The empty suits in Defence are at it again. They show up in the department; have not a clue what they are doing; and receive glorious briefings on Defence programs. These briefings are produced by the dysfunctional senior Defence bureaucracy. Sometime later the program goes off the rails and the public pays for the stuff up.
Take today’s press release from Australian Defence about the F-35 program restructuring signed off on by the acting Defence Minister. It has no substance. Follow along as we carve up the spin. My comments in blue italics.
THE HON. JASON CLARE MP
ACTING MINISTER FOR DEFENCE
Australia welcomes JSF restructure
The Acting Minister for Defence Jason Clare today welcomed the restructure of the Joint Strike Fighter (JSF) Program by US Defense Secretary Robert Gates.
The restructure follows a detailed six month Technical Baseline Review of the JSF Program’s progress by the US Department of Defense to examine the remaining development tasks and the resources and time required to complete them.
The restructure will see an extension of the System Design and Development phase and a reduction in the production rate in the earlier batches of aircraft. The US will fund costs associated with extended design and test activity.
*This last sentence is important. It is even more recent once the program started showing troubles in the past few years. The U.S. taxpayer will pick up the tab for development. Well, sort of. You have a worldwide supplier base that will now see less orders for aircraft parts come their way. This puts Joint Strike Fighter Partner Nation governments at risk because they helped sell this Ponzi scheme to not only the public, but industry. Where are all these thousands of orders that were promised? Answer; they are not coming, and never will. Who is picking up the cost for all of this mess? Well, it won’t be just the U.S. taxpayer.*
The JSF Program involves the development of three different types of aircraft:
1) the F-35A Conventional Take Off and Landing (CTOL) variant;
2) the F-35B Short Take Off and Vertical Landing (STOVL) variant; and
3) the F-35C Carrier Variant (CV).
Australia is purchasing the CTOL variant. The US Air Force is also purchasing this variant.
Secretary Gates confirmed today that this variant was on schedule and proceeding satisfactorily.
In 2010 it exceeded its test flight targets.
*This is an attempt at deception. It can only be marked as such. The creator of this deceptive press release wants the gullible to think that the F-35A is a different aircraft. The A, B, and C share a lot of similar problems. The A model that Gates states has “satisfactory” progress has a tremendous amount of flight testing to get through. The progress it has made is after previous slips in flight schedules. How far off is testing? Take a look at this chart showing the number of test flights that were to be done by U.S. fiscal year from a 2007 U.S. government accounting office (GAO) report on the programs health.
Yes this will be the USAF variant. Problem is that the USAF has already stated that it won’t be able to afford its planned number of aircraft. With a doubling (or worse) of price comes a halving (or worse) of orders in the procurement death spiral. Assuming no more schedule slips–two of which have happened within a year–around 2020 will be the time that an intelligent purchaser can make a decision on the capability of the F-35. But not now.*
Secretary Gates advised that the STOVL variant being developed for the US Marines is experiencing significant testing problems and has now been placed at the back of the overall JSF production sequence.
Mr Clare welcomed the news that the development of the aircraft Australia is purchasing is on schedule and proceeding satisfactorily.
“It is less expensive and less complex than the other variants. The restructure announced by Secretary Gates means it is now at the front of the production queue”, Mr Clare said.
*If you look closely, those are puppet strings attached to Mr. Clare. He is as clueless as a newborn chimp on this topic. Mr. Clare is being poorly advised. One could even say “lied to” by his staff.*
Defence has advised that the restructure of the US JSF Program will reduce overall program risk to Australia and should not affect Australia’s planned introduction date for the JSF.
*This is a brave statement. The aircraft is woefully undertested. Any other program would have cleared large portions of the flight envelop by now. If the A model is making such great progress, why is it only cleared for lower speed tasks? What are these people doing? Then there is the issue of mountains of software to figure out. This aircraft will have over 3 times the software of an F-22.
And really, what is the test program doing as a whole? Two aircraft were pulled from going to the training school at Eglin Air Force Base and made into development test aircraft to be shipped out to Edwards AFB. This puts the Eglin pilot school almost a year behind schedule. First the flight envelope has to be cleared, then you hand it over for some pilot training but wait; you are not done. Then you have to clear the jet’s weapon systems and then develop tactics. This latter part comes in the form of several F-35s that have to be stood up at Nellis AFB. And I haven’t even covered all the work the Navy has to do. Progress? Where? I would like to hear that answer from Mr. Clare with no puppet strings attached. After all; by his very words; he is the one trying to con Australians out of their money. With leadership comes responsibility Mr. Clare.*
The Australian Government approved the acquisition of the first 14 aircraft in November 2009. The first two aircraft will be delivered in 2014. The first 10 aircraft will initially remain in the United States for pilot and maintainer training. The remaining four aircraft are planned to arrive in Australia in 2017 for operational test and evaluation activities with other ADF equipment to achieve an initial operational capability in Australia from 2018.
*The government still has to hand over the money for this bad decision. Given that Australia knows how to stuff up large dollar military procurement programs in a spectacular way; why not go for the gold of all mil procurement disasters? Those early aircraft Mr. Clare is happy to mention will be mistake-jets by the very nature of the incomplete flight test schedule to learn what not to do on the production line.*
Defence has also advised it is confident Australia has adequate buffers in place to withstand any changes to the cost and schedule.
“Australia has always adopted a conservative approach to JSF cost estimates and has explicitly included contingency funds and buffers to the schedule,”
Mr Clare said.
“While there is no need to change our cost and schedule estimates, Defence will continue to assess options to ensure that cost and schedule buffers remain adequate.”
*Again; this cost buffer claim came about when the program started having trouble. Mr. Clare does not know what this program will cost the Australian public because he doesn’t know what he doesn’t know.*
A recent agreement between Lockheed Martin and the US Department of Defense to move to fixed price contract agreements – at a lower price than independent estimates – has enhanced confidence in the costs for future JSF production.
*This is convenient spin. And what exactly is being built for this supposed price Mr. Clare with a factory floor that Gates even admitted today was not up to scratch for the increase in production levels?*
In December last year Mr Clare met with senior US Defense officials in Washington and inspected the Lockheed Martin JSF production line in Fort Worth Texas.
*It always amazes me how amazed those are that have never been around fast jets much. Throw in some PowerPoint slides and I am sure Mr. Clare’s opinion on the F-35 via his “inspection” doesn’t have much value.*
And there you are. Mr. Clare and crew should also explain why we are paying for an aircraft that will get run down and killed vs. the emerging Pacific Rim threats. Australian Defence does not have a grasp on the F-35 program and the risks to the Australian taxpayer. Isn’t it about time our elected officials did something about this?