Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Another Mil-Spec AR-15 Build Project: This One Was a Gift

Obviously. I'm Glad I Did it WHEN I Did It.

JD Machine Stripped Lower from SOG Armory
CMMG Lower Parts Kit
M4 Spec Adjustable Stock
DPMS 5.56 16" A3 Upper w/ 9:1 twist, standard front sight/gas block and Flash Suppressor
MBUS Gen II folding rear sight.
Just Before  Gen II rear Sight Came in the Mail
As much cr*p as I've read over the years about DPMS fitment and quality, I've found their 'uppers' very much a 'good value', and they sit very well on JD Machine lowers.

BTW: I've updated mine a bit since IOC was achieved:

 Additions: Magpul 'MOE' stock, ambidextrous safety and charging handle, and LED light.
The LED light I can operate with my right thumb while aiming and illuminating varmint of the two or four legged variety at a pretty good distance without washing out the green laser.

Friday, December 21, 2012

Smacking Down Gun-Grabber's (Cough) 'Reasons' (Cough)

Hat-tip to Instapundit (who is bumping this story to keep it in view).

Larry Correia.  Source
The author Larry Correia got his start in writing by 'self-publishing' a young adult fantasy best-seller that got the attention of mainstream publishing. But before that, he was firmly established in firearms and law enforcement circles. He's got a GREAT summary of all the intellectually effete 'anti-gun' crowd's so-called 'arguments' once again being trotted out in the wake of the latest mass murder of innocent children and teachers at Sandy Hook elementary.

Correia's blog post can be read in its entirety here, but here's his conclusion: 
In conclusion, basically it doesn’t really matter what something you pick when some politician or pundit starts screaming we’ve got to do something, because in reality, most of them already know a lot of what I listed above. The ones who are walking around with their security details of well-armed men in their well-guarded government buildings really don’t care about actually stopping mass shooters or bad guys, they care about giving themselves more power and increasing their control.  
If a bad guy used a gun with a big magazine, ban magazines. If instead he used more guns, ban owning multiple guns. If he used a more powerful gun with less shots, ban powerful guns. If he used hollowpoints, ban hollowpoints. (which I didn’t get into, but once again, there’s a reason everybody who might have to shoot somebody uses them). If he ignored some Gun Free Zone, make more places Gun Free Zones. If he killed a bunch of innocents, make sure you disarm the innocents even harder for next time. Just in case, let’s ban other guns that weren’t even involved in any crimes, just because they’re too big, too small, too ugly, too cute, too long, too short, too fat, too thin, (and if you think I’m joking I can point out a law or proposed law for each of those) but most of all ban anything which makes some politician irrationally afraid, which luckily, is pretty much everything.  
They will never be happy. In countries where they have already banned guns, now they are banning knives and putting cameras on every street. They talk about compromise, but it is never a compromise. It is never, wow, you offer a quick, easy, inexpensive, viable solution to ending mass shootings in schools, let’s try that. It is always, what can we take from you this time, or what will enable us to grow some federal apparatus? 
Then regular criminals will go on still not caring, the next mass shooter will watch the last mass shooter be the most famous person in the world on TV, the media will keep on vilifying the people who actually do the most to defend the innocent, the ignorant will call people like me names and tell us we must like dead babies, and nothing actually changes to protect our kids.  
If you are serious about actually stopping school shootings, contact your state representative and tell them to look into allowing someone at your kid’s school to be armed. It is time to install some speed bumps.

As 'they' say, go to the link and read it all.

Sunday, December 16, 2012

Gun Control

As chance would have it, yesterday was my Texas Concealed Handgun Law training course and qualification.  Two nights before, I was studying the latest Texas CHL manual online, and wincing as I went over the parts that delineated the 'gun free zone' areas, and thinking, in the wake of the Oregon mall shooting, in most cases it is pretty stupid to create what is actually a 'target rich environment' zone for the sick and twisted who would try and commit mass killing of innocent others.
While the rest of my family spent the day trying to avoid all the 'news' and constant revision thereof, concerning the elementary school killings that happened the day before, one of the first things we covered was WHY Texas was a CHL  'shall issue' state. Surprise! It was largely the result of  a mass killing, the Luby's Cafeteria Massacre on October 16, 1991, in Killeen, Texas, and the efforts of one of the survivors, Suzanna Gratia Hupp. Ms. Hupp's story and energy in making the laws more protective of the individual was a powerful weapon. Her testimony before Congress even managed to subdue the perennially pompous a** Chuck Schumer for a time:

Time will tell if Chuckie starts bloviating again as if the above never happened.

