Oh, no, my friends. The F-35 isn’t merely a gilt-edged albatross. It’s a gilt-edged albatross with whipped cream and a cherry on top.
Pentagon Report: F-35 Program Struggles With Quality Management
While there have been improvements, the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter program continues to struggle with quality management issues, according to a new report from the Pentagon’s Inspector General.
The watchdog found 363 issues, 147 of which it identified as “major.” The report defined major issues as “a nonfulfillment of a requirement that is likely to result in the failure of the quality management system or reduce its ability to ensure controlled processes or compliant products/services.”
Challenges identified in the report include the need for improved training, the need to improve criteria for acceptance of a plane, and unnecessary over-mixing of sealant used on the wings.
“Although it would be unrealistic to expect first production to be issue free, our contractor assessments indicate that greater emphasis on quality assurance, requirement flow down, and process discipline is necessary, if the Government is to attain lower program costs,” the IG wrote.
Inspectors found small improvements in the number of “quality action requests” needed for each lot of planes, with 972 requests per fighter in LRIP-1, 987 in LRIP-2, 926 in LRIP -3, and 859 in LRIP-4.
Similarly, there was a small change in the average rework, repair and scrap rates per aircraft, improving from 13.82 percent in FY 2012 down to 13.11 percent in FY 2013. The IG report describes these improvements as “only a moderate change.”
“F-35 Program quality metric data show improvement in scrap, rework, and repair rates and in software and hardware quality action requests per aircraft,” wrote the IG’s office. “However, the Government incurred and will continue to incur a significant cost for these issues, either through the previous cost-plus incentive/award/fixed-fee contracts or via quality incentives on future fixed-price incentive-fee contracts.”
The report was conducted between February 2012 and July 2013, a time period that saw dramatic changes to the F-35 program, including turnover at the top of both the Joint Program Office (JPO) and Lockheed Martin’s JSF team. Because of that time frame, the report is focused primarily on the first four low-rate initial production (LRIP) lots.
Lockheed and the JPO reached an agreement on LRIP-5 late last year, and announced Friday the details on lots six and seven, which top program officials have marked as a major milestone due to cost reductions.
The IG’s report focused on work done by Lockheed, in the role of prime contractor, but also inspected work done by five key suppliers: Northrop Grumman, the center fuselage integrator; BAE, the aft fuselage integrator; L-3 Display Systems, who handles the cockpit display; Honeywell Aerospace, managing the on-board oxygen generation system, and United Technologies work with the landing gear system.
Engine manufacturer Pratt & Whitney was not included in the report.
In an emailed statement, F-35 JPO spokesman Joe DellaVedova called the report “thorough, professional, well-documented and useful to the F-35 Enterprise.” But the statement also noted that much of what was in the report has been previously documented and is being addressed.
“A majority of the findings are consistent with weaknesses previously identified by the Defense Contract Management Agency (DCMA) and the F-35 Joint Program Office (JPO), and do not present new or critical issues that affect the health of the program,” DellaVedova’s statement read. “The assessment contains 363 findings, from which, 343 corrective action recommendations (CARs) were generated. As of September 30, 2013, 269 of the 343 CARs have been resolved (78%), with the remaining 74 still in work with Corrective Action Plans (CAPs) in development, or approved by not fully-implemented.”
“This 2012 DoD IG report is based on data that’s more than 16 months old and majority of the Corrective Action Requests (CARs) identified have been closed,” a corporate response from Lockheed Martin read, while noting that all open CARs are scheduled to be closed “by April 2014.”
“When discoveries occur, we take decisive and thorough action to correct the situation, continued the statement. “Our commitment is to deliver the F-35’s world class 5th Generation fighter capabilities to the warfighter on time and within budget.”
NEW MALDEN, England, Sept. 10 – A final batch of platform management system (PMS) hardware has been delivered to BAE Systems by Northrop Grumman for installation on a Royal Navy submarine.
“Northrop Grumman has a well-established relationship with the Royal Navy, supplying and supporting systems for surface ships and submarines,” said Andrew Tyler, Northrop Grumman’s chief executive, U.K. and Europe. “The continued success of our involvement in the Astute program is a reflection of the skill of our teams and the close partnership that we have with BAE Systems and the Ministry of Defense.”
