Defence industry is crying #military #auspol

Elements of the Australian defence industry are crying a river because the current government is incompetent (just like the last one) yet they look toward the moronic Defence White Paper of 2009 as if it is the crown jewels. Interesting; they seem to avoid talking less about the  cancer that is the DMO and friends.

They want a 4th air warfare destroyer—which we do not need–and are deluded enough to think that Australia can make its own Collins-class sub replacement.

Since Australia refuses to pursue a true air domination mission, things like the air warfare destroyer will only see a watery grave if there is a big battle. So what about helping out U.S. aircraft carriers? Same thing here because the air wing that flies off of those will be obsolete unless hope-of-hopes UCAS-N becomes oh-so-incredible.

High-speed ship killers now proliferating in the region also don’t make for a happy thought. AEGIS meet your end with discovery on the horizon and the clock running. How ready is Defence to deal with this kind of technology launched from land, sea, air and underwater? It is very, very fast. Will Nulka save the day? Roll the dice. When you have real air domination assets you get into these bad situations less.  Even with that, what about this threat model? It is doubtful that an “air warfare destroyer”—which is not—has much capability here except as a range target.

Also without real air domination, ASW aircraft can’t fly in all the places you want them. This takes out part of our defence against submarines.

And what about our subs? Too few and too faulty. We need real Defence leadership to push Industry to produce a large number of low manpower (20 some crew) and very simple submarines.  Forget the gold-plated do everything unaffordables.  Defence/Industry impotence won’t deliver. What these people want is a path of doom.

Along with building simple subs, the pump should be primed by purchasing  something off the shelf. It is this or given current performance with the sub sorrow, risk having yet another ineffective and expensive sub fleet.

What do we need from these people? In order to make them effective we again must have real leadership from Defence. Without that, our industry is just going to be a mediocrity because it has poor requirements thrown at it; over and over along with poor oversight.  

We need to follow the only good thing about the Defence White Paper of 2009. That is to build more frigates; and not overly complex ones either. A similar size and capability to the ones we have will be fine. 

Yes industry seems to be in trouble. If they want to be activist about it, they need to criticise not political parties but the entrenched Defence bureaucracy which is leading them to ruin. Once there are capable people in the Defence bureaucracy, they in turn can lead the politicians down the proper path.

Unskilled politicians—they aren’t all stupid–see a poorly managed Defence bureaucracy for what it is and see the banner held high which is the project of concern list. DMO is incompetent; senior Defence is rudderless. Cry about that.

ASPI needs to provide more warning to Australia about risks with the F-35 program #auspol #military


The Australian Strategic Policy Institute (ASPI) has a new paper out that warns government to have a plan-B or even a plan-C for the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter (JSF) procurement. At first this sounds like great advice. However, the only useful part of this paper is where it mentions the blinders-on approach Defence has to the solution of what kind of fighter Australia needs.

”Their answer will remain ‘F-35’, pretty much independent of the question.”

The report is riddled with errors and lazy research. ASPI always has the word “Analysis” in large type at the front of their reports. Sorry, I am just not seeing the analysis. Or at least, I am not seeing quality analysis that takes all the facts on board.

The gross errors in the ASPI paper start out in the beginning of the executive summary.

“Problems that became obvious early in the program made it necessary in 2006 to commit several billion dollars to acquire twenty-four Super Hornets to supplement the RAAF’s Hornet fleet and to avoid a capability gap as the F-111 reached the end of its useful life. The revised plan saw the F-35 being introduced to Australian service in 2018, with the ageing Hornets being phased out over the following few years.”

First, the only “capability gap” is between the ears of senior defence leadership and bureaucrats.

The idea that the F-111 was reaching the end of its useful life is in dispute. We could have kept this aircraft logistically sound all the way out to the 2020s. As threats got stronger, the aircraft would be able to carry long-range stand-off strike weapons; over a long range. If the threat was not as strong, the aircraft could still carry a variety of weapons. For instance, JDAM capability was not put on the F-111 simply because Defence was short-sighted.

