F-35 Fighter Jet -- Pentagon's "Trillion-dollar Turkey" -- Crashes in South Carolina
September 30, 2018 Agence France-Presse & The Times of Israel & The Guardian & News Corp Australia Network & The American Conservative
A US F-35 fighter was destroyed in a crash while training Friday. The crash -- the first of its kind for the troubled program -- marks an unfortunate moment for the most expensive plane in history. The Pentagon has reportedly covered up performance and design flaws and classified its April report into problems encountered in the F-35's first operational deployment. We don't know how it went. We won't know how it went. We know problems emerged.
US F-35 Destroyed in Apparent First-ever Crash for the Stealth Jet Cause of crash not clear;
Israel operates 12 of the advanced planes Agence France-Presse and The Times of Israel
SOUTH CAROLINA (September 28, 2018) -- A US F-35 fighter was completely destroyed in a crash while training Friday, officials said. The pilot safely ejected. The crash appears to be the first of its kind for the troubled F-35 program, marking an unfortunate moment for the most expensive plane in history.
Speaking on condition of anonymity ahead of an official announcement, a defense official told AFP that the Marine Corps F-35 had crashed outside Marine Corps Air Station Beaufort in South Carolina.
"It's a total loss," the official said.
The Beaufort County Sheriff's Office said the pilot safely ejected and was being evaluated for injuries.
Unit costs vary, but the price tag of F-35s is around $100 million each.
The crash comes just one day after the US military first used the F-35, which has been beset with delays and cost overruns, in combat. Multiple Marine Corps F-35s struck Taliban targets in Afghanistan.
Launched in the early 1990s, the F-35 program is considered the most expensive weapons system in US history, with an estimated cost of some $400 billion and a goal to produce 2,500 aircraft in the coming years.
Once servicing and maintenance costs for the F-35 are factored in over the aircraft's lifespan through 2070, overall program costs are expected to rise to $1.5 trillion.
Israel operates 12 F-35 fighters known in Israel by their Hebrew name, the "Adir," meaning mighty or great.
Israel began receiving the fifth-generation F-35 stealth fighter from the United States in December 2016. The aircraft was declared operational approximately a year later.
In May, the head of the air force revealed that Israel had used the fighter jets operationally, which the IDF said made it the first military do so.
Israel has, for now, agreed to purchase 50 F-35 fighters in total from the United States, which are scheduled to be delivered in installments of twos and threes by 2024.
The fifth-generation F-35 fighter jet has been lauded as a "game-changer" by the Israeli military, not only for its offensive and stealth capabilities, but for its ability to connect its systems with other aircraft and form an information-sharing network.
WASHINGTON (September 29, 2018) – An F-35 fighter jet crashed in South Carolina, the US Marine Corps said, in the first such incident to affect the most expensive defence programme in the world. A statement said the crash occurred in the vicinity of Beaufort, South Carolina, at approximately 11.40am on Friday.
"The US Marine pilot ejected safely," the statement said, adding that there were no civilian injuries and both the health of the pilot and the cause of the crash were being evaluated.
The F-35 Lightning II is built by Lockheed-Martin. Reuters reported earlier on Friday that the Pentagon announced an $11.5bn contract for 141 planes, which "lowered the price for the most common version of the stealthy jet by 5.4% to $89.2 million".
Donald Trump has trumpeted efforts to cut costs. On Friday V Adm Mat Winter, head of the Pentagon's F-35 office, said: "Driving down cost is critical to the success of this programme."
Most of the new planes will be for US use but some will go to allies. Israel and Britain are among countries committed to buying F-35s. On Thursday, F-35s landed on a British aircraft carrier, HMS Queen Elizabeth, for the first time.
On the same day, the US military said it carried out its first operation with the plane in Afghanistan. Israel has used its F-35s to carry out strikes.
The planes are equipped with stealth technology to help evade detection by radar. Trump has attracted criticism and ridicule for seeming to believe this makes the jets "invisible".
Last November, for example, the president told an audience of coast guard officers the US was "ordering hundreds of millions of dollars of new airplanes for the air force, especially the F-35."
"You like the F-35?" he asked. ". . . You can't see it. You literally can't see it. It's hard to fight a plane you can't see."
