Sunday, March 22, 2015

The F-35 boondoggle, redux


I've said for several years that the F-35 Lightning II aircraft program is nothing more or less than a boondoggle, and should be terminated at once.  Here are some of my previous articles about it.

Now the Project on Government Oversight (POGO) has produced one of the most sweeping condemnations of the program I've ever read.  Its introduction reads:

Inside-the-Beltway wisdom holds that the $1.4 trillion F-35 Joint Strike Fighter (JSF) program is too big to cancel and on the road to recovery. But the latest report from the Defense Department’s Director of Operational Test and Evaluation (DOT&E) provides a litany of reasons that conventional wisdom should be considered politically driven propaganda. The press has already reported flawed software that hinders the ability of the plane to employ weapons, communicate information, and detect threats; maintenance problems so severe that the F-35 has an “overdependence” on contractor maintainers and “unacceptable workarounds” (behind paywall) and is only able to fly twice a week; and a high-rate, premature production schedule that ignores whether the program has demonstrated essential combat capabilities or proven it’s safe to fly. All of these problems are increasing costs and risks to the program. Yet rather than slow down production to focus resources on fixing these critical problems, Congress used the year-end continuing resolution omnibus appropriations bill—termed the “cromnibus”—to add 4 additional planes to the 34 Department of Defense (DoD) budgeted for Fiscal Year 2015. The original FY2016 plan significantly increased the buy to 55, and now the program office is further accelerating its purchase of these troubled planes to buy 57 instead.

At some point, the inherent flaws and escalating costs of a program become so great that even a system with massive political buy-in reaches a tipping point. The problems described in the DOT&E report show that the F-35 has reached a stage where it is now obvious that the never-ending stream of partial fixes, software patches, and ad hoc workarounds are inadequate to deliver combat-worthy, survivable, and readily employable aircraft. This year’s DOT&E report also demonstrates that in an effort to maintain the political momentum of the F-35, its program office is not beneath misrepresenting critically important characteristics of the system.

In sum, the old problems are not going away, new issues are arising, and some problems may be getting worse.

There's much more at the link.

The F-35 program is the biggest boondoggle I've ever heard of.  It's long gone time it was axed.  Unfortunately, our spineless politicians have been bought off with jobs at companies in their district (Lockheed Martin has taken great care to spread the work on the project through as many congressional districts as possible).  The 'fix' is in, and we, the taxpayers of America, are the ones who are being shafted.  Is there no-one who'll stand up and call this turkey what it really is, and kill it before it's too late?




Peter

15 comments:

Sam Hall said...

Boondoggle is correct. The F-35 was designed to be the Air Force's Swiss Army knife and do "everything". Fighter, bomber, close air support, vertical takeoff, you name it. Even if it works the way Lockheed Martin promised, it still would be a piece of junk, a very expensive piece of junk.

Anonymous said...

I suspect the F-35 and the LCS (aka Little Crappy Ship) will be historic. Just not for the reasons their backers had originally hoped.

LittleRed1

Old NFO said...

LR1 is right... The Marines are 'less' than happy to put it mildly...

C. S. P. Schofield said...

While I am not an expert, it is my strong impression that the United States Air Force has along history of obsessing over high tech toys to the detriment of core (if unglamorous) obligations. Maybe the Air Force should be allowed to focus solely on the missions its establishment loves - long range bombing and air superiority - and the Army should be allowed to stand up the Army Air Corps for transport and close air support … with the associated budget.

Then the Air Force wouldn't be in a position to divert funds that should go to unglamorous but necessary functions in order to pay for their toys.

Angus McThag said...

It's got uncommanded roll problems?

I see Lockheed learned nothing from the S-3 Viking.

It's also surprising to see lots of faults from the F-104 on that list. Things that were solved on the Starfighter, so we know that Lockheed had the knowledge to fix them once, apparently they didn't retain the institutional knowledge during that huge gap where they didn't make fighters.

Graybeard said...

One size never fits all. The idea that one fighter fits the many missions envisioned is silly on its face.

Engineering design is the art of compromise. Things that make an airplane, helicopter or ship ideal for one mission make it less than ideal for others.

LCB said...

If I were an enemy of the USA, I would build a "good" fighter...and if war came overwhelm the USAF with numbers. If the latest super fighter could shoot down "my" fighters at a ratio of 10-1, I build 11 or 12 for every USAF fighter. And I'd probably spend way less money on my fighters than the USAF spends on theirs.

Coconut said...

Might be an idea for them to run an experiment sometime - some fixed prize, say, a hundred billion, and the company that can fill whatever specification on-time and under-budget gets the whole pot.

I expect it would save money compared to trying to iron out the many, many bugs in the least-worst aircraft.

Will said...

The video of the F-35 doing an uncommanded 360* backflip while doing a vertical takeoff on a carrier has to be totally unnerving to the Navy types. I still can't believe it didn't crash.

When you factor in how many aircraft the Navy looses during carrier operations during peacetime, they have to be shitting themselves when they look at the cost and low numbers of production. Those admirals are going to be very unhappy campers if the F-35 ever gets deployed for real.

TimD said...

Heh, looks like the Air Force has its very own M247 Sgt York but refuses to acknowledge it.

bmq215 said...

Will, that one at least is a hoax. Unless the Navy has figured out how to make player screennames hover over their jets...

Will said...

bmq215:
I guess my screen resolution isn't good enough to see that screenname superimposed over the plane. Looked about the same as any regular Navy deck video I've seen. Cheap computer.

David-2 said...

I've already been aware for some time of the many broken aspects of the design and implementation of the F-35, but I just learned a new one:

"The F-35B flew 7.5 hours last year between “critical failures,” an improvement over the three-hour mark demonstrated in 2013, he said. The goal is 12 hours."

So 12 hours between "critical failures", which means, I assume, normal flight without people shooting at it. Which you wouldn't think was a high bar for a plane that is (currently) costing one-third TRILLION dollars per copy). Yet the plane currently can't achieve even 8 hours between critical failures.

Clusterf**k.

David-2 said...

Yikes! One-third BILLION dollars per copy. 1000 times less than I said but still non-trivial!

selsey.steve said...

No one aircraft can fulfill all of the roles assigned to the pig that is the F35.
Fighter aircraft need one configuration, close-support arcraft need anothr configuration totally different from the fighter.
The very best close support aircraft ever built, the A10 Warthog, is being sacrificed on the alter of the F35 fiasco