F-35 Lightning




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F-35 Lightning Specifications
Pentagon stated costs of airframe and engine (not including ALIS or fixing of manufacturing flaws) -
F-35 model A:
F-35 model B:
F-35 model C:
Flight Cost Model A FY 2018:
Primary Function:
Crew:
Engine:
Thrust:
F-35B Vertical Thrust:
Weight Empty - F-35A:
F-35B:
F-35C:   
Max. Weight- F-35A:
F-35B:
F-35C:
Internal Cannon (model A):
Ordnance non-stealth:
Ordnance A & C stealth:
Ordnance B stealth:
Max G-Ratings:
F-35A
F-35B
F-35C
Length:
Wingspan - A & B:
F-35C:
Max. Speed:
Initial Climb:
Ceiling:
Combat Radius Internal Fuel- A & C:
F-35B:
First Flight
US$79.9 million ea.
US$101.3 million ea.
US$94.4 million ea.
about US$44,000/hr.
multi role attack
one
P&W F135
40,000 lbs.
40,500 lbs.
29,300 lbs.
32,300 lbs.
34,800 lbs.
70,000 lbs.
60,000 lbs.
70,000 lbs.
1- 25 mm
18,000 lbs.
5,700 lbs.
3,700 lbs.
9.0
7.0
7.5
51 ft. 5 in.
35 ft. 0 in.
43 ft. 0 in.
1,200 mph
40,000 fpm (est.)
50,000 feet

690 miles
520 miles
12/15/2006

CONTENTS:

F-35 Lightning Development News

Although the first flight of an F-35 Lightning prototype was in 2006, its development is now approximately ten years behind its much revised schedule. Its original total program costs were supposed to be US$233 billion, but have been shown to be an estimated US$430 billion to date. Recent lifetime operation and maintenance costs have been calculated at about US$1.2 trillion.  That has risen by 20 percent over the US$1 trillion last calculated by the U.S. Government Accountability Office in April of 2015.

F-35 Lightning Block 4 upgrades were to be completed by 2024, but the U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) announced on May 12, 2020 that completion has been pushed out to sometime in 2026.

Lockheed announced their Continuous Capability Development and Delivery program in January of 2018. The new program was intended to speed the implementation of F-35 Lightning upgrades while reducing software development issues. According to Lockheed, "The program intends to incrementally develop, test, and deliver small groups of capabilities every six months".  However, the program has not delivered as promised.

Out of eight Block 4 capabilities intended for implementation in 2019, only a single one has been initiated. Lockheed says that the remaining seven capabilities will be initiated in 2020.

F-35 Lightning modernization program costs are now estimated to be US$12.1 billion, an increase of US$1.5 billion, according to the U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO). However, these estimates do not include costs before 2018 or projected costs after 2024. These have been excluded by the U.S. Department of Defense.

The GAO states, "Ultimately, without a complete understanding of Block 4 costs, the program could face additional cost growth, which will be hard to track without a complete cost baseline". "The lack of a complete cost baseline hinders insight and oversight into the program’s costs, plans, and progress to date and going forward."

F-35 Lightning model A

F-35 Lightning Variants

Model A

The F-35 Lightning is being produced in three variants: A conventional land based version for the USAF designated the model "A", pictured above, a STOVL (short take-off vertical landing) version for the USMC, the Royal Air Force and the Royal Navy designated the model "B", shown next below, and a carrier-based version for the U. S. Navy designated the model "C" pictured second below.

F-35 model B

Model B 
 

In the F-35 Lightning model "B", the weight and size of the lift fan in the aircraft takes up room that would normally be used to carry weapons and fuel. If you examine the photo closely, you can see the opening for the air intake of the lift fan directly behind the cockpit.

F-35 Lightning model-C
Model C

The F-35 Lightning II model "C" is a version of the basic aircraft with modifications to adapt it to aircraft carrier operations, including a larger wing. It is intended to be the U.S. Navy's first stealthy manned aircraft.

To date some 520 F-35 Lightning aircraft of all types have been produced.

F-35-Lightning

RC F-35 Lightning

Freewing's RC F-35 Lightning is PNP with a 31 1/2 in. wingspan and 45 in. length.  Included is 360 degree thrust vectoring, retracts, a 2839 - 3,000 kV motor turning a 70 mm EDF unit.  It needs your radio, a 2200 mAh Li Po flight battery and charger.

