Friday, May 31, 2013

Why South Korea will likely choose the F-35

Thinking about the previous post I wrote concerning South Korea's upcoming choice, I remembered something Dr. Robinn Laird had written in "Proceedings" about the F-35. He mentioned it in his most recent article:
These F-35-Aegis offense and defense bubbles can be networked throughout the Pacific to enhance the capacity of individual nations. They represent a prime example of how one country’s assets can contribute to the reach others, together establishing a scalable capability for a honeycombed force.

Overall, the enterprise lays a foundation for a global capability in sea-based missile defenses and for protecting deployed forces as well as projecting force. Power such as this is increasingly central to the freedom of action necessary for the worldwide operation of the U.S. military and our coalition partners.
Here is the full Proceedings article.

With the "Pacific Pivot" underway, the offensive military build up in China, North Korea's nonsense, a prudent country is going to look for every advantage it can get to leverage it's forces and create a synergy among allies that at worst neutralizes any enemy advantage in numbers and at best gives it and its allies an advantage.

As Laird continues to point out, the F-35, along with other advanced and networked systems provide that synergy and can, properly applied, provide an advantage.  That's what I mean when I continue to talk about those who "get it".   Read about his concept of a "wingman" for the F-35.  It is certainly non-traditional, but when you grasp or "get" the capabilities of the F-35, it makes perfect sense.

Why do I continue to think the F-35 has, or should have the advantage in the contest in South Korea?

As mentioned in the previous post, 'interoperability' will be the key.  And the aircraft which offers the most bang for the buck in that area is clearly the F-35.


Wednesday, May 29, 2013

F-35: South Korea's choice?

I mentioned this a couple of months ago, but it is worth an update.  This from a South Korean journalist.
Last month, Seoul made a separate request to purchase Lockheed Martin's F-35 stealth fighter or Boeing's F-15 Silent Eagle.

The Eurofighter Typhoon of the European Aeronautic Defence and Space Company is another candidate in the competition, through which Seoul seeks to purchase 60 jets to replace its aging F-4 and F-5 jets. The winner is expected to be announced next month.

Observers said the US products would be at an advantage in the contest given Seoul considers interoperability with US forces and alliance-related factors. But EADS has made attractive offers, such as investing $2 billion in Korea's project to develop indigenous fighters.
Note the key phrase.  While the EADS offer is attractive, with North Korea acting as it has for the past few years, and the history of US/South Korean relations, my guess is that attractive as it is, it won't be enough to swing the deal.  Additionally, remember what aircraft the Aussies, Japanese and Singapore have committed too.

If interoperability is a key consideration, along with 3rd generation stealth, etc., the F-35 is the fighter of choice.  We'll see, but that's how I see it.


Tuesday, May 28, 2013

F-35: Costs per aircraft drop as program begins to hit stride

Another sign of progress that will really upset critics who've been more than happy to tell everyone who will listen that what just happened is impossible. In short, what happened is the cost per aircraft has dropped overall:
Overall, the average procurement cost per plane dropped from $109.2 million in 2011 to $104.8 million in 2012. The main driver of the reduction is a drop in the labor rates for Lockheed, Pratt and their subcontractors, as well as revised airframe and subcontractor estimates.

 Unit Recurring Flyaway costs — the total cost for the platform, engine, mission and vehicles systems and engineering change orders — remained fairly steady, with the average of the F-35A variant dropping from $78.7 million to $76.8 million, and the Navy’s carrier variant rising from $87 million to $88.7 million.

The largest drop came from the Marine Corps F-35B jump-jet model, which dropped the average almost $3 million, from $106.4 to $103.6 million.
What does this mean, besides a more affordable aircraft?  It means that the projections and promises the manufacturer made weren't just a bunch of hot air.  It means that if DoD continues to procure F-35's at a pace that allows the economies of scale necessary to drive down costs that the aircraft can continue to see price reductions.

And it also means the critics were wrong. 



Friday, May 24, 2013

F-35: An evolutionary fighter jet

Great article on the F-35 that begins with this bit of truth:
It is difficult to discuss the F-35 without actually knowing what the aircraft is and how F-35 fleets will reshape combat. But this is precisely what the budding negative commentary on the F-35 is built on – a lack of knowledge.
Having watched this "debate" for a while, I can only say, "amen, brother".  We've all seen commentary that is founded in a distinct lack of knowledge about the aircraft.  Or as I liken it, "4th generation criticism in a 5th generation world".

