Sunday, February 23, 2014

The F-35's crack problem.

No.  Not that kind of crack.
Like a certain Toronto mayor, the F-35 is a treasure trove of controversy.  At some point you simply stop asking yourself "Is it good or bad news this time?" and ask "Oh boy...  How bad is it this time?"

Not long ago, it was revealed that The Pentagon would be dropping its 2015 F-35 order down to 34 from the originally planned 42.  Now, it looks like the STOVL version, the F-35B, is under further scrutiny after durability testing found cracks in the bulkhead.  Durability testing will now be delayed until the issue can be resolved and existing aircraft refit.

These cracks only effect the STOVL  F-35B model.  The F-35A, Canada's possible choice would be (mostly) unaffected.  It should be clarified that these bulkhead cracks were found after over 9,400 hours of simulated testing.  The F-35 itself will be meant to last 8,000 flight hours.  While this may seem irrelevant at first, that extra 1,400 hours does not leave a sufficient margin of error.  It should also be noted that this is not the first time the F-35 has had cracks in its bulkheads.

The F-35 bulkhead.  

With 6 of the now 34 F-35s planned for 2015 being F-35Bs, one has to wonder if the order might be cut even further.  What's the point, after all, of building an aircraft when there will likely be changes made to one of internal components.  Given the current state of the American fiscal restraint, it might be a tough sell.

At least there's alway the possibility of increased foreign sales...  Right?  The UK is expected to place an order for its first batch of 14 F-35s next month.  The only problem is, the UK would be ordering the F-35B, the very same variant with a cracking bulkhead problem.  The UK is also not exactly on a military spending spree right now either.

Ditto Italy.

3 comments:

  1. F-35B's bulkheads are made of aluminium alloy to save some weight compared to A and C that uses titanium. About 50 Bees will be needing a "Fix". Question is what a "Fix" is : a complete replacement of several bulkheads would be a major operation...

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  2. Interesting explanation, thank you!
    By the way guys, have you some information about F-35 electronic warfare suite? Because I saw this picture and ask many questions :

    Front RWR antennae seem to be on the leading edges, but rear antennae aren't showed (on the elevator trailing edges?).
    More importantly, there is no mention of ECM antennae and chaff/flare dispensers. Does one of you know where this is located? I have trouble finding any clues about this online.
    Also, any sort of laser warning receiver planned?

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  3. If I understand right, it took 4 years to test the last modification of this bulkhead ( the problem was found in 2010 ). If it takes 4 years again to test the next fix, that would put us in 2018.
    It is likely that the USMC and RN will keep the production minimum until then. That will prevent the cost of all the variants from decreasing.
    After so many problems, the attitude with LM should be to be skeptical of everything they say. Maybe the F-35 will end up being a good plane, but really the proof is in the pudding.

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