Saturday, September 24, 2011

More on that F-35 wing defect

So what would have happened if the F-35 program was not restructured a few times since its start in 2001?

Wouldn't we have more aircraft in production? Wouldn't more aircraft be finished sitting on the ramp? Maybe, but that only has worth if flight test discovery can verify what they are building are not mistake-jets.

Just a few weeks ago when the defect to the forward-root-rib in A and B model F-35s was publicly reported (a defect the program discovered in November of last year) program officials stated that the 60 some aircraft that are complete or in various stages of production would have to be fixed.

According to this F-35 program briefing slide from March 2011, that fix is expensive and time consuming.

"... this part failure will require a “complex” retrofit that is “likely to be expensive and time consuming.” The “new segment splice requires numerous cuts, fittings, angles, systems R&I and ‘plying’ up the upper wing skin."

It is about 45 days of repair work for each aircraft. This assumes the repair work goes as expected.

And there is probably more defect discovery in the future of this program.

The F-35 program office and Lockheed Martin are spinning this for all it is worth. Stating that this is what testing is for, to discover things before full-rate production.

Which sounds good if we were not currently building scores of low-rate-initial-production aircraft.

This was a March 2009 response by the F-35 program leaders to criticism about development risks.

"JSF leaders say the problems are behind them and the program has stayed largely on track since the redesign of 2004-05. Modeling, simulation and ground tests reduce the uncertainties of flight-testing, and the flight-test program has the resources—including more than 30 dedicated aircraft—to complete the program by mid-2014."

So what would have happened if we stayed to the 2003 plan and had made all those pre-full-rate production aircraft? That forward root-rib repair would have to be conducted on approximately 240 aircraft; portions of which would be for non-U.S. customers.

No comments: