More problems for pricey F-35
An F-35 at Eglin Air Force Base in Florida
January 30th, 2012
07:45 PM ET

More problems for pricey F-35

From CNN's Larry Shaughnessy and Jennifer Rizzo

Six F-35 Joint Strike fighter jets have been grounded at Edwards Air Force Base in California after it was discovered that the underseat parachutes for pilots were improperly installed, according to a statement from the Joint Strike Fighter program office.

It's the latest issue for the F-35 program, which has gotten vocal support from Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta, who said the Pentagon committed to the F-35 as the future fighter jet for the military.

The program has been beset by ballooning costs and various technical problems in testing. The latest issue - which is not affecting all F-35s in use by the military - involves parachutes that were inserted backwards under the seats of more than 15 planes that received newer ejection seats, the statement said.

In addition to the six grounded in California, the problem also was discovered in six F-35A and the three F-35B aircraft at Eglin Air Force base in Florida. Those aircraft however were only performing ground tests, which can continue.

Some F-35s still on the assembly line at Lockheed Martin's facility in Fort Worth, Texas, also are affected.

The Martin Baker Aircraft Corporation supplies the aircraft ejection seats. Incorrectly drafted packing procedures led to the error, the statement said.

"This issue would not have prevented the pilot from executing a successful ejection and safe landing in the unlikely event of a pilot ejection, but obviously we want to get it right," said Edwards Air Force Base spokesman Mike Strickler.

The parachutes have to be removed and reinstalled correctly. It will take about 10 days until the first set of repacked parachutes are available.

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Filed under: Air Force • Military • Panetta • Pentagon • weapons
soundoff (38 Responses)
  1. Cancel This Pig

    We need to reconsider our entire approach to defense procurement. This progam is the result of nothing but gold plated political gerymandering that leaves the taxpayer stuck funding a pig in a poke.

    Start over

    February 22, 2012 at 3:22 pm | Reply
  2. j

    You can't win the Indy 500 in a '70 Chevelle. Right now we are the only military in the world with a functioning 6th gen figher can we really afford to give up that advantage? RPA's don't have the capabilities of manned aircraft, and in all likelihood will not for a long time. RPA's are good for putting a missle directly on a slow or non-moving target (there is a mutiple second lag due to bandwidth limitations), won't get the job done if you have to make "split second" decisions.

    Has anyone noticed the plane in the picture is an F-22 not an F-35, way to go CNN, attention to detail...

    February 13, 2012 at 11:37 am | Reply
    • Axinex

      Actually, it IS an F-35. Go look up a picture of an F-22 and compare it to that picture. There's a distinctive difference.

      February 13, 2012 at 8:04 pm | Reply
  3. glennrobertg

    OK! I got it now we really want to kill somebody at great expense with manned aircraft that are OBSOLETE!

    February 10, 2012 at 10:05 pm | Reply
  4. Jt_flyer

    We can not afford to cancel this program. We have no advanced fighter to replace fa18 super hornets or f15 eagles. The f22 is way too expensive. We need to cut defense but we need to ensure we can maintain air superiority. It's what allows us to do the things we do in a war zone. Forget UAV's, helo evacs, air support and all the rest.

    February 6, 2012 at 4:37 pm | Reply
    • Grounded!

      And the F-35 is a very good deal, considering the low cost! LOL!

      February 8, 2012 at 2:04 pm | Reply
    • Jim

      Its a terrible deal and an inferior aircraft against our enemy aircraft. the Russian and Chinese fighters are superior in performance. It is a disgrace that we are forcing this junk of a fighter on our pilots.

      February 8, 2012 at 8:10 pm | Reply
      • Eric

        They're only "superior in performance" in airshow maneuvers with no real world application.

        February 8, 2012 at 8:56 pm |
      • Rick from LA

        Operational untrue. The Soviet new stealth fighter has better aerobatics, but still lack in the avionics and electronics warfare front. The F35 is very numble, has better payload, and a proven low radar cross section. If employed properly the F-35 will dominiate in the air, if sent in without proper tactics, the even the F-22 would be a easy target.

        When achieving air superiority you don't just send in high performance fighters. You send in ground based special operations teams and heliborne assault forces to eliminate surface to air threats. In some way's Stealth is useless after a 1st strike since, if done properly, the enemy no longer has a means to engage your forces. That 220 milion dollar plane is just as safe as the 60 million dollar legacy plane only that 60million dollar aircraft has better capabilities since it weapon systems are not internal to retain stealth.

