net in the last few hours. Time will tell just how many clowns critics can fit in that clown car of theirs.

As the peanut gallery has done before, they have once again rolled out the same tired soundbites, while praying they gain traction. Once again, the 2008 Rand Simulation has been dusted off, rolled out, and tossed into the wild. One would assume using a thoroughly debunked ‘simulation’ would seem like a bad idea, when your goal is to nullify confidence in the F-35. I’ll address the ‘simulation’ in a moment, but would first like to address the linked article on its opening claims. For simplicities sake, I will put article quotes in bold, with my responses beneath.

Unsurprisingly, this article begins with the old line about design compromises stemming from the F-35B.

“Owing to heavy design compromises foisted on the plane mostly by the Marine Corps, the F-35 is an inferior combatant, seriously outclassed by even older Russian and Chinese jets that can fly faster and farther and maneuver better.”

Where this long spouted claim came from, I have no idea. Unsurprisingly, claims by critics that the 35B compromised the F-35 design are never quantified. Far be it for me to expect the peanut gallery to actually examine their claims for validity. If they did, they might discover that the weight of the lift fan is nearly the exact weight of the fuel tank, at mid mission fuel levels, that the fan replaces. What this means, is the 35B will handle similarly to a 35A, but with reduced range.

I fail to see how this makes the F-35 an ‘inferior combatant’ which is ‘seriously outclassed’ by current or older Russian and Chinese aircraft. A cursory examination of the combat loss ratios experienced by Russian exported combat aircraft shows their track records are abysmal. Compare these to the kill to loss ratios enjoyed by the F-15, and F-16. To call the F-35 an ‘inferior combatant’ is laughable. How does one consider an aircraft that enjoys sensor fusion, three hundred and sixty degree IR tracking, AESA radar suites, and low observability ‘seriously outclassed by even older Russian and Chinese jets’?

The ‘faster’ claim would need to be judged on an airframe to airframe comparison, but this article fails to provide specific aircraft for direct comparison. Not surprising. Flying ‘farther’ is also an equally questionable claim. Much has been made of the ‘maneuver better’ line of argument. It simply isn’t an argument in my eyes. Maneuverability is all well and good, but no manned aircraft can outmaneuver a missile capable of thirty g turns. This entire line of argument totally ignores helmet cued targeting and high angle off boresight capabilities present around the world. At some point, one would hope critics realize technology has advanced since the days of the Korean War, in MiG Alley. The merge is not the sum total of air combat.

“Engineering compromises forced on the F-35 by an unprecedented need for versatility have taken their toll on the new jet’s performance. Largely because of the wide vertical-takeoff fan the Marines demanded, the JSF is wide, heavy and has high drag, and is neither as quick as an F-16 nor as toughly constructed as an A-10. The jack-of-all-trades JSF has become the master of none.”

Here, they come back to the same frivolous claim about supposed ‘engineering compromises’. Those claims were ridiculous then, and still are. As I have already explained above, the vertical lift fan claim is an existential fallacy. The claims of ‘high drag’ and not ‘as quick as an F-16’ are equally laughable, and highlight a clear lack of education in the areas being discussed.

A true apples to apples comparison is something that critics shy away from, for good reason. On the topic of ‘high drag’, to remain intellectually honest, one must compare an F-16 loaded for a combat mission beside an F-35 with similar stores. Pick your air to ground and air to air munitions flavors. Don’t forget to include external fuel stores for the F-16, as it does not enjoy the same internal fuels stores as the F-35.

Lets take our hypothetical F-16 and F-35, and load them with two AIM-120’s, two AIM-9’s, and two two thousand pound JDAM’s. These munitions, loaded aboard our hypothetical F-35, are carried internally, and thus do not contribute parasitic drag. Lacking internal carriage ability, our hypothetical F-16 will carry these on wing hard points, where they will generate incredible amounts of drag. Don’t forget to add those fuel drop tanks to your F-16. In comparison to our hypothetical F-16, the F-35 is most certainly not an aircraft one would consider ‘high drag’.

The accompanying ‘not as quick as an F-16’ claim is about as valid as the ‘high drag’ claim. In a clean configuration, the F-16 is capable of Mach 2, vs the F-35’s Mach 1.6. This is a meaningless comparison, as a clean configured F-16 has no combat value. Pro tip: clean configurations are great for air shows, but not combat. When configured with similar load out, the F-35 maintains the ability to make use of its full dash speed, whereas the F-16 is speed limited due to drag, and safety guidelines revolving around external stores. I suppose now is a good time to point out the g restriction the F-16 operates under with external stores.

Moving on to the final ridiculous complaint ‘nor as toughly constructed as an A-10’, I am left wondering if I am the only one that see’s the face-palm moment taking place. What exactly is this complaint criticizing? Lack of redundant systems? Lack of a titanium bathtub around the pilot? What? This same complaint can be aimed at virtually every other aircraft in use globally.

“And since the F-35 was purposely set up as a monopoly, replacing almost every other warplane in the Pentagon’s inventory, there are fewer and fewer true alternatives. In winning the 2001 competition to build the multipurpose JSF, Lockheed set a course to eventually becoming America’s sole active builder of new-generation jet fighters, leaving competitors such as Boeing pushing older warplane designs.”

This next portion of an already comical article is absolutely hysterical. Here, the author of the article attempts to demonize Lockheed, by portraying the F-35 program as a monopoly. First, the F-35 is not ‘replacing almost every other warplane in the Pentagon’s inventory’. If you believe that, I still have that bridge to sell you. Take a good look at the airframes the F-35 is slated to replace, and you quickly see this hardly equals ‘almost every other warplane in the Pentagon’s inventory’.

