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A Big Week for the F-35?

F-35 Fighter Jet

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Even if the mainstream U.S. media has been late in coming to the story, the largest defense program in U.S. history is facing two critical events this coming week.

As major British media has been reporting for some time, the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter may be facing a major international marketing embarrassment: It has failed to show up for two of three scheduled (and much ballyhooed) public demonstrations in the United Kingdom. Now, it may miss the main event, a flying demonstration before the world’s aviation community at the Farnborough International Airshow, starting Monday. You see, the F-35 is grounded—again. An engine blew up on take-off at Eglin Air Force Base on June 23 and reportedly burned up much of the plane’s flammable, plastic composite rear fuselage and tail. No F-35s are flying until inspectors know what the problem is and can say it’s safe to fly—at least in the very limited regimes the F-35 has been cleared for. Moreover, even if the F-35 is released to participate at Farnborough, there may be a new problem: weather predictions for next week in England are not good, and the F-35 has real issues flying near thunder- and rainstorms; it even has problems with wet runways.

Stuck at home or coddled in UK hangars, the timing could not be worse for F-35 advocates. This Tuesday, the Defense Subcommittee of the Senate Appropriations Committee (SAC-D) will mark up its 2015 Defense Appropriations bill, and more than the usual routine approval of the Pentagon’s F-35 budget request is at stake. As pointed out in two timely commentaries (one by the Center for International Policy’s William Hartung and a second by Taxpayers for Common Sense’s Ryan Alexander), the House Appropriations Committee larded onto the already gigantic $8.3 billion request by adding four unrequested F-35s, costing an extra $479 million.

The four added planes are clearly at risk given the F-35’s self-embarrassment at Eglin, surely inspiring the F-35 talking points Lockheed is planting on the Members of the SAC-D well beyond their usual spinmeister fantasies on cost and performance. Worse, there could—at least theoretically—arise a critic of the F-35 in the membership of the SAC-D who might try to take real action on the F-35, beyond the rhetorical hyperbole that critics like Senator John McCain (R-AZ) have been hurling at the F-35. Imagine the shock and awe if some Member were to offer a meaningful amendment requiring the F-35 to be tested—actually imposing “fly-before-buy”—before a few hundred more mistake-laden jets are produced.

Not to worry: the F-35 defenders are rushing to the rescue. Beyond whatever election year financing promises major F-35 contractors Lockheed-Martin, Northrop-Grumman, and Pratt & Whitney may be distributing to keep the program on track, Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel has just completed a baby-kissing exercise for the airplane. Travelling to Eglin Air Force Base where that F-35 destroyed itself, Hagel declared “This aircraft is the future of fighter aircraft for all our services,”  thereby removing any notions that his junket might have some useful purpose other than showing fealty to the beleaguered F-35 program. Any expectation that he went to Eglin to exercise oversight of the F-35’s recurring embarrassments, as one might expect from a functioning Secretary of Defense, has been thoroughly excised. That leaves it up to the Defense Subcommittee of the Senate Appropriations Committee.

The SAC-D has many important defense spending decisions to make. None will be a better test of whether the committee is willing to conform DOD program ambitions to Pentagon budget realities than this point in the endless F-35 drama. Of course, the easy road beckons; defense business-as-usual will be happy to shower the Members with handsome signs of approval, material and otherwise.

Unfortunately, more of the same simply accelerates the decay of our defenses at ever-higher expense.

All eyes are turning to the Senate Appropriations Committee’s Defense Subcommittee. Thus far, political support for the F-35 has rolled over every ground truth, but realities like multiple groundings occurring amidst a continuing torrent of technical failures and cost overruns have a relentlessness all their own. Perhaps the only real question is when, not if, the politicians in Congress and the Pentagon will succumb to the inevitable tide. If next week does not end up as a tipping point for the F-35, it will come. It will come. And, that will be long before we buy the 2,433 Lockheed and its other boosters dream of.

Image from the Department of Defense.