The F-111 range issue is a big deal because we don’t have any tankers today (except the buddy-tanking from the Super Hornet) and when we do get big tankers—once the tanker program gets off the dreaded project of concern list–they will not be enough to support scores of the thirsty short-range fighters Defence wrongly wants. The F-111 would be value-added for any coalition warfare for a long time. We gave that capability up based on a lie.

The ASPI goes on mentioning the idea passed on from Defence that there were “margins” built into the F-35 procurement plan. Certainly there are margins with any procurement. What has happened though in the past few years when news of F-35 program cost ills became more visible in the public media, is the “we have margins built in” claim was—and is today—thrown about by senior Defence group-thinkers that don’t know what they don’t know as the boilerplate answer. It then gets copy-pasted by the news media (and others) with little or no critique.

The current budget climate does not give confidence to the theory that there will be margins for purchasing the F-35. Defence recently handed billions in acquisition credits back to the government because of incompetence in managing procurement. The allocation for these funds is unlikely to come back. Does anyone seriously believe that the current Defence management along with the incompetent Defence Material Organisation (DMO) have the skills to field a Collins-class submarine replacement, or new gold-plated and under-developed high-risk aircraft like the F-35?

No one—certainly not the Australian Defence senior leadership–knows what the F-35 program will cost Australia. Whatever the F-35 is, it cannot be had at any price.

Even then, it looks like an intelligent purchaser of military equipment should not hand over any money for the F-35 until it can be evaluated in full form which might be in the early 2020s. I ask the Australian public; are our politicians and defence leaders intelligent purchasers of military equipment?

And what would we get with an oh-so-early and high risk F-35 buy? The capability of the F-35 is unknown. Other studies of the F-35 show that it is at a serious risk of not being able to stand up to future threats; that it won’t be affordable to procure; that it won’t be affordable to sustain.

Instead of a solid and careful suggestion that up to this point we have gotten it all wrong and that Australia should wipe the slate clean and start over with planning out a procurement strategy for fighter aircraft, one of ASPIs recommendations is that we buy more Super Hornets. Why?

Other than giving Defence an easy way out and giving the public something that is pointy and sort of looks like a fighter aircraft, this isn’t a very good idea until a full analysis is performed on all available aircraft types. What ASPI doesn’t mention is that if the F-35 program fails—a distinct possibility—that commitment to more Super Hornets will open the door toward making the Super Hornet our main fighter; for 20 years or more. In other words; a very expensive flying club.

Here is a look at some of the Super Hornet history. Read it and then ponder if that is something that you want to purchase for Australia. Consider also that India just performed an in-depth study of all aircraft in the class (generally) of the Super Hornet as part of a plan to procure up to 124 fighter aircraft. After that evaluation, they rejected the Super Hornet. And that was after a significantly better home industry deal than what Australia got with its first batch of Super Hornets.

Brief Super Hornet history with the U.S. Navy

The Super Hornet was first fielded in the “fleet” in its Block 1 form with a lot of legacy-based technology: radar (same as the legacy Hornet), jammer, early towed decoy. The aircraft is pretty safe for general flying. It has a safer slow speed envelop than the legacy Hornet and traps nicely on an aircraft carrier with one engine off or at idle and can bring more unspent weapons and fuel (by weight) back to the ship. For flying safety not involving combat, this is the aircraft you want your kid to fly.

It has a defective hardpoint/wing design discovered early in developmental wind tunnel tests when releasing stores (external fuel tanks and weapons). In these tests, stores bumped into each other and the aircraft model. Not wanting to spend money on a redesign of the airframe, Boeing and the Navy agreed to a kludge of a fix. The solution to make stores fall safely from the aircraft was to point pylons (appliances that connect the stores to the wing) outward. This created extra drag. This makes the annual claim that the Super Hornet was 40 percent better in range than legacy Hornets by admirals in front of our elected officials on the Hill untrue. Before this problem came up, they expected the design to have a 40 percent increase in range compared to legacy Hornets. Hope versus what actually happened.

