One can imagine that some, non-customer, governments are laughing like drains whilst they learn the lessons.
It is a long read, the astonishing thing is that this document is not top secret and that the Pentagon does not dispute the contents, just the emphasis. This is a sample to wet your appetites.
Then-Marine Corps Commandant Gen. Joe Dunford — now Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff — announced on July 31, 2015, that the Marine Fighter Attack Squadron 121 at Yuma, Arizona, “has 10 aircraft in the Block 2B configuration with the requisite performance envelope and weapons clearances, to include the training, sustainment capabilities and infrastructure to deploy to an austere site or a ship.”
In other words, the Marine Corps claimed to have 10 F-35s ready for combat and enough spare parts and maintenance personnel to support the squadron.
But DOT&E found that significant combat deficiencies remain. “If used in combat, the Block 2B F-35 will need support from command and control elements to avoid threats, assist in target acquisition, and control weapons employment for the limited weapons carriage available (i.e., two bombs, two air-to-air missiles).”
The report also states that “if in an opposed combat scenario, the F-35 Block 2B aircraft would need to avoid threat engagement and would require augmentation by other friendly forces.” This means the F-35Bs the Marine Corps said are ready for combat would need to run away from enemy planes while other aircraft would need to come to their rescue.
Air Force officials have repeatedly stated their plans to declare Block 3i of the F-35A — the Air Force’s conventional take-off model — combat ready as scheduled in August, with a December fail-safe date. Block 3i configuration has a newer computer but the same extremely limited weapons and combat capabilities as the 2B.
On the current schedule, the Air Force will declare initial combat capability with planes that, like the Marines’ variant, will have to run from enemy fighters, need other airplanes to help find targets and avoid threats, and carry only two air-to-air and air-to-ground weapons.
Testing has actually revealed that the newer hardware and software used by the Air Force is sometimes in worse shape that the earlier Block 2B used by the Marines. This is especially troubling because officials had written the Block 3i testing plan simply “to confirm Block 3i had equivalent capabilities to those demonstrated in Block 2A (for 3iR1) and Block 2B.”
The testing office originally planned for 514 baseline testing points. During the baseline testing, another 364 additional “discovery” testing points were identified. This means that during testing, 364 additional tests had to be added to try to fix newly discovered problems in a system that was already supposed to work and only had added a new computer.
For example, DOT&E reported the unacceptable “instability” — that is, frequent crashing — of the Block 2B computer-based radar. In fact, Block 3i radar performance was found to be “less stable” than Block 2B. The 3i radar now crashes 7.5 times more often than the earlier version.
The F-35A will be hampered with limitations on both basic flight and weapons employment. The same problem preventing F-35s from taking off in a lightning storm also prevents them from performing hard maneuvers with full fuel tanks. Fully fueled F-35’s are limited to only three Gs because harder maneuvering could increase the pressure in the siphon tanks beyond their limits.
The plane is also limited from opening its weapons doors to fire at speeds above Mach 1.2 due to concerns about structural vibrations called “flutter.” This is less than the plane’s maximum allowable speed of Mach 1.6. Since the F-35 was sold as a supersonic fighter, this restriction negates one of the major capabilities used to justify the massive bill to the American people.