Monday, March 15, 2010

Drugs...it has to be drugs!


Earlier I did a post on EADS having to be on crack in order to think that they had a chance to sell the A400M to US forces.  Well consider that test to have come back positive.  Whatever they're smoking it has to be more potent then anything I've ever heard of because they put a number on the A400M's they plan on selling us...

Wait for it...

210!

via the Associated Press...
PARIS — Unbowed in its push into the lucrative U.S. defense market, Airbus said Monday it is aiming to sell about 210 of its much delayed A400M military airlifters to the United States.
The comments from Domingo Urena, chief of Airbus Military, come as parent company EADS still smarts from a move last week by U.S. partner Northrop Grumman Corp. to pull out of their combined bid for a massive $35 billion contract to build refueling tankers for the U.S. Air Force.
Northrop explained it didn't think it could win, and EADS said it couldn't bid alone. The move has all but ensured Airbus' U.S. rival Boeing of victory — and prompted protests by French and EU leaders of alleged American protectionism.
Speaking to reporters Monday in Paris, Urena focused on the A400M and said Airbus Military hopes to sell 500 of the planes to countries not in the original program over the next three decades — including 210 in the United States.
Marketing promotion for the A400M will rev up in the second half of this year, Urena said, and "for us, the United States is a key country."
"It's out of the question that we don't go over to compete in the United States, insofar as the Americans give us the opportunity to do it," he said.
Urena said it's too early to tell whether he would seek a partner to help sell the transporter in the United States, but would not rule out the option.
"It is clear that in the American market, if we have an American partner, in effect that gives us an opening," he said.
Urena hinted that Airbus could seek to ally with Northrop on the A400M: "Northrop Grumman is among the companies of reference in defense in the United States — but it's not the only one."
The ambition for U.S. sales for the A400M shows Airbus will press on in the U.S. despite homegrown competition for military airlifters, notably from Lockheed Martin's C-130 and Boeing's C-17.
Urena declined to provide an export catalog price for the A400M but said it would be "competitive."
Seven original customer nations for the A400M — Belgium, Britain, France, Germany, Luxembourg, Spain and Turkey — have ordered a total of 180 planes. Malaysia has another four on order.
Urena said France, Britain and Germany — which has the largest single order, for 60 planes — will receive the A400Ms first as they roll off the production line.
Airbus expects to start delivering the A400Ms sometime after December 2012 — or three years after its first flight, which was on Dec. 11. Four are expected to be completed this year.
The plane got a lifeline on March 5, when EADS and the seven customer states reached a new financing accord to pay for more than euro5.2 billion in cost overruns.
The A400M is four years behind schedule in part because of technical glitches last year. It still faces "challenges" on issues including its propulsion systems, Urena said.
As for the refueling tanker, Urena estimated the potential market outside the United States was for 250 planes — "and we're going to continue to fight" to win market share elsewhere.
EADS North America and Northrop had done "intense" work to win the tanker, but "there are things we could have done better," Urena said without elaborating.
The European Union has noted a trade imbalance between the United States and the 27-nation bloc on defense equipment. In 2008, the U.S. exported $5 billion worth of defense materials while importing only $2.2 billion from the European side, it said.

Only one word can describe the thinking of EADS on this.  AMAZING!

Update*
I just realized as I was doing this post that their is one agency that might consider buying this airplane.  The US Coast Guard.  I don't believe they would but if anyone might it would be them.  Still...at 184 million dollars per airplane...it would be a serious stretch.  EADS is desperate.  Maybe this is an attempt to boost stock price by showing that there are might be sales opportunities?

F-22 for the USMC?

image via APA website
 

Read not to contradict and confute, nor to find talk and discourse, but to weigh and consider.
Sir Francis Bacon 

The above quote asks us to weigh and consider.  

All options 

All views.

With that in mind, I point to a subject that I once dismissed out of hand but now come back to.  Would F-22's make sense for the USMC?

CVA-01...Queen Elizabeth Class Carrier reborn...


Looking across the pond at Europe's navies, one naturally turns to the UK.  One interesting ship that caught my eye from a bygone era is the CVA-01.  Consider it the UK's version of the USS America.