By: Winslow Wheeler
Director, Straus Military Reform Project, CDI at POGO, POGO

Winslow Wheeler, Director, Straus Military Reform Project, Center for Defense Information at the Project On Government Oversight Mr. Wheeler's areas of expertise include Congress, the Defense Budget, National Security, Pentagon Reform and Weapons Systems

Topics: National Security

Related Content: Congressional Oversight, F-35, Federal Acquisition, Defense, Wasteful Defense Spending

Authors: Winslow Wheeler

Submitted by encia at: July 30, 2014
From "The program redesigned the On-Board Inert Gas Generation System (OBIGGS) to meet vulnerability reduction and lightning requirements. The program is currently planning the tests for FY14 to ensure that the system is able to maintain fuel tank inerting throughout all mission profiles. The system should protect the F-35 from threat-induced or lightning-induced fuel tank explosions"
Submitted by Dfens at: July 25, 2014
Do you want to know which airplane "looks worse" than the F-35? Take a look at the other choice we had in the JSF competition: The reason that hunk of crap didn't win was because it wouldn't do what Boeing told us for years it would do. Now tell me again about how the next program will be better. These were the two options from the biggest military airplane builders in the world. So cancel the F-35 for what? So we can spend another 30 years resting on the laurels of aircraft designed in the 1970's. So we can hope than all our enemies are idiots running around with AK-47's and not a real army with real aircraft designed in this century? How about we start talking about some serious options, like procurement reform, because as long as you continue to do everything the same way, hoping for a better result is a fool's errand.
Submitted by Another Guest (from Australia) at: July 25, 2014
Here is more information about the Su-30 Flanker family.
Submitted by Another Guest (from Australia) at: July 25, 2014
The F-35 JSF aircraft designs will not meet specification nor the operational requirements laid down in the JSF JORD (Joint Operational Requirements Document) by significant degrees, noting that these operational requirements and resulting specifications, themselves, were predicated on the capabilities of reference threats from an era past and subsequently subjected to the illogical and deeply flawed process known as CAIV (Cost As and Independent Variable). The designs of all three JSF variants are presenting with critical single points of failure while even the most basic elements of aircraft design (e.g. weight, volume, aerodynamics, structures, thermal management, electrical power, etc.) will almost certainly end up in what Engineers call "Coffin Corner". In essence, the unethical Thana Marketing strategy used to sell the JSF, along with the acquisition malpractice of concurrency in not only development, production and testing but the actual designs of the JSF variants, themselves, have resulted in the JSF marketeers writing cheques that the aircraft designs and JSF Program cannot honour. The Russian-made Su-35S Super Flanker-E and the now in development T-50 PAK-FA low-observable fighter is expected to be much more lethal in air-to-air combat against the F-35. The Su-35 and T-50 made appearances at the Russian aerospace industry air show known as MAKS in Zhukovsky. Both aircraft will include sensors and networking which can minimise the effects of the limited low-observable qualities of the F-35. They will also have higher performance, longer range (without refuelling), more powerful radars, advanced sensors, networking, data fusion capabilities and carry more air-to-air and air-to-ground weapons than an F-35. The F-35 is at best a great national scandal, unproven and at worst the biggest piece of high-tech boondoggle to ever come out of United States of America. Currently senior Defence has no capacity for realistic options. Because they are so deskilled. Defence is unable to get on the right direction because it currently has no critical thinking skills other than to decide what to order for lunch after seeing the latest PowerPoint brief from Lockheed Martin and Boeing (and then taking those talking points and labelling them as analysis). Here is another part of the problem.
Submitted by Another Guest (from Australia) at: July 25, 2014
Here are the other links that will mention the F-35 can't hide from Russian/Chinese radar.
Submitted by Another Guest (from Australia) at: July 25, 2014
