Tuesday, July 15, 2014

While the F-35's in omnishambles, others step up.

The F-35's fiberglass stunt double.  (Image credit:  Erik Gustavsson)

It's official.  The F-35 Lightning II will not be making its international debut over Farnborough this week.

This was supposed to be a big month for the Lightning II.  Costs are said to be coming down, with further discounts on the way.  There is even the possibility of the Canadian government making its long-delayed announcement on whether or not to sole-source the stealth fighter.  All this would be met with great fanfare as the JSF made its international debut with its only "Level 1" partner, the United Kingdom.  A flyover at HMS Queen Elizabeth's naming ceremony, followed by an aerial display at the Royal International Air Tattoo (RIAT), and then an appearance at the Farnborough International Air Show.

Despite best laid plans, July of 2014 will be remembered as the month nothing seemed to go right for the JSF.  In fact, its UK debut has can be described as in omnishambles.

Hot off an oil leak last month, the F-35 had just resumed flying after a brief grounding only to have a F-35A burst into flames as it was taxiing down the runway on June 23rd.  Despite this dramatic turn of events, an official grounding was not ordered until July 3rd...  Right before the Independence Day long weekend.

While the JSF has been cleared for flight, it does so under strict flight restrictions.  One of those restrictions mandates that the F-35's engine be inspected after every three hours of flight.  Not an easy thing to do while you are flying over the Atlantic Ocean.  Even if these checks could be avoided, the forecast for possible thunderstorms would keep the JSF away because getting hit by lightning could make it explode also.

"Excessive Rubbing" causing headaches?
At least they believe they might have found the cause of the fire.  "Excessive Rubbing" of the turbine blade against its housing caused extra friction followed by extra heat.  Needless to say, this is not a great thing to have in a high precision jet engine surrounded by $100 million dollars (at least) worth of aircraft and jet fuel.

All of this has not helped the JSF beleaguered public image.  It is certainly conspicuous by its absence in the U.K.  It was supposed to be the main attraction, so people notice when it does not show up.  Not only do they notice, but they start to ask questions.
"Why isn't it here?"
"It's grounded?  Why?"
"ONE CAUGHT ON FIRE WHILE TAKING OFF?"
"How much is this thing gonna cost, anyway?"
"WHAT?  It's the most expensive weapon ever?"
"It's already overbudget and eight years late?
"IT'S STILL NOT EVEN CLOSE TO BEING READY?" 
"OUR GOVERNMENT WANTS TO BUY THESE THINGS TOO???" (storms off to grab a pitchfork)
Farnborough and RIAT are big events where government officials hobnob with defense contractor executives.  High profile events like these are often where deals are announced and impressions are made.  While Lockheed Martin's public relations people are sure to downplay the seriousness of the F-35's non-appearance, government officials will likely be treading far more carefully.

Any nation, including Canada, who is "on the fence" about a JSF purchase will no doubt put off any purchase announcements until this has blown over.  Announcing a multi-billion dollar fighter buy right after that fighter misses its own international debut due to an engine fire would be akin to hanging an albatross around their neck.

Oddly enough, Phillip Hammond, UK Minister of Defense, is no longer Minister of Defense, as of today.  Read of that what you will, but there could be a trend.

Meanwhile, other manufacturers are out trying to get attention.

See?  They made it.
Despite starting its development a mere 23 months ago, the Textron Scorpion managed to do what the 8-year-old F-35 could not...  Show up.  While the Scorpion certainly is not in the same class as the F-35, it has the handicap of not being publicly funded.  It is also an aircraft many of the world's cash-strapped air forces could actually afford.

Spiffy Tiffie.
Then there is the Eurofighter Typhoon, Britain's current pride and joy.  Not only did the Typhoon show up in a commemorative D-Day paint scheme, but it also received a commitment to develop the CAPTOR-E AESA radar.

The "show-stealer" award goes to Saab, however.  Saab presented an update on its Gripen E, confirming its AESA radar, and MBDA Meteor capability.  Saab also revealed that its latest customer, Brazil, would be undertaking much of the design work on the two-seat Gripen F, as well as building most of that country's Gripen Es.  This comes at a time when many F-35 customers are questioning their offset benefits.

But the icing on the cake has to be this gem:

The Troll from Trollhättan?

While Lockheed-Martin is busy touting its absent and flight restricted F-35 as the most advanced fighter available on the market, Saab is fighting back by promising a "PRODUCT THAT ACTUALLY WORKS."

Ouch.

51 comments:

  1. hmm.. let's wait and see how the f35 and gripe ng deal with each other when the two meets in the Nordic air exercise in 2019. ThAt is is the f35 is already operational by then

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  2. Your latent sarcasm is in especially fine form on
    this posting Doug.