        The F-35 designers realized this fact and gave it the ability to mount hardpoint pylons that elminates it's stealth capabilites in lieu of heavy ordance loads to support operations when air superiority is attained. The Chinese Stealth fighter looks like it does not have the flexibility and I cannot see any space large enough for a internal weapon's bay of significance on the Russian plane. The F-22 has a severly limited weapons load capability and was not initaly designed to make use of hardpoint mount munitions. Though it has the ability to drop JDam's, it's ability to aid in any ground offensive is miniscule, and it's deepstrike capabilites restricted to surgical attacks. What good is a 200 million dollar fighter if there is no use for it beyond the 1st few days of conflict. F-35 has the all round cabilites be useful day 1 to the last day of a conflict.

        February 10, 2012 at 2:16 pm |
    • Eric

      The F22 is cheaper. By far. And a superior aircraft. It was canceled for political reasons, which is why the F35 is still alive.

      The only salvation is that there are a lot of foreign orders for the F35 which will help ease the financial pain. We're stuck with the thing now. It can't be canceled.

      February 8, 2012 at 8:54 pm | Reply
      • Rick from LA

        If you look at the foreign orders, much of the aircraft destined for foerign markts will be built by their local subcontractors which means the majority of the exported aircraft will not be built in the US. Korean Air will build most of the aircraft for the Korean Airforce..etc

        February 10, 2012 at 1:43 pm |
  5. Andrew

    Parachute put in the wrong way? Big deal. It's not as if they suddenly found out the wings stop working under certain conditions and it drops from they sky. That was a problem with the V-22 Osprey's rotors, "Vortex Ring."

    The F-35's biggest problem is that it's being introduced at a time when they're quite close to being to produce a pilotless drone aircraft that will cost 1/5 as much and be able to perform high-G maneuvers that would kill the squishy bag of meat needed to drive an F-35.

    February 2, 2012 at 1:48 pm | Reply
    • Rick from LA

      The whole notion of a fleet of pilotless drones was scrapped the moment that RQ-170 landed in Iran. It was a pipe dream to begin with. The US is cutting back and nearly eliminating drone operations that involve deep penetration of hostile territory and are returning to using the 1950's albeit, super technologically evolved version, of the U2.

      February 10, 2012 at 2:20 pm | Reply
    • Eric

      Vortex Ring State is a problem endemic to all helicopters, not just the V-22. Helicopter pilots are trained to recognize and avoid it, however fixed wing pilots are not. When the V-22 crashed due to vortex ring state it was pilot error; though it was also program error in thinking that since the aircraft was a prop plane half the time they could have prop pilots fly it.

      February 16, 2012 at 12:31 pm | Reply
  6. RS

    F-35 is the WORST jet to use in the Battlefield 3 video game. It turns like a boat. Doesn't surprise me that they have problems in the real world as well.

    February 2, 2012 at 12:01 pm | Reply
    • Eric

      Are you serious right now?

      February 8, 2012 at 8:55 pm | Reply
      • glennrobertg

        I am serious! Manned aircraft like Army tanks are obsolete. We are still trying to fight the last war.

        February 10, 2012 at 9:46 pm |
      • glennrobertg

        I am serious! Manned aircraft like Army tanks are obsolete. We are still trying to fight the last war. Why do you say I have already said that on my first post?

        February 10, 2012 at 9:47 pm |
    • Rick from LA

      Your basing your assesment on the interpretations of a video game?

      February 10, 2012 at 2:21 pm | Reply
  7. Scrilla Villa

    We need this jet so we can use it to kill Bruce Willis in Live Free or Die Hard.

    January 31, 2012 at 9:04 am | Reply
    • RS

      I thought the type of jet used in that movie was a harrier?

      February 2, 2012 at 12:01 pm | Reply
  8. Sayan Majumdar

    The United States administration should have offered Lockheed Martin F-35 ‘Lightning II’ for Indian Air Force (IAF) Medium-Multi Role Combat Aircraft (M-MRCA) competition from the outset.

    Instead earlier generation ‘customised’ Lockheed Martin F-16IN ‘Super Viper’ and Boeing F/A-18IN ‘Super Hornet’ was offered ultimately to lose to French Dassault Rafale (declared today). This represents Rafale’s first potential export success and that too a voluminous one (at least 126, plus perhaps 60 to 80).

