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Tuesday, March 22, 2016

Op-Ed: Don't Restart F-22 Production, Accelerate the F-X Program

In recent weeks, a renewed interest in restarting F-22 production has emerged from both Capitol Hill and the defense policy community. In 2009, Defense Secretary Robert Gates lobbied Congress to terminate F-22 production at just 187 airframes; his decision to limit the F-22 production line was the culmination of his long running feud with the Air Force. Gates was adamant that the armed services should prioritize the development of practical capabilities relevant to the ongoing conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan. In his testimony before Congress, Gates argued the F-22 was “a silver bullet” solution to the non-existent problem of foreign fifth generation aircraft which could deny U.S. air superiority in a hypothetical conflict with a near-peer competitor. As the Administration, lawmakers, and the Department of Defense begin to accept the reality that the United States will once again contend with the threat of great power competition and high-end conflicts, the acute deficiency of dedicated air superiority platforms within the USAF fleet hobbles the ability of U.S. forces to both achieve aerial superiority and assure all
domain access against near-peer competitors.

Image 1: F-22 Fort Worth production line. Image Credit: Lockheed Martin

A small but highly capable fleet of F-22s serves the nation as not only a highly credible deterrence force with recent rotational deployments to Japan, the Korean Peninsula, and Poland, but also as a provider of robust warfighting capabilities over the skies in Syria. Despite the unique and unmatched capabilities of the F-22 in the air superiority mission, the USAF should not pursue restarting the F-22 production line. Restarting production would delay the sixth generation F-X program which must be accelerated to keep pace with both emerging threats and to preserve the skills and technical base of the three remaining combat aircraft manufactures; waiting 10 years to start the F-X program will reduce the viability of Boeing to compete against Lockheed Martin and Northrup Grumman who have active long-term combat aircraft contracts. The USAF must leverage the lessons learned from both the F-35 and L-RSB programs, such as the importance of stable requirements and use of mature technologies, to rapidly develop and procure a sixth generation air superiority aircraft. In parallel with the accelerated development of the F-X, the USAF should field interim solutions to rapidly enhance the effectiveness of the F-15, F-35, and planned arsenal plane in the air superiority mission.

Image 2: Northrup Grumman sixth generation concept. The lack of a tail is likely an indication the concept aircraft is optimized against VHF radars which have the potential to detect X and S optimized stealth aircraft like the F-22 and F-35 as per the Rayleigh scattering region. Image Credit: Northrup Grumman.

The Air Force originally planned to procure 700 F-22s to fully replace its fleet of F-15C/D aircraft during the 1990s. As a result of cost overruns and program delays, the Air Force subsequently revised its planned force structure to 300 F-22s during the 2000s. No credible analysis of future operational needs against a near-peer competitor has concluded the USAF’s current Raptor fleet is sufficient to wholly provide sufficient air superiority capabilities. Of the 187 aircraft delivered to the USAF, only 123 are combat coded with the remaining F-22s serving in test and evaluation, attrition reserve, and training roles. Factoring in the reduced sortie generation rate of US aircraft in the Pacific given the extended transit periods between distant Western Pacific bases such as Guam and Kadena from expected deployment areas such as the South and East China Seas, the limited number of F-22s becomes especially acute. To mitigate the Raptor shortfall, the USAF has sought to upgrade its venerable F-15C/D fleet and has debated assigning additional air superiority responsibilities to the F-35. These short term solutions are not sufficient to meet USAF operational needs prior to the introduction of the F-X in the 2030s. The means in which the USAF seeks to bolster its F-15 and F-35 force in the interim period will serve as an instructive experience in formulating sixth generation requirements and testing relevant technologies.

Image 3: Boeing's 2040C concept. Image Credit: Boeing

The early termination of the Raptor production in concert with extended F-35 program delays will force the USAF to field a mixed fourth-fifth generation fighter force well into the 2030s. A total of 414 F-15C/Ds and F-15Es will receive a service life extension program (SLEP) to keep them airworthy into the 2030s in tandem with adding a new actively scanned electronic array radars, upgraded cockpit displays, an improved electronic warfare suite, an infrared search and track (IRST) pod, and a fourth-to-fifth generation communication pod such as the Talon Hate. Given its extended service life and robust upgrade package, the F-15 force should not be disregarded as a depreciating asset. The lack of a low observable airframe is somewhat offset by the F-15’s 1,000+ nautical mile (nm) combat radius (compared to roughly 500 nm for the F-35 and 470 nm for the F-22), comparatively low per-flight hour maintenance costs, high operational readiness rate, powerful 1,500 element AESA radar, and the aircraft's large growth potential. Two proposed solutions have the potential to both bolster the air-to-air capabilities of the F-15 and inform USAF decisions to draft requirements for the sixth generation F-X.

