This morning, three publications reported more (and important) information about a report submitted to Acting Acquisition Czar Robert Kendall in November about the F-35.
This "Quick Look Report" was previously reported by Bloomberg News (Tony Capaccio). Today's articles expand the coverage of the contents of the report. These articles by Jason Sherman and colleagues at Inside Defense, Bill Sweetman of the Ares Defense Technology Blog, and Bob Cox at the Fort Worth Star Telegram are below.
The new revelations are numerous and significant enough to call into question whether F-35 production should be suspended--if not terminated--even in the minds of today's senior managers in the Pentagon.
The revelations include, but are not limited to "unsatisfactory progress and the likelihood of severe operational impacts for survivability, lethality, air vehicle performance, and employment."
Performance vis-à-vis so called "legacy" aircraft is seriously questioned, and the individual deficiencies are sometimes so remarkable as to call into question the competence of the designers at Lockheed-Martin, to say nothing of the cost to repair the deficiencies.
For example, the naval variant is now incapable of landing or carriers due to the inability of the arresting hook to capture an arresting cable on the carrier deck. And, there are more hard to conceive deficiencies, including airframe buffeting at different angles of attack.
Moreover, as the report points out, these problems are appearing only after the easy phases of the test flights. The more exacting/demanding test flights are yet to even start. What unpleasant surprises do they hold?
The report frequently repeats the assertion that nothing so serious was found to "preclude further production."
Read the report and decide for yourself if the report supports that conclusion, or actually the reverse. In fact, the oft-repeated assurance that nothing too serious is uncovered was, in fact, added on by some in a rather pathetic attempt to convert this report into mush.
Thanks to POGO, find the full report at:
Find today's stories below.
Concerns About JSF's Lethality, Survivability Triggered 'Concurrency Risk' Review
(Excerpted from InsideDefense.com: December 13, 2011)
An internal Defense Department report detailing major, unresolved design problems with the Joint Strike Fighter, which recommends that DOD reconsider its F-35 procurement and production plans, was triggered by U.S. and British operational testers who, the report states, had "significant concerns" about the F-35's lethality, survivability and air performance characteristics.
The testers' October 20, 2011 findings, "Operational Assessment OT-IIE," prompted the Pentagon's acting acquisition executive, Frank Kendall, to commission an independent assessment of the risks associated with the F-35 program's plan to simultaneously produce new aircraft while still refining the aircraft's design.
Some findings of the Kendall-directed assessment -- "F-35 Joint Strike Fighter Concurrency Quick Look Review," dated November 29 -- were reported by Bloomberg on December 6. The chief aim of the effort was to size up the "concurrency risk" of the JSF program, which the report defines as the potential for significant design changes to the F-35 "in order to assess the risk associated with modification to aircraft being produced while the design is still being tested and changed."
The report, prepared by five senior officials from across the Pentagon's acquisition directorate, determined that "no fundamental design risks" were identified to warrant halting production.
Still, the assessment details five engineering challenges "where major consequence issues have been identified, but root cause, corrective action or fix are still in development." These include problems with the Helmet Mounted Display System, the fuel dump subsystem, the integrated power package and the arresting hook system on the variant designed for aircraft carrier launches and landings.
These engineering difficulties came to the attention of Pentagon leaders in part because of a broader set of concerns with the F-35 program raised by commanders of the Air Force Operational Test and Evaluation Center, the Navy Operational Test and Evaluation Force and the United Kingdom's Royal Air Force Air Warfare Center in their report this fall.
The "quick-look review" described the findings of the three operational testers. (end of excerpt)
(No onward link because access requires subscription—Ed.)
JSF - What's Really Happening (excerpt)
(Excerpted from Aviation Week Ares Defense blog; Dec. 13, 2011)
When the Joint Strike Fighter team told Guy Norris about the jet's first run to its Mach 1.6 design speed, a couple of minor facts slipped their minds. Nobody remembered that the jet had landed (from either that sortie or another run to Mach 1.6) with "peeling and bubbling" of coatings on the horizontal tails and damage to engine thermal panels. Or that the entire test force was subsequently limited to Mach 1.0.
But selective amnesia is not even one of five "major consequence" problems that have already surfaced with the JSF and are disclosed by a top-level Pentagon review obtained by Ares.
Those issues affect flight safety, the basic cockpit design, the carrier suitability of the F-35C and other aspects of the program have been identified, and no fixes have been demonstrated yet. Three more "major consequence" problems are "likely" to emerge during tests, including high buffet loads and airframe fatigue.
Experience from flight testing has eviscerated the argument that the F-35 program architects used to support high concurrency, with fat production contracts early in the test program: that modeling and simulation had advanced to the point where problems would be designed out of the hardware. In fact, the F-35 is having just as many problems as earlier programs, which means that there is no reason to expect that it will not continue to do so.
The "quick look review" (QLR) panel was chartered by acting Pentagon acquisition boss Frank Kendall on Oct. 28, eight days after top U.S. Air Force, Navy and U.K. Royal Air Force operational test force commanders jointly expressed their concern that the F-35 would not be ready to start initial operational testing in 2015, as envisaged in the delayed test program adopted in January.
Kendall was looking for an assessment of test progress, as well as a look at "concurrency risk" - the concern that problems discovered in testing will result in expensive modifications to aircraft that are produced before the fixes can be designed, tested and implemented in production.
The QLR was submitted on Nov. 29, before Navy Vice Adm. Dave Venlet, the JSF program director, disclosed some of the fatigue issues in interviews with AOLDefense. Its existence and some of its findings were reported by Bloomberg's Tony Capaccio early last week.
