Friday, August 26, 2011

Grounding Ends for Remaining U.S. F-35s

Published: 25 Aug 2011 18:49
The production version of the F-35 Lightning II fighter jet has been cleared to fly, according to manufacturer Lockheed Martin.

AN AIR FORCE F-35 Lightning II soars over Destin, Fla., in July before landing at its new home at Eglin Air Force Base. The production version of the Joint Strike Fighter has been cleared to fly. (Staff Sgt. Joely Santiago / Air Force)
The entire Joint Strike Fighter fleet was grounded by the F-35 program office on Aug. 2 after one jetsuffered a malfunctionof a control valve in its Honeywell-built integrated power package.
The 12 instrumented test aircraft werecleared to fly by the F-35 program office on Aug. 18. Now the half-dozen or so production jets can take to the air.
"Late yesterday [Aug. 24], F-35 production jets were authorized to fly again," Lockheed spokesman Mike Rein said. "They are now flying the same profiles they were prior to the precautionary suspension of operations. This includes acceptance flights at Fort Worth, [Texas], and ferry flights to Eglin."
Two production aircraft have already been delivered to Eglin Air Force Base, Fla., where the U.S. Air Force's first training squadron is standing up. The stealth fighter is assembled at a Lockheed plant in Fort Worth.

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Recent pic

Two fleets of Air Force's most advanced fighter aircraft are grounded

Saturday, August 20, 2011

Some Hobbled Stealth Fighters Cleared to Fly

The problems are far from fixed. But at least some of the U.S. stealth fighters are now allowed to start flying again. The rest are grounded until God knows when.
The U.S. military cleared 20 Joint Strike Fighters to resume flight testing on Thursday, after spending the last two-and-a-half weeks on the tarmac. On August 2, a valve malfunctioned on one plane’s Integrated Power Package; the flaw was deemed serious enough that the entire F-35 fleet was forbidden to fly.
The issue hasn’t been resolved, nor is anyone quite sure how to make things right. “An Air Force Safety Investigation Board continues to review the circumstances that led to the failure,” the F-35 Joint Program Office noted in a statement (.pdf). For now, the military will “monitor” the valve during flights, until someone comes up with a “permanent resolution.”
They better come up with something soon. The JSF is the most expensive, most important weapons program in the Pentagon, projected to eventually make up more than 90 percent of America’s air combat power. The JSF’s Integrated Power Package is “the heart of the power and thermal management system” and “one of the few innovations… that distinguish the F-35 as a technological trailblazer,” according to ace aviation reporter Stephen Trimble.
“Its roughly 200hp gas turbine engine sends power to the starter/generator, which powers on the F-35’s engine, which, in turn, powers up the generator. The IPP then manages the air-cycle cooling system, plus acts an emergency power supply in case both starter/generators happen to fail,” he adds. In other words, the thing has to work in order for the jet to fly safely.
Even more serious is the problem facing the Air Force’s F-22 Raptor, which is supposed to be the world’s most advanced dogfighter. The system that’s meant to supply pilots with oxygen is instead pumping their lungs with anti-freeze vapors and other toxins. “Pilots flying the F-22 have reported in-flight, physiological events at a rate three times higher than crews from other similar aircraft,” the Air Force noted. Some observers suspect that the oxygen system was responsible for the fatal crash of an F-22 last year.
In January, the Air Force put strict limitations on how high the planes could fly — capping it at 25,000 feet. That’s seven and a half miles below what’s thought to be the F-22’s ceiling. In May, all 165 of the stealth jets were grounded, and haven’t returned to flight since. The shutdown has gone on so long, some Raptor pilots are starting to run the risk of being disqualified from flying their assigned planes.
It’s unclear when the Raptors will be able to fly again. In the meantime, the Air Force has convened its Scientific Advisory Board to look into the problem; the panel’s final report is “projected for later this fall,” according to a military statement.
The zero-risk solution is not to fly, and that’s not a long-term option; it’s an inherently dangerous business to fly and fight wars,” SAB executive director Lt. Col. Matthew Zuber notes.
Of course, the $411 million Raptor doesn’t fight any wars. America’s premiere aerial attack plane was kept out of conflicts from Iraq to Afghanistan to Libya. And that was back when it was deemed airworthy.