Dr. Robbin F. Laird is one of the people who "gets it".  I've called the F-35 an "evolutionary" aircraft, and he does as well.  It is all about what it can do above and beyond the limits of 4th generation critique.  And it is what it can do beyond that which makes the 4th generation criticism so uninformed.

Laird points out the following:
I have had the opportunity over the years to interview many F-22 and F-35 pilots, maintainers and builders as well as the subsystem suppliers of the F-35. Much of the capability of the aircraft, including its multiple integrated combat systems are evolutionary steps forward, and low risk systems, such as the active electronically scanned array (AESA) built by Northrop Grumman for the F-35.

What is radically new about the F-35 is the fusion of data in the cockpit and the shaping of a new decision making capability within the aircraft and the fleet. The aircraft permits situational decision-making, not just situational awareness. It is a C5ISR (Command, Control, Communications, Computers, Combat Systems, Intelligence, Surveillance, and Reconnaissance) aircraft, which allows the U.S. Marine Corps (USMC) alone to replace three aircraft, including an Electronic Warfare Aircraft with the F-35B. This is also why Singapore has referred to the F-35B as a “cost effective” aircraft.

But understanding the real value of the F-35 one must consider its operation as a fleet, not simply as an individual aircraft. The F-22 was built as an aircraft, which flies in 2, and 4 ship formations, but unlike the F-15, the “wingman” is miles away and not anywhere to be found in visual range. As one pilot put it to me: “When we take off together that is the last time we see each other until we land.”

The F-35 also has the capability to operate miles away from one another, but with a major difference. The individual airplanes are interconnected, operate in 360-degree operational space, and the machines pass the data throughout the network. Each individual plane can see around itself for significant distances in 360 degree space, which has already underscored the need for a new generation of weapons, for existing systems such as Advanced Medium-Range Air-to-Air Missiles (AMRAAMs) operate in half or less of the space which each F-35 can see beyond itself.

 It is the interconnected C5ISR delivered by the fleet, coupled with the ability to work with the off-boarding of weapons, which shapes a new way forward. Target acquisition does not have to be limited to weapons carried on board. This means that classic distinctions between tactical fighters doing close air support, air superiority missions or air defense missions become blurred. The fleet as a whole identifies targets for the various mission sets and can guide weapons from any of its elements to a diversity of targets. The reach of the fleet is the key to the operation of the fleet, not the range of individual aircraft.
These are the parts of the equation and their implication that the 4th generation critics never seem to be able to grasp.  The F-35 works differently and will be deployed and used differently than any other fighter aircraft we've ever had.  And it will have an inherent flexibility to "shape combat capabilities the next decade out" per Laird.  It will also help our side shape the future battlefield, especially in the Pacific where we are now focused.

So as the naysayers wail (see comments to Laird's post - the same old uninformed nonsense), the most evolutionary fighter jet in our nation's history continues to take shape.  Thank goodness for those among our military leadership who, like Laird, also "get it."


Thursday, May 23, 2013

USAF to field F-35 one year earlier than planned

In case you missed the news:
Lockheed Martin's F-35 Joint Strike Fighter will be in operational use by the U.S. Air Force in mid-2016, a year ahead of schedule, Reuters reports.

The Air Force said the plane will operate with a slightly less capable software package similar to that of the U.S. Marine Corp. The fighter jet later will see a software upgrade to provide full capabilities. 
The Air Force has obviously taken a look at what the USMC is doing and see's advantages in forming it's tactical squadrons early even with a less capable plane.  This will allow faster training and integration of the pilots and planes when they're fully capable.  It will also allow the Air Force to begin squadron operations early, begin to develop and practice some basic tactics with the aircraft and be a step ahead when the final software is ready.  It also means they've seen enough progress in testing to feel confident in the move.

A smart move in my estimation.


Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Video: F-35B executes first ever vertical takeoff

Another first for the program:

A Lockheed Martin F-35B Short Takeoff/Vertical Landing (STOVL) Lightning II test aircraft recently completed the first-ever Vertical Takeoff (VTO) on May 10.

