Doctored results. False progress reports. The Pentagon isn’t happy with the trillion-dollar F-35 project. Now Australia’s future fighter is about to undergo a crucial test.
More than a decade late and innumerable billions over budget, it’s crunch time for the F-35 Lightning II program.
Its manufacturers insist it’s ready. Its supporters say none of its remaining problems are insurmountable.
Auditors and the Pentagon are not so sure.
All three versions of the Joint Strike Fighter — the F-35A built for the US Air Force and the RAAF, the F-35B ‘jump jet’ built for the US Marines and UK navy, and the F-35C built for the US Navy — will this month begin a seven-month in-depth assessment.
The purpose of the tests [is] to determine if the jets live up to expectations.
But doubts persist: have all of its ‘critical’ flaws been addressed?
And [this] F-35 project is already two months late. The original evaluation start date was September. This was missed due to a late ‘critical’ software update. Now the entire 11-month evaluation program must be squeezed into just nine months.
If they make the grade, the F-35’s current ‘low-level’ production runs will be accelerated. The assembly lines will be cranked into high gear to mass-produce the hundreds ordered by the US and its allies, including Australia.
The Royal Australian Air Force has taken delivery of nine early-model F-35As. It has committed to purchasing a total of 72.
TRIAL BY FIRE
The initial operational test and evaluation (IOT & E) process kicks off tonight.
The F-35 can’t fail. But a poor showing could further delay the project and add substantially to its overall cost. (end of excerpt)
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