Environment: Hypocrisy run amok -- Where are the activists and their lawsuits?

Our enemies try to characterize a weapon system as a failure. Possibly to give their fellow travelers enough media cover to justify killing the project?

The one thing you need to know about the development of any aircraft, whether or not it is a single-engine Cessna or an F-35 Joint Strike Fighter, is that there is a vigorous staged reliability testing protocol needed to certify the aircraft as flight-capable and the flight regimes under which is becomes unstable. For example, how many people know that the legendary SR-71 Blackbird’s engines – our primary spy aircraft of the time – were prone to excessive compressor stalls and the aircraft was extremely hard to handle under some flight conditions.

So why should it come as no surprise that certain flight maneuvers and conditions would be restricted during development and testing? Except if you are one of our enemies, either foreign or domestic, and want to kill the further development of the project by demonizing the project in the media and scaring the politicians into reducing project funding -- or killing it altogether in the guise of a saving wasted dollars.

Fail! The $400 Billion Military Jet That Can't Fly in Cloudy Weather

According to one of its supporters, the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter is not "what our troops need," is "too costly" and "poorly managed," and its "present difficulties are too numerous to detail." The F-35 is a case study of government failure at all levels - civilian and military, federal, state, local, even airport authority. Not one critical government agency is meeting its obligation to protect the people it presumably represents. Senator Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., who wrote the F-35 critique above, is hardly unique as an illustration of how government fails, but he sees no alternative to failure.

The F-35 is a nuclear-capable weapon of mass destruction that was supposed to be the "fighter of the future" when it was undertaken in 2001. Now, more than a decade overdue and more than 100% over budget, the plane is expected to cost $1.5 trillion over its useful life, of which about $400 billion has already been spent.

100th F-35 Being Built, None Yet Operational

In January, the Lockheed Martin production facility in Fort Worth, Texas, reported it was well along "in the final phase of building the wings" of the 100th F-35 constructed by the Bethesda, Maryland, company. Of the first 99 F-35s, none are yet operational.

The F-35 isn't even close to fully operational - it can fly only on sunny days. It can't fly at night. And it can't fly in clouds or near lightning. We know this because the Pentagon tells us so, in a report written for the Secretary of Defense by the Director of Operational Test and Evaluation, J. Michael Gilmore, dated February 15, 2013.

Gilmore's report covers the F-35 training program at Eglin Air Force Base in Florida for two months in the fall of 2012, a program originally scheduled to begin in August 2011, but the F-35 wasn't ready then. Even a year later, the training program "was limited by the current restrictions of the aircraft." The program partially trained 4 pilots in 46 days.

If the Pilot Can Eject, He'll Be Lucky Not to Drown

The report's executive summary gives a sense of what some of the "current restrictions" of the F-35 are:

  • Aircraft operating limitations prohibit flying the aircraft at night or in instrument meteorological conditions, hence pilots must avoid clouds and other weather. These restrictions are in place because testing has not been completed to certify the aircraft for night and instrument flight.
  • The aircraft also is currently prohibited from flying close formation, aerobatics, and stalls, all of which would normally be in the familiarization phase of transition training?.
  • The F-35A does not yet have the capability to train in these phases, nor any actual combat capability, because it is still early in system development.
  • Also, little can be learned from evaluating training in a system this immature?.
  • The radar, the pilot's helmet-mounted display (HMD), and the cockpit interfaces for controlling the radios and navigational functions should be improved.

The report also notes that the pilot escape system is not yet reliable, especially if a pilot were to eject over water.

What Do You Expect for $400 Billion? Something That Works?

So for $400 billion (and counting), the U.S. has bought an "immature system," a combat fighter still unfit for combat, a plane that has spent much of 2013 grounded for various malfunctions. The General Accounting Office (GOA) report issued this month offers good news of the it's-not-as-bad-as-it-used-to-be kind, as in the finding that production costs are "trending" downward toward targets.