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F-35 Lightning

F-35 Lightning

F-35 Lightning Sales News

March 23, 2020: The U.S. Naval Air Systems Command awards Pratt & Whitney US$193,780,323 "for the procurement of long lead materials for the production of low rate initial production of [F-35 Lightning]  propulsion systems for the Air Force, Navy, Marine Corps, non-Department of Defense participants and Foreign Military Sales customers".  Work should be finished by December of 2023.

Jan. 31, 2020:  Poland contracted with Lockheed Martin for some US$4.6 billion for the purchase of 32 F-35 Lightning model A aircraft plus a training and logistics package.  Aircraft deliveries to Poland are scheduled to begin in 2024.

Dec.16, 2019:  The U. S. Naval Air Systems Command awarded Lockheed US$18,055,674 for "sustainment support for all Australia, Canada and United Kingdom Reprogramming Laboratory (ACURL) systems to include consumables for the F-35 Lightning".  Work will be performed in Eglin, Florida.  Completion is expected in February of 2021.

Nov. 1, 2019:  The Naval Air Systems Command awarded Lockheed US$10,571,178 for "the development and delivery of an enhanced simulator database and project management support for the F-35 Lightning aircraft in support of the government of Japan".  Work is expected to be completed by July of 2021.

Oct. 30, 2019: The Pentagon announced a final agreement with Lockheed in the amount of some US$34 billion for 478 F-35 Lightning aircraft Lots 12 to 14.  This includes 351 model A aircraft, 86 model B aircraft, and 41  model C aircraft.  Not all of the aircraft are for the U.S.  Some are for export sales. It is the largest order of F-35 Lightning aircraft to date.  It should be noted that on Oct. 18, 2019, Pentagon officials said that a formal “full-rate” production decision on F-35 Lightning aircraft would be delayed by as much as 13 months until final tests, known as "Milestone C" are completed.

Oct. 2, 2019: The U.S. Naval Air Systems Command awards Pratt & Whitney US$2.2 billion for F-35 Lightning engines including 112 for the Air Force, 46 for the Marines and 25 for the Navy.

Oct. 1, 2019: The U.S. Navy awarded Lockheed US$150.5 million for the F-35 Lightning to “provide for Autonomic Logistics Information System hardware and support equipment in support of low rate initial production Lot 11”. Work is expected to be completed by November of 2023.

Sept. 8, 2019:  Lockheed Martin gets US$266.2 million contract for "special test equipment and tooling" for the F-35 Lightning.

Aug.23, 2019:  Lockheed Martin is awarded US$2.4 billion for F-35 Lightning spare parts include "global spares packages, base spares packages, deployment spares packages, afloat spares packages and associated consumables".  Orders should be placed prior to December of 2020.

June 3, 2019:  Pratt & Whitney is awarded US$3.2 billion to produce 233 F-35 Lightning II engines for deliveries by January of 2022.

F-35 Lightning Future Progress News

March 24, 2020:  The U.S. Naval Air Systems Command awarded Pratt & Whitney US$7,681,734 "for the production and delivery of seven Lift Fan Inter Stage Vane (LF ISV) kits for the Marine Corps in support of the [F-35 Lightning] Joint Strike Fighter program.  Work should be finished by July of 2021.

March 17, 2020:  The U.S. Naval Air Systems Command awarded Pratt & Whitney US$319,792,357 "for the production and delivery of 20 F135-PW-100 propulsion systems for the Navy, six F135-PW-100 propulsion systems for the Air Force, and six F135-PW-100 propulsion systems for the government of Japan" for F-35 Lightning aircraft. Work should be finished by December of 2022. 

March 9, 2020:  The U.S. Naval Air Systems Command awardedLockheed US$173,164,400 for "long lead materials, parts, components and support necessary to maintain on-time production and delivery of Lot 15 F-35 Lightning aircraft for the Navy, Marine Corps and government of Italy". Work should be finished in December of 2023.

Jan. 31, 2020: The U.S. Naval Air Systems Command awarded Lockheed US$347,714,510 to procure "long lead materials, parts, components and support necessary to maintain on-time production and delivery of 43 lot 15 F-35 Lightning aircraft for non-Department of Defense (DoD) participants and Foreign Military Sales (FMS) customers". Work is should be finished in December of 2023.

