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It’s no secret that the F-35 has had severe cost and schedule issues.

The F-35 programme has gone through serious teething problems, problems also experienced by the majority of complex aircraft flying today such as the F-15, Typhoon or any other modern combat jet.

The biggest issue for the project continues to be the fact it is the most expensive military weapons system in history owing to the sheer scope of the programme but that being said, aircraft costs are now coming down and will soon be similar to the cost of many aircraft it’s replacing.

Today the programme is maturing rapidly, right now much of the activity around the jet is dealing with software bugs and testing to validate the software, with most of the physical testing being to do with weapons integration and the gradual scaling up of capabilities that comes with each new software block.

The jet is a quantum leap in capability, able to give the pilot as much information as only theatre commanders have previously had. While the primary value of the jet is in its sensor and networking capabilities, it is also valuable in that it’s able to perform many tasks designed to increase the lethality of not only itself but other assets, such tasks include the ability to co-ordinate small fleets of unmanned combat aircraft, guide weapons launched from other platforms (even warships), launch a wide-range of its own weapons and use it’s own radar to conduct electronic attacks.

A key element of 21st century air power is clearly working and smoothly implemented coalition operations, the F-35 provides a unique integrated air combat capability whereby coalitions of joint or allied F-35s can be supported in common. The F-35 was designed from the outset to bring these capabilities while also being interoperable across a coalition of air power.

Two networks are core to this operability: the Link-16 and the new Multi-Function Advanced Datalink (MADL). These systems allow the F-35 to communicate with nearly all current and future NATO assets.

Link-16 is currently utilised by most existing platforms fielded by NATO members and will allow F-35 to integrate seamlessly into a coalition force structure.

MADL will complement the current networks as NATO’s first high bandwidth, low probability of detect and intercept connection. The fundamental design features of MADL enable all NATO F-35s in a deployed coalition to communicate within an Anti-Access/Area Denial environment.

The potential for cooperation between the United Kingdom and coalition forces all using the F-35 variants is significant, in terms of coalition warfare the F-35 further increases the situational awareness of all parties to a greater extent than anything flying today, resulting in a quantum leap in capability for coalition forces.

Such is the aircrafts sensor and data fusion capabilities, a small number of F-35s could provide the UK and her coalition allies with situational awareness within defended airspace where platforms such as E-3 AWACS and E-8 JSTARS would be unable to operate.

F-35s could find and designate priority targets within defended airspace for a less stealthy fleet to attack from a relatively safe distance, further enhancing coalition capability.

The F-35s value is not only in its stealth or combat capability, it’s also in the flying sensor network it creates in the battle space.

The ability of the F-35 to drastically improve the combat capability of other assets was demonstrated recently when an F-35 and Aegis Weapon System worked together during a live fire exercise, with the F-35 passing sensor data to another platform which then engaged the target.

The exercise was the first live fire missile event that successfully demonstrated the integration of the F-35 to support Naval Integrated Fire Control-Counter Air and represent a very promising exploration into the interoperability of the F-35 with other naval assets.

The F-35 will drastically increase the situational awareness of the forces with which it will deploy and for the UK, where deployed numbers may be a concern, it represents a fantastic way to enhance combat capability in any coalition or national effort.

It is my opinion that the F-35 will drastically increase the situational awareness and combat capabilities of the forces with which it will deploy and for the UK, where numbers may be a concern, it represents a fantastic way to enhance combat capability in any coalition or national effort.

There is no denying that jet is overbudget and behind schedule compared to original estimates but an incredibly capable platform is emerging and one that I believe will shape the future of air combat.

37 COMMENTS

    • itis believed that the serious fraud office is investigating a mystery£7 million’secret comission payment’ payment during the sale of 2 type 22 frigates of the royal navy to romania the ships were priced at £58 million each.all of which went to BAE.ALSO UNDER SUSPICION SHOULD BE THE SALE OF ONE OF THE NATIONS TYPE 22 FRIGATES TO ASCRAP YARD FOR JUST£100,000(WHERE DID THAT MONEY GO?).THE PURCHASE BY CHILE OF 3 TYPE 23’S FOR£45 MILLION EACH,LOOKS WELL ‘ IFFY’ESPECIALLY GIVEN THAT bae (AGAIN).RECIEVED, AS THE PRIME CONTRACTOR THE ENTIRE£153 MILLION! SOMETHING SMELLS ABOUT THE WHOLE ISSUE OF NAVAL SHIPS TO FOREIGN NATIONS, THE MONOPOLIESS COMISSION SHOULD BE MADE AWARE OF THE POSSIBILITY THAT bae IS ON THE RECIEVING END OF WHAT ON THE SURFACE, APPEARS PREFERRENTIAL TREATMENT. BY THE U.K GOVERNMENT. I WOULD APPRECIATE A REPLY IN DETAIL OF THE CURRENT SITUATION OVER THE MATTERS I HAVE RAISED.
      MR. ANDY REEVES
      5 BRAUNTON AVENUE
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  1. Since the main benefit of the F35 is clearly its software, what possibility is the that a significant volume can be incorporated in the next typhoon tranche?

