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"Self-propagating, self-justifying, entirely an end in itself."
October 27, 2011 12:56 PM   Subscribe

The Sad Odyssey of the F-22: America’s Big Broken Toy [SLGM]. 'The F-22 has been okayed to fly again, after being grounded, cleared, grounded, then cleared once more—all within a year. And yet, the Air Force hasn't fixed the plane's life threatening flaw. It doesn't seem like it cares.'

'It was plagued from the start. A year after the USAF and Pentagon high-fived over the super billion dollar plan, the first and only F-22 crashed and exploded due to a computer guidance glitch.' ' It's not just the oxygen supply problems of recent months. After formally entering service in 2005, the plane has proven to be a mechanical' nightmare.

'It flies exercises, rather than fighting. In May, Wired's David Axe summed up the plane's material woes:

Last year, rust problems briefly grounded most of the F-22 force. A whole squadron of Raptors had to turn back from a planned flight from Virginia to Japan in 2007 when their navigational systems went haywire as the planes crossed the International Date Line. In 2006, an F-22 pilot was stuck in his plane on the ground for five hours because the canopy wouldn't open.'

'Mixed in to all of this, of course, is the aforementioned oxygen problem, which has caused hypoxia-like symptoms—pilots can't breathe. This might have already killed one pilot in a crash last year, and poses a threat to literally every single plane, every single time it's in the sky. The Pentagon's taken a wait and see approach with the F-22's oxygen defect—but what more needs to be seen? Repeated groundings have yielded no fix at all, and after each embarrassment, the Air Force simply says it'll take precautions and collect data, to no end.'
posted by VikingSword (72 comments total) 8 users marked this as a favorite

 
Jesus I got a better warranty from the Korean manufacturers of my new car. The DoD should have negotiated better reps and warranties and then hold these (proud, patriotic, all American) companies to it.
posted by 2bucksplus at 1:07 PM on October 27, 2011 [1 favorite]


(and to finish my thought) if that means defense contractors have to bid higher, so be it. Shift the risk to private companies AND understand the true cost of the equipment.
posted by 2bucksplus at 1:11 PM on October 27, 2011 [3 favorites]


Fucking pathetic. It makes me sick. Back in the 60s, we landed people on the moon.

THE FUCKING MOON.

And got there by flying rockets made by the lowest bidder.
Now, we can't even keep a goddamned airplane in the sky.

Where is it that they do things right these days, Germany maybe? How hard is it to learn German?
posted by Threeway Handshake at 1:14 PM on October 27, 2011 [10 favorites]


"A whole squadron of Raptors had to turn back from a planned flight from Virginia to Japan in 2007 when their navigational systems went haywire as the planes crossed the International Date Line."

Between this and the malware problems our unmanned drones have been experiencing, I despair for our military.

Isn't defense spending still an unreasonably huge portion of our budget? Maybe if they had to "do more with less" like NASA has been forced to they wouldn't have the superfluous resources that enable them to support expensive wastes of time and cash like the F-22.
posted by JHarris at 1:18 PM on October 27, 2011 [3 favorites]


Threeway Handshake, Germans were the ones who put us on the moon in the first place.

And don't forget, we had glitches then too.
posted by weinbot at 1:18 PM on October 27, 2011 [2 favorites]


But high speed rail is a boondoggle.
posted by ghharr at 1:19 PM on October 27, 2011 [28 favorites]


German is actually really easy to learn, considering that English is basically mutated Germanic low words, French high words, and Latin scientific words (the same is true of Dutch, but it came together differently so Dutch always drives you crazy with the sense that you should understand it).

Speaking German properly, however, is a pain in the ass for English natives the same way most European languages are: gendered nouns.
posted by Ryvar at 1:19 PM on October 27, 2011 [7 favorites]


People always claim there's this tremendous overlap between English and German vocabulary compared to other languages. I'm sure that is true scholastically or something but as someone who speaks German and is learning Spanish it is my opinion that it is practically 100% Scheiße. Pick a random Spanish paragraph, a random German paragraph, give them to a English speaker and hold a gun to my head about which they'll be able to understand and I'm picking spanish 7 days a week and twice on domingo.
posted by nathancaswell at 1:32 PM on October 27, 2011 [14 favorites]


"Self-propagating, self-justifying, entirely an end in itself"

True of more than the weapons industry.
posted by Trurl at 1:35 PM on October 27, 2011


Not a bug. A feature.