Dec. 31, 2019:  The U.S. Naval Air Systems Command awarded Lockheed US$1,926,811,724 for "recurring logistics services for delivered F-35 Lightning in support of the Air Force, Marine Corps, Navy, non-Department of Defense (DOD) participants and foreign military sales (FMS) customers. Services to be provided include ground maintenance activities, action request resolution, depot activation activities, automatic logistics information system operations and maintenance, reliability, maintainability and health management implementation and support, supply chain management and activities to provide and support pilot and maintainer initial training".  Expected completion is in December of 2020.

Dec. 31, 2019:  The U.S. Naval Air Systems Command awarded Lockheed Martin US$172,210,000. "This contract procures long lead materials, parts components and effort for the production of 28 lot 15 F-35 Lightning aircraft for the Navy and Marine Corps.  Work is expected to be completed in November 2023".

Dec. 31, 2019:  The U.S. Naval Air Systems Command awarded Lockheed Martin US$98,948,397. "This order provides for the integration of the Next Generation Electro-Optical Distributed Aperture System into all variants of the F-35 Lightning aircraft in support of the Navy, Marine Corps, Air Force and non-Department of Defense (DOD) participants."   Work is expected to be completed in July of 2022.

Dec. 31, 2019:  The U.S. Naval Air Systems Command awarded Lockheed Martin US$81,968,583. "This modification procures hardware and software development of select block 4 capabilities through developmental flight test for the F-35 Lightning in support of the Air Force, Navy, Marine Corps and non-Department of Defense (DOD) participants. Additionally, this modification provides requirements decomposition of advanced block 4 capabilities in support of the system functional review." Work is expected to be completed in June of 2022.

Dec.23, 2019:  The U.S. Naval Air Systems Command awarded Pratt & Whitney US$455.5 million to provide "for non-recurring engineering and tooling in support of the lot 14 production and delivery of 32 F135-PW-100 propulsion systems and one F135-PW-600 propulsion system for F-35 Lightning Joint Program Office non-Department of Defense (DoD) participants".  Work is expected to be completed in April of 2022.

Dec. 23, 2019:  The U.S. Naval Air Systems Command awarded Lockheed Martin US$8,993,361 to provide "support to establish the common reprogramming tool development network and selection of a service-oriented architecture needed to commence development of enhanced reprogramming tools, which is essential for all standing labs in support of the F-35 Lightning aircraft for the Navy and the government of Australia".  Work is expected to be completed in December of 2020.

Dec. 6, 2019:  The U. S. Naval Air Systems Command awarded Lockheed US$153.4 million for "special tooling and special test equipment required to meet current and future F-35 Lightning low-rate initial production as well as full-rate production rates".  Work is expected to be completed in of December 2023.  

Nov. 29, 2019:  The Naval Air Systems Command awarded United Technologies, Pratt & Whitney Division, US$521,996,409 to provide "performance based logistics sustainment in support of the F-35 Lightning propulsion system for the Navy, Air Force, Marine Corps, non-Department of Defense (DoD) participants and foreign military sales (FMS) customers".  Completion is expected in November of 2020.

Nov. 28, 2019:  The Naval Air Systems Command awarded Lockheed US$328 million "to procure long lead material, parts and components for the F-35 Lightning program. These procurements will be done to support production and delivery of 48 F-35 Lightning model A aircraft from the 15th Lot".  Completion is expected in June of 2023.

Nov. 23, 2019:  The Dept. of Defense awarded United Technologies, Pratt & Whitney Division, US$763 million for  Lot 14 production and delivery of 48 F-35 Lightning propulsion systems for the U.S. Air Force and 10 F-35 Lightning propulsion systems for the U.S. Marine Corps. Deliveries should be completed by April of 2022.

Nov. 22, 2019: Moog receives US$400 million contract from Lockheed for control components of the F-35 Lightning consisting of "electro-hydrostatic and wingfold actuators and flap drive systems". Work is expected to be completed by the end of 2022.

Oct. 7, 2019: The U.S. Dept. of Defense awards United Technologies US$325,185,212 for “material and support equipment for depot maintenance facilities, non-recurring sustainment activities, supplies, services and planning for depot activations as well as two F135 full-scale high fidelity mock up engines and four modules for test cells in support of the F-35 Lightning program”.  Work is to be completed by January of 2023.

