F-35

Five Of Six F-35 Fighter Jets Fail To Take Off During Testing, Air Force Still Plans To Declare Them ‘Combat Ready’

It seems that the “most expensive weapon in history” is failing to perform on the testing field despite a $100 million price tag. The F-35 fighter jet costs an astonishing $100 million per plane, but J. Michael Gilmore, the Pentagon’s chief weapons tester, says that only one of six F-35 jets actually made it off the runway during testing. The five other F-35s experienced software glitches that prevented them from taking off. Despite the poor showing, the Air Force still claims it will declare the expensive weaponry “combat ready” by end of year.

FlightGlobal reports that despite billions of dollars in investments to Lockheed Martin for the development of the F-35 Lightning II operations, the fighter jets are plagued with software issues. In fact, in one report released by the Pentagon, five of six F-35A fighter jets were unable to take off during testing due to software problems. This meant that only one jet actually made it into the air.

“The Air Force attempted two alert launch procedures during the Mountain Home deployment, where multiple F-35A aircraft were preflighted and prepared for a rapid launch, but only one of the six aircraft was able to complete the alert launch sequence and successfully takeoff.”

This startling report provided to Congress on April 24, 2016, highlights the problems with the F-35 program. The United States government has spent billions of dollars on the technology used in the F-35 and the planned expenditures are not over. It is reported that the Pentagon plans to spend close to $400 billion to buy nearly 2,500 F-35s for the Air Force, Navy, and Marine Corps despite the terrible testing results on the field.

The “failure to launch” issue is not the first to be noted regarding the F-35 program. In fact, in another testing scenario, two of four F-35B fighter jets were forced to abort a test mission when software started to malfunction. The issues have also been noted in the F-35 Block 3iR6.21 software version in which it was revealed that during just 30 flights, “no less than 27 power cycles” were needed to get the planes off the ground.

“The F-35 Joint Programme Office (JPO) began flight testing the Block 3iR6.21 software version. Gilmore reports that during the first 30 flights (76 total flight hours) ‘no less than 27 power cycles were required to get all systems functioning between initial startup and takoff’, ranging from full ‘cold iron’ aircraft restarts to component or battery recycling.”

Therefore, it appears that no model or software version of the F-35 is performing as desired, yet the Pentagon continues to dump billions of dollars into the program that many claim is “inherently flawed.” Defense analyst David Axe is one such naysayer, noting that the aircraft is trying to perform a number of “contradictory elements.”

“In trying to do everything – fighting in the air, making bombing runs, launching from aircraft carriers and even taking off vertically from small assault ships while also avoiding enemy radars – the F-35 combines a lot of contradictory elements.”

Could these “contradictory” elements that the F-35 is trying to perform be hindering its capability to perform simple tasks like actually leaving the runway? Time will only tell if Lockheed Martin can pull together a workable F-35 model that can actually follow through on the purported claims of the aircraft. Despite all of its flaws, the Air Force is hoping to declare the F-35 “combat ready” this year. Chief Lt Gen Christopher Bogdan says that he hopes the Air Force will be able to make the announcement in August of 2016. However, he admits that the date may be pushed back to October pending further testing.

What do you think about the U.S. military’s belief that the F-35 will be “combat ready” this year? With five of six F-35As unable to take off in the latest series of tests, is the goal practical?

[Photo by Lefteris Pitarakis/AP Photo]

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