Made in Texas: Japan Releases First Photo of Troubled F-35A

Japan's first F-35

 

As Lockheed Martin prepares to send Joint Strike Fighters to customers around the world, Japan has released a photo of its first F-35 purchase at the production facility in Texas.

Deemed combat-ready earlier this month, the F-35A variant will soon be delivered to international partners. On Sunday, the Japan Air Self-Defense Force (JASDF) published a photo of a newly completed fighter that, after completing flight tests at Luke Air Force Base, will be distributed to Japan.

The F-35 bears the serial number 69-8701, and has also been designated AX-1.

The fighter is one of four currently in production for the JASDF at the Lockheed Martin facility in Fort Worth, Texas.

In all, Tokyo plans to purchase 42 F-35As, the traditional takeoff and landing variant. Of these, 28 will purchased within the next five years. These will replace Japan’s aging 1960s-era Mitsubishi-McDonnell Douglas F-4J Kai (Phantom II) aircraft.

Tokyo has also made repeated requests to acquire a fleet of F-22 Raptors, but has so far been denied by the US government.

At a cost of over $1 trillion, the F-35 is the most expensive weapons system ever built. Despite these costs, the aircraft has been riddled with problems throughout its production, including software glitches, engine malfunctions, and flight performance issues.

Despite being deemed combat-ready, the fighter still suffers from an ejection seat malfunction that could place the lives of pilots at risk. The US Air Force is currently troubleshooting the issue.

Canada Ditches Super Hornet After Threats to Buy F-35 or Lose 10,000 Jobs

It may be seven years late and $160 billion over budget, but the F-35 fighter - the most expensive piece of fighting equipment in history - may finally make its official debut this summer.

 

Lockheed Martin pointed an economic weapon of mass disruption at Ottawa and it appears that Justin Trudeau has blinked caving to the defense contractor’s threats.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau rose to power last fall on a pledge not to purchase the defective F-35, an aircraft that he has said “does not work,” is too expensive, and is wholly incompatible with Canada’s defense needs pushing his country instead to move towards a deal to acquire Boeing’s Super Hornet – a fighter jet with greater air maneuverability allowing it advanced performance in air-to-air combat.

That promise crashed along the shores of political reality this week as Canada reneged from its earlier proposal to acquire Boeing Super Hornet jets on an interim basis to plug the country’s air defense capability gap after Lockheed Martin threatened to pull all of its operations out of the country which would result in a massive layoff of some 10,000 employees and potentially bankrupt portions of Canada’s defense sector that benefits from the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter program.

The Canadian government issued a request for information from aerospace firms about the types of fighter aircraft they could provide this week, marking the pullout from their arrangement with Boeing, with companies expected to provide initial aircraft data by July 29.

The Department of National Defense plans to rewrite its requirements for a new fighter jet, said Harjit Sajjan, the defense minister for the Liberal Party government. However, the existing aircraft requirements left by the previous Conservative government of Stephen Harper are designed to favor the F-35 and any attempts to radically alter the criteria will lead to another uproar by Lockheed Martin.

A spokesperson for Lockheed Martin confirmed that the company is responding to the Canadian government’s request for information about the F-35, something that it had been reticent to do prior, which signals that the fix is in and that Canada has capitulated to the defense contractor’s threats and extortion.

Other contenders do exist in the process including Boeing’s Super Hornet, the Eurofighter Typhoon, the Dassault Rafale, and Saab’s Gripen so Canada may ultimately decide not to purchase the F-35 against their will despite current indications.

The much maligned F-35 has already cost American taxpayers upwards of $2 trillion due to its expensive and unreliable 3D-printed design along with repeated testing delays due to software malfunctions and safety hazards that have set the program back by several years.

A glitch in the fighter jet’s software causes it to spontaneously shutdown mid-flight raising a host of pilot safety concerns. Those issues are exacerbated by the fact that the F-35’s Martin Baker ejection seat has been shown in testing to instantly snap the neck of or decapitate pilots under 135 pounds (61.3kg) while pilots between the weights of 135 and 160 pounds (72.6kg) are believed to also be at an enhanced risk of sudden death upon ejection.

More F-35 Drama: Foreign Bases Unprepared to Receive Troubled Fighter

The F-35 fighter jet is among the U.S. weapons programs that showed significant vulnerabilities to cyber attacks during testing by the Pentagon last year.

 

Now that the beleaguered F-35 joint strike fighter is, according to official statements, flight ready, the US Air Force is faced with a new problem: upgrading bases abroad to accommodate the aircraft.

The Royal Air Force base at Lakenheath, England, is preparing to accept a fleet of 54 F-35s by 2020, with the first batch to be stationed overseas. While the plane has seen its share of troubles, including software glitches, faulty engines, and flight performance issues, Col. Robert Novotny’s chief worry is the base itself.

“For me the concern I have when I look at Lakenheath is not the F-35,” the commander of the 48th Fighter Wing, stationed at the base, told Defense News. “For me the concern I have is: Are we going to be able to build enough stuff fast enough?”

