Is The F-35 Worth $115 Million?
This, episode, of real engineering, is brought to you by curiosity stream, watch thousands, of documentaries, for free for 31 days a curiosity stream, calm, Ford / real engineering, this. Year at the f-35. Is finally. Set to close its 27. Year development, phase and move, towards high-volume. Manufacturing the. Culmination, of 27. Years of design and development. From, its manufacturer, Lockheed, Martin, 27. Years of development, crossing, the finish line in the midst of a political power struggle, in America, this is after, all the most expensive weapon, system in the history, of humankind, costs. Have inflated, as a result, of the American, military-industrial, complex where. The intertwining of politics, economy, and the military industry encourages. Companies like, Lockheed Martin, and Boeing to, not vertically. Integrate, their companies as a means of spreading jobs, across America and, thereby, increased, political support, for, these programs and the, politicians, that approved them in Congress, to, win contracts, we, could deep dive into these muddied waters of politics but, this channel is about engineering. And the development costs of the f-35 would, be astronomical even. Without these issues, so, let's, explore the design of this plane and see whether its price tag is really, worth it from. The start the f-35, sought to be the jack-of-all-trades an. Air, superiority machine. To replace the air force's f-16s. And a TENS a stealth, fighter taking, the lessons learned from the b-2 program and improving, upon Lockheed's previous ventures into stealth technology with, the f-22, Raptor and the, f-117, Nighthawk. A carrier, capable fighter to replace the f-18. Hornets, of the Navy and perhaps, most, audacious of all it would take on the challenge of vertical, landings taking over from the British av-8b, Harrier, taking. On all these advanced, technologies and combining, them into one plane, was, never going, to be an easy or cheap task. And the, program was made even more expensive by what was initially intended, to be a cost-saving. Measure this. Plane would be developed, as a joint venture between three, US military, brand the Air Force Navy, and Marines, a single. Plane for each branch of the military the, program was named the Joint Strike Fighter and, its goal was to produce a next-generation, plane, that could replace fighter, strike, and ground, attack aircraft of, not just the United States but all of, its allies, unlike. The f-22, Raptor which is a US Air Force exclusive. Plane, the f-35 would, be commercially, available the. Joint Strike Fighter program began. Life as a competition between, McDonnell. Douglas Northrop Gruman, Lockheed, Martin and Boeing with.
Lockheed And Boeing going, on to develop prototype. Aircraft as finalists, in the competition, both, eager to win what was sure to be one of the most lucrative contracts. They would ever sign, Boeing's. Aircraft, the x32. Was, an odd-looking aircraft. Featuring. A massive single, air intake, that made it less VTOL, and more veal all its, looks alone may have stopped it from winning this valuable contract, but what really held it back was Boeing's, decision to, create two, prototype, planes one. Capable of supersonic, flight and one capable of vertical takeoff, using. The same vector thrust as the Harrier which, it was supposed to be replacing the, engine used in the Harrier is similar, to a traditional jet, engine, in that a consists of a low pressure compressor fan a high-pressure. Compressor a combustion, chamber a high-pressure turbine and a low pressure turbine, but, it's out less nozzle placement, is anything, but traditional two. Outlets are placed immediately after. The low-pressure compressor with, another two ducting, air from the higher pressure turbines, in, vertical, thrust mode the, nozzles point downwards, and allow the plane to balance precariously, on these four columns of air the, Harrier was not, an easy plane to control in this flight mode and on more than one occasion turbulence. From its own downwash, caused, the plane to flip over onto the cockpit during, landings, killing, the pilot a large. Part of these control issues, can be attributed to the proximity of the, control nozzles, to the center of gravity of the plane giving, them less mechanical advantage. To, manipulate the plane's attitude. The, Harrier did have small roll control nozzles, on the tip of each wing but, the control for these were entirely, manual, placing. The incredibly. Unstable control, mechanism, into the hands of a human that, needed to focus on various, other factors, when, landing the, x32, used, many of the same techniques to achieve vertical, thrust but, improved, on many of the Harriers shortcomings. Instead. Of using the same nozzles, for cruise and direct, lift the x32, would, close valves for each when needed in normal. Flight the cruise nozzles, would open allowing, the thrust of the