JSF Stands For TFX


We have no ax to grind against the F-35 however we predicted long ago that the F-35 operational history will replicate that of Lockheed's previous generation jet fighter, the F-104 Starfighter. Not a stellar record to be sure. Also, F-35 unit costs are almost $176 million per copy, (not $70 million as claimed by Lockheed Martin and the F-35 Joint Program Office). The Pentagon has indeed repeated history, JSF does stand for TFX. 

The Pentagon forgot the first rule of engineering; it's easy to make the new thing - work worse - than the thing it's supposed to replace.


"Asked by a reporter on Jan. 14 for his thoughts about the F-35, then-Acting Defense Secretary Christopher Miller referred to his department’s largest weapon system program as a “piece of shit.”"

02-Jun, 2021: "US Air Force wish list includes more F-15EX jets but no F-35s" Source

19-May 2021: The USAF starts to back-pedal on F-35 electronic capability. See here.

23-Jan 2021: Former acting US Secretary of Defense Christopher Miller describes the F-35 as, and we quote: "a piece of ..s**t." Existing F-35 operating costs $44,000 per flight hour. The program is in a tailspin. The USAF is moving to purchase new F-16s instead - as well as the F-15EX. Both are proven platforms.

08-Oct 2020: More program problems found after a crash. F-35 cost is over $175 million per copy.

29-Apr 2020: Acting [U.S.] Secretary of Defense Patrick Shanahan described the F-35 stealth fighter as “f---ed up”

24- June 2020: "F-35 is currently unable to fly in thunderstorms after the discovery of damage to one of the systems it uses to protect itself from lightning," Source

11-June 2019: The proverbial nail in the coffin for the F-35 program has come to light. The aircraft can only go supersonic in short bursts due to thermal overstress issues that burn the rear of the aircraft. 

The Pentagon and the MIC have yet again done what they do best - squander trillions of US tax dollars on junk and poor execution. It appears that the F-35 will indeed emulate the F-111 of the USAF and only retain any real ability as a strike platform. But as a multi-service-branch program - the F-35 is already dead.

For the record, we have never had an axe to grind against the F-35 program, the aircraft is rather a boring topic, to be honest. As long as per-unit acquisition and maintenance costs were kept near the General Dynamics F-16 and that the F-35 could be a robust, tough, combat aircraft - and not some hanger queen. However basic issues for the F-35 seem unending?

It is all too easy to watch stealth fighter proponents stumble over their own hyperbole. If stealth fighters are force multipliers - then by [their own] definition we do not need very many of them. This is surely what happened to the F-22A. Stealth fighter proponents are about to repeat their myopic exaggerations for the F-35. So be it. Then purchasing any more is unnecessary. We agree.

16-July 2019: Readiness issues continue to plague US F-35 and F-22 fleets.

11-Oct 2018: Worldwide F-35 fleet is grounded after an unexplained crash back in September. The aircraft that crashed had what was described "fuel tube" problem. There is also a troubling GOA report that could capture F-35 and other deeply computerized/coded platforms.

26-Jan 2018: Now a series of engine fires have been plaguing the F-35 program.

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In the late 1950s, the USAF Tactical Air Command (TAC) began looking for a replacement for its North American F-100 'Super Sabre', McDonnell F-101 'Voodoo' and Republic F-105 'Thunderchief' fighter-bombers. In early 1958, the U.S. Air Force issued General Operational Requirement (GOR) number 169, for an all-weather fighter, that was Mach 2 + capable, with reduced take-off and landing distance.

At the same time, the Navy was seeking a two-seat fleet defense fighter to replace their McDonnell Douglas F-4 'Phantom II' and Vought F-8 'Crusader' fighters.
In the early 1960s, DoD leadership was determined to reduce cost and complexity by producing a standardized aircraft that would be suitable for both the US Navy and the USAF. The new program was called TFX the joint Tactical Fighter Experimental (TFX).

