The weaknesses in the £1.2trillion ($1.4 trillion) Joint Strike Fighter programme, including delays on completing gun testing and “overall ineffective operational performance”, are likely to delay its long-awaited entry into service still further.
There are also problems with the software which is designed to run the highly sophisticated warplane.
From The Express
This could mean the Royal Navy’s new aircraft carriers face years without the planes they were designed to carry.
The length of the 62-page report was described by one source as “unprecedented” at this stage of the F-35’s already long-delayed development.
The report emerged with President Donald Trump determined to force down the costs of the controversial programme, which is the most expensive piece of military kit ever made.
In 2014 the overall US programme was running £134billion ($162billion) over its lifetime budget and seven years late.
Britain is buying 138 F-35B aircraft – the short take-off and vertical landing version.
David Cameron scrapped plans for a model that would have used catapults to take off from, and arrestor wires to land, on aircraft carriers.
Experts say that as a result the F-35B’s range will be greatly reduced because the space taken up by kit providing short take-off and vertical landing reduces room for fuel tanks.
The F-35s are to be used by the RAF and the Royal Navy, with an initial RAF capability due in December next year.
The 2016 Department of Defence report, written by J Michael Gilmore, the Pentagon’s Director of Operational Test and Evaluation, is important because Congress cannot vote for full funding for the programme until the plane is cleared for use.
The report warns: “The Services have designated 276 deficiencies in combat performance as ‘critical to correct’.”
But the report says that the Joint Strike Fighter Program Office “plans to reduce or truncate planned developmental testing in an effort to minimise delays”.
It adds: “Even with this risky, schedule-driven approach, multiple problems and delays make it clear that full combat capability is unlikely before the end of next year “at the soonest”.
The problems include weapons integration issues, gunsight deficiencies and delays in gun-testing, delays to completing modifications of test aircraft, and an overheating tail. Computer problems also mean the F-35 will not be able to detect and identify modern threats until 2020.
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