Friday, August 19, 2011

Pentagon Clears F-35 Test Fleet to Fly Again

Published: 18 Aug 2011 11:48
The F-35 Lightning II test fleet has been cleared for flight, but the U.S. Air Force's production aircraft at Eglin Air Force Base, Fla., are still grounded, the Pentagon announced Aug. 18.
An Air Force safety investigation board is continuing its investigation of thefailure of the AF-4's Integrated Power Package on Aug. 2, which led to the grounding of the entire fleet of 20 aircraft. The AF-4 is the fourth conventional takeoff and landing variant produced by Lockheed Martin.
"The root cause investigation indicates that an IPP valve did not function properly," a release from the F-35 Joint Program Office states. "Monitoring of valve position is a mitigating action to allow monitored operations. A permanent resolution is in work."
A government and contractor engineering team determined that flight operations of the test aircraft could continue after reviewing data from ground and flight tests, and revised the test monitoring procedures that govern the IPP. Ground operations of the test fleet resumed Aug. 10.
The IPP, which is built by Honeywell International, combines the functions performed by an auxiliary power unit, emergency power system and environmental controls.
The Air Force's test F-35s are at Edwards Air Force Base, Calif., with U.S. Navy and U.S. Marine Corps' variants based at Naval Air Station Patuxent River, Md. The Air Force's aircraft at Eglin, which do not have test instrumentation, will be grounded until the investigation is finished and any required corrective actions are completed.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Defense minister says Australia may opt for Super Hornets over Joint Strike Fighters next year

CANBERRA, Australia — Australia has set a deadline of next year to decide whether it will buy Boeing Co. Super Hornet fighter bombers to maintain the nation’s air combat strength or wait for the troubled F-35 Joint Strike Fighters to be delivered.
Defense Minister Stephen Smith announced the deadline on Wednesday, telling Parliament that his government will not allow the repeated schedule delays of the Lockheed Martin Corp. JSF program to compromise Australia’s air force capabilities.

“I’m not proposing to wait until the last minute, I’m proposing to recommend to the government that we make that decision next year,” Smith told Parliament.
“Whilst the government has not committed itself to this, the obvious alternative is the Super Hornet,” he said.
Australia is a funding partner in developing the JSF, which the U.S. Defense Department describes as the largest fighter aircraft program in history. Most of the funding comes from the United States, while Canada, Turkey, Britain, Italy, Norway, Denmark and the Netherlands are also funding partners.
Lockheed Martin, in conjunction with Northrop Grumman and BAE Systems, is building 2,400 of the next generation fighter jets for the U.S. Air Force, Navy and Marines as well as the partner nations. But the cost of the program has jumped from $233 billion to $385 billion. Some estimates suggest that it could top out at $1 trillion over 50 years.
Australia has ordered 14 JSFs and has plans to buy as many as 100 for 16 billion Australian dollars ($17 billion). The first two are scheduled for delivery in the 2014-15 fiscal year.
Smith said the government would decide next year whether Australia will buy any more than the 14 ordered so far for about AU$3 billion.
Australia has 71 standard F/A-18 Hornets that are due to retire around 2020.
Australia expects to take delivery of the last four of 24 F/A-18F Super Hornets by the end of this year for AU$6 billion. The Super Hornets, built by Boeing in conjunction with Northrup Grumman, GE Aircraft Engines and Raytheon, were ordered in 2007 to maintain Australia’s air force capabilities during the transition to the state-of-the-art JSF over the next decade.
The Pentagon could decide to cut the JSF program or scale it back as part of large-scale budget cuts.
Smith said the biggest variable affecting the aircraft cost is whether the United States decides to reduce the number it produces for its own forces.
“That is something we are also closely monitoring in the context of their defense budget difficulties,” he said.
Copyright 2011 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed

Sunday, August 14, 2011

DoD Might Cut Jets from 5th F-35 Batch

The Pentagon might have to cut the number of F-35 Lightning II fighters it purchases in an upcoming buy to cover increased development costs in early model jets, unless Congress approves a $264 million funding transfer, according to U.S. Defense Department documents.