The platform management systems controls and monitors a submarine’s platform machinery and onboard systems. Northrop Grumman’s Sperry Marine business unit supplied the PMS to BAE Systems Maritime–Submarines under a performance partnership arrangement. The PMS delivered will be installed on Astute Boat 5, the Anson.
Additionally, Northrop Grumman is currently under contract to supply PMS hardware and…
View original post 68 more words
“What R&D breakthroughs are required to give China a carrier-borne UCAV?” Seriously? Nicking the plans for the X-47B would do it. Certainly overcomes all the obstacles that the article claims need to be overcome. Has China suddenly developed an aversion to industrial espionage? Doubtful.
What R&D breakthroughs are required to give China a carrier-borne UCAV?
Military experts are currently speculating on whether China’s aircraft carrier may be equipped with unmanned combat air vehicles (UCAV). This has not only increased public interest in these new “robot fighters”, but also led China’s military devotees to wonder whether China’s forthcoming self-developed aircraft carrier will similarly be equipped with shipborne UCAVs.
The technical threshold of the unmanned air vehicle is relatively low. A company that can manufacture sophisticated model aircraft has the technology to develop a UAV. However, the threshold of a UCAV is more than 10 times higher than that of a UAV. The combat capability of UCAV requires particular abilities in target identification and autonomous attack. Thus the requirements of the observing and targeting system (eyes), the control system (brain), and the communication system (mouth and ears) of a UCAV are very high. On the one hand, the UCAV should be able to detect the target that is to be attacked, while transmitting images to remote controllers; on the other hand, the UCAV should be able to receive remote directions based on human judgment, and then launch attacks or engage in combat under remote control.
Shipborne UAVs were not manufactured specifically for aircraft carriers. It is already the case that some advanced modern destroyers and surface vessels have been equipped with shipborne UAVs.
But the greater platform size of an aircraft carrier creates the opportunity for large-scale UAVs with combat and attack capabilities. However, this presents a technical difficulty – carrier-borne UCAVs need all the functions of ordinary UCAVs, but also require an independent capacity to take off from and land on aircraft carriers. The requirements of carrier-borne UCAVs include not only attack and combat capability, but also the delicate maneuvers of ‘intelligent’ aircraft.
Therefore the development of a carrier-borne UCAV involves extremely high research costs and a complex development process. If China intends to commission UCAVs similar to the US carrier-borne X-47B, five technical breakthroughs must be made.
The first is advanced aerodynamic design. It can be seen from the shape of the X-47B that these designs improve stealth, increase flight range, and respond to the demands of air attack and combat. The X-47B, the UK “Taranis”, and France’s “Neuron” all feature a recessed rear inlet and flying-V wings.
The second step is advanced flight control technology. This is the real technical challenge for the UCAV. The carrier-borne UCAV requires a full range of capabilities covering takeoff, cruise, combat, withdrawal, and landing. The demands on the electronic take-off and landing systems for the moving deck of an aircraft carrier are significantly higher than the requirements for a land-based airport.
A UCAV’s flight control equipment adjusts the craft in flight. This requires the flight control computer to implement planning and design according to a series of algorithms as quickly as possible after feedback, and update in response to environment changes detected by sensors.
Combat imposes high demands on the UCAV’s flight control system. Whether in aerial combat or an attack on an enemy target, both the UCAV itself and the target can be moving at high speeds. The flight control system must be able to control the aerial maneuvers of the UCAV in response to a dynamic battlefield environment.
Returning to and landing on the aircraft carrier are the steps with the highest accident rate for both manned and unmanned combat aircraft. Therefore, China’s shipborne UCAV will require not only advanced satellite navigation, but also a higher specification of flight control system to achieve a safe landing.
The third element is intelligent attack-defense integrated firing control. The U.S. military classifies UAVs in levels ranging from ACL-1 to ACL-10 (totally autonomous). A relatively complete firing control system begins at level ACL-4. The more advanced generation of shipborne UCAVs such as the X-47B are classified at level ACL-6, that is a UAV with the capacity to deal with sudden threats and targets in the form of multiple drones. At this level, the shipborne UCAV is required to have an autonomous attack-defense integrated firing control system with a significant degree of “intelligence”.