VTOs are one of the many capabilities required for the fielding an F-35B aircraft. While not a combat capability, VTOs are required for repositioning of the STOVL in environments where a jet could not perform a short takeoff. In these cases, the jet, with a limited amount of fuel, would execute a VTO to travel a short distance. 


Monday, May 20, 2013

F-35 completes high angle of attack (AoA) testing

Great video of the F-35 during high AoA testing. It passed with flying colors.

From the Lockheed Martin release:
EDWARDS AIR FORCE BASE, Calif., May 16, 2013 – The latest in a series of Lockheed Martin [LMT] F-35A high angle of attack (AOA) testing was recently completed. The testing accomplished high AOA beyond both the positive and negative maximum command limits, including intentionally putting the aircraft out of control in several configurations. This included initially flying in the stealth clean wing configuration. It was followed by testing with external air-to-air pylons and missiles and then with open weapon bay doors. The F-35A began edge-of-the-envelope high AOA testing in the Fall 2012. For all testing, recovery from out of control flight has been 100 percent successful without the use of the spin recovery chute, which is carried to maximize safety.
This is another test which points significantly to design validation.


Thursday, May 16, 2013

A little ground truth in the F-35 debate

A lot of truth in the following short paragraphs from an article about a LM F-35 cockpit demonstration:
The nation’s fighter jets deter the threat of warfare and defend the nation against threats from other aircraft and missile attacks, said Bob Rubino, director of the Navy F-35 program for Lockheed’s Washington operations.

He added that other countries are developing new aircraft similar to the F-35 and F-32. And, quite simply, the nation’s warplanes are old.

Designed in the 1970s, Air Force fighter jets are an average of 24 years old and require a hefty amount of maintenance, he said. “I can probably count on my hand how many people have a car that’s 24 years old,” Rubino said.

More than 90 F-35s have been delivered to date, with 40 more currently being built and another 37 under contract. Thirty were built and delivered last year, a number that Lockheed plans to improve upon by 20 percent in 2013. Lockheed plans to increase its F-35 production rate from the current three aircraft per month to 180 per month by 2018, Rubino said. Once production is in full swing by 2018, the aircraft will cost an estimated $75 million each in today’s dollars. 
Despite all the wailing, moaning and gnashing of teeth by critics, this is reality, and the reason this airplane must be built (especially given what was done to the F-22).  As Rubino says, our current fleet is old, soon to be out-dated and would not do particularly well against true 5th generation fighters like those being developed in Russia and China (with the very large caveat that China's fills the bill).  Additionally, the cost - which will be equivalent to a mission capable F-16 or F/A 18 -  will only be "an estimated $75 million" if a) the number promised is the number purchased by the military and b) LM can ramp up to full production (that's where the economies are to be found).

For our military, it reminds me of the old Valvoline commercial - "you can pay me now, or you can pay me later".  The later, in this case, might be priced in the loss of troops to enemy air for the first time since the Korean war.


Wednesday, May 15, 2013

USMC Gen. Amos testifies before Congress on F-35B

USMC  Commandant, Gen. James Amos, gave testimony to the House Armed Services Committee.  Here's what he said about the F-35B:
As we modernize Marine fixed-wing aviation assets for the future, the continued development and fielding of the short take-off and vertical landing (STOVL) F-35B Joint Strike Fighter remains the centerpiece of our effort. The capability inherent in a STOVL jet allows the Marine Corps to operate in harsh conditions and from remote locations where few airfields are available for conventional aircraft. It is also specifically designed to operate from amphibious ships – a capability that no other tactical fifth-generation aircraft possesses. The ability to employ a fifth-generation aircraft from 11 big-deck amphibious ships doubles the number of “aircraft carriers” from which the United States can employ this game-changing capability. The expanded flexibility of STOVL capabilities operating both at-sea and from austere land bases is essential, especially in the Pacific. Once fully fielded, the F-35B will replace three legacy aircraft – F/A-18, EA-6B, and AV-8B. Training continues for our F-35B pilots. In 2012, we flew more than 500 hours and trained 15 pilots. Just recently, in November 2012, we established our first operational squadron, VMFA-121, at MCAS Yuma. Continued funding and support from Congress for this program is of utmost importance for the Marine Corps as we continue with a plan to “sundown” three different legacy platforms.
When asked about the status of the software he said:
“…the fact of the matter is that the program officer, program manager, General Bogdan, went on record here just a little bit ago saying that he had confidence that (F-35) 2B software would be ready to go in time to meet the IOC (Initial Operating Capability) of the Marine Corps of 2015. The software in 2B will provide a more capable platform than we currently have in the entire United States Marine Corps today. It will provide an airplane that will deliver more weapons, be more capable, be stealthier, have more capabilities, more information assurance, more information dominance, than anything we're flying today in the United States Marine Corps.” 
Obviously, the Marine Corps is "all in" on the F-35B and ready to spool up and deploy it. As Gen. Amos says, it is a fighter that an airplane that "will deliver more weapons, be more capable, be stealthier, have more capabilities, more information assurance, more information dominance, than anything we're flying today in the United States Marine Corps.” A former aviator himself, he's another one who "gets it."


Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Brits fall in love with the F-35

The Telegraph has the story:
The smile on the face of the test pilot as he completed a successful vertical landing of Britain’s newest generation of fighter jets said it all. “This is simply a phenomenal flying machine.”
A British journalist made the trek to Patuxent River Naval Base, Maryland to see what British test pilots had to say about the plane that would be replacing the much loved Harrier. What he found was some pilots who flat love the F-35B:
During last week’s test flight I watched as one of Britain’s prototype F-35 fighters approached the landing area at around 150mph, before the aircraft slowly came to a complete halt. It then hung perfectly motionless in the sky for a full minute at around 100 feet before making a gentle landing on the tarmac.

“This aircraft is light years ahead of the Harrier in terms of what it can do,” said Peter Wilson, 47, the British test pilot who conducted the landing. A veteran Harrier pilot who has flown combat missions in Iraq, Bosnia and Sierra Leone, Mr Wilson, who is now one of Britain’s leading test pilots, said the Harrier was a difficult plane to fly, and required immense skill on the part of the pilot to conduct vertical landings. “We have learnt our lessons and the F-35 has all the Harriers faults designed out of it,” said Mr Wilson, from Whalley, Lancs.
Another former Harrier pilot chimed in:
“It is a joy to fly,” said Lt. Commander Ian Tidball, 43, a former Royal Navy Harrier pilot who arrived in the U.S. four weeks ago to begin test flights. “It is very responsive compared to the Harrier, and has a far wider range of capabilities.”
And the much maligned helmet?
“The helmet is like wearing a laptop on your head, while the cockpit has been designed with its own in-built i-Pad before the i-Pad had even been invented,” explained Group Captain Harv Smyth, 41, another veteran RAF Harrier pilot who won the Distinguished Flying Cross during the Iraq War in 2003 and is overseeing the project. “The main problem we face is that the technology is now so advanced that we have to make sure it fits in with our air worthiness requirements.”
So, the Brits have seen it, flown it and they like it. 

Somehow I'm not surprised.


Monday, May 13, 2013

F-35: Recent program highlights

Some data released recently by Lockheed Martin about the F-35 program:
SDD flight test activity totals for 2013 as of April 30, are provided below:

o F-35A Flight Science aircraft have flown 86 times o F-35B Flight Science aircraft have completed 53 flights

o F-35C Flight Science aircraft have flown 73 times

o The Mission Systems Test Aircraft have flown 117 times

Since December 2006, F-35s have flown 4,697 times and accrued more than 7,265 cumulative flight hours. This total includes 91 flights from the original test aircraft, AA-1; 2,924 SDD test flights; and 1,682 production-model flights.
From the last three months:
- Australia recommitted to their program of record which includes purchasing 100 aircraft beginning in LRIP 10 and leaving their IOC date unchanged – great news for F-35. (May 2, 2013)

- VMFAT-501 at Eglin AFB executed an F-35 eight ship launch for air-to-air and air-to-ground training, completed hot refueling and launched again completing 16 sorties in three hours. (April 26, 2013)

- 53rd Squadron flies first F-35 sortie at Nellis AFB (April 4, 2013)

- The first operational F-35B night, vertical landing was completed. (April 2, 2013)

- The third F-35B for the U.K. flew for the first time. (April 1, 2013)

- BF-3 conducted the first weapon separation test from an F-35B. (March 26, 2013)

- The first operational F-35B at MCAS Yuma conducted its first vertical landing. (March 21, 2013)