The USAF Research Laboratory is working to field a 100 kilowatt (kW) center-line laser pod demonstrator on an F-15E in the early 2020s. A 100 kW laser pod would provide substantial anti-missile defense capabilities as well as a nascent anti-unmanned aerial vehicle and anti-aircraft capability. The technology for a 100 kW laser pod is relatively mature and would better inform USAF deliberations to field a more powerful 150 kW+ directed energy weapon on the F-X. The USAF Research Laboratory has stated among the many proposed features of the F-X would be a “deep magazine”. Both the F-22 and F-35 Block IV can only accommodate six AIM-120D missiles (the F-22 also has two shorter range AIM-9X sidewinders in the side weapon bays). Against a numerically superior force equipped with highly capable digital radio frequency jammers (DRFM), the probability kill (pk) of each missile is expected to fall to approximately 50%. While the F-22 and F-35 cannot externally carry weapons without compromising their low observable profiles, the F-15 can expand upon its comparative advantages of high payload capability to add additional weapon pylons as demonstrated in Boeing's “2040C” upgrade which would expand the F-15’s AIM-120D load from 8 to 16 missiles. When networked with F-35s and F-22s, upgraded F-15s would offset the limited internal weapons storage capacity of US fifth generation fighters.

Image Credit: Director AFRL Munitions Directorate John Wilcox.

Proposals to “deepen the magazine” of the F-35 include small kinetic hit- to-kill interceptors such as CUDA and small advanced capability missile technologies (SACM-T) concepts. The concurrent development of the miniature self-defense munition (MSDM) follows a similar concept in which a kinetic interceptor is launched to defeat an adversary missile. The relative utility of a micro interceptor such as MSDM against a numerically superior adversary’s missiles is dubious from both a cost exchange and a finite payload capacity perspective in a similar manner as Navy deliberations to field high-end kinetic interceptors on large surface combatants against Russian and Chinese anti-ship cruise missiles (ASCMs). The ideal solution is to “shoot the archer before he shoots his arrows” in a similar manner as the F-14 was armed with long range Phoenix missiles against Soviet Backfire bombers carrying multiple ASCMs. This solution is achievable within the current fighter fleet either through a deep magazine on a low observable airframe, which thus has first shot first kill capability, or a fourth generation fighter or arsenal plane equipped with an extended range air-to-air missile well beyond the 100 nm range of the AIM-120D. The expansive weapon bays of both the B-1B and B-52, the two leading arsenal plane candidates, makes the fielding of a long range beyond visual range missile especially appealing.

Image 5: Of the two most likely candidates for the arsenal plane, the B-1B bomber is superior to the B-52 at least within the air-to-air role. The B-1B's reduced radar cross section of approximately 1m^2 and maximum speed of mach 1.2 offers greatly enhanced survivability over the subsonic B-52. Planned modernization programs for the B-1B include the Scalable Agile Beam Radar (SABR) AESA radar, modified from the original F-16 AESA model, in addition to modernized cockpit displays and communication systems. Image Credit: Foxtrot Alpha, Tyler Rogoway.

In conclusion, the opportunity cost of restarting F-22 production is too high as it would delay the F-X which will be better suited to counter emerging anti-access/area denial (A2/AD) threats such as integrated air defenses networked with VHF radars. The USAF can leverage its interim solutions to expand the air superiority capabilities of its fighter force to reducing the risk of technologies associated with the sixth generation F-X such as the deep magazine capability and directed energy weapons. The USAF must emphasize mature technologies and extensive prototyping within the F-X program, in a similar manner as the LRS-B program, if it seeks to avoid the extensive program delays of the F-35. The combination of a longer range beyond visual range missile for the arsenal plane, 2040C F-15 upgrade, and a kinetic interceptor optimized against enemy fighter aircraft to expand the magazines for the F-22 and F-35 will enable the USAF to meet its air superiority requirements and contribute to broader inter-service efforts to attain all domain access against near-peer competitors.

