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Lockheed Martin
October 26, 2001 6:41 PM   Subscribe

Lockheed Martin beat out Boeing for a $200 Billion contract to build the new F-35 fighters jets earlier today. Missile defense, planes that can take off vertically, bombs that fry electronics...military technology is accelerating at a really frightening pace.
posted by catatonic (36 comments total)

 
Boeing faces some serious consequences now. It'll be interesting to see what they do, and how they'll proceed with future military aircraft. For those that don't know, Boeing and Lockheed have been in ruthless competition to build the next "Joint-Strike Fighter" for the navy, airforce, and marines. As it is now, Boeing may have to fall back on its line of commercial airliners and small aircraft. This isn't good news for a company who recently laid off 30,000 employees.
posted by bloggboy at 6:49 PM on October 26, 2001


BTW, here is a video (2.4mb, .mov) of its landing and takeoff capabilities.
posted by catatonic at 6:51 PM on October 26, 2001


I can't find the article, but this loss isn't going to damage Boeing too heavily. They have a lot of other government contracts that aren't going to go away (unmanned drones, etc), not to mention their commercial business.
posted by mrbula at 7:21 PM on October 26, 2001


Missile defense, planes that can take off vertically, bombs that fry electronics...military technology is accelerating at a really frightening pace.

catatonic, everything is relative. To the uninitiated bystander military tech might seem as it is progressing at a fast pace (this is not necessarily directed at you).
posted by HoldenCaulfield at 7:25 PM on October 26, 2001


Indeed, the conventional wisdom is that a large part of the reason the contract went to LockMart is precisely because Boeing has a lot of other business and can survive without it.

Lockheed, on the other hand, couldn't sell something to anyone other than the government if their life depended on it. I suppose that more mismanaged companies exist, but I have had the pleasure not to be associated with any of them.
posted by jaek at 7:28 PM on October 26, 2001


Here's a scary quote:

The JSF project itself first grew out of a realisation in the US defence circles that if fighter aircraft prices grew at the then present rate, the US would only be able to afford a single aircraft in 2054.

That's a pricey meatball!
posted by donkeyschlong at 7:32 PM on October 26, 2001


I don't have anything particular to add... I just feel oddly compelled to post to this thread.
posted by Lokheed at 7:34 PM on October 26, 2001


Fewer air-to-air fighters, more bombers.
posted by aramaic at 7:36 PM on October 26, 2001


Indeed Lokheed. I might be compelled to add a replica of your post if Salinger (J.D.) was ever discussed on the front page .
posted by HoldenCaulfield at 7:46 PM on October 26, 2001


Does anyone else think the JSF looks kinda boring? Sure, the F-14 may be old, but you can't beat those swing-wings. It's like Transformers for big kids! I don't see kids wanting to play with F-35 models. Although some of you may think this is a good thing.
posted by EatenByAGrue at 8:11 PM on October 26, 2001


I feel like I should post something to, just because I work for Lockheed. I wonder if we'll get a gold star next week. Also, it will be interesting to see what happens to the stock price, as it has jumped in the last month due to the Current Situation.
posted by emoeby at 8:12 PM on October 26, 2001


Boeing is not chopped liver. It is an extremely diverse company. Besides their home grown V-22 Osprey and RAH-66 Comanche, and the various tankers, AWACS and cargo/airlift airplanes, they also have live production lines of F/A-18s, F-22s and F-15Es from their merger with McDonnell Douglas. Together with LockheedMartin they also manage space shuttle launches for NASA. Their existing military product lines will stay in production (or modernization cycle) for at least 15-20 more years.

Boeing was never in the game. LockheedMartin and McDonnell Douglas were the front runners when the program began in 1993. Even when Boeing was invited into the program in 1994, they had been out of fighter design and production business for decades. When mergers and program consolidations are taken into account, the Boeing 'plan' had taken in $79.9 million (Boeing: $27.6 m, McDonnell Douglas: $28.2 m, Northrop Grumman: $24.1 m) of the original R&D budget of $99.8 million allocated in 1994-1995. And all this for a fighter the Europeans are calling inferior to the Rafale or EuroFighter. But then again, the Europeans can't even sell their own crap to their own governments.

