Child Warfare: Dogfighting Brothers

A pair of cute kids tries to sell a jet fighter

  • Share
  • Read Later

The pitched battle over what new warplane Canada should purchase has crossed a new threshold in a subcontractor’s TV ad that features two young boys debating the merits of Boeing’s legacy F-18 fighter and Lockheed Martin’s fledgling F-35 aircraft. Boeing and its suppliers would dearly like Canada to buy cheaper F-18s instead of the more costly F-35s (the Pentagon pays $160 million for the F-35, and $91 million for the F-18).

[Update: A Boeing subcontractor, RaceRocks 3D, produced this video, trying to sway the Canadian government to buy F-18s instead of F-35s. “Boeing had nothing to do with the ad,” a Boeing spokesman said. This post has been corrected.]

The Walton-like kids are sitting on hay bales in Grandpa’s hangar barn when Kid 1 asks Kid 2, “Hey, what did you do with the $10 Grandpa gave you?”

“This beauty,” Kid 2 says, holding up a foot-long F-35 plastic model.

“The new F-35 strike fighter with the super helmet and electronic computer?” Kid 1 asks in wonderment.

“And,” Kid 2 adds, “it’s invisible.”

“But it’s right there,” Kid 1 counters.

Kid 2 doesn’t like where this is going. He tries to change the subject: “What did you buy with Grandpa’s $10?”

“Three Boeing F-18 Super Hornets, with all the latest avionics and 10 years of full Boeing service support,” Kid 1 boasts excitedly, as the camera zooms to the barn floor to reveal a miniature maintenance vehicle pulling alongside the planes, and tiny Boeing workers tending to them.

“Yea, but your planes aren’t invisible,” Kid 2 says, nervously tugging at the nose until a piece apparently comes off in his hand.

“Well, OK,” Kid 1 says. “Wanna have a battle for the skies?”

“No,” Kid 2 says, casting his eyes downward. “It broke.”

The 52-second spot (which suggests it won’t actually be broadcast) ends with the words “It’s really not that complicated” on the screen before fading to black.



It's really not that complicated, when you read this year's reports on the F-35 and its three variants A-Air Force, B-Marines and C-Navy.

 First the FY2012 DOT&E test report, on the F-35A:

The test team could not execute 30 percent of planned 2012 baseline test points for the following reasons:
-Aircraft operating limitations, which prevented the extended use of afterburner needed to complete
high-altitude/high-airspeed test points.
-Higher than expected loads on the weapon bay doors, which required additional testing and thus limited the amount of testing with weapons loaded on the aircraft.
-Deficiencies in the air-refueling system, which reduced testing opportunities.

and the F-35B:

Although the program exceeded the objectives planned for sortie rate through the end of November, the progress against planned baseline test points for 2012 lagged by 45 percent with 1,075 test points accomplished against 1,939 planned. This was primarily a result of higher-than-expected loads on weapon bay doors, which prevented planned envelope expansion test points and required additional unplanned testing,

also the F-35C, which still can't operate from carriers because its tailhook doesn't work, and may never work due to plane design problems:

Due to the difference in wing design, transonic buffet becomes severe in different portions of the flight envelope and is more severe in the F-35C than the other variants. The program is making plans for investigating how to reduce the impact of transonic roll off in the F-35C with the use of wing spoilers; however, detailed test plans are not complete.

Next came the test Director Dr. Gilmore's testimony to Congress:
--poor buffet and transonic roll off
--lack of test progress
--progress on 221 added test points
--lagging software delivery
--slow weapons integration
--cracks in the engine thrust mount shear webs
--cracks in wing aft spar lower flanges
--frame cracking
--cracks in the floor of the avionics bay housing
--aircraft operating limitations prohibited flying the aircraft at night
--etc -- you get the idea

Finally came the DOD-IG's report:

The Pentagon failed to supervise the design and construction of its new fleet of F-35 stealth warplanes adequately, its own auditor concluded on Sept. 30, placing the blame squarely on military brass for performance and safety problems in the largest and most expensive weapons program in history.  etc etc.

And still they haven't killed this turkey which isn't halfway through development yet is in production -- in fact the Pentagon is trying to increase production.