Only 52 percent of F-35s work

and now we know why

F-35 parts and components are made by 1,400 US companies as well as foreign companies in nine countries. Image courtesy of Defense Industry Daily.

July 14, 2017. According to a US Defense Dept internal audit, only 52 percent of F-35 fighters currently at air bases in the US and abroad can operate when called upon. And according to officials, that number may get worse. Apparently, some of the plane’s 1,400 manufacturers can’t produce quality parts, or on-time deliveries. So F-35’s sit grounded, useless while waiting for parts from 46 states and 9 countries.



1,400 Different Suppliers

Defense contractor Lockheed Martin and its partners in Congress thought they created the greatest cash cow in American history with the F-35 joint strike fighter. To insure the estimated $1.7 trillion in lifetime costs keep flowing from taxpayers to Lockheed for decades to come, the corporation chose as many subcontractors in as many different Congressional Districts around America as it could.

Why? Because no Congressman wants to face voters after killing a government program that spends money and creates jobs in his or her District. It’s called ‘pork barrel politics’. And in the case of the F-35 joint strike fighter program, the plane is actually manufactured by 1,400 US companies in 46 states and Puerto Rico, with many more manufacturers residing in the 9 NATO countries that pledged to purchase F-35’s.

Politicians, lobbyists and Lockheed Martin called the idea brilliant. But with half of the entire F-35 fleet crippled and grounded on any given day due to faulty parts, faulty design fixes to faulty designs, and 1,400 replacement part suppliers that literally span the globe, it sounds more like a disaster.

Scathing Defense Dept Report

According to the May 2017 Pentagon report, of the 203 F-35 Lightnings purchased and currently stationed at US Air Bases, as many as half of them are grounded while broken components are being fixed. In many cases, replacement parts are late, faulty or broken and must be returned to Lockheed Martin to be fixed or produced correctly.

Bloomberg News obtained a copy of the report and quoted officials saying the problem, “is getting worse, affecting fly rates.” The report also warns, “Critical failures have worsened over the last year” and said any improvement, “has stagnated.” Much of the report dealt with warning Congress that the cost of the F-35 program may skyrocket due to the problems.

According to the Defense Department schedule, F-35’s should have a minimal 60 percent availability rate at this stage of the program. Their goal is to have an 80 percent availability rate by the time the fighters enter combat training next year. Currently, the jets are performing flight testing and pilot training at air bases around the US.



One commander of an F-35 squadron in Utah clarified for the news outlet that the 52 percent availability rate is an average score that includes data dating back to the first days the fighter was released into service. He notes that the first batches of planes had defects and design flaws that were fixed for later batches. Lockheed is currently on its 11th production run of the F-35. The commander says his fleet of newer Lightnings has an availability rate of 73 percent.

Other F-35 News

Last week, the Pentagon paid Lockheed Martin $5.6 billion so the company could begin production of the 11th batch of the F-35. The order is for 141 more fighters. Currently, the Pentagon plans to purchase 2,457 F-35 Lightnings.

For its part, the US Navy may not be so in love with the F-35 after all. According to Naval documents obtained by Aviation Week, the Navy has agreed to purchase advanced FA-18 Super Hornets from Boeing to fill what it terms ‘the fighter gap’ caused by delays and problems with Lockheed’s F-35’s. The updated FA-18’s are almost half the cost of an F-35. What’s more ominous is that the Navy plans include hiring Boeing to spend the next five years upgrading the Service’s existing fleet of FA-18’s.

Seemingly Endless Problems

Since its introduction, the F-35 has been plagued with problems. Almost immediately, its engines began overheating when it flew in hot climates. Recurring engine fires caused the F-35’s engine manufacturer, Pratt & Whitney to redesign the engine. The plane’s self-diagnosing computer didn’t work. 80 percent of the problems it diagnosed were false positives. Much of the jet’s software still doesn’t work and isn’t scheduled to be fixed for another year or two.



Remember those futuristic pilot helmets with computer screens embedded into the visor? The only problem was the helmets were too big to fit into the F-35’s cockpit. Most recently, entire squadrons of F-35’s have been grounded because of oxygen intake problems causing pilots to lose consciousness.

America’s next generation F-35 consistently loses simulated and real dog fights with last generation’s adversaries from Russia and China, as well as American F-16’s, F-18’s and F-22’s. As one analyst put it, the F-35, “can’t turn, can’t climb, can’t run.” That’s because, as Lockheed and the Pentagon now explain, the F-35 Lightning will never have to dog fight because it’s not really a fighter plane. Instead, it’s a long range aerial missile platform posing as a fighter.

 

Related Whiteout Press articles:

Problems make F-35 an Aerial Missile Platform, not a Fighter

US loses Simulated Air War with China

China steals US F-35, builds it better without Crony Capitalism

Next US Bomber Fleet to be Unmanned

 

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