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The Pentagon's Latest Assessment Of The F-35 Is In, And It Ain't Pretty
The egregiously expensive and notoriously unreliable F-35 Joint Strike Fighter are even more of a disappointment than you previously thought, according to a new Department of Defense assessment obtained by Bloomberg News.
The 2018 report from the Pentagon's operational testing and evaluation arm, set for public release this week and obtained early by Bloomberg's Tony Capaccio, indicates that ongoing reliability issues have drastically shortened the service life far below expectations, so far that there's "no improving trend in" available aircraft for training and combat missions — a dangerous combination for a perpetually buggy aircraft.
Here are some of the specifics, per Bloomberg's report:
- The service life of the F-35B variants adopted by the Marine Corps "may be as low as 2,100 [hours]," an eye-popping shortfall compared too the expected service life of 8,000 hours.
- "Interim reliability and field maintenance metrics to meeting planned 80% goal not being met," which means fewer aircraft available to actually train on and, therefore, increased barriers to improving readiness among aviators.
- Cybersecurity testing indicated that several vulnerabilities revealed in previous years "still have not been remedied," an alarming tend in an age of cyberattacks.
- Testing on the Air Force weapons systems used in air-to-ground attack indicates "unacceptable" accuracy, a detail which might explain why someone opted to leak a video of an F-35A hitting 5 precision targets at once earlier in January.
U.S. Air Force F-35 Lightning II joint strike fighter crew chief, Tech. Sgt. Brian West, watches his aircraft approach for the first time at Eglin Air Force Base, Fla., July 14, 2011. Aircraft 0747 is the Department of Defense's newest aircraft.(U.S. Air Force/Samuel King Jr.)
News of the OT&E report's contents came just a day after Acting Defense Secretary Patrick Shanahan stated the that F-35 "had a lot of opportunity for more performance" in an apparent jab at the aircraft's shortcomings.
"I am biased toward giving the taxpayer their money's worth," Shanahan said on Tuesday. "And the F-35, unequivocally, I can say, has a lot of opportunity for more performance."
Lockheed Martin's CEO pushed back on the criticism during a call with investors, stating that, "If they chose to have an order on F-15 … it won't be at the expense of F-35 quantities," per the Washington Post: "I'm hearing that directly from the leadership in the Pentagon … not just our suspicion, but I've been told that directly. So I'm not concerned about that."
WATCH NEXT: The F-35 Fires 5 Paveway Missiles At The Same Time
Kade Kurita, the 20-year-old West Point cadet who had been missing since Friday evening, was found dead on Tuesday night, the U.S. Military Academy announced early Wednesday morning.
"We are grieving this loss and our thoughts and prayers go out to Cadet Kurita's family and friends," Lt. Gen. Darryl Williams, superintendent of West Point, said in the release.
The Air Force is investigating whether an airman smoked weed at a missile alert facility for nuclear Minuteman ICBMs
The Air Force is investigating reports that an airman consumed marijuana while assigned to one of the highly-sensitive missile alert facility (MAF) responsible for overseeing 400 nuclear GM-30G Minuteman III intercontinental ballistic missiles at Minot Air Force Base in North Dakota.
Mark Mitchell is stepping down as the acting assistant defense secretary for special operations and low-intensity conflict, a position he has held since late June, a defense official confirmed on Tuesday.
No information was immediately available about why Mitchell decided to resign. His last day will be Nov. 1 and he will be replaced by Thomas Alexander, who is currently leading the Defense Department's counternarcotics efforts, the defense official told Task & Purpose.
The U.S. Army's Next Generation Squad Weapon effort looked a lot more possible this week as the three competing weapons firms displayed their prototype 6.8mm rifles and automatic rifles at the 2019 Association of the United States Army's annual meeting.
Just two months ago, the Army selected General Dynamics Ordnance and Tactical Systems inc., Textron Systems and Sig Sauer Inc. for the final phase of the NGSW effort — one of the service's top modernization priorities to replace the 5.56mm M4A1 carbine and the M249 squad automatic weapon in infantry and other close-combat units.
Army officials, as well as the companies in competition, have been guarded about specific details, but the end result will equip combat squads with weapons that fire a specially designed 6.8mm projectile, capable of penetrating enemy body armor at ranges well beyond the current M855A1 5.56mm round.
There have previously been glimpses of weapons from two firms, but this year's AUSA was the first time all three competitors displayed their prototype weapons, which are distinctly different from one another.
US troops withdrawing to Iraq from Syria can't redeploy there and have to leave in 4 weeks, Baghdad says
The 1,000 U.S. troops leaving Syria will be allowed to stay in Iraq for at most four weeks, Iraq's defense minister said Wednesday, in an embarrassing rebuff to President Donald Trump's plans for withdrawing from Syria.
Najah al-Shammari's comments to the Associated Press came shortly after his meeting with U.S. Defense Secretary Mark Esper, who went to Baghdad to negotiate the redeployment of U.S. troops in Iraq after they withdrew from Syria.