F35 - Money well spent.

With regards to this:
Work instructions, QA inspection instructions, etc., etc. aren't going to change themselves just because a drawing was updated. CAD systems are simply not that capable and the idea that "AI" will somehow solve the problem simply reveals a misunderstanding of what AI is and what it can do.

Yes, don’t worry, I get it :)
Senior USAF officers involved in the programme are saying it will work this way, you say it won’t. :)
The difference being perhaps that I have actual experience in doing such things and they don't.
 
(...) There was a good reason BRitish Aerospace got into bed with McClaren (I think it was they) with a technology partnership on carbon fibre, both were pushing it to its limits.

I will also add that when I visited the heat exchanger line (I forget the company) the Typhoon heat exchangers were knocking about the factory, the McLaren (or F1) ones were behind a curtain we were not allowed to see, the reason given was that their heat exchangers were much more advanced.

Yes perhaps the commercial implications of getting the upper edge in Formula One meant it needed to be closed off to prying eyes, but if we were designing something better I am sure ours too would be behind curtains. (...)
This is a bit off topic but, a number of years ago I was taken along as technical backup to a meeting at a US equipment supplier who had been performing unsatisfactorily from our standpoint.

After the meeting was over, the senior official of the group we had been meeting with told one of their salesmen to give us a tour of the plant before we left to ensure we went away impressed with their capabilities.

We were given the usual dog and pony show until we got to an area which was screened off. The salesman had evidently left this until last because he felt it would be the high point of the tour. He told us we were about to be very impressed, and then led us behind the screens. There in front of us he told us was equipment which would be used to build cruise missiles, with recognisable bits of such missiles on top of the machines. Ta da! Isn't that just really cool!

At this point I was suddenly feeling distinctly uncomfortable and couldn't get out of that place and back over the border fast enough before I was hauled away by the "feds" and cast in prison as a foreign spy.

Unfortunately, this brief career in foreign espionage didn't involve voluptuous women casting themselves upon me, just a meeting room full of balding middle aged men and a pretty average looking suburban factory.
 

RBMK

LE
Book Reviewer
F-35 may be the last generation of manned fighter aircraft.

I would also point out the the technology is running into the "law of diminishing returns".

I.e. massive change in technology from e.g. Bleriot's XI which made the first channel (top speed 47mph) crossing to the 130mph Spad XIII and 146mph Martynside Buzzard in 1918.
Then in 1935, the first flight of the DC3. 210mph cruise with 30 passengers.
1937 Bf 109 / Spitfire / Hurricane / 190: 350+ mph agile fighters
1944 and the first jets Me 262, Meteor and Vampire -- 500+mph
1947 Bell X1 reaches Mach 1
1951 Hawker Hunter and Douglas Skyray both (just) supersonic in level flight
Late 50s: Saab Draaken, Starfighter, Lightning, Phantom, MiG21 -- Mach 2
Early 60s Lockheed A-12 / SR71a / MiG 25 - Mach 3
Early 70s: F14/F15/F16 MiG31
Late 70s: Su27 / MiG29, Mirage 2000, F-18, Tornado (stop laughing)
1980s: Rafale, Gripen, Strike Eagle, Su30
1990s: Typhoon, Raptor
2000s: F-35, Chengdu J20

I would point out also that the Chinese Shenyang FC31 and Mitsubishi X2 appear to be close relatives of the F-35.

My point being that the aerodynamic performance of aircraft in terms of speed, manoeuvrability etc has more or less stagnated being limited to a degree by human physiology to about +9g and -3g and the limitations of frictional heating and engine power. The MiG 25 was known to melt it's engines at Mach 3.2.

Everybody is now looking for that last few % of extra edge either by stealth or electronics. An F-35A is slower than a MiG 21 or Lightning but could simply run either of them out of fuel or else shoot them down before they got close enough to do any damage.