Related Articles

America's Sixth Generation Fighters: The F-X and F/A-XX - I
The Uncertain Future of America's Raptors - Part I Introduction
The Future of America's Eagles Part I 


  1. In view of the truncation of the F-22 program, there is now a qualitative and quantity gap to meet operational requirements especially with the imminent introduction of J-20's PAK-FA. The problem with the F-X program is that the scope is uncertain, introduction timeline is highly suspect and funding availability is just wishful thinking in light of competing programs. An upgraded F-22 with modernised avionics and sensors would provide a less ambitious pathway while addressing the required capability against known competition. The notion of going for 6th generation capability as an immediate pathway is simply not supported by any known analysis.

    1. I understand your concerns with respect to the high-low mix and the fact that the F-22 is a known quantity as opposed to F-X. However, I'm not convinced that Lockheed Martin has the capacity to both reach its 160+ F-35 airframes per year production on top of an order of F-22s. After the shutdown of the F-22 production line, Lockheed shifted many of its personnel and facilities to the F-35 despite retaining F-22's tooling and related production equipment. As you said, the USAF must refine the scope of the program - particularly requirements and define what constitutes 6th generation capabilities (the Air Dominance Initiative should have given them an idea but its findings are classified). Either way, its clear the conventional acquisition system will not produce the F-X the USAF needs when it needs it.

      Restarting F-22 production would also harm the health of the industrial base and further consolidate Lockheed Martin's edge over Boeing and Northrup Grumman thereby reducing their ability to compete in future combat aircraft contracts. The industrial base is already in a tenuous state with Boeing about to close its Super Hornet and F-15 lines without future orders (especially with the hold up of the Qatar and Kuwait sales) and Northrup barely surviving as a combat aircraft manufacturer with its LRS-B win.

  2. Great article Matt, However here are my concerns when rushing the F-X and F/A-XX programs.

    the best aircraft seem to be produce with actual combat lessons learned from the previous generation of aircraft.

    for example, US 4th generation fighters are so far the most successful batch of fighters in history, and much of their success is owed from the lessons learned in Vietnam.

    first hand accounts thought the defense department what really works in combat and what really just looks good on paper.

    However when we rely on just simulations and very limited experience, we end up with things like the F-4. Wonderful airplane, but with plenty of painful lessons at the beginning.

    Already, 6th gen manufacturers are poking on the idea that we may need to sacrifice performance for better stealth, more sensors, better networks and range.

    Agian, what if actual combat doesn't pan out the way simulations do?

    1. Thank you. That is certainty a valid point, the lessons learned from Vietnam were instrumental towards not only the requirements for the development of the F-15 but also the new doctrines, techniques, tactics, and procedures developed during the 1970s and 1980s which contributed to the F-15's success in the Gulf War and to an extent the Israelis'success in 1982 in Lebanon.

      The broader problem is the current defense acquisition system which can take 15 to 18 years to get a program from a concept to an operational platform. McDonnell Douglas developed the F-15 in less than a decade so it could learn from prior conflicts and quickly translate that into a relevant aircraft, its much more difficult to do that today. Given the troubles with our current acquisition system (there is no clear end in sight save for possible Congressional reforms during the next administration), we have to start F-X now. Its not going to a sliver bullet to the future threat environment but it doesn't have to be, it has to be good enough when used as part of a broader combined arms force against A2/AD.

  3. Hi Matt,

    Glad to see you're still around and this was a good article. I, like many armchair enthusiasts, think restarting the F-22 production line is a good idea, and even after reading your article, I think it still is. You do thorough research and really do think things through. I hadn't realised that LM had a staff issue and wouldn't have enough to distribute between F-22 and F-35 lines.

    However, I'm not convinced going the F-X route is the right way. I suspect you are taking the viewpoint of the United States. This means you will have access to any plane the US builds. As a resident living in "an Allied country", we don't have access to the F-22, and probably not the F-X either, . We don't have access to any of the stealth bombers either. Thus I have a different viewpoint.