This was my Target and Scoring Used

Texas uses the B-27 target for qualification:

This is the Course of Fire:

Stage 1: Twenty shots (20) will be fired from 3 yards.
A. Five (5) shots fired in a “One Shot Exercise” 2 seconds allowed.
B. Ten shots (10) fired in a “Two Shot Exercise” 3 seconds allowed.
C. Five (5) shots fired in 10 seconds

Stage 2: Twenty shots (20) will be fired from 7 yards – fired 5 stages.
A. Five (5) shots will be fired in 10 seconds
B. Five (5) shots will be fired in 2 stages:
  1. Two (2) shots will be fired in 4 seconds
  2. Three (3) shots will be fired in 6 seconds
C. Five (5) shots fired in a “One Shot Exercise” 3 seconds allowed.
D. Five (5) shots fired in 15 seconds.

Stage 3: Ten shots (10) fired from 15 yards – fired in two 5-shot strings.
A. Five (5) shots fired in two stages:
   1. Two (2) shots fired in 6 seconds.
   2. Three (3) shots fired in 9 seconds.
B. Five (5) shots fired in 15 seconds.

This was my 'grouping':

IMHO, not bad, especially since the 50 rounds represent about a fifth of all the rounds I've put downrange with this weapon. I've decided it shoots a 'tidge to the right and will be adjusting the sight appropriately.

This was my 'score':

Texas only records Pass/Fail. The 249 out of 250 only serves to make this shooter cry in his beer. 'Dang! So close...'.  I took comfort in acing the written though.

The above is an example of  'Gun Control'
BTW, Have you heard? Evidently the Oregon Mall shooter only shot two people before he took his own life BECAUSE he was confronted by a person licensed to 'concealed carry'

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

The Mysterious LM 'CUDA' Missile"...

May not be that mysterious after all.

readers will remember a couple of days ago when I put up my first post speculating about features seen on representations of a, I assume, proposed Lockheed Martin initiative: the  'CUDA' missile. I showed a 'rough estimate' of it's proportions and component locations IF the missile were truly "SDB-size".

It didn't take much research to come up with what I think is a highly-probable explanation for those 'mysterious' spots.  I assume someone else has probably already figured out a likely explanation somewhere as well, and since I work long hours, they probably have already spilled the beans, but here comes  my analysis anyway, with some weight and performance analysis thrown in to boot :

Kudos to Scott Lowther Who Was, at the Very Least, MOSTLY Right...

In his original post at the Unwanted Blog, Scott Lowther had speculated:
"My guess would be that this might be a large number of small solid rocket divert motors designed to help pitch the missile hard over in order to nail incoming jinking missiles head-on".
While I wouldn't rule out the capability to pitch the missile hard over to get 'incoming', I'm convinced the 'divert motors' idea is 'spot on' for the missile concept as shown. I believe that if the details are ever revealed, in retrospect, this feature is easy to explain.

Ockham's Razor

The spots are almost certainly Attitude Control Motors (ACMs). The design and placement are most suggestive of Lockheed Martin's PAC 3 Missile design:

I couldn't find a technical description of the PAC 3's ACMs, but did find a paper (source) that discussed the ERINT-1 missile's (from which the PAC 3 evolved) ACM installation:
The ACS contains 180 solid propellant Attitude Control Motors (ACMs) that thrust perpendicular to the centerline of the missile to provide pitch and yaw control during the homing phase. The ACMs are spaced evenly around the centerline of the missile in rings containing 18 motors. There are 10 rings in the ACS in the longitudinal direction for a total of 180 motors. The ACMs are commanded by the Motor Fire Circuit (MFC).
I did manage to find a closeup of the PAC 3 ACM module being manufactured in a Lockheed Martin PAC-3 product brochure. It appears to be just as the one described in the ERINT-1 paper. :

I submit that the ACMs are what puts the 'Hit' in "Hit to Kill" for the CUDA design.