In June 1961 then defense secretary, McNamara ordered the US Air Force and the Navy to work together on TFX development.
The Navy wanted a plane equipped with a long-range search-track radar for air-to-air interception. The Air Force needed a terrain-following radar for low-level all-weather penetration. The USAF wanted a 34-ton full load while the Navy wanted a maximum weight of 23 tons.
The Pentagon launched the TFX program in September 1961, with the USAF as prime contractor. In early 1962 the TFX had been whittled down to two competitors: The Boeing '818' and General Dynamics/Grumman F-111. Secretary McNamara announced in November 1962 that General Dynamics/Grumman design had been selected. He ordered eighteen F-111As from General Dynamics for the USAF along with five F- 111Bs from Grumman for the USN - so testing could begin on both variants.
The TFX would incorporate new technologies including; solid-state avionics, new (turbofan) engines, and a new hallmark feature - variable geometry wings - to enhance maneuverability, and reduce take-off distances and landing speeds. TFX even had an internal weapons bay.
The F-111B was shorter than the F-111A, but its wingspan was increased (to increase wing area) to improve low-speed handling. The Navy F-111B would incorporate the Hughes AN/AWG-9 pulse-Doppler radar and six Hughes Phoenix air-to-air missiles while the USAF F-111A would have the General Electric AN/APQ-113 and Texas Instruments AN/APQ-110 terrain-following radar, with air-to-ground missiles.
Among a myriad of development issues, the F-35 has a problem with excessive internal weapon bay temperatures at high speed(s) and low altitudes and in ground temperatures exceeding 32°C (90°F). The aircraft is restricted to time limits at 500 to 600 knots when under 7620 m (25,000 ft). The F-35 as of yet has no (no) plan to enable internal carriage of an AIM-9 class weapon. 

While USAF development proceeded - serious problems with the Navy’s F-111B were surfacing. The Navy plane was underpowered, prone to engine compressor stall, had poor pilot visibility during carrier recovery and was grossly overweight. A radical weight-reduction program was undertaken by the Navy to try and address the weight issue. The changes made to lighten the Navy's F-111B only altered the design further and further away from platform standardization with F-111A – and in the end, the Navy plane remained still too heavy for carrier operations.

By early 1968 the writing was on the wall - the Navy canceled the F-111B in favor of a new dedicated purpose-designed aircraft for its fleet defense requirement. The new dedicated design would become the first in a series of new American super-fighters, the Grumman F-14 Tomcat.

The F-111A would be successful at its low-level penetration mission for the USAF. The Strategic Air Command even developed an FB-111 with increased range.
In the end - it is purpose-built aircraft that cost less over time. They work better - because they can do the mission tasked to them – better – and therefore longer - and therefore cheaper. The DoD would do well to learn from its own history.
The F-35 Joint Strike Fighter program has too much internal inertia inside the defense establishment to be canceled – though at this point - it should be. It is far too expensive per copy and will only do one of the missions being asked of it – tactical precision strike.

Because of the inherent FOD (Foreign Object Ingestion) threat during V/STOL and its vulnerability to ground fire - the Marines F-35B and CAS (Close Air Support) mission for the F-35 - is simply hopeless. It can fly in and drop a bomb...but at a cost of $500 billion to $1.5 trillion dollar program? The F-35 cannot be launched in a tailwind of probably around 20 knots. 
Like the F-14 that leveraged other technologies from the F-111B program – namely the Hughes AN/AWG-9 pulse-Doppler radar/Phoenix missile system - the public and our international partners would be far better served by adapting F-35 radar, sensor, and network technologies to our existing generation manned fighters.

[Above] Looking at the front of the F-35 is revealing - in that pilot rear visibility is poor. This is a distinct disadvantage in combat (although the Distributed Aperture System, called "DAS" claims to mitigate this issue to some degree, - we remain skeptical). Please note the two (2) heated 'pitot tubes' extend out, on either side of the aircraft chin. 