jet engine to be directed, efficiently. Through, the rear of the aircraft then, during, transition, this nozzle would close and force air through the direct lift nozzles, they. Placed a larger roll control nozzles, further, from the planes center of mass and also, employed a cold air screen placed, just, forward, of the lift, nozzles, this, was intended to stop hot turbulent, air from the direct lift nozzles, from entering the front intake, which, was a massive, issue for, the harrier as it, landed, jet, engines need cold and smooth air to operate at maximum thrust which was difficult to get when landing and directing, the entirety. Of your thrust, directly, at the ground despite. These improvements lockheed, ultimately, won, the contract impressing. The Joint Strike Fighter program with, their left fan system the, engine thrust here once again exits. A single, exhaust nozzle, during. Normal flight but, when the show begins, the, ex35, was capable of some incredible, transformer, like changes, hatch. Is opened on the top and bottom, of the aircraft revealing. To contra-rotating, fans. Another. Two little doors opened, beneath the wings exposing. Two additional, exhaust ports that controlled the plane's role finally. As the plane begins to slow down the crews nozzle would begin to pivot downwards, transitioning. The remaining, thrust of the jet engine from horizontal to, vertical the. Left fan solved many of the same issues that plagued, the harrier the, lift fan produced, the majority of the vertical thrust and it did not heat up the air significantly. In the, process, the, roll control had significantly. More mechanical. Advantage, and did, the majority, of the control over to a computer, perhaps. Most influential in, their success to winning the contract this prototype was capable of both vertical, landings and supersonic. Flight this, was the kind of innovation, the Joint Strike Fighter program was, looking for the, lift fan is essentially, a turboprop, engine, like something you would find on an osprey, the, propellers, are driven by a drive shaft connected, to the jet engine turbines, which, can be disengaged during.
Normal Flies this, means the lift fan is dead waste during cruise but, what it adds and weighs it more than makes up for it in lift combined. These propulsion, methods can produce. 185. Kilonewtons. Of lift the, Harrier could only manage, 106. This, increase, in direct lift capabilities. Was, vital, to making the f-35, a worthy, successor to, the Harrier as one, of the Harriers greatest, weaknesses, was its limitations, in maximum, takeoff and landing weight the. Harrier like the f-35b. Mostly. Operated, in short takeoff and vertical landing, mode the, Harrier would point all four, of its nozzles at about a 45, degree angle, allowing. It to produce both horizontal, and vertical thrust. To take off from shorter, runways, this, allowed it to take off with considerably, more waste than it could land with in a vertical landing the, empty weight of the f-35b. May be thirteen thousand one hundred and fifty four kilograms, compared, to the six thousand three hundred and forty kilograms, of the Harrier but, it more than makes up for that with a maximum, takeoff weight of thirty one thousand eight hundred kilograms, compared. To the Harriers fourteen thousand one hundred kilograms, that's, an extra, 11, tons of waste available. To the f-35, for fuel and a munitions, something. The Harrier had little space for so, the, f-35, is more than a worthy, successor to, the Harrier a plane, which fetched about 24, million dollars, per unit in 1996. Or about. 39 million adjusted. For inflation so. Incorporating, VTOL, to the f-35b, was. Just one of many design, challenges, that pushed the price of the program off ironically. Despite, Boeing's, joule prototype, entry being a sticky, point four the jsf program. The f-35 now, comes in three variants, each, tailored, for different branches in the US military. The f-35 a is customized. For the US Air Force and as such has, been designed, to take off from conventional, runways, allowing. It to scrap much of the heavy equipment needed. For the f-35 be, the, Marines variant, the, Marines do not operate out of large aircraft, carriers, like the Navy and as such their, ships like the wasp-class amphibious assault. Ship have often been referred to as helicopter. Carriers, as no, plane, other than the Harrier or Osprey, have been able to use them this. Is not the case for the Navy who have large aircraft, carriers, at their disposal the. Final variant is the f-35. C which has been designed to satisfy the Navy's, requirements, having, wings that are about 40% larger, than either of its sister variants, and its landing gear is much heavier and stronger, both. Of these features were included to allow it to land and take off from, aircraft carriers without, the need for the vertical propulsion, like the f-35 be the, larger wings not only allow the f-35c.
