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posted by janrinok on Saturday July 19 2014, @02:59AM   Printer-friendly
from the not-nearly-as-tasty dept.

I think this is a first for S/N: An audio presentation as a story.

The other day I heard Pierre Sprey, the primary designer of the F-16 and A-10, talking to journalist Ian Masters about the F-35 attack jet. This guy is a fascinating speaker.

Topics: Politics and military procurement;

  • Graft; bribery.
  • How, after an aircraft becomes a multi-role multi-service platform, it is not a "common" airframe any longer.
  • Vertical takeoff and landing to support ground troops is nonsense. (It churns up too much crap on anything except when using a giant concrete slab.)
  • Trying to put VTOL and supersonic capability into the same aircraft is just stupid.
  • When plastic aircraft burn, they produce toxic smoke.

It's about 20 minutes in length, but if your media player has a speed control, you can listen to it in less time than that.
The high bitrate version at Ian's site is 19MB. Mr.Sprey is the 3rd of 3 guests.
The low bitrate webcast at KPFK's archive is 14MB for all 3 guests.
KPFK also has a stream.
The 3rd segment is from 36:30 to 55:00.
KPFK's stuff will be available until mid-October.

He goes into considerable detail on stealth, noting that it is a complete boondoggle:

  • The USA likes higher frequency radars because the antennas are smaller and more portable and stealth aircraft are less visible to those units.
  • OTOH, old cheap Soviet radars--even WWII radars--can detect stealth aircraft, no problem.

He goes into some detail as to why stealth costs so much:

  • stealth--hugely increases the cost of the program 'cause you're now using extremely expensive materials, way beyond normal aircraft material cost, and you're making the aircraft almost impossible to maintain because to have stealth you can't have a bunch of doors and openings on the airplane; every opening reflects radar energy. Right?
  • So, now, every time you want to fix some piece of electronics, you have to cut a hole in the airplane.
  • ...and after you cut the hole and fix the electronics, you've got to patch up the hole so it's just as smooth as it was before you cut it, you know, with a bunch of highly toxic glues and compounds and then you have to let the airplane cure for 3 days.
  • So, the damned thing is sitting in the hanger, you know, completely out of business just because you had to replace a fuse that was inaccessible because there was no door nearby. [...]It's a nightmare of an airplane to operate.

In his closing comments he says:

Until you can arrange a system by which congressmen who give away the taxpayers' money to defense companies and generals who go to work for defense companies as soon as they retire--until you can stop that, you will be increasingly weak and undefended at higher and higher cost.

Related Stories

F-35s Continue to Have Problems, Acquisition Costs Increase 37 comments

Testing Director says the expensive F-35s are not combat-ready, unreliable, and components need redesign

Overall fleet-wide monthly availability rates remain around 50 percent, a condition that has existed with no significant improvement since October 2014, despite the increasing number of new aircraft. One notable trend is an increase in the percentage of the fleet that cannot fly while awaiting replacement parts – indicated by the Not Mission Capable due to Supply rate.

[...] Total acquisition costs for Lockheed Martin Corp.'s next-generation fighter may rise about 7 percent to $406.5 billion, according to figures in a document known as a Selected Acquisition Report. That's a reversal after several years of estimates that had declined to $379 billion recently from a previous high of $398.5 billion in early 2014.

$122 billion has been spent on the F35 program up until the end of 2017. $10-15 billion will be spent each year through 2022. This is detailed in a 100 page F-35 spending summary report.

FY17 DOD PROGRAMS: F-35 Joint Strike Fighter (JSF)

Related: The F-35 Fighter Plane Is Even More of a Mess Than You Thought
The F-35: A Gold-Plated Turkey
Flawed and Potentially Deadly F-35 Fighters Won't be Ready Before 2019
Lockheed Martin Negotiating $37 Billion F-35 Deal
Does China's J-20 Rival Other Stealth Fighters?

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  • (Score: 1) by redneckmother on Saturday July 19 2014, @03:03AM

    by redneckmother (3597) on Saturday July 19 2014, @03:03AM (#71101)

    Sorry, but all I can think of is:

    What - A - Shock.

    What in the holy hell has happened in the United States of Corporate America?

    Mas cerveza por favor.
    • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Saturday July 19 2014, @03:15AM

      by Anonymous Coward on Saturday July 19 2014, @03:15AM (#71104)

      "What in the holy hell has happened in the United States of Corporate America?"