How these protuberances modulate F-35 RCS is unknown. Because the 'pitot tubes' must be electrically heated to work, they can appear as two (2) hot spots to an adversary's FLIR/IRST.
[Below] Examples of two of the most outstanding American military aircraft ever built. The superlative General Dynamics F-16 fighter (foreground) and the Fairchild Republic A-10 Thunderbolt II anti-tank/CAS aircraft (background). Both were "Fighter Mafia" inspired and driven designs. Other than excellent pilot visibility - the two have no similarities in layout or wing shape. These differences are a function of the different missions they designed to perform. The DoD has simply forgotten the lessons of the 1960s and 70s and reverted back to a 'one-size-fits-all' false concept. The F-35 is the modern expression of this false concept. The JSF program is both too big and too expensive.


The F-35 has had a host of engine fires that are going to plague all F-35 operators. We have warned repeatedly here, that the DoD should not buy Lockheed-designed jet fighters. Simulations of F-35s armed with Meteor missiles downing Flankers with no Lockheed losses are also hopelessly fantastic given IFF/ fratricide issues/risks. All these simulations ignore necessary friendly radar-telemetry transmission cycles for the missile in flight – after launch - to update target information - that can be detected by an advisory and countered before your missile arrives. New RWR will negate LPI schemes.  The AIM-120 C8 "D" also appears to be in for a bumpy ride of requalification attempts.
If we were honest, do you really want to put our aircrews in an F-35 over a Su-35?

I think we all know the answer to that question.

[Below] The US Navy Northrop Grumman X-47B (UCAS-D) program is proceeding (and rather smoothly we would add). The X-47 program to date has demonstrated some remarkable autonomous/semi-autonomous capability. While not a replacement for manned aircraft, the X-47 should be able to do the high-threat-environment precision-strike mission for the Navy and relegate F-35C as 'not-very-helpful' in that role, calling seriously into question the need for an F-35C at all. 
Allowing DoD to continue to exhaust impossible sums of money on the F-35 at this point - is frankly inexcusable. Had F-35 remain under $70 million per copy - perhaps - but not anymore. We think the Navy has got a winner here in the X-47B. The Secretary of Defense should pay closer attention to X-47B and seriously rethink (cancel) the F-35 program.
To cover F-35 cancellation: All F-35 radar, sensor, network technologies should be incorporated into existing platforms across all service branches. Transfer one-third of the USAF fleet of A-10 Thunderbolt IIs CAS/Anti-armor aircraft to US Marine Corps Aviation. The Marines can soldier on with the AV-8B for V/STOL fixed-wing. Transfer the entire remaining A-10 fleet to US Army Aviation (the USAF hates the CAS mission anyway). The USAF can leverage the Navy X-47B program for tactical high-threat precision-strike and SAM suppression; otherwise, it still has F-22A, B-1, B-2, F-15E, and F-16, and B-52 w/cruise missiles. The US Navy will reevaluate the F-18 Super Hornet “international” variant or a Super F-14 Tomcat 21 for a resurgent Mach 2+ fleet-defense need. A mission the F-35 could never do anyway. [Frankly, the DoD should build the Su-33 for the US Navy under license with U.S.engines, avionics, and radar.]

Since the time of our original writing, according to published sources, the X-47B has been demoted to "short-range air tanker and limited reconnaissance platform." Why the Navy wants to use taxpayer dollars for UCAV-stealth in this manner - remains perplexing. Stealthy platforms become very unstealthy as soon as they engage in in-flight refueling with deployed fuel-transfer receptacles and open doors.

The operational history, and in particular the air-combat history of Lockheed jet fighters since the 1950s will likely be the best indicator of how the F-35 will perform.

Your thoughts?

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Comments

  1. Nice reading...
    What should the USAF buy in place of the F-35?
    Keep up the good work.

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    1. F-16XL, F-14D Super Tomcat and A-10B (all 3 with DRFM).

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  2. Keep the F-15E and F-16 series. They’ve evolved in to multi-mission aircraft anyway and have better pilot visibility. If the fancy F-35 helmet stops working under G, pilots will need to see out the canopy. F-35 technologies can be ported to our existing fleet.

