Saturday, May 24, 2014

An F-35 Update From The Mound Of Sound

The Mound of Sound sent along this note, followed by his guest post on the F-35:

I thought an update on the F-35 would be appropriate after reading Bill Sweetman’s latest piece in Aviation Week. He writes that this warplane’s Canadian backers are desperate to convince us that we don’t need to put the F-35 through an actual competition.

Canadian supporters of the F-35 marginally stealthy, light attack bomber are so convinced that the F-35 would trounce its rivals in an actual, head-to-head competition that they argue fiercely we should have no such competition.

Aviation Week says we're being conned.

F-35 backers point to various foreign orders as proof that the Lockheed bomber is a world-beater but the truth is that the Joint Strike Fighter has never flown against the other aircraft on the market. Why not? Partly because the problem-plagued warplane is so far behind schedule. Partly because it can't out-turn, out-climb, outrun or out-distance its opposition. What paltry advantage it may eke out in stealth is more than offset by its lack of the Holy Grail of aerial combat, Supercruise - the range-extending ability to achieve sustained, supersonic speeds without fuel-guzzling afterburner.

Aviation Week's Bill Sweetman discussed the F-35's mythical stealth in an article entitled, "Smoke and Mirrors":

To suggest that the F-35 is VHF-stealthy is like arguing that the sky is not blue - literally, because both involve the same phenomenon. The late-Victorian physicist Lord Rayleigh gave his name to the way that electromagnetic radiation is scattered by objects that are smaller than its wavelength. This applies to the particles in the air that scatter sunlight, and aircraft stabilizers and wingtips that are about the same meter-class size as VHF waves.

The counter-stealth attributes of VHF ...were known at the dawn of stealth, in 1983, when MIT's Lincoln Laboratory ordered a 150-ft.-wide radar to emulate Russia's P-14 Oborona VHF early warning system. Lockheed Martin's Fort Worth division should know about that radar - they built it.

VHF-stealth starts with removing the target's tails, as on the B-2, but we did not know how to do that on a supersonic, agile airplane, when the (F-35) specifications were written.

Sweetman adds that the threats of the mid-90s that the F-35 was designed to thwart are, like the F-35 itself, a thing of the past.

The threats of the late 2010s will be qualitatively different. Old VHF radars could be dealt with by breaking the kill chain between detection and tracking: They did not provide good enough cueing to put analog, mechanically scanned tracking radars on to the target. Active, electronically scanned array (AESA), high-power VHF radars and decimeter- and centimeter-wave trackers are more tenacious foes.

We would do well to remember that America did not invent stealth technology. The mathematical formulae for angles and ratios were the brainchild of a Russian mathematician. American defence experts had the paper translated and they were off to the stealth races. The point is that stealth is not some magical technology as we're often given to believe. There are no 'invisible' airplanes and never will be. What that means is that, in evaluating warplanes, stealth should be given its due but no more, and we cannot overlook sacrifices it requires in cost and performance. When it comes to the F-35, you're shelling out a lot and giving up a lot for the sake of a far less than invincible technology.


  1. Another 'lead sled'. Follow the money.

  2. .. thanks for that update & technical perspective re the F35 .. from Mound ..

    I often wonder what or whom, exactly.. Canada will attack & when..
    And even moreso, I wonder how we will patrol our coastlines & borders
    or manage search and rescue.. identify oil spills or conservation violations.

    If Harper, McKay, Clement, Baird & Joe Oliver can't actually answer, fool or impress ordinary Canadians, they must be truly ridiculous to any nation with an Intelligence Agency or access to the internet and TV.. or boats that actually float or environmental disasters or overpopulation, or similarly corrupt or illegal governments

    Just to be mean spirited.. I will point out that we have a fatuous goverment with a bazzillion spies and uncountable lawyers, an RCMP, provincial police, Elections Canada etc.. and they cannot or won't find out who used The Conservative Party electoral database as part of a massive campaign to suppress, defraud & invalidate our last election.

    But never fear.. despite complete incompetance, no viable Royal air force, navy, supply chain, leadership, aerial tankers, choppers, ground support, mobile hospitals, mechanical cadres or coherent strategy, the Great Economist and Baird & McKay et al will teach a hysterical lesson, lay a beating on any and all tyránts or Palestinians or environmentalists or stubborn First Nations.

    Canada is at least one federal election and many years away from being a competant nation, just internally.. ie looking after ourselves.. and helping out with natural disasters here or elsewhere. We need to end, sever.. cease & desist with the reckless resource abominations in other countries.. as we are well on our way as human rights pariahs under the twisted corporatist evangalism of Harper, his late complicit Flaherty and all the other tainted Party/Government goons clapping and enabling atrocities..

    Trust these incomparable losers with control of anything more dangerous than sparklers and matches? Serious ?

  3. As it's becoming more obvious that the F-35's already limited (frontal aspect only) stealth has and will continue to be effectively countered, it makes the argument that the warplane's other electronic wizardry would work far better in a more capable airframe. In fact, the F-35, due to its limitations in speed, range, agility and payload, poses an actual drag on its highly advanced communications, targeting and sensor systems. Lockheed should be to build a proper airframe at least comparable to what everyone else is building.