The Pentagon's Costly F-35 Fiasco Continues In 2018
February 15, 2018 William Thomas / Will Thomas Online
The F-35 Joint Strike Failure is still flapping around the boneyard, unable to fly very much except for photo-ops. At least $8 billion of the Pentagon's budget for 2015 was devoted to the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter. Already on track to be the most expensive weapon system in history, in 2018, the F-35 is becoming a black hole in the Pentagon budget.
F-35 Fiasco Continues In 2018 Half Of All F-35s Prefer Sitting On The Ground.
The Rest Aren't That Happy In The Air William Thomas / Will Thomas Online
(February 14, 2018) -- The F-35 Joint Strike Failure is still flapping around the boneyard, unable to fly very much except for photo-ops. But emulating a flightless bird may be a plus. Because taking this "advanced air superiority" nightmare into combat could prove suicidal.
Costs, at least, are flying high, having just jumped another $27.5 billion. With hundreds of issues currently unfixable, this jet-propelled adventure in national hubris and bankruptcy will not be fully combat-capable before 2020. If ever.
New issues "keep cropping up," Pentagon evaluators complain, and will cost over $1 billion more to address. And even more downtime for the existing worldwide fleet.
"Deficiencies continue to be discovered at a rate of about 20 per month," Dr. Michael Gilmore -- the Pentagon's former director of operational test & evaluation -- reported last year. That's nearly a glitch-a-day!
Gilmore's 65-page report also noted: "Much more testing is needed to assess the cybersecurity structure of the air vehicle and supporting logistics infrastructure system… and to determine whether, and to what extent, vulnerabilities may have led to compromises of F-35 data."
The inscrutable Chinese may have been scrutinizing a full set of F-35 blueprints and technical specs while designing their J-20 – though the "Mighty Dragon" looks like more like an F-35 knock-out than a knock-off. Besides the innovative, Euro-style canard (little wings up front) and twin-engines (handy if one quits), the biggest difference between these adversarial aircraft is that the Made In China model appears to actually fly when desired.
Look for it at Wal-Mart soon.
Gilmore was also upset over the Pentagon skipping "many" flight tests to declare the systems development phase over early and shift Initial Operational Test and Evaluation over to line pilots in August 2017.
"Rushing the tests means shifting the risks onto the pilots intended to fly the planes into combat," the Russians (RT) and others note.
Nevertheless, the F-35 program office "has no plan to adequately fix and verify hundreds of these deficiencies using flight testing within its currently planned schedule and resources," Gilmore groused before being "routinely" rotated.
The connection between the vertical tail and the airframe is wearing out fast, arresting hooks must be replaced after each carrier landing, engine nacelles are overheating, horizontal tails continue to suffer heat damage, and "excessive, violent" oscillations during catapult launches of the F-35C version are turning naval aviators into eyeball-rattling bronco riders.
During an in-flight emergency, pilots would be better advised to jettison the canopy and jump out like barnstormers of old. Tests of the ejection system have shown that pilots must weigh at least 136 pounds -- or risk a broken neck during an emergency ejection.
Back on the ground, which Lockheed's alleged air-planes seem to prefer, techs engaging this maintenance monster hand-to-hand hurry to plug special laptops into apparently faulty aircraft. Only to boot up more trouble.
If the plug is withdrawn prematurely, this sexy jet may avoid an unwanted pregnancy. But the mishandled laptop will no longer be able to connect with any aircraft, until reset by a systems administrator -- "which can be a lengthy process."
The F-35 also faces arrest for failing to comply with legal procurement requirements and the Pentagon's "fly before you buy" policy. Which seems like a good idea before laying down $400+ billion of the grandkids' future earnings for military porn's favourite jerk-off jet.
Australia, Denmark, Italy, Norway, the United Kingdom, Turkey, Japan are facing growing internal blowback over plans to buy F-35s. Israel is going to rebuild it. (Theirs will work.) Canada bailed out in favor of the Super Hornet, but is cancelling that order, as well, following a typical Trump trade snit.
Even without the Great Dealmaker's interference, a solid "not-buying" point is that right now only half of the more than 600 Joint Strike Lemons already delivered can actually, um… fly.
DUCT TAPE AND BAILING WIRE
Robert Behler, DoD's new director of operational testing and evaluation is not any happier than the outgoing Gilmore with the plane that tried to satisfy conflicting navy, marines and air force desires. This aircraft design formula has never worked. But it does provide lots of hands-on training for mechanics.