Estimating CUDA Component Weights and Performance

[And remember, we're basing all this 'estimating' on a convention display model, vague comments, and a computer graphic!]

The discovery of what the magic spots were all about greatly simplified some assumptions that needed to be made as to CUDA missile weights, which in turn can give us clues in estimating performance.

Rather than 'absolute' performance, I will be discussing the possible CUDA numbers in terms of relevance to AMRAAM performance. I'm doing this for a couple of reasons. First, there is an EXCELLENT discussion of air-launched missile performance in general and likely AMRAAM performance available as 'backgrounder' on a thread here.  Second, the AMRAAM makes an excellent 'baseline' for comparative analysis.

Sizing the CUDA
If the CUDA is as it appears to be, it is just under half the length of the AMRAAM.

AMRAAM Profile Layed Over CUDA Graphic to Estimated Scale. (AMRAAM is white space INSIDE border shown)

But the relative fractional composition of the CUDA and the AMRAAM are significantly different. The following shows the CUDA's estimated relative proportion to the AMRAAM.(Notes: 1. Length is in Inches, 2. Rocket Motor (RM) Length is without blast tubes that run through the rear control section. 3. RM% comparison indicates that percentage of length of the CUDA that is RM is 26% greater a proportion of overall length than the AMRAAMs % and 4. Estimated total volume is not including radome which is assumed to be mostly 'empty'.)
The CUDA estimate indicates a larger rocket Motor as a Percentage of total Length and Volume than the AMRAAM
From comparing the two missiles, I find that the CUDA could weigh as little as 153 Lbs. Knowing more about the 'mystery spots' makes me think the weight would be slightly higher. If I include the ACMs as part of the Warhead module weight, I think the breakdown of weight by Rocket Motor, Warhead and Guidance and Control in comparison to the AMRAAM should look very much like:

With most trade off variability in the CUDA WH and G&C weights. the fraction most important to get right is the RM propellant weight as a percentage (I used 85% as they did in the linked thread) of total RM weight.

If we refer to the 'Delta V' formula at the thread I linked to above, and assume the CUDA uses the same rocket propellant mix that the AMRAAM does, we will find that the CUDA can weigh as much as 181 lbs, providing ~71.15 of the CUDA's 83.7 lb RM is propellant, to have an EQUAL top speed potential of the AMRAAM. As the discussion thread also notes, the AMRAAM isn't advertised to go as fast as the RM could carry it, because a percentage of propellant is reserved for a reduced 'sustainer boost'. This could also be true for the CUDA.

Depending upon how fast the CUDA decelerates due to drag after the RM burns out will determine what the actual range of the CUDA would be compared to the AMRAAM. Again, from the thread linked to above, we find:
Drag force (Newtons) = 0.5 x P x V^2 x Cd x A

P = Density of Air (kg/m^3)
V = Velocity (m/s)
Cd = Co-efficient of Drag ; ~ 0.6 to 0.95 for rockets depending mostly on finnage,
nose and tail profile
A = Sectional Area (m^2)
We've reduced the variables for our comparison to Cd and A

1. we've already established the fineness ratio for the CUDA concept shown is closer to the optimum '14' than the AMRAAM is in my earlier post, and
2. it appears the finnage and tail profile may be slightly higher drag  features than the AMRAAM's (hard to tell, perhaps insignificantly so, or little better or worse either way), in all likelihood the Cd of the CUDA is approximately equal to the AMRAAM.
3. In any case, the 'A' of the CUDA is about 27% lower than the AMRAAM's which is definitely an advantage to the CUDA

We can reasonably conclude that the CUDA is a Medium Range Missile design, and approximate to the AMRAAM in range.

I like the idea of an F-35 carrying 8-12 of these suckers and I'd like to see this kind of  missile come to fruition.

I'm MOST certain that if I missed anything on this late night exercise, SOMEONE will let me know. Did I mention we're basing all this 'estimating' on a convention display model, vague comments, and a computer graphic?

Sunday, December 09, 2012

LRS "News"? Pffft -- What is Old Is New Again

Dave Majumdar at Flight Global has commentary (but no link such as this)  concerning an aircraft design patent application by Northrop Grumman. He speculates a bit as to its relevance to a possible Long Range Strike design that NG may, or may not, have in the works.

