Here's a great way to handle Canada's F-35 dilemma. Let's wait until the aircraft's operational testing and evaluation is completed, see what it is that's actually on offer, and then decide whether it's the best bang for Canada's buck?
That sounds kind of sensible, doesn't it? But, you see, there's a snag. The Joint Strike Fighter OT&E deadline has now fallen so far behind, it's currently pegged at October, 2019 and that's if all goes well between now and then. The OT&E timeline just got bumped back a further three years which speaks volumes of the problems plaguing the F-35.
The U.S. Air Force has identified five major problems with the aircraft and a gaggle of lesser problems. One of the majors is much too secret to be mentioned, which means there's something seriously wrong with the stealth technology. Others include speed and agility. At the upper range of the F-35's speed requirements, basically supersonic flight, the stealth coatings on the tail have been damaged by heating, causing bubbling and separating. Then there's a problem with high angle of attack flying causing excessive buffeting leading to premature structural failure. The space-age, cockpit in a helmet has been acting up with input lags and sensitivity to airframe buffeting. Then there's any number of lesser problems with the F-35's millions upon millions of lines of computer code.
This is all building up to a potentially huge reliability nightmare, something that already plagues the F-35's big brother, the far more effective F-22 Raptor that has turned into something of an unintentional Hangar Queen.
Which also plays straight into another Canadian problem with the F-35, numbers. We're only going to get 65 of the damned things. To stretch their service life some of those are going to have to be held in reserve in storage. And if another big whack of the supposedly operational aircraft are down at any given time with the Stealth Bomber Flu, you'll be making do with a very piddling remnant. Enough, probably, to play warrior in America's aerial Foreign Legion where a dozen or so will usually do, but that's about it.
Oh, and about that secret stealth technology defect? It might have something to do with a faulty aperature, or window, in the aircraft. One way the F-35s designated adversaries (okay, Russia and China) are focusing on to render the wunderjet ineffective is to exploit these windows through which the F-35 receives critical information from other aircraft. That is believed to be how Iran commandeered a US stealth drone flying over its nuclear installations. They figured out how to get inside and transmitted their own codes to override US controllers.
The US Senate Armed Services Committee just released a report criticizing Lockheed for an aperture problem and other quality-control defects.
Questions over the quality of production of the F-35 will compound the
mounting woes of the $396 billion Pentagon program, which has already been
restructured three times in recent years to extend the development phase and
The committee said it was troubled by the average rate of scrap, rework and
repair at Lockheed's Fort Worth, Texas facility from 2009 through the first two
months of 2012, but gave no details.
"Inattention to production quality" had led to the discovery of a potentially
serious issue with an aperture on the plane that was critical to its electronic
warfare capability, the report said. The full extent of the problem was not
known, but it underscored the need for the Pentagon and Lockheed to "rigorously
manage production quality," it said.
"The committee is ... concerned about production quality and whether it is
sufficient to ensure the delivery of JSF aircraft to the U.S. and its allies at
an affordable price," the committee said in a report accompanying its fiscal
2013 defense budget bill.
You can't build state of the art, ultra-high tech weaponry with the same quality control Stalin used to build his tanks.