Skip to Main Content

Why the F-35 Lightning Can't Fly in Lightning, Yet

The Pentagon's newest fighter jet, the F-35 Lightning II, has an embarrassing problem. Despite its name, it can't fly within 25 miles of a lightning storm for fear of exploding.

The F-35 will be safe from lighting in the future, but the Pentagon decided to start building F-35s before they were done designing or testing them. This ensures strong political support, because it's hard to stop a program once you start building planes, but also leads to all kinds of problems. POGO has long been pointing out these problems, but in a recent interview with the Australian Broadcasting Corporation, Lt. General Chris Bogdan blamed the highly concurrent acquisition of the F-35 as the cause of these design problems.

The interview was part of a larger investigation into Australia's decision to purchase the F-35 and featured interviews with Winslow Wheeler, of the Center for Defense Information at POGO, and aviation expert Pierre Sprey.

More recently, Bogdan had some strong words about the main contractors for the F-35, Lockheed Martin and Pratt & Whitney, at an airshow in Australia. Reuters quoted him as saying:

What I see Lockheed Martin and Pratt & Whitney doing today is behaving as if they are getting ready to sell me the very last F-35 and the very last engine and are trying to squeeze every nickel out of that last F-35 and that last engine.

I want them both to start behaving like they want to be around for 40 years. I want them to take on some of the risk of this program, I want them to invest in cost reductions, I want them to do the things that will build a better relationship. I'm not getting all that love yet.

Read more about Bogdan's comments at Reuters.

By: Andre Francisco
Online Producer, POGO

andre francisco Andre Francisco is the Online Producer for the Project On Government Oversight.

Topics: National Security

Related Content: Defense, F/A-22 Fighter Aircraft

Authors: Andre Francisco

Submitted by casper at: July 27, 2014
f-4 phantom would be a better choice than the f-35.
Submitted by pb at: March 4, 2013
The generals aren't stupid. They know that there is an enromously well-paid job waiting for them when they retire.
Submitted by Why so many idiots in the world??? at: March 2, 2013
I whistle blew on the Martin Co. Just before the shuttle blew up in I think in 1986. Of course nothing was done to them and I was fired. Nothing will ever change because, they hire retired generals and other ranks from the Air Force and other branches of the service. All these greedy money hungry people think of is their greedy selfs and their egos. When the people in this country unite then there will be change and no until we do.
Submitted by LB at: March 2, 2013
A clueless General is always great for business for the manufacture's !!!!!!
Submitted by Dorfus at: February 28, 2013
depends--I thought that You Are a contractor (was it NG)? So how can you do what you do? Getting to cases, no one ever brings up the subject of court martials for the many flags, and prosecutions for criminal negligence for the conniving SESs and political officials who have made this program a gross monster.
Submitted by Dfens at: February 27, 2013
Bogdon is an idiot! How long is it going to take before he gets it through his tiny brain that Lockheed does not want to produce F-35 fighter jets? They want to design them for as long as they can drag the design out, but they'd like for the program to be cancelled on the day the last dime of development money is made. How can this be so hard for everyone to figure out? 10% profit margin is not enough to cover the risks inherit in setting up an assembly line. Companies that make profit margins of 40% or more are often not profitable in early production. There are too many problems that have to be fixed. Lockheed wants to drag out design for as long as possible. Isn't that obvious? Hell, I remember when we "discovered lighting" on the F-22 program. It was right before the program's critical design review in 1995. Suddenly the whole airplane had to be redesigned to add a layer of copper mesh to the under side of the skin panels to conduct away lightening. Now we are supposed to believe that they totally forgot about that little issue again? Yeah right. They didn't forget. They learned in the last program that "forgetting" lightening protection was a good way to drag the development program out and jack up the costs. They don't "forget" lessons like that. They don't forget lessons that make them more money. How stupid are you people? Clearly these defense contractors deserve your money more than you do, because they fool you with the same lame tricks time after time after time. POGO is equally to blame. They fall for it every time. Just as the design is finishing up, they are calling for the program to be cancelled because the next program will be better. This program wasn't better than the last one and the last one wasn't better than the one before that, but POGO is convinced that the next program will be better. So they stupidly play right into the hands of the defense contractors once again. Gee, I wonder why things never get better -- except for the defense contractors who continue to make record profits?

Leave A Comment

Enter this word: Change

Related Posts

Browse POGOBlog by Topic

POGO on Facebook

Latest Podcast

Podcast; Social Media, Internet Provides Opportunities, Challenges for Lawmakers

The Congressional Management Foundation offers the Gold Mouse Awards annually to members of Congress who make the most of the opportunity the digital world offers them. POGO spoke with members of Rep. Mike Honda's communications team about their award.