Boeing will live. And happily too.
posted by tamim at 8:34 PM on October 26, 2001


these planes are amazing; that video that catatonic linked to is amazing.
posted by palegirl at 8:43 PM on October 26, 2001


Can someone tell me why people are so amazed by the JSF's vertical take-off ability? The harrier's had this for years (decades?), it's nothing new.
posted by pnevares at 9:03 PM on October 26, 2001


pnevares: partly it's that it will be rather amazing to get this out of the same component design as a performance fighter. But mostly, as for the Harriers, we've only had them half as long as the Brits. I'm old enough to remember when it was still something funny those foreigners had, and the American view (uh ... not that I spoke to that many fighter pilots) was that they were oddball toys compared to our Top Gun machines. But then changing military doctrine emphasizing rapid deployment and special forces made them look a lot more useful.

The whole JSF project was a huge political football; the supposed "peace dividend" of the post-Cold-War period meant that each service developing its own fighter jet was a fantasy (and the military has been trying for years to catch up with commercial componentized technology, which is much cheaper and easier to customize and upgrade). A lot of the battles, though, took place in Congress, and some of the positions taken were clearly pork-influenced. JSF looked dead more than once. Then as I recall everyone sort of turned up on the same page one morning after smoke-filled-room negotiations.

The key issue for the US is that so many of our allies and clients have F-14 or F-15 planes now, our technological advantages are sliver-thin should we go up against our own planes. And there was a lot of doubt that JSF would be as cutting-edge as it needs to be.
posted by dhartung at 9:27 PM on October 26, 2001


I wonder if this will be the last new fighter aircraft with a cockpit. Cruise missles and UAVs are getting pretty sophisticated.
posted by euphorb at 9:34 PM on October 26, 2001


From what I recall, the Harrier did (does?) have vertical takeoff and landing capability, but once it was in flight it was relatively cumbersome when compared to, say, the F-15.

The JSF has flight characteristics more similar to conventional takeoff and landing fighter aircraft with the added bonus of being able to land on a tennis court.

Schweet.
posted by dr_emory at 10:01 PM on October 26, 2001


"Besides their home grown V-22 Osprey and RAH-66 Comanche..."
Their RAH-66 Comancha will never make it... a waste of money!

"the JSF's vertical take-off ability? The harrier's had this for years (decades?), it's nothing new."
Yes but not as effectively as the JSF. It's much easier and more efficient now with this new plane...
posted by clang at 10:03 PM on October 26, 2001


I, too, feel oddly compelled to post to this thread. Airpower!
posted by davidmsc at 10:56 PM on October 26, 2001


Wow. Nineteen posts, and nothing but gush. To wit: these planes are amazing; that video that catatonic linked to is amazing.

Doesn't it occur to anyone that that's $200 billion that's coming out of your and my pockets? Money that could and should be spent on education, health care, alternative energy research, etc.? Money that's instead going towards building "amazing" ways to kill people? Money that is going into the hands of the very people who are now orchestrating and advocating the "Endless Campaign to Eradicate Evil."

Feeling sorry for Boeing?! Happy for Lockheed?! Disgusting.
posted by mapalm at 11:16 PM on October 26, 2001


Here's a shocker for you, mapalm: that money doesn't disappear, it gets thrown back in to the mix in America at large: parts bought from suppliers, salaries of employees, and so forth.

And it's not going toward insuring people die. The surest way to see people die is the easiest: wait. This is money spent to buy tools for protecting people.

Are there other ways to spend that money? Yup. Better ways? Probably. Does that make that money wasted? Nope.
posted by NortonDC at 11:33 PM on October 26, 2001


mapalm...the weapons are used more to make a stand that "you can't attack us, we're too strong" than a "we're going to go kill people". I would bet money that India and Pakistan would be at war if it wasn't for the nuclear parity on each side.

