If it hasn’t already happened, there needs to be some serious questions asked by Senator John Faulkner, Defence Minister of those who scripted his recent enthusiastic endorsement of the JSF or Joint Strike Fighter.
Faulkner is no fool, and it very unlikely he will tolerate being made to look as captured by the rhetoric associated with this program as the words provided for him in his press releases earlier this year on this project imply.
The notes that will give the Minister, and anyone else on the government and opposition benches cause for concern are found in the just revealed report to Congress by Mike Gilmore, the US Director of Operational Test & Evaluation concerning the JSF project in 2009.
This has been provided to us by Dr Carlo Kopp, defence analyst, at Air Power Australia. The interest for Plane Talking is in the extremely serious political and strategic consequences that would result from this program failing.
This is the strongest language seen in any DOT&E report – far more critical than widely publicised OT&E criticisms of the Super Hornet some years ago, which many may recall.
This is evidence of pervasive and systemic failure in basic design of the airframe and systems. Every single problem or area of difficulty has been previously identified by APA, and far too frequently not believed, or dismissed.
What is abundantly clear is that the JSF is the least survivable new US combat aircraft design seen for many decades. Not only, as APA has proven many times over, is it easy to engage and hit, but as the DOT&E report shows abundantly, it is highly vulnerable and easy to kill if it is hit.
What the Director of OT&E has said in this 2009 report about the JSF Program bears all the hallmarks of an aircraft that has been designed by committees dominated by people other than professional Aerospace and Systems Engineers with currency and credence in the design, operation and effective management of the development of air combat fighter aircraft.
Even the simulation and modelling tools, that are intended to support testing, will only have “. . .50 per cent of the models will be accredited”, and this will not be achieved till “. . . during the final year of flight test, an approach with substantial risk”. Flying blind, in other words.
And, then, of course there are the considerable risks, issues and concerns about the autonomic logistics global sustainment (ALGS) system as recently put by APA to Australia’s DoD.
As if there isn’t enough to consider that warrants a complete re-assessment of Australia’s continued involvement in the JSF Program, the contents of this report, alone, should make this the highest imperative of the Australian Department of Defence Capability Acquisition Program and its related steering committees.
Clearly, the Air Combat Capability Review done in early 2008 by Mr Neil Orme failed to adequately consider, let alone address, the quite substantial and substantive risks and supporting analyses provided by APA and many other experts.
Any doubt as to the veracity of this observation can be readily dispelled by comparing the ACCR / Orme Report with the submissions provided, and this latest report from the US Director of OT&E.
The considerations and concerns listed in this DOT&E report are but a small number of those provided to Mr Neil Orme, some two years and many Australian tax payer dollars ago; not to mention the capability and Industry opportunity costs.
What is an unavoidable observation at this point in time, is that all of APA’s biggest concerns about this dysfunctional program were not only warranted, the reality is worse than APA predicted.
Here are some of the highlighted sections in clearer resolution.
The report says that “in 55 total flights during the fiscal year the integrated test force resolved a total of seven mission system success criteria of the 284 allotted to the CATB.
The report says, “The program needs to protect against the tendency to use models before they are ready.
“The impact of not doing so will be to create more risk of discovery of deficiencies during flight test, which the reliance on models was intended to avoid….
“Expectations of capabilities in early lots…of aircraft need to be adjusted to the realities of what can be developed and verified before delivery.”
The non-performance of this project last year could not have been unknown to those responsible for the defence materiels organisation. What exactly did our defence people do on their hosted trips to the US. How much of what they are paid to know did they faithfully and accurately convey to the minister.
Where is this tragic screw up leading us?
Some notes from Lockheed Martin concerning our notes.
Statement for DOT&E Report:
The report covers Fiscal Year 2009 and does not reflect progress that has been made recently. Although late deliveries of aircraft from production to flight test have impacted early test results, the program has turned the corner of both production and test and verification and we fully expect to complete developmental testing in the prescribed time frame (2014).
Fifteen of the 19 SDD aircraft have been delivered including six ground test articles and nine fliers. The remainder will be delivered in 2010.
Four of the 13 SDD flight test aircraft have flown (AA-1, BF-1, BF-2, and AF-1). The next aircraft to fly is BF-3, our third STOVL aircraft, early this year. We have flown about 140 times, which is below plan, but early flight test results are encouraging. According to the story, the DOT&E report goes through FY09 and counts 16 flights. As of today that number is 49, not counting AA-1 flights. None of AA-1’s 91 flights appear to be included in the DOT&E info that Bloomberg discusses.
Software is approximately 80% complete. Software stability and reliability is about 20 times greater than the F-22 program at this stage in the program.
We have an excellent airframe design with the first ground-test article, STOVL BG-1, recently having completed its testing ahead of schedule, with more than 200 test points. AG-1, CTOL variant, is ahead of this pace completing full airframe tests (13.5 Gs) with no failures.
Not reflected in the DOT&E report are recent significant accomplishments:
First Flight of the optimized CTOL variant on 11/14/09
The ferry of the first of the first STOVL aircraft to PAX River on 11/15/09 and subsequent ferry of BF-2 on 12/29/09.
Finally, and probably most significantly we engaged BF-1s STOVL propulsion system in flight on two different sorties for the first time in January. The successful tests are the first in a series of planned STOVL-mode flights that will include short takeoffs, hovers and vertical landings.
Although the SDD aircraft have incurred delays in entering flight test for several reasons, there are important technical achievements that have been demonstrated to date which are significantly more advanced than in any legacy program:
o Exceptional static testing results on the STOVL and CTOL variants (full envelope verification in half the time of legacy) with CV variant ground testing scheduled to start this month.
o Exceptional software stability demonstrated in our ground and flying laboratories and now undergoing initial F-35 mission system tests, compared to legacy platforms.
o Exceptional sensor performance on surrogate airborne test platforms.
o Exceptional signature test results, both near and far field coupled with robust, supportable Low Observeability characteristics.
Each of these technical accomplishments reflects soundness in the underlying engineering design and indicates a level of confidence entering flight test that has not been experienced on previous programs.
The flight test program is structured around conservative factors related to refly and regression testing and we believe we will be able to progress faster than legacy programs based on the extensive investment in integrated laboratories, flying test beds and modeling and simulation capabilities.