How stealth capable is the F-35? The first thing to know about stealth it’s a scam. It is supposed to be invisible for radar which it never was. It just reduces the cross section and visibility, making the plane look smaller on radar than it is. Nothing more or nothing less. Stealth is useful only against short-wavelength radar of the kind that might be carried on an interceptor or used by a radar-guided missile. Physicists say no amount of RAM (Radar Absorbent Material) coating will protect you from 15ft to 20ft wavelength radar of the kind the Russians have had since the 1940s. It's stealthy only in forward quadrant. A conservative estimate for the frontal RCS (Radar Cross Section) of the F-35 would be 0.0015 square metre which is only stealthy in the front, this is what I call “Partial Stealth”. Parts on the fuselage of the aircraft will be detectable from the behind, the upper side and from the lower sides. How is the F-35 detectable? The VHF band element in the 1L119 Nebo SVU / RLM-M Nebo M AESA radar will detect the F-35 at a distance of tens of miles. That is without a doubt. What that means is that the aircraft is going to be in great difficulty if it tries to deal with what I call a modern or contemporary threat. The same is also true when you deal with these newer stealth fighters, because they are designed to compete with the F-22 Raptor. They fly higher; they are faster and more agile—much, much more agile. They have more powerful radars and much, much better antenna packages for other sensors. The F-35 is not meeting its specifications and its specifications are inadequate to deal with the changed threat environment. If the F-35 was to be able to meet its specifications, the aircraft will have the ability of going up against a 1980's Soviet air defence system of the type that we saw destroyed very effectively in Libya around 2011, the F-35 would be reasonably be effective in that environment, because these older short-wavelength Soviet radars would not see it. But if you are putting F-35 up against the newer generation of much, much more powerful long-wave length Russian radars, as well as the P-14 Tall King family of Cold-War era radars and some of the newer Chinese radars of a ground-to-air unit that would have no difficulty detecting and tracking an approaching F-35. Also F-35 will also be detected by the L-Band AESA which will be equipped on the Su-35S and PAK-FA. It is used for targetting which they’ll be able to track LO/VLO stealth aircraft, as well as the F-35.
Submitted by Another Guest (from Australia) at: July 25, 2014
The F-35 was defined during the mid-1990s to have “affordable” aerodynamic performance, stealth performance, sensor capabilities and weapons loads to be “affordably” effective against the most common threat systems of that era past – legacy Soviet Cold War era weapons, not for the 21st Century emerging anti/access & area denial threat environment. The F-35 is designed primarily to support ground forces on the battlefield with some self defence capabilities and is not suitable for the developing regional environment and, not suitable for close air support missions. The aircraft is unsuited for bomber and cruise missile defence due to limited range/endurance, limited weapons load and limited supersonic speed. As its limitations are inherent to the design, they cannot be altered by incremental upgrades. The F-35 will be ineffective against the current generation of extremely powerful advanced Russian and Chinese systems, as detailed above; In any combat engagements between the F-35 and such threat systems, most or all F-35 aircraft will be rapidly lost to enemy fire. If you have the F-35s that just aren’t capable of dealing with the high threat zones, it just doesn’t do you any good of going ahead with the failed program and sink the money. Because the F-35 will be increasingly expensive aircraft that will fail the air defence program.
Submitted by Another Guest (from Australia) at: July 24, 2014
The F-35 is a terrible idea. It is meant to replace something that doesn't need to be replaced. The F-35 is a complete waste of money, due to the amount of setbacks, problems, and other issues compared to how much it will actually benefit this country is ridiculous for the taxpayers to keep paying for this. Not only does the F-35 bring that many impressive technologies, but it is an incapable fighter which I believe is inferior to any fighter in our current military. The fact that the F-35 has stealth capabilities, but there is a catch to that. If it was ever to be effective in a combat situation it would loose all of it's stealth capabilities due to its extremely small stealth payload and the fact the F-35 will be detected by counter stealth radars and L-Band AESA’s. This jet will not even be a very good aircraft. By all standards, when this thing is finished (if it is ever finished) it will have compromised so much in so many areas to fulfill those roles that it will be good at nothing. Even if it meets the current targets it will be inferior to current 4th gen fighters and will cost about 3x or 4x as much. LM gets to take everything while delivering nothing that they promised. The program is falling apart at the seams because the aircraft is so terrible. Congress is bribed by the MIC to keep throwing money at it, but throwing money at the problem is not going to fix it anytime