Wednesday, March 4, 2015

Facepalm of the Week: Some of the F-35B's SDBs will be MIA.

Raytheon SDB-II
"Measure twice.  Cut once."

Carpenters know the phrase well.  In the literal sense, it means to take extra care in measuring the desired dimensions before cutting.  If the measurement is off, you will need to redo it, with a good chance you just wasted a perfectly good piece of lumber.

In the figurative sense, it simply means to be methodical and careful before putting a plan into action.

One wonders if the folks in the JSF program office measured twice.

In the latest bit of JSF news, it turns out that the F-35B will not be able to fit the required load of Small Diameter Bombs (SDB-II) inside its weapons bays.  Instead of eight, the STOVL version of the JSF will have to make due with four (two per bay).  This would not be such a big deal, except for the fact that the SDB's purpose is to allow fighters to strike more targets.

I have ranted on about the F-35's weapon bays in the past.  While they do improve stealth, they offer less flexibility than external pylons.  Weapon selection is dependent on whether or not it fits inside the box.

How it's supposed to look.

How did this happen?  It turns out that the F-35B's weapons bays are slightly smaller in volume due to the need to accommodate the STOVL lift fan.  This limits it to 1000lbs class JDAMs instead of the 2000lbs JDAMs carried by the F-35A and F-35C.

This has been a known issue since 2007, but a fix likely will not occur until the "Block 4" upgrades slated for 2022.  This is no big deal, since the SDB-II was not scheduled to appear on the JSF until Block 4 anyway.
“I think it's just the B. When we did our fit checks on the JSF, the A and the C basically had the same bay”.
 Let us hope that there are not many more "surprises" involving the already over budget and overdue F-35.

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