PARIS --- One-third bigger than the 2014 report, which suggests the number of problems continues to increase, the annual report of the Pentagon’s Director of Operational Test and Evaluation (DOT&E) reveals new and serious shortcomings discovered in the Lockheed Martin F-35 program during the past year.
We published our initial comments (scroll down to Editor’s Note)on the report on Feb. 01, together with the reaction issued by the F-35 Joint Program Office on Jan. 29 – even before the report was released.
This statement, signed by JPO chief Lt Gen Christopher Bogdan, claims that “There were no surprises in the [DOT&E] report; all of the issues mentioned are well-known to the JPO, the U.S. services, international partners and our industry team,” which is patently wrong judging by the coverage the report’s contents have prompted in less than 24 hours.
Below is a selection of trade press coverage of the DOT&E report, which was publicly released by the Pentagon on Tuesday, Central Europen Time. and which is available here, on our website.
This is our selection of the report’s coverage:
Test Report Points to F-35’s Combat Limits
Aviation Week & Space Technology, Jan 31, 2016
By Bill Sweetman
The Block 2B version of the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter, which the Marine Corps declared operational in July last year, is not capable of unsupported combat against any serious threat, according to Michael Gilmore, the Pentagon’s director of operational test and evaluation (DOT&E).
In a 48-page annual project report to be published shortly, a copy of which was obtained by Aviation Week, the DOT&E states that “the F-35B Block 2B aircraft would need to avoid threat engagement… in an opposed combat scenario, and would require augmentation by other friendly forces.”
Most of the same limitations will apply to the U.S. Air Force’s initial operational capability (IOC) version, the F-35A Block 3i. “Since no capabilities were added to Block 3i, only limited corrections to deficiencies, the combat capability of the initial operational Block 3i units will not be noticeably different.”
Also, the Marines accepted several substantial flaws in their IOC standard, causing problems with the way that the “performance and accuracy of mission systems functions,” including the aircraft’s data fusion system and radar performance, were displayed to the pilot.
Specific technical problems continue to impose speed and maneuver limitations on the F-35, the report says.
(end of excerpt)
Cybersecurity Gap Blocks Pentagon from a Lockheed F-35 Database
Bloomberg News, February 1, 2016
By Anthony Capaccio
The Pentagon hasn’t had updated information on maintenance of the F-35 jet since May because a Lockheed Martin Corp. database doesn’t meet new government cybersecurity requirements, according to the Defense Department’s testing office.
“Because of this non-compliance, government personnel have not been able to access the database via government networks,” and that’s preventing a Pentagon-Lockheed team “from holding the planned reviews of maintenance records,” Michael Gilmore, the Defense Department’s testing chief, said in an assessment of the F-35, the costliest U.S. weapons program.
The shortfall in Lockheed’s database for engine and air-frame maintenance under security requirements imposed in August by U.S. Cyber Command is among computer security deficiencies outlined in Gilmore’s annual report on major weapons systems, posted Monday on his office’s website.
On the F-35, the Pentagon office in charge of the program “is investigating workarounds” to allow for reviews and access to the maintenance records until Lockheed can bring the database, known as the Failure Reporting and Corrective Action System, into compliance, according to the report. Lockheed spokesman Michael Rein didn’t have an immediate comment.
(end of excerpt)
Pentagon Report Questions ‘Unrealistic’ F-35 Test Schedule
Flightglobal, February 1, 2016
By James Drew
WASHINGTON, DC --- The Pentagon’s chief weapons tester says an operational evaluation of the Lockheed Martin F-35 Lightning II could be delayed by up to one year because of difficulties completing developmental testing by the due date of August 2017.
In his annual F-35 report, published 1 February, Michael Gilmore also cautions against entering into a three-year “block buy” before completing operational assessments, where full-rate production lots 12-14 would be bundled together to generate production savings.
According to the report, completing developmental testing of the full-up Block 3F weapon system in 2017 is “unrealistic” and the F-35 joint programme office should “acknowledge the schedule pressures” and make the necessary adjustments – something that it has worked to avoid since the 2012 programme re-baselining.