Problem is, this latest evaluation states, the duct tape and baling wire workarounds needed to conduct F-35 missions, "would not be acceptable in combat situations." (Please don't shoot while I tie the wing back on.)
Of last year's 2,769 F-35 deficiencies tabulated by Dr. Gilmore, 301 Priority 1 and 2 problems remain -- which should give any F-35 driver pause before strapping in.
Only 88 are making progress toward eventual solution; the remaining 213, not so much.
At least, unreliability rates have held steady, with 1 in every 2 squadron aircraft grounded during missions since, ah… 2014.
Meanwhile, the costliest airplanes ever designed continue to roll off the assembly line with hundreds of built-in flaws limiting their safe operation.
Would you buy a new Chevy built like this?
TRENDING . . .
Another "notable trend," the Pentagon reports, is the increase in the percentage of F-35s designated "Not Mission Capable due to Supply." This means they're twiddling their Sidewinders while awaiting unavailable replacement widgets.
At this rate, the fearsomely troublesome jets will likely have to be dismantled and "forward-deployed" to overseas bases on container ships. (Watch out for inattentive US Navy warships en route!)
Bankrupted air forces have never looked so cool -- Reuters
DON'T WORRY, WE'LL JUST KITE ANOTHER CHECK
Luckily, America's high-employment, top-rated infrastructure, and well-fed, well-housed, well-educated, debt-free populace (enjoying of course, the same universal health care as Cubans and Europeans) can easily afford this latest Pentagon fiasco -- now nudging toward half-a-trillion smackers.
Wait! That's just for the F-35s that don't work. Including projects hidden from Congress or tacked onto approved appropriations, the total US Military Inc. weapons bonanza this year is closing on one-trillion dollars.
Plus . . . Another trillion dollars allocated to building up and "improving" US. nuclear capabilities to first-strike status in the event someone somewhere does something Washington and its corporate sponsors don't like. (Even in response to a cyber-attack, which are not so easy to trace. Just ask Iran.)
UNFAIR POP QUIZ
Can anyone possibly think of other uses for two-and-half trillion dollars? (Not counting the other trillion or so the Pentagon says it "lost".)
Yo! I can't breathe!
In this rarefied atmosphere of double- and triple-speak –where failure means success, and America First is rapidly coming to mean America Last -- oxygen-dependent hominids are still experiencing oxygen deprivation flying the F-35. This despite last summer's re-groundings of the fleet to fix a problem that has yet to be identified.
"This is a complex challenge that necessitates multidimensional solutions across a series of steps to get back to a full operating capability," bafflegabbed 56th Fighter Wing commander, Brig. Gen. Brook Leonard.
Translation: We don't have a clue why F-35 pilots find themselves sucking inadequate oxygen while in flight. Since hypoxia interferes with normal brain functioning and may lead to complete black-out, it's obvious that this whole damn program is oxygen-deprived!
"No common root cause has been identified" for multiple instances of the plane's malfunctioning oxygen system, Behler bemoans. The "onboard oxygen generation system" itself may be FUBAR'd.
Or maybe not.
Meanwhile, F-35 drivers are being told to avoid high altitudes. Which is like being ordered to stay out of your own neighbourhood.
Marine Corps VTOL F-35B is remarkably docile. Jeff J. Mitchell/Getty/AFP
FRAGILE -- DO NOT MOVE!
Still, things are moving ahead in a backwards direction. Lockheed has had to redesign the wings on the F-35C naval version, so they can carry AIM-9X Sidewinder air-to-air missiles without breaking off.
Marine F-35B's, meantime, are happily hopping up and down like jumping beans. Vertical Takeoff And Landing capabilities are deemed essential by a proud corps that's okay with being used as "speed bumps" in a shooting war -- but less happy with "unanticipated cracks in the main landing gear and structural frame of the airplane," Behler notes.
FREQUENT PIT STOPS ADVISED
Is that the alert siren? Better ignore it. Your airplane probably will. (Can't start the damn thing? Try the hand crank.) Do not ignore "engine restrictions prohibiting some flight operations."
Good thing startled pilots don't have to change their own flats along with their underwear. The average lifespan of an F-35B tire is even less than a marine lieutenant's in ground combat -- not even 10 landings. Even as the B models roll off assembly lines, Lockheed is still looking for a tire "strong enough for conventional high-speed landings, soft enough to cushion vertical landings, and still light enough for the existing aircraft structure."
Aren't tires supposed to be kind of figured out, first?
