Friday, 24 January 2014 - 16:38
JSF bashed in safety report
A new report by the U.S. Defense Department has criticized the development program of F-35 Joint Strike Fighters (JSF) and pointed out some software, reliability and maintenance issues in the stealth fighter jets being developed by Lockheed Martin. The report, by the Pentagon's chief weapons tester Michael Gilmore, says that the Marine Corps' plans to start using F-35 by mid-2015 could be delayed due to some ongoing software, maintenance and reliability problems with F-35, Reuters reported on Friday. According to the report, there will be 13-month delay in completing testing of the Block 2B software required for the Marine Corps to clear the jets for initial combat use next year. The $392-billion F-35 project is the Pentagon's costliest weapons program, and it has been highly criticized by Gilmore, who is director of operational test and evaluation for the U.S. Defense Department. The report says that F-35 is proving less reliable and harder to maintain than expected. Also, the aircraft remains vulnerable to propellant fires sparked by missile strikes, the report notes. F-35 JSF / Flickr However, Air Force Lieutenant General Chris Bogdan, the Pentagon's F-35 program chief, said in a statement that Gilmore's report did not reflect concerted efforts under way by his office and industry to address software, reliability and maintenance issues. "The basic design of the F-35 is sound, and test results underscore our confidence in the ultimate performance that the United States and its international partners and allies value so highly," Bogdan said. "Of course, we recognize risks still exist in the program, but they are understood and manageable." The Netherlands joins seven others countries that ordered F-35 jets. In September 2013, the Dutch government decided to buy 37 JSF jets. The plan also received support from the Labour Party. In response to the report, Dutch Minister of Defence Jeanine Hennis-Plasschaert said that she has not read the report yet but she was shocked to hear about the risks. The minister said that the report is no surprise and the technical risks were already known. The aircraft is in the development phase and the teams are working to address problems, Nos reported. Starting in 2001, the F-35 program is 70% over initial cost estimates and years behind schedule. Earlier this week, the nonprofit Center for International Policy said that the F-35 program was greatly exaggerated by Lockheed for getting support. On Thursday, Lockheed Chief Executive Marillyn Hewson told reporters that she saw continued support for the F-35 from the U.S. government, Congress and foreign allies. "There's no question ... that we need the F-35. It brings a very important, unique capability for our nation," she said.