Then in flight testing, excessive wing drop appeared. This was acceptably fixed by putting appliances on the wings to control airflow.

Then there is the issue of vibration. When you hang expensive high-tech weapons costing $100,000 or more on fighter aircraft, these weapons have a limited amount of flight hours on them before they have to be refurbished. Because of the airframe design combined with the outward pointing pylons, the Super Hornet puts a shorter life on these weapons compared to other fighter aircraft because of excessive vibration.

How did the U.S. Navy officially evaluate and accept the Super Hornet into service? The jet was pencil-whipped in OPEVAL.

The aircraft has some of the most anaemic combat flight performance ever put into a fighter aircraft design.

In OPEVAL the two-seater variant met some of its range requirements only by a hair when not using after-burner for catapult shots.

The Navy changed its acquisition strategy with the Super Hornet in the 1990’s. Originally the program would be mostly single seat E’s along with a bigger order of aircraft for the program. The U.S. Navy changed this after program approval by ordering a much higher percentage of two-seat F models. With the F-14 being retired this provided for a “no backseater left behind act” and less total airframes because the two-seater was more expensive to procure and sustain. The Navy is still very committed to two-seat attack aircraft and has very good reasons. One would think the fancier gear in the aircraft would mean less pilot workload. What has happened is that with the more capable sensors of the Block 2 Super Hornet, the Navy has more workload in the cockpit for air to ground operations. This means that for certain kinds of missions, the two-seat aircraft still has value. Today in the U.S. Navy, two-seat variants make up around half of all Super Hornets

The plan for the Super was that with AIM-9X and a high-off-bore-sight (HOBS) target cueing helmet backed up by the aircraft’s slow speed combined with rapid nose pointing, could stand up to threats during within visual range (WVR) fights as good as anything else. The problem for this is that enemy aircraft likely to face the Super will also have HOBS weapons making WVR combat high-risk for everyone. The Soviets certainly had HOBS/helmet ability several years before the Cold War ended.

Where it gets ugly is speed. In the sunset years of the F-14 (think similar speed performance to a SU-3x) when it was converted to also perform air to ground missions, using speed and height in training exercises, the F-14 “bombcat” could go around legacy Hornet aircraft and press on to bomb the target. The Super Hornet is slower than a legacy Hornet.

When the P-38 and F-4U Corsair showed up in the Pacific WW2 theater, the Japanese stated that their highly agile Zero fighter could no longer be in control of the fight. Because of their speed, the P-38 and the Corsair pilots could decide how, when and if they wanted to enter battle The slower Zero could not. The Super Hornet has the same problem against just about any other modern fighter out there from the F-16 to the SU-3x series and even more powerful threats that will grow in the Pacific Rim.

So what about the AESA and AIM-120 AMRAAM on the Super Hornet? It will count for something but the AMRAAM can be jammed down to where it has a low probability of kill (PK). That and the AESA just like most fighter aircraft radars, will be in the same bandwidth that low-observable aircraft designs and jamming work best against: X-band.

For over 10 years, the U.S. Navy has been using the Block 1 Super Hornet with some numbers of the advanced Block 2 design now in service. Block 2 is what is currently being built at the Boeing factory.

Comparing the capability of the Block 1 and Block 2 Super Hornet is interesting. Comparing the defensive capability between the two is extreme. The self-defense jammer in Block 1 was a previously rejected design thrown in to get the jet out to the fleet on schedule. Today, the avionics in Block II are stunning and meet the “balanced-survivability” need in the original concept: if all one believes that you need for a fighter is technology and not real flight performance. That technology the Super depends on is a small amount of nose on low observable capability (not like a real stealth fighter) but “balanced” with the fused avionics to help lower the probability of kill (PK) of enemy radar missile threats. The aircraft is designed with some low-observable concepts in place only so there is a known and more measurable quantity of the aircraft’s radar signature under a variety of situations. This allows the emission detection fused with the computer to better understand how vulnerable the aircraft is to radar threats and also allows for better estimates of when and how to use the onboard defensive jamming. This makes the defensive suite more efficient.