The most positive thing that the QLR has to say about the program is that the team "identified no fundamental design risks sufficient to preclude further production." That is, they don't say that the program should be terminated, or that production should be halted until problems are fixed. But the team concludes:
"The combined impact of these issues results in a lack of confidence in the design stability...this lack of confidence, in conjunction with the concurrency driven consequences of the required fixes, supports serious reconsideration of procurement and production planning...The QLR team recommends that further decisions about F-35 concurrent production be event-driven."
Since flight testing started to pick up speed in June 2010, 725 engineering change requests have been initiated, of which 148 are ready to incorporate. On average, it takes 18-24 months between the identification of a change and its implementation in production. JSF production orders started three to four years earlier than other fighters, and even under the current plan, close to 200 aircraft will be on order by the halfway point in flight testing.
Many of the issues described by the QLR have been reported, but not in detail. Others have been played down by the program. The following are four of the "big five" issues that have already surfaced. (The fifth is classified, but dollars to doughnuts it has something to do with stealth.) (end of excerpt)
Click here for the full story, on the Aviation Week website.)
Internal Pentagon Report Finds Major Problems with F-35 Performance and Components
(Excerpted from Fort Worth Star Telegram blog; Dec. 13, 2011)
Technical and performance problems with the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter appear to be more numerous and more serious than anyone in the Department of Defense has been willing to concede publicly, according to a leaked Pentagon report obtained by the Star-Telegram.
The internal report marked "For Official Use Only" is written in carefully couched language, but clearly sounds alarms that some very large, troubling and costly to resolve technological and performance issues lie ahead for the already troubled and massively over budget F-35.
The report prepared by a team of senior Pentagon technical, engineering and test experts found that "unsatisfactory progress" had been made in development and testing of the F-35 in nearly all of the air combat roles that it is designed to perform.
In ground attack roles the report cites concerns about "mission capability and survivability" and "certain classified survivability issues."
Although most of the really challenging flight testing of the F-35 in high speed, air combat regimes has yet to be performed, the Pentagon and military officials overseeing testing "expressed significant concerns with aircraft performance characteristics."
The "Quick Look Review" report, 50-plus pages including numerous charts, illustrations and detailed projections, was prepared just since mid-October by a team headed by five senior Pentagon officials with expertise in weapons evaluation testing and engineering. (…/…)
The report essentially concludes that highly sophisticated design and modeling technology has failed in predicting and preventing problems with the design, production and performance of the aircraft and its critical combat systems. (…/…)
Major areas of concern include:
* Worse than predicted buffeting of the aircraft in high speed and maneuvering modes with the most stringent testing in combat-like situations yet to be done. The result is already seen and predicted further accelerated wear and tear on the aircraft, cracks in the structural frame.
* The high tech helmet-mounted-display that is supposed to allow the pilot to be aware of potential threats and attack targets at night or in bad weather performs badly and its night vision capability is far less than existing systems used by pilots in existing aircraft. The buffeting of the aircraft in flight makes the helmet-mounted-display problems worse.
* The integrated power package that provides backup electrical power, controls much of the aircraft's avionics and the primary oxygen supply and cockpit pressurization has proven horribly unreliable.
* The tailhook arrester on the F-35C for carrier landings failed in every test to catch the arresting cables that yank jets to a halt. A new tailhook design is being readied for testing early next year but the report suggests that the problem may lie with the basic design of the aircraft itself and fixing it could require a major redesign of the F-35C structure. (end of excerpt)
Click here for the full story, on the Star-Telegram website.
JSF Helmet Display Less Functional Than Current Technology (excerpt)
(Excerpted from InsideDefense.com;Dec. 13, 2011)
A Defense Department report analyzing the concurrency-related risks to the Joint Strike Fighter program concludes that the aircraft's next-generation helmet display continues to suffer from deficiencies that make it less functional than legacy equipment, and a proper corrective action has yet to be identified. (…/…)
The DLR report calls the HMDS a "program-level high development risk" and picks out three major problems: night-vision acuity, display jitter and Electro-Optical Distributed Aperture System (EO DAS) image display latency. Collectively, the report says, they amount to a major technical risk requiring modifications to the overall system architecture. (end of excerpt)
F-35C Arresting Hook Problems Could Require Aircraft Redesign (excerpt)
(Excerpted from InsideDefense.com, Dec. 13, 2011)
The arresting hook system on the carrier variant of the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter is too short to reliably grab the cable on carrier decks upon landing and will require extensive modifications to fix -- and the aircraft may need a structural redesign if those don't work. (…/…)
The arresting hook system (AHS) for the F-35C, which failed on all eight attempts to connect with the cable in recent roll-in arrestment testing at Naval Air Warfare Center Aircraft Division Lakehurst, NJ. And, with rolling engagements looming in April leading into full carrier suitability demonstrations of the F-35C, the report states that the program doesn't know how significant of a redesign will be needed.
"There are significant issues with respect to how the CV variant's AHS interoperates with aircraft carrier-based MK-7 arresting gear," the report states. "Root cause analysis identified three key AHS design issues: (1) the aircraft geometry has a relatively short distance between the aircraft's main landing gear tires and tailhook point (when lowered), (2) tailhook point design was overemphasized for cable-shredding features versus ability to scoop low-positioned cables, and (3) tailhook hold-down damper performance is ineffective to support damping of small bounces relative to runway/deck surface profiles." (end of excerpt)