For years, independent experts and a small number of other people have warned us about the risks of the F-35 program. This is not an "I told you so" event. It is a mention that just because someone doesn't like negative information about a blessed program, they should at least consider what is being said; evaluate it and if needed, ask, "should we really be doing this?
When reading the F-35 test report card for FY 2013 done by the U.S. Department of Defense, Director of Operational Test and Evaluation (DOTE) there are a few things that should come to mind.
1. There hasn't been that much improvement since the 2011 and 2012 report.
2. The 2013 report has even more problems specified.
3. Those problems in-total make for a huge mess.
4. The problems are starting to cause more problems that strangely resemble the first few hours of the Chernobyl disaster.
5. Too big to fail? It might be too big to save.
6. There is no additional money to fix all of the problems.
7. Other government programs and stakeholders will see the blood in the water and move in for the kill.
8. The idea of the F-35 is obsolete.
9. This will end very badly.
10.This will be a life-altering experience for many that put their faith into a Ponzi scheme.
Let us cover just some of the details in the report.
Software has to ride on stable hardware. Software needs grown up management. For the F-35 program, this is not the case.
The TR-2 hardware which is starting with low rate initial production (LRIP) batch 6 aircraft is needed for Block 3 software. The report indicates there are projected situations where it many not have enough power to drive the Block 3 software.
Concurency in software management is devouring software manhours to fix it. For example, 2B software (like any large software project) has several sub-variants. Adding more people, this late in the game, isn't producing results.
The multitude of complexities are reaching train-wreck proportions. 2 aircraft were modified to run an early test variant of Block 3 software. It did't work. Now these 2 aircraft are unavailable to help with 2B software testing. The same goes for "mistake-jet" aircraft that have been brought into the depot for a variety of modifications.
Not only is the program technically challenged making 2B software work, it is running out of resources to test the software.
In the not-to-distant future, LRIP-6 aircraft will becoming off the line with no proper software to run them.
Adding to the software problems is that various assumptions about mission systems hardare are not working out. The DAS (lots of false warnings with its defensive routines (flares, wingmen); poor clarity, the helmet (junk until the next hardware variant comes out and even then it may be unfixable). The EOTS (supposed to be low risk because it was based on SNIPER) has target acquisition problems. The radar can't give proper geo-locations and tracks.
And many more sensor fusion problems.
And then those nasty thermal issues.
Software; software and software...that need hardware with no problems.
The logistics management software known as the Autonomic Logistics Information System or "ALIS", is on mutli-versions that have to match up with all of the multi-versions of software in different aircraft. ALIS has so many problems it is useless.
A simulation software system known as VSim which is needed for operational test people to know if the aircraft is survivable against many kinds of threats is far behind. There is no way to evaluate if the aircraft is survivable against any threat. Note, this hasn't stopped the marketing department. But, the fact remains that VSim is a very long way from working.
2. Aircraft maintenance problems.
F-35 maintenance assumptions are unraveling.
No one has been effectively tracking what kinds of repairs affect the low-observable refurbishment.This was a serious lessons-learned with the F-22 program. But so far, there is no F-35 maintenance plan (as of 2013) that would let a maintenance pro know how much low observable refurbishment workload is needed to be done for various maintenance actions.
Maintenance trends for the aircraft are at a negative and and this is with no working mission systems. Interesting as years ago, there was much fanfare about a Lockheed Martin command-post-like environment being stood up to manage every little heart-beat of every little mistake-jet with ALIS. Since most of the software that drives that is in fantasy land, aircraft fixers have many manual work-arounds in the area of maintenance task documentation, spare parts movement and skilling. The F-35 might even be a maintainable jet someday but because of so many ALIS-like fubars and gross mismanagement (12 years after contract award) we may never know.
One thing not mentioned in the report is the concept of changing the F-35B's $27M STOVL engine aboard ship. The world waits.
