Wednesday, February 13, 2013

F-35 NOT Subject to DoD Sequestration; Specifications Lowered so F-35 can Meet Them

Lockheed pulled two fasts ones -- one to protect the F-35 from Sequestration and the other to get the Dod to lower specifications so the F-35 could meet them

When I was researching this article, I stumbled across something I had not heard.  Because of a new contract negotiated late last fall, the F-35 is protected from sequestering according to DoD Buzz:
Pentagon and Lockheed Martin negotiators have negotiated the contract for the past year leading to frustration on both sides. However, Defense Under Secretary Frank Kendall said Wednesday a contract was imminent. 
“It was a tough negotiation and we are pleased that we’ve reached an agreement. It ends the year on a positive note and sets the program to move forward,” said George Little, the top Pentagon spokesman.

The break down for the fifth production lot will see the Air Force receive 22 fighters, the Navy will receive aircraft carrier versions and the Marine Corps will receive three short takeoff-vertical landing models.
Future Lockheed Martin CEO Marillyn Hewson indicated a contract for the sixth production lot, which includes another 32 aircraft, is not far off. She said Thursday she expects the framework of the deal to be done by the end of the month.
Pentagon and Lockheed leaders rushed to complete these contracts in order to protect them from sequestration cuts should the Congress fail to reach a deficit reduction deal. The sequestration law stipulates that the cuts can’t touch previously obligated funds. 
Settling on this contract means the F-35s funds for the fifth, and possibly sixth, production lots will be insulated from the $500 billion in defense cuts stipulated in the Budget Control Act.
Lockheed pulled a coup on the F-35 and the Pentagon went right along.  No wonder Chuck Hagel is not wanted at DoD by Lockheed and their donor recipients on Senate Armed Services.  Where is the Defense media on this one?  Too busy covering drones, Benghazi, gun control, and Dorner?  

Yesterday when the F-22 was covered on here, the question was asked if the F-35 also had similar problems.  With the articles that I have found this morning, believe the F-35 could be worse.  F-35 is approaching boondoggle proportions with waste to the taxpayers for a plane that in order to meet the required specifications, they have had to reduce the required specs.  What is with defense contractors believing they can waste our tax dollars at will and then try to buy off Senators in order to defeat Chuck Hagel for Secretary of Defense? Sounds like they are scared to death of someone like Hagel that knows the ins and outs of DoD who might put an end to their sketchy practices in order to fleece the taxpayers of more money.  He knows first hand by being in the Senate  how some people at DoD, Defense Contractors, and in Congress like to get us into wartime situations so they can try out their shiny new weapons.

When I read this article that was sent to me this morning, I had to reread portions because it was hard to fathom that in order to reduce weight some idiot came up with this idea:
Several years ago, to save around 50 pounds, the F-35′s designers removed some fuel safety valves. As a result, the JSF is now 25 percent more likely to burn if struck by enemy weapons, making it “overall more vulnerable [to fire] than most” older warplanes
How would you like to be a potential F-35 pilot and read that statement that your plane is more likely to burn because Lockheed needed to save 50 pounds?  

I stand by my premise that Lockheed is planning on doing maintenance on this plane to increase their bottom line when I read this:

The military is also desperately trying to figure out how to reduce the long-term costs of operating the planes, now projected at $1.1 trillion.
Cost of operating the F-35 which has been redesigned to lower weight which, in turn,  has made the plane less maneuverable stands at a projected cost for operation at $1.1 trillion?  If that doesn't make you cringe as a taxpayer, nothing will.  Anyone who has been around the Defense Department knows that estimates by anyone in the chain at DoD are usually low balled.  The DoD wants to order 2,445 of the F-35's for Air Force, Navy, and Marines when the Navy version is too heavy to land on a carrier and the Marine STOVAL version is too hot to land on a carrier deck according to sources.

Have to give credit where credit is due to the designers from Lockheed who came up with this F-35 plane to serve all three services and actually sold it to DoD.  Obviously, their team didn't have someone with Naval experience of landing planes on a carrier, or they never would have made the Navy version so heavy which has been a problem from the beginning.

F-35 is way over budget and way behind schedule and the answer is to lower the specs so the plane can meet them?  How much money has Lockheed paid these members of Congress not to look into what is actually going on with the F-22 and F-35?  If you want a good lobbyist, look no further then Lockheed as they have managed to keep money flowing into the F-35 and before that the F-22 when the warning signs were there that these two fighters have major problems.

Is there NO oversight left at DoD because they have been concentrating on fighting Afghanistan and then Iraq?  Has that allowed Lockheed to skate on the F-22 and F-35 as facts have been covered up?  The Defense inside the beltway media seems to have missed all of this as they report the press releases instead of investigative journalism.  As an example of bad journalism, the Washington Post is now reporting satire for news when they reported Sarah Palin was joining to Al Jazeera to work when it was a satire article.  That shows how little research is done in the media today before running out to report a story first without fact checking.

Why is the defense media covering for Lockheed on the F-35?  Are they afraid if they print the facts, it will kill the plane?  With little to no oversight and a willing DoD to change the specs the plane must meet, Lockheed is getting a free pass and taxpayers are getting hosed by the same members of Congress who are against the Chuck Hagel nomination for Secretary of Defense. Doesn't take a genius to connect those dots.

As you read this article, ask yourself as a taxpayer why the DoD is allowing this to happen with the F-35 and then vow to vote out Senate Members up for reelection who have supported this boondoggle to get shiny,  new planes.  Will be bringing you those names in weeks to come but today I will put Senator Inhofe (R-OK) and Senator Lindsey Graham (R-SC) right at the top of the list.

Thanks to The Next Big Future Blog for this story on the F-35 exceeding required specs that have been reduced so they could meet them:
February 12, 2013
New F35 exceeds every required spec - By repeatedly reducing every required spec
The F35 was initially developed based on extending US air superiority for decades. If the F35 is no longer superior what is the justification for the $1.1 trillion program ? 
America’s latest stealth fighter just got heavier, slower and more sluggish. For the second time in a year, the Pentagon has eased the performance requirements of the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter (JSF). The reduced specs — including a slower acceleration and turning rate — lower the bar for the troubled trillion-dollar JSF program, allowing it to proceed toward full-rate production despite ongoing problems with the plane’s complex design. Under the old specs, the stealth fighter, due to enter service in 2018 or 2019, probably wouldn’t pass its Pentagon-mandated final exams. 
At the same time, newly identified safety problems could force F-35-smith Lockheed Martin to add fire-suppression gear that will only increase the plane’s weight and further decrease its maneuverability. The JSF is meant to be a jack of all trades, equally capable of dropping bombs and fighting other aircraft — the latter requiring extreme nimbleness in the air. 
For the pilots who will eventually take the F-35 into combat, the JSF’s reduced performance means they might not be able to outfly and outfight the latest Russian- and Chinese-made fighters. Even before the downgrades, some analysts questioned the F-35′s ability to defeat newer Sukhoi and Shenyang jets. Despite the JSF’s lower specs, Lockheed bizarrely claims its new plane is now more maneuverable than every other fighters in the world except the company’s own F-22.  (my bold)
Reduced F35 Specs 
The latest bad news came in mid-January the form of the annual weapons-testing report (.pdf) overseen by J. Michael Gilmore, the Defense Department’s Director of Operational Test and Evaluation. The report revealed that the government’s F-35 program office had changed performance specs for all three JSF variants: the Air Force’s F-35A; the vertical-landing Marine Corps F-35B; and the carrier-launched F-35C flown mainly by the Navy. 
* reducing turn performance from 5.3 to 4.6 sustained g’s
* extending the time for acceleration from 0.8 Mach to 1.2 Mach by eight seconds
* F-35B and F-35C also had their turn rates and acceleration time eased. The B-model jet’s max turn went from 5.0 to 4.5 g’s and its acceleration time to Mach 1.2 was extended by 16 seconds. The F-35C lost 0.1 g off its turn spec and added a whopping 43 seconds to its acceleration.
The F-35 is likely to get even less maneuverable as development continues. Gilmore’s report warned that the F-35A’s tightly-packed airframe has essentially zero room for weight growth without losing nimbleness. “The program will need to continue rigorous weight management through the end of [development] to avoid performance degradation and operational impacts.” 
But in the same report, the Pentagon admitted to a chain of safety problems that could force Lockheed to add weight to the radar-evading plane. Extra mass doesn’t necessarily affect the JSF’s ability to avoid detection, but it does impact maneuverability. Several years ago, to save around 50 pounds, the F-35′s designers removed some fuel safety valves. As a result, the JSF is now 25 percent more likely to burn if struck by enemy weapons, making it “overall more vulnerable [to fire] than most” older warplanes, Jennifer Elzea, a DOT&E spokesperson, told Bloomberg. 
The Pentagon should tell Lockheed to “immediately reinstall” the valves, Rep. James Moran, a Virginia Democrat on the House Defense Appropriations subcommittee, wrote in a letter to the Defense Department dated Feb. 5. 
If and when that happens, expect yet another downward revision of the F-35′s performance specs, as America’s future jet fighter grows steadily more disappointing. 
$396 Billion to build and $1.1 Trillion to Operate 
The F35 jets would cost taxpayers $396 billion, including research and development, if the Pentagon sticks to its plan to build 2,443 by the late 2030s. That would be nearly four times as much as any other weapons system and two-thirds of the $589 billion the United States has spent on the war in Afghanistan. The military is also desperately trying to figure out how to reduce the long-term costs of operating the planes, now projected at $1.1 trillion.

