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Last Updated: Mon Jan 27 11:18:09 UTC 2014

JSF Alternate Realities: …and from whence they come

Air Power Australia - Australia's Independent Defence Think Tank

Air Power Australia NOTAM

   13th February, 2009
Updated July, 2010

Peter Goon, BEng (Mech), FTE (USNTPS),
Head of Test and Evaluation, Air Power Australia

Contacts: Peter Goon
Carlo Kopp

Mob: 0419-806-476 Mob: 0437-478-224

The following is a citation from the Wikipedia entry on Emeritus Professor Harry G Frankfurt at Princeton University:……..

On Bullshit
is an essay by philosopher Harry Frankfurt. Originally published in the journal Raritan in 1986, the essay was republished as a separate volume in 2005 and became a nonfiction bestseller, spending twenty-seven weeks on the New York Times Best Seller list.[1]

In the essay, Frankfurt sketches a theory of bullshit, defining the concept and analyzing its applications. In particular, Frankfurt distinguishes bullshitting from lying; while the liar deliberately makes false claims, the bullshitter is simply uninterested in the truth. Bullshitters aim primarily to impress and persuade their audiences. While liars need to know the truth, the better to conceal it, the bullshitter, interested solely in advancing his own agenda, has no use for the truth. Following from this, Frankfurt claims that "bullshit is a greater enemy of the truth than lies are."

This work laid the foundation for Frankfurt's 2006 follow-up book, On Truth.

Where have we all seen what is described here so incisively?

In essence, ‘the B-word’ is a total (or partial) indifference to the truth and the underpinning data and facts, with ‘partial indifference’ being the source of the too-often-times observed fallacious argument into which a fine thread of truth has been woven.

Basically, at the very core of ‘the B-word’ is an indifference to how things really are; that is, an indifference to reality which, appropriately, should be viewed as 'understanding the perceptions plus a full knowledge of the facts'; rather than its half baked sibling.

It is what legal practitioners less steeped in the nobler ethics and standards of their profession, such as honesty and integrity, mean when they say, “Tell me what you want and I will construct the argument.  I am a lawyer and can argue anything!”

Independent, detailed analyses of the Joint Strike Fighter (JSF) Program have raised very serious concerns.  The total lack of substantive responses to resulting questions put to the various proponents of the Joint Strike Fighter around the world have led to these queries (examples of which are attached) being distilled down to the following very simple questions.

Is the behaviour defined by Professor Frankfurt, and the attitudes/agendas that drive it, at the root of why the JSF Program has achieved such traction in the marketplace?  This while the JSF commodity product is so disconnected from reality that repealing some Laws of Physics and Laws of Commerce, as well as Common Sense, would be the only way the jet could possibly meet many of its proponents’ claims?

Could this be the reason why standard risk assessments show there is quite a high probability this program will go down in history as the biggest aerospace and techno-strategic defence acquisition FUBAR, ever?

Could the highly developed marketing strategies and new age management doctrines such as the Pentagon’s much vaunted but mathematically unsupportable concept of CAIV (Cost As an Independent Variable) and its logic flawed implementation within the JSF Program actually have been a way of generating the alternate realities and comfortable fictions that are the tools of trade of ‘the B-word’ artisans?

Would it be possible the Goldilocks Pricing Strategy with its apples versus lemons comparison with the F-22A Raptor and the creation of a Prisoner’s Dilemma as a follow on to the JSF Program’s early capture of the political leaderships within the partner nations be additional means for reinforcing the easy going perceptions of these alternate realities?

Independent costing and risks analyses based on data compiled well before the Global Financial Crisis (GFC) and its much larger, more rapacious offspring, the World Economic Crisis (WEC), strongly support answers in the affirmative to all such questions. 

Will the WEC now be used to explain away cost increases and delays in schedule which were already inherent in the program or even to justify more outlandish calls for additional funding and even more time to complete?  Surely not, for a quite alarming and frightening reason.

If the new US Administration is coerced by such behaviour, as ’the B-word’ is designed to do, and ends up endorsing the JSF Program in its present form with its current and ongoing agendas like white anting all competition, including the F-22A Raptor, this program will likely make the WEC, itself another product of ‘the B-word’, look like a mere stumble [1].

The WEC has brought into focus the serious consequences of sovereign financial risks materialising whereas 'the B-word' that is the JSF Program will put at risk the very sovereignty of all the participant Nations, especially the US of A.

However, the big difference with the WEC is that the resulting damages and effects will be very long term but limited to only one half of the globe; the now most practiced proliferators of  ‘the B-word’ itself - namely, the Western world.

If this is the legacy left to our children, they will damn us all, not just those responsible, into and beyond our graves.

The current Y-generation will be doomed to become the "Why?" generation when, in a decade or three, they enquire as to why the great and mighty Western democracies were made to stumble then collapse from within, like most of history's fallen empires, and, in this case, how it transpired that truth and integrity equated to "Samson's hair".


