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25 November 2014

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"the F-35 is not just by name, but by substance as well, a search-and-destroy strike fighter"
Except that it isn't, by substance, which is why Canada is smart to pass it up.
Michael Gilmore, Chief Pentagon tester, Oct 22:
"The aircraft's mission systems have yet to be tested in the F-35."
NOTE: The term “mission systems” refers to the avionics, integrated electronic sensors, displays and communications systems that collect and share data with the pilot and other friendly aircraft, at sea, in the air and on the ground.

The full article is here.

Thanks, Don. I appreciate the comment. I agree—I could more accurately have written "not just by name, but by intent as well..." I am more optimistic about the JSF's ultimate potential, but I am also troubled by the massive concurrency of the program.

You are welcome, James.
I am biased because my experience is in testing, so if it hasn't been tested, and evaluated as satisfying the specs, then it doesn't exist. Fancy brochures don't count. (I won't quote the Hyman Rickover comment on optimism again.)

The massive concurrency is one thing, the glacial development and test (SDD) program is another, with five years to go, and then there is the engine, which failed five months ago and they don't have a fix yet. The engine flex was excessive, the engine failure was not contained (as required) leading to plane destruction (on the ground, thankfully) and the engine health management system didn't work. Optimism, where is thy sting?

Jim,

If the JSF were truly a strike fighter built to fight ISIS, then why hasn't the DoD moved a few into Kurdistan for a little live fire testing? ISIS air defenses can't be that scary, especially to a strike fighter that is meant to penetrate advanced IADs? The USMC is supposed to certify their F35Bs as Mission Capable early next year, so one has to assume the F35 could at least handle bombing a truck mounted, light infantry force that only had MANPADs and ZSU-23s for AAA?

Interesting to note that the A-10 is now in Kurdistan to fly CAS missions, but wait, that platform needs to go so the USAF can get some F35 maintainers. However, I must point out, since the F35 as a strike platform is notional can't the maintainers be notional also?

Hey Don,

Not sure where you get that missions systems nonsense from other than a one liner in the article that has no logic or sense.

Given the F-35's mission systems are defined as "The term...refers to the F-35's avionics, integrated electronic sensors, displays and communications systems that collect and share data with the pilot and other friendly aircraft, at sea, in the air and on the ground."

F-35 software is

•Block 2A – Block 2A is currently released to the F-35 fleet. It provides enhanced training including functionality for off-board fusion, initial data links, electronic attack and mission debrief. Under Block 2A, nearly 86 percent of the required code for full warfighting capability is flying.
•Block 2B – Block 2B provides initial warfighting capabilities, including but not limited to expanded data links, multi-ship fusion and initial live weapons. The U.S. Marines will declare IOC with Block 2B. Under Block 2B, more than 89 percent of the required code for full warfighting capability is flying.

We also know that Block 2B mission systems testing was 80% complete in July. https://www.f35.com/news/detail/farnborough-2014-block-2b-software-testing-for-f-35-nears-completion

Agree the CF-18s could do with a decent SOW. The CF-18s are not exactly top of the tree when it comes to capability, USN and RAAF Hornets are now significantly more capable.

Finally, this decision is nothing more than political positioning. The F-35 is the only solution for Canada going forward, economically, strategically and politically. The Canadians just need to arrive at that conclusion themselves…

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  • James Hasik is a senior fellow at the Center for Government Contracting in the School of Business at George Mason University, and a senior fellow at the Scowcroft Center on Strategy and Security at the Atlantic Council. Since September 2001, he has been studying global security challenges and the economic enterprises that provide the tools to address them.

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