Having a strong military protects your health care and education by keeping us at peace.
posted by Kevs at 11:43 PM on October 26, 2001


While I agree that it's a good think Lockheed won this contract which will sustain the company for a few more years, I don't think there was much of a competition either: Lockheed is to fighter jets what Ferrari is to sports cars --which would make them losing the contract and going under a damn shame *and* a security problem.

No, I don't work for Lockheed, but I used to be an aero engineer; their fighters are engineering masterpieces: Lightning, Blackbird, F-117, F-22.

Now, as to why the F-35's vertical take off is more impressive than the Harrier's: It does it with vectored thrust from the main engine and a big fan. No vanes, no complicated systems pumping air through the entire aircraft making it heavier, just a big fan. That means the automated controls built into this thing are amazing; it's another ballsy design, truly worthy of Lockheed.
posted by costas at 1:11 AM on October 27, 2001


I would bet money that India and Pakistan would be at war if it wasn't for the nuclear parity on each side.

Umm... They haven't gone to war yet since the nuclear tests. But they're still waging a low-level proxy war with each other in Kashmir, and US military experts are a little more anxious about the likelihood of war in South Asia. Here's a quote from the Wall Street Journal article linked above [via defencejournal.com]:

A mock war in the Asian subcontinent is one of the most common games played by senior US military officers and other government officials. The usual scenario for a new India-Pakistan clash begins with the two nations at a crisis point over Kashmir. India, worried that Pakistan could move tanks and armoured personnel carriers east from the border city of Lahore and cut off the Indian-held part of Kashmir, pre-emptively attacks to secure its corridor to that disputed region, pushing deep into Pakistani territory. The Pakistanis, driven backward and fearful of losing their nuclear arsenal, launch a nuclear strike against the Indian force.

Usually, says Sam Gardiner, a retired Air Force strategist who has run about 25 such games for the Pentagon and other military-planning centers, the escalation to nuclear weapons happens within the first 12 ‘days’ of the war game.


I could get into the specifics of why the India-Pakistan situation is considerably less stable than the U.S.-Soviet situation, but it's late and I'm tired and it's been several years since I took that class, anyway. Suffice it to say that massive amounts of destructive capability does not a perfect deterrent make - witness World War I. Also, the details of new fighter development can leave one scratching one's head: as mentioned above, one of the major reasons for designing and building a souped-up new fighter is to maintain technological superiority over forces that are mainly using... our planes. However, to keep costs down, we've agreed to have other countries help fund JSF/F-35 development, and then sell some to them. If we're building the F-35 so that we have a better plane than anyone else, how much sense does it make to sell the aircraft to anyone else (and risk them eventually falling into the wrong hands)?

This is something I wonder about: not so much that money is being spent on the military, but that so much of it is spent in ways that do not seem to enhance national security, but that do bring jobs to various Congressional districts and therefore get passed. Military-industrial complex, y'all.
posted by skoosh at 3:07 AM on October 27, 2001


I always thought of the Harrier as more of a big badass helicopter than a fighter jet, that thing is packed with missiles and guns.. Isn't it odd how planes have been getting slower too as well? At least it seems they have..

And whatever happened to the Eurofighter?
posted by Mossy at 3:19 AM on October 27, 2001


And whatever happened to the Eurofighter?

We do not discuss it with outsiders - Worf ("Trials and Tribble-ations")
posted by lotsofno at 7:07 AM on October 27, 2001


Aw, man, the Boeing JSF was so much cooler to look at:



posted by nicwolff at 7:15 AM on October 27, 2001


Some hardware anecdotes:

Why does the F117 stealth fighter/attack plane have that dramatically faceted shape? It's not because of the need to control radar reflections (the B2 stealth bomber is as rounded as the F117 is angular). It's because the software used to design the stealth characteristics of the F117 could only model a limited nmber of surfaces.

