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posted by janrinok on Monday June 02 2014, @11:36AM   Printer-friendly
from the buddy-can-you-spare-me-a-dime? dept.

The US military's F-35 Joint Strike Fighter aircraft is proving to be a pain in the neck in more ways than one. Not only did the Pentagon spend almost $400 billion to buy 2,400 aircraft - about twice as much as it cost to put a man on the moon - the F-35 program is 7 years behind schedule and $163 billion over budget. This at a time when cuts in the defense budget are forcing the Pentagon to shrink the size of the military. CBS 60 Minutes took a closer look at the troubled fighter plane a few months back, but their rebroadcast on Sunday evening seems like as good a reason as any to revisit one of the biggest ongoing budget debacles in U.S. military memory. David Martin gets an inside look at what makes the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter the most expensive weapons system in history.

 
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  • (Score: 5, Interesting) by RamiK on Monday June 02 2014, @01:30PM

    by RamiK (1813) on Monday June 02 2014, @01:30PM (#50195)

    You forgot to mention the real kicker of it all: They're all pointless in the age of UAVs. Manned aircrafts are as obsolete as the horsed carriage. They under-perform and out-cost in every conceivable measure.

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  • (Score: 2) by scruffybeard on Monday June 02 2014, @02:22PM

    by scruffybeard (533) on Monday June 02 2014, @02:22PM (#50219)

    If manned aircraft are so obsolete, why are airlines and shipping companies wasting so much money on pilots? While UAV's certainly have their advantages, even with a human pilot flying from virtual cockpit, I am not sure that they can be as responsive, and adapt to every situation.

    • (Score: 3, Interesting) by Angry Jesus on Monday June 02 2014, @03:28PM

      by Angry Jesus (182) on Monday June 02 2014, @03:28PM (#50253)

      > If manned aircraft are so obsolete, why are airlines and shipping companies wasting so much money on pilots?

      Inertia. For example, the average age of the UPS fleet is 15.5 years. [airfleets.net]

      I don't have specific links handy, but as a regular reader of the risks digest [ncl.ac.uk] where they analyze nearly every fly-by-wire aircrash to death, the odds are against the pilots and in favor of the automation. One of the biggest reasons is that people are prone to error and they tend to do even worse in high stress situations.

      • (Score: 2) by scruffybeard on Monday June 02 2014, @05:12PM

        by scruffybeard (533) on Monday June 02 2014, @05:12PM (#50299)

        I am not sure that I believe that inertia is the only thing holding this back. It seems that we are reading about advances with automated automobiles frequently these days, but they are still prototypes with limited capabilities. I don't see the same advances for UAV's (I don't read much about this, so I could be missing something). The only production models I have seen are small light weight models with a small payload; a camera, and perhaps a limited supply of weapons for military models. I haven't seen anything on the scale of an F-16, or a 727 that would lead me to believe that conventional aircraft with pilots are anywhere close to being obsolete.

        Are UAV's safe? Definitely. Are they the future of commercial and military aviation? Probably. Are they going to replace the need for conventional aircraft in the next 10-20 years? I say no.

        • (Score: 3, Interesting) by Angry Jesus on Monday June 02 2014, @05:32PM

          by Angry Jesus (182) on Monday June 02 2014, @05:32PM (#50311)

          > Are they going to replace the need for conventional aircraft in the next 10-20 years? I say no.

          That's mostly because all of the planes in service today will still be in service 20 years down the line.

          Sure, it is a combination of factors. But inertia is the biggest one. There are a lot less airplanes in service than there are cars and they last a lot longer too which translates into slower change.

          > I don't see the same advances for UAV's (I don't read much about this, so I could be missing something). The only production models I have seen are small light weight models

          You'll note that there is also no such thing as a production autonomous car, even google's soon to be on the road bubblecars are still just testers. But the stuff that is production - auto-follow cruise control, automatic braking, stay-in-lane, etc all have equivalents on airplanes that have been in use for decades.

          As for test vehicles, here's one: http://www.baesystems.com/magazine/BAES_051920/look-no-hands [baesystems.com]

    • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Monday June 02 2014, @11:11PM

      by Anonymous Coward on Monday June 02 2014, @11:11PM (#50448)

      why are airlines[...]wasting so much money on pilots?

      ...like the one where the (fatigued) captain said "My aircraft" and the first officer refused to release his stick? [wikipedia.org]

      ...or the one where, even though his instruments were giving him readings that he knew were complete crap, the captain decided to take off anyway? [wikipedia.org]

      Good question.

      -- gewg_

  • (Score: 2) by tangomargarine on Monday June 02 2014, @02:33PM

    by tangomargarine (667) on Monday June 02 2014, @02:33PM (#50223)

    Until they jam you (for remote control) or the smart AI goes wrong somehow (for autonomous).