All we need is one oxygen-starved pilot crash in Iran. We jazz up the report a little bit, indicate that the jet may have been shot down, and BAMO! We have pretext to bomb Iran.

We learned out lessons from the Iraq war. We know that we can no longer rely on smoke and fairy dust to invade a country.
posted by munchingzombie at 1:36 PM on October 27, 2011


Modern aircraft are complex systems with long anticipated lifespans. They take forever to debug and bring online. Consider the problems airbus and boeing have in their commercial products. Then add stealth, Mach+ capabilities and munitions systems. The 5th generation fighter may prove to be unnecessary to fighting modern wars. This is something which military planners debate, but it has yet to be settled.
I don't think it is accurate to describe this as a boondoggle as much as a typical project management failure drivn by optimistic risk assessments.
posted by humanfont at 1:37 PM on October 27, 2011 [1 favorite]


We know that we can no longer rely on smoke and fairy dust to invade a country.

We did? I've yet to see any repercussions for anyone involved in spreading the last coat of smoke and fairy dust around.
posted by brand-gnu at 1:37 PM on October 27, 2011 [3 favorites]


Install the drone's software onto the F-22. No more worries about oxygen systems.

The F22 doesn't do anything but air shows, so hold an online competition where flight-sim nerds create and vote on the best aerial display to show at an air show. Program that flight program into the F22.
Sell advertising and make a reality show out of it to cover the costs of the F22 to the tax payer.

Do I have to think of everything?
posted by smitt at 1:47 PM on October 27, 2011 [4 favorites]


They should just merge it with the Osprey program to create the most ridiculous hangar bird of all time.
posted by Artw at 1:53 PM on October 27, 2011 [1 favorite]


Phineas and Ferb today:

"Doctor Doofenshmirtz launched a space station, but we can't do anything about it because of budget cuts."
posted by Chuffy at 2:02 PM on October 27, 2011 [6 favorites]


Yeah I think whoever making decisions is looking 20 years ahead to when manned airplanes during wartime are a thing of the past and we can just retrofit drone equipment into these things.
posted by Ad hominem at 2:09 PM on October 27, 2011 [1 favorite]


For more blunders in the world of defense procurement, this NYT article from a few years back is particularly interesting.

But as the concept took shape, several powerful forces were bearing down, turning the satellite procurement system to quicksand, military experts said. One was the new policy, cousin to the Clinton administration’s effort to downsize government, of transferring control of big military projects to contractors, on the theory that they could best manage engineering work and control costs. Another factor was a decline of American expertise in systems engineering, the science and art of managing complex engineering projects to weigh risks, gauge feasibility, test components and ensure that the pieces come together smoothly.

On the bidding process:
posted by Mr Mister at 2:21 PM on October 27, 2011


A bit off topic, but how far are we from having a primarily drone combat air force, including for things like air-to-air dogfights? From what I've heard, drone pilots can outmaneuver human pilots because they can be built to better withstand g-forces. And computers can also have faster reaction times, although programming them to make the right decisions quickly is the hard part.
posted by mccarty.tim at 2:21 PM on October 27, 2011


The only people who wanted these cold war relics were the people who got paid to design and build them. it shows.
posted by dgran at 2:22 PM on October 27, 2011


Artw, funny you should say that. Apparently, the Marines really, really like the Osprey, even though it was expensive and deadly to develop and is now an expensive plane to buy.
posted by mccarty.tim at 2:22 PM on October 27, 2011


As to the bidding process, in the link above:

Mr. Fitzgerald (former Boeing engineer) compared the bidding to liar’s poker, a game based on the serial numbers on dollar bills that relies heavily on bluffing and gamesmanship. “There’s a lot of money on the table, and no wants to say that they can’t do it,” he said. The ethic, he added, is “win the program at any cost and sort it out later. Correct the government’s sins and my sins with overruns.”
posted by Mr Mister at 2:26 PM on October 27, 2011 [1 favorite]


Now, we can't even keep a goddamned airplane in the sky.