This design concept is not 'New'.

Popular Science used an artist's concept of the design as a visual aid to discuss (poorly) potential advancements and their relevance:

But before that, (March 2009) John Croft at Flight Global noted the filing of the patent:

And in December 2007, Graham Warwick ALSO had a Flight Global post up commenting on an non-LRS application for apparently the same design: the "Speed Agile" project.:

(The canards make sense for a STOL airlifter more than anything else.)

Modularity Smodularity

As to Dave's "Interestingly, one of the big innovations was that it was designed for modular construction--which could make it less ungodly expensive" line, I note that the design 'modularity' looks almost JUST like the B-2's design approach. Note that MOST of the B-2 was assembled from modules built outside then-Northrop:

In case it needs to be said, again, the reason the B-2 became 'ungodly expensive' is ONLY because of two reasons:
1. The late change in requirements that tasked Northrop to build a bomber that could also fly low-level instead of the initial requirement for only high-altitude operation. This late requirement forced a redesign and stretched the development schedule.
2. The 'buy' getting cut from 132 bombers to 20 bombers. this was by far the biggest cost contributor to the whole program. 

Friday, December 07, 2012

Canada Cancels F-35?

Canadian Liberal Politicians and Their 'Operatives with Bylines' are Headhunting

Libs in the Great White North, who are no doubt just as brain dead as their south of the border brethren, seem to have a target painted on the F-35. Only the F-35 isn't really what they're going after: they're after the politicians who backed it.

This latest round seems to be an attempt to manufacture outrage over 'estimated' life-cycle sustainment costs.

One Big 'L' Liberal rag reports their wet dream come true:
"Federal government cancels F-35 fighter purchase"

Other outlets, including ones who should know better, report what the Big L Liberal rag reported. They did so with varying degrees of scepticism or enthusiasm (you can guess which reports what with alarming predictability),

But wait!

 Now it is reported the initial report was wrong, in an article full of leftard political ranting no less.
The Conservative government says it has not made a decision on the F-35 as a replacement for Canada's CF-18 fighter jets, but it now appears to concede that alternative fighter purchase options will be considered. 
The Prime Minister's Office denied a media report Thursday that the F-35 purchase was dead, calling the report "inaccurate on a number of fronts" and promising to update the House of Commons on its seven-point plan to replace the jets before the House rises for the Christmas break at the end of next week.

Even Reuters didn't over-commit on this meme (yet). It doesn't matter. The "STORY" is really about sliming the people who made the decision to sole source the F-35 vs. compete it against a bunch of 4th Generation targets. Not because of the decision really, but just because they can (think Scorpion and the Frog)  

If the Canadian Government does decide to reopen the issue with a 'competition' (which won't surprise me either way) it will be for one reason only: politics. If a competition is held and the F-35 isn't selected it will be for one reason only: politics. No 'story' there.

BTW, I note the offending paper 'who cried wolf' is the same rag that created the "Spitfire vs. F-35" fairy tale I eviscerated earlier. A**hats.


Wednesday, December 05, 2012

Oh Noes! Bill Sweetman Keeps Bringing back the 80's

Looks like another generation gets to deal with the problem child that won't grow up. 


I'm still working on 'guesstimates' of the performance and design nuances of the LM in-house CUDA missile project. It's not a 'secret program' and from what I can tell, not even a government program. (Though there is almost certainly some classified technology involved about which I won't hazard to even guess about in private). From all indications so far, based upon the verbiage I've seen, the 'difficulty' the LM marketeers are having in releasing info is related to 'Proprietary' concerns. If I find out otherwise, I'll probably drop it and STFU.

Contrast talking about a company-funded concept slow-leaked by the marketing department, with Bill Sweetman's latest offal.

A few observations ought to sufficiently express my... distaste shall we say, with anyone actively trying to delve into national secrets as if it is either some noble public service or even a respectable endeavor.


The 'sources'  who can't be  named should be tried and shot if they're 'credible' at all. If they are 'credible' they are probably Congressional Staffers, or people who have a habit of stroking Staffer egos they should be shot twice.