The next big step will be super-agile, super stealthy, semi-autonomous aircraft with the pilot flying an X-Box controller whilst sitting in a comfy chair at Marham whilst having a God's eye view of the overall battle picture on a flat screen TV.
 

Slime

LE
The difference being perhaps that I have actual experience in doing such things and they don't.

As have I, and they do........Not much of a difference really. ;)

Perhaps you work in an area that’s behind the curve?

I find this thread has posts that remind me of when RAF photo interpreters first saw V2 rockets in photo tiles. There were a steady stream of British ‘experts’ who said the photos ‘couldn’t’ show rockets, as no one could build a weapon of that type..........The fact they ‘couldn’t’ be made didn’t stop them being built, used and causing casualties.

You can carry on saying theories can’t be put into practice all you like, but others will simply carry on using them, just like they have already been doing. Having seen modern/adaptable/agile working practices in action I’m inclined to be sceptical of the of how they ‘don‘t‘ work idea.

What is certainly true is that some organisations aren’t good enough, free thinking enough or adaptable enough to change.
From my own experience with racing and modifications the companies who can do in three days what others might take a month to do will always get my money.
My experience of a major aero engine builder shows them to still be ridiculously wasteful, and backwards with their working ethos.
 

Cold_Collation

LE
Book Reviewer
F-35 may be the last generation of manned fighter aircraft.

I would also point out the the technology is running into the "law of diminishing returns".

I.e. massive change in technology from e.g. Bleriot's XI which made the first channel (top speed 47mph) crossing to the 130mph Spad XIII and 146mph Martynside Buzzard in 1918.
Then in 1935, the first flight of the DC3. 210mph cruise with 30 passengers.
1937 Bf 109 / Spitfire / Hurricane / 190: 350+ mph agile fighters
1944 and the first jets Me 262, Meteor and Vampire -- 500+mph
1947 Bell X1 reaches Mach 1
1951 Hawker Hunter and Douglas Skyray both (just) supersonic in level flight
Late 50s: Saab Draaken, Starfighter, Lightning, Phantom, MiG21 -- Mach 2
Early 60s Lockheed A-12 / SR71a / MiG 25 - Mach 3
Early 70s: F14/F15/F16 MiG31
Late 70s: Su27 / MiG29, Mirage 2000, F-18, Tornado (stop laughing)
1980s: Rafale, Gripen, Strike Eagle, Su30
1990s: Typhoon, Raptor
2000s: F-35, Chengdu J20

I would point out also that the Chinese Shenyang FC31 and Mitsubishi X2 appear to be close relatives of the F-35.

My point being that the aerodynamic performance of aircraft in terms of speed, manoeuvrability etc has more or less stagnated being limited to a degree by human physiology to about +9g and -3g and the limitations of frictional heating and engine power. The MiG 25 was known to melt it's engines at Mach 3.2.

Everybody is now looking for that last few % of extra edge either by stealth or electronics. An F-35A is slower than a MiG 21 or Lightning but could simply run either of them out of fuel or else shoot them down before they got close enough to do any damage.

The next big step will be super-agile, super stealthy, semi-autonomous aircraft with the pilot flying an X-Box controller whilst sitting in a comfy chair at Marham whilst having a God's eye view of the overall battle picture on a flat screen TV.
Hypersonics are regarded as a feature of Gen 6 aircraft.

It's not just human physiology, either. It's the super-manoeuvrability of AAMs. Building an airframe that can pull 30g (as a missile can) is no mean undertaking.

Overall, however, sensors and weapons have reduced the need for out-and-out kinetic performance.

It'll be interesting to see how hypersonic performance makes its mark. Transit speeds? Dash speeds (and therefore missile defence? Both?
 
Hypersonics are regarded as a feature of Gen 6 aircraft.

It's not just human physiology, either. It's the super-manoeuvrability of AAMs. Building an airframe that can pull 30g (as a missile can) is no mean undertaking.