Trump said he had discussed the plane with "some air force guys" who told him: "Well, it wins every time because the enemy cannot see it, even if it's right next to it, it can't see it."
(April 26, 2018) --The United States has just finished the first operational deployment of the controversial F-35 stealth fighter.
We don't know how it went.
We won't know how it went.
The Pentagon has classified its report into the most significant challenges the US Marine Corps encountered in Japan and when taking its F-35B 'jump jet' variant to sea aboard the USS Wasp in January.
We know problems emerged.
"While the Marine Corps recognises the advanced warfighting capabilities the F-35 will bring to the Pacific, it is facing challenges operating in the area," an unclassified summary of the report states. "In particular, it is uncertain how long the F-35 can effectively operate if ALIS becomes disconnected from the aircraft."
This refers to the aircraft's self diagnostic system, an artificial intelligence (called ALIS) intended to make critical maintenance easier and ensure it is up to standard.
And it's not known if the 'airframe issues' which caused one of the F-35Bs to make an emergency landing in Japan recently is part of the Marine Corp's concerns.
The United Kingdom is purchasing the 'jump jet' F-35B. Other nations such as Australia, Norway, Italy, and Candada have all contributed to the stealth fighter's exorbitant development costs, as well as committed to buying it.
But the Pentagon earlier this month suspended all deliveries of the new jet from its manufacturer, Lockheed Martin.
This is because of a dispute over who was responsible for the cost of repairing serious production faults discovered upon delivery.
TROUBLED TRILLION-DOLLAR TURKEY
Some 16 F-35Bs in Marine Fighter Attack Squadron 121 were deployed to Japan last year. In January, these went to sea in a heavily promoted deployment aboard the USS Wasp.
The US Marine Corps has plans to buy 353 of the 'jump jet' variant to replace its AV-8B Harrier and F/A-18 Hornets.
What we know of the F-35Bs performance comes from a Government Accountability Office assessment of the state of the program.
"The F-35 program does not currently disseminate or make available lessons learned across all services, although program officials agreed that doing so would be beneficial," it found.
"The services are at risk of not having access to key information that could affect their movements, exercises, operations, and sustainment of the aircraft in the Pacific and other areas where they operate. Now is the time for DOD to make sure that lessons learned are communicated effectively across all services."
And, hopefully, all allies.
The F-35 stealth fighter, which is the world's most costly defence project ever, is also known to have software problems associated with its one greatest advantage -- the ability to 'network' with nearby aircraft, ships, soldiers and satellites.
Whether or not this was raised in the Pentagon report is unknown.
But spare parts are clearly part of the issue.
"The Marine Corps has also encountered several challenges with the F-35's supply chain since beginning flight operations in January 2017. Further details are provided in our classified report . . . "
The dispute between the Pentagon and Lockheed Martin has remained unresolved since it emerged earlier this month.
The dispute is specifically over who is responsible for paying for production errors. Neither US Government nor Lockheed Martin inspectors identified the issue while the jets were on the production lines.
It's not the first time such a suspension has been enforced.
No new F-35s were accepted for more than 30 days last year after it was discovered corrosion was affecting the join between carbon fibre panels and the aluminium airframe. A recall had to be applied to more than 200 F-35s.
In 2016, a delivery halt was related to insulation problems with the fuel lines and tanks. The new, unspecified, problems will require technicians to travel the world to wherever the stealth fighter is located.
It's clearly not a cheap job.
"We are still progressing along with the Joint Program Office on that," Lockheed Chairman, President and CEO Marillyn Hewson said in a statement. "It's just a temporary suspension that they have on accepting some aircraft until we reach agreement on a contractual issue. So we're working through that contractual issue with them."
The extent to which these production defects apply to the handful of F-35A fighters so far delivered to the Australian Air Force has not been revealed, nor whom will wear the cost of remediating the problems.
Reuters reports two sources as saying two unspecified foreign customers had also stopped accepting F-35s as a result of the new issues.
WASHINGTON (September 26, 2018) -- Well into the second year of the Trump administration, "draining the swamp" is more of a hapless zigzag than a charge against Washington's sacred cows.