The program continues to make design changes in the F-35 at the rate of about 200 per month, even as the plane continues in production, creating what amounts to a permanent process of retrofitting. The GAO projects that F-35 flight testing may be complete some time in 2017 and the plane might not be ready for combat before 2019.

<Source: Fail! The $400 Billion Military Jet That Can't Fly in Cloudy Weather | Alternet>

Bottom line …

Complex modern weapons systems with hundreds of thousands of components are frequently late and with significant cost-overruns.

It is also true that many of these weapons systems, like commercial airliners, are retrofitted with improvements discovered during advanced testing or after actual flight operations.

The fact that the certification authority restricts the aircraft's operations while testing is incomplete is also a normal occurance.

Change orders, mostly coming from government-sources are part of the cost-overruns and can be attributable to the development process. It should be remembered that these complex systems, their spare parts and support systems are not cobbled together in a secret shed by a brilliant man such as Kelly Johnson who ran the old Lockheed Skunk Works and managed to develop some of the most amazing aircraft we have ever seen.

While there are military and civilian personnel whose careers are on the line for a failed weapon system, perhaps we should not prematurely kill the project and allow our enemies to advance their agenda at our expense. I decry the overwhelming cost of these birds – and the number of employees and special interests with their fingers in the pie – but to listen to the rantings of our enemies is absurd. Especially if there is a fifth column in government prepared to stunt our defense efforts and materially weaken the United States.

There is little doubt in my mind that the top echelons of our military has been hyper-politicized with prominent and effective admirals and generals being replaced by political whim for the flimsiest of political reasons. And there is little or no doubt in my mind that our current Commander-in-Chief is a clear and present danger to our nation’s defense efforts. Therefore, I can only conclude that the stories appearing in the progressive mainstream media were planted for political purposes and recommend that we wait until the leadership of our nation changes – and a thorough evaluation of our strategic and tactical capabilities concluded – before judging whether or not to modify the F-35 program.

Put simply. I do not trust the politicians and the special interests to tell me the truth about any weapon system or military capabilities; shading everything with a political agenda which appears to disadvantage the United States and its allies in favor of those who do not wish us well. 

-- steve

Reference Links …

This is what happens to all new aircraft in the development and implementation phase as problems are found and responsibly resolved.

Pentagon Suspends All F-35 Flights Due To Crack In Engine Blade (2/22/13)

The Pentagon on Friday suspended the flights of all F-35 fighter planes after a routine inspection revealed a crack on a turbine blade in the jet engine of an F-35 test aircraft in California. It was the second grounding of the warplane in two months.

The F-35 program office said it was too early to know if this was a fleet-wide issue, but it was suspending all flights until an investigation was completed. It said it was working closely with Pratt & Whitney, the United Technologies Corp unit that builds the engine, and Lockheed Martin Corp, the prime contractor for the radar-evading warplane, to ensure the integrity of the engine and return the F-35 fleet to flight as soon as possible.

She said that during a routine inspection at Edwards Air Force Base in California on February 19 inspectors found a crack on a low pressure turbine blade that is part of the F-35’s F135 engine. The blade was on F-35 A-model, or Air Force variant, which takes off and lands from conventional runways.

The grounding comes on the heels of a nearly month-long grounding of the Marine Corps variant of the new warplane after a manufacturing defect caused a fuel line to detach just before a training flight in Florida.

The Marine Corps variant of the F-35, which takes off from shorter runways and lands like a helicopter, was grounded for nearly a month after a fuel line detached just before a training flight at Eglin Air Force Base in January. That issue was later found to be caused by a manufacturing defect. The Pentagon and the U.S. Navy lifted flight restrictions on the B-model of the plane on February 13. <Source>

“Nullius in verba.”-- take nobody's word for it!

“Beware of false knowledge; it is more dangerous than ignorance.”-- George Bernard Shaw

“Progressive, liberal, Socialist, Marxist, Democratic Socialist -- they are all COMMUNISTS.”

“The key to fighting the craziness of the progressives is to hold them responsible for their actions, not their intentions.” – OCS

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