Where is it that they do things right these days, Germany maybe? How hard is it to learn German?


Try China.

As venture capitalist John Doerr once remarked, “You talk to the leadership in China, and they are all engineers, and they get what is going on immediately. The Americans don’t, because they’re all lawyers.”
posted by DreamerFi at 2:35 PM on October 27, 2011 [7 favorites]


Back in the 60s, we landed people on the moon.

I interned at a defense contractor (on a small software project, nothing classified). There were, by my count, nine administrative employees for a project with one engineer (and an intern, me). The managers spent hours in meetings every day debating an MS Project plan, on which 99% of the tasks were assigned to the one engineer.

The engineer quit the same day my internship was up, and left the industry permanently. The entire project was thrown out after a $10 million investment.

I'm utterly amazed our military planes don't straight up explode on the tarmac in a flash of accounting agony.
posted by miyabo at 2:37 PM on October 27, 2011 [17 favorites]


> Isn't defense spending still an unreasonably huge portion of our budget? Maybe if they had to "do more with less" like NASA has been forced to they wouldn't have the superfluous resources that enable them to support expensive wastes of time and cash like the F-22.

The new issue of Harper's (not online) has an article about IEDs in Iraq and the various ways the military has attempted to deal with them. Long story short, hugely complicated and expensive (and usually less effective) solutions are preferred over inexpensive, low-tech ones. Why? Because defense contractors make more money that way.
posted by The Card Cheat at 2:53 PM on October 27, 2011


It all makes perfect sense as long as you remember that the F-22 is a machine for turning defense spending into campaign contributions and jobs in the congressional districts of people sitting on the appropriations committee which then turns back into defense spending. It would be far more effective if they'd just hand out stacks of 100s, but tradition dictates you need to get an airplane or a hydroelectric dam or a warship or something out of the process as well.

The US could probably use another fighter mafia in case they actually want a plane that works though.
posted by Grimgrin at 2:55 PM on October 27, 2011 [5 favorites]


The new issue of Harper's (not online) has an article about IEDs in Iraq and the various ways the military has attempted to deal with them.

Awesome article. Highly. recommended
posted by nathancaswell at 2:59 PM on October 27, 2011


when manned airplanes during wartime are a thing of the past and we can just retrofit drone equipment into these things.

If my childhood Major Matt Mason XRG-1 Reentry Glider is anything to go by, we'll have to do that by building an actual humanoid robot to sit in the cockpit and fly the plane by manipulating the controls just as a human pilot would. Because without the weight of the action figure in the cockpit, that was one god damn disappointing toy.

(And my Mom's aircraft acquisitions process was just as incompetent as the Pentagon's. I still recall that Christmas with bitterness.)
posted by Naberius at 3:12 PM on October 27, 2011 [5 favorites]


You guys really should scrap all your F-22s, that's right. That'll teach China! All those J-20s and PAK FAs wont have anyone to play with!
posted by wilful at 3:21 PM on October 27, 2011


I have spent a good part of the last year and a half studying international security policy at the a major public policy graduate school and one thing I have come to believe is that splitting out US Air Force is a major mistake.
posted by shothotbot at 3:22 PM on October 27, 2011


Naberius: We want to build a backwards compatible semi autonomous control unit that will allow us to turn old, obsolete aircraft into low cost drones.

It'd be insanely complicated, massively expensive, and wouldn't work worth a damn, but it could justify making spare parts for the entire inventory of air force planes currently sitting in the boneyard, as well as weapons retrofits and all kinds of neat little contracts you could hand out like candy, and the best part is you could present it as a cost saving measure because it allows the re-use of existing airframes.