Aug. 22, 2019:  BAE System is awarded US$349 million to upgrade its AN/ASQ-29 Electronic Warfare/Countermeasure systems on F-35 Lightning aircraft. The upgrade will provide an additional eleven electronic warfare capabilities "to address emerging threats and maintain U.S. and allied war fighters' ability to conduct missions in contested airspace."

June 7, 2019: Lockheed Martin gets US$1.8 billion for second phase of the F-35 Lightning II Block 4 pre-modernization program. Block 4 is said to contain more than 50 improvements for air and ground defense to increase recognition and detection ranges.

April 22, 2019:  The Pentagon reports that estimated total price for research and procurement of the F-35 Lightning has increased by about 5 1/2 percent, about US$22 billion, covering "Block 4 modifications".

Feb. 15, 2019: It was announced that the F-35 Lightning will be adding or fixing a total of fifty three abilities under its Block 4 Continuous Capability Development and Delivery (C2D2) program at an estimated cost of US$16.2 billion. That includes US$10.8 billion for testing and development plus US$5.4 billion in acquisitions and improvements. The program will be implemented in four phases of six months duration each.

Some of the Block 4 upgrades include making the aircraft's Multifunction Advanced Datalink (MADL) compatible with satellite and Link 16 communications systems. In addition will be the ability to use Rover-NG systems for streaming video. The radar of the F-35 Lightning II will be getting a larger aperture in order to scan wider areas with high resolution, including moving targets.

The  Autonomic Logistics Information System (ALIS) of the aircraft will receive a major redesign, new core processors, faster solid-state video memory, 4k high-resolution cockpit displays plus an Automatic Ground Collision Avoidance System.

A new advanced Electro-Optical Targeting System (EOTS) including high resolution television and short-wave infrared marker will also be part of the Block 4 improvement program.

Additional weapons carried by the F-35 Lightning II are expected to include the Small Diameter Bomb II, the  Joint Standoff Weapon-C (JSOW-C), AIM-9X Block II missile, and the B-61 nuclear bomb.

It is anticipated that all Block 4 improvements will be implemented by 2023.

F-35 Lightning Repair, Testing and Evaluation Issues News

April 10, 2020:  The U.S. Naval Air Systems Command awards Lockheed US$14,883,723 "to procure depot component repair capability for the F-35 Lightning hydraulic power generation system and land gear under low rate initial production Lot 11 for the Navy, Air Force and non-Department of Defense (DoD) participants. Work will be performed in Fort Worth, Texas (88%); and Wolverhampton, United Kingdom (12%), and is expected to be complete by April 2023".

The Joint Strike Fighter Program Office’s Deficiency Report Metrics document, dated February 28, 2020, was obtained by the Project On Government Oversight (POGO). It shows that, despite claims in 2018 that F-35 Lightning development had progressed beyond its development phase, the Pentagon's testing office reported that development “may take years to complete”.  In addition, F-35 Lightning pilots are experiencing issues that “may be observed from both operational testing and fielded operations.”

As per the recent report, the F-35 Lightning program now has 883 unresolved design flaws. Of those, 162 have no plan in place for their correction. Contractors have taken exception to F-35 Lightning pilot and engineer reports of some 448 aircraft problems, stating that they do not exist. Lockheed's response to the reported flaws, according to what multiple sources inside the program have told POGO, is to say that the company’s design meets contract specifications, and that any further changes can only be made with a contract modification.

POGO explains that, “the contractors will not fix the design flaws until the government pays for the changes. More worrying are the 162 deficiencies listed as “open, no planned correction.” According to the document, officials are waiting to correct 10 design flaws until future modernization projects. The document also shows that engineers have identified solutions for 273 flaws, but they remain open either because more funds are needed to fix them or more testing is required to make sure the corrections worked”.

The report shows nine “Category 1” flaws, defined as those that “may cause death, severe injury, or severe occupational illness; may cause loss or major damage to a weapon system; critically restricts the combat readiness capabilities of the using organization; or result in a production line stoppage.” In 2018, minutes from a F-35 Lightning program Deficiency Review Board meeting showed that the office had been making paperwork changes to reclassify some Category I deficiencies to a lower status rather than actually correcting them. POGO reports requesting information regarding solutions to current flaws, but the manufacturer has not commented on them as of this writing.

