The New Fighter Plane, the F-35, May Never Be Ready for Combat

The New Fighter Plane, the F-35, May Never Be Ready for Combat, by Dan Grazier.

The F-35 Joint Strike Fighter program is the most expensive procurement program in Pentagon history. It’s been plagued by schedule delays, gross cost overruns, and a slew of underwhelming performance reviews. …

Dr. Michael Gilmore’s latest  16-page memo … details just how troubled this program is: years behind schedule and failing to deliver even the most basic capabilities taxpayers, and the men and women who will entrust their lives to it, have been told to expect. …

The Pentagon’s top testing office warns that the F-35 is in no way ready for combat … As it stands now, the F-35 would need to run away from combat and have other planes come to its rescue …  In several instances, the memo rated the F-35A less capable than the aircraft we already have.

The memo from the Director, Operational Test & Evaluation makes very clear that the constant stream of positive pronouncements made by the Joint Program Office and Air Force generals have been false.

Brilliant. Incompetence, lying, and massive taxpayer expenditure seems to be endemic in the West now. In Australia we had the census, the unused desal plants, the Wivenhoe Dam foolishness that led to the unnecessary flooding of Brisbane, the blowing up of coal power in South Australia then the whole state went black in a large storm, and of course we’ve signed on for lots of F-35s. UPDATE: Joanne adds the French submarines to be built at huge extra cost in South Australia (it’s not as if the last lot were too flash).

It’s as though all the most incompetent, money-oriented but politically connected people are in charge. The left’s long march through the institutions has ruined the institutions.  Hillary Clinton is their patron saint.

Another of the F-35’s basic shortcomings is the lack of a usable cannon. … Now we learn that there are doubts that the most recent version of the plane’s complicated helmet, which is the only way to aim the cannon, will be accurate enough to reliably hit air-to-air or ground targets. …

The Air Force proudly released a video of the first time an F-35A test fired its cannon in flight. Now we know that the simple action of opening the small door causes the plane to turn slightly because of the door’s drag, possibly enough to cause the cannon to miss. The DOT&E memo reports that these door-induced aiming errors “exceed accuracy specifications” which will make it quite difficult for pilots to hit targets. And since the Air Force’s F-35 only holds 181 rounds—as opposed to 511 for the F-16 and 1,100 for the A-10—every bullet will count. …

The F-35A while being towed at the Inauguration Ceremony on July 7th, 2006.

The F-35A being towed at the Inauguration Ceremony on July 7th, 2006. Ten years later, it is still not ready to fight. Hitler blew himself up less than six years after his panzers invaded Poland. (Btw, does it look more like a fighter or a light bomber? Notice the little Aussie flag?)

[T]he services’ maintainers have keeping the F-35 flightworthy …  today’s F-35s are flying one sortie every 5 days. In other words, a squadron deployment of 12 F-35s to Afghanistan or Syria — such as is typical for F-16s or A-10s — would only be able to put up slightly more than one two-ship mission a day to cover the whole country. ..

Another major and expensive component of the F-35 program, the Autonomic Logistics Information System (ALIS), is a massive computer system intended to automate mission operations, maintenance diagnosis, maintenance scheduling, and parts ordering. But the cumbersome ALIS continues to be a major headache for the program. … It is a massively complex system, with 24 million lines of computer code. It also requires a large, heavy footprint of hardware wherever the F-35 is based. The latest hardware version is smaller than the original bulky and undeployable ALIS units, but it still takes several days to set up whenever it is moved. This impedes the F-35’s ability to deploy quickly and raises questions about the entire program’s operational suitability.

For example, when it is working, it takes 24 hours to upload data from each plane into a new ALIS ground computer. So when an F-35 deploys to a new base, an entire day is lost as the data is passed to the new ALIS. And only one plane at a time can upload. So if the 12 F-35’s of Hill Air Force Base’s first “operational” squadron deploy to combat, it will take nearly two weeks to start maintaining the full squadron with ALIS.

Lots of amazing shortcomings, read it all.