The West Is Stuck With a $400 Billion Stealth Fighter That Can’t Fight

The West Is Stuck With a $400 Billion Stealth Fighter That Can’t Fight, by David Axe.

Here’s something the public didn’t know until today: If one of the U.S. military’s new F-35 stealth fighters has to climb at a steep angle in order to dodge an enemy attack, design flaws mean the plane might suddenly tumble out of control and crash.

Also, some versions of the F-35 can’t accelerate to supersonic speed without melting their own tails or shedding the expensive coating that helps to give the planes their radar-evading qualities. …

Startling reports by trade publication Defense News on Wednesday revealed flaws that previously only builder Lockheed Martin, the military, and the plane’s foreign buyers knew about. …

The problems might also help to explain why acting defense secretary Patrick Shanahan reportedly described the F-35 program as “fucked up.” …

U.S. Air Force F-35A Lightning II Joint Strike Fighters from the 58th Fighter Squadron, 33rd Fighter Wing, Eglin AFB, Fla. May 2013

The Air Force’s F-35A appears to be exempt from the latest flaws, but the Marine Corps’ vertical-landing F-35B and the Navy’s carrier-compatible F-35C both suffer what the services call “category 1” deficiencies. (In military parlance, a category 1 flaw in a plane can prevent a pilot from accomplishing their mission.) …

To a great extent, the damage is done. Owing to the Pentagon’s controversial decision to manufacture F-35s while still testing them, Lockheed has delivered around 400 early-model F-35s to the U.S. Air Force, Navy and Marine Corps and to U.S. allies such as the United Kingdom and Israel.

The Air Force, Marines, and Israel have already deployed their F-35s in combat against lightly-armed militant groups.

More than 100 of those early F-35s are B-models that cannot safely fly fast or maneuver hard. They’ll need fixing. It won’t be cheap….

In the meantime, the armed services possess scores of F-35s they cannot safely send into high-tech combat, according to Grazier. “The program is definitely not ready for active service.”

Great computer, poor airplane.