By winning the JSF competition, Lockheed did not ‘set a course to eventually become America’s sole active builder of new generation jet fighters’. To make this claim, one would be forced to believe that Lockheed is an omnipotent super villain, plotting evilly while petting Mr. Bigglesworth. What Lockheed did do, was submit a design, which was judged by the Department of Defense during a competition with Boeing. If, had Boeing won, would Boeing be judged as the super villain? I doubt it. Lockheed’s win did nothing to cause undo harm to Boeing. Fault for a Lockheed win should not be used to demonize Lockheed, so much as it should be used to judge Boeing’s ability to design a winning design.

That Boeing is left ‘pushing older warplane designs’ is hardly something to cry over. Since the JSF selection, the F-18 E/F has continued to sell, as has its derivative, the EF-18 Growler. Boeing’s production line for the F-15 continues to deliver that ‘older warplane design’ to international customers, while Lockheed’s F-22 line has come to a halt. Should we bemoan Boeing for this? By the logic used by the articles author, we apparently should.

2008 RAND Simulation

“In Stillion and Perdue’s August 2008 war simulation, a massive Chinese air and naval force bore down on Beijing’s longtime rival Taiwan amid rising tensions in the western Pacific. A sudden Chinese missile barrage wiped out the tiny, outdated Taiwanese air force, leaving American jet fighters based in Japan and Guam to do battle with Beijing’s own planes and, hopefully, forestall a bloody invasion.

In the scenario, 72 Chinese jets patrolled the Taiwan Strait. Just 26 American warplanes — the survivors of a second missile barrage targeting their airfields — were able to intercept them, including 10 twin-engine F-22 stealth fighters that quickly fired off all their missiles.

That left 16 of the smaller, single-engine F-35s to do battle with the Chinese. As they began exchanging fire with the enemy jets within the mathematical models of the mock conflict, the results were shocking.

America’s newest stealth warplane and the planned mainstay of the future Air Force and the air arms of the Navy and Marine Corps, was no match for Chinese warplanes. Despite their vaunted ability to evade detection by radar, the JSFs were blown out of the sky. “The F-35 is double-inferior,” Stillion and Perdue moaned in their written summary of the war game, later leaked to the press.

The analysts railed against the new plane, which to be fair played only a small role in the overall simulation. “Inferior acceleration, inferior climb [rate], inferior sustained turn capability,” they wrote. “Also has lower top speed. Can’t turn, can’t climb, can’t run.” Once missiles and guns had been fired and avoiding detection was no longer an option — in all but the first few seconds of combat, in other words — the F-35 was unable to keep pace with rival planes.

And partly as a result, the U.S. lost the simulated war. Hundreds of computer-code American air crew perished. Taiwan fell to the 1s and 0s representing Chinese troops in Stillion and Perdue’s virtual world. Nearly a century of American air superiority ended among the wreckage of simulated warplanes, scattered across the Pacific.”

Now we come to my absolute favorite talking point used by critics. This ‘simulation’ is a chestnut that never gets old for the peanut gallery. First, this was not a standalone simulation performed by Rand. Let me fill in the backstory for you. In 2008, at Hickam Air Force Base, the Pacific Vision conference was held. It was a simulation,  not a war-game simulation, but one focused on logistics issues. This simulation did not address air combat effectiveness. The only time combat effectiveness was addressed was in a presentation titled Air Combat Past, Present, and Future, by John Stillion and Scott Perdue. I should point out, at the time, both of these chuckleheads worked in a Rand office focused on policy issues, and not aircraft evaluation as it relates to air combat.

The ‘simulation’ that never was, did not make use of TAC Brawler, which is a software suite used by the US Air Force. TAC Brawler is an extremely realistic, reliable, and accurate system. The software used during Pacific Vision 2008 was Falconview, which has nothing to do with aircraft capability comparison.

The ‘simulation’ used by Stillion and Perdue was nothing more than a series of slides, with outcomes they generated on their own, without access to controlled information, to serve an agenda they shared with one Carlo Kopp of Air Power Australia. In many of the slides used in this presentation, graphics and data were taken directly from and credited to Air Power Australia. This is where I point out Kopp’s absolute lack of qualification in terms of aerospace evaluation, RCS measurement, etc. He is also one of the gentlemen that peddled the idea of a vastly upgraded F-111 for Australia, not out of concern for his nations defense, but because he stood to profit from it.

Following the media sensation of the claims of a simulation showing F-35 ineffectiveness, critics around the world ran with it, and continue to do so. That they do this without understanding how faulty their argument truly is tells you much about the intellectual caliber of many using this line of attack. Rand also had a large problem with Stillion and Perdue using their association with Rand to serve the agenda of Air Power Australia. Would you like to see what Rand had to say? Here you go!

September 25, 2008 

703-413-1100 x5117 
and 310-451-6913 

Statement Regarding Media Coverage of F-35 Joint Strike Fighter 

Andrew Hoehn, Director of RAND Project Air Force, made the following statement today: 

“Recently, articles have appeared in the Australian press with assertions regarding a war game in which analysts from the RAND Corporation were involved. Those reports are not accurate. RAND did not present any analysis at the war game relating to the performance of the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter, nor did the game attempt detailed adjudication of air-to-air combat. Neither the game nor the assessments by RAND in support of the game undertook any comparison of the fighting qualities of particular fighter aircraft.”

To sum this all up, the article quoted throughout this post is nothing more than a hit piece. Critics love to flood the interwebs with their doom and gloom claims, shortly before positive news for the JSF program is expected to be announced. They do this not only to try and control the overall narrative, but also to manipulate those who lack a fuller understanding of the matter at hand. Do you like to be manipulated? I certainly don’t. Now, lets put those clowns back in their clown car, shall we?

~ by arcturus415 on August 15, 2013.

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