F-35: Costly, Useless and Sexist Too

f-35 ejectorThe Chief of the Air Force, Air Marshal Davies, a David Morrison-wannabe, has said that “maybe that big, blokey, fighter pilot attitude is starting to dilute a little”, adding a blokey “So it bloody should” for emphasis.  The Air Marshall said that the RAAF’s female pilots would be eligible to fly the F-35. The problem is that the F-35 will kill its female pilots at a higher rate than its male pilots. The recently released report of the US Department of Defense’s Director, Operational Test and Evaluation explains:

“After the latter failure, the program and Services decided to restrict pilots weighing less than 136 pounds from flying any F-35 variant, regardless of helmet type (Gen II or Gen III). Pilots weighing between 136 and 165 pounds are considered at less risk than lighter weight pilots, but at an increased risk (compared to heavier pilots). The level of risk was labelled “serious” risk by the Program Office based on the probability of death being 23 percent and the probability of neck extension (which will result in some level of injury) being 100 percent. Currently, the program and the Services have decided to accept the risk to pilots in this weight range, although the basis for the decision to accept these risks is unknown.

The testing showed that the ejection seat rotates backwards after ejection. This results in the pilot’s neck becoming extended, as the head moves behind the shoulders in a “chin up” position. When the parachute inflates and begins to extract the pilot from the seat (with great force), a “whiplash” action occurs. The rotation of the seat and resulting extension of the neck are greater for lighter weight pilots.”

What this means is that the death rate from ejection is too high for pilots weighing less than 60.4 kg.  The death rate falls to 23% between 60.4 kg and 73.3 kg though the incidence of neck injury is 100%.  The report did not say what the incidence of neck injury is likely to be for pilots weighing more than 73.3 kg. There will also be a death rate in that weight class.

Ejector seats are far from the F-35’s only fatal deficiency. David Archibald’s full and magisterial demolition of the plane we don’t need and cannot afford is laid out in a voluminous Senate submission.
It can be downloaded here

Australian women are, on average, 15 kg lighter than Australian men. This pushes them down into the higher-chance bracket of death by ejection seat. At a weight of 71.1 kg for the average Australian female, more than half of our female pilots will have a 100% chance of neck injury on ejection.  That includes the 23% who will be killed by whiplash.

How many will need to eject?  In Operation Allied Force, the NATO attack on Serbia, half of the Serbian pilots shot down were able to eject safely.  Our nearest neighbour, Indonesia, is in the process of acquiring 12 of the Russian Su-35 fighter which will be able to shoot down 2.4 F-35s for each Su-35 lost.  The Indonesians want to acquire at least another 12 Su-35s.  If they do that, they could shoot down 58 F-35s, the bulk of our force.  The rest of the Indonesian air force could shoot down what remains of our air force.  It would take about three days before our last F-35 was shot down.

So, based on experience from the most recent aerial warfare between comparable aircraft, half of our F-35 pilots will be killed in their aircraft and the other half will be able to eject.  Of the female pilots who eject, at least 23% will be killed during ejection taking their total death rate to about 62%.  Of those still alive during the parachute descent, more than half will have neck injuries (100% of those under 73.3 kg) which will include quadriplegia. As a high proportion of our aerial combat is likely to be over the Timor Sea, many of the still-living pilots will come down in the open ocean. Those pilots incapacitated by neck injuries won’t last long, especially as we don’t have any aerial or marine craft dedicated to pilot retrieval.  So the death rate for our female F-35 pilots could be as high as 80%, all within three days of the war starting.

We should recognise now the bravery of our prospective female F-35 pilots.  At an 80%-odd guaranteed death rate, they are up there with the kamikaze pilots of World War 2. Those who we can recover from the Northern Territory scrub will have a high proportion of neck injuries, including quadriplegia. Perhaps the prospect of permanent incapacity, and being confined to an institution for the rest of their lives, makes them just as brave as the pilots of Japan’s divine wind. Talk about closing the gap!

The powers-that-be need to have a deep think about a number of matters.

David Archibald’s most recent book is Australia’s Defence (Connor Court).

15 thoughts on “F-35: Costly, Useless and Sexist Too

  • pgang says:

    It would seem that the F-35 was a bad idea that became an even worse reality as more bad ideas were added. But what can we replace it with? Does the west have anything better to offer (not the F-22 as that project is dead and buried)?

    Mind you I doubt very much that the Su-35 would be shooting down 2.4 of these things. Something of an exaggeration going on there.

    Perhaps we are back to 1918 when pilots had to go down with their aircraft.

    • pgang says:

      Ah, the Gripen E. Never heard of it.

    • SJAH says:

      Given there are zero female fighter pilots in Australia now, and let say by 2030 there might three, see where I’m going? Article is tosh. Amazingly I bet the ejection seat will be modified. These same articles were written about all US fighter aircraft at some time in their development and yet post the Vietnam War the success of Russian fighter against US fighters is non-existant.