This from Wikipedia...
The CVA-01 aircraft carrier was to be a class of at least 2 fleet carriers that would have replaced the Royal Navy's existing aircraft carriers, most of which had been designed prior to or during World War II. They would have allowed the Royal Navy to maintain its position as one of the global blue water navies and to operate independently of other North Atlantic Treaty Organisation navies during the Cold War period.
The project was cancelled, along with the proposed Type 82 destroyers that would have escorted them, in the 1966 Defence White Paper, due to inter-service rivalries, the huge cost of the proposed carriers, and the difficulties they would have presented in construction, operation, and maintenance. Had these ships been built, it is likely they would have been named HMS Queen Elizabeth and HMS Duke of Edinburgh[1] or the Invincible class. [2]
What's remarkable is how similar the new "Queen Elizabeth" is to the old one.  Again from Wiki...
The CVA-01 would have displaced 54,500 tons (although the ship was said to displace 53,000 tons "in average action condition"), with a flight deck length (including the bridle arrester boom) of 963 ft 3 in (293.60 m)[3] The size of the flight deck, combined with steam catapults and arrester gear would have enabled the carriers to operate the latest jets. The aircraft complement would have included 36 Phantom fighter/ground-attack aircraft and/or Buccaneer low-level strike aircraft, four early-warning aircraft, five anti-submarine helicopters and two search-and-rescue helicopters. The large 'Broomstick' radar dome above the central island on the carrier was planned to be a Type 988 Anglo-Dutch 3D radar, which would subsequently be fitted on the Royal Netherlands Navy Tromp-class frigates, although this would not have been fitted to the final carrier as Britain pulled out of the project.
A truly remarkable design that could have easily changed the course of carrier development!  The CVA-01 would also (if developed) played a pivotal role in the UK's later battle in the Falklands and if standard service life was achieved, would just now be retiring.

This was truly an opportunity lost.

More info here...
Navy Matters on CVA-01
CVA-01 Characteristics


"New" Queen Elizabeth Characteristics...
Displacement: 65,600 tonnes (full)
Length: 284 metres (932 ft)
Beam: 39 metres (waterline)
73 metres overall
Draught: 11 metres
Decks: 16,000 square metres
Speed: 25+ knots
Range: 10,000 nautical miles (18,520 km)
Capacity: 1,450
Complement: 600


A400 vs the AN-70...


A400M supporters love to compare it to the C-130.  Wrong.  The actual competition for the A400M is the AN-70.

Lets see how it stakes up.
  • Crew: 3-5
  • Capacity: 300 troops or 206 wounded
  • Payload: 47 tonnes (2.25g) (103,620 lb (2.25g)) of cargo
  • Length: 40.7 m (133 ft 6 in)
  • Wingspan: 44.06 m (144 ft 7 in)
  • Height: 16.38 m (53 ft 9 in)
  • Empty weight: 66,230 kg (146,000 lb)
  • Loaded weight: 108,860 kg (240,000 lb)
  • Max takeoff weight: 145,000 kg (2.25g) (319,725 lb (2.25g))
  • Powerplant: 4× Progress D-27 propfans, 10,350 kW (14,000 hp) each
Performance
  • Maximum speed: 780 km/h (420 knots, 485 mph)
  • Cruise speed: 729 km/h (392 knots, 453 mph)
  • Stall speed: 100 km/h (53 knots, 61 mph)
  • Range: 6,600 km (3,600 nm, 4,100 mi) with 20 tonnes of cargo
  • Ferry range: 8,000 km (4,320 nm, 4,970 mi)
  • Service ceiling: 12,000 m (40,000 ft)
  • Rate of climb: 24.9 m/s (4,900 ft/min)
and

  • Crew: 3 or 4 (2 pilots, 3rd optional, 1 loadmaster)
  • Capacity: 37,000 kg (82,000 lb)


