New Carrier Propulsion System?

engine test1.jpgNaw. You have to have a way to test out jet engines on a ship before you install them in aircraft, so a special part of the ship was created on the fantail (back end of the ship to you land lubbers) where you can hook up power and fuel to an engine and go through its full range of operating parameters. When I was working the future carrier program a few years ago there was talk that the new Joint Strike Fighter engine would be an “install, ready-for-issue” engine right out of its canister. Seems to me that concept went by the wayside, and seems to me, even with my paltry number of single-engine jet hours, that going by the wayside is a good thing. The fact that the Navy is going back to a single engine jet (not seen in the fleet since the retirement of the A-7 Corsair in the early 90’s) creates its own set of possible hand wringing scenarios, but from all accounts the F-135 engine is a beasty, and a trusting sort of motor. Still, as my Dad said a long time ago (after others, I’m sure), it is far better to call back to base and tell them that you are shutting down AN engine rather than telling them you are shutting down THE engine.

060531-N-1960H-108 Pacific Ocean (May 31, 2006) – Aviation intermediate maintenance department’s (AIMD) jet shop tests an F/A-18F Super Hornet jet engine on the fantail aboard USS Kitty Hawk (CV 63). U.S. Navy photo by Photographer’s Mate Airman Thomas J. Holt (RELEASED)

Over on the Instapinch there’s a little story I just put up titled “Camelot 114” about a rather interesting hop – or rather the end to it – we had on cruise in the Med back in the day. It has some kinda interesting pilot gun-camera video in there, so strap in and go take a look, if you’d like.

–posted by Pinch


  1. Pinch, Naw, jets that small can’t move an aircraft carrier. Canvas can, though. I learned that in an old (well, I suppose they’re ALL old) episode of ‘Thundarr the Barbarian’, in which the bad guy had a carrier outfitted with huge rigging and masts and sails to propel it. I thought that was fairly unbelievable when I was like 10.

  2. From Defense News last Monday: The cost to build each Joint Strike Fighter will average $150 million through the end of the decade, says U.S. Navy Rear Adm. Steven Enewold, who directs the Pentagon’s JSF program office. But by 2014 or so, that price tag should fall to slightly less than $50 million for a conventional F-35 and a bit more than $60 million for a vertical-lift plane, Enewold said. ‘While we’re still on a learning curve, the airplanes are going to be expensive in then-year dollars,’ he said. Expensive is right, say some analysts. ‘You could buy brand-new Raptors at that price,’ said Loren Thompson, aviation analyst for the Lexington Institute. The F-22 Raptor, the U.S. Air Force’s new air superiority fighter, is costing between $130 million and $150 million to build, Air Force officials have said. At $276 billion, the JSF program is the Pentagon’s most expensive weapon effort – it will consume some 90% of the money the Pentagon is spending on new fighter jets. Run by Lockheed Martin with international funding and industrial participation, it aims to develop three variants of the plane: conventional, vertical-lift and naval. … But the GAO report notes that the five-year-old JSF program has already missed many cost and schedule targets. ‘Since initial estimates, program acquisition unit costs have increased by 28 percent, or $23 million,’ the GAO reported. ‘Development costs have increased 84 percent, planned purchases have decreased by 535 aircraft, and the completion of development has slipped five years.’ The Lexington Institute’s Thompson said, ‘There will be more budget cuts and schedule slips.’ The Air Force, he said, is expecting an average price tag closer to about $70 million per copy. Bolkcom said the price increases undercut the JSF’s main selling point: affordability. … Most of the services are more interested in when they can get the plane than in changing their plans, he said. But CRS analysts warn that the Air Force might cut its plans to purchase 1,763 JSFs by one-third, according to the June 2 report, ‘F-35 Joint Strike Fighter (JSF) Program: Background, Status, and Issues.’ And the rising price threatens export sales as well, analysts said. ‘With a $45 million F-35, the U.S. rules the world export market,’ the Teal Group reported last year. ‘Without it, the U.S. will be lucky to hang on to 40 percent of the discretionary fighter market.’

  3. Which number do you believe: a) $35M/airplane – the original cost estimate and the same price as the F-16. b)$150M/airplane c)$60M/airplane d)$70M/airplane e)$45M/airplane f)none of the above. I’ll tell you right now, if you ever believed (a), you’re a fool.

  4. Dfens, you’re getting awfully off-topic lately aren’t you? We all have our hobby horses but it’s probably better to wait for a more relevant post to comment about this sort of thing I think.

  5. I took the topic as being the F-35, not whether or not the F-135 could move a carrier. I saw that as being rather tongue-in-cheek. My apologies if I missed the mark. That article seemed fairly interesting to me.

  6. Oh I see. Well, fair enough, you’re not as far off topic as I thought you were. I guess you did the trick my mother does to me a lot, we’re talking about something and it reminds her of something else and she starts talking about that without explaining the connection to me, and I have no idea what she’s going on about. I sympathise with your point of view but I don’t agree 100% with you. However, let me just say, the current situation with 2 or 3 major contractors being coddled by the govt. is just not going to end well. Serious competition between military contractors is a distant memory by this point, as is sticking to budgets, and it’s a sad situation for capitalism and America in general.

  7. Careful now, your mom may not care much for the comparison, and I certainly couldn’t blame her. Anyway, this has been gnawing at me for a full week now, so I had to share it.

  8. Expensive is right, say some analysts. ‘You could buy brand-new Raptors at that price,’ said Loren Thompson, aviation analyst for the Lexington Institute.’ Yeah, you sure could, and not be able to operate them from carriers. Nobody laments the increase in cost for current (and future) technology than me (I deal with it every day here at the five-sided puzzle palace), but any sort of weapons system like the F-35 *is* going to cost a bundle. The 3 variants (AF, Naval, VSTOL) and the associated technology that goes into all and each is indeed costly, and the debate rightly encompasses myriad points – level of technological edge required, commonality, allied requirements, mission capability, etc. The navalized version of this thing has additional requirements that the AF and VSTOL does not have – wing fold, strengthened empennage for carrier landings, beefed-up landing gear, all the standard ‘navy’ things we need that others don’t. Makes that cost go up yet again.

  9. We have gone from being able to develop a highly complex fighter jet like the F-14 in 18 months, to it taking 12 years to develop the B-2, and 25 years to develop the F-22. The cost of development has gone up similarly. This has taken place in direct opposition to the huge gains that have been made in technology during that same period. The computers on the desks of the secretaries working at Boeing and Lockheed today surpass the capabilities of Cray Supercomputers when the F-14 was designed and have graphics capabilities beyond imagination in those days. So why has the time and cost to develop these aircraft exploded? Here is a quote from a paper by Bracken and Gompert that should shock you: ‘If the price performance of combat aircraft were improving at a mere 1 percent of the rate of improvement in price-performance of the typical civilian IT products, the F-22 and the Joint Strike Fighter would cost less than their predecessors, not many times more.’ It’s not that I think the F-14 should go on forever. I certainly am not happy with the F-18, and the Navy is well past due for new aircraft across the board. The cost, though, is out of sight. It is not reasonable by any stretch of the imagination. I don’t care which branch of the services does it, I pay the bills, and I say it’s got to stop.