    The only plane which is the undisputed king of the skies is the F-22. History has shown us that evolution, not revolution, is the best way to build effective warplanes. The F-15 is still current 40 years after it's first appearance. Even Israel likes the F-15's newest version. The F-22 is more than ready for an update, and there's no reason updating them won't keep them valid for 40 years as well. As I wrote a comment on another blog, I'm pretty sure every western ally would willingly drop the F-35 and pay to have the F-22 instead. I'd even make a tentative guess that Western governments would be far more willing to pay $200m for a proven and superior F-22 than $135m for a still incomplete and vastly inferior F-35. Money is not the real issue for not restarting the F-22 line.

    The problem with the F-X is people don't even know what they want, and thus they don't know how to develop the technology for the F-X. I mean, they can't even do it for the F-35, which has been under development for around 20 years.

    Thus I firstly want a proper warplane, not the F-35, and the F-22 could be built for us in a few years. I also do not want to keep subsidising LM hopeless F-35. The F-35 might be ok as a support aircraft, but it's the F-22 which was always the key to proper air power. This is not a secret.

    Even if the US allows allies to buy the F-X, it won't be ready for decades. After all, using your reasoning why the F-22 can't be restarted because of staffing issues F-22/F-35 production lines, how could the US build both F-35 and F-X concurrently? (there's a word of evil, as the US and it's allies have learnt to it's dismay- LCS/Ford carrier/F-35 anyone?).

    So yes, the F-22 seems the best option. In fact, I believe Australia even brought up the possibility of paying for the restart of the F-22 line.

    Anyway, this is just bluster. The F-22 will stayed closed. The F-35 will become the only option in the western world to counter the Russian and Chinese planes.

    The US should be careful. There is a chance the Japanese could make it's stealth fighter work. If they do, Australia, Canada and other countries will suddenly have another option for a 5th Gen fighter

    Cheers Matt!


  4. Hi Matt

    Long time no chat, how you been? Good to see you are still writing great articles.

    I recall we discussed something like this about the F22 last year as a hypothetical. Good to see we can predicted the future. Way before anyone else discusses the issue. ;-)

    Long term they should stick with the production with the 6th Gen Fighter. Even if they have production in 2030 it still takes at least 10 years to mature the 6th Gen. So let's say 2040-2045.

    So the question is what will USA face in the region at 2025 to 2045. Which is only 10 to 20 years away.

    Lets Look at the region, China & Russia.
    So we have Russian SU35+++ Generation with extend range, the T50 which is plagued with problems, but will be a great aircraft with air superiority. Although I don't see any major articles that are credible that Russia is planing to mass produce 200-300 of the T50. Also the rest of the Russian SU series of aircraft.

    China will be the more complicated issue,
    So we have the J10 series, now normal I would say this is not an issue. But it dose seems china is going to mass produces these aircraft in numbers.
    We have the J20, (Have you seen the (numbered 2016) version that is all in yellow, more improvements.) Looks like 2016 will be there mass production aircraft as they have built 2 identical off these prototypes. Reading between the lines china want;s a squadron of the J20 by 2020-25. So this would put them on track. The so called 5th Gen engine I have read nothing about it which is odd as there is always comments and articles about them developing that engine for the J20. So it's either good news they are still stuck, or they have made a reliable version. Hard to tell.
    We also have the J31, which was only meant to be a export version. But this seems to have changed for some reason. Late last year china is now considering to put that into production. So I will included this as well.
    Then there is the Russia SU-35++ being sold to china, 24. It dose seem that Russia and China have come to some agreement that Russia will give china the 24 Jet for $2 Billion and China will mass produce there own Version.

    So China will have the J10, J20, J31 and SU35++, that means we will require a number of different aircraft.

    Dose the USA have to re-open there production line of the F22, they short answer is YES!, Should they and do they need to NO!.

    The USA, best course of action is to upgrade the F15's they currently have in service. Sell more F15 to Japan and south Korea. Sell f35's to Japan, SK, Australia. Upgrade the F18's. Give f16 to neighboring country's in the region.
    Work with SK own 6th Gen Fighter. Work with Japan own 6 gen Fighter.

    Half the USA F35 program. Retire the f16, build the new Gen of both the F15 and F18. Upgrade the F22 only.

    At the end of the day, China will never compete with a region that has that type of superiority.
    The USA has:
    195 - F22
    1700- F35 in production to come over the years
    400 - F15
    200 - F18
    900 - F16

    USA total Air Craft : 13,400
    China total Air Craft :2900
    Russia total Air Craft :3500

    So that my thoughts on the issue.