The fourth feature is a high thrust-weight ratio turbofan, achieved at low cost. The turbojet/turbofan engines used on American UCAVs are always derived from civil engines or manned military planes. For example, the X-47B uses the F100-220U turbofan engine derived from the F-100, originally developed for the F-16. The characteristics and combat environment for a UCAV require that its engine should have a low fuel consumption rate, a high thrust-weight ratio, low R&D and purchase costs, convenience for maintenance, and fitness for long-term storage.
The fifth element is information security. Communications between the UCAV and the remote controller are very likely to be targeted for disruption by the adversary. Thus the UCAV must use the most sophisticated network security technology, and error-free self-destruct programs.
Although the UCAV is an excellent weapon, the technical difficulties cannot be ignored. UCAV development experts throughout the world have racked their brains in search of solutions to the problems posed by intelligent flight and firing control systems, and the need to guarantee information transmission security.
In the development of a carrier-borne UCAV, we need to exercise patience. If China intents to research and develop such an aircraft, then high-tech combat attributes should perhaps be considered as a second phase. Functions such as early warning, investigation, and relay-guidance of UAV can be executed as a first priority.
It’s called testing. Lord forgive them for not having every test go 100% perfectly every single time.
X-47B Fails Landing Attempt – Again
Unmanned Jet Was Trying To Repeat Last Week’s Success
WASHINGTON — The X-47B unmanned jet, which successfully landed twice last week on an aircraft carrier, was unable to repeat the feat Monday, U.S. Navy sources confirmed July 16.
The aircraft nailed its first two landing attempts July 10 on the USS George H. W. Bush, but a third landing that day was aborted when the aircraft’s systems detected a problem with an onboard computer. Following its programming, the aircraft then flew to a “divert” field at Wallops Island, Va., where it remains.
Naval Air Systems Command (NAVAIR) and Northrop Grumman engineers were back on board the carrier Monday to try for a third successful “trap,” this time using the other of two X-47B aircraft.
But it didn’t happen. The aircraft developed technical issues while in flight from Naval Air Station Patuxent River, Md., to the ship and officials decided to abort the attempt before the X-47B reached the vicinity of the carrier, steaming off the U.S. east coast.
Nevertheless, officials have termed the tests “successful” in that the program’s objectives of demonstrating unmanned flight on and off an aircraft carrier were achieved. And at least in the case of the July 10 waveoff, the system’s ability to detect and respond to a problem was validated, if unintentionally. But the fact is that four times the Navy attempted to land the aircraft on the ship, and only two attempts were successful.
Officials point out that the program’s requirements called only for one successful landing, although testers targeted three at-sea traps.
“Initial parameters for the test required three traps on board the carrier,” a Navy official said Tuesday. “However, after two successful traps and two wave-offs, the Navy is confident it has collected the data necessary to advance this program and develop the requirements for UCLASS.”
The Unmanned Carrier Launched Surveillance and Strike Program is the follow-on effort to develop an operational unmanned aircraft using technologies and lessons learned from the X-47. Navy officials hope to field a UCLASS aircraft by 2019.
Underscoring the effort’s importance, the July 10 event was attended by Secretary of the Navy Ray Mabus, Adm. Jonathan Greenert, chief of naval operations, and more than two dozen media representatives. The secretary and CNO were effusive in their praise for the program and the technological achievement, and of the historic nature of the events. The successful landing received extensive national and international media coverage, as did the first catapult launch from the ship on May 14.
With the failure of the July 15 test, the program’s flying days are all but over. The aircraft used on Monday, numbered 501, remains at Pax River, and no further X-47B flying tests are scheduled after 502 flies from Wallops Island to Pax River.
Funding for the X-47B, under the Unmanned Combat Air System Aircraft Carrier Demonstration (UCAS-D) program, runs out at the end of September with the close of the fiscal year.
A statement was issued by NAVAIR late Tuesday afternoon about Monday’s incident, reproduced here in full:
“The Unmanned Combat Air System Demonstration (UCAS-D) program successfully completed testing with the X-47B aboard USS George H.W. Bush (CVN 77) July 15, culminating a decade of Navy unmanned integration efforts that show the Navy’s readiness to move forward with unmanned carrier aviation, says Rear Adm. Mat Winter, who oversees the Program Executive Office for Unmanned Aviation and Strike Weapons in Patuxent River, Md.
“On July 10, the X-47B completed the first-ever arrested landing of an unmanned aircraft aboard CVN 77. Shortly after the initial landing, the aircraft was launched off the ship using the carrier’s catapult and completed a second successful landing.
“ ‘We accomplished the vast majority of our carrier demonstration objectives during our 11 days at sea aboard CVN 77 in May,” said Capt Jaime Engdahl, Navy UCAS program manager. “The final end-to-end test of the UCAS including multiple arrested landings, flight deck operations, steam catapults, to include hot refueling procedures, was accomplished on July 10 and the procedures, the X-47B aircraft and the entire carrier system passed with flying colors.’”
“During its final approach to the carrier on July 10, the X-47B aircraft, “Salty Dog 502”, self-detected a navigation computer anomaly that required the air vehicle to return to shore, where it landed at Wallops Island Air Field. The X-47B navigated to the facility and landed without incident. Salty Dog 502 is scheduled to fly back to Pax River later this week.
“Aircraft “Salty Dog 501″ was launched to the ship on July 15 to collect additional shipboard landing data. During the flight, the aircraft experienced a minor test instrumentation issue and returned to NAS Patuxent River, where it safely landed. There were no additional opportunities for testing aboard CVN 77, which returned to port today.
“ ‘Completing the first-ever arrested landing with an autonomous, unmanned aircraft is truly a revolutionary accomplishment for the U.S. Navy,” said Winter. “This demonstration has successfully matured the needed critical technologies for operations in the actual carrier environment and has set the stage for Naval Aviation to blaze the trail for relevant unmanned, carrier-based warfighting capabilities.’”
Please note the strong assertion that this is not to replace the F-35, but merely supplement it. Which, of course, means it will replace the F-35… and we’re all left wondering why we went ahead and spent so much money on it in the first place.
USN, Industry Seek New Concepts For 6th-generation Fighter
WASHINGTON — The makeup of the US Navy’s carrier air wings will start to shift in a few years as the F-35C joint strike fighter begins to enter service. The typical carrier flight deck will see both F-35s and F/A-18 E/F Super Hornets in operation. But thoughts already are turning to what lies beyond the F-35’s fifth-generation aviation technology, to the planes that in the 2030s will begin to replace the F/A-18s flying with US and international services.
Rear Adm. Bill Moran, the Navy’s director of air warfare in the Pentagon, offered his thoughts on the future aircraft, dubbed the F/A-XX, during an interview in the Pentagon.
Q. Where are you today on what you think the sixth-generation aircraft is?
A. We don’t talk in terms of generations of airplanes. It’s really ill-defined in my view, and mostly wrapped around stealth technology. So we are not in the business of trying to design and build a sixth-generation air wing. I do not even talk about sixth generation. But I do talk about where our aircraft quantities start to run out of service life.
The bulk of our force today are Super Hornets and they will be there for a long time, out until the end of the 2020s, early 2030s timeframe. But then that need starts to occur when the airplanes reach 9,000 hours of service life. When that happens, we are either going to buy a bunch more F-35Cs, or we are going to have to start looking at capability that we can replace the capability set, the mission set that the F/A-18 E/Fs do today.
We are taking an approach called FA-XX. We’ll [start a study] next year that would assess all those missions the F/A-18 E/F plugs into, in the air wing. How could we capture those capabilities in another way instead of buying another very high-end, very expensive platform replacement? Certainly there will be platforms involved, but do they have to be platforms that look and feel and operate much like an F/A-18 E/F or an F-35 does today? Could it be done differently? Could we do the mission sets different?