Texas Sharpshooter Approach 

Sweetman covers a lot of speculative ground concerning what might be black budget activities. he throws enough up against the wall and he MIGHT get something close to right that he can point to later. He's probably hoping he does better than he did in the 80's and 90's. I'm hoping he keeps repeating the Aurora and Stealth Aircraft debacles.


I usually LOVE Sweetman's retrospectives on historical aircraft or aircraft already in the public eye. That which I don't like is whenever he substitutes 'narrative' for actual 'history'.  It's his speculative stuff that serves no purpose other than to perhaps reveal or point to secrets that those responsible for the defense of the nation have deemed necessary to keep secret, that drove us up the wall in the 80s-00's.

The Cognitive Dissonance of  Lamenting High Defense Budgets While Subverting Defense Program Objectives

Has Bill Sweetman EVER pondered how much of the utility of the U-2 and  SR-71 and their relatively long service lives were due to the secrecy that surrounded them? Has he ever postulated how many weapons programs didn't NEED to be developed, so long as the SR-71 was effective?

The Next Generation Warrior's Burden: It's 'CRAPTASTIC'!

Looks like an entirely new generation of weapon system developers and secret squirrels gets to deal with Sweetman's overwrought hand-wringing ( Is There Too Much Secrecy? Answer: NO.), perennial heavy-handed fishing expeditions, and fanboy fellow-travellers propagating his mythology across the world wide web.

BTW: I winder if ole' Bill even noticed the irony of sharing the byline on this piece with a guy... in China?  Who needs Wikileaks when we've still got AvLeak?

Tuesday, December 04, 2012

"The Mysterious LM 'CUDA' Missile" Or....

I Get to Play 'the Capability Speculator' For a Change

Hat tip: The Aviationist via The Unwanted Blog

I freely admit most of it will be guessing (even though most of that is "Educated Guessing")

From the articles at the links, we find a little more info concerning a Lockheed Martin Air-to-Air Missile concept that 'someone' would like to be developed into a viable weapon system. Read it all at the sources, I'm not going to repeat verbatim what was revealed here, we'll just use the info as required.

There's not much hard info to go on yet, and I would hesitate to speculate about it, like I'm going to, if it were an actual DoD program. I'm also going to play off comments, if there are any, that may come up on this topic.

So for this initial post, I'm just going to note that at 'The Aviationist', the article has a source saying the CUDA is about Small Diameter Bomb (SDB) size. IF the CUDA concept shown IS the same 'size' as the SDB then the component breakdown of the missile would be as shown in the graphic below:
CUDA Missile Component Dimensions If same size as SDB, Original Photo found at The Aviationist
Notice I've placed "question marks" for the ~12 inch long section behind the guidance section. As Scott Lowther observed at his place, that is the most mysterious aspect of the design. The section could involve something really new and different in missile design, but at least part of it is (as shown) a warhead, as the yellow band indicates a High Explosive present. Since the missile is 'Hit to Kill', the explosive weight of the warhead should be much smaller than the warhead in a 'Proximity Fuzed' weapon.

That leaves ~8 inches of mysterious 'spots' to be explained. I can think of a lot of functions that these 'spots' could be related to, and in the absence of additional information, none leap out as 'most likely'. If we begin making assumptions, then.....maybe some do. If we assume capabilities planned for the  F-35 affected the design, then perhaps some sort of data link antenna array? If we assume it is related to the warhead (or as I mentioned at Lowther's place in the comments, the trademarked CUDA name) are there 'teeth' in there to shred airplane structure and systems after it has impacted?

The concept as presented (size of an SDB) would have pretty decent supersonic drag, as it's 'fineness ratio' is close to the optimum ~14 (Raymer) which is a good thing (but no guarantee) for getting longer 'range'. It is about equidistant on the short side from the optimum as the AIM-7F/M Sparrow is on the high side. See table below.
Data Source:
 Because the proportion of mass that is rocket motor in this concept is much higher than typical missiles, I would expect it accelerates to max speed over launch speed much faster than anything we currently use. The upper limit of the speed reached may be higher than other missiles as well, in multiples of speed of sound. But from the ogive shape of the nose, which is a shape that balances aerodynamic and RF transmissivity requirement, not as fast as it might otherwise be (not a bad thing, maneuverability is still needed (are we back to those 'spots' again?).

