F-35 Joint Strike Fighter
Agence France Presse | Feb 05, 2016
The U.S. military's futuristic F-35 fighter jet remains dogged by dangerous problems sure to further complicate what is already the most expensive weapons project in history, a Pentagon report says.
The plane, which boasts a version that can take off and land vertically, is supposed to form the backbone of the military's future fighter fleet, ensuring U.S. dominance in the skies for years to come with radar-evading technology.
The military has already taken delivery of dozens of the planes, but new batches continue to be refined and tested.
In the latest blow to the program, engineers uncovered a slew of flaws during extensive testing of the newest versions of the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter, the Pentagon report found, adding to a litany of issues including software bugs, technical glitches and cost overruns.
Perhaps the most damning section of the report is an investigation into the F-35's eject system. Engineers found that pilots who weighed less than 136 pounds (62 kilos) risked being killed by it.
"Testing showed that the ejection seat rotates backwards after ejection. This results in the pilot's neck becoming extended, as the head moves behind the shoulders in a 'chin up' position," the report states.
It also revealed that one version of the stealth fighter made for the Marine Corps found "deficiencies and limited combat capability."
And an Air Force variant had "inherited deficiencies," the report states, noting that the issues could delay the Air Force F-35's release date past the scheduled year-end deadline.
The Pentagon has budgeted nearly $400 billion for a total of 2,443 F-35 aircraft.
Nine international partners including Britain, Canada and Turkey are helping pay for the jet's development and are buying hundreds more of the jets, which are manufactured by Lockheed Martin.
But the program has faced numerous setbacks, including a mysterious engine fire in 2014 that led commanders to ground planes until the problem could be resolved.
Pentagon officials have acknowledged that a decision at the outset to start building the jet before testing was finished has caused difficulties.
As a result, glitches have forced repeated repairs and redesign work, slowing down production and raising costs.
Following the document's release on Monday, Lt. Gen. Chris Bogdan, who is the F-35 program's executive officer, released an upbeat statement saying the report contained "no surprises."
"All of the issues mentioned are well-known to (us), the U.S. services, international partners and our industry team," he said, adding that the report "points out the progress being made by the program."
Related video at source above.
F-35: the clarification of the general Chris Bogdan
"The review of the independent program by the Director of Operational Test and Evaluation (DOT & E, the Director of the operating and evaluation test section) of the US Department of Defense is an annual event regularly scheduled and the process was run with free access to information and with the full cooperation of the F-35 Joint Program Office (JPO). the report has no surprises, all the issues mentioned were well known to us and to the American armed forces, with our international partners and the industries involved.
Once again, the annual report of the DOT & E emphasizes the progress made by the program, including the declaration of initial operational capability - Initial Operational Capability (IOC) by the Marine Corps in July 2015. The US Marines have declared the IOC with Block software 2B which provides a beginning of advanced combat capabilities. The F-35 Marine have the equipment necessary weapons to conduct Close Air Support, air interdiction, and a limited ability to conduct missions suppression / destruction of the enemy.
Currently the F-35 Marines are able to internally loaded in stealth mode, the following weapons: AIM-120, GBU-32 JDAM and GBU-12 Paveway II. When the development program will come to completion in 2017 all three F-35 variants will be able to carry more than 18,000 pounds of weapons, internally and externally. 2015 ended with more than 150 operational aircraft and 18 aircraft for development testing in 10 operating bases in the United States and the FACO (Final Assembly and Checkout) Italian Cameri. The entire fleet has reached a mountain top flight hours to 48,000. In 2015, 45 aircraft were delivered - the largest number of aircraft delivered in the space of a year since the program began. Among the deliveries is the first international delivery made by the Italian FACO. The number of aircraft delivered rises to 154. Along with Italy, Norway has received the first aircraft in 2015. There are five partner nations - Australia, Italy, Netherlands, Norway and Great Britain - which along to the US Air Force, the Marines and the US Navy, currently flying the F-35. Israel and Japan will receive the first aircraft in 2016. The training of pilots and maintenance personnel has increased considerably in 2015. More than 250 riders, including the top two drivers from Australia, Italy and Norway, have joined the training phase . More than 2,800 employees have qualified for the maintenance of the aircraft, most of which was formed at the F-35 Aircraft Training Center at Eglin Air Force Base in Florida. However careful in reporting the facts, the DOT & E report does not exhaustively describe the efforts made by the program to solve the well-known technical problems and risks related to the timing. It is the responsibility of the Joint Program Office F-35 identify development problems, solve them and carry out the program according to the timing and the available budget.