- The first international student aviator at the 33rd Fighter Wing at Eglin Air Force Base completed inaugural sortie. (March 19, 2013)

- Three F-35A operational test aircraft were delivered to Nellis Air Force Base, Nev. (March 6, 2013) 



Thursday, May 9, 2013

Another reason why the F-35 is so critical to our future

One thing I've noticed over the years among critics of the F-35 who demand the program be scrapped is how incredibly short sighted they are.  What they don't seem to understand, or don't care to understand, is the development of this program isn't just about the F-35. 
"It is not too early to begin consideration of the next generation of capability that will someday complement and eventually replace the F-35,” Kendall says in the memo. “In addition, the F-35 has been the only high-performance vehicle in development in the U.S. for approximately a decade … and I am concerned that our ability to design cutting-edge platforms of this type is already atrophying.”
How does one stay ahead of the power curve of advanced, cutting-edge design of future fighters if it isn't working on one now?  How does one apply these developments in an environment similar to that which they'll be working in at this future date?

To put it succinctly, you don't.  While you can run all the simulations you wish, putting such systems in to an advanced aircraft and testing, tweaking and integrating it is how you are going to eventually develop the 6th generation of aircraft, be they piloted or pilotless.   If you can't do that, then, as Kendall says, you're ability to design, etc. "atrophy's".

That's another very good reason the F-35 is so critical to the US:
Spinning technologies off to the F-35 while continuing toward development of an energy-efficient, sixth-generation fighter with high-power capacity and no thermal constraints will be key to sustaining industry’s capabilities over the next decade. Without a “meaningful opportunity for leading-edge design, build and test,” says Kendall in his memo, the U.S. capability to design high-performance aircraft “will not be preserved, and our technological advantage in [air dominance] will not endure.”
Indeed.  It benefits us in the way Kendall describes as well as providing the opportunity to continually upgrade our other 5th generation fighter, the F-22, with better systems and capabilities proven by the F-35.


Wednesday, May 8, 2013

F-35: Weapons load graphic

Here's a nice graphic showing the approved munitions, etc. for the F-35, both internal and external loads:


Tuesday, May 7, 2013

F-35: A good status update

Fox News actually has a pretty fair update on the F-35 program.  Of course that will cause them to be challenged as "media hacks" for Lockheed Martin" I'm sure.  On the whole, however, it seems pretty fair and objective treatment of the F-35.

Critics won't like it because it is entitled "5th Generation F-35 Fighters Makes Headway".  We all know that certain among the critical class likely went apoplectic when they saw that.  Articles with verbaige like this are just not acceptable to those who prefer you to think of the jet as a "flying piano" - whatever in the world that means:
Last Friday, the U.S. Marine Corps' VMFAT-501 training squadron in Florida’s Eglin AFB launched its first F-35B eight-ship, flew a mission, hot-pit refueled and went back up again.

This mission is the latest in a series of promising steps forward for the F-35. 

You bet that mission is a "promising step forward" for the program (we reported on it here).  And we've documented plenty more of those steps on this blog.

Give the article a read.  If you're a fan of the program, you'll enjoy it.  If you're a critic you might want to avoid it.  I hear gnashing of teeth leads to tooth enamel erosion.


Monday, May 6, 2013

F-35: About those lifetime costs

Colin Clark at AOL Defense brings a little sanity to the discussion of operational costs, be they lifetime or flying hour.
The latest stab at estimating the F-35's costs will come May 23, when the benchmark Selected Acquisition Report is scheduled for release. Lt. Gen. Christopher Bogdan, the head of the F-35 joint program office, told the Dutch Parliament's defense subcommittee that a key component of the F-35's life cycle costs, cost per flying hour, may be $24,000, just 10 percent more than the F-16 costs. This estimate was developed by the Air Force, working with Fox's shop, the Cost Assessment & Program Evaluation office (CAPE).

But a direct comparison of just flying hour costs will not give you an accurate picture of the overall costs of any new airplane. Here's where we just begin to get at the fragile nature of cost estimates. First, comparing the F-35 to the F-16 isn't entirely apples to apples, given that one is stealthy and the other is not. Add to that the fact that Air Force isn't including the A-10 in the estimate even though the F-35A is designed to replace the A-10 as well as the F-16.
Or said another way, unless you know the basis of the cost estimate, it is practically useless when trying to make a comparison.  Clark intimates here that, in fact, the cost estimate may be high ... for the F-35.  If an "apples to apples" comparison was in fact applied and a combat configured F-16 (the natural configuration for an F-35) was used, we might see a slightly higher cost for the F-16, wouldn't we?

