Pentagon Report: F-35 falls short in flight tests

The F-35 Lightning 2 Program is considered the most expensive weapons system in the world.

This $400 billion stealthy US fighter jet is being built to do amazing things, like vertical takeoffs and landings. The jet has a top speed of 1,200 mph, can fly as high as 50,000 feet, and has a range of more than 1,300 miles on its internal fuel tanks.

More than 100 jets are currently being flight tested.

The Government Accountability Office (GAO) warned in April that the F-35 has a long way to go to achieve engine reliability goals.  “It will need design changes and retrofits.”

This plane has one engine and the GAO says the engine reliability is less than half of where it should be.

But Pratt and Whitney –the company that makes the F-35 engine — says the GAO “incorrectly assessed” it, that the engine exceeds specification requirements.

The pressure is on for plane to prove itself. F-35 development is already years behind schedule and millions of dollars over budget. More delays could force the military to use aging F/A-18 hornets and A-10 Thunderbolts.

The Marine Corps conducted operational test trials aboard the amphibious assault ship USS Wasp in May. Military officials promoted the F-35’s performance as a success and proof that “the fighter is ready for real-world combat deployment.”

But a report by the nonpartisan government watchdog group, Project on Government Oversight (POGO) tells a very different story, according to CNN.  The POGO report said that the fighter failed to achieve the number of required flight hours necessary to be declared combat-ready. The fifth generation stealth fighter jet, according to the report, is “not ready for real-world operational deployments.”

The Marine Corps said it does not agree with all of the conclusions and opinions outlined in the POGO report. The extensive testing that’s been done, officials said, verified expected F-35B capabilities: “successful missile shots; successful steel-on-steel, air-to-ground deliveries; and three successful sea-trials.”

The Marine Corps says: “the F-35B’s ability to carry more fuel than the legacy fighters currently in use and weapon payload, coupled with the completion of the installation of Block 3F software on all Marine Corps F-35Bs in the 2017 time frame, means the jet will surpass anything the U.S. has in its arsenal today.”

A specifically designed airframe allows the F-35 to evade radar systems that could detect older US fighters. The Pentagon began the project to build one fighter for three military branches back in the 1990’s.  In 2001, Lockheed Martin was tapped to build the F-35.

It’s now up to Congress to decide whether to keep the money flowing to fund this expensive project.

Democratic Congresswoman Jackie Speier, a regular critic of the F-35 program, said: “The services are rushing to declare the F-35 ready for combat, ignoring clear readiness issues in order to show that the program is ‘back on track,’ but just saying something doesn’t make it so.”

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  • Michele graduated with a B.S. in Telecommunication from the University of Florida’s College of Journalism and Communications. She has spent numerous years working in the news industry in south Florida, including many positions ranging from being a news writer at WSVN, the Fox affiliate in Miami to being an associate news producer at WPLG-TV, the ABC affiliate in Miami. Michele has also worked in Public Relations and Marketing.

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