How would this compare to the F-35 in a similar defensive scenario? The F-35 only has limited export-friendly stealth. The F-35 has limited defensive measures when stealth is exposed due to a turn or bad angle to the radar threat. The F-35 sales force claims that the front-facing radar can jam radar threats. The theory that you can use a small radar with limited power to successfully jam threats is just that. Whatever effect this can produce, it can only do it inside its own radio frequency band. Electronic warfare experts have stated this method is not proven to work well based on available power and heat issues with the radar set. The F-35 does not have near-all-aspect defensive jamming like the Super Hornet and only has some expendable decoys. The Super Hornet Block 2 has a towed decoy that coordinates with the onboard self-protection jammer and also has the kind of radar like the F-35 that is hyped to do some jamming. Interesting as this electronic attack ability using the aircraft’s radar, was marked as a short-coming when Australia evaluated their new Block 2 Supers. Something to think about when the F-35 sales force hypes this ability. In a scenario where stealth is naked, it is likely that the Super Hornet has more survivability options than the F-35.

The Block 2 Super Hornet with the advanced AESA radar (needing different cooling and engine appliances to support it), better defensive jammer; better emissions detection/classification; better towed decoy all fuses properly including fused with the HOBS helmet and ATFLIR, is significant for the U.S. Navy; at least against legacy threats.

Years ago, when the U.S. Navy fielded their Block 1 Super Hornets, the aircraft was generally useful against a low tech threats like Iraq who buried their air force in the sand. This is the sum total when you hear that the Super Hornet is combat proven. For the Navy the Super carries more munitions than the legacy Hornet; more gas and can be a buddy tanker when needed. It also solved a problem for the U.S. Navy who was less interested in threats and more interested in smaller numbers on an Excel spreadsheet when looking at operating costs in the carrier air wing. That is what made the aircraft Super.

If Australian Defence is looking for a good close air support aircraft for the Army or an aircraft to control advanced long range drones of the future as hounds before the hunter, the existing two-seat Super Hornets will provide some value. Against modern threats growing in the Pacific Rim where fighter versus fighter performance is needed, the Block II Super Hornet—fancy technology and all–will be cut off, run out of gas and run down and killed.

So if the Super Hornet is unable to maintain regional air-supremacy, why should Australia consider buying more? And certainly this decision should not happen without a fighter competition like what India has just performed.

From looking at the above short history of U.S. acquisition of the Super Hornet, we can see (groupthink behaviour aside) that the path it took to get into service has little relevance to how the high-risk F-35 program will be developed, tested, paid for and sustained. For ASPI to bring up the Super Hornet as a comparison of U.S. acquisition programs and then compare it to the F-35 program, well, OK, but harder work on their part would be appreciated. The F-35 from the ground-up, is a different aircraft and also a different acquisition program especially because of the multi-national involvement; including the fierce rent-seeking lust of JSF Partner Nation industry stake-holders.

Prisoner’s dilemma?

ASPI also does not point out (or refuses to acknowledge) all the facts surrounding the F-22 in both cost and foreign procurement potential. History now; but important history since the F-22 was mentioned in their paper.

ASPI has not properly warned the Australian public about the grave effects to Australian industry. This look at just one home shop (Quickstep) shows some of the problem. If the F-35 program collapses, it will be a growth industry for lawyers. Australia must do a complete evaluation of the risk faced by home industry that participates in the F-35 program. Time is running out for any risk reduction methods needed to help protect these companies that seem to have been ill informed before they jumped onto the F-35 bandwagon. The promise that there will be thousands of F-35s produced seems to have no basis in fact given the current sickness in the program. For instance, in 2003, it was briefed that the low-rate production batch number 5 (LRIP-5) would be composed of 120 aircraft. In 2009, LRIP-5 was briefed as 61 aircraft. Today, LRIP-5 looks like 35 aircraft. Investors in Australian industry must be wondering when they will see a return on investment. How many jobs will be lost? What is the long range effect to Australian industry?

