Jeremy Bender / Business Insider – 2015-03-05 12:11:58
The F-35B Can’t Carry Its Most Advanced Weapon until 2022
Jeremy Bender / Business Insider
(March 3, 2015) — Lockheed Martin’s F-35B variant has hit yet another snag which could seriously impact the aircraft’s overall ability to strike at ground targets. Now, the fifth-generation aircraft will be unable to carry the military’s latest and most advanced munitions for awhile.
Due to a design oversight, the internal weapon’s bay of the F-35B is too small to carry the required load of the new Small Diameter Bomb II (SDB II), Inside Defense reports citing the Pentagon’s F-35 Joint Program Office. The SDB II is a next-generation precision-strike bomb that was meant to dovetail with the F-35 program.
The F-35B was designed to carry eight SDB IIs inside the internal weapons bay. These bombs would allow the F-35 pilot to target eight points from 40 miles away and with complete precision. The SDB IIs can also change course in-flight to follow moving targets through laser or infrared guidance systems, according to Foxtrot Alpha.
However, the F-35B can only fit four of the required bombs in its weapons bay. The F-35B variant has a significantly smaller internal bay than the F-35A and F-35C due to the aircraft’s design as a short-takeoff-vertical-landing aircraft.
Inside Defense reports that the “Navy initially wanted to field the SDB II first on the F-35B/C but is instead bringing forward integration with the F/A-18 Super Hornet. The SDB II is an F-35 Block 4 software capability and the release of that software load has been pushed back to FY-22.”
In other words, because the SDB II is included with the weapon Block 4 upgrade for the F-35, the aircraft is now likely to not field the new munitions until 2022.
F-35 spokesman Joe DellaVedova confirmed to Inside Defense that the SDB II problem has been known since 2007 and the more difficult changes to the aircraft have already been made in order to allow it to field the munitions.
“We’ve been working with the SDB II program office and their contractors since 2007,” DellaVedova said. “The fit issues have been known and documented and there were larger and more substantial modifications needed to support SDB II that have already been incorporated into production F-35 aircraft.”
The F-35B variant is the Marine Corps model of the plane and 34 aircraft have already been delivered to the branch. The delay in implementing the SDB II will not affect the aircraft’s ability to fly but will limit the operations that the F-35B will be able to effectively carry out.
A Top US Navy Officer Thinks that
One of the F-35’s Most-hyped Capabilities Is ‘Overrated’
Jeremy Bender / Business Insider
(February 10, 2015) — Chief of Naval Operations Adm. Jon Greenert outlined in a speech last week what the Navy would hope to see in a next-generation strike aircraft. Tellingly, Greenert’s ideal bears little resemblance to the trillion-dollar F-35, as David Larter reports for the Navy Times.
For instance, the most senior naval officer in the US Navy said that “stealth may be overrated,” a statement that could interpreted as a swipe at the troubled F-35.
“What does that next strike fighter look like?” Greenert said during the speech in Washington. “I’m not sure it’s manned, don’t know that it is. You can only go so fast, and you know that stealth may be overrated . . . Let’s face it, if something moves fast through the air, disrupts molecules and puts out heat — I don’t care how cool the engine can be, it’s going to be detectable. You get my point.”
Greenert’s has a long-standing skepticism of stealth, which he believes will not be able to keep up with advances in radar technology.
In 2012, Greenert wrote that “[i]t is time to consider shifting our focus from platforms that rely solely on stealth to also include concepts for operating farther from adversaries using standoff weapons and unmanned systems — or employing electronic-warfare payloads to confuse or jam threat sensors rather than trying to hide from them.”
Greenert’s position on the questionable utility of stealth meshes with what certain figures in the US defense industry are saying, with Boeing taking the view that electro-magnetic warfare and the use of jamming technology is fundamentally more important than stealth. Boeing and Lockheed Martin, the company that produces the F-35, often compete for similar military contracts.
“Today is kind of a paradigm shift, not unlike the shift in the early part of the 20th century when they were unsure of the need to control the skies,” Mike Gibbons, the vice president for Boeing’s F/A-18 Super Hornet and EA-18G Growler programs, told Business Insider. “Today, the need to control the EM [electro-magnetic] spectrum is much the same.”
“Stealth technology was never by itself sufficient to protect any of our own forces,” Gibbons said.
Boeing’s EA-18G Growler specializes in disrupting enemy sensors, interrupting command and control systems, and jamming weapons’ homing systems.
Boeing believes that its Growlers compliment Lockheed’s F-35. Ultimately, the Navy remains lukewarm about the acquisition of the F-35. For 2015, the Navy ordered only two F-35s, which which lawmakers increased to four. The Marines requested six and the Air Force ordered 26 of the planes for the coming year.
The US plans to purchase 1,763 F-35s by 2037, according to Reuters.
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