    Also do you rember when I said that Trump will be president, last year and you laughed at me. :-)

    Well what Can I say. :-( I was correct. The GOP must be loving him. :-)

    All the Best.

    1. Hi Stone30,

      I'm good, just busy with grad school. How have you been? Read they will make a decision on the Australian submarine purchase fairly soon, hope you guys choose Japan! Haha, yeah I'll admit you called it with Trump, but in my defense lot of political commentators have been wrong thus far in 2016 :D Its looking like a contested convention cause if Trump fails to win Wisconsin, I read he has to win 60% of the remaining votes against his 42% historical average.

      As far as numerical superiority is concerned the US will retain it on paper but regional numerical superiority will still heavily be in China's favor. Maximum U.S. surge capacity in the Western Pacific would likely be six carrier groups (based off of the Iraqi surge) which carry 264 strike fighters (F/A-18E/Fs and F-35Cs) in tandem with land bases. In a 2008 report, Rand predicted 240 F-22s, F-35s, and F-15s could operate from Anderson and Kadena so the in theatre total would be ~500 fighter aircraft (South Korea has explicitly said it would not allow the US to use its SK facilities against anyone other than North Korea a.k.a. not against China so those aren't included). Now with the new defense agreement with the Philippines the U.S. could support more aircraft close to China but it remains to bee seen how heavily the US will invest in refurbishing Philippine facilities. I'd also hope we'd have Aussie and Japanese forces backing us up.

      I know I am in the minority by far but I still have hope for the F-35 :D After 2019, it will cost $85 million per airplane and test and evaluation squadron input from now until the 2020s will result in a dramatic reduction in teething problems. Furthermore, TES and Weapon School pilots will develop new techniques, tatics, and procedures which will make the aircraft much more effective, especially in the destruction of enemy air defense role which is often overlooked relative to the air superiority mission. In the post World War II period, SAMS have been a much bigger threat to aircraft than fighters.

      Worst case scenario, we have hundreds of 4th generation aircraft in the boneyard in Arizona, I've been there myself and its amazing. The US could always refurbish those and restore many to operational status on fairly short notice. As you said, the US should definitely market the F-16 to neighboring countries more aggressively but it looks like the production line will go cold this year.



  5. Hi Matt

    Yes, been Working a lot. Good on you with your studies.

    Us down here are looking at long range boomers in Australia,

    Coming from the ABC news, means that it is highly likely to happen.

    Would be good if they would put 24 of F22 down here as well.

    F16 should be sold/given very cheap to the region as to building influence and better military cooperation in the area.

    SK will allow any aircraft if the possibility of conflict was to occur.

    We are going Japan sub's hopefully politics don't get involved and screw up the deal, but the Australian politicians will find a way to screw it up somehow.

    On a much serious note!!!

    Trump, really Trump. We in Australia are just dumb founded as to what is going on. I think we thought it as a Joke when he announced, but now it is showing how many serious issue there is in America.

    From an outside point of view, it's not good. No offense Matt, but what the F*K? are you guys thinking down there in the USA.

    Well my prediction is that it will be Hillary V Trump, mark my words the democrats will not go out to vote for Hillary because she dose not engage the base "younger voters" like Berni dose.

    Trump will get all the KK, rednecks and most important the "anti establishment" vote, which is quiet large who usually don't vote. And every GOP and his dog will stand in line to vote for Trump.

    Trump is no fool, he knows what he is doing. So with a low Hillary turn out and a GOP attacking trump I put it at 50/50 he will be President. It will be another GWB V Gore, type count.

    If the GOP sink Trump and nominate someone like Ted or John, then they have conceded the White House and will suffer the lose of both houses to the democrats.

    The GOP and Fox news have spent years of fear and attacking the Domecrates that cause the vortex hole of Trump, they have no one to blame but them self's. The scary thing is they don't want to accept the truth.

    Marco Rubio, was a clear case of being a puppet for the Rich, the GOP voters seen straight through that. Trump broke him like a boy!

    Well Matt, good luck might be time to invest in a bomb shelter.

    TRUMP for 2016......

    Only Berni can Stop him!

    1. Do Australians think we are collectively nuts now XD. In order to recover from all the negative press internationally from 2016, the US is going to have to put a man on Mars or something to make people forget!