The Pentagon is asking for $264 million so it doesn't have to cut the number of F-35 Lightning II fighters it purchases in an upcoming buy, according to the U.S. Department of Defense. (Samuel King Jr. / U.S. Air Force)
This comes in response to threats by the top two senators from the U.S. Senate Armed Services Committee who have opposed cuts to other areas of the defense budget to cover cost overruns in the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter (JSF) program.
"Based on the current information submitted to the Senate, I intend to oppose the Department's 'reprogramming request' to transfer $264 million for unacceptable cost overruns on the F-35 program," Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., said in a statement.
In addition to the $264 million, the Defense Department has told the Senate panel it needs to find an additional $496 million to pay for the remainder of the cost overruns on the first three lots of production aircraft, according to a July 14 letter to Defense Secretary Leon Panetta from McCain and Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman Sen. Carl Levin, D-Mich.
DoD asked Congress to approve the JSF money transfer in a 91-page, June 30 omnibus reprogramming. Congress has yet to OK the measure.
The cost overruns surround 31 of the single-engine jets purchased over the past five years, according to a Pentagon acquisition document. The aircraft were part of the first three low-rate initial production (LRIP) buys.
"If the reprogramming request is not approved, additional funding within the JSF program will be diverted to cover these costs," the document said.
The additional funds would cover development cost increases involving "both airframe and propulsion contracts," the reprogramming document said.
In addition to F-35 prime contractor Lockheed Martin, Northrop Grumman and BAE Systems build parts of the fuselage. Pratt & Whitney builds the engine that powers the stealth jet.
The cost increases came before then-Defense Secretary Robert Gates restructured the multiservice F-35 program earlier this year, according to the acquisition document.
"The JSF program is already working to cover most of the cost overruns internally," the document said.
Last year, the Pentagon and Lockheed negotiated an LRIP-4 contract for jets that caps the government's vulnerability to cost increases and rewards the contractor for controlling cost growth. DoD plans to use a similar fixed-price structure during LRIP-5 negotiations later this year.
But if Congress does not approve the $264 million reprogramming, the Pentagon might have to shrink the number of jets purchased in LRIP-5.
"The diversion of additional JSF funds could result in the purchase of fewer aircraft in LRIP 5 and result in future cost increases for the JSF program," the acquisition document said.
The F-35 is the Pentagon's largest acquisition program ever, with a total price tag estimated at more than $380 billion, which includes development and production. An updated program cost is expected this fall.
The Pentagon plans to buy 2,443 F-35s, which will be flown by the Air Force, Navy and Marine Corps. Hundreds of foreign sales are also expected.
The Air Force jet flies from traditional runways and the Navy jet from aircraft carriers. The Marine Corps version can take off from short runways or smaller amphibious ships and land vertically.
The jet will replace a number of combat aircraft, including the F-16 Fighting Falcon, F/A-18 Hornet, AV-8B Harrier and A-10 Warthog.
After years of development issues, the program had gained steam in recent months, completing flight test objectives faster than most recently planned. However, all 20 F-35 test jets were grounded Aug. 2 following a failure of the aircraft's power system.

U.S. troubles darken cloud over F-35

  Aug 9, 2011 – 10:42 AM ET
If the future of the F-35 fighter jet was already cloudy enough, what happens now that the U.S. economy is looking at The Great Recession, Part Two?
Even before calamity struck, in the form of  the farcical debt ceiling debate and the subsequent credit rating downgrade, the F-35 program was in trouble, with a looming debate on whether rising costs justify cancelling the program:
With a Senate showdown over the troubled F-35 Joint Strike Fighter expected when the chamber debates the defense authorization bill this fall, Deputy Defense Secretary Bill Lynn has told key lawmakers that canceling the stealthy aircraft would be a costly and complicated move.
In a July 25 letter to Senate Armed Services Chairman Carl Levin, D-Mich., and ranking member John McCain, R-Ariz., Lynn said that the Defense Department would have to pay termination costs to the plane’s maker, Lockheed Martin, as well Pratt & Whitney, which builds the engine for the multiservice fighter, if Congress killed the program.
Even McCain, usually a defence hawk, has almost had it with the spiralling cost of the program.
Frustrated with the cost hikes on the fighter jet, McCain has said he plans to offer an amendment during floor debate that could eventually kill the fighter program.
During the committee’s closed-door markup of the defense authorization bill in June, McCain offered an amendment that would have put the F-35 on probation on December 31 because of cost hikes. The fighter would be terminated a year later if the program’s price tag remained 10 percent or more above Lockheed Martin’s target cost.
The committee split, 13-13, and the amendment failed to make it into the bill. But McCain has signaled that he wants to take his fight to the full Senate.
So what happens now that a super committee has been established to find ways to chop big costs, backed by a trigger that would slash the Pentagon’s budget if the committee fails? It’s going to be hard to ignore the suggestion that axing the jet would be one way to slice tens of billions off the books. And if the U.S. gets fed up, where does that leave Ottawa’s purchase plans?

Thursday, August 11, 2011

US Defense Department suspends F-35 Joint Strike Fighter aircraft, air tests after device failure