POGO further reports that not only do previously reported F-35 Lightning program manufacturing flaws continue to exist unresolved, but new ones continue to be found. “Of the 873 deficiencies identified by the testing office as of November 2019, approximately 576, or 66%, were carried over from the development phase.”

In November of 2011 it was discovered that, during high altitude supersonic flight, Marine F-35 Lightning model B and Navy F-35 Lightning model C aircraft "sustained bubbling and blistering of the stealth coating on both the right and left sides of the horizontal tail and the tail boom".  On April 24, 2020 Defense News revealed that the Department of Defense does not intend to fix the problem due to the expenses involved.  The issue influences not only the F-35 Lightning airframe and the low-observable coating that keeps it stealthy, but also the antennas located on the back of the aircraft which are vulnerable to damage.   According to the F-35 Lightning Joint Program Office, the issue is "being addressed procedurally by imposing a time limit on high-speed flight".

It appears that all the software patches of F-35 Lightning avionics and mission systems may not be stable. All of the F-35 Lightning system networks are so interconnected that making software changes to a single component may effect a component that doesn't appear to be related. Before new capabilities are added to the aircraft, the testing office wants existing flaws corrected. Without the correction of existing flaws, trying to introduce new functions will, at their least, add to costs and lengthen production schedules.  

Feb. 28, 2020:  The Naval Air Systems Command awarded Lockheed US$141,655,639 to provide for "the stand-up of organic level repair capabilities for the combat aircraft F-35 Lightning communications, navigation and information system. Work should be finished by June of 2024. 

Jan. 31, 2020:  The Pentagon Director of Testing and Evaluation (DOT&E) report for the F-35 Lightning shows:

873 software issues, down from 917 in 2018

13 Category 1 “must-fix” items that affect safety or combat capability, down from 15 in 2018

“Although the program office is working to fix deficiencies, new discoveries are still being made, resulting in only a minor decrease in the overall number” and leaving “many significant‘’ ones to address.

Cyber-security “vulnerabilities” that the DOT&E identified in previous reports haven’t been resolved.

Issues persist with reliability, aircraft availability and maintenance systems.

The problem is complicated by the need to fix manufacturing flaws of some nearly 500 F-35 Lightning aircraft already produced and deployed throughout the world.  In the United States, Congress has yet to appropriate up to US$40 billion, the estimated cost of repairs. Without the funds, it is likely that some of the F-35 Lightning aircraft with the largest number of flaws will not be fixed. In that case, they may only be able to be used as trainers.

The 25mm gun on Air Force models of the F-35 Lightning continues to have “unacceptable” accuracy due to "misalignments" in the gun’s mount that didn’t meet specifications. The mounts are also cracking, forcing the U.S. Air Force to restrict the gun’s use. Lockheed has “made progress with changes to gun installation” to improve accuracy, but they haven’t been tested yet, according to the report.  

Lockheed commented, “reliability continues to improve, with the global fleet averaging greater than 65% mission capable rates and operational units consistently performing near 75%.”

The DOT&E stated that, “no significant portion” of the U.S.’s F-35 Lightning fleet “was able to achieve and sustain” a September 2019 goal mandated by then-Defense Secretary Jim Mattis: that the aircraft be capable 80% of the time needed to perform at least one type of combat mission. That target is known as the “Mission Capable” rate.

“However, individual units were able to achieve the 80% target for short periods during deployed operations,” the report said. All the aircraft models lagged “by a large margin” behind the more demanding goal of “Full Mission Capability.”

The U.S. Air Force and U.S. Navy versions are also continuing to have cracks in structural components.  The report states, “The effect on F-35 Lightning service life and the need for additional inspection requirements are still being determined.”

Jan. 31, 2020:  It was announced today that in November of 2019 it was discovered that F-35 Lightning aircraft assemblers at Lockheed installed lightweight, lower strength titanium fasteners instead of higher strength Inconel fasteners and vice versa in the building of F-35 Lightning aircraft.  No one at Lockheed knows how long this switching of fasteners has taken place or how many F-35 aircraft are affected. 

Lockheed stated that they have inspected some F-35 Lightning aircraft (the number of aircraft was not stated) and concluded that the issue is only prevalent in a small number of them.   

F-35 aircraft use about 50,000 fasteners per aircraft of which less than two percent are the higher strength Inconel.  According to Lockheed, all planes in the F-35 Lightning fleet are safe to fly.  A full report on the issue by Lockheed is expected in February of 2020.