Shit son, do you know anyone who works for Lockheed? We've got ourselves a ticket to ride the gravy train!
posted by Grimgrin at 3:23 PM on October 27, 2011 [1 favorite]


Try China.

Seriously? Given their record with high speed rail, I wouldn't step foot on a Chinese manufactured aircraft. In one month of operation, the Chinese HSR had a crash resulting in 40 fatalities. By contrast, the Japanese Shinkansen has been running since 1964. Number of fatalities due to derailment or crash: precisely zero. I'll take Japanese engineering any day.
posted by Guernsey Halleck at 3:25 PM on October 27, 2011 [3 favorites]


I'm not sure remotely piloted cold-war airframes are all that silly an idea. At least, the ones we still use anyway.
posted by snuffleupagus at 3:28 PM on October 27, 2011


The problem with drones isn't that they can take a lot of G's, it's the control link. Currently there isn't a good way of maintaining a signal link with an aircraft that is performing aerobatic maneuvers. This is especially true of satellite links and the reason why drones like the Predator spend most of their time flying straight and level.
posted by smoothvirus at 3:29 PM on October 27, 2011


It was two days ago that I had a flash of insight into where the term "Daddy Warbucks" came from.
posted by stratastar at 3:29 PM on October 27, 2011 [4 favorites]


We're talking about a marvel of engineering and design for civilsation.
posted by Meatafoecure at 3:47 PM on October 27, 2011


Daddy Warbucks dates back to 1924, he is the adopted father of Little Orphan Annie. He's not connected to the military industrial complex (although he was a general in WWII).
posted by doctor_negative at 4:42 PM on October 27, 2011


A year after theUSAFand Pentagon high-fived overthesuper r plan, the first and only F-22 crashed and exploded due to a computer guidance

This is horseshit. It was one of two planes at that point, and it was pilot error. From what I was told the pilot didn't turn the gain from high to low during landing. Not switching from ultra high control sensitivity down can make it easier to slam it into the ground when getting close. It's also something that is usually automated, but it being one of the first prototypes out it obviously didn't have all the features. It also didn't explode in a furious fireball or whatever. It was still together in one piece. It was wasn't safe for flight anymore, but they did some other tests on it then salvaged whatever else they could. Those test planes are rated for X amount of flight time, and that one was a fair amount of way through it's flight time life. The last time i saw it, it was outside of Lockheed (on a base), suspended on a pedestal, in Marrietta, Georgia. Like a life-sized model. Which is also not an uncommon thing for companies to do with old test planes.

Shit son, do you know anyone who works for Lockheed? We've got ourselves a ticket to ride the gravy train!

I was under the impression we do retrofit our older aircraft for resale to other countries. Like the FA-18s.
posted by P.o.B. at 4:43 PM on October 27, 2011 [1 favorite]


I thought "Star Wars Missile Defense" laser-beam shooting satellites were going to make all this stuff obsolete! Which defense money pit are we shoveling our treasure into this decade again?
posted by Ron Thanagar at 4:46 PM on October 27, 2011


P.o.B. : They try for export sales of current production aircraft as a way of defraying the development costs. Plus they've held on to quite a few old aircraft.
posted by Grimgrin at 4:49 PM on October 27, 2011


Daddy Warbucks dates back to 1924, he is the adopted father of Little Orphan Annie. He's not connected to the military industrial complex (although he was a general in WWII).

The article also notes he made his fortune in WWI.
posted by JHarris at 4:54 PM on October 27, 2011 [1 favorite]


The F-22 is the crown jewel of a rudderless Air Force run amok, with KC-X, the nuclear security fiasco with the resultant sacking of the top two leaders in the organization all being shining examples of how NOT to run an armed force.

That being said, I'm guessing that the AF did a risk analysis to keeping the F-22 fleet grounded, investigating the OBOGS problems, fixing them and then having to retrain every single F-22 pilot out there because they would have been out of the cockpit for so long (a not inconsequential cost in either treasure or readiness) versus accepting the risk that a pilot will 1) have an OBOGS problem 2) not recognize the hypoxia and/or 3) have a malfunction with their onboard reserve of liquid oxygen. The F-22 pilots that are continuing to fly those aircraft are not idiots and know that there's a problem with the oxygen system.