    • I was going to ask the same question. Seems logical that the typhoons should be at a similar mod state which I’m sure becomes a force multiplier.

      • With the news that the number of f35’s might be cut by the UK, maximising the typhoons might be a good alternative that provides some of the lost abilities.

        • There will not be 138 such planes. The press announced over the weekend that they cannot all be afforded in view of the multi billion black hole in military spending.

          This was reported in ‘Save the Royal Navy’ as follows: (The purchase of 138 F-35s over the next 20 years promised in 2015 is now seen as completely unrealistic, most analysts expect the UK to buy less than half that number)

          The UK cannot afford such military projects and should not aspire to them.

          • With being the 5th richest country im sure we can manage ,,TH you must be one of them russian trolls or just self defeatist

          • The World’s air forces are facing a manned aircraft crisis. Put simply, they are too expensive and crippling for most countries to buy. Even the USA is finding it increasingly difficult, to find the monies to develop and manufacture anything near to what they really need. When the UK entered the F35 programme it planned a sizable fleet to replace a number of airframes. It will do that but with far less aircraft, and as we go further into the 21st century, the development of all new military aircraft will simply be too prohibitive. Manless remote planes are the only feasible option for all but a few nations. F35 could easily be the very last manned fighter, though this may be the best and most cost-effective way forward. I can see robots designing, building, and flying missions, without the human factor being involved? Maybe, the day of pilots stuffed into small glass cockpits atop of huge powerful jet engines, is a sight future children we will be amused by when they look back into our current history?

        • FAO dave12

          From ‘Save the Royal Navy’ website which is not Russian or self defeatist:

          This was reported in ‘Save the Royal Navy’ as follows: (The purchase of 138 F-35s over the next 20 years promised in 2015 is now seen as completely unrealistic, most analysts expect the UK to buy less than half that number)

          • That website is not offical news source so i doubt its true,,,,but i think russia has more worries in the fact they cant afford to replace its large ancient ships, like its carrier which has to have tugs go with becuase it breaks down all the time lol! Take your BS comments to RT they love propaganda on there

    • No.

      Everything is programmed for the system architecture and computational hardware that will be Lightning will have.

      Also, the Lightnings will be getting a new hardware refresh in the next decade.
      The motherboards/processors need upgrading already.

    • Highly unlikely given that the source code is exclusive to the US and companies like Lockheed, Northrop and to some extent the US subsidiary of BAE (who can’t just pass along data due to regulations and non-disclosure agreements held with Lockheed & the US government). Software like this is generally tailor made for the hardware too; some people working on the software might be able to pass along general concepts and their personal skills to European projects, but not many people would be in that kind of position anyway.

  2. I think the real value of these aircraft will be seen when they are controlling 2-4 taranis UCAV’s from a stand off position into contested airspace to deliver their payload. At this point a £100m aircraft controlling 4 £20m stealth bombers would seem like exceptional value and will be a step change in uk capability.

    Imagine a Carrier Group with 24 F35b’s ad 48 Taranis and you can see the QEC’s becoming an amazing platform – potentially with Drones acting as refuelling tankers as well in the future.

    138 needs to be the UK’s operational fleet – it will still be smaller than the USMC’s force an hardly replaces the fleets it is replacing, we also need volume – so an order of 200 over the next 25 years (12 p.a.for next 10years following by 6 pa thereafter) seems not only doable but probably is the minimum we should go for.

    We can and should retire Typhoon over this period and replace with a mix of F35s controlling and managing Drones to give the UK the volume/cost/lethality it will require from its reduced military.

    So great plane – but we need a far more imaginative strategy and we need to start deploying the F35b’s with Taranis/Neurons now to get this all sorted

  3. There will not be 138 such planes. The press announced over the weekend that they cannot all be afforded in view of the multi billion black hole in military spending.

    This was reported in ‘Save the Royal Navy’ as follows: (The purchase of 138 F-35s over the next 20 years promised in 2015 is now seen as completely unrealistic, most analysts expect the UK to buy less than half that number)

    The UK cannot afford such military projects and should not aspire to them.