Feb. 28, 2020: In a report to the Defense Contract Management Agency (DCMA), Lockheed says that the number of F-35 Lightning aircraft assembled with fasteners incorrectly installed continues to be unknown, but is of no safety concern.

Workers had been returning handfuls of leftover titanium bolts to the wrong bin, where they mixed with the much more durable and costly—but visually almost identical—Inconel bolts. The titanium bolts are strong and light, but were not meant to bear the load of the Inconel bolts, which are a much heavier alloy.”

Lockheed said that if 100 percent of the bolt installations were incorrect, even with the weaker bolts, the aircraft “could sustain 131 percent of the design limit load”.

We have high confidence in the integrity of the vehicle.” Given that, the DCMA agreed with Lockheed that inspections of the fleet going back to early production are not necessary, “it was deemed not a risk”.

As per Lockheed, “To prevent further co-mingling, Inconel fasteners are now issued in baggies, and only in the amount necessary for a given step in production, so there should be no leftovers. Two inspections are also required, by the installer and a supervisor, to ensure the right fasteners are used. Lockheed is also considering color-coding the fasteners so they are more readily distinguishable from one another.”

Dec. 31, 2019:  The U.S. Naval Air Systems Command awarded Lockheed Martin US$68,000,000. "This modification provides product process verification on F-35 Lightning production operation cards to identify and correct potential process issues and implement and validate corrective actions in support of the Navy, Marine Corps and Air Force." Work is expected to be completed in June of 2024.

Dec. 23, 2019:  The U.S. Naval Air Systems Command awarded Pratt & Whitney US$58,382,282 to provide "non-recurring engineering for early identification, development and qualification of corrections to potential and actual operational issues, including safety, reliability and maintainability problems identified through fleet usage, accelerated mission testing, continues engine maturation and evaluates component life limits based on operational experience in support of the F-35 Lightning for the Navy, Air Force; non-Department of Defense (DoD) participants and Foreign Military Sales (FMS) customers.  Work is expected to be completed in December 2024.  

Nov. 13, 2019:  F-35 Lightning Program Executive Officer, Air Force Lt. Gen. Eric Fick, said that Lockheed expects to make “significant progress” on the F-35 Lightning Autonomic Logistics Information System (ALIS) by September 2020. 

Diana Maurer, Director of Defense Capabilities and Management, U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) said "If ALIS doesn’t work, the F-35 doesn’t work and ALIS has been struggling for years.  On the supply chain side, there are not enough spare parts to go around and F-35 Lightning parts are breaking more often than expected. Meanwhile, suppliers are taking twice as long as expected to replace those parts, and critical depot repairs won’t be completed until 2024."

"During the last fiscal year, F-35 Lightning's were on average able to perform one of their main intentional missions less than two-thirds of the time, and all missions only about one-third of the time." Maurer said.  Further,  "A backlog of about 4,300 spare parts were awaiting repair at depots or manufacturers". 

Nov. 7, 2019:  The Naval Air Systems Command awarded Lockheed US$184.6 million to "establish  a capability for repairing systems" for F-35 Lightning "organic depot-level repair support for hydraulic power generation systems, gun system control units, thermal management technologies, flight displays, fuel systems, radars and other fighter aircraft components".  Completion is expected by March of 2023.

Oct. 30, 2019:  Ellen Lord, head of Pentagon acquisitions, announced that F-35 Lightning mission capability readiness is now at 73 percent.

Oct. 28, 2019: The Naval Air Systems Command awarded Lockheed US$148,417,608 for “durability testing support for the certification of the F-35 Lightning model B aircraft variant to a minimum of 8,000 flight hours/30 year service life in support of the Marine Corps and non-Department of Defense participants. The effort includes the test article configuration, the test article build, the test plan, the testing itself, and teardown and analysis”.   Work completion is expected in July of 2032.

Oct. 18, 2019:  Ellen Lord, undersecretary of defense for acquisition and sustainment, said “a decision to declare Milestone C and move into full-rate production – which would allow DoD to consider awarding multi-year procurement contracts and further cut cost from the program – could be delayed by as much as 13 months”. We are told that the reason for the delay is that a high-fidelity simulator, necessary to finish F-35 Lightning testing, is still awaiting completion.