For example, we talk a lot to NAVAIR [Naval Air Systems Command] about future designs being more of a truck that has an open architecture design, so you can plug different sensors, different payloads and weapons into that for a specific mission, and be able to move those sensors and payloads around so you can do multiple different missions on different days, or different sorties, instead of trying to build everything into a jet — that becomes very expensive.
It is very much in line with [the direction of Adm. Jonathan Greenert, chief of naval operations], where he talked about payloads over platforms. In other words, the payload piece is what is important. Getting the right payload in the right place, at the right time is also critical. But what kind of truck that payload rides around on is what we are really after.
So we want to look holistically at all of the things that contribute to a mission. They include space-based. They include other platforms that are already part of the air wing — E-2D Hawkeyes, EA-18G Growlers — and the rotary wing component. How do we do a system-of-systems look across all of those platforms, and decide what capability gaps we need to cover as the F/A-18 E/Fs start to fall off?
Now we try to tell industry that we are just opening up the aperture to have a conversation about what they think the art of the possible is. I have had some great discussions with industry partners about this. Do not just look to walk in here with a new design, a sixth-generation aircraft. I am not interested in that conversation yet. I am interested in what are the technologies that you think you can bring? And specifically propulsion, which drives future capability. That is the timeline driver. If you are looking at a game-changing propulsion capability, whether it is long dwell, fast and high, all of those types of attributes to a propulsion capability, we have got to start working that now to lead to whatever the truck looks like.
And as you are developing that propulsion capability, then you can start to look at what kind of payloads? What kind of sensors? What kind of integrating capability that you want to develop across the air wing, so you continue to have the same effect of a different shape, a different mix of an air wing in the future.
Q. Do you think about unmanned aerial vehicles?
A. You could look at small UAVs launched off a truck that do different mission sets currently done by larger platforms that are very costly or expensive. There are lots of [concept of operations] questions that come into play as we study this. And of course, now you are trying to project a threat that is in the 2030s and ’40s and even in the ’50s — and what that threat could evolve to. That is going to drive a lot of how you view what the air wing ought to look like that far out.
So it really is our opportunity right now, while we are building F-35s, while we are continuing to mature F/A-18 E/Fs to deal with the ’20s and ’30s. What are we looking at beyond that?
When you look at normal development plans that take an average of 17 years for aviation, we are at that point right now if we are truly going to get to a 2030 capability. But we are not bought into [whether] it has to be a high-end fighter, or a high-end anything. What we do know is that we need to design it to allow us the most flexibility in how we operate that, whatever it is in the future.
Do not wait for us to tell you line by line what the requirement is. We are way too early in that. I need to understand what you think are the possibilities in propulsion, sensors, networks, architecture. All of those things have to be designed into whatever this thing might look like in the future.
Q. You issued a request for information (RFI) about a year ago for the next fighter. What were the responses?
A. Official responses are highly classified; we are parsing through with a team at NAVAIR and in our Special Programs branch. And they are intriguing. They run the gamut of, here is our aircraft design of the future, to here is a capability design of the future. And somewhere in there is our trade space and how we are going to view this.
But again, it just opens up the conversation. We are very early in this. And what we hope to do is now take that process into an analysis of alternatives, a formal AOA, that will take a couple of years to complete because it is very complex. We hope to get it started in 2014.
Q. The logical responders to the RFI would be Boeing, Lockheed Martin, Northrop Grumman. Are you interested also in hearing from conceptual groups, not necessarily aircraft manufacturers?
A. The major folks have all jumped in, and to the degree to which we have maybe some others that might want to contribute in a different way, I could not tell you right now. But I want to hear from people who think completely outside our normal acquisition process.
Q. What is your thinking about a manned versus unmanned fighter?
A. What we said in the RFI was, we want you to think manned, unmanned and optionally manned. We are not trying to drive a solution here. And we recognize there might be different mixes of those options that are more effective in the ’30s and ’40s than what we have today. But we want to understand why you think that. What are the capabilities they bring? And then let’s have a discussion.