      John Boyd died since the F16 and A10 were designed, so it's back to business as usual.

    • (Score: 4, Informative) by cafebabe on Saturday July 19 2014, @04:56AM

      by cafebabe (894) on Saturday July 19 2014, @04:56AM (#71123) Journal

      A while back, I bookmarked a discussion about F-35 contract overruns on RT []. I thought it might be of interest here but I didn't submit it because it was already two years ago and I thought this issue was settled. Apparently not. I also watched an interview with Pierre Sprey [] but didn't bother bookmarking it. He's a straight-talking techie but he has the benefit of hindsight and being an armchair critic.

      On a personal note, I thought that US air superiority was doomed after I saw a Eurofighter flying at an airshow. The Eurofighter is a brute of engineering and louder than Concorde. And it is a boondoggle with a left wing made in Italy and a right wing made in Wales or somesuch nonsense. However, it is less of a brute and less of a boondoggle than the F-35.

      • (Score: 1, Insightful) by Anonymous Coward on Saturday July 19 2014, @05:42AM

        by Anonymous Coward on Saturday July 19 2014, @05:42AM (#71128)

        Not that I disagree with your general premise, but for those who might take what you said at face value, the F-35 is NOT an air superiority fighter.
        (That's the F-22--the one that has pilots passing out because the gadget that supplies breathable air to them fails).

        If it had been given the proper designation, the F-35 would have been called an A-something (air-to-ground attack).
        ...but then, as Mr.Sprey notes, its mission has been continually redefined since it was first dreamed up 2 decades ago.

        -- gewg_

        • (Score: 3, Informative) by frojack on Saturday July 19 2014, @07:03AM

          by frojack (1554) on Saturday July 19 2014, @07:03AM (#71147) Journal

          Agreed, it Probably should have been the F/A 35, like the F/A 18.

          Supposedly it can hold its own in a dog fight. And contrary to the story, they are all flying again.

          Still the F16 is a rare aircraft, probably the single most successful military aircraft ever built. And the the A10 was also unmatched in its role, I don't think it even has a competitor.

          Has they gone with two or three designes, they could have built all of them for less money then they have spent on this "just so" story where every thing has to be a compromise to fit all the roles.

          No, you are mistaken. I've always had this sig.
        • (Score: 3, Interesting) by mhajicek on Saturday July 19 2014, @09:08AM

          by mhajicek (51) on Saturday July 19 2014, @09:08AM (#71165)

          Iirc they called it an F to get pilots interested in flying it.

          The spacelike surfaces of time foliations can have a cusp at the surface of discontinuity. - P. Hajicek
    • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Saturday July 19 2014, @02:46PM

      by Anonymous Coward on Saturday July 19 2014, @02:46PM (#71228)

      This sort of thing has been going on for a *long* *long* *long* *long* *long* time. []

      I like this one as it is semi funny take on what is actually a fairly serious issue.

      These programs are not meant to create weapons our soldiers can use. They are meant to create careers for middle management 'soldiers', massive graft for the 'industrial complex', and make senators look good for 'creating jobs at home'.

  • (Score: 1, Informative) by Anonymous Coward on Saturday July 19 2014, @03:27AM

    by Anonymous Coward on Saturday July 19 2014, @03:27AM (#71108)

    Franklin's Letter to His Daughter (excerpt)

    "For my own part I wish the Bald Eagle had not been chosen the Representative of our Country. He is a Bird of bad moral Character. He does not get his Living honestly. You may have seen him perched on some dead Tree near the River, where, too lazy to fish for himself, he watches the Labour of the Fishing Hawk; and when that diligent Bird has at length taken a Fish, and is bearing it to his Nest for the Support of his Mate and young Ones, the Bald Eagle pursues him and takes it from him.

    "With all this Injustice, he is never in good Case but like those among Men who live by Sharping & Robbing he is generally poor and often very lousy. Besides he is a rank Coward: The little King Bird not bigger than a Sparrow attacks him boldly and drives him out of the District. He is therefore by no means a proper Emblem for the brave and honest Cincinnati of America who have driven all the King birds from our Country...

    "I am on this account not displeased that the Figure is not known as a Bald Eagle, but looks more like a Turkey. For the Truth the Turkey is in Comparison a much more respectable Bird, and withal a true original Native of America... He is besides, though a little vain & silly, a Bird of Courage, and would not hesitate to attack a Grenadier of the British Guards who should presume to invade his Farm Yard with a red Coat on." []

    Now, not even the US Government can deny it has produced a lot of Gold Eagles! And goes out of its way to protect them.

    • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Saturday July 19 2014, @04:55AM

      by Anonymous Coward on Saturday July 19 2014, @04:55AM (#71122)

      Daddy was a military pilot.
      There were a whole bunch of turkey farms about 25 miles west of where we lived.
      Every once in a while, one of the airplanes in his wing would fly too near and/or too low to one of those.
      The stupid birds would try to get away and would flock to one edge of the pen.
      The next day, the military would get a bill from the farmer for the turkeys that got smothered by his other turkeys.

      I've also heard stories of turkeys looking up when it's raining and drowning.
      That one has yet to be confirmed by me.

      Ever see what a (heavily inbred) Butterball turkey looks like alive as compared to a wild turkey?
      The things are so bizarrely shaped, they can't even mate.

      As for thieving, bullying eagles: Seems apt to me as a symbol of the USA.

      -- gewg_

      • (Score: 1, Funny) by Anonymous Coward on Saturday July 19 2014, @05:46AM

        by Anonymous Coward on Saturday July 19 2014, @05:46AM (#71129)

        Reminds me of the stories I used to hear on payouts on hitting a chicken, tree, etc in Germany a few decades back. Run over a chicken and the damage is figured at every egg it could have ever laid, every chicken that could have hatched from them,,,,.. Knock down a tree and it would be every board foot of it after full growth made into furniture if that was possible and you can guess at the possible math if it was a fruit or not tree. Was never there myself, so really don't know, but heard it could be quite interesting if you were a soldier there and did some damage off the base or for the US Government when military on maneuvers there.

        For those kinds of conversations the turkey you would want around would probably be Wild Turkey Bourbon. Not that I have tasted any in decades, but this conversation somehow giving me a craving for it.

        • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Monday July 21 2014, @07:55AM

          by Anonymous Coward on Monday July 21 2014, @07:55AM (#71739)

          So, RIAA style damages... Not just paying for replacing what you destroyed/"stole", but for what income could theoretically have been gained if the item was ever sold. Even though a replacement could be sold at the same price.

          Though, for a tree, growing a replacement is going to take years (and we don't usually re-plant fully grown trees).

  • (Score: 2) by mendax on Saturday July 19 2014, @04:59AM

    by mendax (2840) on Saturday July 19 2014, @04:59AM (#71125)

    All I can say about the boondoggle that is the development of the F-35 is "gobble, gobble"! And it's done a lot of of that, gobbling billions of dollars that would have been better spent, for example, fixing all the god damned pot holes I drove over today on the freeway! "The horror, the horror" says my truck's suspension.

    It's really quite a simple choice: Life, Death, or Los Angeles.
    • (Score: 2) by DrMag on Saturday July 19 2014, @04:03PM

      by DrMag (1860) on Saturday July 19 2014, @04:03PM (#71251)

      All I can say about the boondoggle that is the development of the F-35 is "gobble, gobble"! []


    • (Score: 2, Interesting) by tonyPick on Saturday July 19 2014, @09:56PM

      by tonyPick (1237) on Saturday July 19 2014, @09:56PM (#71317) Homepage Journal

      The numbers for that are actually over at: []. Roads would be way better spending-wise.

      In addition, a report from the Center for American Progress, citing Moodys Analytics chief economist, estimates infrastructure investment generates $1.44 of economic activity for each $1 spent.

      My favourite, as pointed out in the TFA, is that you could give every homeless person in the U.S. a $600,000 House with the money spent on this thing. You've got to wonder if all that building work would be better for the economy in general, and at least at the end you'd have the houses rather than a plane that can't fly.

  • (Score: 5, Informative) by Arik on Saturday July 19 2014, @08:31AM

    by Arik (4543) on Saturday July 19 2014, @08:31AM (#71157) Journal

    This is a disaster [] that has been a very long time coming. The idea is that this one plane will do everything and eliminate (nearly) ever other plane in the arsenal. In practice, it's not good at any of the multitude of roles assigned to it - not nearly as good as the decades-old specialist craft that are being or have been retired in favor of it.

