Cheap generic fifth-generation fighter and other fiction
American fighter of the fifth generation F-35, with all forces completing the tests and preparing to enter the army, received another kick from the family of the military. U.S. Air Force refused to take him to replace the A-10 stormtroopers, reducing the possible volume of orders.
Program of the F-35 Lightning II, only the development of which was invested more than $ 50 billion, the closure is not threatened. However, a long string of scandals that accompanies the birth of this controversial machine, is forced to think seriously about the price of mistakes in decision-making in modern defense industry.
Not so fly
Create the fighter F-35 again no luck: The U.S. Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. Norton Schwartz said that the Air Force will not take the version of the F-35B short takeoff and vertical landing (KVVP). Previously, the Americans had the idea to remove from the Air Force A-10 attack aircraft and transfer weight problems directly support ground forces on this new machine.
According to General Schwartz, the plane is not drawn from the point of view of the number of sorties that can make it a day with heavy use. A direct support tasks require a lot of time spent over the target. Maybe, they say, Marine Corps (ILC) is a "labor productivity" and fit, continued Schwartz and Air Force have other requests.
The Marines, in whose garden stone flew, immediately protested: the former deputy commander of the Commission for Aviation Lt. Gen. George Trautman said that F-35B has the highest rate in the rate of combat missions of the entire family of F-35 six sorties a day against four the two goals. And if the Air Force from the F-35B refuses, then the reason may be compelling, but clearly different.
This remark is a reason. Schwartz has previously attacked the developers of the F-35, calling "stupid" all-out use of computer modeling in the design of components and systems for aircraft, designed to be a qualitative leap in the development of aviation technology. As we shall see, that there were some grounds. It seems, indeed, that is not the number of flights — Air Force claims are somewhat more complex.
To understand the great tragedy of the F-35, more and more which reduces to the formula of "no one wanted to buy," you need to remember how it all turned out.
Horde inarticulate generation
American tactical aircraft design your future, traditionally relying on the "diarchy" heavy and light multipurpose fighter. In the fourth generation, the tone was set a couple F-15 Eagle and F-16 Fighting Falcon. In place of the planned fifth-generation heavy (and the first order of development) machine took the F-22 Raptor, and after it had come in time lightweight F-35 Lightning II development corporation Lockheed Martin.
If the F-22 took its place heavy interceptor is not supplied from the United States (it was too much in it applied innovation, and not all are still brought to mind), the F-35 was built for a different logic. A single universal platform for the three versions: F-35A — conventional light fighter for the Air Force (the replacement F-16), F-35B — Aircraft KVVP for aviation CMS (change "vertikalkoy» AV-8B Harrier II), F-35C — deck for carrier aviation fleet to replace the F/A-18.
And — the export version with the potential to flood the entire market of tactical aviation is more or less wealthy countries after the 2015-2020 period. According to initial plans, the U.S. wanted to buy myself some 2,800 machines of all three types, and at least 600 fighters to put the nine closest allies (including NATO). A total capacity of the external market for the F-35 was estimated at 1,600 aircraft by 2035. Picture — breathtaking.
On paper, everything was beautiful, and then the problems started. Strictly speaking, the proud name of "fifth generation fighter" to the F-35 is glued bad. A number of aviation experts expressed doubt that "Lightning" are full of "five" — rather, we are talking about a generation of "four and a very, very large number of advantages."
For example, the plane does not pull a supersonic cruising speed without forcing the engine — one of the basic criteria for the fifth generation.
Lapping plane was long, constantly had flaws and unexpected problems. First, in 2003 there was a mistake in calculating the weight limits of the design, which caused a loss of time and nearly five billion dollars to redesign. A long line of smaller "stocks" went through a period of development and continued on trial.
In particular, carrier-based version of the test F-35C showered and did so shameful shortcomings: for example, the structural arrangement hook (hook braking, which the airplane during landing clings to the arrester on the deck of an aircraft carrier) does not provide a guaranteed engagement.
In the end, the Ministry of Defence barked "Lockheed", saying that all of the identified deficiencies will continue to be addressed by the developer at his own expense. Tom was also a reason: to whatever the difficulties encountered designers demanded more and more money for the 'unexpected' R & D needed to solve problems.
In the background of all this a funny carnival measured as a metronome, clicked the counter, raising the price fighter in the series. In the early days of the program it was believed that the maximum price he — 50.2 million dollars (or a little more — for more advanced options). Then the figure went: in 2010, the car has already evaluated in 138 million. Deliveries of the initial batch for the Air Force, Naval Aviation and the Commission in 2012 were for amounts between 197 and 237 million per fighter.
Cheap fifth-generation fighter allegedly surpassed the cost of his older brother — a "full-fledged" heavy interceptor F-22, unequivocally recognized super-expensive (and also, by the way, is not completely successful in terms of technical implementation) "white elephant." Against the backdrop of a deepening financial crisis and the severe austerity to which the States began in 2010, it acted as a cold shower.
Cheap, versatile, good — not all at once
Universal weapons systems, as the accumulated experience of mankind, can replace several specialized, but, as a rule, keep all their shortcomings in the absence of genuine merit. The only advantage is also the fact that instead of two or three weapons systems you develop, put into service, produce and stock up just one.
It is worth noting that in the modern production of such a defense "savings", strictly speaking, some incredible benefactor is, because its results are immediately reflected on the battlefield. In any case, it is absolutely true for the military powers of the first class and legislators of military and technical events, as the United States.
As a result, began to cut not only the internal order for these machines — has gone down and the outlook for exports. Canada, the UK, Norway, Australia, and other cutting or threatening to cut the volume of purchases, it is logical grounds that the abnormal rise in the cost of a fighter.
Program F-35 fell victim on the one hand, the contradictions in the desires of the customer, and the other — technological and production constraints that do not allow relatively inexpensive to build airplanes with the specified characteristics.
In private conversations transmitted irritated replica of one of the developers of "Lockheed" about the terms of reference for the F-35: "They wanted a plane with such demands — low profile, single-engine, internal suspension arms, short takeoff. That's it, and they got. "
This project can be considered as a good example of the consequences of an attempt to create a fighting machine almost beyond existing technology, and even as cheaply as possible. Tellingly, the plane, with clenched teeth, bring to mind, and it will live on for decades: an alternative is not yet visible and near.
See also F-22 Raptor — not for war