Translated by BabelFish
Thirty years after program LWF (Light Weight Fighter) which gave rise to F-16 - then with the F-18 - and put at evil European industry by depriving it on the one hand of its natural market, the United States renews the operation, but this time Ci with still increased means. It is so much so that a number of observers, including in the United States, see in program JSF (Joint Strike Fighter) and F-35 which in results as much an industrial strategy intended to kill European competition once for all, that the first programme of development of a new generation of fighters.
A plane with to do everything
Pour to replace a series of planes as various as F16, A-10, F /A-18 etAV-8B Harrier in, service in the US Air Force, US Navy and the Navy, the American Defence Department launched in the middle of the years 1990, a very ambitious demonstration program. It did not act anything less than to carry out first technological, industrial and political absolute. Nobody had, indeed, up to now, produces a plane with high performances which has at the same time a terrestrial version, an embarked naval version and a version on short takeoff and vertical landing (STOVL in the US slang). Nobody either had planned to produce such a production aircraft at such a low price, around 35 M$ the unit at the beginning of the program.
Nobody finally, or almost, had succeeded in putting to agreement the US Air Force, Navy and the Navy to sufficiently a long time conclude a program of common plane.
To reconcile the irreconcilable
After a baited competition, in November 1996, Lockheed Martin and Boeing were selected by the Pentagon to conclude the demonstration program, however that McDonnell Douglas was eliminated - what undoubtedly weighed in its decision to be sold in Boeing one year later. Little after Lockheed Martin and Boeing received appreciably equivalent contracts to build each demonstrator of the three versions envisaged by program JSF. Thus around the two manufacturers constituted themselves of the teams which built each one two apparatuses, X-32 for Boeing and X-35 for Lockheed Martin (associate with Northrop Grumman). It was a question thanks to these apparatuses of validating the key points of the program, i.e. primarily, the basic performances (including the furtivity), the community between the three versions which must reach approximately 80%, and the aptitude for the operations STOVL which constitutes the most delicate challenge by far. Indeed this requirement of the Marine Body requires a deep modification of the propelling system which is not without consequence on the mass of the plane.
The list of the specifications resembles a nightmare:masse in neutral from 10 to 12 T for a maximum mass on the takeoff from 23 to 26 T, range operating from 1.000 to 1.400 km according to versions', and maximum speed of Mach 1,4 at Mach 1,6. The whole together with very low cost of acquisition. The objectives of origin, in dollars 1994, were laid down at 28 M$ for the terrestrial version, 35 M$ for the embarked version and 38 M$ for version STOVL of the Marines... but in the event of success, the hope to produce meadows of 3.000 apparatuses for the only American needs and to double the setting, or more, with the markets of export.
Lockheed Martin victorious
The two manufacturers adopted rather different approaches. Lockheed Martin conceived his X-35 like a kind of small F-22 and to carry out version STOVL, it took the option to separate the horizontal and vertical operating mode. At the transition, a blower with vertical axis, placed just behind of the cockpit, is started by the intermediary of a clutch at carbon disc which transmits the 25.000 CH necessary. In theory this system allows a better regulation between before and back that the option taken by Boeing derived from the formula developped at the point for British Harrier by automating it.
In the last analysis, X-32 as X-35 concluded their test routines in a satisfactory way. However, Lockheed Martin was shown more convincing than its rival, in particular with regard to the furtivity, and October 26, 2001, Lockheed Martin was seen allotting the responsibility to pass from its X-35 to F-35 within the framework of a program of estimated development, at the time, to some 20 to 25 Me.
Parallel to the development of the demonstration program the American Administration put all its weight to convince the greatest number possible of "friendly" countries to be implied in the programme of development so all at the same time to make them share the costs, to increase the starting market and to kill any competition in egg. Incidentally, the foreign participation is also a means of ensuring perenniality the United States of a program which does not achieve the unanimity everywhere. E effect, if the Navy brings a support without fault to F-35, the only program of plane included in their budget, on the other hand the US Air Force maintenance its priority in F-22 - whose costs did not cease growing - and US Navy wishes above all to supplement its fleet of Super Hornet.
