Thursday, 18 April 2013

The JSF so far...

Is it ready yet?  ...  How 'bout now?

Here's a good write up on how the JSF program is fairing at the current moment in time.

Basically there is some good, some bad.  Among the good news:

  • Deliveries are now being done closer to the original schedule.
  • Management has been "shaken up" to improve results.
  • The F-35 managed to emerge from U.S. "sequestration" rather unscathed
  • The program as a whole is still rather safe.

The bad news:

  • Software is still a big issue.  Block 2B software, which marks partial combat readiness won't be ready until 2015.  Block 3, the "go-to-war" status, is still a ways off.
  • The Helmet Mounted Dispay (HMD) is still causing issues.  A second, less ambitious helmet is in the works, just in case.
  • Carrier capable F-35Cs are still experiencing tailhook issues, with a new hook design slated for testing later this year.
  • Durability testing has revealed some cracks in the bulkheads and ribs of the aircraft.  Strengthening will likely be done while keeping within weight limits.
No mention is made of the crack found in the F-35 engine, or the F-35A that was forced to land at a civilian airport due to a caution light.

On the sales front, Singapore is said to be very close to committing to a F-35B purchase.  The United Arab Emirates is interested as well.  On the flip side, Denmark has joined Canada in reaching for the "reset button" on its planned purchase.

Is the JSF program finally starting to show real progress, is it beginning its "death spiral", or is it still too early to tell?


  1. Singapore is going to buy more F-15s and the United Arab Emirates are going to buy Rafale or Typhoon. So, I say it's the death spiral.

    1. Wow! You seem pretty sure about these hypothesis!
      New batch of F-15 for Korea too?

      Dutch also think about the reset button, putting pressure on the Pentagon (apparently...) :

      The article gives estimates about CPFH : 23,900$/h for F-35 and 21,500$/h for F-16... wait... what?! 21,500$/h for old F-16 when old French Mirage F1 only need 3000-4000$/h???

    2. In Jane's study on flight hour costs the F-16 was estimated to 7,700$/h. I guess somebody must be lying?

      Jane's almost nailed the flight hour cost on the F-35A at 21,000$/h :

    3. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

    4. @Johan Grön : Yeah, That's exactly Jane's study that I had in mind.

      No wonder who must be lying....

    5. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

    6. It must be clearly stated here guys that the Jane's cost study is to be used more of a comparison tool rather than a hard and fast cost estimate.

      Different fighters will cost different amounts based on design, but also how they are used and who uses them. Naturally, naval fighters will likely cost more to operate due to the added stress of carrier landings and the extra corrosion caused by the salty air. Also, different countries with different standards of living will pay their aircraft maintainers differing amounts, as well as different fuel costs, etc.

      Don't forget also that the more jets of a type a country has, the more cost savings that country will have due to economies of scale. For example, flight cost per hour will be more for the RAAF Super Hornet than the USN Super Hornet, this despite the fact that the RAAF Super Hornet is ground based. However, the USN simply has a much higher volume, and therefore a more robust supply chain and knowledge base.

      Much like unit cost, operating cost is a murky area. It's all in the accounting.

    7. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

    8. Thanks Doug for the analysis.
      In addition, Jane's cost study use data at the time of their analysis, but CPFH could evolve.
      In the case of the Rafale, powerplant tuning and fewer produced units in the first years of service yield higher CPFH cost. The target CPFH for French Air Force Rafale is 10,000€/h (~13,000$/h).

      In the Gripen E/F case, F414 isn't a new design, so no significant risks IMHO. But in the F-35 case, the CPFH for the first years could be significantly higher than 23,900$/h. If deliveries have a slow pace, with produced units shared between many partners each years, Canada could wait several years before having enough planes to optimize costs...

      Silver Dart

    9. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

    10. A completely new design of fighter aircraft need time (==> money) to mature : even in service, a lot of work is likely to be done to monitor critical parts (powerplant, avionics, etc.) and maybe software tuning or prematured hardware replacement.

      I also make the guess that, in a smaller program, it could be quicker to deliver the entire Canadian order, or at least a "critical mass" to be efficient.