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.

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Rob Collinson
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Rob Collinson

I can’t wait until these aircraft to enter service with the RN & RAF.

Let’s pick up the pace a bit.

andy reeves
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andy reeves

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… Read more »

James
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James

UK Defence journal isnt part of the MOD. You may as well be asking the salvation army.

John West
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John West

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?

David Southern
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David Southern

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.

Steve
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Steve

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.

joe
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joe

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.

Dragon029
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Dragon029

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.

Pacman27
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Pacman27

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… Read more »

Elliott
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Elliott

Maybe but any F-35s replacing Typhoons should be A models in order to get equivalent payload and range. They would be replacing RAF birds anyway so it would make sense to get the land variant.

geoffrey james roach
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geoffrey james roach

I’m with you pacman.

Nick Bowman
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Nick Bowman

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?

Steve R
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Steve R

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?

Ben P
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Ben P

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.

Rover10
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Rover10

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.

farouk
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farouk

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.

Jas.
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Jas.

Can we not just put Th on ignore he spouts the same anti British clap trap week after week.