    The CAS mission is the simplest to fix. Transfer 1/3 of the A-10 fleet from the USAF to the Marines. The rest of the A-10 fleet should go to US Army aviation. The USAF hates the CAS mission anyway – so get it out from under the Air Force. May want to add some all weather capability to A-10.

    For the Navy the fleet defense-interceptor mission should have never been shelved. I would suggest the upgraded Super ‘International’ Hornet (new conformal tanks, internal IRST, weapons pod, threat warning system, and new EPE engines). Even better would be the new Super F-14 Tomcat 21. Fleet defense needs Mach 2+ aircraft and also high speed at low level. The Navy needs an AIM-54 replacement (Meteor?) as well.

    - Boresight

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  3. FINALLY!!! You posted about F-35.

    Any thoughts about the recent leaked mock battle between the F-35A and an F-16D?
    They said it was an older (earlier) JSF and thus didn't have the software and systems as the frontlines models.

    --Xx

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    1. Gobbling-up the largest part of the DoD budget - even though the F-35 is rather unexciting - we felt increased pressure to write something. It doesn’t surprise many that the F-16 can beat the F-35 in DAC ACM. It looks to me like aft pilot visibility is worse on F-35 than the aircraft its suppose to replace. Not good.
      - Boresight

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    2. Obrescia,you have done a great job on this blog.Its a shame that you dont post more often...
      I would like to see a post on the alternatives to the JSF.
      I would also like to know your opinion on geat aircraft that never entered service because of politics or other reasons.Planes like the A-10B,A-7F,the F-16XL,the F-20 Tigershark,the A-6F and many more.

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    3. The F-16XL and A-10B should have been built in large numbers. A-6F had very long range.

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  4. I believe there is a new version of the F16 flying with F35 avionics. That being said, the modularity of the F35 could go beyond puting its avionics or stealth on other arcrafts. In fact modularity should have been better incorporated in its design. Replacing its wing with a large delta like the F16XL could make it work as a replacement for Australia's F111. A straighter flying wing could help it loiter like an A10. Etc. right now it is a sort of souped up Harrier without the vector thrust agility of the Harrier however. If Lockheed get their head out of their a$$es, they might make something out of it, but there is no way a single wing-airframe configuration of the aircraft can do it all.

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  5. You seem to designate the Su-33 and F-14 Tomcat (21) as the 2 most potent fleet defenders. You also did write extensively about the Iran's F-14 program and its war experience (from Cooper's book I believe). Now that Iran seems determined to acquire and maybe even co-produce Su-30s, are you prepared to say that the combination of F-14 (even A-models with glove vanes, AWG-9 radar, Phoenix missile / Fakur) backed by Su-30x / -33 (R27, R73 missiles) can constitute the most lethal fighter force out there?

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    1. Well, aside from Russia, if the Iranian airforce operated both aircraft they would still have to contend with the Indian Su-30 MKI. Contending with the MKI would without a doubt be a tall order. The traditional Su-30 was built to deal with F-14s and the MKI is established as one of the most potent Su-30 variants to date.
      The only thing more difficult to deal with than an MKI is the Su-35S.

      India and/or Iran has not ordered any as far as the public is concerned.

      But Pakistan doesn't have to have a better inventory than Russia, as it is, you and I think that the USAF and USN would be in a little too high over their heads (even F-22s would be too hard pressed to produce credible results).

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    2. **By Pakistan, I meant Iran. Sorry for the mistake.**

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  6. Material a little alarmist. F-35 arrived at the end of its development without accidents most serious. The engine proved more reliable than was the F-15 to F-14 at the beginning of his life operating. Concern for the signature IR of the F-35 is also alarmist, it uses the various techniques suppression IR, as the two collectors below the wing to isolate the engine with the atmospheric air.