(Helpful hint: The Russian air force may have some spares, since their jets worked exceptionally well defeating US-backed ISIS terrorists in Syria.)
Unhappily, F-35B experiments had to stop in February 2017 when the marines' test model "had so many repairs it was no longer representative of the production aircraft."
Rapid overseas deployment by actually flying F-35Bs and -Cs across an ocean remains challenging, since air-refueling probe tips keep snapping off -- "resulting in squadrons imposing restrictions on air refueling."
Which, again, seems odd, since lots and lots of other military planes have refueled in-air for decades. But then everything about this experimental production aircraft is radically new and untested.
Lawn darts, like the crash-plagued F-16, if that single engine flames-out.
Air Combat Maneuvering -- the classic dogfight -- remains the ultimate test and the fighter pilot's raison d'etre. But several classified "key technical deficiencies" are screwing up the actual firing of AIM-120 AMRAAM air-to-air missiles -- which may not work when most needed.
Adding to the marines' absolute certainty that they are in a world of hurt with this vital close-air-support jet are "system-related deficiencies" further hindering the F-35B's already formidable ground-attack problems.
DON'T ASK ALIS
The Autonomic Logistics Information System is key to the airplane's daily ops. So far, coy and temperamental ALIS has undergone 31 software iterations. Many of these patches have simply been pasted over bad lines of code. (Programmers actually do not recommend this.)
Even with fresh software Band-aids and a kiss to make it better, ALIS remains shy and cannot be "rolled out" because of "key remaining deficiencies" -- including vulnerability to cyberattacks by all manner of testosterone-challenged hackers.
Adding to the plane's "already overloaded" repair backlog is onboard diagnostic software flagging good parts as failed. Each erroneously tagged black box must be removed from cramped avionics bays and "returned to sender" for testing. The suspect circuitry eventually makes its way from Lockheed Martin back up the supply chain marked "Re-Test OK" -- while the blushing debutantes languish in hangars unable to ah . . . perform.
Take one home today!
OUT OF THE SUN
To be fair, pilots say they love flying this airplane, which is reportedly smooth as a Pluto-bound Tesla in flight. When everything works, this nearly sentient jet flies itself, leaving its lone computer operator free to order a meal from the cabin staff, use the toilet, or flip through an in-flight magazine.
It's totally neat! (Thanks, Dad!)
But besides scarfing every American's allowance for the next hundred years, there's one small mission glitch: the F-35 is stone cold useless against the US's gravest threat -- which has already commenced multiple attacks.
Instead, gas-guzzling, ozone-shredding military jets like the F-35 will warm our shared world -- and collapse the ocean covering most of it -- even faster. (Which seems a strange sort of national security policy. But I just live here.)
So while we on the ground and afloat try to deal with all this meteorological mayhem from a 1C temperature rise -- with another 4C jump already locked in -- fighter pilots who prefer life aloft favour lighter, more agile planes with excellent cockpit visibility to smooth turnpike rides, while trying to watch their six through a fuzzy tv screen.
Another problem with escalating an arms race is that everyone else hurries to catch up. And so on.
Luftwaffe commander General Karl Muellner could soon become another casualty of unquenchable F-35 Mania. As the German air force ponders replacing its spry but aging Panavia Tornado jets, government officials are eying an upgraded version of the tried and capable Eurofighter Typhoon.
Not the mulish Muellner.
While the German defense ministry is requesting tech info from Boeing about its F-15 and F/A-18E/F Super Hornet fighter jets -- and Airbus for an update on its next-generation warplane -- Muellner keeps mentioning the F-35.
Heat-seeking missile magnet looking for some kid with a Stinge.
At this point, a prop-driven ME-109 or Focke-Wulf could take on this inferior version of the Lockheed Lightning they faced over Germany in 1945, sometimes flying round an' round in Lufbery circles as each pilot in line tried to gain a firing angle on his opponent ahead.
But the tight-circling Muellner really really wants his new toy. The general's become so insistent his political superiors have publicly fired tracers past his cockpit, warning that the general's "view that the F-35 Lightning II is an especially suitable successor to the Tornado system is not the position of the federal government."
If he fails to lower his landing gear and come down off his F-35 fetish immediately, Germany's Air Force chief "will likely be fired" if he "says 'F-35' again."
Back in the USA, F-35 backers face promotion for keeping the corporate gravy train flowing.
Only that's not gravy in the taxpayers' trough.
William Thomas is a former civilian pilot and ex-USNR (Resigned)
Posted in accordance with Title 17, Section 107, US Code, for noncommercial, educational purposes.