      Haha if I build a bomb shelter I'm going to go full out like the Raven Rock Mountain or Cheyenne Mountain Complex. I tried to find the article but I remember reading about a guy who build a insane homemade fallout shelter during the Cold War four stories deep with booby traps, lead paint, ventilation, and years worth of food.

      The most apolitical explanation of Trump I can think of is its a combination of socioeconomic and demographic trends that have been underway for at least two decades within the US. Many nations in the West have had a surge in right wing populism with anti-immigrant beliefs such as in Eastern and South Europe.

      Its also worth noting that the Democrat and Republican share of the electorate is at record lows while independents makeup 43% of the electorate according to Gallup. Both of the political parties have become more polarized as shown by this neat graphic, which is a damn shame because the U.S. government can only function as a result of compromise unlike a Parliamentary system:

  6. Matt

    "Do Australians think we are collectively nuts now XD"

    The answer is a very loud YES!

    In Australia we are just speechless as to what is going on in the USA Pres Race.

  7. HI Matt

    What are your thoughts on china Island chain.

    It would seem they are capable of lunching long range boomers off them, judging by the distance of the runway.

    But how would they be able to defend them from attacks by sub, destroyers, and air from long distance cruse missiles. Say 50-80 cruse missiles per day and night over a 3-5 day's for a number of weeks.

    China will lose these Islands with in the few days/weeks of any conflict.

    How would you defend the Islands if you had china interest in staining the island for long periods of time?

    It's easy to attack, but what would china need to fend off major attacks from USA and Japan.

    My 2 cent's china would have to have at least 2-3 Iron Dome type systems on each island with a combination of S300 and S400 and couple of hundred missiles to defend, and a fair few Phalanx CIWS along the entire Island.

    So how would you defend the Islands?

    I would lunch a Sea, Air attack with Cruise missiles with a devastating Sub cruse missile attack through out the night. During the Bombardment radar jamming attacks and even maybe EMP. Over a 14-20 day relentless campaign.

    So your challenge, if you choose to accept. Is how would you defend the Islands from a china prospective. You can't always be USA, you have to understand your foe mind and thinking?


    1. Hi Stone!

      I think you have a valid point, its often useful to think from the other side's perspective. I actually got the opportunity to participate in a large organized wargaming session and I was Vice Chairman of the Central Military Commission for China against the US and Japan though my University. I think the islands in the South China Sea (SCS) have geopolitical value but limited operational-military value if that makes sense.

      For example, if China sets up an anti=access area denial zone in the SCS within the context of coercing or attacking the Philippines over its territorial claims in the SCS, the initial threshold for assisting the Philippines would be very high from the US perspective as we'd have to "knock down the door" to rush to the Philippines aid. That's a high political price and threshold to cross but from a military perspective, I don't think China could erect defenses in a remote series of fixed points in the middle of the SCS such that the US could not get in if it did commit wholeheartedly.

      I'd agree though with you that they'd have to take the cruise missile and air defense threat very seriously. For the sake of argument, I'd harden all the facilities with super hardened concrete reinforced steel structures which would be internally EMP shielded, redundant runways, prepositioned runway repair equipment, GPS jammers - to deny the use of precision guided munitions, and I'd add in a network of both sonobuoys to detect submarines and seamines. Lastly, I'd have a squadron of J-20 aircraft at high operational readiness forward deployed in the SCS backed up with S-400s and HQ-9 SAMS as well as submarines at sea and anti-ship cruise missiles. Those features might cost billions of dollars though XD

      I would be very worried about large scale Seal raids against my isolated facilities backed up cruise missiles and stealth aircraft; the converted SSGN Ohio-class submarines can hypothetically accommodate and deploy up to 100 Navy Seals which would be quite the raid force to wreak havoc. Alternatively, those subs could launch 150+ tomahawk cruise missiles, launched from short range to minimize early warning, at China's SCS bases in which case almost no amount of SAMs and missile defense is going to help you.



  8. Hi Matt

    Well the Sub deal was awarded today and it was given to the French. It will have US weapons system installed with French sonar the same as there French Nuclear Sub.

    Apparently French out preformed and was more cost effective in the tendering project. Japan lost the deal they are not happy.

    The Sub will be built all in Australia.

    Matt do you know much about the French Sub or can you find out about them. As i know nothing about the Submarine at all.