Overall, however, sensors and weapons have reduced the need for out-and-out kinetic performance.

It'll be interesting to see how hypersonic performance makes its mark. Transit speeds? Dash speeds (and therefore missile defence? Both?
Missiles are easily defeated if you know the direction and can get eyeball on, a hypersonic AAW will leave a wake, the trick is don’t let the bad guy know it’s coming.
Flying hypersonic and manoeuvring in a dog fight is a no go, as a crewed weapon system.
Trick is don’t get to that point.
 
The next big step will be super-agile, super stealthy, semi-autonomous aircraft with the pilot flying an X-Box controller whilst sitting in a comfy chair at Marham whilst having a God's eye view of the overall battle picture on a flat screen TV.

That's a much bigger step than I think is often realised. The level of autonomy the plane will have to have will need to be sufficient that it can operate effectively given very limited bandwidth back to its controller and a high latency. Both of those are laws-of-physics constraints. And every hop of that link will need to be protected against cybering. And your enemy knows they don't even need to shoot it down, they can just sever its link and then confuse it, maybe into hitting a target instead that would be very bad publicity for you...
 

Cynical

LE
Book Reviewer
There is absolutely NO way the U.S. would build a foreign designed aircraft under licence.
The Canberra. But then that was a peach of an aircraft for its time...
The T45 Goshawk - almost as good
AV8 Unique capability

I'll concede that the military complex is now even more embedded in US government that it was when Eisenhower warned of the Military - Industrial Complex. But things change and if, as seems likely, the F35 turns out to be unaffordable it will be one more nail in the procurement coffin.

I worry about the amount of political capital and ££ being thrown at Tempest - presumably in part to prop up BAe Systems, whose F35 revenue looks increasingly shaky.
 

Cold_Collation

LE
Book Reviewer
The Canberra. But then that was a peach of an aircraft for its time...
The T45 Goshawk - almost as good
AV8 Unique capability

I'll concede that the military complex is now even more embedded in US government that it was when Eisenhower warned of the Military - Industrial Complex. But things change and if, as seems likely, the F35 turns out to be unaffordable it will be one more nail in the procurement coffin.

I worry about the amount of political capital and ££ being thrown at Tempest - presumably in part to prop up BAe Systems, whose F35 revenue looks increasingly shaky.
What's interesting is that the F-22 was seen as too expensive - even by the US. The F-35 was seen as, in some respects, Gen 5 but within reach. Now, it seems not.

The question has to be what do we achieve by going to Gen 6? The increasing use of clumsy non-words like 'attritable' seems to point the way. I assume that they mean expendable, but what it amounts to is 'enough capability to get through and so damage, even if it's a one-way trip'.

It does mean though that 'do-away-with-if necessary-able' is still going to have to be pretty damn sophisticated and/or supported by significant off-board packages.

The corollary, though we'll never see it, is a follow-on Typhoon buy.
 
What's interesting is that the F-22 was seen as too expensive - even by the US. The F-35 was seen as, in some respects, Gen 5 but within reach. Now, it seems not.

The question has to be what do we achieve by going to Gen 6? The increasing use of clumsy non-words like 'attritable' seems to point the way. I assume that they mean expendable, but what it amounts to is 'enough capability to get through and so damage, even if it's a one-way trip'.

It does mean though that 'do-away-with-if necessary-able' is still going to have to be pretty damn sophisticated and/or supported by significant off-board packages.

The corollary, though we'll never see it, is a follow-on Typhoon buy.
Follow typhoon buy is looking more likely, just to keep BAE happy, like the OPV buy.
 

Slime

LE
What's interesting is that the F-22 was seen as too expensive - even by the US. The F-35 was seen as, in some respects, Gen 5 but within reach. Now, it seems not.

The question has to be what do we achieve by going to Gen 6? The increasing use of clumsy non-words like 'attritable' seems to point the way. I assume that they mean expendable, but what it amounts to is 'enough capability to get through and so damage, even if it's a one-way trip'.