Australia’s current fighter roadmap is in a shambles. We have old legacy Hornets that will not be able to stand up to growing threats. We have a small number of Super Hornets that can’t contribute to maintaining air supremacy. We have ditched a valuable long-range strategic strike option with the F-111. We are staking billions on a flying question mark along with billions to fix up the mess when it all collapses.

For ASPI to have any real worth to the public with their air power studies, they need to do the following. They need to do better research. What they have presented so far is poor. They must raise a large noise to the problem and not a little one. In order to earn their money on this topic—that money comes from you—they need to fiercely challenge Defence. So far ASPI has only scratched the surface and in doing so has published a lot of things that are just untrue.

After getting it all wrong, Australia needs to stop the current air power roadmap and start again with a clean sheet of paper. This should prove to be the lower risk option. And in doing that, we can look like an intelligent buyer of military hardware.

On the Hill, the F-35 mistake-jets you pay for #military

The mistake-jets you pay for….

Cooper proposed his own F-35 amendment that would reduce the Pentagon’s buy of F-35Bs from six to four in 2012. The $380 million saved would stay within Navy and Marine Corps accounts and would be spent to buy aircraft spares and upgrade the equipment of the National Guard and Reserve.

Cooper cited Gates’ concern about the F-35 program, and argued that his proposal would give the program time to get back on budget and schedule, before the Pentagon buys more.

McKeon said he opposed the move because it would increase the aircraft’s unit cost and could increase the Navy and Marine Corps’ fighter shortfall in the future.

Cooper responded that the unit cost continues to grow anyway.

Rep. Adam Smith, D-Wash., the committee’s ranking member, supported Cooper’s amendment.

Smith said there is no efficiency of quantity if what you buy is not what you want in the end, and said he’d seen this happen before with the Army’s Future Combat Systems. He said Congress gave money to a program before it proved that it could work, and should think twice before doing it again.

Cooper’s amendment failed to pass during a voice vote.

Australia out-sources its naval mission #auspol #military

Take a look at today’s press release from Defence below. It is a stark monument to the incompetence of the Defence Material Organisation (DMO). Because of a failure of the DMO (and with some responsibility to admirals), Australia is out-sourcing its naval mission.

Corrosion control is a bread and butter skill in a properly run navy. That and a number of other not very exciting details about sustaining ships, such as: preventive maintenance for motors, electrics, “hotel” facilities, POL, supplies, and so many other things.

It is “complex” as DMO likes to say in their descriptions of Defence systems but given the right leadership, it should all be doable. As for the officers and men that go on sea duty: join the Navy and spend a lot of your time performing some kind of upkeep on the ship. Boring, but it is essential to make ships operate properly.

How many years will it take the DMO to ruin the. Bay-class amphibious ship that has “no major defects”?

Amphibious Ship Update

Minister for Defence Stephen Smith and Minister for Defence Materiel Jason Clare today provided an update on the Royal Australian Navy’s Amphibious Ship capability.

Purchase of Largs Bay

The Government announced on 6 April that Australia had been successful in its bid to acquire the United Kingdom’s Bay Class amphibious ship Largs Bay at a cost of £65 million (approximately $A100 million).

Australia has now signed a Letter of Intent with the UK Government and the first two payments of £22 million each (£44 million or $A66 million in total) have been made on the ship.

A sea-trial of the ship has also been conducted.

The trial was conducted in two phases – a harbour phase (11-17 April) followed by the at-sea phase (18-19 April).

Defence’s final report on the sea-trial confirms that the ship is in good material state.

