Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Pentagon slashes F-35 cost estimate by 20 percent

By Andrea Shalal-Esa

WASHINGTON | Wed Aug 21, 2013 9:54pm EDT

(Reuters) - The U.S. government has slashed its estimate for the long-term operating costs ofLockheed Martin Corp F-35 fighter jets by more than 20 percent to under $1 trillion, according to a senior defense official, a move that could boost international support for the program.

The Pentagon has been under pressure for over a year to revise its estimate of maintaining a fleet of more than 2,000 F-35s over 55 years, with industry and military officials arguing that many of the assumptions were outdated and off base.

The new estimate of $857 billion could help ensure the new plane turns out to be as affordable as advertised and comes days after South Korea determined that only a bid by Boeing Co for its F-15 Silent Eagle came in below a $7.4 billion price ceiling for its plan to buy 60 new fighter aircraft.

Lockheed's F-35 and the Eurofighter Typhoon remain in the running, but Boeing's pricing marked a step toward winning the contract, according to sources close to the process. A final decision is expected in mid-September.

It was not immediately clear what impact the lower F-35 operating estimate would have on the South Korean tender, but U.S. officials said Seoul could decide to restart the competition and ask for new bids.

The Pentagon's revision reflects data about the plane's performance based on over 7,000 hours of test flights and revised assumptions about how it will be used and maintained, said the official, who was not authorized to speak publicly.

The estimate was provided to the Senate Armed Services Committee by the Pentagon's F-35 program chief, Air Force Lieutenant General Christopher Bogdan, the official said. A revision had been flagged in June when the Pentagon's acquisition chief said he had expected a review to result in lower operating and maintenance costs.

The F-35 Joint Strike Fighter is the costliest weapons program in U.S. history. The Pentagon estimates it will cost $392 billion to develop and build 2,443 of the new jets for use by the U.S. Air Force, Navy and Marine Corps.

Is this the first daylight photo of a bin Laden raid stealth helicopter - or a fabulous fake?

click to enlarge

Every once in awhile I receive photos from various sources. Usually they are of some strange looking fuzzy "UFO" or some other flying thing in the sky that can't be easily identified. Some turn out to be misidentification of known aircraft (maybe seen at a weird angle) or out-and-out hoax.

Sometimes (as it was with the (then) imminent release of Hollywood features such as "Stealth" and "Zero Dark Thirty" a photo of a great looking movie prop makes it's way onto the internet and gets passed around as the real thing.

Hoax photos are fairly easy to debunk - usually due to lack of EXIF data and (or) through examining it in detail in various programs to see if it has been manipulated. Here's a link to an article I did a few years back debunking a supposed alien presence at a CSETI event. LINK

Note: I took a lot of heat for this article - especially from supporters of CSETI - because I'm sure my disclosure cost them some money from some future rubes.

Another recent example of Photoshop fakery (state sponsored even) was when Iran released photos of a multiple missile launch where one missile failed to launch - so they Photoshopped one in and (the artist) did such a poor job that it was laughingly obvious. That botched attempt to portray Iran's military might - became an Internet meme and a laughing stock. LINK HERE

But then - there are those photos that fall in a grey area and cannot be proven or debunked. That is where this photo of a supposed stealth Black Hawk helicopter falls. Don't ask me who took the original photo (or created it) because I do not have that information.

Does it pass the tests? 

It passes the my own set of test criteria in many areas - but not in others.

First there is the EXIF data that shows it was photographed in 2008. Rarely do hoaxed photos have EXIF data attached.

click to enlarge 

Second - when (light blasted) the image holds up without any obvious signs of retouching. Also at close inspection the pixel structure holds up.





But where it is "ifie" is in the fact that

It's only one photo.

Who takes one photo? I've always applied this criteria because most people when they see something unusual it's human nature to take more than one photo.

However not being in that moment - in that place, I cannot know the reason why no more photos were taken. There are many reasons only one photo could be taken, maybe there are others that were out of focus - etc  - and who knows - there may be more.

Only time will tell.

But - there are  other things that strike me odd.

It's clearly evident the helicopter is not painted with the special IR reflecting silver paint as was the case with the partially destroyed bin Laden raid helicopter - but since the photo was taken (supposedly) in 2008, that modification could have come later.

There are also no special sickle-shaped blades as most aviation experts speculate is needed to silence a stealth helicopter.

In the suspect photo there are only the standard regular four blades, not five as most speculative drawings show.

Other things that struck me proving it could something (other than real) is it could be an RC model- since there is no sense of scale or one from the Zero Dark Thirty production, since it looks so much like the one in the movie.

(C) Zero Dark Thirty

However again the Zero Dark Thirty version is a five bladed helicopter and the EXIF data (although not empirical) does not support this assumption.

click to enlarge 

But then there's my final litmus test, one I apply to every photo I get of questionable origins.

Could I use my Photoshop skills to fake one as well? 

And the answer is - given the time - YES.

So the photo passes and fails - and thusly there is a 50 percent chance it is real and (concurrently) a 50 percent chance it's fake.

In light of this - I'm assuming by posting it, chances are it's not a classified photo - at least until the Feds confirm it by knocking on my door. I'm not holding my breath.

That said - since I don't know without a doubt it is real - I post it here for public review.

A full frame image - as I received it is available HERE to those who'd like to analyze it further.

Post your opinion in the comments please.

-Steve Douglass


UPDATE: As Steve Jobs would say, "One more thing.":

All photos submitted to me without attribution are in themselves suspect and thus probably not real.

Whistle blowers - such as Wikileaks and Edward Snowden have the tendency to crow about their leaks.

But this photo - no one is claiming it.


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