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The Military Technology

Boeing Touts Fighter Jet To Rival F-35 — At Half the Price 497

An anonymous reader sends this news from the CBC: "In a dogfight of defense contractors, the hunter can quickly become the hunted. It's happening now to the F-35. The world's largest defense contractor, Lockheed Martin, is trying to convince wavering U.S. allies — including Canada — to stick with its high-tech, high-priced and unproven F-35 stealth fighter. But the F-35 is way behind schedule, way over budget and, now, it's grounded by a mysterious crack in a turbine fan. After years of technical problems, it's a tempting target for Lockheed Martin's rivals. It's no surprise, then, that the No. 2 defense contractor, Boeing, smells blood... The Super Hornet, it says, is a proven fighter while the F-35 is just a concept — and an expensive one at that. ... The Super Hornet currently sells for about $55 million U.S. apiece; the Pentagon expects the F-35 to cost twice as much — about $110 million."
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Boeing Touts Fighter Jet To Rival F-35 — At Half the Price

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  • ROI (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Krazy Kanuck ( 1612777 ) on Thursday February 28, 2013 @11:50AM (#43034965)
    Reaper drones run about 37 million per unit, it'd be interesting to see simulations of 3 reapers vs an F-35.
  • by jest3r ( 458429 ) on Thursday February 28, 2013 @11:54AM (#43035033)

    From a Canadian perspective the big advantages of going with the Super Hornet is backwards compatibility (even more-so than the lower price).

    - The Super Hornet is compatible with the current RCAF in-air refuelling technology
    - The Super Hornet technology is an upgrade to what we already have - our techs are compatible / familiar with it
    - The Super Hornet does not require longer runways for landing - our remote arctic runways are compatible
    - The Super Hornet has landing gear better suited for icy runways - our weather is compatible

    It's not as stealthy but we are a defensive military.

    - The Super Hornet is also half the price.

    The Harper Government has a hard-on for the F35 and the Canadian public really has no idea WHY.

  • by aaaaaaargh! ( 1150173 ) on Thursday February 28, 2013 @11:57AM (#43035091)

    I have often have doubts whether these fighter planes really have any use nowadays. Especially dogfighting seems to be a bit outdated in times of cheap shoulder launched surface to air missiles. Moreover, there are drones, cruise missiles, etc. These planes look a lot like super-expensive adult toys to me. Could someone who knows more about military strategy explain to me for what purposes these kinds of planes are needed? What is the strategy behind them? What about cost/benefits? Is such a plane capable of evading the amount of modern surface to air missiles you could buy for its price?

    No attempt to troll, I'm honestly interested.

  • by gstoddart ( 321705 ) on Thursday February 28, 2013 @12:19PM (#43035401) Homepage

    From the inception, the F-35 seemed to me like it was doomed to failure.

    It was a massive development project which was set up in such a way as to try to convince allies to buy this plane before any existed and have them fund the development. It was supposed to have several different variants including a VTOL one.

    It's been plagued with cost overruns, delays, and almost everything else. It's always struck me as an obscenely expensive plane with a lot of risks, and as countries are starting to ask "do we really want this", it could leave those still in the program with mounting costs since it's no longer being paid for by as many governments.

    From the start, this was a program designed to get everybody to help pay for a pie-in-the-sky plane which was completely unproven. This is just a program to line the contractor's pockets, and for the US to try to get someone else to help pay for it.

    Unfortunately, a lot of people warned about how this would happen, but they got ignored. If anybody thinks this it's a surprise that F-35 program has been ridiculously expensive with very little results, they haven't been paying attention. And unless Boeing already has a plane in the works, I'm not sure I'd believe their claims of being able to do it cheaper any more than Lockheed's.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday February 28, 2013 @12:30PM (#43035587)

    Modern air defense systems are getting more and more sophisticated in counter missile technology. At some point, and the hypothetical is that you are engaging someone in the next 20 years (the minimum before you even start thinking of another replacement aircraft) with counter missle tech, you need a stealth system to infiltrate far enough into enemy airspace to deliver munitions before the air defense can respond. Stealth on missiles would drive their cost up to ridiculous levels (as well as the maintenance/storage requirements).

    Other thoughts
    - In a modern war you would expect jamming out the wazoo and likely all GPS-like systems to be either jammed or disabled. That would put a severe crimp in any medium/long range smart bomb's accuracy. Closer you are, better then chance of hitting it
    - Close air support against a modern enemy would be against a LOT of anti-air firepower. Stealth increases survivability and your friendly guys on the ground likely don't want you firing your supporting missiles from a dozen miles out blindly. Fighters with their higher speeds have superior survivability to air to air defenses than helicoptors.
    - The basic airframes and systems of our current fleet of fighters in the US is sadly outdated when you compare them to the technology you have sitting on your desk. That's largely due to how long it takes to design/produce these systems which is easily 10-15 years to get to operational status from when they started designing it, so when it gets on the field, it's behind the power curve technologically already. US F-15/16 fighters already have many decades of service under them with B-52s having I think an average age of around 55 years for the fleet (and they aren't planning on retiring it anytime soon). Would you hop into an aircraft that old (although with service life extensions and modernizations when feasible) and go to war with it? Do we need something with the bells and whistles of the F-35 along with its pricetag? That's very debateable. Do we need a tech refresh in the somewhat near future? Yes. You can only modify an aircraft cost effectively so much before you should throw the whole thing out and start over again. Also as the years go on, the basic structural fatigue is showing up in the news as aircraft literally break in half in the air due to wear and tear.