    Ground attack? The venerable A-10 was FAR more effective. It was more manoeuvrable and maintained control at much lower speeds, carried far more weaponry, was much better armoured, and had a much longer loiter time. The F-117, now officially retired as well, was also a better ground attack platform. There are a couple of attack helicopters still in service, but they are short of range and aging rapidly.

    In an air to air role the F-35 is simply underpowered. It cannot climb fast enough to intercept nor turn fast enough to dogfight. It is supposed to be 'stealthy' but it's unlikely to gain more than a marginal reduction in detection distance against modern air defense radars. The aforementioned F117 was more stealthy, and the Yugoslavs still managed to lock onto one and bring it down with what is now quite old technology. The F-22 is also more stealthy, and far more capable in air to air roles than the F-35, although it has plenty of its own problems.

    So the plane designed to do everything, does nothing well. But it has kept a lot of people employed in critical political districts, so that's cool, right?

    If laughter is the best medicine, who are the best doctors?
    • (Score: -1, Flamebait) by Anonymous Coward on Saturday July 19 2014, @09:09AM

      by Anonymous Coward on Saturday July 19 2014, @09:09AM (#71166)

      Too Ugly Didn't Read.

      • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Saturday July 19 2014, @07:22PM

        by Anonymous Coward on Saturday July 19 2014, @07:22PM (#71284)

        There exists a Mozilla extension called Aardvark. []
        It can manipulate areas within a browser window in many ways.

        Install it.
        Restart your browser.
        Right-click somewhere in the browser window you want to modify.
        Select Start Aardvark. (That's actually an on/off toggle.)
        Moving your mouse, use the red rectangle to surround the area you want to modify.
            Note: The W command (widen) can be useful to fine-tune your selection process.
            If you overshoot with the rectangle, the N command (narrow) can be useful.
        Once you have the area marked, don't touch your mouse again.

        The command that will help to undo the GP's choice of all-Courier is B (change text to non-formatted black-on-white text; aka just use the default font). []
        Note: The extension name is spelled wrong in that URL--aa not dd; v not w.

        To quit Aardvark, hit Q.

        You may then need to use Ctrl-Plus/Ctrl-Minus to resize the text.

        I like Aardvark for the I command (isolate; show only this stuff I have outlined and remove everything else).
        The R command (remove) is the inverse.
        If you want to return to the original view, use the U command (undo), even repeatedly (like Ctrl-Z).

        Occasionally, I use C (colorize) or V (view source--though SeaMonkey's built-in source viewer is typically fine).

        Aardvark is an extension that makes surfing the web less irritating.
        Combine it with NukeAnything Enhanced and you can remove most web aggravations.
        Note: Unlike Aardvark's U command, there is no Undo in NukeAnything; you have to reload the page to get nuked stuff back.

        -- gewg_

        • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Sunday July 20 2014, @12:15AM

          by Anonymous Coward on Sunday July 20 2014, @12:15AM (#71354)

          Tools - options - content - advanced - set a decent font.

          Try anonymous pro. []

          • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Sunday July 20 2014, @04:08AM

            by Anonymous Coward on Sunday July 20 2014, @04:08AM (#71409)

            Even easier is what I suggested first, just don't bother reading those posts. There are plenty of other things to read. If someone goes out of their way to make their post hard to read just skip it.

            • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Sunday July 20 2014, @05:44PM

              by Anonymous Coward on Sunday July 20 2014, @05:44PM (#71560)
              No on is trying to make it hard for you to read, you poor pathetic illiterate.

              The power is in your hands. Your browser obeys your commands. If you dont like the defaults then CHANGE them.

              You are in a prison of your own making. Quit blaming other people for your own incompetence.
              • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Monday July 21 2014, @01:42AM

                by Anonymous Coward on Monday July 21 2014, @01:42AM (#71658)

                Nice try, but I've no idea what you said!

    • (Score: 1) by Wootery on Saturday July 19 2014, @10:21PM

      by Wootery (2341) on Saturday July 19 2014, @10:21PM (#71320)

      Ooh, so unique. We are in awe, great monospace wizard.

      Anyway: good points. The whole project does indeed look like a disaster.

  • (Score: 2) by JeanCroix on Monday July 21 2014, @04:19PM

    by JeanCroix (573) on Monday July 21 2014, @04:19PM (#71868) [] Especially regarding stealth. Stealth is not a panacea, but it's an integral part of modern air warfare. Just because some enemies have IR sensors, do you stop issuing the troops camouflaged uniforms?