To, Have the largest fuel capacity of, the three but, also give it much better lift at slower speeds making. Landings, and takeoffs much. Easier on the deck of an aircraft carrier while. The heavier landing, gear allows the plane to survive the rough landings associated. With the arresting, wire landings, on aircraft carriers the, f-35. See also, incorporates, folding, wingtips to allow for neat storage inside the ship this. Expansion into three variants has been a huge source of increased, costs, and the program likely could have dramatically, reduced on spending, had, it just designed three, different planes for, three different branches, trying. To squeeze the needs of these three military, branches, into a single, airframe, was never going to be an easy task for the R&D division of Lockheed Martin and forced, them to make some concessions in design, that have limited them in other areas, the, brunt of criticism directed. At the f-35. Is its, shortcomings in dog fighting capabilities. Headlines. Of the f-35, losing. Simulated, dogfights, to cold war-era. F-15s. Dean's grabbed, many people's attention, and were, used to detract from the f-35s. Advancements. We, only knew about these issues as a result of a report that leaked to the press let's. Take a look at that report to, see what this test pilot thought about the f-35 a he flew the, primary, flaw of this pilot highlighted, was the f-35, A's poor, energy maneuverability. Meaning. The f-35, a struggled. To maneuver without expending, a significant. Amount of its kinetic energy, which, is a problem, I discussed, in more detail in my fighter jet instability. Video the primary, design aspect, the pilot pins this on is the smaller wing area and the weaker afterburner, thrust of the f-35, in comparison. To the f-15e. He was accustomed to essentially. Their issue with the f-35, was, that it depleted, its kinetic energy stored quicker than its competition we, have no reason to believe this pilot was wrong in his findings so what does this mean for the f-35, it.
Is Important to note that this was not a fully functional, version missing, software enabling, the plane to detect its foes before they can detect it and was missing radar absorbing, paint on, top of this the f-35, is not short of trained military aviators. Who praised the f-35. Like, US Marine corpse major Dan flatly who helped design the combat training program for f-35. Pilots, and he, has chalked up these issues to old habits of pilots who have spent significant. Portions, of their lives dedicated, to older generation, planes which, were designed with a different, philosophy in, mind since, then the f-35, has performed, phenomenally, in simulations, with the reports up to 22, 1 K TRS other, pilots, who have had more time to become accustomed, to the f-35, had more positive things to say like, John Beasley the chief test pilot of the f-35, with, 22, years of experience as. A test pilot at Lockheed Martin and was, involved in the development of the f-117, Nighthawk, and the f-22 Raptor, he, claims the f-35, can outmaneuver any, US, fighter except, for the f-22, which, was designed specifically. As an, air superiority machine. And. Is not, available for purchase outside of America, and actually, has a higher unit, cost than, the f-35, at about a hundred and fifty million dollars it's. Hard for me to make a judgment, call on this because I have as little information as any other civilian, but honestly outside, of this one report, most pilots who have flown with the f-35, sing, its praises John. Beasley also, makes an important, note air, combat has always relied, on stealth, whether, it was World War one pilots, diving, from the Sun at their backs or modern. Fighters using advanced, radar, masks in design because. In the grand scheme of things in a dogfight the real star that matters is who sees and shoots first and the biggest factor that contributes, to that are the onboard, sensors, and stealth the, thing that really sets the f-35, apart, is its suite of sensors, and computer, guidance systems, which, have been integrated, with the user interface, of the, aircraft unlike, any other plane in the history of mankind while. Sharing that information with, the entire, force this, is what truly makes this plane something to be feared and it all starts with this a little, transparent, faceted, sensor suite containing. The infrared, imaging, and tracking, equipment of the, aircraft but those are not your typical windows, those, are made of sapphire