Almost Forgot: One Potential F-35 Loadout:
One CUDA Missile Carriage Concept:  12 CUDAs in F-35 Weapon Bays, 6 to a side.
P.S. Dave Majumdar at Flight Global has a short note up about the CUDA with some good points but some pretty boilerplate-lousy unattributed quotes. One in particular:
Another source adds: "Let's just say if they can turn a missile into a 'hittile' that is a big deal."
If you weren't around when British Aerospace was using that turn of the phrase as a marketing hook for their point-defense Rapier missile system, you might think the 'another source' above was being pretty clever.

Saturday, December 01, 2012

F-35 and the "Crackpots of Doom" (Redux)

(Updated and Bumped for comparison.)

Gee, has it been a year already?
In the original post below, among other things I demonstrated/showed:
1) That the official F-35 cost projections at the time had been  complete 'fails' and that production costs were tracking closer to LM's projections than anything else and much lower than the CAIG's.  
2) That there was a disconnect between what the Government was 'budgeting' and what they expected the costs to be.
3) The scary Mod dollars that will be needed to retrofit LRIP 1-4, when added to the initial costs appeared to STILL be within reasonable estimation of LM's production numbers.
The USG has negotiated the LRIP 5 production numbers and it looks like the trend continues. Here's the relevant part of the official news release (Bold italics mine):
Principle Agreement Reached on Fifth production lot of Lockheed Martin F-35s WASHINGTON, D.C., Nov. 30, 2012 – The U.S. Department of Defense and Lockheed Martin have reached an agreement in principle to manufacture 32 F-35 Lightning II stealth fighters as part of Low-Rate Initial Production 5 (LRIP-5). The contract will also fund manufacturing-support equipment, flight test instrumentation and ancillary mission equipment.
“It’s been a long journey, but I’m pleased we’ve achieved an agreement that is beneficial to the government and Lockheed Martin,” said Vice Admiral Dave Venlet, F-35 Program Executive Officer. “Production costs are decreasing, and I appreciate everyone’s commitment to this important negotiation process. The LRIP-5 agreement will end the year on a positive note and sets the table for the program to move forward with improving business timelines for the greater good of all the nations partnered with us.”

Under the contract, Lockheed Martin will produce 22 F-35A conventional take-off and landing (CTOL) variants for the U.S. Air Force, three F-35B short takeoff/vertical landing (STOVL) variants for the U.S. Marine Corps and seven F-35C carrier variants (CV) for the U.S. Navy. Aircraft production was started in December 2011 under a previously authorized undefinitized contract action.

There's already the usual crowd trying to do 'math' beyond their ken, simply dividing the total by the number of jets, and not realizing that not all in the $ amount is accountable against the unit cost. You've also got the usual mixing of cost numbers in the usual quarters.

But lets play the 'stupid' game for a moment and just divide the total by the number of jets like a Rube, thus averaging the cost of the variants in the process shall we? Using a 'popular' source we get a total cost of $3.8B for the buy, which translates into a $118.75M 'estimate' for the LRIP 5 jets. Now trace down to the graphic below from last year (I'll post an updated version with the latest actuals later) showing an official Canadian government chart with cost projections and actuals for just F-35A (the least expensive) aircraft.

That's right. Even using the inflated simpleton-math estimation method above, the F-35 is STILL tracking to slightly below LM's lower cost predictions and nowhere near the 'feared by some and hoped-for by others' "official" numbers.    

Oh dear. What WILL the 'haters' do by LRIP 9 or 10? Accuse the F-35 program of hiding costs?

