Monday, July 4, 2011

Time For Delivery?

The first Dutch F-35 is now under assembly at the Northrop plant.

Northrop Grumman has completed the centre fuselage for the Netherlands' first F-35A Lightning II,
It will then be integrated with the other major sections for the conventional take-off and landing aircraft: its Lockheed-produced forward fuselage, cockpit and wings; and BAE Systems-built rear fuselage.

The Dutch has ordered two F-35 to start with. These test aircraft will be used for training the first cadre of instructors. Norway are planning to buy four test aircraft to do the same. UK has bought three test aircraft and the first UK pilot has already flown the F-35B (even though as it looks right now UK will buy the F-35C conventional carrier version). Outside of the US these are the only F-35 that has actually been bought yet! The rest are just on the "to-be-decided"-list.

Some countries has not even decided which configuration of the F-35 they will buy. UK is choosing between F-35B/C. Canada is planning to buy the CF-35 with drag chute and drogue AAR refueling (there are ongoing discussions in the Canadian government regarding ordering a special version of the F-35, since it will be very costly for the Canadians). The drag chute is for landing on icy runways. Note: Norway might also be interested in this version of the F-35.

One thing that has not yet been decided, or at least not been made public, is the final export configuration of the F-35. There has been rumors about the stealth capability being less effective on the export version and that not all of the jamming capability will exported. Maybe this problem will be automatically solved if the US does not have money enough to finish the development of these capabilities.

Many F-35 customer are now facing problems with the non-existing time overlap between the last day of operations with their existing fleet of aircraft and the introduction of the F-35. E.g. the Norwegian F-16MLU and the Canadian CF-18 will probably be grounded for good before the first flight of the F-35 in their respective Air Forces. Maybe this will result in that some countries need to buy another aircraft. My guess is that the F-15SE and the F-18E/F will find customers among countries that today are on the F-35 interest list.

How effective will the F-35 be? RAND Corporation has done a simulation of F-35 and F-18E/F versus Su-30 for the Australian Air Force with some bad news for the F-35.

The clear implication of the RAND study is that the F-35 is very likely to wind up facing many more “up close and personal” opponents than its proponents suggest, while dealing with beyond-visual-range infrared-guided missiles as an added complication. Unlike the F-22, the F-35 is described as “double inferior” to modern SU-30 family fighters within visual range combat; thrust and wing loading issues are noted, all summed up in one RAND background slide as “can’t [out]turn, can’t [out]climb, can’t [out]run.”

Worst of all is that the price tag of the F-35 keeps going up. In combination with the bad European economy it will of course affect how many aircraft that will be bought.

But, instead of the poor European customers there are other potential markets coming up. President Obama has given go-ahead to Lockheed Martin to offer F-35 to India. In the FX-3 program in Brazil, F-35 will most probably be an contender. Israel is very interested after Saudi Arabia decided to buy Eurofighters and F-15E.

Finally I recommend this documentary about the F-35.


  1. "The F-35 has thrust vectoring "

    I'm sorry what? The only F-35 with TW is the Bravo-model, and that's only to achieve vertical lift (VTOL). Not anything you could use to maneuver better with. The Alfa and Charlie models do not have thrust vectoring.

  2. @JW: You are absolutely right!

  3. There is a difference between the Norwegian and the Dutch testing aircraft.
    The two Dutch F35A’s are part of the IOT&E phase.

    From the Dutch pilots, till so far, only one will be trained as a instructor
    As a instructor his job will be training pilots on the F35 coming years during the program.

    Which is logical, because the first Dutch jets will not be delivered before 2019.

    The other pilots, maintenance, testing personnel and etc, will test the jet during IOT&E.
    All jets of the US, UK and the Dutch will be used in a pool, as well as spare parts
    of each country will also be used in a pool.
    So theoretically it`s possible Dutch will not fly in Dutch F35’s for month’s, or US
    pilots will for weeks or month’s will test the jet in Dutch or UK F35’s.

    This year the first two Dutch pilots start their training on the F35, in 2012 the
    others will follow
    First delivery of the F35 (LRIP 3) in 2012, second one in 2013 (LRIP4).
    IOT&E will start in 2014.

    Norway will start training on the F35 in 2016, when the full rate production has been started.
    The IOT& phase either is a totally different thing.
    The IOT&E phase is a separate part of the System Development and Demonstration
    phase (SDD), but only level 1 and 2 level partners were allowed to join IOT&E

    In this case, the UK with three F35’s and the Dutch with two F35’s. US some 19 F35’s
    Italy, also a level 2 partner, did not join the IOT&E phase.