Q. Are you driving to introduce an aircraft around 2030?
A. Yes. See, everybody wants to dive right back into, do you want a platform? And my answer is, I know I am going to start to lose the capability set that Super Hornet brings to the air wing today, starting in the late ’20s or early ’30s. So what capabilities can we start designing that replace that, the mission sets that the Super Hornet does today? When you think there are at least nine or 10 different missions the Super Hornet contributes to today, does it have to be done by the same very advanced, complex capable airplane platform?
Q. Do you envision that say, in 2040, the FA-XX will completely replace the F-35 along with the Super Hornets? Or will it serve alongside the F-35?
A. This effort is not at all to replace the F-35 — it is almost if you flip it upside down. When you look out in the ’30s and ’40s, what we are aiming to do is to complement what the F-35 brings, much like the F-35 will complement what the F-18s currently bring and deliver in the air wing. Today, there is a graceful, gradual replacing of legacy Hornets with F-35s. As the F-18 population starts to run out of service life, we have got to bring in a new capability that complements what the F-35 brings.
The new T-AO(X) class will operate in the same primary rôle as T-AO 187 class fleet replenishment oilers in support of the US Navy force. Additionally, when combined with a T-AKE 1 class dry cargo & ammunition ship, the T-AO(X)/T-AKE 1 logistics team can replace a T-AOE 6 class combat support ship within a Carrier Strike Group (CSG) or Amphibious Readiness Group (ARG).
NAVSEA Awards Three Contracts for Oiler Development
Naval Sea Systems Command has issued three contracts to shipyards for work toward the Navy’s next-generation fleet oiler (T-AO(X)).
General Dynamics NASSCO, Huntington Ingalls Industries and VT Halter Marine, “were each awarded firm-fixed price contracts at or below the not-to-exceed amount of $1.7 million as contained in the solicitation for Trade-Off Industry Studies,” according to a Wednesday release from NAVSEA.
The companies will provide studies that will explore affordable design for the next-generation oilers. The six to ten month studies will inform system specifications ahead of the next contract award which will support detailed construction of T-AO(X).
The Navy is planning for a class of 17 ships to replace the current crop of Supply-class and Henry J Kaiser class oilers with the first ship to begin construction and enter the fleet in 2020.
Earlier this year, the Navy announced it would decommission Supply-class ships USNS Bridge (T-AOE-10) in 2014 and USNS Rainier (T-AOE-7) in 2015 for a $251 million savings as part of the Fiscal Year 2014 Pentagon budget submission.
How many buzzwords can you fit into one 6-minute promotional video?
Although I’d wager a Frobisher & Gleason raspberry-flavored ice lolly that the RAF claim the RPVs as “theirs” and shunt the RN to one side.
Northrop Grumman displays MQ-4C Triton maritime surveillance drone in the UK
After avoiding high profile, expensive events such as the Paris Airshow, Northrop Grumman opted to become one of the principal industry sponsors at the 19th annual Waddington International Air Show, being heldJuly 6-7 at RAF Waddington, Lincolnshire in the UK. Defense-Update reports.
The company will display here a full scale model of the MQ-4C Triton maritime surveillance drone it is building for the US Navy. There are several reasons for the appearance of the Triton here – the US Navy is seeking overseas basing for this drone, and Northrop Grumman is looking for new international markets for the aircraft, the UK is likely to be one of these markets.
For the Brits, the maritime surveillance capability of Triton could fulfil a capability gap created after the Nimrod maritime patrol aircraft (MPA) were phased out in 2010 and development of a new generation MPA aircraft terminated under the Strategic Defence and Security Review.
In December 2012 Defence secretary Philip Hammond said the Libya campaign had shown Nato’s over reliance on the US, he added that using unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) would be cheaper and less risky than developing a manned maritime surveillance aircraft. “It may be that we will move straight to unmanned reconnaissance vehicles that can do the task at lower cost and much less risk to the crew.” Hammond told members of the Parliament’s joint committee on the national security strategy.
Triton is the most advanced intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance unmanned aircraft system ever designed for use across vast ocean areas and coastal regions. Triton is designed to fly surveillance missions of up to 24 hours duration and at altitudes of more than 10 miles, allowing coverage out to 2,000 nautical miles at a time.