    • 116 fully equipped troops / paratroops,
    • up to 66 stretchers accompanied by 25 medical personnel
  • Length: 45.1 m (148 ft 0 in)
  • Wingspan: 42.4 m (139 ft 1 in)
  • Height: 14.7 m (48 ft 3 in)
  • Max takeoff weight: 141,000 kg (310,852 lb)
  • Max. Landing Weight: 122,000 kg (268,963 lb)
  • Total Internal Fuel: 50,500 kg (111,330 lb)
  • Powerplant: 4 × Europrop TP400-D6 turboprop, 8,250 kW (11,060 hp) each
  • Propellers: 8-bladed, 5.3 m (17 ft 5 in) diameter
Performance
  • Cruising speed: 780 km/h (480 mph; 420 kn) (Mach 0.68 - 0.72)
  • Initial Cruise Altitude: at MTOW: 9,000 m (29,000 ft)
  • Range: 3,298 km (2,049 mi; 1,781 nmi) at max payload (long range cruise speed; reserves as per MIL-C-5011A)


    • Range at 30-tonne payload: 4,540 km (2,450 nmi)
    • Range at 20-tonne payload: 6,390 km (3,450 nmi)
  • Ferry range: 8,710 km (5,412 mi; 4,703 nmi)
  • Service ceiling: 11,300 m (37,073 ft)
  • Maximum Operating Altitude: 11,278 m (37,000 ft)
  • Tactical Takeoff Distance: 980 m (3,215 ft) (aircraft weight 100 tonnes, soft field, ISA, sea level)
  • Tactical Landing Distance: 770 m (2,526 ft) (as above)
  • Turning Radius (Ground): 28.6 m
Clearly the AN-70 is superior. 

With whispers that the Russians and Indians are going to work on developing the airplane, and with the work already done, EADS might be suffering from a major dose of wishful thinking when it come to sales of an airplane that costs 184 million dollars per copy. They have been 'out middled' by the similar sized AN-70 and they've priced themselves out of the market. The A400M will go down in history as perhaps the biggest boondoggle in military aircraft history.

MBDA Meteor Missile...

If you're a fan of the F-16 Block 60, F/A-18E/F, Rafale, Gripen NG or Eurofighter Typhoon...then you better be a HUGE fan of this missile.

Its official ... EADS is smoking crack!


via the BBC...

Airbus A400M programme plans US sales


Europe's leading aircraft manufacturer Airbus says it plans to sell around 210 of its A400M military planes to the US.
The company said it hopes to sell 500 of the transporters to countries without existing orders.
The head of Airbus Military, Domingo Urena, told reporters the US was a "key country" for the A400M programme.
The plan comes despite the recent decision by Airbus's parent company, EADS, to end its bid for a massive US refuelling tanker contract.
That bid was ended amid complaints from EADS's US partner, Northrop Grumman Corporation, that the terms of the contract favoured Airbus's American rival Boeing.
Commenting on plans for the A400M programme, Mr Urena said the US was an still an obvious market to target.
"It's out of the question that we don't go over to compete in the United States, insofar as the American's give us the opportunity to do it," he said.
The A400M has been dogged by budget and manufacturing setbacks in recent months.
It is 5bn euros ($7.25bn; £4.5bn) over its initial budget as a result of weight and engine problems, though additional funds will be provided by the seven countries - Belgium, France, Germany, Luxembourg, Spain, Turkey and the UK - that have ordered 180 A400M aircraft in total between them.
The company expects the first planes to be ready for delivery in 2013, with production due to begin at the end of this year.

Excuse me one second.  I can't stop laughing.

How stupid are the powers that be at EADS?

They have an airplane who's costs are in the ball park of the C-17 and they think they can sell it to US forces?

:))

:)))

:)))))))

That's hysterical!

They can't be that stupid...or desperate.

Can they?

Canada's dumping their Strykers...



from Jon (Thanks buddy!) via the Vancouver Sun.com...

