How did an F-35 Go Missing | China's Defense Minister is also "Missing"

Oh, and the Air Force Missed It's Recruiting Goal

FRIDAY | 22 Sep 23

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If you’re faced with a forced landing, fly the thing as far into the crash as possible….or leave it on autopilot” 

- Bob Hoover (mostly)

🎙️ #79 Drops Monday Nathaniel “Bobbit” Keegan, who is a USMC F-35B fighter pilot. Turns out I didn’t know an F-35 would go rouge last week but here we are…(available now for Patrons + There I was…")

🎙️Thanks for subscribing here are a few free 👉 "There I was…" stories.👈 Hope you enjoy!

How did an F-35 go missing?

Yes, in a world of Apple airtags, it is still possible to lose a $100 million fighter jet. Remember Malaysian Airlines Flight 370? It is still missing. Not only is a 777 not stealthy, but it is also pumping and receiving data from all over the globe. The F-35 on the other hand is stealthy, doesn’t beam data all over the globe, and while a bit more ‘sturdier’ compared to her nimble F-16 sister, is small compared to a 777.

What we know. Nearly everything is speculation at this point. The Marine Corps will conduct an investigation, and in a few months, we will hear the real story. But why was it tough to find? Stealth, Transponder, Needle in a Hay Stack, Pilotless Operation.

  • Stealth - F-35 is stealthy. There are ways to augment and increase the radar cross section to make the jet more ‘visible’ to Air Traffic Control but not always utilized so not surprising that radar didn’t follow along on the 80-ish mile pilotless journey.

  • Transponder - Fighter aircraft typically fly in formation. In that formation, it is very common for only one or two aircraft to hold the ‘squawk.’ The squawk is the unique code assigned by air traffic control to aircraft. The squawk code is input into the aircraft’s transponder by the pilot, thus providing air traffic controllers with information about the aircraft’s location, speed, heading etc. If this jet was in formation, there is a decent chance he/she was not ‘squawking,’ so yet another hurdle to follow the aircraft.

  • Needle in Hay Stack - While an F-35 might seem large standing next to it (or large when it’s in your HUD when you are gunning it) it is small in the big picture. Imagine finding a dark gray jet, smashed to bits, in the low country of South Carolina. Not an easy thing to spot from the air.

  • Pilotless Ops - Clearly flying 80-ish miles past the ejection site compounded the complexities of the search area. How did the F-35 fly without a pilot? Modern jets “auto trim” or hold the last attitude and pitch when a pilot releases the controls…usually. If the jet is trimmed to neutral, it will continue along the last vector until altered by an outside force…like loss of thrust or the ground. If the pilot had engaged a mode of autopilot, the jet would continue to fly until it could no longer hold altitude or airspeed…without autothrottles, the jet is using the last throttle setting.

Radar Scope:

✈️ You will be missed...China's Defense Boss "Missing" China’s Defense Minister Li Shangfu has disappeared. This marks yet another high-ranking Chinese official who has gone “missing" and/or removed. Most recent was China’s Foreign Minister, Qui Gang, who was removed in July along with the leader of China’s Rocket Force (their nukes). Li Shangfu had been on job since March and is under investigation for corruption allegations concerning military procurement. 

No One Asked Me, But Here’s My Opinion. We chatted about this last week with Xi skipping the G20 summit. Several outside analyst view the sudden disappearance of high-ranking officials as an indicator that the man at the top is growing more and more isolated and distrusting of his inner-circle. The weekly Lowdown is available on all podcast platforms, this episode covers the removal the ex-Secretary General of the CCP during the party congress.

✈️ We need more Vipers...Romanian Standing up F-16 Training Lockheed plans to finalize the details of The European Flight Training Center (EFTC), which will predominately train Romain pilots and maintainers how to fly and work on the F-16. Romania is buying 32 F-16s from Norway. However, the EFTC will initially utilize F-16s on loan from the Netherlands. Tracking? This is an effort to modernize their Air Force from their Soviet-era MiG-21s. Catch the episode with Admiral Fox’s sharing his MiG-21 shootdown? Lockheed hopes the EFTC becomes a center point for European Viper training…and maybe even Ukraine.

No One Asked Me, But Here’s My Opinion  It’s amazing to see the greatest fighter man has ever produced still playing a pivotal role across the globe. It seems like a logical step for an F-16 training center outside the U.S. Currently; several nations conduct F-16 training in Tucson, AZ with the 162nd Fighter Wing. This includes future Ukrainian Viper Drivers. As the F-35 continues to take on a larger role in the U.S. inventory, it is fair to assume F-16 related opportunities in the U.S. will gradually fade over the coming years. 

Tell me about it…

Over 4,600 F-16s have been produced and over 3,100 are still turning dinosaurs into the sound of freedom today. The Block 70/72 is the latest model rolling off the line in Lockheed’s new F-16 plant in Greenville, South Carolina.

✈️ See the world they said....Air Force to Miss Recruiting Target For 25 years, the Air Force has met or exceeded its’ recruiting goals. This year all three components of the Air Force (active duty, reserves, and guard) will miss their enlisted recruiting target. Active duty expects to miss by 10% and the guard and reserve by 30%.

 No One Asked Me, But Here’s My Opinion  Roughly 25% of Americans 17-24 are eligible to serve. Obesity, mental health issues, felonies, or a combination of these, and you knock out the vast majority of the remaining 75%.  Mix that with a side of lack of propensity to serve (around 9% have the desire to serve), fear of death, injury, of post-traumatic stress, and a competitive labor market make recruiting a tough sell these days.  Pilot math: Out of America’s youth who are qualified and have the propensity to serve, you land around 279,000 youth…who oh by the way, might elect to continue with higher education or enter the job market. The good news though, is that the DoD only needs about 160,000 of them each year.  Now it’s up to recruiters to convince the remaining 15% of qualified Americans to join. 

Low Down

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