On the topic of autonomous air-to-air drones, someone upthread talked about how programming them to make the right decisions is the hard part. That's like saying that faster-than-light travel is possible, it's just designing the engine is the hard part - it massively understates the problem. We have issues getting our autonomous rotary wing aircraft to fly right and are just getting to the test phase in seeing if autonomous aircraft are compatible with manned aircraft in the carrier environment - and neither of these is trying to fight an adversary.
posted by squorch at 4:57 PM on October 27, 2011 [1 favorite]


Also, Wired? Get some fucking editors. Those "hypoxia-like symptoms" ARE ACTUALLY THE SYMPTOMS OF HYPOXIA.
posted by squorch at 4:59 PM on October 27, 2011 [1 favorite]


Focusing on the F22's engineering problems kind of misses the point, imho. Even if the plane worked perfectly, it's already obsolete. It has been eleven years since the X-45 prototype debuted, and I seriously doubt that our military industrial complex has been idle in producing unmanned combat air vehicles (UCAVs) in the meantime.

At lunch one day, when I used to work at Boeing, the subject turned to UCAVs. Some aeronautical engineers were there. They pointed out that UCAVs not only could endure G-force that would kill human pilots, but that this would enable them to consistently dodge missiles. The first time UCAVs are deployed against human pilots, it's going to be like the Wehrmacht's tanks facing off against Polish horse-mounted soldiers.

The issue of artificial intelligence has been brought up, but that's been effectively punted by existing UAVs like the Predator: High-level decisions are made by a human ground controller sitting in a bunker, low-level decisions are made by the onboard computer.
posted by qxntpqbbbqxl at 7:06 PM on October 27, 2011 [2 favorites]


It is my understanding that horses have made a big comeback in our current conflict in Afghanistan.
posted by humanfont at 7:31 PM on October 27, 2011


The F-22 is not a fighter aircraft. It is not a weapon of war.

It is, primarily, a means to divert Federal funds to businesses located in Republican districts. That is all.

That. Is. All.

It doesn't matter if the plane doesn't actually fly. Even if it doesn't fly, it still "works", because it sinks billions into the economies of Georgia, Alabama, Texas and Missouri. Thats what they mean when they say that the F-22 "works".
posted by Avenger at 7:36 PM on October 27, 2011 [4 favorites]


Better yet: think of the entire U.S. Security apparatus as being, basically, a huge multi-trillion dollar money-laundering program for the Republican party.

Republicans are elected to office, vote for trillions in defense spending, which in turn makes it's way into the hands of defense contractors, who in turn subsidize the Republican party and (in many cases) subsidize individual Republicans.

It's just money laundering. That's really all it is.
posted by Avenger at 7:41 PM on October 27, 2011 [5 favorites]


No, money laundering means making criminally acquired money appear to have a legitimate origin. This is just corruption and bribery. The only difference between a Mexican cop and a u.s. politician is how much it costs to buy them.
posted by Ayn Rand and God at 7:48 PM on October 27, 2011


"But what about Libya, that consummate display of Western air power? The revolution that was won from the sky? The F-22 was sitting on the ground. American Drones and NATO jets did the shooting."

Libya: The Real U.S. Drone War
posted by homunculus at 7:55 PM on October 27, 2011


This totally reminds me of the plot for Macross Plus - two Chuck Yeager-like test-pilots running competing space-plane designs; one is based on brain-machine-interface (BMI) and the other on traditional design and traditional human hunting aptitude.

In the end, both are stymied by an AI controlled hyper-maneuverable AI-controlled drone but the "non-human" sentient person running the BMI controlled plane sacrifices himself against the AI drone and the human controlling the traditional (but next-gen) designed plane interfaces with the underlying AI and through LOVE and MUSIC manages to disable the AI-gone-wild and rescue his love-from-youth (whom he fought over with the [now] deceased peer) who was revealed to have had continued to love him from their youth.

