Shoulda Gotten Apple Care for the Maintenance


The Register reports, in shock, that British F-35s are going to have their engines serviced in Turkey.

It actually makes perfect sense, if you think for a few seconds about the implications of how the F-35 is built – they are staring you right in the face. The manufacturing and maintenance facilities for those engines are going to cost a large multiple more than the engines, themselves.

In spite of (coincidentally) the Turkish contractor leaking the CAD files for the F-35 (early version, not flyable) the Turks are still part of the NATO consortium that has parceled out the pork, making sure that everyone involved gets to throw contracting millions at their local preferred defense industrial complex members. So, sure, let’s have the engines made over in Turkey, the avionics done at Raytheon, the airframe at Northrup Grumman, etc. Part of the reason why the F-35 has been such a nightmare is system integration – they’re swapping around classified system engineering documents as fast as they can … uh, how do they move them? Secure file sharing, that sounds like another great boondoggle to implement. [reg]

Britain’s F-35B fighter jets currently cost around $123m each – and British officials are quite content that the only engine overhaul facility for the stealth aircraft’s engines is located in Turkey.

The House of Commons’ Defence Committee questioned British ministers, civil servants and senior officers on the F-35 purchase programme, revealing that Britain is still publicly committed to buying 138 F-35Bs.

Suckers.

Docherty-Hughes refused to be deterred. “The minister didn’t answer the question. Is it value for the UK taxpayer? Are we one step away from a disaster? This is unprecedented, it’s never happened before. It’s clearly the United States directing the MoD to put the engines in for overhaul in another country. Has this happened before?”

The problem is that the Brits would poop themselves (that is the technical term) when they saw the invoices for building a capability for repairing F-35 engines. One does not simply pop over to the car parts store to get components for what is doubtless a classified engine architecture, made using classified manufacturing processes, all very secret except that every defense/industrial complex in NATO is in on the manufacturing and therefore the entire aircraft.

There are two things worth remembering about this story. First is that a lot of the US defense/industrial complex F-35 cheerleaders are dismissive of the current crop of Chinese 5th generation jets, because the Chinese just don’t know how to make the kind of crazy insanely badass engines that power a 5th generation fighter… uh, oh. We taught them, what? The Turks leaked what? Second, as I mentioned last year, the decision to lighten the overweight F-35 architecture by making it a single-engine aircraft meant that to try to get close to being a high-speed performer, they did a bunch of performance-enhancing moves like using vibranium parts in the engine. I’m kidding about the vibranium, but the higher-performance design has a shorter service life and maintenance cycle than an older design. So the F-35 engines will:

  • Cost more
  • Not last as long
  • Require more maintenance
  • Need to somehow get to Turkey for repairs beyond basic maintenance
  • (PS – cannot do extended supersonic flight which was part of the designed purpose of the aircraft)
  • (PS – has nowhere near the fuel range the plane was originally intended to have)

Suckers.

It’s almost as if the US was thinking that it’d be great if all the other air forces in the world except the Russians and Chinese (who are apparently not stupid) would switch to flying aircraft for which the US controls the supply-lines. Imagine if Donald Trump is having a crisis of competence and gets pissed off at the Australians and tells the Turks to start slow-walking those Aussie engine repairs, “tell the Maitre D’ over there to put the Canadians in line ahead of them.”

Flying Toast

Not only is the F-35 an overpriced short-legged hangar queen, its got a built-in supply chain vulnerability. I also have to wonder if the NSA will be having the Turkish intelligence folks serving up communications security exploits (or sensor fusion exploits!) because there is no better way to make your extremely expensive war-toy vulnerable than to let other people wrench on it. I assume that everyone who ever flies an F-35 is going to be flying it in “shh! Don’t touch it!” mode regarding its software, anyway. But, given the NSA’s self-chosen mission to pwn all the computers everywhere, I think the Brits, Aussies, and Canadians ought to be looking at this arrangement and thinking:

Suckers.

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It is suspiciously difficult to get information about the recommended time between maintenance for an F-35. It can’t be worse than the F-22 because they don’t make numbers that small, anymore, but you can bet it’s bad. The scenario may look like: F-35 takes off in middle eastern combat zone, returns from mission, and oops it’s off to Turkey for an engine overhaul. Basically, the future British Air Force looks like a few planes that are flight-worthy, and a stream of parts and upgrades all of which represent billions being siphoned off to American defense contractors or their designated pork partners. Did I say “Suckers”?

