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F-35 Lightning II

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Home > Military Topics  > Air > F-35

Information about the F-35 Lightning II

The Lockheed Martin F-35 Lightning II is the newest jet that the Air Force is buying. It is also the most expensive and seems to be plagued with cost overruns, systems failures, rollout delays, and performance issues. A lot of other important and viable defense programs are being scrapped to fund the F-35.

F-35 as a CAS Platform

The F-35 is supposed to replace the A-10 Warthog in the air support mission. Is the F-35 a Good CAS Platform? Not so much. Even the U.S. Air Force says as much in one of its training programs. 1.  According to some news reports the F-35 will not reach full close air support potential until 2022. 3.

Characteristics of the F-35

Weapons Bay. The internal weapons bay of the F-35 has been described by some as 'petite'. In fact, some of the bombs slated for the F-35 won't fit. This would require the aircraft to carry ordnance externally. Putting weapons on pylons of the outside of the aircraft will significantly degrade the stealth capability of the F-35.

Problems with the F-35

F-35: All our Eggs in one Basket. The multi-role F-35 will replace the F-16, A-10, F-18, and AV-8. It could also replace the F-15 and F-22 as well. What happens when there is a fleet-wide grounding of the F-35? Does that mean we don't have an Air Force during the grounding period? 4. 

Inadequate Gun on F-35. The F-35 gun that would be used for close air support carries a whopping 150 rounds - not a lot of ammo to support ground troops in contact. Some varients of the F-35 may carry almost 200 rounds; enough for a 4 second burst or one gun run. The F-35 is a multi-purpose aircraft which means it won't excel at any one mission; and certainly it won't excel at CAS. 2.

$400,000 Helmet. The pilot of an F-35 wears a very expensive helmet that can "see through the plane". The pilot enjoys 360 degrees of vision. 8. and 10.  The helmet also seems to be causing problems with pilot ejection. 11. 

Software Issues. The F-35 is a very complex aircraft; some refer to it as a 'flying computer'. The aircraft operates on 8 million lines of computer code. Unfortunately, the F-35 is plagued with software that still doesn't work. There have been continuing delays with the software of the various varities of the F-35. The Marine Corps version's software had significant problems with the "Block 2B" software. Apparently the onboard computers had trouble fusing data and generating a common picture of air and ground threats. The problem is apparent when multiple F-35 sensor suites attempt to communicate. 5. 

USMC Initial Operating Capability (IOC). The Marine Corps is aiming for an IOC of its version of the F-35 in July 2015. However, it will be with an earlier version of the software package and several deficiencies that will impact on its ability to perform missions.

Problems with ALIS.  The Autonomic Logistics Information System (ALIS) has had its share of problems - including delays and limitations to its functionality. The ALIS will support the JSF's fleet management system including aspects of logistics, maintenance, and operations. 6. 

Structural Problems. The F-35B's structure is showing a tendency to crack. The problem stems from efforts to reduce the jets weight - with a switch from extremely strong titanium parts to aluminum to save weight. 7. 

"Dead Meat in an Air Battle". One test pilot admits that the F-35 is not as good as the aircraft it has been designed to replace. In a day of mock air battles in January 2015 - a decade after the first F-35 has been rolled out - the aircraft can't turn or climb fast enough to hit an enemy plane during a dogfight. 9.

Websites about the F-35

Lockheed Martin F-35 Lightning II by Wikipedia

Papers and Reports about the F-35

DoD, F-35 Joint Strike Fighter (JSF), FY15 DOD Programs, annual report upload to DOTE OSD, January 2016.

GAO, F-35 Joint Strike Fighter: Assessment Needed to Address Affordability Challenges, U.S. Government Accountability Officer, Report to Congressional Committees, GAO-15-364, April 2015.

News Articles about the F-35

February 2, 2016. "This is what regret looks like for the Pentagon", Business Insider. Software glitches will delay updating code on aircraft . . . again.

October 1, 2015. "F-35 Ejection Seat Fears Ground Lightweight Pilots". Defense News. Concerns about increased risk of injury to F-35 pilots during low-speed ejections have restricted pilots who weigh less than 136 lbs from flying the a/c.