The non-human protagonist's YF-21 plane looked a lot like an F22 .
posted by porpoise at 9:08 PM on October 27, 2011 [1 favorite]


porposise: Looks more like the YF-23 to me.
posted by Grimgrin at 9:31 PM on October 27, 2011


Currently there isn't a good way of maintaining a signal link with an aircraft that is performing aerobatic maneuvers.

Trying, but can't figure out why this would be the case...
posted by amorphatist at 9:35 PM on October 27, 2011


First of all I hate this reflexive "China is kicking our ass" thing that people keep spouting off whenever anything stamped "American" goes wrong. It's ridiculous. Look at the air around Beijing. It's polluted as hell. This is a country building millions of luxury condos that are sitting idle because the population is to poor to afford to build them. Regional governments have GDP targets and by god they'll hit those targets, whether or not they are building anything anyone is going to use. They built the Largest mall in the world and couldn't get any stores to move in.

Anyway the F22 is completely ridiculous. Drones will be able to out-fly it and, if need be simply crash into it as well. So what's the point?

And you know this thing is never going to see any combat. The Airforce is never going to want to risk losing one, so it's completely pointless.
posted by delmoi at 10:28 PM on October 27, 2011


It is, primarily, a means to divert Federal funds to businesses located in Republican districts. That is all.

When i was working on the the YF-22, it was primarily in Seattle. I did a stint in Georgia, but they were also doing some stuff in California. So... maybe, that is not all... ? I mean I know some of you have a cute little narrative going about how it's a piece of shit, and it doesn't work, it explodes when someone looks at it a little funny, and it's a big money pit, but, well okay, that last one is is a good point.
BUT this tends to stick in my craw a bit when it's brought up like this. There are a lot of regular Joes, like I was, who get paid good blue collar wages to work on that thing. People who have a good Unions and great pay AND health care. I'm not saying those are good reasons for it to exist, but i do think people are missing a few variables in the equation here.
posted by P.o.B. at 10:33 PM on October 27, 2011 [2 favorites]


I'm not saying those are good reasons for it to exist
Yeah, it's not. Millitarization as a jobs program is pretty much the worst idea ever. Would the Iraq war have happened if it would have required a massive mobilization beforehand, rather then just throwing the stuff we already in storage at it?
posted by delmoi at 10:35 PM on October 27, 2011 [1 favorite]


Of course if they are going to spend all that money on weapons, I suppose it is better if they spend it on weapons that don't work.
posted by delmoi at 10:36 PM on October 27, 2011 [1 favorite]


Yeah, it's not.

Right, it's not. Has the time already passed that we don't need 21st century stealth fighter aircraft? Maybe, but I sure wouldn't leave that in your hands to figure out. As a matter of fact I would rather fall on the side of building and storing it "just in case". If warhawks decide to up an use what they got before the expiration date is bad, then that's a whole "nother conversation in itself.
posted by P.o.B. at 11:01 PM on October 27, 2011


nathancaswell, tell me an English speaker can't translate this for you perfectly:

Das Auto ist kaputt.

Not only all the words easily decipherable to English speakers, the word order is IDENTICAL to English.

Domingo? I haven't a clue what that means.
posted by readyfreddy at 2:06 AM on October 28, 2011


About that drone-conversion thing: It's been done to old F-4, to make them serve as full-scale targets for training fighter pilots. They become designated QF-4 in the process.
posted by Harald74 at 2:12 AM on October 28, 2011


Das Auto ist kaputt

I remain to be convinced that mono- and duo-syllabic words are emblematic of the difficulties your typical English speaker has with die Deutsch Sprache.
posted by amorphatist at 2:15 AM on October 28, 2011


Reading this thread at work is giving me hives.

