The new US aircraft carrier and its planned F-35 fighter will both not be truly combat ready until after 2020

The F-35 fighter plane will not truly be combat ready until 2022 and the aircraft carrier where the navy’s F-35 would launch from will also not be combat ready until a redesigned launching and recovery system is built and installed. The current recovery system will likely break after 25 consecutive landings. High likelihood of failure for landing within 1 day and for launching within 4 days.

An independent watchdog group is saying that the long list of unresolved problems means that the F-35 won’t be ready for combat until 2022. The watchdog group, the well-respected Project on Government Oversight, is basing its analysis on a recent Department of Defense report that found numerous serious problems with the fifth-generation fighter.

The watchdog analysis comes after one of the three F-35 variants has already been declared combat ready. The F-35B, designed for the Marines, was declared ready to go in July 2015. However, the jet has not been used by the Marines in combat, despite plentiful opportunities in Syria and Iraq. And the Project on Government Oversight maintains that the declaration was premature, and that official testing proves that the jet is not ready for active duty. Some analysts have speculated that the Pentagon is trying to buy hundreds of planes before testing has been completed.

Aircraft carrier failing at key tasks of launching and recovering planes and reloading weapons

According to a June 28 memo, Michael Gilmore, the Defense Department’s director of operational test and evaluation, ;said the most expensive warship in history [the new Gerald Ford aircraft carrier] continues to struggle launching and recovering aircraft, moving onboard munitions, conducting air traffic control and with ship self-defense.

“These four systems affect major areas of flight operations,” Gilmore wrote in his report to Pentagon and Navy weapons buyers Frank Kendall and Sean Stackley. “Unless these issues are resolved … they will significantly limit CVN-78’s ability to conduct combat operations.

Fixing these problems would likely require redesigning the carrier’s aircraft launch and recovery systems, according to Gilmore, a process that could result in another delay for a ship that was expected to join the fleet in September 2014.

The F-35 has cost taxpayers over $400 billion to date

Arresting Gear

The Navy estimates the arresting gear could be operated for approximately 25 consecutive landings, or cycles, between critical failures. That means it has a “negligible probability of completing” a 4-day surge “without an operational mission failure,” Gilmore wrote.

The electro-magnetic launch system’s reliability is higher but “nonetheless I have concerns,” Gilmore wrote. Recent Navy data indicates the carrier can conduct only 400 launches between critical failures, “well below the requirement” of 4,166 takeoffs, Gilmore wrote.

Gilmore said the system would have to increase its reliability to 1,600 launches between critical failures “to have a 90 percent chance of completing a day of sustained operations.” The Navy program office’s determined that the carrier “has less than a 7 percent chance of completing the four-day combat surge” plan, Gilmore wrote.

The Ford carrier has cost taxpayers over $20 billion so far ($5 for research, almost $15 billion for the first one and $4 billion or so for start of construction on the second.)

The current MK 7 hydraulic arresting system outfitted on the ten Nimitz-class aircraft carriers will be replaced on the Gerald Ford-class carriers by the Advanced Arresting Gear (AAG) unit for recovery operations. The AAG is designed for a broader range of aircraft, including UAVs, while reducing manpower and maintenance. Rotary engines which use simple energy-absorbing water turbines (or twisters) coupled to a large induction motor provide finer control of the arresting forces.

SOURCES- Bloomberg, Financial Times, Wikipedia