It does mean though that 'do-away-with-if necessary-able' is still going to have to be pretty damn sophisticated and/or supported by significant off-board packages.

The corollary, though we'll never see it, is a follow-on Typhoon buy.

The attritable aspect can come in many forms from what I’ve read or heard.
It also seems to be something that only major players like the US, China or Russia could fully use.
If we took engines as a random example and made three types of the same engine, one with 6000 hours before overhaul, but also one with a 60 hour life and one with a 6 hour life it still means buying ‘more’, and having the kit in place for that time a loyal wingman is going to make its attritable first and only flight.

While I picked the above numbers at random, it does still mean extra kit needs to be bought and paid for in the first place.
With both the US and Australia operating the F35 and F18 it could be interesting to follow the progress being made with a loyal wingman in Australia.
 
All design/production methods entail risk. The old ways represent evolution at work: small increments which are demonstrated to be better and also acceptably safe going forward. Folks can always fall back onto 'tried and tested' ways if the new thing that's been experimented with doesn't quite work out.

'Agile' is supposed to be a revolution, with all that a leap of faith into the unknown brings with it. The consultants are snake-oil persons of sale with no stake in the final outcome of the project. If the project doesn't go right, well the folks must not have implemented the new technique correctly or followed all their expensive advice to the fullest extent. The project can always hire the consultants to dig them out of a hole...
I think you might misunderstand the roots of "Agile"

Waaaayyyyyy back in the day, projects went to sh!t. The Answer was "More Process!" and so we planned stuff out, methodically, before we did it. And discovered that it was hellish expensive; working on the Tranche 1 Typhoon project, we reckoned at one point that we had eighty lines of text documentation (and four lines of test harness code) for every one line of source code. But the product worked.

So was born the original "Agile Manifesto" (link: read it and tell me you disagree). Monolithic projects attempting to waterfall* their output in a single pass? Lunacy on stilts. Nope, the answer was iterative development. Pick a feature of the design, demonstrate it, prove it works, keep the tests that make sure it stays working. And repeat (iterate). Do it with small multidisciplinary teams working face to face, not by passing reams of paper around (that no-one reads anyway). Let the teams self-organise to best effect.

Every sensible "Agile" project does things that way - but, like quality, it's expensive. It takes time to train and organise people to a new way of operating; senior managers don't like their people being shuffled around, don't like "not being in control"; software tools to assist in the tracking of Agile iterations are expensive.

It's far cheaper to just say "we're Agile!" when in reality, they're just utterly disorganised (also been there, done that). Your ambitious thruster can stand in the middle making encouraging noises: "let's not boil the ocean! let's not eat the whale! It doesn't need to be perfect, it only needs to survive the end-of-sprint demo!" and encouraging more velocity, hurried and bodged work, and zero planning. Of course they don't want much documentation, it might show up a complete lack of design coherence; or worse: it leaves a paper trail of decisions and responsibility...

...and of course, the ambitious thruster looks great. Two years later, when the project is an unmaintainable heap of poo, and making any changes is a game of Jenga? The ambitious thruster has moved onwards and upwards, it's not their problem. Don't blame "consultants", blame the ambitious weasels you find inside any organisation.

Agile works (if done properly). Waterfall works (if done properly). If you've got good people, the process is irrelevant. If you've got clowns and weasels, no process on earth will save you.

* The irony is that the original DoD descriptions of "Waterfall" were intended to demonstrate good practice for a single evolutionary step among many others, in a design process. "Agile" may have been captured by the snake-oil salesmen, but they'd already done it to "Waterfall" - "Look! You can do it Right First Time! No iteration! Just write everything down!"
 
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I think you might misunderstand the roots of "Agile"

Waaaayyyyyy back in the day, projects went to sh!t. The Answer was "More Process!" and so we planned stuff out, methodically, before we did it. And discovered that it was hellish expensive; working on the Tranche 1 Typhoon project, we reckoned at one point that we had eighty lines of text documentation (and four lines of test harness code) for every one line of source code. But the product worked.

