F35 Revisited

Here you will find an article in the Toronto Star by Bruce Campion-Smith on the F-35. Apparently Ottawa is considering just buying this plane, without due consideration of alternatives. It’s hard to be sure about anything our Federal Government hasn’t done yet, or their intentions. However, the F-35 is a nightmare plane, in my opinion, that is over budget and potentially unsafe. At one point the fire extinguishing system was reported to be removed, to save weight.

In this article you will find this quote from Billie Flynn, a former Canadian Air Force pilot who today works as a test pilot for Lockheed Martin:

He said performance — not safety — has dictated the use of two engines in fighters in the past. According to Lockheed Martin, the single F-35 engine produces one-third more thrust than the two engines in Canada’s existing CF-18 fighters.

“It’s never been the case that you put two engines . . . in an airplane because of redundancy. You power an airplane because you want a certain type of performance, of range and speed,” Flynn told the Star, during a visit last month to a defence trade show in Ottawa.

“We have the single most powerful fighter engine ever developed. It can go faster, we stay up longer because we are more efficient than any other power plant combination that exists in the world,” he said.

Unfortunately, this is misleading, perhaps deliberately so.

Here is the Wikipedia page on the F-35, and here is the page on the CF-18. If you read these carefully, you will find these facts:

The CF-18 engine produces 16,000 lb thrust, times two engines. The F-35 single engine produces 28,000 lb thrust, without afterburner. Thus the claim of one-third more power says that 32,000 times four thirds equals 28,000 – simply bad arithmetic.

The CF-18 flies at Mach 1.8 while the F-35 flies at Mach 1.6. (I believe even that number is available only briefly in the F-35.) So the claim that the single-engined F-35 can go faster is also bad arithmetic.

The F-35 range is given as 2,200 km and 1,080 km. Assuming that those are both optimal numbers, and the latter is the ‘radius’ of the former, we can now look at the CF-18 number, which is 3,300 km (unloaded). So the claim that the F-35 can stay up longer than the CF-18 appears to be bad numerology, again.

The F-35 thrust/weight ratio is given as 0.87 while the CF-18 is given as 0.89. Again, the claim of superior power for the F-35 does not match with the facts.

The CF-18 can climb to 50,000 feet in a minute. The F-35 may be able to match this.

So, the claim by Billie Flynn quoted above seems to be, at best, completely mistaken.

Even better, the F-35 has three variants. One of these has no landing hook but will operate on an aircraft carrier, landing vertically. This F-35 B has this remark in the Wikipedia entry:

On 6 January 2011, Gates said that the 2012 budget would call for a two-year pause in F-35B production during which the aircraft faced redesign, or cancellation if unsuccessful.

and this:

Lockheed Martin Vice President Steve O’Bryan has said that most F-35B landings will be conventional to reduce stress on vertical lift components. However these conventional mode takeoffs and landings cause “an unacceptable wear rate” to the aircraft’s poorly designed tires.

Even better is the F-35 C, of which Wikipedia has this to say:

Compared to the F-35A, the F-35C carrier variant features larger wings with foldable wingtip sections, larger wing and tail control surfaces for improved low-speed control, stronger landing gear for the stresses of carrier arrested landings, a twin-wheel nose gear, and a stronger tailhook for use with carrier arrestor cables. The larger wing area allows for decreased landing speed while increasing both range and payload.

Which sounds pretty good, until you also read this:

The replacement engines for at-sea repair are too large to be transported by current underway replenishment systems.

and this:

The USN is dealing with the following issues in adapting their carriers to operate the F-35C.

  • The F135 engine exceeds the weight capacity of traditional replenishment systems and generates more heat than previous engines.
  • The stealthy skin requires new repair techniques; extensive skin damage shall necessitate repairs at Lockheed’s land-based facilities.
  • The adoption of volatile lithium-ion batteries and higher voltage systems than traditional fighters.
  • Storing of new weapons not previously employed on carrier aircraft.
  • Large quantities of classified data generated during missions shall require additional security.

So, what’s my point, you’re asking? My point is this:

The F-35 is a very expensive airplane. There are alternatives (including one made by SAAB that interoperates with all NATO communications et cetera) that out-perform the F-35. The F-35 has been designed for stealth – not exactly a requirement when flying over Canada. The F-35 has three variants – making it more complex with more compromises.
And,
our government is going to buy them, unless some of us (that includes you) write to our MPs and our Prime Minister and our Minister of Defence and complain. Perhaps we should also write to our favourite newspaper.
If you have a blog or a website, consider linking to this page, or just write your own.
We don’t get what we deserve. We get what our politicians think they can get away with, while increasing their power or political connections. Make them understand that you understand this.

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