The government and industry team has shown to have the ability to overcome the technical challenges that have emerged in the development phase, the operational test and during operations conducted by the fleet, and to respect the commitments of the program. Some examples of problems that have recently been solved are the hook appontaggio the F-35C, the friction of the F135 engine problems and the door of the auxiliary air intake of the F-35B. The F-35C has successfully carried out more than 200 appontaggi at sea, engine modifications are now incorporated into the production line and is taking steps to modify already delivered engines and the F-35-B has performed more than 1,000 vertical landings safely.
To date, the mission software and system ALIS (Autonomic Logistics Information System) are the main technical risks for the program. Rigorous processes and engineering systems used to manage the complexity of the process of writing, testing and integration of mission systems and the ALIS system have improved the ability, although some problems remain and other interventions are planned for the mission systems and ALIS first the end of the development phase. To continue with the results achieved in 2015, the Block 3i software was delivered for flight testing in May 2015 to support the IOC Declaration to the US Air Force scheduled for the end of 2016. The writing code for development definitive software (Block 3F) was completed in 2015 and the software was delivered for flight test. During the year there is more updates until the completion of the 3F expected by the end of the phase of System Development and Demonstration Program (SDD) in autumn 2017, to support the IOC Declaration to the US Navy planned for 2018 and the launch of the operational evaluation phase IOT & E (Initial operational Test and evaluation). Throughout the testing phase, "provisional" software are provided to the development team and the operations evaluation to allow you to test the software as soon as possible and give feedback to the team. At December 31, the program had completed 80% of test points required in the development and demonstration (SDD) and was in line with the expected completion in the fourth quarter of 2017.
The goal at the end of the development phase and the F-35 demonstration is the delivery of the full operational capability of the Block 3F for the US Armed Forces and international customers. The F-35 program will continue to closely coordinate with the JSF Operational Test Team (Jott) and DOT & E on the key test planning and priority objectives to be achieved in the SDD phase. The flight test program has made significant progress in 2015. For example, the program has: - Completed the third at sea testing of the F-35B aboard the aircraft carrier USS Wasp and the second sea trials for the F- 35C aboard the aircraft carrier USS Dwight D. Eisenhower, for a total of 5 tests at sea in 2013. - Completed six months of climatic response testing at McKinley climatic Lab at the base of Eglin in Florida. During these tests the aircraft operated in a temperature range from minus 40 to plus 120 degrees, at different levels of humidity and in different climatic conditions. - Completed tests with the software 3F F-35A to test the performance and the high angle of attack and continued to expand the envelope for the three variants with 3F software. - Obtained certification for in-flight refueling with the Australian KC-30A tanker and the Italian KC-767, also included in night operations. - Completed ground tests with the GAU-22 25mm cannon and flying with the F-35A. - Completed, today, 90 releases of weapons - GBU-12, GBU-31, GBU-32, AIM-120, GBU-39 Small Diameter Bomb, Paveway IV, and the first F-35 AIM-9X. Including 18 releases of AMRAAM, JDAM and GBU-12. -Completati, To date, 17 events Weapon Delivery Accuracy (GBU-12, GBU-31, GBU-32, and AIM-120) -A today was positively verified the low mark of the F-35 radar is 146 times with the test aircraft that with the operational aircraft. These results demonstrate that the F-35's basic system is healthy and the test results reinforce our confidence in the final performance that have such a great value for the United States, their partners and allies.
As a reminder, remember that the program is still in the development phase. A stage where the problems can still be identified and the solutions to maximize the operational capability of the F-35. We have completed about 80% of the test program and we recognize that there are difficulties to be overcome and that still might emerge. Our commitment in addressing future challenges is total. The Joint Program Office will continue to work with the production of F-35 to make corrections and improvements as quickly as possible. The goal at the end of the development phase and the F-35 demonstration is the delivery of the full operational capability of the Block 3F for the US Armed Forces and international customers. We thank the DOT & E for their support and we remain focused on our goal, ie to develop, deliver and support the most advanced fleet of fifth-generation aircraft. "
General Chris Bogdan, F-35 Program Executive Officer
(Photo: US Air Force)