Lockheed’s F-35 Still Falls Short, Pentagon’s Chief Tester Says (excerpt)
(Source: Bloomberg News; published Aug 24, 2016)
By Anthony Capaccio
While US and foreign militaries and industry are congratulating themselves on the F-35 recently passing “milestones,” the Pentagon’s own chief weapons tester cautions that the program still falls short, and that faults are being discovered faster than they can be fixed. (US Navy photo)
A week after the Air Force declared its version of Lockheed Martin Corp.’s F-35 jet ready for limited combat operations, the Pentagon’s top tester warned that the U.S. military’s costliest weapons program is still riddled with deficiencies.
“In fact the program is actually not on a path toward success but instead on a path toward failing to deliver” the aircraft’s full capabilities, “for which the Department is paying almost $400 billion by the scheduled end” of its development in 2018, Michael Gilmore, the Defense Department’s director of operational testing, said in an Aug. 9 memo obtained by Bloomberg News.
“Achieving full combat capability with the Joint Strike Fighter is at substantial risk” of not occurring before development is supposed to end and realistic combat testing begins, he said of the F-35.
The memo provides a timely reminder of an issue that the next president and defense secretary will inherit. They are scheduled to decide in 2019 whether to let the fighter jet move into full production, the most lucrative phase for Lockheed, the biggest U.S. defense contractor.
The Air Force made its declaration of initial combat capability on Aug. 2, but “most of the limitations” previously identified with software, data fusion, electronic warfare and weapons employment continue, Gilmore wrote. (end of excerpt)
Click here for the full story, on the Bloomberg News website.
Weapons Tester Cites Further F-35 Challenges (excerpt)
(Source: Aviation Week; published Aug 23, 2016)
By Lara Seligman
The Pentagon’s top weapons tester is once again sounding the alarm over the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter (JSF), warning that significant deficiencies with the aircraft’s gun, challenges integrating the short-range AIM-9X missile and unresolved software bugs could delay fielding of the fighter’s full capability.
On the heels of the U.S. Air Force’s milestone decision to declare the F-35A ready for war, the Defense Department’s director of operational test and evaluation (DOT&E) is raising new concerns about Lockheed Martin’s fifth-generation fighter. In an internal memo to Defense Department leadership last week, DOT&E warned that the jet still has a long way to go before full combat capability and may run out of funds to fix significant performance problems on time if late discoveries delay the end of the program’s development phase.
Before kicking off a final test period that will put the F-35 in its final warfighting configuration through its paces, known as initial operational test and evaluation (IOT&E), the Joint Program Office (JPO) still has a significant amount of development testing to complete and a number of problems to fix, DOT&E tells Aviation Week.
Still, the JPO is confident it will complete the F-35 program on time and budget, JPO Chief Lt. Gen. Christopher Bogdan tells Aviation Week.
“There were absolutely no surprises in the recent memo from the OSD Director of Operational Test and Evaluation,” Bogdan says. “Specific to the memo, the JPO has been and is currently acting on all the recommendations.”
At the top of DOT&E’s list of concerns is the Air Force F-35A’s 25mm Gatling gun, which will be the jet’s primary means of delivering close-air support to soldiers on the battlefield. Most recently, May testing revealed the small door that opens when the gun is fired induces yaw, or sideslip, resulting in aiming errors, according to DOT&E spokesman Maj. Roger Cabiness. Software changes may be necessary to fix the problem, he says.
This news comes late in the game for the gun system, which is scheduled to begin accuracy testing later this year to prepare it for fielding in 2018. These modifications and subsequent testing to ensure the fixes work, as well as additional changes to correct deficiencies found during early tests in 2015, could delay the start of accuracy testing, DOT&E warns. The U.S. Marine Corps F-35B and U.S. Navy F-35C gun pods are even further behind in testing, so new discoveries that could require late fixes are also possible.
Given the ongoing challenges and risk to the start of accuracy testing, the F-35 may not be able to field its gun on time, DOT&E concludes. (end of excerpt)
Click here for the full story, on the Aviation Week website.