SOURCE - Wired Danger Zone, NY Times
Even Lockheed now admits (see my bold above) that the F-22 is not very maneuverable which brings into question why we bought the plane.

Then there is the problem with security of the computer systems which Reuters covered late last year.  It also explains why all of a sudden the Autonomic Logistics Information System (ALIS), being used for the F-35 logistics system is being looked at once again to prove to DoD it will work.  Lockheed will play up how much ALIS works until DoD backs off and then ALIS goes on the back burner again would be my guess because AERO took the money from ALIS some time ago to put on the F-35 development:

Insight: Lockheed's F-35 logistics system revolutionary but risky 
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - When computer "hackers" working for the U.S. Navy succeeded in breaking into the computer logistics system that controls the Lockheed Martin Corp F-35 Joint Strike Fighter earlier this year, they did the company a favor: allowing it to fix a critical vulnerability in the $396 billion program. 
Now, as the Marine Corps prepares to set up its first operational squadron of F-35s next week, some experts say other security risks may lurk within such a large and highly networked weapons support system.
One concern: Lockheed shored up political backing for the F-35 by choosing suppliers in nearly every U.S. state. But having such a large and widely dispersed group increases exposure to cyber attacks, said Ben Freeman, national security investigator with the non-profit Project on Government Oversight. 
"Even if Lockheed has top-notch cyber security, it's still vulnerable if its subcontractors are vulnerable," he said. 
The military's move toward greater use of so-called autonomic weapons systems, which rely heavily on computers, promises to revolutionize the way weapons are maintained and operated, but also carries a new level of cyber risk. 
And the weapons designers are having difficulty keeping up with the hackers. While it often takes years to field new weapons systems, cyber threats are evolving and changing on a daily basis, said Raphael Mudge, a former Air Force engineer and independent cyber expert.
"You have to be continually assessing the risk," he said. 
The heightened concern comes as computer attacks are on the rise. Lockheed cyber experts said Monday that the company had seen a large increase in the number and sophistication of attacks on its networks. It accused governments that it did not name of targeting and breaking into the networks of its suppliers. 
Lockheed officials said millions of suspicious emails were directed at the company each day, including a handful that were considered advanced persistent threats from foreign nations.
But Lockheed's complex maintenance and support system for the F-35, known as ALIS, or Autonomic Logistics Information System, is under attack on another front, too. 
The Pentagon is talking to Lockheed competitors this week about running that system and others needed to operate and maintain the new plane, in an effort to rein in F-35 maintenance costs estimated at up to $1.1 trillion over the next 50 years. 
If the Pentagon ousted Lockheed from running the system it built, the defense giant could lose billions in anticipated revenue. With a price tag in the billions of dollars, ALIS is large enough to be considered a major weapons program on its own.