    • You might be right as the threat from Russia diminishes as their economy sinks over the next few years, they’ll be less of a reason to have them. I guess we can sit it out until Russia finally collapses and take it from there.

      • If Russia really did collapse, it could realistically be the end of the world. If you look at any nation that has collapsed, it has ended up in civil war and lunatic warlords taking over. No matter how many f35’s we have at that point will save us, the thousands of nukes would finish the job very quickly.

        • I think its fair to say Russia already has a lunatic in charge. He’s trying to make Russia into something its not i.e. a superpower. And by doing so is going to ruin the era of prosperity that Russia enjoyed between 2000 – 2013 due to its large exports of oil and gas. If we spend 10% of our GDP on defence then we would easily match the Russian forces. The question many Russians need to ask is why is Putin spending that much on defence when Russia is in such an economic black hole. He uses the spin that NATO wants to invade Russia which is plainly ridiculous from our point of view as western governments have been cutting defence spending for years. If it wasn’t for Putin I think we may have considered getting rid of NATO; since the annexation of Crimea no-one in the West would even consider getting rid of NATO and many governments are increasing their military funding. Putin is NATO’s best ambassador!

          • 10% wouldn’t be enough. Russia has a fair few advantages which save money.

            1. huge amounts of natural resources and so doesn’t need to import the material to build gear

            2. large domestic base for building military equipment, meaning they don’t have to go abroad

            3. lower personal costs, meaning cheaper soldiers and cheaper manufacturing/ support

            4. lower health and safety requirements, meaning less cost

            5. their GDP is that far behind.

            6. lower national debt %

            7. no problems with exchange rates since everything is domestic

            and probably many more that i haven’t thought about.

            the advantage we have is we can benefit from economy of scale when buying from the US but we tend to then add UK components that pretty much destroy most of that value.

    • Not sure that makes any sense. We won’t be buying F35B 100 through 138 until the 2030s, so how do we know if we can afford them or not? Cutting the overall numbers won’t save any money in the short term. We would need to slow down the acquisition rate as well and there is no news regarding that. The UK can afford these projects but people like you keep whinnying and causing funds to be diverted elsewhere.

      • Agreed,

        we don’t even know how much each unit will cost by then or how operating costs will change – which are reportedly enormous.

        Hey, we don’t even know if we will need them all by then. Russia could collapse; China and India could obliterate each other…. heavens, even Jesus could return!

        Making such stern assertions about the future is a fools errand.

    • ‘The UK cannot afford’ Or ‘chooses not to’? Two very different things. We are the only ‘Tier 1’ partner, and make 15% of every plane, potentially more than 3000 of them, at a projected ‘average’ price of £65 million each – you do the maths! 138 for our own use doesn’t sound unreasonable – or unaffordable.

      • i think you need to rethink your maths. it’s not 15% of everyone that is going into the public pocket. Even assuming all companies involves in the UK pay full uk Corp tax and aren’t offices of overseas companies and assuming a reasonable profit and so taxable income, your probably taking 1-2% going to public pocket.

      • FAO dave12

        From ‘Save the Royal Navy’ website which is not Russian or self defeatist:

        This was reported in ‘Save the Royal Navy’ as follows: (The purchase of 138 F-35s over the next 20 years promised in 2015 is now seen as completely unrealistic, most analysts expect the UK to buy less than half that number)

  4. I don’t see why 138 would be unaffordable to the U.K. Last time I looked into the price, “A” models were a little over $100m with “B” models $135M and “C” models somewhere in between. Those prices are not greatly more than 4th generation jets like Typhoons and Rafales. As the fifth largest economy in the World, could we not afford to buy ten a year?

    • Nick
      I agree and it’s important that we show faith in our ‘own’ product to help promote sales. Our industry share of the proceeds is at least £10m per aircraft, based on overall production of 3000+ at average price, so a staggering amount of money. Maybe enough to make a ‘black hole’ disappear?

      • The £10m per aircraft does not go directly in to the governments pocket to fill the black hole. The company keeps the profit and pays tax to the government, so in reality assuming they pay 5% tax the government makes £500,000 per aircraft.

  5. Would aircraft designed entirely by robots and flown as manless machines, cut down development costs, time, and experimentation? Man, greed, indecision, and over-optimism makes projects run late and widens the cost burden. Maybe, future military aircraft will have to be designed by intelligent processes, in order to get anywhere close to realistic costing and project timing.

    • Rover 10
      Interesting view point. Funny enough according to this months Airforces monthly India is currently looking at purchasing 90 Predator C Avenger UAVs. (Predator C is jet powered) Maybe the Sub continent wants an instant 3rd air arm.

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