By David Pugliese , Ottawa Citizen

A multibillion-dollar plan to buy a fleet of new armoured combat vehicles for the army is back on after the Defence Department has decided that the program should be a priority.
The Close Combat Vehicle or CCV purchase was put on hold in December over concerns about whether there was enough money available and whether it fit the future priorities of the military. Some estimates put the cost of the CCV as high as $2 billion and questions had been raised in the department about whether such equipment should be a priority because Canada is set to leave Afghanistan in July 2011.
At the same time some officials in DND had argued the money could be better used on other priority projects such as new ships for the navy and a new generation of fighter aircraft.
But DND spokeswoman Annie Dicaire has confirmed the CCV project, along with three other armoured vehicle programs in what is being called the family of land combat vehicles, is now moving forward.
“After completing a review of project priorities, the Department of National Defence confirmed the priority status of all four Family of Land Combat Vehicles projects,” she said.
Representatives from companies interested in the CCV project will meet with government officials on March 29 in the Ottawa area. The total cost is estimated to be a little more than $5 billion.
The army argues that the purchase of 108 CCVs, which would accompany its Leopard tanks in operations, are a priority for future missions. There would be an option to buy an additional 30 CCVs as well.
Some in the defence industry have suggested that DND would scale back another of the armoured projects, the tactical armoured patrol vehicle, to free up money for CCV.
But Dicaire said that is not the case. She said the tactical patrol vehicle program is unchanged and 500 of those will be bought as originally announced. In addition, there will be an option to purchase another 100.
As budget cuts loom, the Canadian Forces have been trying to protect their equipment programs.
DND is finding savings of $423 million by the end of the month to free up money for equipment purchases. DND officials say this should not be considered a cut and have characterized it instead as an “adjustment.”
But to meet the $423 million in savings, the navy has cut training for its reserves and will reduce infrastructure maintenance and repairs. The air force will scale back on non-operational training, cut some of its flying time as well as scale back non-essential repairs.
The army also reduced planned activities and training for soldiers not preparing for operations, including non-essential exercises and adventure training. It announced it would also delay some non-essential maintenance and repair of infrastructure and equipment as well as purchases of items such as commercial pattern vehicles used on bases. Spending on computers and cellphones is also being cut.
The army, navy and air force are also reducing travel and attendance at conferences.

This story could not have arrived at a better time.  New Wars is running a series of stories singing the Stryker's praise here and here.   I like Mike, but on this subject he's dead wrong.  The Stryker was sourced right after the Cold War ended in order to 'keep the Army in the game'.

Continuous warfare has changed the conditions.  Mobility off road.  Protection from IED's and EFP's.  Being able to carry an Infantry Squad.

All those factors (especially mobility and protection) have rendered the Stryker a non-factor in today's battles.

A sad fact is this.  The one Stryker Unit that was sent to Afghanistan has been ravaged.

The Canadians have witnessed these troubles.  Have looked at their version of the Stryker (LAV-III) and decided that it was time to move on to the Close Combat Vehicle.

The US Army should get the memo and do the same.

Bullshit!


via Jon from Marine Corps Times...

USMC Loses Latest Round of Amphib Battle

By PHILIP EWING

The Feb. 1 release of the Penta­gon’s latest plans and strategies opened a new chapter in one of the longest-running naval epics of the modern era: the gator divide.

Ever since the amphibious inva­sions of World War II and the Ko­rean War, the Navy and the Marine Corps have fought for their own vi­sions of how to transport combat troops to a hostile coast and sup­port them as they fight. The battles seldom play out in public, but rage behind the scenes in the Pentagon and on Capitol Hill in white papers and PowerPoint presentations.

This core philosophical differ­ence manifests itself most often in confrontations about numbers of ships: Every versatile but slow am­phibious ship for the Corps is one less powerful but expensive sur­face combatant for the Navy.

Over the long term, the Navy has been winning. Since the end of World War II, the Pentagon’s am­bitions for amphibious warfare have steadily diminished.

The Quadrennial Defense Re­view and the 30-year shipbuilding plan, both released in early Febru­ary, include the latest diminution: Not only do new long-term plans chip away at the planned gator fleet, but they also eliminate a force of auxiliaries that Marine strategy counted on to support to­morrow’s invasions. The Maritime Prepositioning Force (Future) pro­gram is gone from the Navy’s 30-year plans, replaced with three smaller, lower-end squadrons.

The Marine Corps’ basic goal is to be able to conduct major inva­sions with two expeditionary brigades, each of which includes more than 14,000 Marines, their ar­mored vehicles, aircraft, weapons and supplies. Of those, a little more than 10,000 Marines make up the assault echelon — trigger­pullers and door-kickers — that would ride ashore from Navy ships.

To accommodate an assault force of that size, the Corps wants at least 15 amphibious ships, preferably 17, to account for times when some of the Navy’s gators will be in overhaul.

