jeez, again with the same "operators requirements" and "all iz well". course corrections as in change the darn design to meet/exceed current peers out there. when developer has to massage 4Gen platforms as comparators its not really going too well
Operator requirements are something that is paramount to any design. You design around the specifications and missions handed to you by the organization that pays you to go out and design a product. Similarly those that develop requirements do so based on A) The capability they are required to replace and B ) Any added capability they may wish to add into the platform on top of that.
How do you justify a plan to go out and seek better overall combat performance then the F-22 for a program meant to replace the F-16 and F/A-18 while still justifying that the cost to do so even with the capability would be affordable for an overall production run of 2400 aircraft? By most conservative calculations, if you wanted to blend the raw performance of the F-22 with the range/paylaod and mission requirements of the F-35, you would need somewhat of a hybrid between an F-22B and the X-44 MANTA, or the FB-23 concept. As good as these things sound there is no way in hell could you afford to acquire these even in the 500-1000 range. Now add to that the cost of sustaining these aircrafts that are likely to be significantly larger and just add the Logistical footprint to transport support for 2x the number of engines around the world.
As I mentioned earlier, the shape and design of the JSF was dictated by the USAF's range/payload requirement which could be seen with the current configuration of their block 50 Vipers and the amount of fuel they consume per sortie (plus add margin), signature requirement that were driven by all three services but pushed more so by the USN and by the payload requirement, initially set forth by the USN (2k bomb) but later agreed upon by the USAF that got as a result the ability to replace the F-117 mission set completely.
Here (below) was the basic evolution of the STOVL capabiility. It was developed before design freeze. You could essentially take this and put it into an X-32 (lockheed) like vehicle, or you could take it and put in a much larger vehicle such as the current aircraft that is optimized for range, size and payload that is an optimum trade-off for the CTOL version with some input from the CV requirements:
The myth that the STOVL requirement somehow made the F-35 a "fatter" design has absolutely no merit. The reason for the shape is the internal payload, internal fuel volume and the single engine requirement dictating the placement of the bays.
course corrections as in change the darn design to meet/exceed current peers out there. when developer has to massage 4Gen platforms as comparators its not really going too well
Was the F-16 ever required to meet or exceed the Su-35, or Su-37 or other exotic types such as the Su-47 that could have existed had the SU not collapsed? The USAF plans to be a 2 fighter force into the future. While the number of F-22's have been reduced they were made up for by upping certain requirements on the F-35 (in a round about way thanks to the USN that wanted greater stealth and RCS then the USAF at the time) and developing the overall network and cloud. Furthermore, the number of F-35's being acquired is significant. Simply put, the bulk of your fleet is the F-35 while you would always have a higher end capability. A reduced F-22 purchase was considered a reasonable short-medium term risk given the collapse of the SU and the fact that larger acquisition prioritize lay ahead when it came to modernization. The JSF is not the ONLY fighter type the USAF or the USN would operate in the 2020-2060 period. The effort to replace the F-22's has already begun starting with key investments in technology maturity particularly in propulsion and advanced materials. We are all witnessing GEWIII taking shape with the ADVENT--AETD and AETP programs that have either concluded successfully or are at an appropriate state of development. X plane contracts have been included in the YF16 budget cycle. Propulsion advancements have direct implications on the F-35 program as well and there is always an option of heavily modifying the F-35 design for a different missions set (F-18E/F) if a lower-cost/faster solution is sought.
yes, the golden point of the F-35 is its avionics suite. if it works, it will be really a step ahead in terms of the A2G function especially.
The entire avionics package has similar implications in the air-to air domain as well. The EA/EW package, stealth, LPI/LPD sensors and the very complex waveform management tasks performed by the CNI suite provide it valuable capability in the air to air aspect of combat. The Distributed Aperture Infrared System a precursor to the current EODAS was something that heavily focused on gaining advantage in the Air to Air context. The mission computing power and de-coupling of the RADAR back end and incorporating the computing task within the mission computers was also something that was precisely presented as a means to stay ahead of the curve as far air and SAM threats is concerned (The processing for the radar on the JSF is done by the Mission computers and not the radar back end).
multiple off the record to any operators comments have leaked out and all acknowledge the airframe is below what they would have wanted it to be in todays world.
There are both sides of the argument as there should be. At the time there were voices that wanted or preferred the X-32 yet those that hated it. Until and unless you have access to entire testing information both at the DV and EMD phases you cannot make a definitive argument. There are voices that say the F-22 is not that great compared to the basic F-16A. Similar voices would continue to reject anything and everything that isn't a light weight fighter despite of this concept having been rejected for the ATFT, ATF, and JAST/JSF programs. Its a democracy and you'll find varying opinions on both sides of the argument for pretty much every system.