So was born the original "Agile Manifesto" (link: read it and tell me you disagree). Monolithic projects attempting to waterfall* their output in a single pass? Lunacy on stilts. Nope, the answer was iterative development. Pick a feature of the design, demonstrate it, prove it works, keep the tests that make sure it stays working. And repeat (iterate). Do it with small multidisciplinary teams working face to face, not by passing reams of paper around (that no-one reads anyway). Let the teams self-organise to best effect.

Every sensible "Agile" project does things that way - but, like quality, it's expensive. It takes time to train and organise people to a new way of operating; senior managers don't like their people being shuffled around, don't like "not being in control"; software tools to assist in the tracking of Agile iterations are expensive.

It's far cheaper to just say "we're Agile!" when in reality, they're just utterly disorganised (also been there, done that). Your ambitious thruster can stand in the middle making encouraging noises: "let's not boil the ocean! let's not eat the whale! It doesn't need to be perfect, it only needs to survive the end-of-sprint demo!" and encouraging more velocity, hurried and bodged work, and zero planning. Of course they don't want much documentation, it might show up a complete lack of design coherence; or worse: it leaves a paper trail of decisions and responsibility...

...and of course, the ambitious thruster looks great. Two years later, when the project is an unmaintainable heap of poo, and making any changes is a game of Jenga? The ambitious thruster has moved onwards and upwards, it's not their problem. Don't blame "consultants", blame the ambitious weasels you find inside any organisation.

Agile works (if done properly). Waterfall works (if done properly). If you've got good people, the process is irrelevant. If you've got clowns and weasels, no process on earth will save you.

* The irony is that the original DoD descriptions of "Waterfall" were intended to demonstrate good practice for a single evolutionary step among many others, in a design process. "Agile" may have been captured by the snake-oil salesmen, but they'd already done it to "Waterfall" - "Look! You can do it Right First Time! No iteration! Just write everything down!"
That's a great post, I too liked the idea of Agile when it was first expounded to me.

Unfortunately, that's not what is being sold now. Agile these days means no up-front design, no documentation, no detailed analysis of requirements, no formal evidence required that the thing actually does what it's supposed to do: just more and more fancy widgets that the Customer might like.

Snake-oil.
 
That's a great post, I too liked the idea of Agile when it was first expounded to me.

Unfortunately, that's not what is being sold now. Agile these days means no up-front design, no documentation, no detailed analysis of requirements, no formal evidence required that the thing actually does what it's supposed to do: just more and more fancy widgets that the Customer might like.

Snake-oil.
I've spent most of my career in firms where there was a decent mass of design engineers (~000s, not ~0s), so my experience may not mirror yours. What works for a project of 20, probably won't work for a project of 200, definitely won't for a project of 2,000. And, of course, vice versa.

I moved from a firm that "did Agile" (in reality, chaotic software Jenga) to a firm that was Agile. Still is. Properly, in (mostly) the spirit of the manifesto - the tensions come from those (top-down) who want things more predictable, more planned... not less.
 
I've spent most of my careers in firms where there was a decent mass of design engineers (~000s, not ~0s), so my experience may not mirror yours. What works for a project of 20, probably won't work for a project of 200, definitely won't for a project of 2,000.

I moved from a firm that "did Agile" (in reality, chaotic software Jenga) to a firm that was Agile. Still is. Properly, in (mostly) the spirit of the manifesto - the tensions come from those (top-down) who want things more predictable, more planned... not less.
Again, I agree wholeheartedly.

Agile is being sold in my company as a means to cut costs and speed delivery through not doing any documentation. Seriously, WTAF.

I'm stealing your "chaotic software Jenga" for the next time one of the snale-oil salesmen tries to convince me to stop writing engineering plans.
 

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