So two MEBs would require at least 34 ships, and the Corps wants four more ships to account for the 10 percent to 15 percent of the gator fleet being in the shipyard at any one time — hence the official Marine requirement for a fleet of 38 amphibious ships.

This does not include the Navy’s two amphibious command ships, Blue Ridge and Mount Whitney, which would serve as the armada headquarters in a major invasion, but which don’t carry Marines or amphibious vehicles and don’t have well decks. Including those ships, the Corps’ total goal is 40 gators.

But Chief of Naval Operations Adm. Gary Roughead said in Feb­ruary that the job could be done with 33 amphibious ships, al­though that does not leave enough ships to carry two MEBs and allow wiggle room for some vessels to be in the yard — not to mention dam­aged or sunk.

“I don’t dispute the Marine Corps’ right of saying 38,” he said. “It’s all about priorities. We be­lieve we can structure the force with what the Marine Corps needs with 33.” The deletion of MPF(F) has thrown another wrench into the calculations. The Corps’ two-MEB requirement, drawn up in 2006, as­sumed that a third MEB and logis­tics support would come from the MPF(F), a fleet of quasi-warships built to commercial standards, crewed by contract- or civil-serv­ ice mariners, and not part of the Navy’s battle force.

But after several years in a pro­grammatic limbo, the latest 30-year plan finally deleted MPF(F), which was replaced with three smaller, less complicated prepositioning ship squadrons of only three ships apiece. This takes away the Corps’ ability to count on large numbers of Military Sealift Command auxil­iaries and, if implemented, would effectively cut the Corps’ planned assault force by one-third.

Two things.  First. This isn't over.  Second.  Someone is smoking crack.

How the only viable form of forcible entry can be tossed away by not properly resourcing it is beyond me.  How the most in demand Navy ships can be limited by not properly resourcing it is beyond me.

The Navy can send a carrier.  The Coast Guard can send cutters.  But only the Gators bring Marines, cargo and the facilities to do more than fly the flag.

More on this later.  I GUARANTEE~!

New Fennek for Germany...


From Jon (thanks!) via DefenseIndustryDaily...

Fennek JSFTs for Germany

KMW’s Fennek has a simple mission: see, but don’t be seen. Accordingly, Fennek is designed to combine a low height profile with low infared, radar, and noise profiles. Its 3-man crew can be sustained in the field for 5 days in the field via carried supplies, and a 1,000 km range plus C-130 transportability make this 11-tonne vehicle very mobile. GPS/INS navigation removes the need to ask for directions, and some versions add a full moving map display. Its biggest asset, however, is an advanced set of surveillance electronics that include thermal imaging, a CCD day-vision camera, and laser range finder with optional targeting laser, all packed into a sensor head that can extend up to 3.3m/ 10 feet – or operate on a tripod up to 40m from the vehicle. Other systems carried on board can include ground sensor equipment (BSA), a radiation detection system, and in future mini UAVs or the remote-controlled mobile sensor system (MoSeS).
Fennek serves with both Dutch forces (incl. AD command, SWP air defense with radar and Stinger missiles, and MRAT anti-tank team variants) and the German Bundeswehr (incl. artillery observer variant, deployed to Afghanistan with the ADLER II’s artillery guidance system and multiple digital data links). A recent EUR 31.3 million ($46.5 million) deal means that a new variant will soon be on the scene, as Germany’s Ministry of Defence has contracted for 10 new FENNEK Joint Fire Support Team (JFST) vehicles. Fennek JSFT will be bought by both Germany and the Netherlands, and offers advances on the artillery observer variant by including more advanced sensors, along with the necessary datalinks, electronics, and systems to act as both an artillery observer and a forward air controller (FAC) or a tactical air control party (Dutch, TACP). The vehicles will be delivered by 2009.
While Fennek vehicles offer some protection from small arms fire and mines, and can be fitted with exchangeable add-on armor modules, its need for low height limits the level of mine resistance that can be designed in. A Dutch Fennek recently highlighted that vulnerability, when it hit a mine that killed one crew member and injured the other 2. KMW release | Product page.

I've always been curious about the performance of the Fennek in Afghanistan.  It is the classic armored recon car and is a very neat design.