  [1] The term 'likely' is used since the consequences or outcomes are still in the future - though the final driving decisions are nigh.  However, standard risk assessment, in accordance with Australian Standard AS/NZS 4360:2004 under the international standard guidance of ISO31000, puts the consequences if this risk materialises as CATASTROPHIC and the probability of this risk arising as ALMOST CERTAIN, leading to an overall priority assessment of this risk as EXTREME.  Even if the probability of this risk arising were to be down rated 2 levels to MODERATE (one level below LIKELY), the priority assessment of this risk would still be EXTREME.

Annex - Examples of Some of the Questions put to the JSF Community in the Interests of a Strong Debate

For the convenience of all and to establish a common frame of reference, these questions are listed under each of the four elements of the JSF Program mantra, being “Affordability”, “Lethality”, “Survivability” and “Supportability”.

These are some of the questions put to the JSF Program leadership, following their recent call for the need for ‘a strong debate on the merits’.
Independent analyses on JSF affordability have been done.  A summary of earlier analyses (circa 2002-06) may be found here.  The attached file (PDF-A/USMC_DoN_2008.pdf) provides a summary of costs for the DoN JSF for the projected FYDP (pre-WEC).
Australia terminated evaluations under the Air6000 New Air Combat Capability Project and entered the JSF SDD Program back in 2002.  The Chief of the Air Force advised the unit price for the JSF aircraft was going to be “…about forty million dollars”.
Current Australian Defence and JSF Program Office Plans have initial procurements of Block 3 F-35A JSF aircraft in the 2012-2014 period.
The results of risk based analyses of JSF costing data from the pre-World Economic Crisis (WEC) era have been provided to Defence.  These show the JSF unit price would likely be around US$168 million (-10%/+30% variance range) in the 2012-14 timeframe.
Using the same methods of analysis, the price estimated for the F-22A Raptor is around US$136 million.
Recent articles published by the IEEE put the unit price figure for the F-22A Raptor at US$137 million.
In summary, in 2014 on a per unit procurement cost basis, the Block 3 F-35A JSF would likely cost as much, if not more, than the F-22A Raptor would cost.
Opening Questions:
  1. In US dollars, what was the pre-WEC estimate of the unit procurement cost (UPC) for the Block 3 Configuration F-35A JSF aircraft planned to be delivered in 2014?
  2. Does this price estimate include any dollar amounts to cover any developmental or procurement or other risks?
  3. If so, what are these risks and what amounts of money, in 2014 US dollars, have been allocated (in cost per aircraft terms, please) to cover each of these risks?
Lethality is measure of how much physical damage a combat aircraft can inflict upon the enemy. It can be measured, in the tactical context, by the number and size of munitions carried, and in the strategic context by the same plus the range to which such weapons can be delivered and the resulting effectiveness.
With survivability dictating internal carriage, the JSF is constrained to a pair of weapon bays, each sized around a single MK.84 size bomb, and a single AMRAAM.
Since the start of the SDD, a progressive reduction in the range of weapon types intended to be integrated and cleared has been observed, with only a small fraction of the initially stated weapon types now planned for SDD.
The world has moved on since the JSF was first specified, but somehow those defining capability requirements have failed to keep pace, if not gone backwards due to CAIV. 
This is a new world where the aphorism ‘the quick and the dead’ applies. 
Opening Questions:
  1. Why has the range of weapon types intended under SDD been so dramatically scaled back?
  2. Is not moving the certification of the remaining weapons out of the SDD Phase and into the Operational Phase what, in keeping with modern day Risk Management Standards such as AS/NZS4360:2004, should be called Extreme Risk?
  3. The weapon bay configuration of the JSF with its canted carriage (about 5 degrees nose in to the centreline, I believe) and forward centroid location (both mass and aerodynamic) relative to the aircraft’s CoG range, also presents significant risk to the carriage and clearance of weapons from these bays.  
  4. How is LM planning to mitigate all such risks to the clearance of weapons from these bays?
  5. How does the JSF Program intend to accommodate internal carriage of more than two AAMs, and how many will the aircraft be able to ultimately carry internally and deliver?
  6. Will each of the JSF weapon bays accommodate the carriage and delivery of 4 x SDB + an AAM and, if so, when will this be certificated?
  7. What are the in flight opening/closing times for the weapon bay doors?
Survivability is a measure of what fraction of a combat fleet remains alive in a given threat environment, flying repeated sorties over a sustained period of time.
The survivability paradigm for the JSF was defined around the ability to survive in a battlefield interdiction environment where the aircraft would be confronted by medium range and short range SAMs, and AAA systems, assuming that hostile fighters, long range SAMs and supporting radars will have been already destroyed by the F-22 fleet.
The JSF’s stealth performance, reflected in shaping, was optimised around this model, with independent technical analyses showing that the aircraft will have viable stealth in the front sector, but much weaker stealth performance in the beam and aft sectors.
The evolving market for radars and surface to air missiles has, however, taken a different turn to that anticipated when the JSF program was launched.
