It should not surprise anyone who has been following recent JSF news that the most recent Director of Operational Test and Evaluation (DOT&E) report on the F-35 does not exactly paint a rosy picture of the program.
Weapons that do not fit the F-35's engine bay, continued software glitches, an engine fire, and the usual escalation in costs continue to raise questions about the JSF.
Here are some highlights:
- In spite of the focused effort, the program was not able to accomplish its goal of completing Block 2B flight testing by the end of October.
- As a result of the engine failure that occurred in an F-35A in late June, the program imposed aircraft operating limitations (AOL) on all variants of F-35.
- Due to the AOL, numerous test points needed for the Block 2B fleet release and Marine Corps IOC were blocked and cannot be attempted until the restrictions are lifted.
- Progress in weapons integration, in particular the completion of planned Block 2B weapon delivery accuracy (WDA) events, has been less in 2014 compared to that planned by the program.
- Overall suitability continues to be less than desired by the Services, and relies heavily on contractor support and unacceptable workarounds, but has shown some improvement in CY14.
- Aircraft availability was flat over most of the past year, maintaining an average for the fleet of 37 percent for the 12-month rolling period ending in September – consistent with the availability reported in the FY13 DOT&E report of 37 percent for the 12-month period ending in October 2013. (This managed to break 50% in October, however.)
- Inspections of the engines on all variants led to discoveries on nine production and test aircraft requiring engine replacement.
Reliability continues to be a problem. As you can see in the table below, the total fleet average is 39%. At best, no more than 6 aircraft are available for every 10 in the fleet.
There has also been a rather controversial practice of fudging some numbers by reclassifying inherent failures (caused by design) as induced failures (caused by mishandling). I have gone over this before here: http://bestfighter4canada.blogspot.ca/2015/01/2015-f-35-dot-report-more-of-same-with.html
The Project on Government Oversight, also known as POGO, has released a damning critique of the JSF's latest report. They state that the F-35 is "Not ready for prime time...". They also state that it is highly unlikely that the aircraft will meet its IOC target later this year... Or anytime soon.
You can find it here: http://www.pogo.org/our-work/straus-military-reform-project/weapons/2015/not-ready-for-prime-time.html