    Come on now give us a play by play LM. We all
    know: including you LM, that blade rubbing in turbines of any kind is never a
    good thing. Is this the first time that you have noticed this? BTW I am very
    interested in obtaining the franchise on those teensy weensy little tires, what
    do I have to do?



    In the airwar classic 'Going Downtown' Jack
    Broughton has a few vivid and hair raising accounts of turbine blade mishaps in
    the F105 Thunderchief. The thing is,the mill as he calls it in the F105, often
    seemed to be able to survive this and other almost catastrophic punishing
    engine failures, and get back to base. Blade fails on twin engine fighters back
    then seemed to cause worse damage than on the Thunderchief. Actually, a lot of
    the very readable prose in 'Going Downtown' is a damning testimonial of
    procurement and selection fails going way back past 60 years from today. Pray
    thee tell us a lot has changed in the interim.

    Focusing on present and future
    considerations surely there must be a vast library somewhere that informs todays
    engineers on the thou shalts and thou shalt nots of military turbine cowling
    designs in relation to blade grenading. Is this yet again another emerging need
    for some more expensive reworks and debottlenecking, with who knows what
    collateral material consequences and time delays?











    Just one persons opinion:Some kind of bacillus of
    botched military engineering apparently continues to reinfect what is trying to
    be sold here as a robust and reliable tool of war. The result looks to be
    a geriatric jet-one that is thoroughly tainted with several very foul,
    breathtakingly expensive, and difficult to treat chronic diseases.



    Luv that pic of the troll Doug.

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  3. Only if Lockheed Martin asks for help or purchases Saab. They can't seam to do it.

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  4. That is funny. I have a vision of the Muppet Sweedish chef throwing everything over his shoulders saying "smorgy borgy nah gewd".

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  5. Calling the Gripen E or F a 'product that actually works' is incredibly misleading considering the Gripen E won't even fly until next year and the Gripen F only exists on paper.

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  6. The weapons pod would only be used for curtain mission, most of the time it would be an extra fuel tank. I am all for the international road map super hornet with the extra fuel tanks, all the new sensors, the new engines, a few pods, some jet to jet in flight refueling pods. New glass cockpit optional.

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  7. You have met the Lockheed Engineers? Saab followed the recipe.

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  8. Good looking, good price, effective stealth and lethal. Here you go, the SH with the Maple Syrup tanks.

    http://simviation.com//yabbuploads/VRSS_SuperHornet_Canada_002.jpg
    http://img109.imageshack.us/img109/7015/i0qk.jpg

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  9. Paul, you sound like a good guy. You see, I wanted to attach a pic of the Muppet Swedish Chef tossing everthing over his shoulders but I can't because I am still trying to figure out my new tablet. Given the mood of the last blog, it would be appropriate. Would you be so kind?

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  10. They were talking about a combination Growler / E. With the extra fuel tanks on top they can put on the centre pod. The problem with the Growler is there is not enough room for enough weapons.

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  11. fyi
    I don't know what you got the "Troll" from Trollhättan part from, but people usually mistake Saab AB with Saab Automobile which filed for bankruptcy a couple of years back, that company (the car company) had its hq in Trollhättan.



    Saab AB, the company making all kinds of defense systems, including Gripen, has most of its production/development and hq in Linköping.


    Great article btw. factual as usual.

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  12. Who called Gripen E/F a product that works? Nobody I'm guessing?
    If you're referring to the quote from Lennart Sindahl in the article it says that Saab provides a "choice" that works. Nothing mentioned about Gripen E or F.
    To be picky, its not even specifying that its a Gripen variant, Saab makes a lot of things...

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  13. Yep, the idea is to have hybrid strike groups of Super Honets/Growlers plus pure Growlers.

    2 Hybrids + a Growler receiving the electromagnetic signals from stealth fighters could locate their positions in seconds and the Growler could jam their radars if the enemy is trying to locate their positions utilizing the same technique. That's the advantage of having pure dedicated electronic attacks fighters like the Growler. If the trio locates the Stealth fighters, they can launch Amraams to the enemy an the Amraam will locate the target once is in the Non Scape Zone very close to the stealth airplane. They could also utilize the new Aim-9X with the same range as the Amraam the Navy has just commanded.

    http://i0.wp.com/news.usni.org/wp-content/uploads/2014/04/Screen-Shot-2014-04-07-at-3.24.39-PM.png?resize=625%2C428

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  14. Here's the Tweet for you with the image in. https://twitter.com/Saab/status/488980246725922816


    Future Gripen development could refer to either the current variants or E/F. If the previous then that's fine, but why would Canada want a Gripen C/D?

