Friday, September 20, 2013

US 'Deep Throat' destroys a JSF cover-up

The Watergate cover-up and the involvement of President Nixon would never  have been  discovered but for "deep throat" briefing two American journalists in a deserted US car park.

Forty-one years later another "deep throat" has risked his job  and possibly his personal freedom  to tell the truth about the cover up of the  gigantic disaster called the Joint Strike Fighter.

The JSF "deep throat" revelations are so damning that they are likely to cause some US military officials and politicians with financial stakes in the JSF to lose their jobs.

For Australia in many ways the JSF "deep throat" revelations more important than Watergate because we are  totally dependent on the JSF  for our long-term air defence.

 The failure of the JSF to match rival aircraft will jeopardise our national sovereignty.


Rather convey his message in a  deserted car park,  the JSF "deep throat" positioned himself in carefully selected a cafe at the top of Washington's Union railway station where he could see everyone below but they could not see him.  When the 'coast was clear'  he would phone one of America's top journalists, Adam Ciralsky, who would make his way through the rail crowds and up the stars to be briefed on the truth about the JSF.

Ciralsky's reputation is so high that he has also been given access to the highest levels of the US military to report on the JSF. That's why the JSF "deep throat" decided to use Ciralsky to convey to the world the truth about the JSF disaster and its cover-up.

And unless Ciralsky was certain that the "deep throat" both knew the real truth about the JSF and was telling that truth, Ciralsky would not have published it under a code name. 

Behind the Ciralsky/"deep throat" message is the warning that America and Australia in combination may not be able to defend Australia against the air power of Indonesia, India or China. My message to Tony Abbott is that the truth about the JSF is far more serious for our children and grand children than any other issue now before the cabinet.

And remember, parts of the Australian Defence Force are part of the US cover-up.

The people who advise me  in Australia (and who have been proved to be totally correct in their warnings about the JSF over a decade) have a solution to retain Australian airpower but by the time of the next election it will be too late to implement that solution (see footnote).

Adam Ciralsky writes for Vanity Fair and in this month's edition he gave the name "Charlie" to the JSF deep throat. Unlike the Washington Post journalists, Ciralsky knows the identity of "Charlie" and says that he is a well-placed source with a decade's worth of hands-on experience with the Joint Strike Fighter, both inside and outside the Pentagon. He was one of the plane's earliest proponents.

 This is some of what "Charlie", the JSF "deep throat", reveals:

– The only military mission the JSF can execute is "a kamikaze one" (that means its pilots face certain death in combat). The JSF can't drop a single live bomb on a target and can't do any fighter engagements. There are limitations on Instrument Flight Rules – what's required to take an aeroplane into bad weather and to fly at night. The JSF is restricted from flying in inclement meteorological conditions – something a $60,000 Cessna can do.

– Technical problems will continue to bedevil the JSF. You can trace the plane's troubles today back to the 2006–2007 time frame, when program was at a critical point and the developer, Lockheed, needed to prove it could meet weight requirements. That, he says, led to a series of risky design decisions. "I can tell you, there was nothing they wouldn't do to get through those reviews. They cut corners. And so we are where we are", "Charlie" says.

– Some test pilots have experienced spatial disorientation in flight serious enough that they have disabled the data and video streams to the helmet and landed using the plane's conventional flight displays. Spatial disorientation is a potentially lethal condition in which a pilot loses his bearings and confuses perception with reality.

– The JSF was designed as a plane for the airforce, marine, and navy. Their different needs create impossible conflicts. For example, the plane needs stealth technology for deep-strike bombing missions, where planes must remain unobserved while going into enemy territory. But stealth may actually inhibit the marines' ability to carry out their primary mission – close air support. To remain low-observable – military-speak for stealthy –the JSF must carry large amounts of fuel and ordnance internally. However that capability, in turn, impacts how long it can loiter over the battlefield for the Marines. The marine's A-10 Thunderbolt II – which the JSF replaces for the marines – can carry 16,000 pounds worth of weapons and a vast array of other ordnance plus a special gun.

The JSF, which costs at least five times as much as the A-10 Thunderbolt, will initially carry one-third as much ordnance and no gun whatsoever. The JSF will not do the job. Lockheed, which is developing the JSF, maintains that the JSF is outfitted with a series of hard points that will eventually allow the plane to carry up to 18,000 pounds of ordnance for the air-force and navy variants and up to 15,000 pounds for the Marine version. However, carrying external ordnance will eliminate the plane's stealth signature – which is routinely touted as one of the plane's primary advantages over legacy aircraft.

And the material from the "Charlie", the JSF "deep throat" just keeps coming.  Meanwhile the developers at Lockheed keep saying they can fix the problems.

But even Lieutenant General Christopher C Bogdan, who was put in charge of the  JSF program last December, told Ciralsky  he can't believe "how we got to this point". His advise to Ciralsky was "just tell everybody the truth. It's hard."

Ciralsky concludes that the truth is: "The Joint Strike Fighter is the most expensive weapons system ever developed. It is plagued by design flaws and cost overruns. It flies only in good weather. The computers that run it lack the software they need for combat. No one can say for certain when the plane will work as advertised. Until recently, the prime contractor, Lockheed Martin, was operating with a free hand – paid handsomely for its own mistakes."

Ciralsky says that even Pentagon officials admit they cannot say when Lockheed will deliver the 8.6 million lines of computer software code required to fly a fully functional JSF, not to mention the additional 10 million lines for the computers required to maintain the plane.

 If "Charlie" "deep throat" is right – and I am sure he is – America and Australia will not be able to defend  Australia in the next decade  against the air power of Indonesia, India or China.


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