    What's that? That could never possibly happen? Riiiight.

    --
    "Is that really true?" "I just spent the last hour telling you to think for yourself! Didn't you hear anything I said?"
  • (Score: 2) by tibman on Monday June 02 2014, @04:38PM

    by tibman (134) Subscriber Badge on Monday June 02 2014, @04:38PM (#50287)

    No UCAV has won in a fight against a manned fighter. Surveillance and striking (unknowing) ground targets seems to be the only thing UAVs are currently good at. If UAVs made manned planes pointless then i think Delta Airlines, UPS, and so on would be firing all their pilots right now.

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    • (Score: 2) by wantkitteh on Monday June 02 2014, @06:41PM

      by wantkitteh (3362) on Monday June 02 2014, @06:41PM (#50354) Homepage Journal

      "No UCAV has won in a fight against a manned fighter."

      Give it a few years. The economics of the research alone dictate that a lot of countries will be doing this right now, and doing it very quietly I might add. As soon as the price point is low enough and the logistics in place, drones will take over from humans for all missions that can be defined simply enough for a drone to be able to complete it with minimal remote human interaction.

      Establishing/maintaining air superiority is a prime example as it can be horrendously expensive in terms of equipment and lives lost. Drones working collaboratively with remote humans can designate and prosecute enemy aggressors while leaving the precious supply of human pilots free to pursue missions and targets that need complex on-the-spot human judgement.

      Of COURSE it's being worked on.

      • (Score: 2) by VLM on Monday June 02 2014, @08:50PM

        by VLM (445) Subscriber Badge on Monday June 02 2014, @08:50PM (#50401)

        'free to pursue missions and targets that need complex on-the-spot human judgement."

        Like air superiority in a crowded airspace with rules of engagement that are so complex they make humans heads spin. And so we've gone full circle, back to air superiority is a job best done by humans...

        The problem to solve with air superiority is not how to make things go boom (thats what A2A missile do, or S2A missiles for that matter...) the problem is you've got four aircraft nearby, one is an american medivac chopper full of wounded with battle damage so its IFF is broken so it looks like an enemy although a human pilot would know better, another is an al jazeera news chopper headed right to the front lines like typical journalist idiots, the third chopper is an enemy troop chopper that keeps trying to lure you over a known surface to air emplacement so they can shoot you down opening a hole in defensive coverage so the enemy bombers orbiting at just outside your range can swoop in unopposed once you're shot down or at least otherwise engaged in a pointless fight, and the fourth aircraft is an Air Isreal 747 with a "special" carry on bag that contains IFF gear that makes it look like a bomber on the radar, but it isn't, its just a commercial passenger jet with a suicide traveler. So which of the four do you shoot down? All of them? None of them? Its like an AI Turing test for pilots, every day.

        Its pretty much like claiming land mines will replace the need for infantry in general and special forces in particular. Well, they're useful, sorta, some of the time, but oddly enough every other silver bullet that's ever been invented has turned out to not be a universal silver bullet, so ...

    • (Score: 1) by deimtee on Tuesday June 03 2014, @02:30AM

      by deimtee (3272) on Tuesday June 03 2014, @02:30AM (#50496) Journal

      Depends on how you define an unmanned arial vehicle. Surface to Air missiles have taken down plenty of manned planes.
      If you mean machine-gun equipped drones dog-fighting WW1 style, then yeah it isn't going to happen. Cool as it would be, it just wouldn't be as cost effective or efficient as missiles.

      --
      No problem is insoluble, but at Ksp = 2.943×10−25 Mercury Sulphide comes close.
      • (Score: 2) by tibman on Tuesday June 03 2014, @01:35PM

        by tibman (134) Subscriber Badge on Tuesday June 03 2014, @01:35PM (#50621)

        hah, great point! I am also sure that missiles will continue to remain unmanned.

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  • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Monday June 02 2014, @06:22PM

    by Anonymous Coward on Monday June 02 2014, @06:22PM (#50343)
    I was waiting for the drone fanboys to come along to remind us that air superiority and multirole attack aircraft are currently obsolete. Please, do supply a list of all the engagements where air superiority has been achieved through UCAVs alone. I won't hold my breath. But try again in maybe 25 years...
    • (Score: 1) by alioth on Tuesday June 03 2014, @09:16AM

      by alioth (3279) on Tuesday June 03 2014, @09:16AM (#50569)

      That war hasn't been fought, so of course there will be no statistics.

      But if for example a UAV costs a tenth of a manned fighter, you can just zergling rush your opponent. You don't have to expend resources picking up shot down pilots, and your opponent is not only losing aircraft but personnel too.