survivability in air combat.
A 68-page report dated 15 February, 2013, addresses a number of performance deficiencies in the F-35 and its systems.
It includes stunning pilot comments about the aircraft’s survivability (“Aft visibility will get the pilot gunned [down] every time”)
while detailing the limited performance of the Air Force’s F-35A and
its support systems during initial training at Florida’s Eglin Air Force
Some of the shortcomings are simply a result of the immature state of
the F-35, even though the program is more than 10 years old. However,
there are also issues that will never be solved, and there are unknowns
about whether the F-35 will ever perform up to its modest
Those answers won’t be known until 2019, when operational testing is
currently scheduled to be wrapped up — assuming everything goes
perfectly from here on out.
As of now, the F-35As at Eglin Air Force can do little more than burn
non-supersonic holes in the sky, using only gentle stick maneuvers and
hardly any of the F-35′s highly-complex electronics.
Perhaps the biggest horror story is the poor showing of the Lockheed
plane’s complicated, expensive helmet-mounted display system that
distorts and obscures – rather than enhancing — the pilot’s vision and
awareness of the outside world.
From radars that don’t work, to blurry vision from the aircraft’s
sophisticated helmet, to an inability to fly through clouds, the report,
which includes pilot comments, paints a picture of a jet nowhere near
ready for real-life operations.
F-35 manufacturer Lockheed Martin
is refusing to comment, but the report’s revelations will likely give
Canadian military planners pause as they continue assessing options for
replacing Canada’s aging CF-18s.
Here are a few observations directly from the Air Force report:
"The aircraft also is currently prohibited from flying close formation, aerobatics, and stalls..
Aircraft operating limitations prohibit flying the aircraft at night or in instrument meteorological conditions, hence pilots must avoid clouds and other weather.
Due to the immaturity of the aircraft, the work arounds required to support flight operations, and very limited mission systems capability little knowledge can be gained ...applicable to F-35 sustainment under normal squadron training operations or to sustainment of combat capable aircraft in operational units. Additionally, the F-35 Joint Reliability and Maintainability evaluation Team data for the F-35a fleet suggest that the program is not meeting reliability growth targets to meet requirements.