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The Navy says its F-35C is ready for a fight. The Navy's own data says otherwise
In February, the commander of the U.S. Naval Air Forces proclaimed that the Navy's F-35C Joint Strike Fighter was "ready for operations, ready for combat and ready to win" — even though the Navy's own testing data says otherwise.
Testing data obtained by the Project On Government Oversight (POGO) indicates that the F-35 variant's "fully mission capable" rate — a key measure of a military aircraft's readiness — collapsed from 12% in October 2016 to zero in December 2017 before remaining flat through 2018.
The Marine Corps' F-35B hasn't fared much better: According to the POGO report, the aircraft's FMC rate fell from 23% in October 2017 to 12.9% in June 2018.
Both of these rates are far below the September 2019 target of an 80% mission capable rate for both Navy and Air Force fighter jets set by former Defense Secretary James Mattis back in October.
Two F-35C Lightning II aircraft from Naval Air Station Lemoore flown by Maj. Michael Fisher and Capt John Taliaferro from Strike Fighter Squadron (VFA) 125 "Rough Raiders" fly in formation over the Sierra Nevada Mountain Range after completing a training mission (NASL), Calif. (U.S. Navy/Lt. Cmdr. Darin Russell)
These shortcomings come weeks after an annual report from the Pentagon's operational testing and evaluation arm highlighted the alarmingly low service life of the F-35B that "may be as low as 2,100 [hours]," well bellow the expected service life of 8,000 hours.
According to POGO, these readiness shortfalls dramatically reduce the availability of aircraft and, in turn, the next-generation's overall effectiveness downrange. From the report:
To tell how many planes can actually get to the fight requires a second measure, the sortie generation rate: that is, how many flights per day each fighter in the fleet completes. The 2018 DOT&E report makes no mention of it.
The fleet-wide sortie rates for the three F-35 variants POGO calculated from the 2017 report were extremely low, averaging between 0.3 and 0.4 sorties per day. During Operation Desert Storm, frontline combat aircraft including the F-15 and F-16 flew an average of at least one sortie per day, and the A-10 fleet averaged at least 1.4 sorties per day. Even under the pressure of recent Middle East combat deployment, the F-35's rates have not improved. According to statements from the squadron commander, 6 F-35Bs onboard the USS Essex flew over 100 sorties in 50-plus days in the Middle East. In other words, each F-35B flew a third of a sortie per day—meaning they flew an average of once every three days—in sustained combat.
Despite this, Marine Corps F-35B flew more than 100 combat sorties against Taliban and ISIS targets from the amphibious assault ship USS Essex over 50 days after its combat debut in September 2018, Lt. Col. Kyle Shoop, commander of Marine Fighter Attack Squadron 211 previously told Task & Purpose.
And in February, the Navy declared that the F-35Cs assigned to the Strike Fighter Squadron (VFA) 147 had achieved initial operational capability and were ready to deploy.
"We will continue to learn and improve ways to maintain and sustain F-35C as we prepare for first deployment," Joint Strike Fighter Wing commodore Capt. Max McCoy said at the time. "The addition of F-35C to existing Carrier Air Wing capability ensures that we can fight and win in contested battlespace now and well into the future."
WATCH NEXT: The F-35B Heads Into Combat
The Army is almost doubling its purchase of new bolt-action Precision Sniper Rifles as its primary anti-personnel sniper system of choice, according to budget documents.
Air Force officials are investigating the death of a man near the north gate of the U.S. Air Force Academy on Saturday night after the NHL Stadium Series hockey game between the Avalanche and the Los Angeles Kings, military officials said Sunday.
‘That cavalier misdirection cannot stand’ — Washingtonians ask judge to reduce ‘extremely noisy’ Navy Growler flights
The Citizens of Ebey's Reserve (COER) is asking a federal judge to require the Navy to roll back the number of EA-18G Growler practice flights at Outlying Field Coupeville to pre-2019 levels until a lawsuit over the number of Growler flights is settled.
COER and private citizen Paula Spina filed a motion for a preliminary injunction Thursday.
According to the motion, since March 2019 the Navy has increased the number of Growlers at Naval Air Station Whidbey Island and shifted most of its Growler operations to Outlying Field Coupeville, which is near the Reserve and the town of Coupeville.
"The result is a nearly fourfold increase in Growler flights in that area. Now the overflights subject residents in and near Coupeville to extreme noise for several hours of the day, day and night, many days of the week," said the court document.
A 26-year-old man died after he failed to surface from waters off Molokai while participating in a scuba diving tour over the weekend.
He has been identified as Duane Harold Parsley II and was stationed at Hickam Air Force Base, according to the Maui Police Department.
LOS ANGELES — For decades, Japanese American activists have marked Feb. 19 as a day to reflect on one of the darkest chapters in this nation's history.
On that date in 1942, during World War II, President Franklin Delano Roosevelt authorized the forced removal of over 120,000 Americans of Japanese descent from their homes and businesses.
On Thursday, the California Assembly will do more than just remember.