There are voices that also claim that the YF23 should have been picked, and thats ok because everyone is entitled to their opinion.
PR statements by serving folks who can't say a word otherwise lest program officials keenly monitoring exports get on their case, are a different thing
Serving folks have been allowed to express their opinion if they disagree and some have (scroll back a dozen pages and you'd find references to them). A couple of years ago I attended the US Naval Academy/Institute debate on the evolving nature of carrier aviation and heard both sides of the arguments. West 2014, had F-35 pilots (current) who stated quite well the challenges and frustrations with the slow pace of development. The F-14 tribe gave the Rhino a lot of flack, some well deserved. Overall however the transition from an F-14 to the F-18E/F was a wise decision at the time and still is. It allowed the USN to affordably modernize its fleet at a time when spending on Tactical platforms was expected to go down. Look now, the F-18E/F tribe has gained huge favor and they want more and more despite the USN's decision to stop procurement after FY2015. Ultimately, you would do well to find another open system where difference of opinion is expressed as in the current and retired US services. Official fora are provided where opinions are expressed. Some of the best and engaging discussions on these are at the Naval War college, or the USN Academy arranged sessions.
take a f-22, think of that design with a single engined variant, think of lower cost/lower cost alternatives to many of its subsystems and chances are you'd still outperform the F-35 in many respects.
I absolutely have no problem in envisioning a mini-f-22. But the problem is that the JSF design needed to balance the combat radius, much of which is at medium altitudes (Sensors and weapons) needs to be balanced with your stealth (that ultimately defines internal fuel and payload) and overall payload and bay depth.
The USAF that dictated the airframe design had basically a need to replace the modern Evolved F-16' mission as it existed with them. The current state sees the F-16's go up in the air with 2-3 EFT's. Had they continued on the F-16 path they would have most likely gotten CFT's and still required a tank or two. Thats how rapidly the combat radius demands was expanding. The 18,000 pounds of internal fuel is a direct result of that, because they needed that range in First day strike and mult-role mission scenario. Similarly, the pods and sensors had to be integrated for those missions. The engine requirement required the F-135 to be different to the F-119 as you are well aware.
Now if you were to add another layer of complexity i.e. borrow the F-22's mission envelope of high and fast performance you were only going to make things more complicated, complex and ultimately more expensive if not outright impractical. The best way to achieve both would be to go for a twin engine design that gives you better bay/payload placement in the fuselage and that allows you to get your thrust from 2 engines. The flip side, more room for fuel because you have to still meet the range payload requirements in the strike mission and that ultimately means larger aircraft. Twins engine were a non-starter because of the cost implications on your strategic airlift needs. The USAF is a globally deployed force that fights expeditionary warfare. Any decision to increase the logistical footprint of a new aircraft ( usually measured in number of lift loads) has implications that trickle down to the strength of your transport fleet. Its either that or the strength of your tanker fleet or a mix of both.
Hence the current design. They took areas that they could improve upon the F-22. Avionics, sensor quality, sensor number, and sensor integration and stealth (thanks to the USN that stuck to the best possible RCS figures they could manage at the time) while they still operated within the design constraints that the outgoing mission placed on the requirement.
F-22 BTW is another case of a program which gold plated itself to the point that it couldn't add basic systems without undergoing a completely unnecessary avionics refresh
There are many misconceptions floating around about the ATF and the F-22. One is that the YF22 and YF23 had a fly-off and the YF-22 vehicle defeated the YF23. The other is that it was a bad idea to not make it COTS reliant and an open architecture system. However, this is only partially correct. The plan was always to go towards an open architecture. The F-22 was required to be operational by the mid to late 1990s (LRIP was to originally start in 1992 vs 1996) and they developed the best possible avionics system that they could develop at the time for that threat. There were things in the pipeline that were going to be changed in the F-22B and any future iterations of the fighter. One was a greater shift towards open architectures and the path to the current F-35 ICP actually started off from the research that had happened in the 90's on that step. Open architecture processes currently standard practice in DOD programs in the US are a direct result of R&D efforts throughout the 80's and 90's and the F-22 would have benefited from them just as any other. Other was the advanced RAM that was much simpler to maintain and that could survive abuse. The F-35's FIBER MAT was a direct result of the processes that started or that were conceived during the F-22 time-frame.
