More than 100 F-35s in service can’t fight

The U.S. military has signaled that it might cancel essential upgrades for more than 100 early model F-35 stealth fighters flown by the Air Force, rendering the radar-evading jets incompatible with many of the latest weapons.

In that case, some 6 percent of the flying branch’s planned 1,700-strong F-35 fleet would be unfit for combat, sticking U.S. taxpayers with a $20 billion tab for fighters… that can’t fight. Continue reading

The global F-35 complex

It helps considerably that many of these customers have more than just a few tonnes of precision-engineered titanium to gain from any deal: the beauty of the JSF project is that everyone can bring something to the party. In a Lancashire workshop, for instance, BAE Systems is building a section of the aft fuselage, including the tail, for every F-35; along with other contributions from all over the world, these pieces are then shipped to Texas for final assembly. This means that every F-35 sale is a boost to the coffers of Britain’s own largest arms company. (BAE has also been allowed to do the foldy bits at the end of the wings.) And the opportunities are everywhere. There are aluminium sheets from Milton Keynes, electronic modules from Billingstad, circuit boards from Ankara, hydraulics from Melbourne, wiring systems from Rotterdam, manifolds from Adelaide, wing parts from Turin and actuators from New York. So when Trump threatened to slash the cost of the F-35 programme, or divert some of the custom to cheaper competitors, it wasn’t only American defence contractors who were in the firing line. Everyone had something to lose. On 30 January, ten days after taking office, Trump announced that he had negotiated $600 million off the price tag of the next batch of F-35s. Lockheed’s CEO chose not to shatter his illusion, but it turned out that the next ninety planes were always going to be cheaper anyway – by between 6 and 7 per cent, or $550 and $650 million. The more you build the cheaper they get, thanks to economies of scale. Happily for everyone involved, this also means that more get sold. The ‘military-industrial complex’ turns out to be very simple: the juggernaut has its own momentum. Once it’s rolling it can’t be stopped, even if you’re Donald Trump, something he finally came to acknowledge on 16 March, when his budget plan for the next fiscal year allowed for the ramping-up of F-35 production as part of a proposed 10 per cent increase in overall military spending.

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F-35 will only cost $85 million?

Birkey repeats Lockheed Martinand Pentagon Joint Program Office claims that the F-35 will cost taxpayers only $85 million per copy by 2019.

This claim is as generous as it is deceptive. For one thing, that is just the estimated cost of an Air Force conventional take-off variant, the F-35A — the least expensive of the three variants. In addition, that cost figure is actually only an estimate, one that assumes everything will perfectly for the F-35 from here on out and that the Pentagon will buy more than it had planned.

When people say the F-35 will only cost $85 million, they are only talking about the price of the airframe and the engine. Proponents don’t include how much it will cost to fix design flaws found in testing — a not insubstantial amount of money.
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China’s J-20 Stealth Fighter

The J-20 was developed as a foil to advanced U.S. fighters, including fourth generation F-16 Fighting Falcons and F/A-18 Hornets and, more directly, fifth-generation F-22 Raptors and F-35 Lightning fighters.

In 2009, a breach of F-35 project resulted in the theft of several terabytes of data. Though the attack was never publicly attributed to China by the U.S. government, visual similarities in the chassis of the J-20 to the F-35 have led commentators to speculate that the stolen F-35 intellectual property helped state-owned Chengdu Aerospace Corporation develop their fighter.
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Petition: Cancel the F-35

A petition to the United States Congress and the governments of Australia, Italy, the Netherlands, Norway, Turkey, the United Kingdom, Israel, Japan and South Korea from the world and from the people of Burlington, Vermont, and Fairbanks, Alaska, where the F-35 is to be based. Initiated by Vermont Stop the F35 Coalition, Save Our Skies Vermont, Western Maine Matters, Alaska Peace Center, University of Alaska Fairbanks Peace Club, North Star Chapter 146 Veterans For Peace, World Beyond War, RootsAction.org, Code Pink, Ben Cohen.

The petition reads:

The F-35 is a weapon of offensive war, serving no defensive purpose. It is planned to cost the U.S. $1.4 trillion over 50 years. Because starvation on earth could be ended for $30 billion and the lack of clean drinking water for $11 billion per year, it is first and foremost through the wasting of resources that this airplane will kill. Military spending, contrary to popular misconception, also hurts the U.S. economy (see here) and other economies. The F-35 causes negative health impacts and cognitive impairment in children living near its bases. It renders housing near airports unsuitable for residential use. It has a high crash rate and horrible consequences to those living in the area of its crashes. Its emissions are a major environmental polluter.

Wars are endangering the United States and other participating nations rather than protecting them. Nonviolent tools of law, diplomacy, aid, crisis prevention, and verifiable nuclear disarmament should be substituted for continuing counterproductive wars. Therefore, we, the undersigned, call for the immediate cancellation of the F-35 program as a whole, and the immediate cancellation of plans to base any such dangerous and noisy jets near populated areas. We oppose replacing the F-35 with any other weapon or basing the F-35 in any other locations. We further demand redirection of the money for the F-35 back into taxpayers’ pockets, and into environmental and human needs in the U.S., other F-35 customer nations, and around the world, including to fight climate change, pay off student debt, rebuild crumbling infrastructure, and improve education, healthcare, and housing. Continue reading

F-35 testing report contradicts the U.S. Air Force’s rosy pronouncements

Last month the Air Force declared its variant “ready for combat,” and most press reports lauded this as a signal that the program had turned a corner. But a memo issued from the Pentagon’s top testing official, based largely upon the Air Force’s own test data, showed that the declaration was wildly premature.