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    1. The whole F-35 program is alarming because of the vast sums of money spent. F-35 masking of it thermal signature is being overstated by the USAF. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AzyH0M4C8TY

      - Boresight

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    2. A FLIR less than 1km from the F-35 does not say much.

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    3. True, but that's not what interesting. what is interesting is it shows where heat sources are coming from. The heated pitot tubes on the nose are major hot-spots. remember the Law of IR Propagation at altitude. The F-35 wont be a vulnerable to propagation issues as the F-22 because the F-22 flies at higher speeds and higher altitudes, but F-35 with lower speed and low altitude will have shorter range AIM-120 shots, (kinematics) so its 6 of one 1/2 dozen of the other.

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  7. The thermal limits pertaining to >X knots at <Y altitude for 10 minutes were caused by a piece of electronics being moved to the weapon bays for ease of maintenance. Those electronics weren't initially rated for the temperatures experienced in the bays, so they had to impose the restriction while those electronics were tested / requalified to the necessary thermal standard.

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    1. It hard to say if issue are being fixed or not. I see trouble ahead for AIM-120, even the C8 "D" model. This will all require re-qualification attempts (the operative term is "attempt" at re-qualification) because qualification can be unsuccessful, delayed, costly - usually all three. there is no way to know right now: see link (which I've embedded into this writing as well).
      https://www.defensenews.com/smr/2017/07/27/dod-slashes-amraam-missile-buy-as-raytheon-struggles-with-tech-refresh/

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    2. F-35 still has many nonconformities. It will take about 5 years until we know your final limitations. Before we can waste time just discussing problems that will naturally be overcome. We may question the management of the JSF program, but it is still early to point out the limitations and end capabilities of the aircraft pointing to limitations that are often momentary.

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  8. F-35 still has many nonconformities. It will take about 5 years until we know your final limitations. Before we can waste time just discussing problems that will naturally be overcome. We may question the management of the JSF program, but it is still early to point out the limitations and end capabilities of the aircraft pointing to limitations that are often momentary.

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    1. I refrained from writing about the F-35 because i just assumed problems would be corrected. There will be no correction for no internal AIM-9 station however.

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    2. Not only that , but if if we compare the Qatar and Bahrain deals with the Belgium deal we realize that the jsf costs 20 million more than the advanced f-15 and 49 million more than the f-16v...

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    3. Aim-9 in the weapons bay not is a problem, simply was not part of the requirements of the aircraft. F-35 is a attack fighter, while not treat the same correctly, the analysis will be distorted. Which aircraft is more capable in air interdiction in an area AA/AD than the F-35? Su-35s and their high RCS and radar with resolution SAR of 3ft?

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  9. On "the great book of modern warplanes" on page 107(section about the avionics and armament of the f-14 tomcat) it states "The IRST can detect and track multiple targets at extreme ranges-up to 100nm(185km) according to some sources. Like the TCS,contacts identified by the IRST are displayed in the cockpit"
    This book was written by Mike Spick,Bill Gunston,Michael J. Getting,Doug Richardson and Bill sweetman . It was considered one of the best aviation books ever written and industry officials often used it to show their products to potencial customers.
    I can only imagine that since the f-14d got this pod under the nose the IRST tech has only got better and the search and track algorithms should be a world apart from this early 1990s tech .
    Also of interest to this blog,on page 125"The proposed successor was tomcat 21...It was plane to use F110-GE-129 engines to give a supercruise speed of Mach1.3(the F-14D supercruises at Mach 1.1) and a new fixed phased array operating at twice the power of APG-71 "

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  10. On "the great book of modern warplanes" on page 107(section about the avionics and armament of the f-14 tomcat) it states "The IRST can detect and track multiple targets at extreme ranges-up to 100nm(185km) according to some sources. Like the TCS,contacts identified by the IRST are displayed in the cockpit"
    This book was written by Mike Spick,Bill Gunston,Michael J. Getting,Doug Richardson and Bill sweetman . It was considered one of the best aviation books ever written and industry officials often used it to show their products to potencial customers.
    I can only imagine that since the f-14d got this pod under the nose the IRST tech has only got better and the search and track algorithms should be a world apart from this early 1990s tech .
    Also of interest to this blog,on page 125"The proposed successor was tomcat 21...It was plane to use F110-GE-129 engines to give a supercruise speed of Mach1.3(the F-14D supercruises at Mach 1.1) and a new fixed phased array operating at twice the power of APG-71 "