April 28, 2015. "IG faults management of F-35 engine program". Air Force Times.

April 20, 2015. "Despite IOC, Questions Remain for F-35B Integration". Aviation Week. The Marines are getting ready of operational testing as early as July 2015.

April 17, 2015. "Congress' Watchdog Thinks America Can't Afford the F-35". By Matthew Gault, War is Boring. The new report cites mistake after mistake.

March 17, 2015. "The F-35 is Still FUBAR". Mother Jones. A new report raises serious questions about the safety and performance of the most expensive jet fighter every made.

March 14, 2015. "How the U.S. and Its Allies Got Stuck with the World's Worst New Warplane". War is Boring Blog. The F-35 Joint Strike Fighter was meant to improve the U.S. air arsenal but has made it more vulnerable instead. "The jack-of-all-trades JSF has become the master of none".

March 12, 2015. "F-35 Still Years Away From Being Ready for Combat". War is Boring Blog. It seems the new fighter jet is plaqued with engine, software and fuel tank problems.

February 27, 2015. "F-35B Internal Weapons Bay Can't Fit Required Load of Small Diameter Bomb IIs", InsideDefense.com.

September 16, 2012. "Questions Abound as China Unveils Another Stealth Jet". Wired.com. An article by David Axe suggests the Chinese have copied the yet to be fielded F-35 JSF design; only the Chinese copy, the J-31, is better.

February 6, 2012. "Kendall: Early F-35 Production 'Acquisition Malpractice'". Defense News. The Pentagon's top weapons buyer denounced a previous DoD decision to start production of the Lockheed Martin F-35 JSF.

September 11, 2008. "Australia's fighter jets 'clubbed' by Russians". Brisbane Times. Australia is buying some Joint Strike Fighter jets from the U.S. However, there are those whose oppose the buy saying the JSF is an inferior jet compared to fighters currently in the inventory of potential adversaries. A recent computerized simulated war game at Hawaii's Hickam airbase saw ". . . the JSF had been clubbed like baby seals by the simulated Sukhois". One critic says Australia should buy the proven F-22.



1. See a Facebook posting by John Q. Public that depicts a screen shot of the U.S. Air Force training program that indicates the F-35 Lightening II (Joint Strike Fighter) is NOT an effective Close Air Support platform.

2. For more on the comparison between the A-10 and F-35 guns see "A Tale of Two Gatling Guns: F-35 vs. A-10", Defense Tech, January 2, 2015.

3. See "F-35 will not reach full close air support potential until 2022", DoD Buzz. The Small Diameter Bomb II (SDBII) will be ready in 2017 but the software to operate the bomb for the F-35 won't be ready until 2022.

4. For all our eggs in one basket see "The F-35 Nightmare Could Get Even Worse". By Dan Ward (USAF LTC Retired), Real Clear Defense, March 24, 2015.

5. For more on the Marine Corps F-35 software deficiencies read "Pentagon Extends F-35 Software Testing to Fix Flaws", Bloomberg News, March 24, 2015. See also "F-35 Software Challenge Won't Delay IOC", Defense News, March 24, 2015.

6. For more on ALIS see an April 2015 posting entitled "Troubled Logistics System Critical to F-35's Future". National Defense Magazine.

7. For info on structural problems see "Stealth Jet's Slow, Half-Blind Debut", by Dave Majumdar in The Daily Beast, March 25, 2015.

8. For more in the helment see "Meet the most fascinating part of the F-35: The $400,000 helmet", The Washington Post, April 1, 2015.

9. For more on lack of capability in an aerial 'dogfight' see "Test Pilot Admits the F-35 Can't Dogfight: New stealth fighter is dead meat in an air battle", War is Boring, June 29, 2015.

10. One pilot says the expensive helmet is "cool" but that he doesn't really use it that often, The Aviationist, July 13, 2015.

11. The heavy F-35 helmet is causing difficulties with pilot ejection - see "F-35's Heavier Helmet Complicates Ejection Risks", Defense News, October 15, 2015.




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