Reuters Aug 4, 2011, 10.00am IST

WASHINGTON: The US Defense Department suspended fleetwide ground and flight test operations on Wednesday of Lockheed Martin Corp's F-35 Joint Strike Fighter aircraft, its costliest arms purchase and largest international cooperative program. .
The department acted after the failure on Tuesday of one aircraft's "integrated power package", a turbo-machine that starts the engine and cools the plane, the Pentagon's F-35 Joint Program Office said.
The office said in a statement that the suspension was a precautionary measure until experts understand the root causes of the failure aboard an F-35 conventional takeoff and landing variant at Edwards Air Force Base, California.
There are three F-35 models, or variants: A conventional takeoff-and-landing type for the Air Force; a short takeoff-vertical landing model for the Marine Corps and a carrier takeoff-and-landing variant for the Navy.
"Once the facts are understood, a determination will be made when to lift the suspension and begin ground and flight operations of the 20 F-35s currently in flying status," the statement said.
These aircraft are part of the system development and demonstration and low-rate initial production fleet.
The United States is developing the family of radar-evading F-35s with eight international partners -- Britain, Italy, the Netherlands, Turkey, Canada, Australia, Denmark and Norway.
It is currently projected to cost the United States more than $382 billion to buy a total of 2,443 F-35 models over the next two decades. Other countries, including the co-development partners, are expected to buy roughly another 750 aircraft.
The F-35 is projected by Lockheed Martin, the Pentagon's No. 1 supplier by sales, to account for more than 20 percent of its revenues once the Pentagon starts full production runs, likely in another few years.
The program had built enough "margin" into the test schedule to accommodate "these kinds of incidents that occur in a development effort," the Pentagon statement said.
Periodic updates on the matter will be released as warranted, it said.
Lockheed Martin is supporting the review efforts 100 percent, said Michael Rein, a company spokesman.
"We are working very hard with all involved to resolve this issue so we can begin flight operations again which is everyone's goal," he said.
F-35 competitors for international sales include Boeing Co's F/A-18E/F Super Hornet, Saab's Gripen, Dassault's Rafale, Russia's MiG-35 and Sukhoi Su-35 and the Eurofighter Typhoon made by a consortium of British, German, Italian and Spanish companies.
Lockheed's chief F-35 subcontractors are Northrop Grumman Corp and BAE Systems Plc . United Technologies Corp's Pratt & Whitney unit is building the engine.

F-35 Grounding Could Last Weeks

Flight and ground tests of the 20-strong F-35 Joint Strike Fighter force could be suspended “for a few weeks,” according to an industrial source close to the program, after the secondary power system of F-35A AF-4, a USAF-variant test aircraft, failed on Aug. 2 at Edwards AFB, Calif., during a ground maintenance engine run. However, another government source says that foreign object damage has not yet been ruled out, and notes that such a finding would allow a more rapid return to flight. A clearer picture is expected to emerge next week.
The failure occurred in the integrated power pack (IPP), which combines the functions of the engine starter, emergency and auxiliary power unit, environmental control system and backup generator.
This is the third grounding inside a year for the Lockheed Martin program, but the first for which ground operations were also suspended. In October, a potential problem with software controlling the fuel pump was detected in ground tests and flights were suspended while a fix was installed. In March, AF-4 lost both engine-driven starter-generators in flight. That grounding was traced to a redesigned generator, allowing earlier aircraft to return to flight within days, and the problem was ascribed to a maintenance error.
F-35 flight testing has been running ahead of the revised schedule that was adopted as part of the restructuring and stretch-out announced in January. At the Paris air show this year, deputy program office director USAF Maj. Gen. C.D. Moore said the flight test success would provide the program with margin, but not allow the schedule to be brought forward.

Saturday, August 6, 2011


Fancy Fighter Jets Costing Nation Zillions of Dollars Do Not Work

the most expensive Happy Meal toy in the universe.So what do these double super killer stealth F-35 fighter jets go for these days? A few million dollars? A hundred million? A BILLION DOLLARS? No, none of those things. It is actually more like, “a trillion dollars.” We were going to do a cute listicle of “things that are less expensive and yet crucially able to employ/feed/educate a large quantity of humans more than a fighter jet,” but you cannot do that list because everything is cheaper than a F-35 Lightning II fighter jet program. Everything on Earth. YOU CANBUY AUSTRALIA for less than this fighter jet program. Oh boohoo, more liberal outrage over the insane costs of a good killing machine. OH WAIT: they do not actually work. Haha, do they ever work? No, they are hanging out in Texas like a bunch of sad garden gnomes polluting the landscape with their tacky, trillion-dollar existence.
Is this even news? Fighter jets actually never seem to work.
The Pentagon today suspended ground and flight operations of Lockheed Martin Corp.’s F-35 Joint Strike Fighter after a power failure on a plane at Edwards Air Force Base, Calif.
The suspension grounds all 20 F-35’s that have flying status, said Pentagon spokesman Joe DellaVedova, in a written statement.
A turbo machine that provides power to start the engine failed during an engine run yesterday, forcing an engine shutdown, he said. No injuries to the pilot or ground crew occurred.
The incident involved the AF-4 variant of the conventional takeoff and landing fighter jet.
We are not military strategists, but if buying one less fancy fighter jet program can put the high school graduating classes of 27 states through college 216 times over and build an emissions-free subway line that goes from Boston to San Diego and back again via Peru, then THAT IS WORTH ONE LESS FIGHTER JET. [Bloomberg News via The Atlantic]