June 12, 2012

Different F-35 Stealth Features to Different Countries. Why? and Indian MMRCA?

The F-35 - a serious new entrant in India's MMRCA competition?
This article http://defensetech.org/2011/06/23/how-stealthy-is-your-f-35/ appears to be an attempted "expose" of the unsurprising possibility of differing F-35 stealth suites for each customer country). The article talks of "the source on the Australian internet is but I don’t think he’s inside the program office". Anyone who can visualize technology transfer policy or who writes about F-35's frequently could be part of the "source" - not me of course.
Probably most advanced US jets would have (or have had) some differences in their export models based on such issues as the recipient country's:
- security record or agreed status.  Australia and perhaps only the UK and Canada have the closest security-technology treaties with the US - (probably) particularly on protection of stealth features and source codes. So Australia, Canada and the UK are well placed to get the best stealth suites outside of the US. I'm certain that the US would have numerous (less close) agreements or understandings with other counties (eg. Japan, Israel, Saudi Arabia, Germany, Denmark, Netherlands etc). However for a variety of reasons these agreements and understandings might be kept confidential.
- degree of loyalty to the US alliance including participation in US military operations (eg. being in Afghanistan)
- how important a country is to the US (eg. Canada is important due to NORAD (sharing the North American continent). Israel is always boosted on this measure as well as acquiring US weapons for lower prices or gratis
- how much each country is paying (eg. Saudi Arabia) ,
- stealth needs of the country (what stealth suite has the customer country asked for?)
- commonality of F-35 software and hardware with a country's existing wares.
- the US Government and the main supplier (Lockheed Martin) may also have legitimate marketing strategies expressed as differences in F-35 stealth features between countries.
- one wonders what the chances are of Lockheed offering the F-35 to India for India's MMRCA tender?

- another factor in the degree of F-35 stealth might be how early and fully a country invests its taxpayers money towards US national risk and Lockheed corporate risk in developing the F-35. As an early investor Australia has probably already poured around $300+ million into the F-35 project.

The Australian Government routinely sheds the odd $100 million to a $billion in defence project errors. Hence it should not be too late to bail out of the F-35 if the F-35 drags out further overtime, overbudget, below technical expectations compared to emerging Russian and Chinese developments. 
Perhaps the US will over the F-22 in 2020 after its loyal allies have been politically pressured (behind closed doors) into buying the one and only present "choice" - the F-35. This might be an excellent marketing strategy for Lockheed Martin and its main current host nation (the US).
Boeing is providing competing products mainly based on the proven F-15, specifically the F-15SE Silent [Stealthy] Eagle. The F-15 would have many electronic and supply chain commonalities with the Boeing F/A-18 Super Hornets that Australia has just received. But purchasing an advance on a proven aircraft will be shot down as it goes against all bureaucrat inclinations since 1980 which is to:
- create problems that can be solved
- over quite some years
- in  a career advancing way
- for the fragmented many concerned
- with a minimum of accountability for allies, federal and state governments, politicians, officials, senior officers, main contractors and smaller contractors
- it being only taxpayers' money shared all round.
This is something I wrote about Australia's F-35 in 2008, called "Don't Buy in Haste" which achieved some short-term notoriety - and hasn't been proven wrong to date.