Thursday, July 30, 2015

F-35B Not As Ready As Reported?

The Marines are preparing to declare operation readiness for the F-35B.  Their confidence is buoyed by the testing in May of six aircraft aboard the Wasp.  Testing was roundly declared an unrivaled success.  Come to find out, though, that there were some problems.

A memo from Michael Gilmore, DOT&E, reported by Bloomberg, describes maintenance problems during the test period that reduced readiness rates to around 50% (1).  According to Gilmore,

“…aircraft reliability was poor enough that it was difficult for the Marines to keep more than two or three of the six embarked jets in a flyable status on any given day.”

This poor reliability occurred despite the maintenance crews having ready access to spare parts from shore (something that won’t happen on a deployment) and “significant assistance” from Lockheed and sub-contractor personnel.

So, under absolutely ideal conditions with all aircraft tweaked up for the test, access to spares beyond the norm, and with significant manufacturer assistance,  the F-35 still struggled to achieve 50% readiness. 

“Six F-35Bs, … were available for flights only half of the time …”

And the Marines are going to declare the F-35 operational?

(1), “Lockheed F-35’s Reliability Found Wanting in Shipboard Testing”, Anthony Capaccio, July 28, 2015 


  1. CNO,

    Let them declare IOC. The USMC is clearly incapable of orienting to reality with this program, so let them own the disaster that it is.

    There isn't enough money to fix the concurrency and unreliability issues.

    And what can't be paid for, won't.

    Ultimately, the Marines will live without fast jets.

    As that's the exact outcome they're driving towards.

    As painful as it sounds, the nation will be better off without such sclerotic and compromised institutions, which appear unsalvageable at this point.

    Its time for the USMC to get so badly burned on this program that they won't go near fast jets for another century.

    Bring it on. Put the F-35B into IOC tomorrow. Sooner is better.

    This will leave a mark. Best that it's a memorable one.

  2. I fear that this is the norm. There is a shocking lack of accountability in declaring ships and other vessels ready.

    But yes, you do ask a hard question - what happens in war? The nature of the F-35 is that there are going to be many vulnerable parts, not the least of which enables VTOL which was the reason for the whole project.

    The question is, what will availability be in war? Especially with supplies cut off?

    25%? Perhaps less?

  3. Have to agree. It seems a politically forced decision to go IOC 'early'

    Its a risk. On the one hand it will be a baptism of fire. And alot will be learned to improve future operation.

    On the other hand there is a real chance an ejector seat may see its IOC. And thats not going to be good.

    They have forced the situation.

    Lets sit back and see who is right. The fan boys or the nay sayers : S

  4. Hey 50% availability on something that does EVERYTHING SOUNDS pretty good doesn't it?

    What a disaster this going to be. Where is the ADULT Leadership? Okay maybe the institution of Marines is blinded (that can happen Navy look at LCS), but where is DoD oversight? Don't we pay SecNav Mabus to think?

  5. CONOPS, further confirmation of what you have been reporting.

    Excerpts from article on Defense Aerospace

    "Marines Declared F-35 IOC Despite Deficiencies That “Preclude Mission Readiness”

    The Marine Corps declared Initial Operational Capability of their Lockheed F-35B fighter last July despite a number of deficiencies “that preclude aircraft mission readiness in support of …. initial operating capabilities.”

    That admission, contained in a May 12 contract announcement, contradicts most statements made at the time, and since, by the Marine Corps, the F-35 Joint Program Office (JPO) and prime contractor Lockheed Martin claiming that IOC meant the F-35B was ready for “worldwide deployment” and combat.

    While this was generally accepted as a public relations exercise with no real foundation in fact, the Pentagon’s admission, albeit indirect, that the aircraft were so deficient they did not meet IOC standards should be a major embarrassment for the Corps, JPO and Lockheed Martin, as well as other senior Pentagon officials who at the time made enthusiastic statements which today seem wildly excessive.

    Furthermore, the fact that the Pentagon must now pay Lockheed $10.5 million to fix those deficiencies should also raise eyebrows, as it is the first time that deficiencies in IOC aircraft are disclosed.

    There has been no word from the Marine Corps or the JPO to suggest that the aircraft in the IOC squadron had any deficiencies, and the various Congressional committees briefed on the F-35 program were apparently not informed of them.

    The deficiencies are apparently substantial in both number and complexity.

    The contract announcement states that Lockheed will supply “61 retrofit kits to correct deficiencies,” implying that each IOC aircraft has an average of 6.1 deficiencies since the IOC squadron, VMFA-121, operates ten F-35Bs.

    The announcement also notes that work will not be completed before January 2019 – three years and a half after IOC – which again implies that these are not superficial defects that can be quickly fixed.

    It is probable that the $10.5 million price tag announced May 12 is only an initial payment, as the JPO has a habit of breaking contracts down into smaller awards, although this is speculation on our part.

    We have asked the JPO for an explanation of the contract and of these deficiencies, but because of the time difference have not heard from them by our deadline. We will add their response, if any, when it arrives.

    Pentagon Contract Announcement
    (Source: US Department of Defense; issued May 12, 2016)
    Lockheed Martin Corp., Lockheed Martin Aeronautics Co., Fort Worth, Texas, is being awarded a $10,559,065 modification to exercise an option on delivery order (5500) that was previously issued against basic ordering agreement N00019-14-G-0020.

    This option procures 61 retrofit kits to correct deficiencies that preclude aircraft mission readiness in support of the Marine F-35 Strike Fighter aircraft initial operating capabilities and is expected to be completed in January 2019.


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