Showing posts with label F35. Show all posts
Showing posts with label F35. Show all posts

Friday, November 11, 2016

Does the Pentagon Need an Acquisition Chief??

Title of an article in Aviation Week.  They have one now.  The incumbent, Frank Kendall, claims that cost overruns were 51% before his time and he has reduced them to 5%.  His job is on the line, latest Senate defense authorization bill would remove it and replace it with two lower ranking slots, one for R&D and one for "management and support"  what ever that might be.  Pure paperwork perhaps?
  Acquisition is a serious problem at the Pentagon.  Look at the F35 program, a decade late and zillions over budget.  There was a new Marine One helicopter program that got so far out of line that Obama had it canceled.  The KC-46 tanker is years late and under attack by nit pickers.  I don't follow the new programs as closely as I used to back when I was a serving Air Force officer.  So there has got to be more grief out there.
   Success or failure (cost overruns and delays) rest with program management.  Take F-35 for example.  It's problems can be laid at the feet of F35 program management.  Extra layers of Pentagon paper pushers have nothing to do with it.  
   Every military officer in program management needs to know that his Officer Efficiency Report (his future promotion chances)  rest upon program success.  Bring the program in on time and under budget and you get ranked at the top.  If the program is late or overbudget, you get ranked at the bottom.
   Program management needs to have input to the specification writing.  Many program disasters result from ridiculous specifications, spec that called for unobtainium, or faster than light, or other things impossible to actually make.  Or, gold plating the project with nice-to-have but not really necessary expensive gadgets.  I'm thinking of the Tactical Situation Display in the old F106.  It never worked, and the plane flew and fought successfully without it. Or the C-5 program which sank under the weight of impossible to make requirements.  Or the F35 burdened with an airborne digital networking system, and Intelligence Surveillance Reconnaissance (ISR) systems neither of which are needed in a fighter.  Fighter planes are expensive and should concentrate on air superiority, shooting down enemy aircraft and attacking enemy ground troops.  We have recon aircraft, drones, and satellites for ISR.
   Then program management has to iron out the myriad boggles and whoopsies that come up during the program. Specifications almost but not quite met.  Subsystems that just don't work.  Program management must be prepared to accept small shortcomings when the cost of fixing them is high.  And be prepared to just dump subsystems that aren't working.  And accept cost reduction suggestions from the contractor. 
    Trump needs a good, intelligent defense secretary to sort this stuff out.  The current secdef, Ash Carter isn't bad.  John McCain would be good, he at least knows the issues and knows which end is up. 

Friday, September 16, 2016

Air Force bites off more than it can chew.

Or fund.  The big three money suckers.  The F35 fighter.  Cost is outta sight.  The software isn't finished.  The gun doesn't fire, the engines cannot take more than 5.6 G.  The KC-46 tanker project.   The Air Force managed to gold plate a simple "put tanks inside a well proven airliner" project into an ongoing boondoggle that is running late and over budget.  The new B-21 strategic bomber, this is going to be a somewhat smaller, and hopefully cheaper, version of the B2 bomber.  It's just getting started, but the project did make it thru a bid challenge by the loser[s]  (Boeing and Lockheed).  Aviation Week did not offer much in the way of cost estimates on the big three.  I'd guess $1 trillion over the next 10 years. 

And, after the top three projects, we have a four projects  in to the Request for Proposal, going out for bids, study project phase.  We have a new jet trainer to replace the capable but ageing T-38 Talon. A new ICBM to replace the Minuteman III.  The Long Range Standoff Missile to arm the new B21, and re arm the B-52, B1, B2 fleet.  A new helicopter for VIP transport. 

And even further out, an A10 replacement.  Which is hard to think about.  The existing A-10 is good at what it does.  It's a ground attack fighter that can fly low enough and slow enough for the pilot to see and hit his ground target.  Once the airplane can do that, it isn't fast enough to dogfight with mach 2 jet fighters.  The answer to this short coming is to provide fighter cover for the A-10s as needed.  Bombers have needed fighter escort ever since WWII.  

   The Air Force isn't going to be able to round up the funding to do all of this stuff at once. 