God, look at the shitty canopy design of the F-35 compared to the F-16. “But that’s OK,” say F-35 proponents, “nothing will survive in the air in the presence of an F-35 long enough to even get behind one.” Really.

Comments

  1. says

    I don’t recall, is Erdogan an islamist? I heard that was getting popular in Turkey, which means any given person working at said facility could be sympathetic to that brand of crap, even if he isn’t. I like this. I’m thinking, what’s the best case scenario, in terms of the military industrial complex fucking itself to death? Because I know damn well they’re not going to give up and start spending that money on infrastructure or social services at home. What’s the most amusing way to see this trash fire burn?

  2. dangerousbeans says

    wait, we (Australia) have to ship them to Turkey to get serviced? should have bought the Chinese ones, at least the dealership is closer

  3. Ketil Tveiten says

    So… in case of a serious shooting war, is the plan “win before the Russkies bomb that factory in Turkey”?

  4. says

    I never expected to experience the day when I will feel happy about the fact that my country simply cannot afford something. Usually not being able to afford something is a bad thing. However, I bet my country’s politicians would want some of these planes if only there was enough money to afford them.

    By the way, in my time zone it’s currently morning. Today I woke up, checked my RSS feeds, read this, and got a tad more depressed than I should be. This is the perfect way how to start a day! In case somebody else has the same problem, here https://pre00.deviantart.net/6527/th/pre/i/2017/200/9/1/pomeranian_by_avestra-dbgxjnx.jpg is our today’s picture of a fluffy puppy. Her name is Shira, she’s my mother’s dog, back when I took that photo, she was five months old. After all, last time when Marcus wrote about F-35s, I did promise a continuous supply of cute puppy photos in order to keep us all cheered up and happy. I was being sarcastic there, but, hey, cute and fluffy puppies!

  5. says

    Ketil Tveiten:
    “win before the Russkies bomb that factory in Turkey”?

    The Russians are stupid; they would never think of that!

    I wonder how secure the software development lifecycle is on those things. It’d be embarrassing for the whole program if some Chinese cyberwarrior added an option to “fly straight down at an awkward time” triggerable by a radio signal.

  6. komarov says

    Maybe certain countries have been bogged down in “small” wars against “terrorists” for so long they’ve forgotten just how crucial simple, short and, above all, reliable supply lines. In which case it’s not surprising if other considerations are given more weight during the design of military projects. Maybe they build the best airframes in the US and Turkey has the best engine mechanics the world over. Or maybe my cousin works in Turkey and I’ll retire to a board membership at Northrop Grumman when my elected term is up. Either way it’s sensible decisionmaking for the Fighterplane of the Future. (TM) (R) (C) (Legal disclaimer: Product may or may not have a future)

    Re: Ketil Tveiten (#4):

    So… in case of a serious shooting war, is the plan “win before the Russkies bomb that factory in Turkey”?

    I was tempted to think so but we (whoever that might be) probably wouldn’t stand a chance. Maybe I’ve been reading STDERR for too long, but I wouldn’t be suprised if, long before we got to the invading stage, our computers and networks would have been hacked to oblivion. Probably using vulnerabilities implanted at the behest of the NSA, or using tools they made and promptly lost.

    If I had to set up a low budget espionage agency* I’d probably just steal my intelligence (and everything else) from the US.

    *Does Badgeria still need one? I’m available! My qualifications are classified and my CV redacted, however. I’m that good.

  7. kestrel says

    @Ieva Skrebele; THANK YOU for the puppy. Yeah… not a fun way to start the day, but I do appreciate learning these things even if they depress me.

  8. says

    kestrel @#8

    I do appreciate learning these things even if they depress me.

    Of course I completely agree. After all, I wouldn’t be reading this if I didn’t consider such information worth knowing. I’m not complaining about Marcus’ choice of topics for his blog articles. It’s just that I need to think some happy thoughts every now and then in between thinking about everything that’s wrong with this world. That’s what keeps me sane and prevents getting a depression. Hence, cute puppies. (By the way, it’s convenient that I earn part of my living by photographing adorable puppies.)