That being said, it also appears to be (as the story pointed out) quite vulnerable to IEDs.  Additional armoring might help and the driver is positioned in such a way as to mitigate his exposure, still ---its a low slung vehicle.

I just don't know.  I love the concept, I question whether its still valid in the type of combat we're seeing and in the end, I just don't know.

A160 shows its stuff!


via DefPro.com...
Boeing A160T Hummingbird Proves Resupply Capability for US Marines

ST. LOUIS | The Boeing [NYSE: BA] A160T Hummingbird has successfully completed a cargo delivery demonstration under a U.S. Marine Corps Warfighting Laboratory contract, proving the unmanned rotorcraft's ability to resupply frontline troops in rough terrain. The Hummingbird met or exceeded all of the demonstration requirements during the tests, conducted March 9 - March 11 at the U.S. Army's Dugway Proving Ground in Utah.

Boeing showed that the A160T can deliver at least 2,500 pounds of cargo from one simulated forward-operating base to another 75 nautical miles away in well under the required six hours. The simulated mission carried 1,250-pound sling loads over two 150-nautical-mile round trips, with the A160T operating autonomously on a preprogrammed mission.

"The Hummingbird's performance was outstanding, as we had expected," said Vic Sweberg, director of Unmanned Aerial Systems for Boeing Military Aircraft. "The A160T's capabilities can fulfill our customer's near-term need for 24/7, reliable cargo resupply. It also provides unmatched flexibility to carry out a variety of other missions, including intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance; target acquisition; direct action; and communication relay."

The A160T completed seven test flights during the demonstration, including a two-minute hover at 12,000 feet with the 1,250-pound sling load, and a nighttime delivery to a simulated forward operating base. The A160T's ability to execute extremely accurate autonomous deliveries also was demonstrated.

The A160T has a 2,500-pound payload capacity. It features a unique optimum-speed-rotor technology that significantly improves overall performance efficiency by adjusting the rotor's speed at different altitudes, gross weights and cruise speeds. The autonomous unmanned aircraft, measuring 35 feet long with a 36-foot rotor diameter, has hovered at 20,000 feet and cruised at more than 140 knots. The A160T established a world endurance record in its class in 2008 with an 18.7-hour unrefueled flight. 
 The A160 is the dark horse in this competition but because its already in use by SOCOM it has an advantage.  I'm not sure about this concept but what is thrilling ... at least as far as the A160 is concerned...are the possibilities. 

If this airplane is selected then it might be possible to 'neck down' the Marines UAV fleet to one airplane.  Instead of several different models we can have one jack of all trades!

F-35 program good to go!



via Ares from the Lexington Institute...

Despite Predicted Cost Increases, Many F-35 Program Metrics Are Positive

Secretary of the Air Force Michael Donley summarized the outlook for the F-35 joint strike fighter program succinctly on March 2, when he told a group of reporters, "Really, there are no good alternatives to F-35 at this point...This is a program to which we are deeply committed." Donley's service is only destined to buy two-thirds of the plane's domestic production run, but the Navy and Marine Corps that will buy the other third probably feel just as strongly about the inevitability of the F-35. The Marine Corps has constructed its whole concept of future operations around the presumed availability of the F-35's vertical-takeoff variant, and Navy aviators know that they won't survive in the hostile air space of tomorrow without the stealth and situational awareness provided by the carrier variant.
So what's most depressing about the news coming out of yesterday's congressional hearing on the F-35 is that the three services participating in the program might have to pay more money for each plane they buy than originally planned. However, the key word in the previous sentence is "might," because the future cost of the planes is based upon complex and unprovable assumptions. Some increase in per-plane cost above the initial plan is nearly certain, since the flight-test phase of the program is behind schedule and the sea services cut their buy by 400 planes several years ago -- meaning the cost of developing three variants will have to be spread across a smaller pool of production aircraft. But trying to predict exactly what each plane will ultimately cost at this point is nearly impossible, because so many factors come into play (including the rate at which they are produced).
Now here's the good news. Many of the metrics used to track the F-35 program are positive, in fact very positive compared with previous fighter development efforts. The positive side of the story doesn't get much coverage in the media, so here are a few facts that brighten up the picture of the F-35 program as it currently stands.
1. The F-35 program is meeting or exceeding every one of its key performance parameters.
2. The testing program to date has uncovered no significant design defects or problems.
3. The designs for all three versions of the plane are complete, and all three have been built.
4. Weights, strengths and radar cross sections in early planes are matching planned goals.
5. Software reliability is 20 times better than on the F-22 fighter at the same stage of development.
6. The production plan is only running six months late, and that lag will continue shrinking.
7. 16 of the 19 developmental aircraft have been delivered, with the rest arriving by June.
8. The cost of each aircraft fell 50 percent between the first and fourth production lots.
9. Projected fleet prices for all three variants of F-35 have been stable for several years.
10. 157 flight tests have been completed, with over 70% of planes ready to fly again after routine maintenance.
11. Over 80 percent of the development program has been completed, with excellent early test results.
12. Despite the complexity of building three variants, the program is progressing better than previous fighter efforts.
So there is another side to the story. Lockheed Martin insists that it will surpass the performance projected in Pentagon cost and schedule estimates, which isn't so surprising since the most recent estimate reduced the predicted development delay from 30 months to 13 months. In addition, the price charged to the government for every one of the F-35s contracted to date has been below government cost estimates. With no major design or engineering problems found in the recently completed review of the program, there is good reason to believe the F-35 will progress steadily. This program isn't as "troubled" as some observers think.
Loren B. Thompson, Ph.D.