SMSgt Mac over at the "Elements of Power" blog gives us a little perspective on lifetime cost with a great graphic on a weapons system we've had for over 50 years:

Point?  If that weapons system was being developed today, what do you suppose would be said about the unit cost?   And, given that, can you imagine the estimated cost for the program 50 years out?

As detractors continue to use whatever they can find that they deem negative to the F-35 program, it's always good to keep a little perspective on what you are hearing.  We all know the incredible and incalculable service the B-52 has rendered this nation's national defense.  Imagine if we were building it now.  It would indeed make the F-35 seem to be a bargain in comparison, wouldn't it?


Thursday, May 2, 2013

UK and Australia commit to F-35 buys

Some news among the partner nations involved in the F-35 program.  There's been a lot of speculation concerning plans for the F-35 in both the UK and Australia, some saying those countries might back out of buying F-35s for their air forces.  Two reports appear to put that speculation to rest:
Australia's government is expected to affirm plans to buy up to 100 Lockheed Martin Corp F-35 fighter jets, according to a defense blueprint to be released on Friday, easing concerns hanging over the future of the controversial stealth fighter.
And why have the Australians decided to commit to the program in such a way?
Australia decided to stick with the F-35, heartened by recent progress on the plane and its high-tech helmet that fuses all the sensor data from the plane, said three sources familiar with the plan.
Jane's is reporting a similar thing concerning the UK today:
The UK is expected to obtain authority to procure its first squadron of Lockheed Martin F-35B Lightning II Joint Strike Fighter (JSF)/Joint Combat Aircraft (JCA) before the end of 2013, IHS Jane's was told on 18 April.

Speaking at BAE Systems' Warton production facility in Lancashire, Craig Smith, the head of F-35 Sustainment Programme Development UK/EU, said that military officials with industry support are working on the Main Gate 4 approval process for the procurement of an additional 14 F-35Bs to stand up the UK's first squadron in 2016.
So full speed ahead.  


Wednesday, May 1, 2013

F-35: Obvious answers to critical questions

One of the more persistant criticisms of the F-35 can be found in these arguments:
But low observability comes at a cost in speed, endurance and weapons load. Some critics say the F-35’s performance will lag existing aircraft, and that its range and payload are too small. 
The answer, for those who think about it, should be pretty obvious as well:
But Lockheed counters the F-35 can carry 18,500 pounds of fuel — far more than the CF-18, for example — and Flynn has said publicly it will outperform fourth-generation jets with a combat payload.

 Plus, Scott adds, it’s versatile: When you need stealth, say, to “kick in the door” and take out enemy air defences, the F-35A can carry 2,400 kg of missiles and bombs internally. When you don’t need stealth, that jumps to 8,000 kg — “as good or better” than “legacy” jets or competitors — by adding six hardpoints under the wings, two of which can take 600-gallon drop tanks. 
One of the apples and oranges performance comparisons we're constantly given is that of a slick 4th gen fighter compared to a combat loaded F-35.  Or a non-combat configured fighter vs. a combat configured fighter.  When the 4th generation fighter is combat configured, suddenly those performance numbers change pretty radically and we see the F-35's performance numbers shine in comparison.  When everything that is necessary to go into combat is hanging on the 4th gen fighter's wings, suddenly it isn't as fast or maneuverable as without those assets.  The F-35, when combat configured, remains "slick" with nothing hanging from it's wings.

Additionally, what is usually left out of the argument is what the external loading vs. internal loading does to the radar signature.  For a 4th generation fighter it simply makes the fighter even more visible.  The F-35, however, maintains the same low visibility because of its internal loading.

The point, of course, is it really doesn't matter how much ordnance a 4th gen aircraft can carry if it can't successfully penetrate denied airspace and complete the mission while the F-35 can.    And, as mentioned, if low observability isn't a requirement, if we have air dominance for instance, then the addition of hardpoints to the wings of the F-35 make it able to carry as much if not more ordnance into combat than can a 4th generation fighter.

Points to ponder and remember the next time you hear these same old arguments trotted out as a critique of the F-35.