The upgrades include maintenance requirements needed to accommodate the plane’s unique features.

“There is some construction that needs to be done for the communication bandwidth requirements that we don’t have here, and there are some infrastructure improvements, power wise, because there’s going to be a lot of demand on the power system,” he said.

New housing and living facilities will also be needed for some 1,200 new military personnel needed for the fleet.

But while the RAF needs to spend roughly $200 million in making upgrades to base facilities, Novotny isn’t sure the money will be provided in time. Additionally, he expressed concern that a number of other military bases in the region are also in need of upgrades, and Lakenheath may not get priority.

“We’ve had about three or four formal meetings with folks from the United States and the [UK] Royal Air Force and Ministry of Defense. These are big meetings. The engineers come in, we’ve looked at our power requirements, we’ve looked at our connectivity requirements. We’ve looked at our space on the flightline,” he said.

“And so we’ve done quite a bit of design.”

It may be a while before plans come to fruition, however. The estimated completion date has already been pushed back to 2022, two years after the first F-35s are scheduled to arrive.

Built by Lockheed Martin, the F-35 has been plagued by problems throughout its development, despite its eye-opening price tag of over $1 trillion. Most recently, production of the fighter has experienced additional delays due to a faulty ejection seat. A US government report found that any ejecting pilot weighing less than 136 pounds faced a “high likelihood” of a fatal neck injury. Pilots weighing between 136 and 165 pounds faced an “elevated level of risk.”

I See You: Russian-Made Sunflower Radar is Capable of Detecting F-35 Jets

F-35

 

The Lockheed Martin F-35 Lightning II is the most advanced aircraft in the Pentagon’s arsenal, but Russia’s powerful over-the-horizon Podsolnukh (Sunflower) radar is capable of detecting and tracking the stealth fifth-generation plane or any other fighter jet that was designed to avoid detection, Svobodnaya Pressa reported.

The Podsolnukh short-range over-the-horizon surface-wave radar is developed by Moscow-based OJSC NPK NIIDAR. The Russian Defense Ministry plans to deploy several of these systems in the Arctic, as well as on Russia’s southern and western borders.The radar is capable of detecting sea surface and air objects at a maximum distance of 500 kilometers (over 310 miles) at different altitudes in line of sight and over the horizon. The Podsolnukh “can simultaneously detect, track and classify up top 300 sea and 100 aerial targets in an automatic mode,” the Global Security website detailed.

There is an additional advantage that this type of radars brings to the table. “Short-wave stations see stealth fighter jets as clearly as WWII-era aircraft,” Svobodnaya Pressa observed, referring to cutting-edge planes that have been created to avoid detection by radars or sonars, like the F-35.

The Podsolnukh has more to offer. The system could be put online in ten days and needs a team of just three people to stay operational, the media outlet explained. It does not need much power, it is easy to operate and it does not have much equipment. The radar stations have to be placed 370 kilometers apart to receive complete coverage.Sea- and shore-based OTHR systems are becoming increasingly popular in coastal nations, who want to protect their exclusive economic zones from piracy, smuggling and illegal fishing. They also have military application. The radars could are capable of issuing alerts in case of an invasion or subversive activity.

Three Podsolnukh stations are operational in Russia at the moment. They are located in the Sea of Okhotsk, the Sea of Japan and the Caspian Sea.

F-35 Delayed Again: Defective Ejection Seat Would Likely Snap Pilots’ Necks

It may be seven years late and $160 billion over budget, but the F-35 fighter - the most expensive piece of fighting equipment in history - may finally make its official debut this summer.

 

The flawed design of the Martin-Baker ejection seat means another major delay in production of the aircraft and hundreds of billions of dollars in costs for US taxpayers.

The US Air Force is exploring replacements for the F-35 Martin-Baker ejection seat, citing revelations that the seat could endanger pilots, according to Defense News. This marks the latest setback for the F-35 fighter jet that has cost US taxpayers over $1.5 trillion.

The decision to consider alternatives to the Martin-Baker ejection seat followed a government report finding that pilots below 136 pounds faced a high likelihood of suffering a fatal neck injury upon ejecting from the fighter jet. Pilots weighing between 136 and 165 pounds also face an “elevated level of risk” due to the defective ejection seat.

Ejection seats hold a special importance for pilots of the $250 million fighter jet in light of recent tests that show the fifth-generation fighter spontaneously shuts down mid-flight due to ongoing software malfunctions.

After a steady stream of delays, the advanced aircraft was not expected to be cleared for mass production until sometime in 2019, the planes being combat-ready by 2021. Industry experts believe that the defective Martin-Baker ejection seat risks delaying production of the F-35 even further by disrupting Lockheed-Martin’s supply chain and workshare strategy.

Despite the potential for enhanced delays in the fighter jet that has cost the American people more than the gross domestic product of all but the eight richest countries, Air Force Lt. Gen. Arnold Bunch, the service’s top uniformed acquisition official, confirmed that the service intends push forward, potentially relying on United Technologies’ ACES 5 ejection seat as an alternative.