Aug. 21, 2019: Lockheed Martin is awarded US$32,111,547 for production of kits and special tooling for modification and retrofit of F-35 Lightning aircraft already delivered to the U.S. Air Force, U.S. Navy, U.S. Marine Corps, and allied countries.  Work should be finished by June of 2025..

Aug. 30, 2019:  HMS Queen Elizabeth departs Portsmouth, U.K. bound for the East Coast of North America carrying a total of seven 617 Squadron F-35 Lightning model B aircraft.  There they will be joined by the U.K. Royal Air Force 17 Test and Evaluation Squadron and U.S. Marine Corps F-35 Lightning model B aircraft deployed from U.S. bases.  They will be conducting joint operation testing of the F-35 Lightning model B aircraft for some five weeks during the deployment.   The Queen Elizabeth is expected to visit the United States and Canada before returning to the U.K. in about three months.
Aug. 13, 2019: Jane's 360 reports that according to the Project on Government Oversight, the F-35 Lightning had a fully mission capable rate of 8.7 percent as of July 19, 2019. The Pentagon's Director of Operational Test and Evaluation (DOT&E) calls for an 80 percent rate to conduct F-35 Lightning Initial Operational Test and Evaluation (IOT&E). The Pentagon plans to make its full rate F-35 Lightning II production decision by the end of fiscal year 2019 or early FY 2020. The fiscal year ends on Sept. 30, 2019. If the F-35  Lightning does not accomplish all of its IOT&E test points by the deadline, the Project on Government Oversight says that the Pentagon can not make an informed decision on F-35 Lightning II full rate production.
June 12, 2019: According to documents obtained by Defense News, F-35 Lightning II models B and C still have major flaws that impact safety or mission effectiveness, putting its pilots at risk and affecting maneuverability. Among these are “limitations on airspeed to avoid damage to the F-35’s airframe or stealth coating” and “after doing certain maneuvers, F-35 Lightning II models B and F-35 Lightning II models C pilots are not always able to completely control the aircraft’s pitch, roll and yaw”. Lockheed's response to these and other issues is that deficiency issues identified in reporting by Defense News on June 12 are each “well understood, already resolved or on a near-term path to resolution. ”We have worked collaboratively with our customers” on the issues and “are fully confident in the F-35’s performance and the solutions in place to address each of the items identified.” With regard to maneuverability issues, Lockheed stated that, “We expect this item will be resolved or downgraded”.
April 25, 2019: A U.S. Government General Accountability Office report released today covering the period from May to November of 2018 states that “F-35 Lightning aircraft were unable to fly 30 per cent of the time because of shortages and mismatched parts”. It is yet to be a determination as to how to remedy the logistical problems and parts shortages involved with supplying parts wherever F-35 Lightning  aircraft are located throughout the world. Although the majority of parts are produced in the United States, they are also made around the world by other NATO members.

Highlights from the U.S. Government General Accountability office report titled, "Action Needed to Improve Reliability and Prepare for Modernization Efforts",  show that the Dept. of Defense (DOD) anticipates purchasing over 2,000 F-35 Lightning aircraft at a cost of over US$270 billion.  An estimated US$10.5 billion modernization effort will begin in 2019 "without a complete business case and while still developing key technologies. This increases the risk of cost increases and delays".

"While the DOD has a plan for improving reliability and maintenance (R&M), its guidance is not in line with GAO's acquisition best practices or federal internal control standards as it does not include specific, measurable objectives, align improvement projects to meet those objectives, and prioritize funding. If the R&M requirements are not met, the F-35 Lightning may have to settle for a less reliable and more costly aircraft than originally envisioned.  Moving ahead without a business case puts F-35 Lightning modernization at risk of experiencing cost and schedule overruns similar to those experienced by the original F-35 Lightning during its development".

Feb. 26, 2019: Col. Paul Moga, commander of Eglin Air Force Base 33rd Fighter Squadron said, "The functionality in ALIS (Autonomic Logistics Information System) with regards to TMS (Training Management System) was such a source of frustration and a time waste to the instructor pilots and the simulator instructors and the academic instructors that we at (Air Education and Training Command) in coordination with us (at Eglin) and Luke made a call almost a year ago to stop using the program”.  Col. Moga stated that the command’s F-35 Lightning training squadrons are “not going to start using TMS again until it works”.

Feb. 11, 2019:  The United States Department of Defense is paying Lockheed US$90.3 million "to identify and execute cost reduction initiatives" for the F-35 Lightning.  Deadline is June of 2022.

