The Death Throes of the F-35

The Death Throes of the F-35. By David Archibald.

The turbine inlet temperature of the [F-35’s engine] … is 1,982°C. The turbine blades downstream from the combustors in the engine are made from a nickel-based alloy that starts softening and melting at 1,427°C. The blades are kept from melting by air forced through a network of holes. …



The number of F-35s without an operating engine rose from two at the beginning of 2020 to 36 in February 2022. Normally less than 1% of USAF aircraft are grounded due to lack of an operating engine. For the F-35 this rate has increased to near 10% and is on trend to reach 43% by 2030:



What is causing the engine wear is dust melting in the F-35’s combustors and sticking to the turbine blades. This produces a layer of material similar to house bricks. Normal jet engines don’t suffer from this so much because they run much cooler. …

The F-35’s engine problem is baked in the cake. … Pratt & Whitney developed such a hot engine to produce the most thrust relative to engine weight in order to get the vertical takeoff version to work.

For its 2023 budget the USAF cut its planned F-35 buy from 48 units to 33 units. It is also reducing the number of F-15s planned. These production cuts are likely to be for freeing up funds for the production of the Next Generation Air Dominance (NGAD) fighter which has been flying as a black program for at least a couple of years. …



The USAF is said to be abandoning stealth achieved through the application of radar absorbent material and are adopting the approach of the French Rafale and the Swedish Gripen-E, which is the use of [electronic countermeasures] to mislead enemy radars.

The cost of the NGAD is likely to be of the order of US$250 million per unit. The Rafale costs US$200 million per unit. Saab in Sweden has priced the Gripen-E, just as capable as the Rafale, at half the Rafale’s cost so US$100 million-odd.

The F-35’s engine problem means that the RAAF will be needing a new fighter aircraft much sooner than they are expecting.

Let’s hope the Chinese air-force is as incompetent and corrupt as the Russian air-force proved to be, because we don’t want to be depending on the F-35.