Defense contracting is seriously messed up. "Win the contract and sort out the details later" is exactly spot on, and it's a little terrifying. There are a couple of reasons this is allowed to happen. The big one is the way these contracts are written - up until recently they've been mostly some sort of "cost-plus" agreement, where Contractor gets paid for all costs and some x% profit on top of that. Cost containment clauses, as far as I can see, don't exist. So why not tell the government you can build them an airplane for the price of a hamburger? If it goes over, that simply means you make more money.

I think that DoD has finally wised up to this, though, and at work we're starting to see more "firm fixed price (incentive)" contracts. I give you $$$, you give me a working product. You don't see a cent more than what's written down unless you exceed certain targets (delivery dates, usually), and then you get a fixed bonus. While this should, in theory, be a great way to contain costs, it's also hobbling all of the programs here. You see, contractors don't like to take on any risk, and they've been living in this utopia of free money falling from the skies every time there's a schedule slip. Now they need to meet need dates and budgets. So they jack up their prices to eliminate these risks (none of which are technical risks, mind you, just "we might not make enough money" risks). The government still believes that these new fixed-price contracts should not be any more expensive than the old ways (despite the fact that the cost-plus programs often cost much, much more than the original price tag). So there's an impasse.

The other problem I have seen here is sole-source contracting. Again, this should be going away but it's hard to break old habits, especially when, say, Boeing owns the design data for your new jet and won't sell the data to you or anyone else. They own you after that, and it basically eliminates competition for any future modifications or maintenance. What ends up happening, then, is for the next mod Boeing will get paid by the government to write a proposal for the sole-source contract that the government will pay Boeing to write, which Boeing will then win and perform the work. Fox guarding the henhouse, etc.

One thing that I think would help (but it costs money so it'll never happen) is for the government to purchase the IP outright for new designs. If you buy a new airplane, buy the design data also. That way, when you need to make changes (and for the service life of these aircraft there will be changes), you can shop around and get the best design at the best price.
posted by backseatpilot at 5:52 AM on October 28, 2011 [1 favorite]


Looks like Iran could use another American made aircraft in their fleet.
posted by pashdown at 6:35 AM on October 28, 2011


In some programs this is happening, backseatpilot. The Army will possibly buy the "technical data package" for the CROWS II remote weapon station made by Kongsberg Protech Systems, and base the next round of RWS purchases off this, meaning that several suppliers could bid to manufacture Kongsberg's product. I think this has happened earlier with i.e. rifles and grenade launchers.
posted by Harald74 at 6:43 AM on October 28, 2011


The F-22 is stupid. Most of our enemies these days are guys with rifes and RPGs. That money would be much better spent in the hands of the Marine Corps.
posted by Scoo at 10:04 AM on October 28, 2011


"A whole squadron of Raptors had to turn back from a planned flight from Virginia to Japan in 2007 when their navigational systems went haywire as the planes crossed the International Date Line."

I've never bought this as a true explanation. There is absolutely no reason why any system on a fighter plane needs to know the local time. Consider what would happen if the plane was making high speed turns around the North Pole - the local timezone and date would be changing every second!

All the control software would reasonably need to know is elapsed time since takeoff and UTC time of day.
posted by monotreme at 4:23 PM on October 28, 2011


BUT this tends to stick in my craw a bit when it's brought up like this. There are a lot of regular Joes, like I was, who get paid good blue collar wages to work on that thing. People who have a good Unions and great pay AND health care. I'm not saying those are good reasons for it to exist, but i do think people are missing a few variables in the equation here.

Does the fact that regular Joes could just as well produce something useful instead, while getting all those benefits stick in your craw as well?
posted by c13 at 6:18 PM on October 28, 2011


That would be SOCIALISM!
posted by Artw at 6:45 PM on October 28, 2011


It's not the time, it's that tons of calculations involving latitude and longitude have special cases when you hit 180 degrees. The software probably has thousands of different calculations that take the current location and derive some aspect of the vehicle's current orientation, and only one of them needs be missing a special case for around-the-world flight. It's still staggering incompetence, but it's more or less plausible.
posted by miyabo at 7:24 PM on October 28, 2011


miyabo: Related, the F-16 confused by the equator story, although it's unclear whether the bug was in the avionics or in the simulator.
posted by hattifattener at 8:17 PM on October 28, 2011


Does the fact that regular Joes could just as well produce something useful instead, while getting all those benefits stick in your craw as well?

