Difficulties continue to dog Lockheed Martin’s F35s as 13 new errors are discovered with the aircraft, reports say. Norway remains committed to purchasing them.
A leaked US Pentagon-commissioned review shows problems include the helmet mounted display system, fuel dump subsystem, electrical systems, and arrester hook placement.
Moreover, the aircraft fuselage is vulnerable to high buffet loads and cracking. Perhaps of major tactical attack importance, another issue reduces the aircraft’s stealth capabilities.
“Five issues were found where major consequence issues have been identified, but root cause, corrective action or fix effectivity are still in development: Helmet Mounted Display System, Fuel Dump Subsystem, Integrated Power Package, Arresting Gear System (CV variant) and a classified issue,” the report reads.
“Three issues were found where potentially major consequence discovery is likely pending outcomes of further test discovery: Buffet, Fatigue Life, and Test Execution.”
The authors continue, “Five issues were found where consequence or cost is moderate, but the number of moderate issues poses a cumulative concurrency risk: Software, Weight Management, Thermal Concerns, ALIS and Lightning Protection.”
Manufacturers Lockheed Martin has a “concurrency level” which allows them to build aircraft while the design is still being tested, meaning the planes are already in production.
US Republican Senator John McCain said in a Senate Floor Statement, “In a nutshell, the JSF program has been both a scandal and a tragedy [...] we still don’t have an aircraft that provides the Air Force, Navy, and Marine Corps with the combat capability they need. In fact, flight testing sufficient to demonstrate the full mission systems and weapons delivery capability of the F-35 aircraft has not even started.”
56 billion dollars has been spent on the F-35 development phase over the past ten years, and rectifying the issues could cost up to one billion more. The US has already warned it may have to cut spending.
Senator McCain declared, “When the head of the most expensive, highest-profile weapon systems program in U.S. history effectively says, ‘Hold it! We need to slow down how much we are buying!’ We should all pay close attention.”
Norwegian officials have also revealed purchasing and maintenance costs for its some 50 aircraft have increased by 90 billion kroner, and Lockheed Martin has admitted to over-reporting the size of contracts to Norway’s defence industry. Nevertheless, the Ministry of Defence remains committed to buying the presently faulty F-35s.
What quality assurance and other measures is Norway taking to ensure they don’t end up with a bill for a white elephant, and a lemon that potentially compromises Norway’s defence capabilities?”
In an email to The Foreigner, Deputy Minister of Defence Roger Ingebrightsen answers, “Norway is well aware of these technical findings. The F-35 leads technologically as 5th-generation fighter aircraft. It’s important that as many of these possible technical faults are discovered at this early stage.”
“As a small country, it is extremely reassuring for Norway that the US, the largest customer [of these planes], sets the most stringent demands that and ensures that all of the errors and deficiencies are corrected.”
At what point will the M.O.D. and/or government say “enough is enough”, and start demanding compensation, answers, or consider pulling out of the project, if at all possible?
“According to our information, the programme’s directors say the F-35 is being developed according to schedule, both in relation to production and test results,” continues Minister Ingebrigthsen.
“Norway’s main acquisition is due to begin in 2018. We feel confident the plane will operate at a very successful level in 5 or 6 years time.”