I'll Scratch Your (F-35) Back If You'll Scratch Mine (JSM)

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For all the arguing about the Joint Strike Fighter that we've done here on Ares, some of the factors and decisions simply come down to economics. Robert Wall has a story in this week's Aviation Week & Space Technology about the Norway F-35 decision and how the Joint Strike Missile plays into that.

For all the talk about fifth-generation-this and stealth-that, for most countries signing up to become F-35 partners there is a more basic calculation at play: The industrial return warrants the financial outlays.

Norway has now taken a big step toward potentially making the bargain work. After prolonged lobbying and badgering, Oslo secured a firm U.S. commitment to have Kongsberg's Joint Strike Missile (JSM) integrated early on the F-35.

Idle thought: is this commitment more firm than the one the U.S. made to MEADS?

And, just to stir the pot a little, what Robert wrote about the latest GAO report:

Positive developments are overshadowed by the release on June 14 of the latest in a series of stinging Government Accountability Office reports on the program.

The report characterized progress made in the F-35 program as mixed. For instance, last year only 6 of 11 important objectives were achieved and the GAO raised concerns about software development. “Until a fully integrated, capable aircraft is flight tested—planned to start in 2015—the program is still very susceptible to discovering costly design and technical problems after many aircraft have been fielded.”

Any new thoughts on the JSF? (And keep it civil ;-)

Discuss this Blog Entry 1

on May 9, 2015

If you put six JSMs at 900lbs each on an F-35, your total weapons load is 5,400lbs + 1,000lbs for the pylon and jettison kits.

2X Mk.84 JDAM (GBU-31V2) @ 2,300lbs each is 4,600lbs.

If each missile has a 200nm range (in line with the MTCR, CFE and INF regimes) and you program several missiles to have targeting overlaps so that one missile successfully striking it's target allows another to take BIA photos of the hit and then progress to a secondary target, you should still be able to fire these weapons from 100nm standoff at -three times as many- total aimpoints.

Which means that, with 300 jets in-theater, in a given 'surge' condition of 1.5-2 sorties per day instead of the normal 1, you should be be able to strike 300 X 6 X 1.5 or 2,700 DMPIs per day.

Compare this to Libya, where a paltry 200 BGM-109 and a massive 8,300 conventional sorties were required. The first to knock down the threat defenses by going inland and curving back towards the sea (striking from within the landward clutter as hills around Tripoli etc.), after which, the majority of the sorties were tactical OBAS/BAI/CAS missions to support ground forces in a 'reconnaissance by fire' mode of forcing engagement by Gadhafi's troops so that they could be pinpointed and obliterated from the air.

Now, while I am not fond of tactical cruise systems for the simple fact that I think it's a massive mistake to step back from long range, air-independent, systems like the Tomahawk's 900nm range; I further believe that the 12.5nm JDAM and even the 40nm SDB offer limited ability to engage threats from outside not just their site-specific WEZ but a networked engagement capability where a radar over here provides track cueing for a shot from a mobile TEL way off over there.

Especially when we know that the JSF has limited all-aspect VLO and we know that it's enormous CPFH of 31,000 dollars per hour equates to a large maintenance condition which will likely constrain both training hours and total combat time before an extended 'down' period of deferred maintenance on both general systems and stealth-specific coatings. All supported by the effects of ALIS domination by Lockheed and the recent admission that 90% of the factory processes are 'undefined' in terms of quality of build and thus available TACs for parts and systems.

So....

The question becomes: Do we want to buy into a 2,400 airframe fleet as the Marines shove us through a contract commitment to an _illegal_ IOC, pre Milestone C.

Or...

Do we want to buy into cruise weapons like these for the FNOW condition whereby a limited number of fully pyloned JSFs are used as a SEAD door kicker force for a substantially larger count of conventional F/A-18E/F and UCAV that take over, Day-2 or 3, to pump sortie numbers with much cheaper cost per flying hour platforms which have equal or greater endurance in the mission area as the primary definition of hitting targets which are discovered on the enemy's schedule by a loitering ISR-as-strike aircraft?

I would also like to know just exactly how Kongsberg came to the conclusion that 'smart beats fast'.

700 knots at sea level is quick and I understand that the JSM is capable of sea-state matched skimming down to perhaps 2-3 feet above the wave crests.

But this means nothing in a world where CEC and multiple ARH seekers allows for fused tracking and aspect-advantaged intercept in the outer air battle. While lasers and APS' increasingly take over the terminal defense roles with zero-miss and large ability to defeat swarm/saturative capabilities, no matter what kind of evader terminal profile they follow.

Keep in mind, that the JSM is now well over 10 years old in it's baseline (NSM) concept. And while that is not as old as the 40 year technology base datum of the Harpoon, nor is it any guarantee against defenses in 2020 which begin to shift fully over to longwave radar and electro optical layered sensor networks that can track even a stealthy missile using a defense in depth mode.

We absolutely need to have dominance over the force in-future as much as in-being and integrating a stealth cruise missile on the JSF seems to be an admission that VLO itself is compromised to a greater or lesser degree (missile shapes and coatings are not as advanced as fighter equivalents which in turn are less than what the LRSB will have, hopefully...).

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