More bad news for F-35

Discussion in 'World Armed Forces' started by kwaigonegin, Nov 18, 2010.

  1. kwaigonegin
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    kwaigonegin Colonel

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    :mad:

    Lockheed Martin has discovered a potentially significant problem with one model of its F-35 joint strike fighter, the company reported Wednesday.
    The news comes just days before an important Pentagon meeting on the program's continuing delays and rising costs.
    Lockheed issued a statement saying its Fort Worth engineering staff had found cracks in the rear bulkhead -- a major structural part weighing about 300 pounds -- of an F-35B ground test plane undergoing fatigue testing.
    The cracks were found after the plane had been subjected to the equivalent of about 1,500 hours of flight time. The airplane's structural components are designed to last at least 8,000 hours.
    Lockheed said the cracks were found in a special inspection after engineers discovered unusual data from test instruments.
    The latest problem comes at a key juncture for the troubled F-35, which, at an estimated $382 billion, is the costliest weapons program ever.
    Pentagon officials have been reviewing the program for weeks to determine how to expedite testing and fix failing components, particularly of the short-takeoff-vertical-landing F-35B designed for the Marines.
    A Defense Acquisition Board plans to meet Monday to review cost and test data and approve any changes in budgets and schedules.
    There have been unconfirmed reports that senior Pentagon officials were at least considering the possibility of canceling the F-35B model to focus on getting the other two versions tested and into service.
    Lockheed did not disclose when the inspection took place but said it had inspected all of the other flight test aircraft and the ground test F-35A model.
    "No additional cracks were found, and flight testing has not been impacted," the company said.
    Eight F-35s are now in flight testing, including four F-35Bs.
    Four more are built and being prepared for flight testing, and six have been built for ground testing.
    At least 14 production planes are in the final assembly stages on the Lockheed production line, with most of the major structural components installed around the bulkheads.
    An investigation into "the root cause" of the cracks is under way, Lockheed said.
    The test equipment, an improperly manufactured bulkhead or a design error could have caused the problem.
    "Sometimes it's a machining issue. Sometimes it's a design issue. They'll figure it out pretty quickly," said Hans Weber, an aerospace engineering executive and consultant in San Diego.
    A design issue is probably the worst-case scenario, since it would mean redesigning and then remanufacturing the bulkheads, then installing them on planes already built.
    The F-35B has bulkheads made of a lighter aluminum alloy than those on the F-35A and C models.
    An Arlington company, Progressive Inc., mills the bulkheads to exact measurements and extremely tight tolerances from large aluminum forgings made by Alcoa.
    The bulkheads, which the engine sits inside of, provide the core strength of the airplane and are designed to withstand massive pressures and loads.
    The wings, the tail, the nose section and other components all attach to the bulkheads.
    Joe DellaVedova, public affairs director for the Pentagon's joint strike fighter program office, said in an e-mail that it's "too early in the process to talk about the significance" of the problem.
    The F-35B is the most complex of the three models because of the unusual stresses involved in making short takeoffs and vertical landings.
    The Navy has long resisted operating F-35Bs aboard its aircraft carriers, but the Marines want the plane to replace their aging Harrier jump jets.
    The British military initially planned to buy F-35Bs for its Air Force and Navy but recently altered its plans and now expects to buy the same version as the U.S. Navy for its carriers.


     
  2. airsuperiority
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    airsuperiority Captain

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    i was never too big of a fan of the f-35 because despite its multi-role, imo it's just a high-tech f-18c with a huge investment cost aligned to it. despite its 5th generation technology, it's a sitting duck for those a generation beneath it. its maritime capabilities would fall quite short for what we might expect from a next generation fighter that's meant to be multi-role and stealth. it doesn't have speed, nor the range, nor dogfight capabilities, which makes it extremely vulnerable to even naval fighters such as su-33, f-14. even the f-18e/f, f-15e+newer would have more competitiveness in aerial battle. at the same time, it definitely can't take punishment like the a-10, so with sth like the f-35, it's not going to go too far against a decent enemy with quality training and competitive aircraft. anything lesser, the current fighters in teh US military inventory can do the job well already
     
  3. solarz
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    solarz Colonel

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    And this is what our government wants to spend $16 billion dollars on...
     
  4. siegecrossbow
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    siegecrossbow Brigadier
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    I think you are underestimating the power of stealth my friend.
     
  5. airsuperiority
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    airsuperiority Captain

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    actually what i mean is, for the F-35, its only highlight is the stealth, but everything else, such as performance, capabilities, would actually fall short of its earlier generation counterparts. it isn't really that versatile of a warplane
     
  6. johnboy
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    johnboy New Member

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    To say that misunderstands the role of the F-35. It's a bomb truck. The job is to meld a plane like the F-16 with the F-117 - something that can carry a lot of bombs while retaining full stealth capability, and have a decent capacity for self-defense. It isn't meant to be a fifth-generation air superiority jet or anything like it.

    I'm sure you guys have seen what Gates said - the USMC version of the plane is on probation and faces the axe in two years; the production schedule for the Navy/Air Force version has been slowed down.
     
  7. johnboy
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    johnboy New Member

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    I now have a real news article about the F-35 probation issue in Yahoo, but I can't post the link because of the forum guidelines. Gah.

    If you want to see it, search for this title: Defense Secretary Puts F-35 on "Probation" as Part of Budget Cuts
     
  8. Scratch
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    Scratch Captain

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    Well, to be precise, only the STOVL variant is on probation for being behind the test schedule, because of faulty structural parts or so. The A, and maybe also the C version are actually ahead of schedule I think.
    The problems with the B version will be a very serious concern for some nations, however. The UK is probably out now, but Italy and Spain will be a little anxious to see progress if they hope to retain a carrier capability beyond the Harriers. But then again, Japan, maybe Australia, will also be potential future candidates. Besides the USMCs need for the aircraft. So guess that part of the program will also go on, there'll be enough demand to support the industry.

    http://www.reuters.com/article/idUSN139619020110113

     
  9. Ambivalent
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    Ambivalent Junior Member

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    Where do you come up with this crap? Nobody knows anything about these issues except some people in the program office who, I can assure you, aren't whispering things in your ear. Tell us what your qualifications are to pass judgement on the aircraft absent any access to the OT&E data?

    The B is the foundation of future USMC airpower. It will get built and go into service. Period. If you think I'm kidding, low how the Marines bulldozed the V-22 through. NAVAIR cancelled that program nine different times. The Marines have a lobbying arm that is underestimated only at one's peril. If necessary there will be an inspection and repair cycle added to the aircraft's maintenance package until the Dilberts come up with a permanent cure. My guess is the cure will be figured out very soon. How expensive the cure is remains to be seen. The Harrier is tired and will be removed from service regardless, so the F-35B is a must build.
    The only consideration I see is whether the Marines replace everything with the F-35B or the Navy is able to force them to replace some of the older F/A-18 force with F/A-18E/F's to fill out carrier air groups as the Navy wants.
     
    #9 Ambivalent, Jan 14, 2011
    Last edited by a moderator: Jan 14, 2011
  10. bd popeye
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    bd popeye The Last Jedi
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    Ambivalent is so correct. The USMC also wants the F-35Bs to be aboard the new America Class LHAs..of which three are planned.

    Ambivalent as you know the USMC has been refusing the Super Hornets for several years.

    Ooo Rah!
     
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