Jan. 31, 2019:  Latest Pentagon Director of Testing and Evaluation for the F-35 Lightning report shows:

  • The service life of the U.S. Marine Corps F-35 Lightning II model B "may be as low as 2,100 hours." Specified service life was to be 8,000 hours.
  • "Interim reliability and field maintenance metrics to meeting planned 80 percent availability goal not being met."
  • Cyber security vulnerabilities "still have not been remedied."
  • F-35 Lightning II model A air to ground weapons systems have "unacceptable" accuracy.

    F-35 Lightning Deployment News

    June 25, 2019: Six British F-35 Lightning II model B aircraft based in Akrotiri Cyprus have flown their first missions over Syria and Iraq as part of ongoing operations against remnants of the Islamic State group. Officials said the aircraft didn’t fire any weapons when flying alongside Typhoon jets during the missions.

    April 30, 2019: In their first ever combat deployment, two U.S. F-35 Lightning II model A aircraft conducted an air strike at Wadi Ashai, Iraq against a deep network of tunnels and weapons cache in the Hamrin Mountains.

    Feb. 25, 2019: It was reported today that a six aircraft F-35 Lightning II model B detachment assigned to the 13th Marine Expeditionary Unit, operating aboard the amphibious assault ship Essex first combat strike was in Afghanistan in September of 2018. Their next missions were close air support and defensive counter-air for fifty days in Iraq and Syria. Lt. Col. Kyle Shoop, commanding officer of VMFA-211 said, “Every day, [the pilots] were supporting over six hours of time in theater”.

    Commenting on the first time F-35 Lightning model B aircraft were deployed to the Middle East, Col. Chandler Nelms, commander of the 13th Marine Expeditionary Unit, said that Members of VMFA 211 flew 1,200 combat hours over Iraq and Syria, "making up a considerable portion of the ordnance that was dropping in theater."  Nelms stated that the F-35 Lightning II model B aircraft readiness "was 75 percent or better.

    F-35 Lightning Other News and Events

    March 2, 2020: The U.S. Naval Systems Command awarded Lockheed US$9,627,065 to procure "program management support to execute the planning, procurement and delivery of initial aircraft spares in support of the F-35 Lightning Air Force, Marine Corps and Navy, non-Department of Defense (DoD) participants and Foreign Military Sales (FMS) customers operational aircraft. Completion is expected in December of 2020.

    Aug. 2, 2019:  The United States Department of Defense announced that the F-35 Lightning cost increased by some US$25 billion during 2018.  They explained that this was due to "upgrades to the planes and programs which modify existing planes with new systems and weapons as new threats are recognized". 

    Aug. 1, 2019:  Japan resumed flights of their F-35 Lightning II model A aircraft today.  Flights had been suspended after a fatal crash of one of their aircraft on April 9, 2019.

    May 28, 2019:  Japanese divers have recovered major pieces of the wings and engine of the Japanese Air Force F-35 Lightning II model A that plunged into the sea without warning on April 9, 2019.  The pilot's body still has not been recovered. Although the aircraft's flight data recorder was recovered earlier, the reason for the crash remains unknown. The Japanese government tells us that the data recorder was “missing its memory card”.

    The Japanese government has since disclosed that five of the thirteen F-35 Lightning II model A aircraft of the Japanese Air Force, built in Japan with U.S. parts, were forced to make emergency landings a number of times before the aircraft crashed. Japan government officials stated that the necessity for the emergency landings were caused by “systems relating to fuel, hydraulics and other parts”.

    April 29, 2019:  Lockheed is awarded a US$1,148,847,334 contract for "sustainment services" of the F-35 Lightning aircraft with completion expected by December of 2022.

    April 9, 2019: Today an F-35 Lightning II model A of the Japan Air Self Defense Force crashed into the sea some 85 miles east of Misawa Air Base. The pilot has not been found and only small parts of the aircraft have been located.  The aircraft was assembled in Japan by Mitsubishi Heavy Industries.  All of Japan's F-35 Lightning II aircraft have been grounded.

    Feb. 28, 2019:  U.S. Navy declares that ten of their F-35 Lightning II model C aircraft of Strike Fighter Squadron 147 aboard the aircraft carrier USS Carl Vinson have achieved Initial Operational Capability.




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