International shipping firm, Teekay Shipping Australia, thoroughly inspected the ship prior to the submission of Australia’s bid and found that:

“the ship presents very well, and from a technical point of view, there are no major defects.”

Teekay was also engaged on the sea trial and have provided an updated report that confirms their previous assessment.

The Government will now give consideration to what modifications are necessary for Australian use of Largs Bay, with such work on the ship subject to Government approval. 

The ship remains on track to arrive in Australia by the end of the year in time for it to be operational in Australia in early 2012.

HMAS Tobruk

HMAS Tobruk will be docked in Sydney today for previously announced required maintenance, which is expected to take around two months.

In order to ensure Australia has an amphibious capability during this period, the Australian Government has chartered the long range support ship Aurora Australis from P&O Maritime Services from 8 May 2011 to 30 June 2011, with options for an extension up to a month.

The Aurora Australis is a 94 metre Super Icebreaker.

It can carry 700 tonnes of cargo, transport 116 passengers, embark watercraft and support helicopter operations.

The vessel regularly supports Antarctic bases with limited or no port facilities, making it unique among commercial vessels currently available and ideal for humanitarian and disaster relief work.

The charter of this vessel will help ensure that Australia is able to respond to humanitarian assistance and disaster relief incidents over this period.

The lease will cost $3.375 million and will be met from within existing Defence resources.

If required for operations it can be supported by a Guided Missile Frigate as well as Heavy Landing Craft.

The charter of the Aurora Australis is in addition to Australia’s agreement with New Zealand that the New Zealand amphibious lift ship HMNZS Canterbury would be made available as part of the joint Pacific-focused Ready Response Force during Tobruk’s maintenance period, subject to any operational requirements in New Zealand.

HMAS Tobruk is also scheduled for routine maintenance for around a six week period in September and October 2011 to prepare the ship ahead of cyclone season. 

Detailed planning is currently underway to ensure Australia has an amphibious capability during this period.  Details will be provided closer to that time. 

Options under consideration include ongoing cooperation with New Zealand over the use of HMNZS Canterbury, Aurora Australis and a range of commercial options. 


Media contact:
Mr Smith’s Office: Andrew Porter (02) 6277 7800 or 0419 474 392
Mr Clare’s Office: Korena Flanagan (02) 6277 7620 or 0418 251 316
Department: (02) 6127 1999

Pick your surprise for Defence #auspol

Below from Defence. The 5th C-17 and the Bay class ship were a last minute surprise. So too sometime in the  future will be another order for Super Hornets.


Budget 2011-12

Defence Capability

Over the next 12 to 18 months, Defence is developing First and Second Pass approvals of Defence Capability Plan projects worth over $6 billion.

In addition to the recent decisions to acquire a fifth C-17A Globemaster III heavy lift aircraft and the amphibious ship Largs Bay, approvals will be sought for a range of key capability acquisitions including:

· Air 9000 Phase 8 Future Naval Aviation Combat System

This project will replace the current fleet of Seahawk and cancelled Super Seasprite helicopters with multi-role naval combat helicopters, weapons and related training, infrastructure, logistics and support arrangements.

· Land 121 Phase 3 Project Overlander

Phase 3 will deliver Light and Lightweight unprotected Class vehicles and Medium and Medium Heavy protected and unprotected vehicles for land forces. While this phase of Overlander is post second pass, it will be reconsidered by Government when Defence completes the current tender evaluation activities for Medium and Medium Heavy protected and unprotected vehicles.

· Land 121 Phase 5A Project Overlander

This phase of project Overlander will deliver further Light and Lightweight unprotected Class vehicles for ADF tactical training critical for our personnel in preparation for operations.

· Joint Project 2072 Phase 2A Battlespace communications systems

This project will rollout the communication infrastructure to high readiness land formations and units of the ADF.

· JP 2048 Phase 3 – Replacement Watercraft

This project will provide ship to shore vessels to transport forces and equipment ashore and re-embark them back onto the Canberra Class Amphibious Assault Ships.