Michael Gilmore’s latest memorandum is damning. The F-35 program has derailed to the point where it “is actually not on a path toward success, but instead on a path toward failing to deliver the full Block 3F capabilities for which the Department is paying almost $400 billion.”

The 16-page memo, first reported by Tony Capaccio at Bloomberg and then by others, details just how troubled this program is — years behind schedule and failing to deliver even the most basic capabilities taxpayers, and the men and women who will entrust their lives to it, have been told to expect.

The Pentagon’s top testing office warns that the F-35 is in no way ready for combat since it is “not effective and not suitable across the required mission areas and against currently fielded threats.” Continue reading

The mission of the F-35

The F-35 Joint Strike Fighter is possibly one of the most useless jets and biggest waste of taxpayer money ever conceived by the US military.  In fact, according to Pierre Sprey, one of the three men that created the F-16, the point of this plane is “to spend money.”  He clarifies, “that is the mission of the airplane, is for the US Congress to send money to Lockheed [Martin].”

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“The brains and blood” of F-35s is not ‘critical’/working

Last summer, F-35 program officer Lt. Gen. Christopher Bogdan said the F-35’s logistics system was “the brains and blood of operating this weapons system.”

Despite many fixes, the aircraft’s Autonomic Logistics Information System (ALIS) is so flawed that government auditors believe the computer system may not be deployable. These problems may also delay the Air Force’s declaration of Initial Operational Capability. And now, in a surprising twist, Bogdan is saying ALIS is not really critical after all, insisting the F-35 can fly without it for 30 days. Continue reading

Less oversigh or more delays for expensive F-35’s upgrades

“This modernization effort is like a new program with estimated costs of about $3 billion over the next six years,” Michael Sullivan, director of acquisition and sourcing management issues at GAO, told the House Armed Services Committee on March 23. “That price alone would qualify it as a major defense acquisition program in it own right and it should be managed as such.”
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The nightmare of F-35s

Not only would the F-35 take off from land bases like most conventional fighters do—it would also be able to launch from aircraft carriers and lift off vertically from smaller assault ships.

To do all these things today, the Pentagon possesses no fewer than eight different types of fighters. Dogfighting F-15s and F-16s. Hard-hitting A-10 ground-attack planes. Several kinds of carrier-launched F/A-18s. Vertical-takeoff Harriers. Continue reading

The F-35 won’t be ready for combat until 2022

The Director of Operational Test and Evaluation (DOT&E) recently released a scathing assessment of the F-35 program as part of his annual report. Buried inside 48 pages of highly technical language is a gripping story of mismanagement, delayed tests, serious safety issues, a software nightmare, and maintenance problems crippling half the fleet at any given time.

The report makes clear just how far the F-35 program still has to go in the development process. Some of the technical challenges facing the program will take years to correct, and as a result, the F-35’s operationally demonstrated suitability for combat will not be known until 2022 at the earliest. While rumors that the program office would ask for a block buy of nearly 500 aircraft in the FY 2017 budget proposal did not pan out, officials have indicated they may make such a request next year. The DOT&E report clearly shows any such block commitments before 2022 are premature. Continue reading

Australia: dump F-35s or carry on sinking AU$?

I’m going to sell you a plane which can do things you can’t even fully describe. In fact, no one can, because it’s just an untested idea on paper. 14 years later, and you still don’t have a plane, but the price tag has more than doubled. And in fact the cost could keep rising. At the end of the day, you’ll pay whatever I ask.

Finally, this unfinished plane overheats on the tarmac. To cool it down, you have to open some of its doors every ten minutes, even when you’re flying. It’s not faster than other planes, and it doesn’t handle well. Chinese hackers could hack your plane out of the sky. And if you weigh less than 75 kilos and you need to eject, its helmet could actually kill you. Continue reading

“The US’s military procurement machine may be the single most successful system of wealth transfer ever devised”

The US’s military procurement machine may be the single most successful system of wealth transfer ever devised – moving tens of billions of dollars every year from ordinary taxpayers into the pockets of big defense contractors and their allies in Congress. But as a provider of working equipment to defend the United States against realistic threats, it is becoming more and more dysfunctional with every passing year.
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New Report: 500 F-35s may be built before proven combat ready

Tests of how Lockheed Martin Corp.’s F-35 will perform in combat won’t begin until at least August 2018, a year later than planned, and more than 500 of the fighter jets may be built before the assessment is complete, according to the Pentagon’s test office.

“These aircraft will require a still-to-be-determined list of modifications” to be fully capable, Michael Gilmore, the U.S. Defense Department’s top weapons tester, said in his annual report on major programs. “However, these modifications may be unaffordable for the services as they consider the cost of upgrading these early lots of aircraft while the program continues to increase production rates in a fiscally constrained environment.” Continue reading

F-35s hit by another big setback

The code delay is the latest—and possibly most damaging—setback for the Pentagon’s ambitious and controversial plan to replace almost all of its Air Force, Navy and Marine Corps fighters with three different versions of the F-35 at a cost of more than a trillion dollars over the next 50 years.

Damaging, because the military and F-35-maker Lockheed Martin have increasingly sold the F-35 as a sort of “flying computer” whose software can outthink enemy pilots even when the enemy’s own planes fly faster, maneuver better and carry more weaponry than the F-35 does.

The stealth fighter’s software is its last possible claim to being a first-class warplane. If the F-35’s code doesn’t work, then neither does the F-35. Saddled with thousands of dysfunctional F-35s, the Pentagon could lose command of the air. Continue reading