Nope, but delusional ideas of utility and non-existent hypotheticals usually do. So you're batting a thousand for craw stickiness.
posted by P.o.B. at 3:04 AM on October 29, 2011


The problem with drones isn't that they can take a lot of G's, it's the control link. Currently there isn't a good way of maintaining a signal link with an aircraft that is performing aerobatic maneuvers. This is especially true of satellite links and the reason why drones like the Predator spend most of their time flying straight and level.

First, the technology for this will mature. Second, air to air UCAVs aren't going to be dogfighting much. Dogfighting is about getting angles for guns or short range missile shots. Drones engaging airborne targets are going to be launching self-guided active IR or radar missiles from beyond visual range, possibly at targets designated by other craft.

Which is also why talk about how the Raptor and other 5th gen fighters are irrelevant seems misguided to me. To the extent that there will be missions that those kinds of out-and-out wartime tactics aren't well suited to, like enforcing a no-fly zone with visual identification for instance, we will still need some manned fighters, at least for now. Having a handful of extremely capable aircraft for such contingencies seems about right to me. Plus, UAVs seem like a theater capability to me. We use them for "deep strike" and surgical attacks, but that's because we have bases relatively nearby to launch them from. Carriers and subs can solve some of that, and not having to support a pilot allows for more range (or payload) for any given size vehicle but I still don't see the current or next generation of UAVs fully replacing the global capabilities of the B-1, B-2, B-52 or our assortment of strike-fighters, given what they can accomplish with aerial refeuling.

The accounts coming from Afghanistan (and Iraq) also seem to suggest that while UAVs and RPVs have been proven as an important, impressive and forward looking capability there is still a lot of need and appreciation for aircraft like the A-10 and the (manned) close air support mission it performs. Likewise with helipcopter aviation.

The F-22 is stupid. Most of our enemies these days are guys with rifes and RPGs. That money would be much better spent in the hands of the Marine Corps.

Along those lines, given the day to day utility of the F22 (minimal) and the kind of combat seen in these last wars (anti-insurgency), one wonders if continuing the RAH-66 Comanche helicopter program over the Raptor might have been the preferable boondoggle to preserve in hindsight. 1200 Comanches were supposed to cost $34B according to this video. $8B was spent by the time it was cancelled. According to the Army, the Block 3 Apache integrates most of the Commanche's capabilities, but that's not what the operational outcome in Iraq and Afghanistan suggests to me. And our current scout helicopters are old designs indeed.

Meanwhile, the F-16, F-15 and F-18 are still very capable aircraft that aren't going to be seriously threatened by European 5th gen fighters like the Rafale, Gripen, or Eurofighter because those aircraft will never exist in the same numbers, and these days the important advances in conventional air to air tech are more about the sensors, computers and the missiles than aircraft performance. Our current collection of aircraft have performed remarkably well in the last few conflicts.

Ultimately what makes the F-22 so goddamned expensive, and arguably still worth having in small numbers, isn't its toe to toe combat capabilities vs. something like the F-15, MiG-29 or SU-27 (or the Euro 5th gen fighters) so much as its ability to AVOID toe to toe combat via stealth, which IS still a technological edge that no one else has. Whether or not development and preservation of that tech required that the F-22 program be preserved at all costs is beyond me...
posted by snuffleupagus at 11:03 AM on October 29, 2011


(The Comanche program was scaled back to around 650 aircraft before being cancelled, which brought the per-copy cost up.)


Also, that should say "self guided IR or active radar" up there.

posted by snuffleupagus at 12:04 PM on October 29, 2011


Lockheed’s F-35 Costs Rose 64% Over Decade in ‘Rich Man’s World’
posted by Artw at 11:37 AM on November 7, 2011


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