At the time of the RFP draft II that preceded the DAB EMD/MII the the F-22 requirement was for 648 fighters. Industry was allowed to use the Cost-Plus money (spare) to invest into future capabilities for the B or X version (any future version) and they continued to do so till the time the EMD phase concluded. A lot of companies lot a lot of money on the F-22. Lockheed located its entire production to Georgia because that would save them money given the high peak production rate that the DAB expected of them (nearly 50 per annum) and given the cost of doing business in California. Like I said, those were different times because you had an existential threat that was numerically far superior and in some areas even technically superior.
take the F/A-18 E/F - work within those dimension constraints & ask Boeing to come up with a stealthy a/c which can meet/exceed NavAir threats in the future.
Easier said then done..The F-18E/F does what it does because it can carry a $hit load of fuel externally to get mission relevant ranges. You cannot strap on stealth without taking care of the requirement for external fuel and weapons. The F-35C with 20K internal fuel destroys the range payload of the aircraft it is replacing because the pressure for the increased range is significantly more now then it was at the time and you cannot carry EFTs. Lets look at the Boeing Advanced Rhino. A decent investment (IRAD with USN backing) and around 20-25% greater cost given the changes. In permissive environments it requires the 3000+ pounds of CFT fuel just to haul a light load (SDB's and MRAAM's mostly) to distances. In certain loudest it can out range the F-35C in permissive environments. Come back to Non-permissive environments (remember here, that the USN was the service that sought a greater signature suppression effort on the JSF)and that range goes down significantly due to optimal flight path and shrinking effect of VLO on SAM rings. This is for an aircraft type the F-35C is not meant to replace (F-18E/F).
Anything that replaces the F-18E/F would most likely have greater range/payload requirements than the F-35C (Ideally given the pivot, they'd want a 25-30% range increase as a bare minimum). It remains to be seen how that is tackled, but it would most likely be larger than the Super Hornet and not designed around that sized airframe which itself was a compromise because the USN couldn't afford/justify an advanced Tomcat, and god knows they could not justify a clean sheet design.
You are also going to have to re-do the entire system to get anything even remotely resembling a 5th gen, let alone a 5.5 generation aircraft that would be the logical thing to replace the F-18E/F's in the 2030 time-frame. Even at its most basic, it would be a considerable upgrade. That investment would be better spent on just heavily modifying the F-35C. You could do a number of things if you have money on the table. The modern cost (development and engineering) of a 5+ or 6th gen program is most likely going to be 50+% Avionics and mission systems (was around 40% for the ATF and JSF) so if you wanted to retain heavy commonality with the F-35C, you have chopped off 50% of your cost straight away by retaining the mission systems and can concentrate on airframe and propulsion changes whatever the mission requirements dictate.
In fact, that has been suggested as a possible low (er) cost solution. Breaking Defense has learned that Lockheed Martin has submitted one of each: an all-new, advanced, “sixth-generation” design and a derivative of its F-35C.
“If I had to bet,” said an industry source, “[I’d say] what the Navy would do is an F-35C-plus.”
The USN must do away with the Growler mission set for the future F-18E/F replacement and seek that capability from some other platform. Already, the growler is stressing the limits of tanking support (a joint USAF and USN logistical headache) while providing marginal utility when it comes to TOS given the ingress, egress and all the tanking in between. Then there is human limit on endurance and they don't want to push through a lot of 7-8 hour sorties as a routine. In my personal opinion I think the B-3 would do its bit in removing the EA-18 mission stress especially if its optionally maned which is most likely the eventual goal. Otherwise they need to retain the growlers and not seek that capability from the future platform. Keep them for longer and use them for shorter missions while having another solution for theater EW/EA.
Personally, I believe the range and mission radius requirements posed in the Pacific would require a dramatic shift in aircraft requirements. Unless some huge leaps are made with the AETD and AETP programs, you would have to begin trading off high supersonic speed for range, and time on station. The tactical advantage would then have to come from somewhere else. The 2 new X plane programs that would begin next year would be very exciting to follow for sure.
when three different groups have significantly differing requirements, it does not always make sense to put them all in a common bucket and then try to develop a common program for all their needs.
The biggest difference between the F-35A and F-35C was that the latter required to land on a carrier. Other than that it was a capability problem. The compromise in that mission was that the USAF had to accept better capability in stealth and payload because the F-35 was going to be the USN's only first day of war stealth aircraft. There isn't a whole lot of difference in the F/A-18 and F-16 mission set in the current scheme of things. They both perform similar missions and require largely a similar solution as far as capability is concerned. For the USMC, they required STOVL, but that was taken care of by the propulsion system which was scalable and platform adaptable. For the most part the USMC backed off from the the JORD and sided slightly with the USAF because they wanted a smaller aircraft. Like one article said back in the 90's, USMC wanted their aircraft to perform like the USAF requirements once it was in the air.