The 2012 DOT&E report (1) has been made public and, as always, contains lots of goodies to look at. This is the group that oversees the testing and evaluation of the Dept of Defense (DoD) projects and equipment. These guys determine whether the latest magic toy really does what the DoD claims it does. Often (usually?) DOT&E findings are somewhat at odds with the DoD’s public claims and there is a healthy tension between the two. For instance, the Navy does not want to perform shock testing on the LCS (due to the anticipated negative results, I’m sure) whereas DOT&E wants it done and soon and has taken the Navy to task.
Tonight’s goodie concerns the JSF. DOT&E notes,
“Approximately 34 percent of the total planned flight testing, based on test points completed through November 2012, has now been accomplished …”
Despite the fact that only a third of flight testing has been completed, DoD has begun production. We’ve discussed in previous posts how this type of concurrency (simultaneous design/testing/development and production) inevitably leads to expensive redesigns and reworks of the airframes already built and yet DoD continues this idiotic practice. Hey, DoD, those are my tax dollars you’re throwing away!
DOT&E goes on to state,
“Certain test conditions were unachievable due to unresolved problems and new discoveries. The need for regression testing of fixes (repeat testing of previously accomplished points with newer versions of software) displaced opportunities to meet flight test objectives.”
This is telling us that not only is concurrency costing more money, but the need to test the new “fixes” is impacting the normal course of testing, further slowing an already way behind schedule. And still DoD persists.
DOT&E comments on the impact of flight test delays,
“The lag in accomplishing the intended 2012 flight testing content defers testing to following years, and in the meantime, will contribute to the program delivering less capability in production aircraft in the near term.”
The Air Force attempted to begin pilot training on the F-35A but DOT&E noted,
“Because of the immaturity of the system, which is still largely under development, little can be learned about operating and sustaining the F-35 in combat operations … “
It keeps getting better.
“The program’s most recent vulnerability assessment showed that the removal of fueldraulic fuses, the PAO shutoff valve, and the dry bay fire suppression, also removed in 2008 [editorial note: removed for cost reduction reasons], results in the F-35 not meeting the Operational Requirements Document (ORD) requirement to have a vulnerability posture better than analogous legacy aircraft.”
The report notes that the F-35A version is now within 273 lbs of its maximum specified weight limit. There is no growth left on this airframe and it hasn’t even been deployed, yet!
The JSF program has announced decreases in performance specs due to observed limitations during testing. Turn performance has been reduced from 5.3 to 4.6 sustained g’s. Acceleration from 0.8 Mach to 1.2 Mach has been increased by 8 seconds, meaning that the plane has failed to meet acceleration specs and is being downgraded in recognition of that.
Here is a fun one.
“Horizontal tail surfaces are experiencing higher than expected temperatures during sustained high-speed / high-altitude flight, resulting in delamination and scorching of the surface coatings and structure.”
The report goes on to describe pages of individual problems. If you’re interested, follow this link and read the report.
The main points to take away from this are,
- This is a seriously flawed program with no end in sight.
- Concurrency is killing the program both in monetary and scheduling terms.
- There has been a steady degradation of specifications as a means to deal with a variety of problems. In other words, if the plane won’t perform as expected, change the specs rather than the actual performance. By the time the JSF is ready for deployment, it will be merely a slightly stealthier version of an F-16 or F-18 at a ridiculously expensive price.
(1) Director – Operational Test and Evaluation, FY2012, Annual Report