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  11. I've felt similar sentiments about the JSF project to those you state here. I will contend that these projects ultimately do produce a workable airframe / weapons platform, though the capabilities of that airframe are often far more limited in scope than originally intended. As noted, the F-111 was a prime example of such a convention. The F-35 will likely become an effective strike fighter, though its level of excellence in that role will be questionable in a cost-to-benefit ratio. I see the most relevant use of the fighter in comparisons others have made: a modern F-105. This is actually a rather disturbing proposition, as low-level deployment of tactical nuclear weapons seems to be one role in which the F-35 could excel - given the, frankly, unwarranted sabre-rattling going on at the moment, this could be a very real application of the type in the future.

    Unlike others seem to suggest, I do not think the F-35 would be a horrible ACM aircraft at low weights - its FCS and lifting body airframe, combined with its very powerful engine, could allow for effective close-in fighting with the appropriate tactics. However, this does not mean it automatically becomes the best choice for the mission - not by a long shot.

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    1. Obrescia,

      There was an really swell article that was posted on F-16.net which addresses some things concerning ACM capabilities of the F-35:

      http://www.f-16.net/forum/viewtopic.php?f=61&t=54012&hilit=Dutch

      ...I feel kind of vindicated on my position on the maneuverability of the aeroplane.

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    2. Thank you for you clear eye on this. well said my friend.

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    3. i've been buried at UC Davis with academics. New writing on the Boresight will return soon when the quarter is finished. And it going to be a doozy. - Obrescia

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    4. Here now is a video presentation of what one might expect to see in certain combat scenarios with the "Panther" at RIAT:

      https://www.youtube.com/watch?time_continue=259&v=vdhGjqSA2ls

      Note the good amount of pitch authority available to the airframe, and how rapidly airspeed can be bled off with a heavy hand in that regard. You can see how heavy the fighter is in these maneuvers, with the only thing really keeping it airborne being the immense engine thrust available.

      Synopsis for close-in fighting? Zoom-and-boom is your principal profile, with a short "snap maneuver" window. Even with that high-alpha capacity, the pilot cannot allow the aircraft to wallow in the air at low speeds - first he/she is an easy target, next, the sink rate is terrible due to high weights; the latter is only corrected with more slow, high alpha orientation and high engine thrust.

      CAS? Only really good with PGMs. This plane is too heavy to fly straight and slow, even with the lifting body.

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  12. The F-35 is going to have it hands full against the European fighters and things like the Su-35S. New video of Su-35 is beyond anything in the West. It just is what it is. See first video playback point starting at 6:28 https://theboresight.blogspot.com/2017/07/even-higher-su-35s.html

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  13. The F-35 has just had its first peacetime crash, thoughts?

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  14. We wrote that the VSTOL F-35B will have the same exposure-risk of foreign object ingestion (of debris) into the engine as the AV-8B. This issue is particularly acute during landings in terrain. Details should emerge soon at to the cause of the crash. It could be something else as well. We shall see. Thanks for writing. - Boresight

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    1. And now insult to injury:
      https://www.bbc.com/news/technology-45823180

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    2. Good catch. The GAO in our experience is very solid, so this is going to be troubling to say the least. Added your input and a link to the actual GAO report. Again great catch! - Boresight.

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  15. I saw this and felt that it was an appropriate topic for this blog, I post it here because the comments section of other posts seem to be broken with the exception of this one and some others.

    http://www.bbc.com/future/story/20181108-the-wargame-that-could-have-ended-the-world

    This reminded me of the American Century: A Postmortum and recurring discussions about how miscalculation can needlessly give rise to war.

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