**********************Original Post Begins Here***************
12/2/11 8:08 PM CST

Skip the breathlessly headlined Bill Sweetman "Article of Doom" for now (it will make it just that more entertaining if you go back to it) and go to slightly less 'vapourous' article he linked to as the source at AOL  (I know! Whooda' guessed AOL was still around?).
There are many parts of the original article that I find most interesting, given the responses to it in the blog comments I've seen so far.
In no particular order:

But slowing production would help reduce the cost of replacing parts in jets that are being built before testing is complete, Venlet said. Although fatigue testing has barely begun -- along with "refined analysis" -- it's already turned up enough parts that need to be redesigned and replaced in jets already built that the changes may add $3 million to $5 million to each plane's cost.
The price of the F-35, being built by Lockheed Martin Corp. in three variants, has averaged roughly $111 million under the most recent Low Rate Initial Production (LRIP) Lot 4 contract.
So now the unit retrofit mod costs estimates are 50-70% lower than the previously "feared" $10M/unit costs that were 'estimated' only three months ago? Hey! That's 'Crack-ing' GOOD news! And since the LRIP contract costs to-date have BEAT predictions, that means that even with the retrofit costs, it looks like the the total unit costs are coming in at or near program predictions and are still nowhere near the widely circulated B.S. CAPE estimates.
But doesn't this 'Cracks of Doom' thing kind of' support the assertion that the F-35 is the (to quote a Sweetie*) "most incompetent and wasteful fighter program in history"? Umm - no.
*A member of the 'Sweetman' Tribe

Nor are the weaknesses surprising in the world of fighter jets, he added. The discoveries are "not a quote 'problem with the airplane,'" Venlet said. "It's a fighter made out of metal and composites. You always find some hot spots and cracks and you have to go make fixes. That's normal.
Gee. I wish I had known that. Oh yeah. I do. The article doesn't go into the 'why' this is so, but it is simple enough. For performance reasons you have to make the plane's structure as light as possible and it is always easier to put weight in where it is needed than take it out. Structural tweaks are usually a mix of both in the end, with the emphasis on adding structure for durability.
When Vice Adm Venlet is claimed to be calling for 'slowing down' F-35 production. In what "way" is it meant? 

Venlet declined to say how much he thinks production should be slowed. Earlier plans called for the Pentagon to order 42 F-35s in fiscal 2011, but that was cut to 35 and more recently it was dropped to 30. Previous plans, which Venlet's comments and the unprecedented pressure to cut the defense budget make clear will change, had been to ramp up orders to 32 in fiscal 2012, 42 in fiscal 2013, 62 in fiscal 2014, 81 in fiscal 2015 and 108 in fiscal 2016 before jumping to more than 200 a year after fundamental fatigue and flight testing is done
The Admiral is concerned about the steeper ramp up that exists as a result from Congress cutting the buys on the front end? Surprise! (Not.) (Think of trying to climb a flight of stairs where the first 5-6 steps have been lowered but the rest still lead to the top floor). This approach has risk advantages and it has risk disadvantages (as from time to time I've had to expand upon for the some of the more obtuse among us), and must say that I disagree with the idea from a 'risk' and 'total cost' POV. I disagree because I believe it is better to aim high and possibly fall a little short 'sooner' than to aim lower and only possibly hit your target 'later'. The reason being is that the near term risks are always better known than those that might transpire in the future. Vice Admiral Venlet knows this as well, so what would REALLY drive him to consider it?
This next bit is the most bothersome part for me.

Venlet also took aim at a fundamental assumption of the JSF business model: concurrency. The JSF program was originally structured with a high rate of concurrency -- building production model aircraft while finishing ground and flight testing -- that assumed less change than is proving necessary. 
"Fundamentally, that was a miscalculation," Venlet said. "You'd like to take the keys to your shiny new jet and give it to the fleet with all the capability and all the service life they want. What we're doing is, we're taking the keys to the shiny new jet, giving it to the fleet and saying, 'Give me that jet back in the first year. I've got to go take it up to this depot for a couple of months and tear into it and put in some structural mods, because if I don't, we're not going to be able to fly it more than a couple, three, four, five years.' That's what concurrency is doing to us." But he added: "I have the duty to navigate this program through concurrency. I don't have the luxury to stand on the pulpit and criticize and say how much I dislike it and wish we didn't have it. My duty is to help us navigate through it."
I find it hard to accept this passage as written. The second paragraph containing the quote is harmless (though kind of emotional for a PEO of a major weapon system program) as it stands, but the first paragraph that prefaces it smells of willful misdirection. Most people would read the passage as Venlet is asserting 'concurrency' was a miscalculation. But more likely the passage should be read as estimates of the amount of change that would be needed as the program progressed was a miscalculation. Why do I believe this? Because 'concurrency' itself has been analyzed and studied to death (Though Congress uses it as an effective bogeyman). I'm certain Venlet wanted to deliver the first jets in final configurations, but certainly he has the training and background to be aware of the realities in the job. I wonder what, if anything, the author of the original article is leaving out?
The AOL article closer has the bottom line:

