10 July 2016

And the JSF Clustf%$# Continues

If there was one thing that you would think that the people managing could get right, it would be the rather prosaic ejection seat, which has been in fighter jets since the Korean war.

You would be wrong:
The US Air Force is looking into the possibility of replacing the Martin-Baker ejection seat on the F-35 joint strike fighter with the United Technologies ACES 5 model, Defense News has learned.

While still in the earliest stages, such a move could have have massive repercussions for the F-35 supply chain, impacting the workshare strategy that forms the backbone for the international fleet of the Lockheed Martin-designed fighter.


At the core of the Air Force's move is concern over pilot safety following the discovery that F-35 pilots under 136 pounds were at increased, potentially fatal, risk of neck damage when ejecting from the plane aboard the Martin-Baker US16E design. The service has also acknowledged an “elevated level of risk” for pilots between 136 and 165 pounds.

Defense News first broke the news of that issue in October. As a result of the issue, pilots under 136 pounds are prohibited from operating the fifth-generation fighter, which went operational for the Marines in 2015 and is expected to be operational for the Air Force by the end of this year.

That pilot risk, Bunch said, is unacceptable.


Based on Bunch's comments, it appears Air Force officials are concerned that another problem could occur with the Martin-Baker seat in the future, which raised the question of why the Air Force is only now starting to look at a backup option, eight months after the pilot safety concerns became public knowledge.
This is a big deal, particularly since changing the seats will mess up the work share with the UK. (Martin Baker is a UK firm)

The fact that this is still up in the air while the various branches are attempting to declare, or have declared, Initial Operating Capability (IOC) .

This is a definition of IOC that I was previously unaware of.


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