This blog posting represents the views of the author, David Fosberry. Those opinions may change over time. They do not constitute an expert legal or financial opinion.

If you have comments on this blog posting, please email me .

The Opinion Blog is organised by threads, so each post is identified by a thread number ("Major" index) and a post number ("Minor" index). If you want to view the index of blogs, click here to download it as an Excel spreadsheet.

Click here to see the whole Opinion Blog.

To view, save, share or refer to a particular blog post, use the link in that post (below/right, where it says "Show only this post").

The F-35 Programme Is a Failure!

Posted on 30th March 2021

Show only this post
Show all posts in this thread (Military & Defence).

The grudging admission by Air Force chief of staff General Charles Q. Brown that the F35 programme is a failure (as reported here by Extreme Tech) is, as the article points out, not a surprise to those familiar with the F35.

The programme was originally created in response to strong demands by the Marines to be allowed to buy British Harrier Jump-Jets, after they demonstrated their effectiveness in the Falklands war, where they soundly trounced a much larger Argentinian force of A-4 Skyhawks, IAI Daggers (copies of the Mirage V), Super Etendards and Mirage III interceptors, most of which were considered to be vastly superior aircraft. The Argentinian planes outnumbered the British aircraft by six to one. You can read more about the Harrier's role and performance in the Falklands war here on "We Are The Mighty". The combat advantage of the Harriers stemmed from their ability to use vectored thrust to increase maneuverability during dog-fights. The other reason that the US Marines wanted Harriers was for their vertical take-off and landing capability.

Instead of allowing the Marines to buy Harriers (they bought 77; not as many as they needed), the US decided to start their own VTOL (Vertical Take-Off and Landing) aircraft development programme, which eventually produced the F35, which is now in service in several countries. None of the various versions of the F35 has vertical take-off capability, and only the F35-B has vertical landing (for which it sacrifices about 30% of its fuel load and has reduced turning g).

So many compromises were made during development that the F35 is best described as a "jack of all trades, master of none". The Marines didn't get an aircraft capable of vertical take-off; The navy has a plane with reduced range/endurance and reduced maneuverability; indeed, no-one got what they wanted and were promised. Its mission capable rate is 69%, below the 80% benchmark set by the military. Operating costs are very high: the F-15EX costs an estimated $20,000 per hour to fly; the F-35 costs $44,000 per hour.

The F35 was planned to replace six different in-service aircraft types: the F16, the F-15C/D, the F-15E, the F22, the F/A-18 and the few Harriers that they bought. It was also slated to replace the A-10. Plans to retire several of those aircraft types have been shelved, and the US military is now planning new aircraft programmes to fill roles that the F35 turns out to be unsuited for or simply too expensive.

Of course, all these issues with the F35 are not only problems for the US; they have sold theses dreadful planes to several allies (Australia, Belgium, Denmark, Israel, Italy, Japan, the Netherlands, Norway, Poland, South Korea, Singapore, Turkey, the United Arab Emirates, and the United Kingdom), who are now discovering that they have been "sold a pup", and are rethinking the number that they will ultimately buy. Buying American is not always the smart choice!

The Disgraceful State Of The German Military

Posted on 21st February 2018

Show only this post
Show all posts in this thread.

These two reports by the BBC really show what a terrible state the German armed forces are in.

The first report, from UK Defence Journal, describes how the air force has been filling the fuel tanks of their Tornado jets with a fuel mixture containing too much bio-diesel.Now all the fuel tanks need to be flushed, putting many aircraft out of commission. Also, because of maintenance issues, the Luftwaffe’s Eurofighter and Tornado fighter jets and its CH-53 transport helicopters are only available for use an average of four months a year. The article also contains some alarming statistics about the German army's ninth tank brigade which has only nine operational Leopard 2 tanks, instead of the promised 44, and only three of the promised 14 Marder armored infantry vehicles.

The second report, from the BBC, describes how no submarines or large transport planes were available for service at the end of last year: "At the end of the year six out of six submarines were not in use. At times, not one of the 14 Airbus A-400M could fly". The condition of the military's fleet of fighter planes, tanks, helicopters and ships is described as "dramatically bad".

To put this all into context, Germany is supposed to be the leader of NATO's Russian-aimed Very High Readiness Joint Task Force, hence the use of the word "promised" in relation to the number of vehicles above. The German military is meant to be our first line of defence against threats from Russia, but are clearly not up to the task. Let's just hope they are not needed.

UK Ministry of Defence buys new planes with 1950s capabilities

Posted on 21st February 2015

Show only this post
Show all posts in this thread.

I was rather bemused by this story in the Telegraph. It described how the UK MoD (Ministry of Defence) is to buy two new solar powered Zephyr 8 spy planes from Airbus Defence and Space for £10.6m.

The report describes how this new plane flies so high ‘that it is described as a “pseudo satellite” ’. Seriously! The operating height is reported as 70,000 feet (although it could be a little more, and being kept secret). 70,000 was the ceiling height of the U2, built from 1955. On the Wikipedia page about the U2, it (at the time of writing) states “In 1984, during a major NATO exercise, Royal Air Force Flight Lieutenant Mike Hale intercepted a U-2 at a height of 66,000 feet (20,100 m), where the aircraft had previously been considered safe from interception. Hale climbed to 88,000 feet (26,800 m) in his Lightning F3“. This was apparently only one of many such interceptions (the Wikipedia page has recently been edited to remove much of the detail about these). I first heard about one of these interceptions in 1982 or earlier, so the statement in the Wikipedia page that, in 1984, "the aircraft had previously been considered safe from interception" is clearly not true. Nevertheless, the upshot is that the The U2 was in range for Lightnings, and probably other interceptors of the time, and was proven to be in range for Russian missiles when Gary Powers was shot down.

I really don’t see how new spy planes with 1955 performance, able to be detected, intercepted and shot down decades ago, are a good investment by the MoD. These planes certainly don’t earn the label “pseudo satellite”. True, they will be solar powered and able to stay aloft for “weeks on end”, but otherwise the basic performance is 60 years out of date!