Stagnant F-35 Reliability Means Fewer Available Jets: Pentagon

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Durability testing data indicates service-life of initial F-35B short-takeoff-vertical landing jets bought by Marine Corps “is well under” expected service life of 8,000 fleet hours; “may be as low as 2,100″ hours Pentagon test office says in 2018 annual report obtained by Bloomberg that’s scheduled for release this week. That means some jets expected to start hitting service life limit in 2026.

Furthermore, there’s no “improving trend in” aircraft availability to fly training or combat missions as it’s remained “flat” over the past 3 years. Details come a day after Defense Sec. Pat Shanahan told reporters the F-35 “has a lot of opportunity for more performance.”

  • Interim reliability and field maintenance metrics to meeting planned 80% goal not being met, test office director Robert Behler says in new assessment as improvements “are still not translating into improved availability”
    • Current fleet performance “well below” that benchmark
    • Cybersecurity testing of aircraft in 2018 showed some previous vulnerabilities “still have not been remedied,” assessment says
    • Amount of time needed to repair aircraft and return to flying status “has changed little” in last yr; remains “higher than” rate needed to indicate progress as aircraft fleet numbers and flying hours increase, assessment says
    • Computerized maintenance tool known as “ALIS” doesn’t “yet perform as intended,” as some data and functions deficiencies “have a significant effect on aircraft availability” and launching flights
    • Maintenance personnel, pilots “must deal w pervasive problems w data integrity, completeness on a daily basis,” tester says
    • Testing through September of Air Force model gun intended for air-to-ground attack indicates accuracy “unacceptable,” DoD tester says
  • NOTE: F-35 last month entered one-yr of intense combat testing to determine overall effectiveness to support full-rate production decision in late 2019
  • NOTE: Lockheed officials told analysts yesterday they expect F-35 output to grow to over 160 aircraft by 2021; company achieved 91-plane delivery target in 2018; intends to reach at least 130 this year

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