    1. Hi Stone,

      After the leak regarding the Japanese bid had failed, I thought the French had a better shot than the Germans. The French build exceptionally capable both diesel and nuclear attack submarines. Just last year, a French nuclear attack submarine sank the most modernized U.S. carrier strike group in a simulated exercise. I don't know the rules of engagement were or if a U.S. submarine was attached to the group.

      The Shortfin Barracuda is a diesel electric derivative of the nuclear Barracuda designed for the French Navy.

      Peter Coates has been reporting on the Australian submarine competition for a while:

      I don't speak for the U.S. Gov. clearly but I'm just glad Australia is getting the relevant capabilities it needs to be a valuable regional ally. The strengthening of trilateral relationships between US-Australia-Japan was icing on the cake so to speak. My concern though is that China potentially sees Australia as acquiescing to its demands, PM Turnbull was in China shortly before the decision was made and I can only think they expressed their extreme dissatisfaction should Japan win. If China perceives itself as effectively driving a wedge between the U.S. and Australia that would be more a problem than the missed opportunity to improve Japan-Aussie relations.

      It looks like the French won on industrial base and technology transfer grounds which were widely reported to be the least strong elements of Japan's bid as their first major overseas arms competition. Even if the Shortfin is not quite as good from a stealth standpoint but its competitive, the jobs aspect likely was the deciding factor given the upcoming Australian election. I don't blame Turnbull on those grounds, that is how it always is in democracies, gotta get the votes! Feel free to correct my interpretation of Australian politics, btw you are looking more right by the day about Trump!



  9. Hi Matt

    Thanks for the response.

    Was hopping that you would know someone at your class that really knows that stuff about Sub's.

    I know that France dose give "Advice" to China about there air-craft carrier and that China and France have a strong relationship when it comes to military interaction.

    You are right, the deal had to be good for Jobs, Abbott in part lost his PM because of the backlash with the Jap submarines.

    Was watching ABC and they had an "experts" on who was allowed to talk about the deal know that it was conformed. He was involved with the selection of the Sub.

    The Deal was competitive between Germany and France, the Japans option fell "well short of Australia needs" and "would HEAVILY struggle to meet the RAN requirement's".

    So with that type of interview and response, you would have to wonder weather the Japanese Sub is that ideal for Australia in the first place. I think they also lost the bid due to 2 factors, one they have never dealt with such a complex deal, and 2 they probably need a new generation of sub. On the table for offer was just a larger version of the Souya class.

    The going senses is that the French won the deal because they already have the design of the nuclear class which is the same design we are going for. Also I seen multiple reports that the French exceed ARN (Australia Royal Navy) requirements.

    All our weapon system will be USA. :-)

    Germany did not get it because they did not have a sub of that size in the water. But were very close to wining.

    So at this stage we are looking at a 3-5 year design stage, with the first to be delivered to RAN by 2030.

    They are already talking about cost blow outs, some reports that the sub's will cost about $90 billion over there service life to 2060.

    I don't see us getting a sub until 2035-2040 in the water that is fully operational.

    It would have been better to have at least first 3 to be built in France and the Others to be built in Australia.

    So, Trump..... :-)

    My prediction is he will win the White House against Hillary.

    If the GOP dose not select him, they will be wiped out for a generation. The tea party will take a big chunck out of the GOP, and you could even see another party like the tea party raise from the back lash to take more seats from the GOP established republicans

    Berni is gone :-( Hillary will win the Demo primary.

    Trump for 2016.

    Matt it's all about brand name with Trump, that why he is doing so well. He also making alot of money for the New Organizations.

    But don't worry when he becomes President we in Australia will never look at USA again in the Same way. Even politically we will grow some distance from Trump and sadly the USA.

    Every time a Australian politician is asked about Trump, it;s like they are eating Glass when commenting.

    If you get any more info on the France's sub, please share.

    All the best.
    Stone 30.

    1. I hoped Australia would do a hybrid production run with a few submarines built in France and the rest in Australia. Especially when its the first of a new class or incorporates as many changes as this, its always better to have the original designer produce the first unit in the event of unexpected engineering difficulties they'd be much better prepared than the customer nation. Once the initial teething problems are fixed with the design, its easier to transfer it over to the customer for domestic production.

      Building submarines is really hard even for developed nations, the UK had to call over the U.S. for help (General Dynamics) to build their Astute class submarines. If we had the production potential and the greens weren't an obstacle, the Virginia-class would hands down be the best option in many ways.