“We believe it is prudent to look at what it would take to qualify the ACES 5 seat as a potential risk mitigation step if additional things happen as we go through the testing of the Martin-Baker seat,” Bunch said Friday. “We believe it’s prudent to determine what it would cost, how much [impact there would be on] the schedule, what the timeline would be, if something else happened and we wanted to go a different way.”

The US Air Force is slated to buy 1,763 F-35A fighter jets, making it the single largest customer in the program. Given that the Martin-Baker ejection seat included as a generic component in the Lockheed aircraft, other American military branches are likely to run into similar issues.

Under the current industrial partnership agreement, UK companies produce about 15 percent of each F-35 jet, creating and supporting over 24,000 British jobs. If the US Air Force does pursue purchasing replacement ejection seats from US-based United Technologies, it will likely still need to pay full cost on the defective seats from UK-based Martin-Baker in order to comply with the agreement.

A US Air Force source warned that this complication could result in a substantial premium over the existing cost for the F-35 fighter jet, threatening to bankrupt the fighter jet venture altogether.

“Instead of one seat, you have two separate seats with supplies/supply chain duplication,” the source said. “That would drive costs skyrocketing for everybody because it impacts quantity of scale because the Air Force has the largest majority. Then costs go up for both the Air Force and the rest of the enterprise.”

The US Air Force now faces the troubling reality of either forcing US taxpayers to spend billions in extra expenses for a jet that may not be operable for another decade, or placing fighter pilots into a malfunctioning aircraft without a safe ejection capability.

Scandal-Plagued F-35 Set to Take Flight in Israel

F-35 100th flight

 

With the US and Israel nearing an agreement on a new military aid package, Lockheed Martin has unveiled the first F-35 to be delivered to the Israeli Air Force (IAF).

Despite significant delays in its development, the F-35 Lightning II is finally beginning to take flight. On Tuesday, an F-35A “ADIR” that will ultimately be delivered to Israel, was unveiled at the Ft. Worth, Texas, production facility.

“The State of Israel is proud to be the first in our region to receive and operate the plane,” Israeli Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman said during the ceremony, according to the Jerusalem Post. Liberman described the aircraft as “the most advanced in the world, and is the best selection by defense chiefs for safeguarding Israel’s aerial superiority.”

Israel has ordered 33 F-35As, the conventional takeoff and landing variant of the aircraft, and has an option to purchase 17 more.

Using the F-35 flight simulator, IAF Chief of Staff Bridg.-Gen. Tal Kalman said he felt like he “had the future in my hands.”

The beleaguered F-35 Joint Strike Fighter program has been riddled with problems throughout its development. Costing over $1 trillion, the F-35 has had issues with software, engines, helmets, and even its dogfighting performance.

While Israel seems happy with its purchase, for the time being, the jet fighter’s reputation has already caused a number of countries to consider backing out of the program, including Canada and Denmark.

Liberman has been holding meetings with US Defense Secretary Ashton Carter in recent weeks to secure the new defense aid package. Nearing completion, the deal will provide $40 billion in primarily military aid over a ten-year period.

“The United States is our most important strategic partner, a true friend, and we have to treat it that way. The [American] offer is positive and fair,” Israeli Finance Minister Moshe Kahlon told reporters on Monday.

“The defense establishment can certainly live with the current offer, and there’s no reason to take any act that will be interpreted as intervention in domestic American issues.”

According to the Pentagon, “Israel will be the first foreign partner to receive the F-35, which will play a key role in maintaining Israel’s qualitative military edge in the Middle East.”

It remains unclear which of the many available modifications Israeli F-35s will incorporate. Electronic warfare pods, assorted weaponry, and various security systems are all possibilities.

Call the Geek Squad! F-35 Hit By Yet Another Software Bug

F-35 100th flight

 

The troubled creation of the Lockheed Martin F-35 is plagued by yet another technical glitch.

The Lockheed Martin F-35 is not only an extremely expensive aircraft, but is also probably the most software-driven plane ever constructed. And ironically, it is a new software glitch that now threatens the US Air Force’s plans to finally declare F-35 operationally deployable in the near future.According to IHS Jane’s, the problem lies with the current version of software that runs the warplane’s radar, making it unstable and thus affecting the aircraft’s performance against other airborne targets.

“What would happen is they’d get a signal that says either a radar degrade or a radar fail —something that would force us to restart the radar,” Harrigian explained.

The problem was apparently first discovered during tests in late 2015.

“Lockheed Martin discovered the root cause, and now they’re in the process of making sure they take that solution and run it through the [software testing] lab,” Harrigian said, adding that USAF is scheduled to receive the new software by the end of March.

The F-35 fighter jet is probably the most expensive military aircraft ever developed, with an estimated final cost of $400 billion which is twice the original estimate.

Problems with the F-35 have included flaws in its fuel and hydraulic systems, poor cockpit visibility, faulty radar and ejection seats that don’t work. The entire fleet was grounded in 2014 after an engine caught fire as a test pilot prepared to take off.