Case in point: the earmarking process. Despite a 2011 ban on congressional earmarking, lawmakers have found ways to bake "inducements" into massive defense and infrastructure bills. Tallying and tabulating the earmarks found in the fiscal year (FY) 2019 Defense Appropriations Bill, the Taxpayers Protection Alliance (TPA) found 679 earmarks totaling $19.3 billion. These earmarks fuel unnecessary and unaccountable programs that harm taxpayers and service members alike.
One large winner from the still-widespread earmarking process is the F-35 aircraft program, slated to run taxpayers an estimated $1.5 trillion due to the combined costs of construction, fuel, and maintenance over a 20-year time frame. The cost overruns are infamous, with a 7 percent jump in price over the past year alone.
The program's executive officer, Mathias W. Winter, claimed in a hearing that, despite poor management decisions over the past 20 years, the situation has improved since 2011's clock reset and the F-35 program has become more affordable and reliable. Yet average F-35 costs have more than doubled since the program's inception in 2001.
Taxpayers have seen the per-aircraft cost rise from $62.2 million to $158.4 million, and it would have been even higher if the Pentagon hadn't taken well-documented shortcuts in the construction process. Despite these warnings and cost overruns, however, the House added $740 million for eight additional F-35s in the current spending bill.
A June 2018 report from the Government Accountability Office noted that F-35 aircraft had 111 deficiencies 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." An additional 855 deficiencies could "impede or constrain successful mission accomplishment."
Yet rather than fixing these potentially fatal design flaws, Pentagon documents obtained by the Project on Government Oversight (POGO) show that planners are eager to patch over these flaws in order to move full speed ahead. Take, for instance, the failure of the emergency squawk to "automatically initiate upon ejection." Despite the obvious threat to service personnel, the Deficiency Review Board moved to "change status to no plan to correct. . .."
In response to these deficiencies and mission-critical shortcomings, the Pentagon could have instead committed to capping off the program and dedicating remaining resources to ensuring program safety and effectiveness. But some members of Congress had other ideas.
House Armed Services Committee subcommittee chairman Mike Turner suggested that ramping up production even further could lower per-unit costs, despite increasing the total program cost to taxpayers.
For the subcommittee chairman, boosting production would be "bringing home the bacon" to his constituents in the Dayton area, where multiple F-35 suppliers are located.
Pork-barrel politics aside, if the plane "doesn't work," how will buying more make them better? Sure, per-unit costs will tend to be low (by 2018 standards) with a bulk purchase, but amping up total program costs from $1.5 trillion to more than $2 trillion shows a reckless disregard for taxpayer money and guarantees continued designed woes.
The F-35 is but one of countless programs soaring in costs yet lacking any sort of accountability. TPA also found, for instance, that appropriators allocated $950 million for two additional Littoral Combat Ships (LCS) this year, on top of the Navy's $646 million request for just one additional ship. Lacking in these requests was any justification for the program increase, given the disappointing results delivered by the program thus far.
In a review conducted between 2016 and 2018, the Pentagon found significant LCS shortcomings, including little backup capability for vital system functions and nil missile self-defense functions. In fact, there's a significant chance that "a single hit will result in loss of propulsion, combat capability, and the ability to control damage and restore system operation."
Yet with the rampant cost escalation that has plagued the program since its inception in 2005, one could be forgiven for thinking that LCS ships have Volvo-style safety features. LCS vessels now cost more than $600 million each, nearly triple the figure that was initially slated back in 2005. The late Senator John McCain rightly pointed out that "the littoral combat ship, or LCS, is an unfortunate yet all too common example of defense acquisition gone awry."
As long as programs such as the F-35 and LCS are beholden to trigger-happy appropriators focused more on winning reelection than eliminating program waste, costs will continue to skyrocket. Congress can take a first bold step by strengthening the earmark ban on the books, rather than eliminating it as some have suggested.
Lawmakers must also hold the Pentagon accountable for these ballistic boondoggles, by tying funding more closely to program capabilities and cost overruns. Until officials -- both on Capitol Hill and in the Pentagon -- start applying pressure to faulty programs, service members and taxpayers will continue to be in the line of fire.