  • by bill_mcgonigle ( 4333 ) * on Thursday February 28, 2013 @12:32PM (#43035617) Homepage Journal

    Except now the various F-35's have essentially different airframes.

    Ostensibly this means that the F-35 is a failure, in relation to its original intent. Still, though, if R&D is limited to one basic group of planes, then perhaps there could still be overall savings, even with a higher per-unit cost. Programs aren't limited in cost to the per-unit acquisition cost - there is at least R&D to consider in addition to maintenance and supply.

    The bigger trouble, though, is that these things don't seem to be very good at anything. For instance, the -B model, which can do VTOL for the USMC can't do that at austere locations. The USMC says it will have to pour special high-strength concrete pads for F-35 VTOL to work. OK, it's smaller than an air strip, but by time you secure an air base, get a concrete pumper in there, and let it cure, the Marines' job should be well over for a given operation.

    The Marines should use an Osprey if they need VTOL. The Navy can get them close enough and the Air Force can provide actual air combat.

    I say all this in light of the USG needing even more war planes, while it is threatening to cut Meals on Wheels, heating assistance, and air traffic controllers today instead of discarding unneeded weapons platforms.

  • Re:ROI (Score:5, Interesting)

    by ShanghaiBill ( 739463 ) * on Thursday February 28, 2013 @01:05PM (#43036029)

    The MQ-9's a pretty awesome piece of hardware for what it does, but it's no replacement for an F-16 in contested airspace.

    ... and an F-16 is no replacement for a reaper when it comes to long duration reconnaissance, or operating in areas were the loss or capture of a pilot is politically unacceptable. They are different planes for different missions.

    What would be cool is to see what we could do if we set out to build a real air superiority fighter drone. We could have each defense contractor build a squadron, and send them out over the desert on a real shoot out with live ordnance. The winner gets the contract. The contest could be filmed and made into a reality TV show to mitigate the procurement cost.

  • Lawn Dart (Score:2, Interesting)

    by amiga3D ( 567632 ) on Thursday February 28, 2013 @01:22PM (#43036247)

    The main problem I have with the F35, besides the ridiculous cost, is that it's another idiotic single engine fighter like the F16 (lawn dart) which is so wrong for a combat aircraft. Redundancy is everything in a combat aircraft and when you lose an engine in a single seater the only option is to grab the eject handles. The number of F16's that could have survived if they had just had that extra powerplant I don't know but I do know that they crash at an unhealthy rate, over 342 according to an article I read back in 2011. I see no reason to believe the F35 with one engine will do any better. Especially if they can't figure what's up with the tubine blade problem. I think the F35 is just Lawn Dart 2.0

  • by phantomfive ( 622387 ) on Thursday February 28, 2013 @01:27PM (#43036299) Journal

    Can someone explain to me why we have 50 million hungry in America, including 17 million children

    I can try, but you might not understand.

    The number you are citing most likely comes from the USDA ERS report about food security. It does not represent people who ARE hungry, it includes people who had to buy less desirable food at some time during the year, but they still got enough to eat.

    The number of those who are actually hungry, who ate less because they didn't have enough money, is much lower. Among those are people who don't know how to manage a budget and ran out of money just before a new paycheck came. The number of people who are actually starving is very low. We have government programs to deal with these problems already.

    Now, I think we should reduce our spending on warfare, but you at least should understand the numbers you're throwing around.

  • by Kaenneth ( 82978 ) on Thursday February 28, 2013 @03:47PM (#43038141) Homepage Journal

    So, um, why don't fighters have rear guns?

    even something automatic like a small version of the ship missile defense systems? instead of using flares/chaff/jamming to distract a missle, just shoot it directly.

    (maybe they do, but it's super-secret?)

  • Re:Easy to say (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Leslie43 ( 1592315 ) on Thursday February 28, 2013 @06:37PM (#43040171)
    This is true, on paper.

    Every engine has a crack tolerance on the turbine fan blades (and they all develop cracks), the tolerances allowed greatly differ between single and twin engine jets. Remember, when you lose your single engine, you don't just lose thrust, you lose all power as well, so while they have a backup, it typically only lasts about 10 minutes. They don't take chances. Because of this, F16's made in the 80's and 90's actually need engines replaced FAR more often than the older twin engine aircraft made in the 60's by a significant amount.

    I worked on these aircraft, for every engine I changed on a twin, I did at least 20 on singles, and no, that isn't an exaggeration. Send them to the desert and things only got worse.

If I had only known, I would have been a locksmith. -- Albert Einstein