"The question for me is not: 'F-35 or not?'" Venlet said. "The question is, how many and how fast? I'm not questioning the ultimate inventory numbers, I'm questioning the pace that we ramp up production for us and the partners, and can we afford it?"
"Can we afford it?" Ah! There's the rub. It strikes me that from earlier in the article there's a kernel of what might be the 'real' cost problem.

"We negotiated the LRIP 4 contract with a certain amount of resources considered to pay for concurrent changes," Venlet said. "We were probably off on the low side by a factor of four. Maybe five. And we've discovered that in this calendar year, '11, and it's basically sucked the wind out of our lungs with the burden, the financial burden."

That is most interesting in the sense that the comment relates to what was 'budgeted' and not what was 'estimated'. Remember this chart? (It's in some of the linked material above as well.)

I suspect the budget shortfall has as much to do with how the costs have been amortized across fiscal years as it has to do with the fact that the contracts were negotiated for amounts less than even the JSF projected cost curve. Notice when this chart was made, the LRIP 4 jets were to cost approximately $128M in the end. Use the dollar figures provided in the AOL article: $110M plus $3-$5M for the retrofits. What is 'missing' from this equation?  The LRIP 4 share of the weight reduction effort? [I cannot let an opportunity pass to also remind readers, once again, that even WITH all the "costs" being thrown about so carelessly, the totals to date STILL more closely track the lower internal program estimates than any other estimate and the B.S. CAPE estimates are still the outlier by far.]

This whole 'slow the ramp up' story IMHO is a narrative constructed to explain constraining the program more for reasons of immediate budgetary convenience than anything else. The program's successes this year may have brought about the need for the narrative.

"Cracks of Doom"?  Heh. The 'beat' goes on......

DoD Buzz Promotes the Anti-F-35 Agenda

Unintentionally or Not

I seem to run into this problem every time I really seek to 'engage' over at

DODBuzz had their "Friday Red Meat" post up for the usual F-35 wailers and gnashers. One wailer,(really more of a gnasher) with the handle 'Torquewrench' spun an extremely poor analogy between buying a car and buying an airplane that I couldn't pass up. So I took the opportunity to tell a story myself, only a non-fictional one about how combat aircraft are REALLY bought and why.

The response was as expected, with 'T-wrench' and another taking the challenge.

So just a moment ago, I sat down to dismiss the arguments presented. For SOME reason, my first comment wouldn't take. I tried posting the various forms of the following as my first response:
RE: Costs and "That's the way we've done it, but that doesn't mean we've been doing it the best way"  
If we don't want to build a system that is obsolete tomorrow,that is the ONLY way it can be done. What has affected the F-35 the most by far has nothing to do with any F-35 unique experience (there's been a remarkable lack of ‘requirements creep’ due to the pay-to-be-different rule among customers). What's driven cost projections most is Congress/DoD appointees stretching development and lowering the early buy numbers using the 'Concurrency' scam as a political expedient. Problematic for these projections: the actual costs-to-date correlate more closely to LMs projections than the CAIG’s.

the first time I received notice that the 'administrator' had instantly deleted my comment.

I tried again, first looking for any words like 'cockpit' that their filters (on a DoD topic site, really??) don't approve of. Nothing, but I rephrased things a bit and tried again: 

And I got the same result. I tried again, carefully trimming, reviewing and organizing. Same result.  So wanting to try something different I posted:

Either the 'administrator' finds counter-arguments to the F-35 doom patrol unacceptable, or his filtering system is too tight.

Of course, That gets through. So I try a 'good faith' fourth time:

Which of course gets me the 'administrator delete' response again.

All the while, F-35 critics seem to be getting Cart Blanche in posting content. Unintentionally or not, and because my short comment got past the filters I'm leaning towards 'unintentionally', DoD Buzz is aiding and abetting the propagation of falsehoods and hysteria with their current comment system.