“Full Block 3F mission systems development and testing cannot be completed by May 2017 – the date reflected in the most recent program office schedule, which is seven months later than the date planned after the 2012 restructure,” Gilmore writes. Instead, he reports that flight testing “will likely not finish” prior to January 2018.
The report assumes the current rate of 6.8 flight tests per month and completion of all 7,230 planned Block 3F test points, plus the unearthing of new F-35 faults.
The Department of Defense’s F-35 joint programme office, however, says it remains “on track for completion in the fourth quarter of 2017” with over 80% of developmental test points complete.
In what has become an annual difference of opinion, the F-35 office says Gilmore’s report “doesn’t tell the full story” and overlooks efforts to resolve known technical challenges and schedule risk.
(end of excerpt)
Pentagon Report Casts Further Doubts on F-35's Combat Readiness
Popular Mechanics, published Feb 1, 2016
By Jake Swearingen
Aviation Week has published a 48-page report from Michael Gilmore, the Pentagon's Director of Operational Test and Evaluation, which casts serious doubts on whether the Marines' current version of the F-35, the Block 2B, is capable of entering combat on it own.
Writes Gilmore: "If in an opposed combat scenario, the F-35 Block 2B aircraft would need to avoid threat engagement and would require augmentation by other friendly forces."
He lists off some of the problems facing that the current version of the F-35 Block 2B, including the fact that the F-35 is unable to deploy weapons or defensive countermeasures while flying at its maximum speed—pilots will need to slow down from the F-35's max speed of Mach 1.6 to Mach 1.2 or less in order to fire.
Software bugs continue to plague the fighter as well, with 11 out of 12 weapons tested during Block 2B evaluation severely hampered. The software malfunctions, Gilmore writes, "required intervention by the developmental test control team to overcome system deficiencies and ensure a successful event (i.e., acquire and identify the target and engage it with a weapon)."
More troubling are the overheating issues, which have been known about for years and have yet to be fixed.
The F-35's weapons bay can overheat if the plane is maintaining high speeds at an altitude of under 25,000 feet and an atmospheric temperature 90° F or greater. The trouble occurs if the plane's weapon day doors are closed for upwards of 10 minutes, and opening the bay doors negates the F-35s stealth capabilities. The F-35 is also unable to pull more than 3.8 Gs with a fully loaded fuel tank, due to known problems with with the fuel tank siphon. The plane can only pull its maximum of 7 Gs once its fuel tanks are at least 45 percent empty.
According to Gilmore, the root of many of these problems is that each bit of the F-35 has been built with an eye towards passing individual tests instead of "combat readiness." Gilmore also writes that the F-35 testing team put its thumb on the scale during tests. According to the Gilmore, testing operators made allowances for faults during some tests. "Obviously," states the report, "none of this test team intervention would be possible in combat." (end of excerpt)
The F-35’s Terrifying Bug List
Defense One; posted Feb 2, 2016
By Patrick Tucker
The F-35 Joint Strike Fighter program, the most expensive military program in the world, is even more broken than previously thought. The jet can’t tell old parts from new ones, randomly prevents user logins, and trying to eject out of it will likely result in serious neck injury and maybe death. A Pentagon office is warning that the plane is being rushed into service.
The Pentagon’s office of testing and evaluation on Monday released a report detailing dozens of major problems, or “deficiencies” with the aircraft. The report follows the release of a December memo by Michael Gilmore, the Department of Defense’s director for Operational Test and Evaluation, or OT&E. The report goes on to question the logic of pushing other governments to purchase large blocks of the aircraft until the issues are fixed.
The Air Force is currently scheduled to announce their version of the plane is ready to begin flying, known as “initial operating capability,” in August or December at the latest. That follows the Marines declaring their version flight ready last summer. After that, the next F-35 milestone is the initial operational test & evaluation phase, scheduled for 2017, in which program watchers test of the plane is operationally capable but also effective. That 2017 projection is unrealistic unless the Air Force takes some serious shortcuts in testing, according to the new report.
So what’s wrong with the F-35? Below are some of the report’s key findings. (end of excerpt)