  4. There will be no final export configuration version.
    The only possible exportversion(s) will be the F35's delivered to "not" levelparners.

    All the F35's for levelpartners are the same. With the extension, when a partner does want an extra item like a brake chute or whatever.

    There is nothing vaque about stealth.
    This rumour circles on the web for a long time, also spread by some specific journalists.

    When there is a difference in steath, this concerns the F22 versus the F35.
    From this point of view this can be seen as less stealth for the F35 and therefore as a export version concerning stealth technology.

    Especially level partners 1 and 2 would never accept a commanly developed jet and getting a lower advanced jet for the money they invested in development SDD phase.

    Level 1, UK: $2 billion
    Level 2, Italy: $1 billion

    Level 2, Dutch: SDD $800 million (= in 2011 Euro's: €857 million)
    IOT&E Phase: €270 million
    Subtotal SDD+IOT&E: €1.157 billion

    Production Phase: €355 million
    Total investment: €1.457 bilion = $2.087 billion (rate 2011)

    Mav, NL

  5. @Max: You are probably right. Since US have involved countires to invest in the R&D phase of the F-35 it would be a political disaster if it was ever found out that the aircraft are different. For true export customers like Brazil and India this could however be the case since the US might fear that certain technology will leak to Russia or China.

    The only thing that hold this kind of development back is that it is very expensive to maintain multiple configurations. This is something that Canada has to think about regarding the future for their CF-35.

  6. @NU As said in the article: “E.g. the Norwegian F-16MLU and the Canadian CF-18 will probably be grounded for good before the first flight of the F-35 in their respective Air Forces”

    This is nonsense. The Dutch will get there first production F35’s by 2018/2019 in stead of 2016.
    The last ones will be delivered in 2027.
    Last ones, three years later then originally planned.

    There is no problem for the Norwegians, within EPAF the Norwegian F16’s will be updated.
    Probably the Norwegians will be out of EPAF sooner, because their last F35’s will have been
    delivered earlier.

    Don’t see any problem for Canada either with the F18, it takes years for all the F35’s will be delivered.

    The configuration of the Canadian F35 and the other F35’s is not that much of a problem.
    The extra tank capacity does have the F35B too.
    The extra brake chute capacity has been foreseen during development of the F35.
    The extra costs are marginal equipping the F35 with a brake chute.

    There is may be a possibility the Dutch will order the brake chute capacity too.
    Dutch F16’s operate often in Norway.

    In a letter of Defence mentioned, there is a possibility the brake chute will be standard in future F35’s after LRIP 4, 5 or later.

    The Canadian discussion is hard to follow.
    Often seems forgotten the prize of a F35 every series became lower, with roughly 25%.

    Prize of the first F35’s: $220 million.

    The last second F35A for the Dutch:
    F35: $ 111.59 million = €70.88 million
    Engine: $ 14.99 million=€10.19 million

    Total F35A: $126.58 million = €86.07 million
    (Dollars already bought rate at $1 =€0.68)

    The Dutch F35A is a low rate initial production test aircraft for IOT&E.
    Testing aircraft are always more expensive then full rate production machines.

    When ordering the F35, Canada does not pay development costs, as well no militairy sales.

    Compare the prize and development costs of a F35A with the prize of a F18 E/F:

    June 2/09: US Navy CNO Adm. Roughead defends the FY 2010 budget decision to request only
    9 F/A-18E/F Super Hornets instead of 18 ($1.19 billion, incl. $127.7 million RDT&E)

    Per F18 E/F: $124.33 million
    RDT&E included: $127.7 million (9 F18 E/F)
    RDT&E per F18 E/F: $14.14 million

    The real RD costs for the F18 were much higher, because these R&D costs concerned only the airframe.

    R&D costs compared with the F35:
    Roughly 3200 F35’s, $60 billion development: $18.7 million per F35

    R&D costs: per advanced F16 for the VAE:
    80 F16: $3 billion R&D
    Per F16 = $37.5 million (VAE)


  7. Made a mistake dollars > Euro
    F35: $ 111.59 million = €70.88 million
    Hsas got be: €75.88 million

    The last second F35A for the Dutch:
    F35: $ 111.59 million = €75.88 million
    Engine: $ 14.99 million=€10.19 million

    Total F35A: $126.58 million = €86.07 million
    (Dollars already bought rate at $1 =€0.68)


  8. @Mav: Only the future will tell who will actually be right regarding the introduction of F-35 in Norway and Canada. If the timeline should be held, then my analysis is that it will be reduction in the capabilities of the first delivered batch of aircraft. Something like Eurofighters Tranche 1.