and notoriously. Expensive gemstone, one, of the few materials that is both hard and durable but also transparent, to a broad range of wavelets, the, imaging, data from these sensors can even be fed into the pilots helmet visor which, has been enhanced with augmented reality technology, this. Helmet alone costs. $400,000. And enables, the pilot to look straight through the aircraft and see at night without having to wear clumsy, night-vision goggles. The, helmet also feeds in data from the multitude of other sensors, like the advanced, high-frequency, radar, in the nose of the plane along. With data received, from sensors, from other aircraft, and ground-based units, the, data does not feed into the pilots AR helmet unfiltered, though it passes through the on-board computer which. Performs, all the necessary filtering. And data analysis, and only, presents the pilot with the information, he really, needs this technology. Is so powerful, that even an unarmed, f-35, would greatly, boost the combat effectiveness, of its, allies but. Detection, is just one step of that goal of shooting first not, being detected is just, as important. Incorporating. Stealth was just another design, challenge, and is likely the source of much of the unexpected, cost let's, first clear something up despite, what you may have otherwise, heard stealth, does not render a plane undetectable. Short, of not physically, existing, everything. Is detectable, if we can find and analyze planets. Billions, of light-years away we can detect a plane flying directly, overhead, stealth. Purpose is not to make the plane invisible, it serves, to complicate, and delay, the enemy's detection, of an aircraft stealth. Has proven itself invaluable, over the past two decades prior. To the f-35s, inception, the, f-117. Nighthawk flew over. 1,300. Missions over Iraq during. The Gulf War scouring. Direct hits on over, 1600. High-value. Targets, without losing a single aircraft. But, it was far from perfect Lockheed knew this all too well as the manufacturer, of the f-117, in, 1999.
A Nighthawk, was infamously, spotted, by a radar and subsequently, shot down over Serbia the, pilot survived but the plane crashed and remained mostly, intact handing, over a valuable, technology to, the Russians to reverse-engineer. Celt, serves a single purpose to, avoid detection and the f-117, failed, here but, it was developed, using 1970s. Era computing, technology, it's panels were flat and faceted, simply, because we did not have the computers capable, of analyzing more, complicated, shapes to optimize stealth early. Attempts at stealth worked under a fairly, simple theory radar, works by sending out pulses of electromagnetic. Waves and waits, and listens for reflections. The, idea behind stealth, technology is to not reflect, those waves back at the emitter and thus, avoiding, detection this. Is why the f-117. Is shaped like this each, panel has been angled and placed in a way to minimize, how much of this energy it will reflect back to the sender, it was also coated in a paint that would help absorb, some of that electromagnetic. Radiation, a, opponents of stealth technology despite, its proven track record are quick to point out that long wavelength, radar is capable, of detecting stealth, aircraft the, same kind of radar that detected, the f-117, over, Serbia and the same kind of radar used in the Battle of Britain while, this is true, these, stealth aircraft are optimized, to avoid detection of, higher frequency. Radar, those opponents rarely, mentioned that low frequency, long wavelength, radar do not provide high fidelity measurements. And struggle, to pinpoint their location of, the, aircraft this, makes them effective early warning systems but entirely useless, for directing, missiles while, this is certainly not useless it's, not particularly useful in, air-to-air combat had. The f-117. Nighthawk on that night been escorted, by its usual squadron, of electronic, jamming Prowler aircraft, the, missiles may well have never got a lock this, was made worse by the fact the aircraft, was flying a regular, flight path and so, the Serbians knew where to look topping, this off the f-117, was designed in an era before, sophisticated. Computational. Analysis, was available and so, it took this relatively, simplistic flat, faceted, form the b2 and f-22, however, greatly, improved, on the technology, utilizing. Complex curved shapes which no human could hope to calculate, the radar signature, of and they, have never