    The formal contract is likely to be signed in the coming months.

    Sayan.

    January 31, 2012 at 8:55 am | Reply
    • HAL-9000

      Hey Sayan,

      We all know how the Indians procure stuff. And the Saudis, etc. It all comes down to 'under the table' advantages if you know what I mean. Usually involving Swiss installations...hahaha.

      Every military that buys stuff based on what they need instead of who gets Prince al-Walid or Minister Rajiv or whatever a better stripper at the party picks either Yankee or Russian stuff...every time. Because its scary stuff that blows the other dude's stuff up.

      Israelis have block 52 Mod F-16's and I guarantee those things will make Rafales rain out of the sky all day. Tee-hee. They're not exactly dreaming of Rafales. And what good would an F-35 do for the Indian Air Force? A Swiss-army knife of an airplane is not what they need. They need a twin-spooler that can tangle really high over those peaks blowing up antique Pak F-16's and Chinese Joy of Labor 1970's MiG rip-offs by the dozen. Oh, that's kinda like a Rafale. Where I'm kind of mystified at the purchase is why they want a little hot-rod plane at all. Those big Sukhois have the tactical mix down, IMHO what the Indians need a mean interceptor. And the only mean interceptor today is MiG-31. Those things are bad-boys that touch almost Mach 3 at 80k and pop IRBM's with SM-sized missiles. And you can get'em cheap and put WAYbetter electronics on them. If I were running the Indian Air Force and thinking what's the best way to (eventually its gonna go down) waste the PAK Air Force I'd want me about fifty of those things. But that's just me.

      February 10, 2012 at 8:26 pm | Reply
    • ChicagoRich

      I suspect there is more in the mix. We are currently a bit hamstrung on our foreign policy in that a large arms sale to India of state of the art weapons could cripple our ability to move supplies into Afghanistan, as Pakistan would surely retaliate for such a sale. If the lukewarm cooperation in the war on terror breaks down, then it would push the U.S. more into India's sphere of influence, and then, trade in more top shelf hardware would be likely, as India and the U.S. actually share a lot of interests in common at the global level.

      February 29, 2012 at 4:36 pm | Reply
  9. Paul Pieter Kruijmer

    Can's sell to India, they just order 126 Rafales the best muti-role jet in the world.

    January 31, 2012 at 8:37 am | Reply
  10. Sayan Majumdar

    By putting exceptionally high emphasis on stealth attributes of the F-35 Lightning II (formerly known as Joint Strike Fighter), the designers appear to have made significant compromises on its capacity to manoeuvre and more importantly restricted its (internal) weapons carriage capacity in the stealth mode.

    Outstanding sensor fusion remain the strongest point of F-35, however an unit cost of over $ 110-million may prove prohibitive for mass induction in Services. The program appears to be heading into unlimited controversy both from technological and financial point of view.

    On the positive side the F-35 will be significantly superior to Chinese J-20 (which in my opinion does not qualify as a true fifth-generation fighter).

    Sayan.

    January 31, 2012 at 6:50 am | Reply
  11. Jon

    No problem.....sell the to middle east countries they'll buy them

    January 31, 2012 at 12:09 am | Reply
    • Snoot

      Canada's on the hook for 65 of 'em, to the tune of 9 billion – 18b with maintenance contract. Poor bastards.

      January 31, 2012 at 1:28 am | Reply
      • mipolitic

        easy with that bastard remark ! the honourable blood on a Canadian uniforum is for the same cause my freind. the f-35 plane is even being reject by the usa , as the usa is now reducing the numbers ordered for service in the usa. this jet has been plagued with problem after problem. it is much like the toy gun from matel , looks good but the punch is weak after 250 yards.

        January 31, 2012 at 6:19 am |
  12. Jon

    No problem.....sell the to middle east countries

    January 31, 2012 at 12:09 am | Reply
    • Iranacockuptheirass

      Airman, I like your attitude. These fucking Radical Islamist can not and will not stop. I do not understand people who say we are in the wrong. If they are not smart enough to see what those fucks are doing from the middle east, Africa, south America and striking the US on 9/11, then they shouldn't even open their pie holes. These Radical's want the world and will not stop until the bitter end. They will dye trying. They already are. WAKE THE FUCK UP AMERICA.

