BREAKING: Short legs on F-35A

The Federation of American Scientists posted a copy of the latest selected acquisition report on the Lockheed Martin F-35 program, a 53-page gold mine of cost and performance data. Data on pages 10 and 12 are the basis for our breaking news article:

A new internal report predicts the Lockheed Martin F-35A conventional take-off and landing (CTOL) variant is falling short on a key performance requirement, forcing programme officials to consider a range of aircraft modifications to fix the problem. Combat radius, the maximum distance of an out-bound leg with a full load of weapons and fuel, has dropped to 1,080.4km (584nm) for the F-35A, according to a leaked copy of the 2010 F-35 selection acquisition report (SAR).

Here is a Microsoft Excel chart showing how each variant is performing on combat radius.chart combat radius.jpgAdding more fuel capacity is one of the options the program is considering to make-up the combat radius shortfall on the F-35A. This chart from a 2010 briefing by Lockheed Martin provides a general idea of the layout of the F-35′s fuel tanks. The area in blue is fuel storage.

F-35 fuel tanks slide.jpg


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12 Responses to BREAKING: Short legs on F-35A

  1. John 13 May, 2011 at 4:30 am #

    I am sure the 136 engine wouldn’t get better mileage or would it? I wonder why this came out after the cancellation?

  2. Tangoviking 13 May, 2011 at 8:25 am #

    What, the F-35B is the one doing good?

    Minor changes from KPP across the board but quite a big difference from the development estimates. Being that close to KPP for a new design when we know jets tend to just grow fatter and heavier with age (due to avionics and other modifications) can’t be what they wanted.

    KPP interoperability used to read “meet 100% of critical IER” now it says “less than 100%” what could this mean? Delay in secure voice/data development?

  3. sferrin 13 May, 2011 at 6:35 pm #

    So what’s the range of the F-16 or F/A-18 on internal fuel only with the same load of weapons?

  4. Stephen Trimble 13 May, 2011 at 6:37 pm #

    I’m not sure. That would be interesting to know. The military obviously wants the F-35 to meet the KPP standard, but I don’t know how that relates to existing aircraft.

  5. fred 13 May, 2011 at 7:14 pm #

    what is the blue thing? fuel?

  6. fred 13 May, 2011 at 7:16 pm #

    the f136 is not so hot, so it has less problems with cooling = bigger radius.

  7. Tangoviking 13 May, 2011 at 7:37 pm #


    External fuel is in effect scrapped for the F-35 since its specially designed EFTs (that no one has ordered) would only boost its maximum range by about 10% while be negative on signature and handling. Just not worth it.

    Combat range on F-16C using the same mission profile is 500nm. According to LM. So F-35A would be 84nm better but stealthy.

    LM marketing sheet

  8. Zippy 13 May, 2011 at 9:33 pm #

    How about ferry range? Will non-stealty EFTs be available? If not, a range shortfall will have a big impact on tanker requirements outside of combat.

  9. saberhagen 14 May, 2011 at 4:36 am #

    6 (SIX) MILES? Wow, that’s HUGE, isnt it?

  10. sferrin 14 May, 2011 at 7:06 pm #

    @Tangoviking: Where does it outline the conditions on that graphic you posted a link to? I have a tough time believing the Hornet has a combat radius of nearly 600 NM on internal fuel only with 4000lbs of bombs and a pair of AIM-120s. I’d be surprised if it could do it CLEAN.

  11. airplanejim 14 May, 2011 at 9:28 pm #

    And we keep spending BILLIONS on this turkey!

  12. jack pratt 18 May, 2011 at 6:15 pm #

    Big bucks for so little?? What is wrong with some more F-16 Block 60 at $33 million each and some more F-22′s while we design the new unmanned flying machines? What a huge waste and we’re broke!! Jack

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