How did the F-35 get from the drawing computer screen to production?  The New York Times has the details on how this all happened and should make everyone cringe that the DoD relied on computer modeling instead of "fly before you buy" on the F-35:
“The plane is unaffordable,” said Winslow T. Wheeler, an analyst at the Project on Government Oversight, a nonprofit group in Washington. 
Todd Harrison, an analyst at the Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments, a research group in Washington, said Pentagon officials had little choice but to push ahead, especially after already spending $65 billion on the fighter. “It is simultaneously too big to fail and too big to succeed,” he said. “The bottom line here is that they’ve crammed too much into the program. They were asking one fighter to do three different jobs, and they basically ended up with three different fighters.” 
While weapons cost overruns have long been a problem, the F-35 is also running into the changing budget realities, and a new focus on rivalry with China, that will probably require shifting money to a broader mix of planes. 
Yet, for years, the problems with the F-35 raised few red flags, as money flowed freely after the 2001 terror attacks and enthusiasm for a three-in-one jet blinded officials in the Clinton and Bush administrations and in Congress to its overly ambitious design. Now, unless the Pentagon can substantially reduce the price of each plane, analysts say, it may be lucky to buy 1,200 to 1,800. 
Robert J. Stevens, the chief executive of Lockheed Martin, said company officials were “working as aggressively as we can” to fix the problems and cut costs. Vice Adm. David Venlet, who now runs the program at the Pentagon, said he was confident that “good old-fashioned engineering is going to lick” the flaws. But he declined to predict how many planes would be bought. 
“It’s a very fair conversation that ought to be had for the country,” he said. 
‘Acquisition Malpractice’ 
Right from the start, Pentagon officials were warned of the dangers of beginning to produce an aircraft before it was tested. And right from the start, Pentagon officials did not listen.
The roots of the problems go back to the mid-1990s, when military officials pitched the F-35 as simple and affordable, like a Chevrolet of the skies, with the three versions sharing 70 to 80 percent of their parts. The planes would also be versatile, capable of fighting other planes but focused mainly on attacking ground targets. 
Pentagon officials thought advances in computer modeling would simulate so precisely the way the F-35 would fly that only minor problems would be discovered in the flight tests. 
And given a ban on exporting the F-22, the top stealth fighter, moving quickly on the F-35 would lock up foreign buyers and keep Europe from creating its own stealth planes.
“There was this big desire to kill the competition,” said Richard L. Aboulafia, an analyst at the Teal Group in Fairfax, Va.
Lockheed beat out Boeing for the F-35 contract in October 2001. 
Pentagon testing experts and Congressional auditors warned as the program got under way that it would be wiser to “fly before you buy.” They cautioned that some of the new technologies were not ready and that years of flight tests would find flaws that the simulations had not anticipated. 
Lockheed and the joint Air Force and Navy office that runs the program countered that the sooner they started building a sizable number of planes, the sooner they could realize economies of scale that would lower the price of each plane, even if some needed updating. 
But almost immediately, the project proved to be incredibly complicated. Lockheed’s initial designs were late and had to be redone, delaying the manufacture of parts for the test models. While most military programs start building before all the testing is done, the Pentagon took that to an extreme, starting production of the F-35s in 2007, before flight tests had even begun.
Mr. Kendall, who became the Pentagon’s top weapons buyer in May, has said that diving into production so soon amounted to “acquisition malpractice.” 
Mr. Harrison, the analyst at the budget center, said the willingness to “roll the dice” reflected the peculiar incentives at the Pentagon, where rushing into production creates jobs and locks in political support, even if it allows programs to drift into trouble. Lockheed and its suppliers on the F-35 employ 35,000 workers, with some in nearly every Congressional district. 
 “The military services want to get the planes as quickly as possible,” Mr. Harrison said. “The defense industry wants to start producing as quickly as possible. But it’s not in the best interest of taxpayers, and it ends up catching up with you.” 
 Asked who protects the taxpayer, he said, “That’s what the Pentagon’s civilian leadership is supposed to bring.” 
Bottom line is the American taxpayers are on the hook for a plane that couldn't meet the original specifications so they were lowered for the F-35.  Lockheed/DoD also pulled a fast one to make sure they had a contract for building more F-35's to protect the plane from sequestering.

Convinced more than ever the attacks on Chuck Hagel as the next Secretary of Defense who I believe will be confirmed was to protect Lockheed with the F-22 and F-35 so Lockheed management can continue their lifestyle without interruption and money flows into Senate campaign accounts.

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