been shut down the, curves diffused those radio waves in many directions rather. Than reflecting, it all in one direction which makes it easier to detect by receivers, listening, in locations, separate, to the emitter a fairly standard practice, today the, f-35 uses. The same complex, curves to avoid detection by, these, high-frequency, radars. And this, is likely one of the things driving its development, costs up the most stealth. Technology requires. Precision, beyond. Any other type, of manufacturing, this, is manageable, at small-scale, production like, that of the b2 and f-22, which, had very small production. Runs the, f-35, however is expected to be a mass manufactured. Aircraft, that foreign allies with shallower pockets, than the US military, will be willing, to pay for creating. A manufacturing, line that requires this level of precision was, never going to be, panels cannot have gaps between them that cannot be malformed, a single, scratch on the radar-absorbing, coating will require an entire repaint, of the parrot small. Manufacturing, defects have caused recalls, on multiple, occasions Lockheed. Is only now starting to, comfortably, roll the plane off the assembly, lines and that, is reflected in the lowering price of the aircraft, the latest, batch of orders have reduced and cost by 5.4 percent for, the f-35 a 5.7, for the B variant, an 11.1%. For, the f-35 see, leaving, us with a unit, cost of 89 point two million for an f-35, a a hundred, and fifteen point five million for an f-35, B and one hundred and seven, point seven million for an f-35, see, with, the f-35, a expected. To drop by a further four, point seven percent to 85, million by, the end of 2019, this. Sounds like a shitload, of money to the average, person, like me but, we get a clearer, picture of these costs, when comparing, to other fifth-generation. Fighters. Like, the f-22 Raptor, which cost a hundred and fifty, million dollars per unit or even. Looking at the other aircraft, it's going to be replacing I think, it's fair to say that we've established that, the f-35, is a worthy, successor to all of these planes which. Individually, come with their own hefty. Price tags but. The f-35, manages, to combine the capabilities, of all these aircraft, into, a single, plane yes, the development, cost of this plane have been astronomical.
That, Cannot be denied but, much of that money has gone directly back, into the American, economy then. When you consider that the plane is expected, to sell up to 4600, units. By the end of its lifetime nearly. Identical to, the total f-16, sales figures this, will inject more money into the American, economy considering. A large sum of these orders will be from international. Exports. So, is the f-35, worth it's 115. Point five million price tag as an, Irish, citizen that's, not for me to decide but, I can't say one thing this, is a fascinating, plane, with astounding, capabilities. This, may have been a heavy, price to pay but what isn't is a subscription. To curiosity, stream at a price of just, $2.99. A month with. That price you will get access to thousands, of documentaries, and nonfiction. Titles like, this fantastic, history of weapons series not, only that you will also get free access to nebula, the streaming video platform, built by and for. Independent. Creators like tear Zoo Lindsay, Alice minutephysics, Wendover. Productions and my new channel real, science, which just launched last week where, curiosity stream, is all about big-budget, non-fiction. Videos we're, building nebula because we want a place for educational. Creators, to try out new content ideas, that, might not work on YouTube I'm currently working on a logistics. Of d-day series and the next episode of real science is already available, on there but, won't be on YouTube for another month, curiosity. Stream loves independent, creators and wants, to help us grow our platform, so they're offering real engineering, viewers, free, access to nebula, when you sign up to curiosity, stream comm, Ford slash real, engineering, by, signing up to curiosity stream, you will be helping not just me but, the entire, educational. Community, as we, work together to build a place where we can create content like, my logistics, of d-day series that, would just be too risky, to rely on YouTube, as, always thanks, for watching and, thank you to all my patreon, supporters if you'd like to see more from me the, links to my Instagram Twitter. Subreddit. And discord server are below. You.