The Australian Government is continuing its investment in the package of enhanced force protection capabilities for our troops in Afghanistan.

Over the period 2009-10 to 2012-13, the Australian Government will invest $1.1 billion for these force protection capabilities. This initiative includes $480 million of expenditure in 2011-12. This is in addition to about half a billion dollars of existing force protection measures for a total over the financial period 2009-10 to 2012‑13 of $1.6 billion of enhanced measures for force protection.

Our forces in Afghanistan are performing extremely well in dangerous circumstances on a daily basis and their support and protection is, rightly, our highest priority.

More broadly the Government is continuing its investment in Force 2030, as set out in the 2009 Defence White Paper, Defending Australia in the Asia Pacific Century. A comprehensive package of air, land, maritime and networked information capabilities is being progressed to ensure the Australian Defence Force of the 21st Century will have the capabilities required to meet future strategic challenges.

For more information and access to the Portfolio Budget Statement go to

Mr Smith’s Office: Andrew Porter (02) 6277 7800 or 0419 474 392
Department of Defence: (02) 6127 1999

Words from the F-35 program in 2003 that quickly became dead in 2004 #military

“We are close to resolving these challenges and 2004 will be the year we instill real confidence with all stakeholders in our F-35 family of designs.”
LM F-35 Year in Review (Tom Burbage)–

2004 would reveal the weight growth mess (SWAT), which would produce redesign needs, delay and cost added to the program.

Getting the F-35 through low-rate initial production–LRIP10 anyone? #military

The low-rate initial production (LRIP) contracts for the F-35 that the cheerleaders crow about have conditions that are variable. And how variable is the question because the boss of the DOD program Admiral Venlet is worried about being too harsh with the vendor.

“We’re probably just approaching about the early first 10 percent of LRIP-4 production, and I’m waiting to see actuals align to the baseline,” Venlet said. “Then we’ll be negotiating LRIP-5.”

Lockheed Martin, the F-35’s prime contractor, is set to deliver its proposal shortly. After the government receives the contract, the program office will extensively review the proposal before negotiations begin, Venlet said. The program office also will conduct a “should cost” review.

It is important that Lockheed deliver on the LRIP-4 contract, Venlet said. Though the LRIP-4 contract is based on a fixed price, the dollar amount the government pays is allowed to rise by approximately 6.5 percent. If the price exceeds that amount, Lockheed is on the hook for that additional cost.

However, Venlet said the government cannot allow the company to be driven out of business by absorbing huge additional costs indefinitely, and as such, contracts for LRIP-5 could be adjusted to ensure the company has an acceptable margin. This, Venlet said, is why Lockheed’s performance on LRIP-4 is so important.

Emphasis mine. Guess who pays? That and election lobby dollars should help make sure that the definition of “acceptable margin” is, well, “acceptable” to all interested parties that want to get elected. That is, assuming the bottom doesn’t drop out of the federal budget.

LRIP-5 will consist of 35 aircraft

Frame that. It should be the next text for a demotivational poster. Back in 2003 (predictions and all that) the LRIP-5 quantity and timeline looked like this.

On other topics, Venlet has stated the radar-cross-section (RCS) of the aircraft should be good.

Venlet said, thus far, he is very pleased with the F-35’s radar cross-section, which has undergone testing over ranges.

“We don’t have any worries currently that [is] going to be a defective piece of the aircraft,” he said.

Just that the production method and sustainment of L.O. (low observable) capability will be in question.

Well, that conforms with this. The F-35 RCS should be good, but remember what the requirement was made for: affordable, export-friendly stealth that would always have the F-22 to tear down the big threats. That and a RCS requirement that was agreed to around circa 1999-2000. The F-35, even if it meets its design requirement can be detected and killed and will most likely be obsolete when delivered. Whenever that is.

In the end, an unstable design is going to make the baseline review a potential whitewash if the creators of that review discover and are not allowed to state that it is a failed program.