  • bemartin39@bigpond.com says:

    Speaking as an absolute layman, referring to the severe “chin-back” danger upon ejection, one would think that the seat design could incorporate a headrest type support to minimise this risk. Concerning the very sudden extraction of the pilot from the seat by the parachute, I can comment with some expertise, having keenly participated in skydiving during my youth. Methods to prevent the sudden deployment of the canopy were developed very early in the history of the sport and are very well known. It is surprising that some such method is not utilised in this case to ensure that the canopy deploys gradually, eliminating the strain on the pilot at this crucial stage of the process.

  • Jody says:

    It all sounds dreadfully sexist to me; macho men flying aircraft which are powered as much by Testosterone as aviation fuel. And an overall design which is overtly aggressive and phallic. I’m feeling offended. 🙂

  • Matt Brazier says:

    There is an old saying in this type of field that those who know don’t talk and those who talk don’t know. The little I know is that in order to shoot something down you first have to find it. If the F-35 is stealthy and the Su-35 is not then there just might be something behind the public confidence of those ‘who know’. I’m inclined to give them the benefit of the doubt.

  • en passant says:

    Are you willing to bet your country that career bureaucrats with a job to keep and a promotion to seek would whistle blow as a matter of ethics and morality? f course they (and their opinions and studies) are under the watchful eyes of the best mob of politicians ever to be elected to run a country. If only Mal had not removed titles … Still ‘Saint’ is still available. The other advantage we have is that we live in the most peaceful and stable region of the world. What has happened to Europe could not happen here, which is why we have remained unarmed and without either a long-term strategic concept or even a tactical plan. In one night at Fromelles in WW1 we lost more men than are currently serving in infantry.
    I am sure it will be all right on the day, but I am not sure the muddling along British Army axiom of: ‘always be part of the second avenging force’ will apply as I do not think we will get a second chance.
    I am not an expert on warplanes, but former Air Vice Marshal Peter Criss has commented: “When you buy an aircraft that cannot climb (quickly), cannot turn (quickly) and cannot run (quickly), why should you be surprised that it will not survive its first combat engagement against any modern Generation Five fighter? The aircraft would be a joke were it not for the fact that many fine and upstanding young Australian pilots are going to perish trying to protect our much loved land. For fifteen years they, the Departmental experts, have been warned and they claimed to know better – I hope they are right but sadly I know they are wrong.”

    Is an AVM expert enough to maybe cause you to consider that your ‘blind faith’ in experts is possible misplaced? Then again, so much of what passes for expertise these days is really just fact-free opinion so the bureaucrats hunker down and accept only the opinions that support the other Lemmings views.. Who can forget KRudd’s immortal ‘…men in white coats who spend their lives studying such things ..”? Yes, who can forget the dud prophecies, even after therapy? Or Flannery, or Ehrlich, or Chamberlain, or, or, or ….Right now the governmentum (of all major parties) has used Defence as a dumping ground for time serving political hacks owed a favour for their political loyalty. The problem is that we waste a considerable part of the Defence budget, but serious as that is it is a drop in the black hole compared to the expenditure on Welfare and Health which absorb more than 54% of the total Federal revenues. Could we find enough fit and healthy people to defend Australia. Disability pensions and the unemployed cost more than Defence, with all their expensive toys.
    Clearly the answer is a pre-emptive strike: sell Australia to the highest bidder rather than waste our time preparing to fight for this land. It seems this is not a new suggestion as it appears to be well underway already. With such directionless leaders and no national will to ask ‘not what my nation can do for me, but what can I do for my nation.’
    Must away to Centrelink for my unemployment benefits as my disability cheque just arrived. It beats working and fighting for the ungrateful.

    • Lawrie Ayres says:

      I know you jest but as in all light hearted comment there is more than a touch of truth. I spent nearly three decades in the Defence force ensuring I was getting more bangs for my buck so much so that eventually there were no bucks and less bangs plus a fair dose of morale deficit.

  • en passant says:

    The following two articles from 2006 & 2007 clearly show that the doubts about the F-35 concept have been around for a long time, yet we march blindly along to the beat of an out of tune drum because … well, just because.
    Here’s what Dr Dennis Jensen said:
    http://skepticlawyer.com.au/2007/01/23/guest-post-by-dr-dennis-jensen-mp-it-wont-be-right-on-the-night/ and
    https://catallaxyf.wordpress.com/2006/10/31/f-22a-raptor-the-f-off-factor/ and just recently
    OK, here is the clincher: can anyone find an article that says the F-35 is a winner, a really, really good warplane that will cause our enemies to die from other than laughter at our stupidity?
    I can wait …. and wait … and … but please answer before the next air war”

  • jonreinertsen@bigpond.com says:

    We need a long range strike bomber, and a air superiority fighter. The F35 is neither. If we stopped looking at US only and looked broader we might have a chance.

  • rcadmore says:

    Perhaps the need is to deploy differing technologies and not have all ones eggs in one basket.

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