The F-35 Amazingly Has Even More Problems Than We Thought

The F-35 Joint Strike Fighter is the most expensive military program in the world with a total cost of more than $US1 trillion ($1.3 trillion). Now, a new Pentagon report suggests that the futuristic fighter jet still has hundreds of deficiencies and won't be ready for full combat testing until 2019.

Image: AP

The Pentagon's latest brutal assessment of this high-priced aircraft was part of an annual report from the Pentagon's director of operational test and evaluation Michael Gilmore. The dossier includes a five-page evaluation of the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter program, the results of which are damning — emphasis ours:

The Services have designated 276 deficiencies in combat performance as "critical to correct" in Block 3F, but less than half of the critical deficiencies were addressed with attempted corrections in 3FR6.

That's not all. In addition to the hundreds of flaws that have already been found in the aircraft, the Pentagon expects to keep finding more. The report specifically states that deficiencies are popping up at a steady rate — emphasis ours:

Deficiencies continue to be discovered at a rate of about 20 per month, and many more will undoubtedly be discovered before and during IOT&E.

The operational performance of the aircraft is a complete joke. The plane's "objectionable or unacceptable flying qualities" while breaking the sound barrier are just some of the many flaws plaguing the aircraft, including overheating problems and cybersecurity vulnerabilities that could lead to compromises of F-35 data.

The most telling sign in the Pentagon's report is that the agency admits to ignoring many of the upcoming development tests, instead shifting focus to the Initial Operational Test and Evaluation (IOTE) process that begins in August. By rushing through the development tests, the agency will place more emphasis on the operational testing process, which could end up causing even longer delays.

The report appears to admit that there is no clear path to resolving the ballooning cost of the F-35 program — emphasis ours:

Significant, well-documented deficiencies; for hundreds of these, the program has no plan to adequately fix and verify with flight test within SDD; although it is common for programs to have unresolved deficiencies after development, the program must assess and mitigate the cumulative effects of these remaining deficiencies on F-35 effectiveness and suitability prior to finalising and fielding Block 3F.

With all of these lingering issues, it's no wonder President-elect Donald Trump recently lashed out against the F-35 program, saying the "cost is out of control" and "billions of dollars can and will be saved on military (and other) purchases after January 20th".

Despite the F-35's incomplete state, the first Marine Corp squadron deployed to Japan last week from a military base in Yuma, Arizona. The partially operational F-35 squadron is the first permanent international deployment of the joint strike fighter and will be used for operations throughout the Pacific. The Air Force had also declared F-35 fighters "combat ready" before grounding many of those jets only one month later.

Lead defence contractor working on the plane, Lockheed Martin, refuses to acknowledge the issues plaguing the fighter jet program. Nevertheless, Lockheed Martin CEO Marillyn Hewson promised on Friday that the company is close to cutting a new contract that would significantly reduce the cost the program.

WATCH MORE: Science & Health News


Comments

    How do you know that many deficiencies aren't just par for course for any new fighter aircraft? What baseline as you using to determine that this isn't similar to what was experienced with say the F22?

      Dude, I'm pretty sure the guy has some smidgin of knowledge on the subject. It's not like these problems weren't known by the builder, the whole thing is a farce.

        I don't. This is a quantum leap in technology for firghter aircraft, there are bound to be lots of problems. In fact, the third quote in teh article suggests as much - "although it is common for programs to have unresolved deficiencies after development".

        It was no different to when we ordered the F-111 in 1963, shortly before their wings started falling off. It delayed the arrival of the RAAF's F-111Cs from 1969 to 1973 but when the jets arrived, they were ready for combat. THis will be the same and if these aircraft turn out to be half as amazing as the F-111, all this will soon be forgotten.

          Ummm so how come the Chinese have been able to get hold of the master plans and reverse engineer the F-35 into something that works called the J-31 (apparently)...

          So infact, you are the expert here?
          This whole program is a very well documented boondoggle, like it or lump it, I don't care.

          Comparing the F-111 to the F-35 only highlights the F-35 deficiencies, The F-111 first flew in 1964, was introduced inf 1967 and suffered from issues relating the poor engine technology and materials science available at the time that delayed its delivery until 1973, giving it a development time of 9 years in an era when a computer with 1mb of memory would be cutting edge. All that for a fly away cost of $55 million usd adjusted for inflation. The f-35 first flew as the x-35 in 2000 and despite 16 years of development with the latest technology it is still unsafe to fly and will not be ready for at least another couple of years. Add a fly away cost of about $100 million usd and the US hesitancy to part with them, i realy makes you think.

            "i realy makes you think."

            So true.

    Be interesting if these are for one varient of the aircraft or all three that are being built. The RAAF here are only purchasing the Air Force version I thnk and not the Marine or Navy versions. The over heating issue sounds more like the Marine version when performing VTOL

    What I like is that the pentagon can dump 1+ trillion on a plane that's still not working properly yet a decade after it overpaid its own combat troops (to the relatively paltry sum of $22 million) it hounds them to repay it because "that's the law".

    What a joke! It sounds to me like any half competent enemy could simply hack the controls and turn the thing into a very expensive brick. Did we pay in advance for these Dumbo flyers or can we just break the contract clean and walk away?

      Really? And where, exactly, did you get that from? Do you think these aircraft are just using the internet to talk to each other?

        Did you crawl out from the wrong side of your rock this morning mate?
        The operational performance of the aircraft is a complete joke. The plane's "objectionable or unacceptable flying qualities" while breaking the sound barrier are just some of the many flaws plaguing the aircraft, including overheating problems and cybersecurity vulnerabilities that could lead to compromises of F-35 data.Try reading the whole thing before wetting your pants next time.

        Last edited 18/01/17 4:08 pm

          I think Motormouth is asking how you jump from a 'data breach' to 'expensive brick' ?

          All indications are that the F35 will likely be the most capable platform in the sky once development has finished. Maybe the F22 will hold an air to air advantage, but that's only a maybe and they're not selling them to anyone, so it's a moot point.

          The unit price of the F35 continues to drop and is now lower than the Rafale (the most exe gen 4 fighter). The capability of the F35 vs ANY gen4 fighter is chalk and cheese.

          Australia currently owns the skies over Oz and Indonesia. The 70 F35s combined with our tankers and Wedgetails will extend that ownership out to 2040. Job done !

    Fighter jets are a waste of money though. Spending billions so some guys can get their jollies flying over sporting events.

    No need to shoot it down, it'll just crash on its own XD

    Why the hell is Australia going to buy so many of them ? Why do we even need them at all ? The only conflict we've had is fighting US wars/invasions. I say buy biplanes and that way the US wouldn't be interested in us joining them in their ridiculous invasions. Let them fight their own wars. It's not like they'd help us if we even needed them. Back when Fraser was the prime Minister, Australia had a beef with Asia and Australia was tempted to start a war with them but when we asked the US to back us, they said no. They would back Asia if we started anything. Great friend the US.

      "Back when Fraser was the prime Minister, Australia had a beef with Asia and Australia was tempted to start a war with them ...."

      Hmmm... This war you speak of.
      Tell me. Who is the President of Asia at the time we were considering war ?

        I don't know. Fraser's memoirs book had a whole section about it. Long story short, he says we shouldn't get too close and we shouldn't trust them. They just use us.

        Last edited 20/01/17 8:37 am

          KenM, is that you ?

    Manned jets are so 20th century. Stealth is going to lose its edge before too long anyway. Mass produced Hypersonic automonous UAVs?...now we're talking. But the F35 will have a place at the Bathurst races fly overs.

    Last edited 18/01/17 8:32 pm

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