3. The Airframe.
All F-35 variants have thin weight margins. Not mentioned in the report that due to much immaturity, there is no known, operational empty weight. In any event, there are no margins for weight growth. Airframe fatigue testing (what seems to be the only bright spot in this program of people that might know what they are doing) illuminates some of the usual effects when going into aircraft testing in this area simulating thousands of hours of aircraft life. However, various fixes for this could mean extra weight.
This becomes a vicious circle because when you have paper-thin or over-weight jet assumptions, G's are harder on the airframe. For example if you have a simple and robust aircraft design that is underweight and you spec it to x amount of G's, you probably have some play in there and aiframe life will have better knowns. This (besides the software) is one of the reasons you may see G-limits on the F-35 dropping. Pull 7Gs on an over-weight design and you will lower the life of the aircraft faster.
The only way to paper over these goofs is airframe envelop limits.
I guess they should have been smarter about weight assumptions.
Buffet and trans-sonic-roll-off (TRO) have now reached the end of the line for fixes for the F-35 program. They have pushed software fixes in this regard to their limits. Anything more will affect safety of flight. So we can expect that there will be severe manuver limits put on this aircraft by regular testers and possibly even more by ops testers.
Things like cooking of the horizontal stabs, landing gear issues, the tail hook, airframe fasteners that are a problem with lighting are still far from fixed. Fuel inerting is also still a big problem (and not just for lightning issues). So again, aircraft limits.
One would have thought that they would have figured out wet runway limits but at the time of the close of this report, that has not happened. Because of its many limits, an F-35 squadron may defeat itself long before it comes in contact with the enemy.
You may have known about various fire-bug issues with the aircraft removed to save weight or just not thought of (like the dangers of the electrical system). But, there is something else, in order to save a few tens-of-pounds of weight, certain protective shrouding for the motor was removed. This puts the aircraft at even more risk to enemy fire.
The F-35 is not survivable. Especially the flying-piano, F-35B STOVL.
I have had my fill of General Bogdan's spin and this next one would be a great reason to have him replaced.
The vendor has not been delivering F-35 aircraft to specification. And not by a small amount. 47 percent of the capabilities defined in the production contract for LRIP-4 were not complete when the aircraft were delivered. It appears to increase by production lot. 50 percent of the capabilities defined in the production contract for LRIP-5 were not complete when the aircraft were delivered.
So much for Bogdan--the guy that is supposed to represent the U.S. taxpayer--being tough with the vendor. We have no shortage of generals. This is worty of his retirement ceremony being scheduled inside of 3 days.
What I have stated is only a small sampling of the DOTE 2013 F-35 report card. Read the rest yourself.
And, while reading it, note that the F-35 was supposed to be a model acquisition program.
-Time's Battleland - 5 Part series on F-35 procurement - 2013
-Summary of Air Power Australia F-35 points
-Aviation Week (ARES blog) F-35 posts (2007 to present)
-U.S. Government Accounting Office (GAO) F-35 reports
-F-35 JSF: Cold War Anachronism Without a Mission
-History of F-35 Production Cuts
-Looking at the three Japan contenders (maneuverability)
-How the Canadian DND misleads the public about the F-35
-Value of STOVL F-35B over-hyped
-Cuckoo in the nest--U.S. DOD DOT&E F-35 report is out
-6 Feb 2012 Letter from SASC to DOD boss Panetta questioning the decision to lift probation on the F-35B STOVL.
-USAFs F-35 procurement plan is not believable
-December 2011 Australia/Canada Brief
-F-35 Key Performance Perimeters (KPP) and Feb 2012 CRS report
-F-35 DOD Select Acquisition Report (SAR) FY2012
-Release of F-35 2012 test report card shows continued waste on a dud program
-Australian Defence answers serious F-35 project concerns with "so what?"
-Land of the Lost (production cut history update March 2013)
-Outgoing LM F-35 program boss admits to flawed weight assumptions (March 2013)
-A look at the F-35 program's astro-turfing
-F-35 and F-16 cost per flying hour
-Is this aircraft worth over $51B of USMC tac-air funding?
-Combat radius and altitude, A model
-F-35A, noise abatement and airfields and the USAF
-Deceptive marketing practice: F-35 blocks