19 September 2015

F-35 Testing Beginning to Resemble Lance Armstrong Blood Tests

It turns out that the recent "successful deployment of the F-35 in US Marine Corps exercises was nothing of the sort:
The Marine Corps triumphantly declared its variant of the F-35 combat ready in late July. In the public relations build-up, the recent demonstration of its performance on the USS Wasp was heralded as a rebuttal to the program’s critics.

But a complete copy of a recent memo from the Director of Operational Test and Evaluation (DOT&E) — obtained by the Project On Government Oversight through the Freedom of Information Act — reveals that a number of maintenance and reliability problems “are likely to present significant near-term challenges for the Marine Corps.”

The Marine Corps named this demonstration “Operational Test One,” but it turns out it wasn’t actually an operational test, “in either a formal or an informal sense of the term.” To count as an operational test, conditions should closely match realistic combat conditions.

But DOT&E found the demonstration “did not — and could not — demonstrate that Block 2B F-35B is operationally effective or suitable for use in any type of limited combat operation, or that it was ready for real-world operational deployments, given the way the event was structured.”

The details buried inside the report’s annexes also show just how much trouble the crew faced in attempting to keep the F-35s selected for the demonstration flightworthy. Before the demonstration even began the Marine Corps had to swap out one F-35B with another “due to a fuel system fault that would have been impractical to fix at sea given the maintenance workload.”

In combat, not only would this kind of replacement be impractical, it would likely be impossible.
It goes on to state that the the WASP was emptied of other aircraft in order to facilitate F-35 ops, critical hardware and software not being present on the system, around 80 civilian contractors on board to keep the aircraft running, a prognostics and maintenance system that is basically non-functional, and a much lower operational tempo than promised.

This aircraft is a turkey, and I see no prospect of it being fixed.


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