Director of Testing says F35 needs years and billions to get near combat usable but DOD says US taxpayers should be fine with barely usable for $100+ billion and 12 years late

The parting messages of Michael Gilmore, the now-retired Director of Operational Test and Evaluation, from his final 62 page F35 report.

When will you make the Milestone C/Full-Rate Production decision?
• Director Test and Evaluation Answer: Since the Milestone C/Full-Rate Production decision cannot be made until after IOT and E is completed and DOT and E has issued its report, it cannot occur by the threshold date of October 2019 and will likely not occur until early 2020, at the soonest.

The Joint Strike Fighter Program has already consumed more than $100 billion and nearly 25 years. Just to finish the basic development phase will require at least an extra $1 billion and two more years. Even with this massive investment of time and money, Gilmore told Congress, the Pentagon and the public, “the operational suitability of all variants continues to be less than desired by the Services.”

Ineffective or unsuitable for missions and unreliable and three times the cost per hour to fly

The Strauss Military Reform Project details the many problems

Electronics Used to Justify Cost Not Delivering Capabilities
Ineffective as a Fighter
Ineffective as an Interdiction Bomber
– Ineffective as a Close Air Support Platform
– Navy’s F-35 Unsuitable for Carrier Operations
The test teams have found that the hook point on the F-35C’s arresting gear wear out after 5 landings.

– Price Tag Is the Only Thing Stealthy about the F-35

DoD has estimated that all training and operational operations over the 50-year life of the program (assuming a 30-year life for each aircraft) will be $1 trillion, making the cost to buy and operate the F-35 at least $1.4 trillion.

The cost just to operate the F-35 is so high because the aircraft is so complex compared to other aircraft. Based on the Air Force’s own numbers, in FY 2016 each F-35 flew an average of 163 hours at $44,026 per flying hour. For comparison purposes, in the same year, each F-16 in the fleet flew an average of 258 hours at $20,398 per flying hour. A-10s flew 358 hours on average at $17,227 per hour. While these hours have never been independently audited, and it is it is impossible to know if they are complete, the available data indicates that the F-35 is more than twice as expensive to fly as the aircraft it is to replace.

– Combat Effectiveness at Risk
– Can the F-35 Be Where It’s Needed, When It’s Needed?
– F-35 Reliability Problems

If used in combat, the F-35 aircraft will need support to locate and avoid modern threat ground radars, acquire targets, and engage formations of enemy fighter aircraft due to unresolved performance deficiencies and limited weapons carriage availability.

The F-35 Joint Program Office attempted to dismiss the Gilmore report by asserting “All of the issues are well-known to the JPO, the U.S. services, our international partners, and our industry.”

Which is can be translated as – We know it is crap and we do not care… keep spending the money [trillion plus dollars].

The marines, air force and Navy plan to adapt how they fly and operate to make it work.

– Russia can beat up on countries like Syria and Ukraine but their economy is ten times smaller and their military budget is fifteen times smaller. Russia’s jet engines are inferior to the USA.
– China has not fought a way since a border war in 1980. The chinese military is mostly for controlling the civilian population. China’s jet engines are inferior to Russia’s engines. China still has not built bombers as effective as the B52, B1 or B2.
– The US has 3 to 4 times the number of reasonably modern and effective fighters.
– All other militaries in the world are either allies or would get wrecked in two weeks or less against US air power.
– North Korea would get wrecked but how much damage could they do to South Korea before they got stomped ? Seoul is within artillery range.
– North Korea has a few inferior to Hiroshima nuclear bombs. The US probably could hit and destroy their ability to launch before they could deploy their nukes.
– The North Korea, Iran, Russia and China military scenarios are not helped by overspending on a problem plane.

Stealth vulnerable to Long Wave Radar and Passive Detection

Defense Aviation reported how a F-117 stealth fighter was shot down in 1999.

In 1999, when a Serbian missile unit shot down an F-117 stealth fighter with an obsolete Soviet-era SA-3 surface-to-air missile, a system first fielded in 1961. Serbian air defense crews discovered they could detect the stealth aircraft by using their missile battery’s longwave search radar.

Then, using spotters and the missiles’ own guidance radars, the Serbian forces were able to track, target and kill one stealthy F-117.

To show that was no fluke, the Serbian SAMs hit and damaged another F-117 so badly it never flew in the Kosovo Air War again.

The Russians have never stopped building such radars and are now selling modern, highly mobile, truck-mounted digital longwave radars on the open market for prices as low as $10 million. The Chinese and the Iranians have followed suit by developing similar radar systems.

Passive detection system (PDS) can detect and track the radio frequency (RF) signals emitted by an aircraft like radar signals, UHF and VHF radio signals, identification-friend-or-foe (IFF) signals, data link signals like Link-16 and navigation transponder signals like TACAN. Every aircraft in the world is susceptible to PDS, stealth and non-stealth alike, and the F-35 is no exception.

Various problems

When Lockheed Martin first won the contract 17 years ago, the F-35 was expected to begin operational testing in 2008. Once they failed to meet that, 2017 was supposed to be the big year for the start of the combat testing process. We now know that this process will almost certainly be delayed until 2019 … and possibly 2020.

Trump criticized the F35 program but declared it ok after just trimming $600 million.

The F-35 program will continue to be a massive drain on time and resources for years to come, and will provide our armed forces with a second-rate combat aircraft less able to perform its missions than the “legacy” aircraft it is meant to replace.