  9. Dunc says

    Maybe I’ve been reading STDERR for too long, but I wouldn’t be suprised if, long before we got to the invading stage, our computers and networks would have been hacked to oblivion.

    It wouldn’t even take that. Russia can bring the whole of Europe to its knees just by shutting down their gas exports to us (especially in winter). China could collapse the US economy overnight simply by dumpling their vast accumulation of Treasury bonds.

    Of course, there’s a degree of Mutually Assured Destruction here, because either of those options would have catastrophic economic repercussions for the country executing them, but then a proper shooting war between superpowers would be economically catastrophic for everyone involved too.

  10. says

    China could collapse the US economy overnight simply by dumpling their vast accumulation of Treasury bonds.

    It’s true. And if Trump pisses them off enough to gyoza distance, that will be the (pot-) sticky wicket for a lot of global trade. Lots of market collapses, and a lot of people lose a lot of dough(-boys).

  11. says

    Dunc@#10:
    I read somewhere that Putin actually did suggest to Xi that China and Russia should drive the dollar into the toilet, right before the election (when he still thought Clinton would win) but the Chinese demurred, saying it was not necessary.

  12. cvoinescu says

    Marcus@#12:
    That works as a joke, and definitely as conspiracy theory, but how would anyone know this and be in a position to make it public? (I hear that governments other than that of the US are somewhat better at not leaking information.)

  13. komarov says

    Re: Dunc (#10):

    It wouldn’t even take that. Russia can bring the whole of Europe to its knees just by shutting down their gas exports to us (especially in winter). China could collapse the US economy overnight simply by dumpling their vast accumulation of Treasury bonds.

    True, but that would be an obvious attack and very last century, too. With the hack you might also be able to shift the blame to somebody else. Especially if you really have ripped off NSA “technology” (or somebody else’s). That might even be a problem for China and Russia because it seems like people have been primed to blame them. Just scatter some letters from the scapegoat’s alphabet in your code and you’re half-way to establishing Beyond All Doubt that they did it. (Officially at least) Just avoid being China, Russia or North Korea. The inofficial ranking for who to blame for [Terrible Hack The US disapproves of]* seems to be 1) Russia; 2) North Korea; 3) China.

    Another upside to the IT route to world domination would be that it can be more selective. You don’t have to crash the target’s economy outright, but you can chip away at it or even try to focus on other bits to weaken your opponent. Maybe instead of bombing the Turkish F-35 shop you can shut it down or, better yet, get some malware in to infect all the aircraft it services. (And everything the F-35s talk to, which seems to be a lot of things) And you might be able to do it long before the shooting portion of the conflict starts.

    You could probably do a lot of “fun” things this way you could never accomplish by warfare of the guns/bombs or economic sort. Maybe Liechtenstein could conquer Europe:
    1) Hack everyone to bits, blame North Korea
    2) Swoop to the rescue with the regiment of combat IT technicians you fortuitously maintained, despite ridicule from your fellow Europeans.
    3) Making short work of the “enemy” malware, they restore everything but will stick around for a while – a year, decade, whatever it takes** – while local governments get back on their feet and democracy is restored.

    *E.g.: POTUS locked in his armoured car, can’t get out. In fact there should be an international programme to make this happen, spearheaded by the US.

    **”We’re not happy with your filing structure. You’re doing dates backwards. So we’ve decided to stay on for a few more years and help you run your country. It’s for the best, really.”

  14. cvoinescu says

    **”We’re not happy with your continued use of antiquated units of measure. We’ll stay to help you convert everything to metric.”

  15. bmiller says

    We really are in late stage Imperial Arteriosclerosis, aren’t we? Given how nasty our elites have become, maybe it is better that they are so incompetent? The Chinese are massively nasty, but at least seem to be competent?

  16. says

    bmiller@#16:
    We really are in late stage Imperial Arteriosclerosis, aren’t we? Given how nasty our elites have become, maybe it is better that they are so incompetent?

    The Chinese are going to mess the planet up just as badly. I don’t think there’s going to be a great improvement over the US when the US eventually falls.

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