Friday, February 19, 2010

More doubts about the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter

Following on from my earlier post about Sukhoi's PAK-FA multirole fighter and what it may mean for the F-35, in today's The Australian there appeared an article that argued that Australia's defence establishment may need to think again and at least consider properly, (for the first time), possible alternatives to this aeroplane.

It's a fantastic bit of kit in many ways, crammed full of the most amazing technology.

For instance, (if they can get it to work with flesh and blood pilots), a pilot will have the ability to "see" through the plane thanks to a distributed network of sensors around the surface. So you could virtually look down and see through your legs and the bottom of the aircraft. As suggested, whether human beings can deal adequately with this is another thing.

Night vision goggles will be a thing of the past.

But the goal of producing a single warplane that would be all things to all roles and needs, and do so cheaply, was maybe impossibly ambitious.

Can a single plane in three versions replace high performance dog fighters, bomb trucks and harriers? But the USA will still have the F-22 in the primary air-superiority role, while European countries will have enormously powerful and agile 4th Generation + fighters such as the Eurofighter Typhoon and Rafale.

Australia will have a squadron of F/A-18 Super Hornets for awhile, but essentially we are going to be putting all our eggs in one basket.

The Lockheed Martin F-35 Joint Strike Fighter
Cost blow-outs, delays and doubts over the Joint Strike Fighter's capabilities are causing concern in the defence community here and in the US

MILITARY chiefs in Canberra were unamused when US Defence Secretary Robert Gates publicly savaged the performance of the Joint Strike Fighter project early this month.

Gates's candid and unexpected outburst, in which he cited the fighter's "troubling performance record" stood in stark contrast to almost everything the Australian Defence Force and the federal government have told Australians about the new warplane.

"[Gates] must have come as a bit of a shock to them," says Hugh White, a former deputy defence secretary and professor of strategic studies at the Australian National University.

"The project is starting to look distinctly pear-shaped. The [Australian] government and the air force have talked it up too far."
"I think the JSF will be a disappointment," White says.

"It will be more expensive than we expected, it will perform worse that we hoped and it will be later than expected.

" But it may still be the best plane for Australia; I am not convinced it is the wrong aeroplane."

Posted via email from Garth's posterous

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