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  15. I could more than live with it.

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  16. They are referring to the Gripen/Timeline - system as a whole.

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  17. A minor correction the headquarter is in Stockholm.

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  18. Too much weight to add the third Pylon on each wing?

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  19. For the Growler you mean? I don't know, for Air to air escort they could change the antirradiation missiles for Amrrams to carry 4 of them.

    What I find interesting is how the hybrid airplane carries the Growler sensors at the tip of the wins and the Aim-9X in the exterior pylons plus two Amraam in each interior pylon, plus two more next to the engines. If we change the central tank to carry 4 amraams in the enclosed weapons pod that will give you 12 missiles, great sensors and range. That's pretty badass.

    BTW, I want to see how the Thay Gripens will do against the Aussies SH in the next Pitch Black in August. Probably the finished like the American Agressors F-16 in the exercise Lighting Viper. A ratio of 20/1 in favor of the SH.

    http://www.airforce.gov.au/Operations/Exercise-PITCH-BLACK-14/?RAAF-7tQQKhvM3MpLPRrg+dZR7pEZlkCqqQbx

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  20. At least the Thais send their Gripens and not their F-16s even if they haven't have their Gripen that long. Maybe they should send their Saab EAWs and do some magic data link exercises against the opponents. And the next time the Thais my use the Meteor.

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  21. One comment, are the thay pilots the same quality as the ones from Sweden?

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  22. If they fly as they cook, probably are much better.

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  23. So how is the Aussie cooking then, I assume the Thai cuisine is better than the Australian, if that is the measuring condition?

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  24. That is funny as hell. First time I laugh out loud!

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  25. There I got it. Easy on my computer, not on my table!

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  26. But what to jam if they don't even know what hit them in the first place. And the Meteor is a higher generation than AMRAAM.

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  27. To hit something, first they need to locate something.
    If the Gripen uses its radar the Growler and the Advanced Super Hornets with growler sensors will detect and locate the emitter, then the Growler will jam the Gripen radar, at the same time some Amraams and Aim-9X2 coming from different parts, specially from the Stealth Advanced Super Hornets will destroy the Gripens with it Meteors in their Pylons. In the other hand, if the Growler starts the action using it's Aesa radar, it will locate the non Low Observable Gripens with their weapons, if they try to locate the Growler using triangulation and data link, the Growler and Advanced Super Hornets will detect their positions too and the powerfull Growler will jam their communications and radars. There won't be hope for those small fighters if one or more powerful Growlers and Advanced Super Hornets were in the area.

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  28. Don't worried, the Aussies have much better airplanes... and their BBQ are excellent.

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  29. No doubt much of the performance is classified but the results of system vs system, kind of like the USA Hornet exercise versus the West German MIGs, would be telling. Only way to tell!

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  30. I am sorry to say that you do not match even in the cooking contest. Gold to Sweden, Canada fourth, USA sixth, Australia ninth and last Thailand did not participated in the Culinary Olympics http://2012.olympiade-der-koeche.de/en/competitions/results.html as they say the more cooks the worse soup.

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  31. On a serious note. Would love to know what the new parameters for the so-called, possible, well you know, "reset button". Can no longer be one engine? Can't be a price issue? No need for super cruise? Maintenance, who cares? Flying? That one is a must!

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  32. Somehow the blog turned into a conversation about cooking and the muppets. But wait, are countries just mindlessly, like a puppet, looking at what the US is cooking and not looking at what is in the meal and eating.

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  33. Here is one for the barf bag! from the Defense Industry Daily


    Reuters says that the government’s review recommended what the government has always wanted to do: buy the F-35A. Now what?

    June 5/14: Decision, under wraps. Reuters reports from 3 unnamed sources that Canada’s NFPS report recommended sole-sourcing the F-35, but adds that the Conservative Party government is waiting until Parliament is dismissed for the summer before announcing the decision. That’s one way to try and avoid criticism.

    The next question becomes how quickly the government signs a contract. If the government buys the jets before the 2015 elections after all (q.v. April 6/14), the F-35 will become an election issue again, and this time it could hurt the Conservatives. That’s Lockheed Martin’s best situation, because high cancellation costs would likely force the next government to keep the contract in place. If the Conservative Party government doesn’t sign a contract, on the other hand, the election issue loses its bite, but the F-35 buy would be at very grave risk if the Liberal and/or NDP parties win. Sources: Reuters, “Exclusive: Canadian review will recommend buying Lockheed F-35 fighter jet – sources”.
    We are so screwed!!!!! Did the Aussies lose big bucks?

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  34. Some what, they are getting the F35, but they have the SH for help.