soon. The F-35 has failed to make spec for combat radius. Failed to make spec for transonic acceleration. Failed to make spec for sustained turn rate. Failed to make spec for reliability. Failed to make spec for sortie generation rate. Failed to make spec for STOVL ground roll. Requirements had to be artificially "relaxed" in all these areas to avoid triggering a Nunn-McCurdy program review. It was also failing to make spec for weight. Except that weight simply can _not_ be fudged any further for this pudgy little porker of a jet. Especially not the F-35B model, which is right up against the limit of not being able to get off the ground with a combat load. So to make spec on weight, the program ripped out things like the onboard fire suppression. For more information about its problems, here's the link.
Submitted by Another Guest (from Australia) at: July 24, 2014
Terrible looking fat pregnant pig aircraft. Wonder how much foaming has Andrew McLaughlin (former Australian Aviation deputy of editor) and other pro-F-35 advocates/fanbase has in there mouth.
Submitted by Bob Shank Jr. at: July 13, 2014
I made a sincere effort so contact senate members at the link provided ( It doesn't work [Sorry, there was a problem with this link: You can now continue to this website, or go back to the page you were on before. Remember, only follow links from sources you trust]. I'd very much like to register a response against continuing the continued manufacturing of the F-35 - a completely unnecessary aircraft, and a 'boondoggle' on American taxes. We have existing a/c which accomplish a much better and existing roll in providing ground support for extant troops on foreign soil, such as the A-10 Warthog. In addition we have a plethora of armed drones which have the same - even better - capabilities without the exhaustive tax-payer expense of such a multi-trillion-dollar-yet-worthless fighter(?) as the F-35 - which can't even justify its own existence. It's an electronic and manufacturing nightmare which hasn't even passed it's own preliminary tests! It can't even fly well in the rain without something going wrong. The USA doesn't need this fighter, it's problems or the financial burdens on taxpayers. This is a boondoggle of an effort by a defense contractor which never had the foresight of modern technology, and who is sink-or-swim financially (Lockheed). Nobody needs this lame, outdated aircraft which can't accomplish the job it was designed for and is sucking money by the hanger-full from taxpayers who'll never see a fully-filled mission from a single of it's progenitors. Dump this useless, over-expensive hog and set your sights on modern technology with already exists. How short-sighted and greedy are you???
Submitted by Dfens at: July 12, 2014
Yes, cancel the F-35 program -- because as POGO is always happy to tell you the next program will be better. The system works, it just didn't work this time for some unknown reason. The next program will be better and cheaper and will cook your eggs just the way you like them without that runny stuff on the white part that just looks gross. The next one will be better. We will do it right next time. Come on, people, say it with me now. The next program will be better. It always is, right?
Submitted by Dug at: July 12, 2014
Do we really need another massively expensive fighter to battle the Islamic Jihad Air Force?
Submitted by moonsquirel at: July 12, 2014
Please put an end to this terribly designed and significantly flawed aircraft. It has proven time and time again that it is a terrible waste of taxpayer's money!
Submitted by mbw750 at: July 12, 2014
This fighter jet is a outrageous waste of tax payer money. All Government officials evolved with this project should be fired. Government officials should not be able to spend tax payer money with out the consent of the people that pay for it, The United States Tax Payers. We need a big change in our Government, we need to eliminate big business and politicians from our Government. We need people that will listen to the wishes and wants of the people that pay for it, The United States Tax Payers.
Submitted by ijbtheterrible at: July 12, 2014
BOONDOGGLE from first and all but people making money opposed it.
Submitted by chris at: July 12, 2014
Why not just crowd source the damn thing? No more stolen taxpayer money.
Submitted by Inmytime at: July 12, 2014
When will WE the taxpayers hold these officials and the companies they are pimping hold them accountable???? Fly before buy should be the standard for every product the Pentagon purchases. Let the companies bear the burden. Or let Congress fund ALL social programs fully and then kiss the contractors rears. We cannot continue to accomodate this foolishness. Since China has stolen the plans to this very aircraft I wonder of they have worked out the bugs? Maybe we should buy them from China.

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