      Obama apparently has a rehearsed speech every time a foreign leader calls him about Trump :/ Apparently he says Hillary will win easily which I'm still confident she will. Lot of Americans say they will move to Canada should their party not win, but I'd go to Australia :D I just be afraid of the spiders though XD

      I don't know if they cover Cruz much but he's really similar in terms of message and substance. John Kasich is only moderate left standing.

  10. Hello Matt,

    Brilliant article once again. However, I am concerned with the thought of rushing the development of the F-X program to deal with the PAK-FA and J-20 threats.

    Whenever the US develops aircraft based on simulations or projections of what future air wars may look like, they end up with aircraft that do not perform as well as their simulated projections suggest.

    The F-4 and F-111 are prime examples of these, they were developed with the assumption that future air combat would be heavily dependent on BVR capabilities and that the primary targets would be long range Soviet bombers.

    If it wasn't for the ingenuity of pilots, the F-4 may have been a total failure as a fighter.

    Now, contrast that with planes that were developed after learning the lessons of previous conflicts.

    The F-86 was developed from the lessons learned in WW2.
    The F-15 was developed from the lessons learned in Vietnam.
    The F-22 was developed from the lessons learned from Vietnam and the Gulf wars.

    Perhaps it would be best to develop the 6th gen once the F-22 and F-35 finally taste combat with air to air adversaries.

    In the mean time, the F-22 and F-35 can go through continuous upgrades and production just like how they did with the F-15.

    The F-15SG and F-15SE (if it went in production) can be considered generations more advanced than the F-15A that flew in 1972.

    perhaps and F-22C can make an incremental leap from being a 5th gen fighter to a 5.5gen then a 5.5+ gen fighter and so on

    1. The problem is, the Pentagon now takes 15 to 18 years to develop and field a new fighter. ATF which lead to the F-22 started in 1980s but F-22 wasn't fielded until 2005, F-35 is even worse in that regard. We can't afford to develop technology reactivity with respect to the next major war or we'll never be able to keep ahead of the threat. You can mitigate the red tape and bureaucracy to an extent but government is always going to be super slow. This is further compounded by our inability to predict future conflicts put best by Robert Gates:

      "In the 40 years since Vietnam, we have a perfect record in predicting where we will use military force next: We’ve never once gotten it right. If you think about it from Grenada to Haiti to Somalia to Panama to Iraq twice to Afghanistan to Libya twice, the Balkans and so on — in not one of those cases did we have any hint six months ahead of the start of hostilities that we were going to have military forces in those places"

      I'm actually not quite as pessimistic in terms of gauging the next threat but its important to bare in mind such that you program some level of flexibility in the platform to adapt. If there was any one person who could consistently predict the future national security environment decades out, it was the Office of Net assessment formerly led by Andy Marshall (who is often called "Yoda"). During his final years inspite of Iraq and Afghanistan, he kept focused on China. Great Power threats are unambiguously the greatest concern to U.S. national security policy, namely China distantly followed by Russia.

      Even if its not China, the general requirements are exceedingly likely to be range, payload/deep magazine, human-machine combat teaming, survivability and inclusion of previous generation attributes such as high maneuverability. These characteristics would aid the U.S. defeat A2/AD threats which have proliferated after the Persian Gulf War by powers who seek to limit U.S. power projection and recognize that they cannot engage the U.S. on equal footing (China, Russia, Iran, and to an extent North Korea).

      As of July this year, both the USN and USAF are leaning towards something similar to what you are describing: avoid development of a 5th generation aircraft and develop new technologies for it in a much faster timescale. But fundamental core requirements still aren't going to change despite upgrades: no matter how much you try you're not going to make an F-4 super maneuverable. In the same vein, you can't triple the combat radius of an F-35 or F-22 to make it more relevant to the Asia-Pacific (e.g. our main air base in the Western Pac, Anderson AFB Guam is 1,500 nm from Taiwan but the F-22 which was designed to fight from bases in Western Europe against the relatively USSR has a combat radius of 590 nm.

      Developing a new aircraft tailored to the projected future threat environment is, in my view, inevitable. You can cut down the development time substantially though with smart management such as stable clear requirements. special contracting authorities (e.g. Rapid Capabilities Office which is not subject to many of the existing and deeply flawed acquisition laws), etc.