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  35. Super secretive procurement ... penelties... did Sikorsky pay anything? I think not.

    Well, what kind of penelties would we have to pay? This is the part that really pisses me off. Nobody knows anything. Call me ignorant, or just a busy family man, I did not know we were that committed. I thought "reset" really was reset.

    You see, I am drinking a beer and munching on popcorn and I am pissed. Doug, Paul, Super Rhino, CLacroix, Shawn ... they may go ahead and buy these things because they have to! 50 billion smackers at least! Somebody contradict me or tell me something.

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  36. This all started a long time ago when the previous government was in. To be a member of the club you had to put money into the pot. When the current government said let's reset , these should have stopped all money flow or reduced it until Canada relooks at this purchase as the people requested. Rumour has it that they where still paying and had personal involved, while they set up a team to review. Money money money. If this was happening I would think the solisitor general would have reported that that nothing has changed and the people could have said not only reset but pause or stop until further notice and the will of the people have said that they want a compitition.

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  37. We'll know for sure which plane is better in the future.
    But for now that's just a fantasy.

    Back to reality:
    The ASH is not stealth and as of today nobody wants it (not counting fanboys). Even the US navy is not funding it. These ASH talk by Boeing are all the Hail Mary they have along with the silent eagle.

    Sweden already said the gripen NG will move on with or without a partner so it will be there come 2018.

    Conclusion: both are paper plane but only one is sure to fly with an air force roundel.

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  38. If your Olympics contest doesn't include Peru, you have no idea what you are talking about.

    Peru has being awarded the last two years as the best culinary destination in the world, not Sweden.

    http://www.worldtravelawards.com/award-worlds-leading-culinary-destination-2013

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  39. The swedish way small is the best way, look at small Swedish subs taking out American nuclear subs and carriers https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aoMj1TjNTFw

    So now that Saab do introduce GaN AESA in EW in Gripen E, 6 years ahead of the competitors adding 25 % in increase in capacity, covering the Meteor's range add to that the Erieye your missiles will be detected and taken care of or do you intend to send a "beer can" to protect your missiles then we have IRST, data links, Meteor and so on.

    As you will not be allowed to open the black boxes in your American made equipment you must buy a lot so you have spares in an emergency and will not be able to update if needed on your own.

    It is also a bit complicated when you add extra HW that is either not in the loop other than at Boeing or experimental, has was said at Saabs briefing an unmannd aircraft needs 50 persions to support it Gripen needs 5 plus the pilot.

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  40. I have to agree with you, after all the Muppets, a hallmark of American culture, did chose a "Swedish" chef and not some dude from Peru.

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  41. Please do not talk about subs ... I have not recovered from the Up-Holder SNAFU yet. By the way do you have 4 AIP systems to lend us? Our subs are in dry dock anyway :)

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  42. I do not think it is a case of do not want it, many nations got caught in the F-35 trap and cash is hard to come buy now or I can only assume they face serious penalties. As for the Gripen, I think Fog is right. No matter how good, you are up against serious economic machines.

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  43. I did not see that.
    Still, "continue" means Saab _has been_ providing a effective, affordable and sovereign choice in the past and _will in the future_. It still doesn't say the current prototype model is all that.


    Gripen C was good, Gripen E is going to be much, much better.

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  44. Sweden has sold older subs to Singapore and converted 2 to AIP, now we have situation in Sweden that Saab will take over to manufacturing of subs from ThyssenKrupp which owns it now, but as the Swedish Government and FMV refuse to place any orders with the Germans they was more or less forced to sell to Saab, a big issue was that ThyssenKrupp forbid the Swedish controlled company to sell the Swedish subs as they is competing with German built AIP subs. So the German type of AIP sub won the Singapore contest as the Swedish type was not allowed to compete.
    There was a raid from Sweden on the premises to secure Swedish own IP so there was a bad situation and Saab started to hire the Kockum people.

    I think there is some Sterling engines made so if you ask politle... The Convertion to Singapore was to add an extra section with the AIP Sterling engines in principle.

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  45. How do you say "shit" in Swedish? Well we live beside the USA, we know all about power politics. Saab was bought by who? Or just the sub division?

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  46. The translation will of shit be skit.

    The Kockums Shipyard was bought by the German company Howaldtswerke-Deutsche Werft AG, HDW or Howaldtswerke in 1999 when the Swedish goverment did not want it anymore, by the way it was included in Celsius at the time but Saad did not want the submarine part. In 2005 the German company merge with another German company ThyssenKrupp and now called ThyssenKrupp Marine Systems but as they had there own AIP it was more taking controll of which version to sell and it was not Kockums. So now Saab is acquiring to old Kockums part so to say which they did not want back in 1999.

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