This is my exhibit  'A' for the thinking that its impossible to know what's what with this program.  Sweetman is a staunch critic.  Thompson is a staunch supporter.  Good men both but on the outside ---one has to be lying!  Or is it possible that they're both right????  I don't know but its a confusing issue with answers to be found no where.

Unless you have visibility with the program.  Have an engineering AND accounting degree, then I don't see how a viable assessment of the program can be conducted.

Supporters and critics alike are spinning.  That's unfortunate.

UK starts building first F-35...


via ASDNews.com...

Manufacturing Work Starts on 1st UK F35 Lightning II Aircraft


(Samlesbury, UK, March 11, 2010) -- Manufacturing work has started on the first F-35 Lightning II aircraft that will be delivered to the UK Ministry of Defence. Quentin Davies, UK Minister of Defence Equipment and Support, marked the occasion by signing the F-35 frame before it was loaded into the assembly jig at the BAE Systems site in Samlesbury, Lancashire.

The frame will come out of the jig in Quarter 3 2010 as an assembled aft fuselage, part of the first UK F-35 Lightning II ever to be built. The UK Ministry of Defence has committed to the purchase of three aircraft to allow testing and training to take place before operational service.

Mr Davies visited BAE Systems' Samlesbury site on 24th February 2010 for an update on various programmes within BAE Systems and to witness the investment taking place on the site.

He said: "Over the previous ten years, the main driver of economic growth in this country has been financial services. Over the next ten years I believe it is going to be manufacturing that is key to the future success of the British economy."

BAE Systems is teamed with prime contractor Lockheed Martin and with Northrop Grumman to deliver the F-35 Lightning II, the world's largest defence programme. The aft fuselage and empennage (vertical and horizontal tails) for each F-35 are designed, engineered and manufactured by BAE Systems at Samlesbury using the latest digital design and precision manufacturing technologies, while the Company's Structural & Dynamic Test facility at Brough, Yorkshire, will take the lead on Static and Fatigue testing for the F-35 programme.

The programme calls on BAE Systems global capabilities, with BAE Systems, Inc., in the US contributing key capabilities including electronic warfare, advanced low observable apertures, advanced countermeasure systems, vehicle management computer and active inceptor systems.

Mick Ord, BAE Systems F-35 Managing Director, said: "The F-35 programme is essential to the sustainment of the UK aerospace manufacturing industry, so it's great to have such support from the UK government. We are working hard with the UK MOD to ensure we provide the tremendous aircraft they require."

The F-35 Lightning II is a fifth-generation fighter, combining advanced stealth with fighter speed and agility, fully fused sensor information, network-enabled operations, advanced sustainment, and lower operational and support costs.
For all the issues and controversies surrounding this airplane, the program just keeps moving forward.  It is reaching a certain type of critical mass, that has to be frustrating for its critics and mystifying for its supporters.

For all our sakes this airplane better be worth it~!