Highly mobile long range SAMs, supported by high power-aperture radars, have been far more popular in the market than the short and medium range weapons which the JSF was defined to and built to defeat.
Opening Questions:
  1. What threat Surface to Air Missile systems and supporting radars was the JSF’s stealth capability modelled against, and which was it not modelled against?  For your convenience, a summary of the threat systems may be found here.
  2. What threat combat aircraft types and supporting systems was JSF’s stealth and aerodynamic capability modelled against, and which was it not modelled against?  A range of the threat combat aircraft and supporting system may be found here.
  3. Why did the JSF Program discard the flat lower centre fuselage design of the X-35, and replace it with the complex curvature design of the SDD F-35, given that even the basic RCS modelling shows this would adversely impact the stealthiness of the aircraft when illuminated from its side aspect?
  4. Why does the JSF Program believe that opposing threat systems will not use all of their capabilities to survive when confronted by the JSF in combat?
  5. Where is the JSF escape system (pilot ejection system) in its certification program and when do you expect the system to be certificated?
  6. What will be the envelope of the JSF pilot ejection system?
  7. What will be the maximum speed at which the JSF canopy will be certificated for bird strikes?
Over the past 30 years, there have been various attempts to reduce the life cycle costs of operating military aircraft.  Options strongly supported by Industry have encouraged the transfer of risk and responsibilities to Industry.  Such options have included Total System Performance Responsibility (TSPR) contracting models, Public Private Partnership (PPP) contracting models and various other outsourcing contract models.
With noted exceptions, the military customers’ satisfaction with such arrangements and their outcomes has been less than optimal.  One recurring series of complaint has been the consequential deskilling of the military while cost overall have not reduced and, from those of the pre-deskilling era, observations and concerns about increasing loss of control of assets leading to truly sovereign risks for the clients – loss of the most basic of sovereign controls of air combat assets – the aircraft’s configuration.
The latest forms of addressing life cycle costs are the performance based agreement (PBA) models and such things as the Autonomic Logistics Model of the JSF Program – elements of both having been proposed to the P-3 Orion Maritime Patrol Aircraft community and, more recently, the C-130J Hercules Strategic Air Lift Aircraft community.
Opening Questions:
  1. What is the estimated total cost per flying hour, in USD/FH, for the Block 3 F-35A JSF in 2014 for a per aircraft flying rate of 350 hrs per annum and a fleet size of 100 aircraft performing all training missions and roles that achieves a level of preparedness able to fully utilise the full JSF capabilities, with repeatability?
  2. What are the JSF capabilities, training sequences and rates of effort (ROEs) used to determine the answer to the preceding question?
  3. Which organisation or organisations will have the ability and capabilities to control and change the technical configurations of the JSF and its airborne and ground based systems?
  4. By all accounts, including using some of the tools you and I were trained in at USNTPS, the approach speed of the F-35A is inordinately high – reportedly 180 KCAS.  Is this the case?
  5. If so, what modelling/simulations have been done to determine the levels of risk and hazards such a high approach speed presents to the operations and support of the F-35A JSF?
  6. What is the means of controlling the temperatures of the ElectroHydroStatic Actuators (EHSA) used to drive the F-35 JSF control surfaces and are these actuators rated for a continuous duty cycle at a loading above 100% of the JSF operational loading?  If not, what is their duty cycle rating?
Finally and more generally, the results of analyses undertaken by a number of domain experts around the world do not support the notion that the JSF will not be able to meet its original specification. What they do indicate is, due to the effects of management decisions under paradigms like Cost as An Independent Variable (CAIV); the transfer of risks from the SDD Phase to the Operational Phase; and, the extensive deskilling that has occurred in Departments and Ministries of Defence around the Western World, due to the end of the Cold War ‘peace dividend’, this specification will most likely not be met till around Block 6/7, circa 2020 or later.
However, where these independent analyses converge is full agreement that the original JSF JORD specification and the specification to which the aircraft has been designed and is being built are based on threat assessments from an era past.  This combined with the constraining nature of the original air vehicle specification and the on going effects of expeditious management decisions made under CAIV, mean the overall capabilities of the JSF will have been surpassed by the middle of the next decade, if not earlier.
In summary, all the indicators point to a penultimate question -  
Will the F-35 JSF be obsolete before its time?
If not, then why not, given where the JSF Program is in its schedule and overall life cycle compared with where the developing threats are in theirs?
That being said, there is much reason for a robust and strong debate.  We look forward to your answers, along with the supporting data, information and knowledge, at your earliest, in the spirit of working with you to get the best we can for those who fly as our aim, and confidently demonstrating this thesis (or its antithesis) with hard data and facts as the paramount measures of effectiveness of a strong debate.

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