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Goldie Oldie takes a hit from rank newbie

Last month, it looked like South Korea was going to buy 60 F15's.  Now we are not so sure.  The Koreans have announced they have re opened the competition, with the F35 and the European Typhoon back in the running.  The Korean Defense Minister said, "There is a consensus that South Korea needs the 5th generation fighter jet to deter the growing threat posed by North Korean".  Aviation Week says this means the F35 will win.
   This is a tremendous disappointment for Boeing, they were hoping for a big order to keep the F15 production line running.  But it's understandable, the F15 is old, and the South Korean Air Force really wanted to be flying something up to date.  Fifteen former Korean air force chiefs wrote an open letter to the Korean president  supporting  the F35.  On the other hand, it's a great boost for Lockheed Martin, who needs the sales.
  F35 isn't getting any cheaper.  Last month Aviation Week quoted the cost as $97 million.  This week they report that negotiations the Low Rate Inital Production batch 7 will be $96.8 million, LESS engines.  That's a biggy, engines are usually 25% of the cost of an aircraft, so with engines, the F35 is hiked up to $125 million. Each. Ouch.
   Plus, F35 is a totally software product.  The software to launch missiles, aim guns, jam enemy radar and drop bombs is still under development.  Only the basic "aviate and navigate" software is actually running in the aircraft.   Until that software is finished, the F35 is not a warplane, it's just an expensive trainer.  

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Goldie Oldie still competitive

South Korea is shopping for 60 new jet fighter planes.  There were gonna buy the brand new F35.  But the Boeing salesman have been active and for the last round of Korean competition, the trusty F15, which first flew in 1972, is in the competition.  The Korean purchasing board has disqualified the F35 as being too expensive ($96 million), and disqualified the Eurofighter Typhoon for "bidding irregularities."
    The purchasing commission decision will be reviewed by a top bracket committee chaired by the South Korean defense minister.  Korean news media say that the Korean Air Force is unhappy, they wanted the newer F35, but the finance minister is holding firm on the budget which was $7.4 billion.  Some explaining is due here, 60 F35's at $96 million apiece comes out to $5.7 billion, well with in a $7.4 budget.  Either the $7.4 billion has to pay for a few things besides new fighters, or Lockheed Martin did a LOT of marking up.
   The "bidding irregularities" is difficult to understand as well.  The Koreans had agreed with Eurofighter to bid 45 single seaters and 15 twin seat models.  The Korean's beef is that Eurofighter changed the deal to 54 single seat and only 6 single seat models, with out telling 'em.  This was supposed to save money.   Any salesman worth his salt would know that changing the customer's specs on a bid is suicide.  I guess Eurofighter has a death wish.  Granted 2 seaters are more expensive 'cause you have to build two cockpits, which costs twice as much as one cockpit, but when we a doing a deal for 60 planes,  the extra cost is too small to jeopardize the deal. 

Friday, June 7, 2013

Bean counters are loading the dice (beans)

The Pentagon has a problem.  Cost of the new F-35 fighter is so high that overseas customers are backing off.  It's a nice airplane everyone agrees, but they just cannot afford it.  One of the budget busters, after paying the list price for a new fighter, is the cost to fly it, Cost Per Flying Hour.
   Despite their best efforts at cooking the books, it looks like the F-35 will cost $24,000 per flying hour.  Which adds up quick. And you have to fly it if you want it to do any good.  Pilots need about 10 hours a month to stay competent in such a high performance, complicated machine.  Figure to have maybe two, maybe three pilots per aircraft, and you get to 360 flying hours a year, or $8.6 million dollars a year per airplane.  It doesn't take many years for operating costs to exceed the purchase price.  And any experienced person will figure the $24,000 per hour to be a lowball estimate.
  So, to make things look a little less bad,  the Pentagon is inflating the cost per flying hour of the current workhorse fighter, the F-16.  This is also a good airplane, everyone, including the cost-no-objective Americans, flies it.  The Aviation Week article did not give the before and after F-16 estimates, but they did quote several people expressing surprise that such a thing would be changed.  The F-16 has been flying for over 20 years, we have real numbers going back a long time, and altering them comes pretty close to lying. 

Thursday, July 5, 2012

F-35 fighters sold to Japan for $129 Million apiece

Nice plane and all, but $129 million for a single seat fighter?  The Japanese could only afford four of them.