      January 31, 2012 at 9:44 am | Reply
  13. Airman

    Everyday, we are warned more and more about the crazy mothefuckers in our free country trying to bring us down and terrorize the people. These terrorists must be brought into check. We will meet all the usurpers of this free nation and arrest You and kill You if necessary as our president and commander in chief direct. My president and CO's orders are always followed mothefucker !!!! Dont tread on the US of A !!!!

    January 30, 2012 at 10:16 pm | Reply
    • Gen. MacArthur; Mama's Little Fairy-Boy

      Actually, I worry more about dickless, paranoiac chickenhawks such as yourself.

      January 31, 2012 at 1:32 am | Reply
      • Iranacockuptheirass

        Man, this homo's name fits him well don'tcha think? Minus the Mcarthy, may God rest his wonderful heroic soul.

        January 31, 2012 at 10:15 am |
    • glennrobertg

      You guys are paranoid. We want F-35s at $110,000,000 (manned aircraft?) when we don't know what to do with one man who has an AK-47. You kill him, so what?

      February 10, 2012 at 10:00 pm | Reply
  14. Voice of Reason

    I don't see why so many people a freaking out over production costs, there are 5-6 versions of this fighter being designed and so if it's running about 160 – 175% of usual production costs, that's rather more cost effective than bringing 4 different fighters, bomber, and close air support craft with thousands more parts for each one. Like Adam Savage has said, you must appease the problem gods, if you have little problems along the way, then there won't be a catastrophic huge problem waiting at the end.

    January 30, 2012 at 9:38 pm | Reply
    • Mars HQ

      VoR,

      With all respect, there are 3 variants of the F-35, not 5-6 and no, what you espoused about it being the more cost-effective approach rather than have implemented 3 separate recapitalization plans is nothing but a myth and misrepresentation.

      The Navy for example could have gone ahead with the ST-21 path and continued with an evolved Hornet as part of their 'High-low' mix. Either that, or more aggressively evolve and upgrade the current Super Hornet. The AF could have aggressively upgraded the F-16 along the lines of the F-16XL concept, which would be a game-changing international seller today, as well as a full-rate produced replacement domestically for older USAF F-16's, A-10s and even some F-15C/D. Further advanced F-15SG-variant Eagles could also be part of the interim mix. The Marines should have been receiving Super Hornets already – phasing out the older hornets – as well as Super Tucano for armed recon and light CAS. It's pretty straight forward really.

      Then, the $35 bn or so in saved aggregate R&D and procurement costs compared to F-35 program, could have simply been applied to a mid-2020s common-frame USAF-USN, 5.5 generation multi-role platform (which is likely to be required anyway as the F-35 is realized in the mid-term to contain limitations in air dominance and longer range capabilities).

      January 30, 2012 at 11:18 pm | Reply
      • Guest

        Mars HQ

        I agree the US Navy should've gone ahead with the F-14D+ Super Tomcat 21 path to replace the failure A-12A Avenger II and A-6 Intruder back in 1990 instead of just Super Hornets. Also for the USAF, buy further advanced F-15E+ Strike Eagle variants that could also be part of the mix, or develop a new proposed single seat F-15, based on the latest advancements in F-15E according to the F-15 Engineer from DoD Buzz.

        Perhaps this great concept can be emailed to Brad Jones Director, F-15 US Air Force Development Programs or Roger Besancenez Boeing Vice President, F-15 Program about the idea of developing a new proposed single-seat F-15 for the USAF to replace the existing F-15C/Ds. The existing (C/D) models can be used for spare parts to keep the new variants operational as an alternative option.

        Also the new single-seat F-15 can be sold as an export variant for new and existing customers to purchase the fighter for predictable costs.

        Yes. The USAF could have aggressively upgraded the F-16 along the lines of the F-16XL concept, which would be a game-changing international seller today, as well as a full-rate produced replacement domestically for older USAF F-16's.

        Plus the F-35 JSF should be cancelled, its a lemon and wrong aircraft for any air forces needs etc. High capability aircraft are the best suited types. Just only rely on small airframes with short range don't have a strong firepower and hefty punch to do the air power better. I wouldn't use the advanced F-15 as an bridging gap, instead they can be use as a future defence needs when the USAF can't afford or qualify the JSF.

        February 2, 2012 at 9:54 pm |

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