Early on, the program that produced the F117 was a mid-priority project whose goal was to produce an experimental plane with a somewhat more faint radar signature, and it was totally open. Public proposals from the government, nothing classified at any level. Then they had the first head-to-head test, and Lockheed's design was fucking invisble to radars of the day, not merely less obvious. The feds quickly realized what a revolution they were looking at, and the veil of secrecy came down like ton of bricks. No public info, no reports on budgets, no flights near populations, nothing.

The unusual overall shape of the plane was designed by a team charged with making it stealthy. Getting it to work was a plane was another teams responsiblity. Allegedly, faced with a shape that looked pretty nothing like any plane anyone had ever seen, there was an exchange between reps from the two like this:

"Is it really that invisible to radar?"

"Yes, it really is."

pause, pause...

"Well, then we'll teach it to fly."

Supposedly Lockheed's secret plane design bureau is called the Skunkworks because early on, during a wartime crush of secrecy of need-it-yesterday life or death scedules, the engineers were kept away from home, and bathing facilities, for weeks on end. eww.
posted by NortonDC at 7:41 AM on October 27, 2001


The JSF project itself first grew out of a realisation in the US defence circles that if fighter aircraft prices grew at the then present rate, the US would only be able to afford a single aircraft in 2054.

Yes...yes...Send in just one plane to defeat an entire army...just crazy enough to work!
posted by fuq at 1:15 PM on October 27, 2001


Anyone else think that it looks very similar to the F-23?
posted by hobbes at 1:53 PM on October 27, 2001


mapalm: Rule number one of the government is to protect the nation. Rule number two is to provide rule of law (courts, police, etc). EVERYTHING else is secondary. Desirable, perhaps, but secondary nonetheless. Remember 9/11? You know, the grisly & sobering reality that there are evil people in this world who literally want Americans DEAD. In large numbers. By any means possible.

And re: amount of $$$. I'm sure the dollar figure is inflated to some degree, and of course there's some pork-barrelling, but it WORKS. Process could & should be improved, but probably won't be (a) signficantly or (b) soon.
posted by davidmsc at 10:57 PM on October 27, 2001


Them are your rules, davidmsc, not some written-in-stone codas from above.

Evil-shmeevil. Would that the world were so simple, david.

Inflated dollar figures? Yep, right into the pockets of Dick and Donald and Georgie's buddies. Please, look a little deeper than that.
posted by mapalm at 6:46 AM on October 28, 2001


Excuse me, mapalm, but they ARE written-in-stone codas from above, not just some "rules" that I made up:

"We the people of the United States, in order to form a more perfect union, establish justice, insure domestic tranquility, provide for the common defense, promote the general welfare, and secure the blessings of liberty to ourselves and our posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America." Sheesh, how much more plain could it be?

And for you to deny that evil exists in this world? Naivete to a scary degree. And re: inflated dollar figures -- not just Dick, Ron, & George. It happens in every administration, with people of all political stripes.
posted by davidmsc at 3:51 PM on October 28, 2001


I have been told that the deal was actually for $19 Billion, but could reach up to $200 Billion. That's the word around the office.
posted by emoeby at 7:37 AM on October 29, 2001


$200 billion over 10 years.

OK, david, but at the expense of everything else? No thanks. And I'm being naive? Yeah, "evil vs. good" is such a complex thought.

And just because it happens in every administration means we should just sit back and let ourselves get screwed? No thanks.
posted by mapalm at 7:51 AM on October 29, 2001


Lockheed, on the other hand, couldn't sell something to anyone other than the government if their life depended on it.

Korea, Japan, UAE, Greece, Israel, and others are all F-16 purchasers. Telesat Canada buys satellites from LM. Land's End bought an industrial mail sorter from LM. That's just a few of the customers I could find on the LM web site.

Yes but not as effectively as the JSF. It's much easier and more efficient now with this new plane...

One other thing about the LM JSF: the vertical lift is accomplished using cool air rather than hot engine air like its predecessors (and the Boeing version). This means less wear and tear on the landing surface.
posted by joaquim at 10:53 AM on October 29, 2001


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