F-35s hit by another big setback

The code delay is the latest—and possibly most damaging—setback for the Pentagon’s ambitious and controversial plan to replace almost all of its Air Force, Navy and Marine Corps fighters with three different versions of the F-35 at a cost of more than a trillion dollars over the next 50 years.

Damaging, because the military and F-35-maker Lockheed Martin have increasingly sold the F-35 as a sort of “flying computer” whose software can outthink enemy pilots even when the enemy’s own planes fly faster, maneuver better and carry more weaponry than the F-35 does.

The stealth fighter’s software is its last possible claim to being a first-class warplane. If the F-35’s code doesn’t work, then neither does the F-35. Saddled with thousands of dysfunctional F-35s, the Pentagon could lose command of the air. Continue reading

J-20, F-35, F22: How China developed its fifth generation stealth fighters

This is probably oversimplified, but Yang is certainly an influential individual in the development of China’s modern military aircraft. Beckhusen argues that Yang has basically invented the Chinese evolutionary approach to designing and building combat aircraft. Instead of designing and building a brand-new aircraft from scratch, it “borrows” from other countries’ design, integrate some imported and/or indigenous technology, and produces it at a fraction of the price.
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Netherlands: Estimates of F-35’s Costs go much higher

The Joint Strike Fighters are intended to be the successor of the F-16’s in the air force. In September Hennis already wrote that the purchase of the 37 fighter jets may cost 550 million euros more than expected. She did not adapt her budget at the time to include the new estimate, because it would mean drastic measures when it is still uncertain whether they’d be necessary.
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China’s Stealth Jet Fleet

When the squadron has enough planes and trained pilots and maintainers, the air force can declare the first J-20 unit “combat-ready”—a milestone most analysts expect sometime in 2017. At that time, China will join an exclusive club—as only the second country to field a fleet of frontline radar-evading jets. The American F-117, the world’s first stealth warplane, entered service with the U.S. Air Force in 1983. The U.S. B-2 stealth bomber followed in 1997, the supersonic F-22 stealth fighter in 2005, and the F-22’s smaller cousin the F-35 in July 2015.

By the 2030s, the Pentagon could possess as many as 1,700 F-35s plus 180 or so F-22s and 20 B-2s.

No other country has war-ready stealth warplanes, although Russia is working on one—and eight U.S. allies have ordered the F-35, with several more planning on also buying the plane in the near future. But while it’s pretty certain China will soon deploy J-20s, it’s not clear why—or how effectively—it will do so. Continue reading

Extra F-35s and F/A-18s in US Budget 2016

The $1.15 trillion spending package would fund the government in Fiscal 2016 if passed by both chambers of Congress. It includes $572.7 billion for defence, of which $111 billion procures new hardware and $69.8 funds research and development.

If passed, the spending deal would bless the F-35 programme with $1.33 billion in additional procurement money for an extra three F-35As, six F-35Bs and two F-35Cs, just as production ramps up in Fort Worth, Texas.
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United States Air Force may reduce F-35 purchases

The United States Air Force may have to reduce the amount of F-35s it buys over the next 10 years as aircraft research and procurement threatens to overwhelm an already tight military budget, according to a Congressional research report released earlier this week. The Air Force is looking at the possibility of cutting back on the 60 F-35 purchases a year that are currently proposed over the next decade.
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5% Digest (Week 23/03/15)

Gregory D. Johnsen wrote a detailed account of the rise of Huthis in Yemen. Adam Baron argued that the power struggle is primarily local and foreign intervention will be a very bad idea.

But what is abundantly clear at the moment is that this remains, by and large, an internal Yemeni political conflict—one that, despite frequent sectarian mischaracterizations and potential regional implications, remains deeply rooted in local Yemeni issues.

And if history is a guide, foreign intervention will only stand to exacerbate the situation. Ironically, talk now centers on a potential Saudi Arabian and Egyptian military intervention in Yemen, a scenario that immediately brought to mind the memory of North Yemen’s 1960s Civil War which saw both sides intervene—albeit on different sides—in a matter which only appeared to draw the conflict out further. This is not to say that there isn’t a place for foreign powers to aid Yemeni factions in negotiating some new political settlement. But any nation that aims to make Yemen’s fight their own is more than likely to come out on the losing side.

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5% Digest (week 16/03/15)

According to SIPRI’s latest report, there is a 16% increase in the volume of arms transferred around the world. The world’s biggest arms exporters in the past five years were the US, Russia, China, Germany and France. China’s exports of major arms rose by 143% in the five years to 2014 from the previous five years. Germany’s arms exports fell by 43% and France’s dropped 27% in the same time frame.

India was the world’s largest single arms importer. Four other Asian countries, China, Pakistan, South Korea and Singapore, are also among the top 10 largest arms importers.
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5% Digest (week 09/03/15)

British MPs voted in favour of keeping defence spending at 2% of GDP. Just 40 MPs voted and the result carries no legal force.

Rory Stewart, Conservative MP for Penrith and the Border and chairman of the defence select committee, warned MPs that Britain could not continue to rely on the military might of America and be a “freeloader”. “This 2% is needed because the threats are real. The world is genuinely getting more dangerous,” he said.

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Britain to order another 14 F-35 jets

Brenda Goh and Andrea Shalal-Esa, “Britain may order 14 F-35 jets as early as next week: sources,” Reuters, 23 January 2014

The so called ‘Main Gate 4’ order, for the F-35 B vertical take-off variant of the Joint Strike Fighter, would mark the Britain’s first firm F-35 purchase since it committed to buying 48 planes in 2012.
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