We’ve totally debunked the austere, forward operating base concept for the F-35 and yet there are still people who believe it’s viable. Well, we’ll just keep beating it down. Here’s the latest proof that it can’t work. Defense News website reports that low observability (LO) features, meaning stealth, account for half of all production quality defects on the F-35. (1)
Examples of stealth related defects cited in the article include,
- Holes drilled too big
- Small deviations in panel alignment
- Scratches to the LO coating
- LO coating overspray or misapplication
Do you understand what that list of defects means? Those are incredibly minor problems that commonly occur, indeed, are almost unavoidable, when performing mechanical/maintenance work on machines and yet they’re enough to impact the stealth of the aircraft.
Do you understand what else that list means? Those are defects that are occurring in a pristine, carefully controlled environment with highly trained technicians who have access to all the tools and parts they need. It’s the best possible world for working on the aircraft and yet the defects are still occurring. What’s going to happen when the aircraft is sitting out on some austere field with shrapnel flying around, insufficient parts, people under the gun (literally) to maintain and patch up aircraft? When LO coatings are applied and before they can dry they’re covered in dirt, bugs, and debris? When no one has the time or tools to align panels to micron accuracy? When an aircraft has holes in it from shrapnel and someone has to rivet a patch on?
After a couple of days, that stealthy F-35 is going to look like a 747 airliner on radar!
Consider this telling and damning statement,
“Speaking to reporters at Lockheed’s media day on Monday, Jeff Babione acknowledged that low observability, or LO, capabilities in particular are posing a challenge to the company.”
If achieving LO is a challenge in the quiet, calm, pristine, factory with highly trained technicians equipped with all the tools and materials they need, it’s going to be impossible in muddy, humid, debris filled bases with clouds of dirt and debris kicked up every time an aircraft lands or takes off.
The Lockheed spokesman just basically said that the fantasy of an austere, forward operating base is just that: a fantasy.
We are not going to be operating a couple of F-35’s, rising silently out of the jungle to wreak havoc. The logistics are impossible. Base defense is impossible. Maintenance is impossible. LO preservation is impossible. Aircraft availability will be 25%. And the list of impossibilities goes on.
Give up the fantasy or admit that you also believe in unicorns.
(1)Defense News website, “Stealth features responsible for half of F-35 defects, Lockheed program head states”, Valerie Insinna,