The United Kingdom was the first with its industry, BAE Systems at the head, to adopt the JSF, Royal Navy envisaging to acquire some 150 apparatuses to succeed its Harrier. It should be admitted that independently of all technological or operational considerations, the promoters of the JSF have solid arguments to put forward to attract the partners as of the phase of development of the program. The only production of the some 3.000 planes initially planned for the needs for the United States and the United Kingdom should correspond to a sales turnover of more than 220 Md$. How to refuse to divide such a gold mine?
In less than six months after the selection of Lockheed Martin, the United States succeeded in embarking six European countries in the F35 program. After the United Kingdom, Denmark encased the followed step of the Netherlands, of Norway, of Italy and finally of Turkey. Canada being also joined to the program these are thus currently nine countries which take part in the program, of which Singapore.
The only European countries thus will invest more than 4 Md$ in the development of a program from which the posted objective is to eliminate European competition.
First flight in 2005
En 2003, the American budget which envisaged 1 Md$ for F35, was carried brutally to 4,4 Md$ - but in same time the total number of apparatuses to produce for the American needs was tiny room from 2.850 to 2.457. But, up to now, in spite of criticisms, the financing of the development appears assured. It is envisaged 5 more Md$ with the budget 2005. The phase of development launched as of the selection of Lockheed Martin must last eleven years. The industrialists will build and test 22 prototypes. Fourteen apparatuses were to be evaluated in flight since 2005, the eight others must be used for the various ground tests - seven for the structural validations, for measurements of furtivity. Each three version will be represented in this experimental fleet: five for the US version Air Force (F-35A), four for the US version Navy (F-35C) and five for version STOVL of Navy (F-35B). F-35 will be developed according to several evolutions of "blocks", these American standards corresponding to more and more sophisticated equipment. The first should be normally that of the Navy which has an urgent need to replace their old men Harrier.
F-35 must obviously much in F-22 Raptor developed by Lockheed Martin for the US Air Force. Not only it regains the general shapes of them, but especially, and it is one of the points which ensured the success of Lockheed Martin, it profits from the experience accumulated as regards furtivity. In particular, contrary to the Boeing project which required a change of configuration of enter of air following the type of takeoff, F-35 has air intake without separators of boundary layer as effective at null speed as at Mach 2.. The other strong point of F-35 is the very strong community between the three versions, estimated between 70% and 90% by the Pentagon. An exploit being given the divergent interests between the three American services.
One does not know yet which engine will animate F-35. The demonstrators were equipped with an engine Pratt & Whitney derived from the F119-PW100 whose origins go up with the F-22 program, but the American Administration decided to open the competition with General Electric. The final choice should intervene only at the time of the fourth stage of the development around 2008-2010. If Pratt & Whitney and General Electic must design their own engine independently, the two engines will have to be completely interchangeable.
As envisaged, the two last years seemed an idle period in the program while waiting for the beginning of the flight tests. In April the 2004 first tests of the system of propulsion developed by Pratt & Withney, Rolls-Royce and Hamiton Standard for version F-35B took place in the intended deadlines. On the other hand, as one could expect the plane it took weight and the adition was weighed down. In April 2005 an internal division of the Pentagon, the CAIG (Cost Analysis Improvement Group) estimated that the development of F-35 could cost 5 well Md$ moreover than envisaged. One year front, the Pentagon recognized that the total cost of the program outward journey to weigh down few 45 Md$, is 22,6% compared to the forecasts, to reach 245 Md$, which led certain American members of Parliament on the need for producing nearly 2.500 planes.
Quant with the mass, it is obviously that of version STOVL, F-35B, which is most critical. However it appeared in May 2004 that it exceeded the forecast of 1,5 ton. Such a ponderal overload would have not only posed one problem for the plane, but also for the aircraft carriers which must receive it. This is why in the last analysis, a programme of drastic reduction of mass was finally approved by the Pentagon at the beginning of November 2004. According to information's which it even provided him, the manufacturer would have managed to gain 1.225 kg on the structure, the kilos remaining being compensated by an optimization of the propelling unit and general aerodynamics. However this reduction of mass would have been obtained with taken of a significant reduction in dimensions of the compartments of armament intern.
The problems of weight also had an impact sui the calendar of the program Today, the first flight of the F-35A (US Air Force) is fixed the end 2006, that of the F-35C (US Navy) at at the beginning of 2008. As for the prototype of F-35B (STOVL) it must take place in the middle of the year 2007.