Testing Director says the expensive F35s are not combat ready, unreliable and components need redesign

The Director of Operational Testing, Robert Behler, says the F35 stealth fighter is still below requirements and is dependent on workarounds and would not meet Service expectations in combat situations. This is in the updated annual report on the F35.

Overall fleet-wide monthly availability rates remain around 50 percent, a condition that has existed with no significant improvement since October 2014, despite the increasing number of new aircraft. One notable trend is an increase in the percentage of the fleet that cannot fly while awaiting replacement parts – indicated by the Not Mission Capable due to Supply rate.

The program is not likely to achieve the Mean Flight Hours Between Critical Failures threshold without redesigning aircraft components.

The F35 program will probably to enter the legally-required Initial Operational Test and Evaluation milestone until late in 2018 because developmental testing may not finish until as late as this May.

The Marines F35B does not have tires strong enough for conventional high-speed landings, soft enough to cushion vertical landings, and still light enough for the existing aircraft structure. Average F-35B tire life is below 10 landings. The requirement is for 25 conventional full-stop landings.

Costs

Total acquisition costs for Lockheed Martin Corp.’s next-generation fighter may rise about 7 percent to $406.5 billion, according to figures in a document known as a Selected Acquisition Report. That’s a reversal after several years of estimates that had declined to $379 billion recently from a previous high of $398.5 billion in early 2014.

$122 billion has been spent on the F35 program up until the end of 2017. $10-15 billion will be spent each year through 2022. This is detailed in a 100 page F-35 spending summary report.

About 360 F35s have been procured.

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