Entries in F-35 (2)


Military Grounds Multi-Billion Dollar Fleet of Fighter Jets

DoD Photo by Cpl. Ken Kalemkarian, U. S. Marine Corps(WASHINGTON) -- The military has grounded its entire fleet of F-35 stealth fighters, the most expensive weapons program in history, after finding a crack in one of the multi-million-dollar plane’s engines.

The grounding comes just days after the Marine Corps gave its variation of the fighter the green light to fly again after its own month-long grounding for an unrelated problem.

The F-35 Joint Strike Fighter program office released a statement Friday saying a routine engine inspection on Feb. 19 “revealed a crack on a low-pressure turbine blade of an F-35 engine” and the office took the “precautionary measure” of suspending all F-35 flight operations.

“The F-35 Joint Program Office is working closely with [engine maker] Pratt & Whitney and [primary plane manufacturer] Lockheed Martin at all F-35 locations to ensure the integrity of the engine, and to return the fleet safely to flight as soon as possible.”

The F-35 Joint Strike Fighter program, which has a baseline price tag of over a third of $1 trillion as of last March, represents America’s costly foray into fifth-generation stealth fighters along with the troubled $79 billion F-22 Raptor.

The plane comes in three variants: an Air Force version with standard takeoff and landing capabilities, a Navy version designed to take off and land from aircraft carriers and the Marine version, which is designed to land vertically like Britain’s famous Harrier jet. The military currently has 58 planes total, but plans to purchase more than 2,400 more in order to replace the aging F-16 and F-18 legacy fighters.

The F-35 program has suffered a long history of delays and cost overruns, which officials said is partially because it is one of the most complex weapons systems in history and because it was put into production far too early – before major issues could be found.

This time last year Frank Kendall, then the Pentagon’s Acting Undersecretary for Defense Acquisition, Technology and Logistics, said that the government’s plan to field the plane was so reckless it amounted to “acquisition malpractice.”

The engine itself has not been without controversy as well. For months General Electric teamed up with Rolls Royce to provide the military with an engine to compete with Pratt & Whitney, even though the military repeatedly said a second engine was not necessary. The alternate engine was partially funded by the U.S. government to the tune of $3 billion before it was called off in December 2011.

Despite its well-documented problems, the F-35 is seen by top military and government officials as the backbone of America’s future air power. The F-35 Program Office said it is currently investigating the cause of the engine crack.

Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio


The $77 Billion Fighter Jets That Have Never Gone to War

U.S. Air Force photo/Tech. Sgt. Ben Bloker(WASHINGTON) -- More than five years and nearly $80 billion after the world's most expensive fighter jets joined the U.S. military fleet, the high-tech F-22 Raptor has yet to see combat -- despite the U.S. Air Forces' involvement in three simultaneous major combat operations.

When the U.S. led an international effort to secure a no-fly zone over Libya last month, the F-22, the jet the Air Force said "cannot be matched," was not involved. The Air Force said the $143 million-a-pop planes simply weren't necessary to take out Libyan dictator Moammar Gadhafi's air defenses.

"If this was a requirement, it would've been used," Air Force spokesperson Maj. Chad Steffey told ABC News. "We had all the assets that we needed in Europe already... It simply wasn't an operational requirement."

In fact, though the Air Force has more than 160 F-22s, Steffey said that they have not been an "operational requirement" in any major theater of combat for the U.S., from Iraq to Afghanistan, since the first of the planes went combat ready in December 2005.

Not a single one of the planes -- which cost U.S. government $77.4 billion for a total of 187 planes from Lockheed Martin according to recent report by the Government Accountability Office -- has used what Lockheed Martin's website called a "revolutionary leap in lethality" in defense of U.S. interests. And though Congress cut all funding for new Raptors in 2009, Lockheed Martin is still receiving hundreds of millions in taxpayer dollars to make upgrades.

The closest an F-22 has come to combat was in 2007 when a pair of Raptors intercepted and monitored two Russian bombers that were on patrol in airspace near Alaska, according to a report by Air Force Magazine.

Both the Air Force and Lockheed Martin said the reason the planes have yet to fire on any enemies is because they're designed to dominate the air against rival, sophisticated air forces or air defenses, not a small, poorly armed third-world militaries and insurgent groups.

The planes' natural enemy, therefore, is one that the program's biggest critic, Defense Secretary Robert Gates, said as of now does not exist.

"The F-22 is clearly a capability we do need -- a niche, silver-bullet solution for one or two potential scenarios -- specifically the defeat of a highly advanced enemy fighter fleet," Defense Secretary Robert Gates said in 2009 while advocating that Congress ditch further funding for the Raptor from the budget. "[But] the F-22, to be blunt, does not make much sense anyplace else in the spectrum of conflict."

Dozens of supporters of the F-22 program in the House and the Senate wrote letters to President Obama ahead of the 2009 budget decision, arguing a full force of F-22s would be needed to meet the future challenge of other nations like China and Russia that are also developing fifth generation fighters and new, high-tech air defense systems. Gates dismissed these claims and said the U.S. next generation fighters, both the F-22 and the newer F-35, would greatly outnumber any adversaries for the next 15 years at least.

Jeff Babione, the vice president and project manager for the F-22 program at Lockheed Martin, said China and Russia's fighter programs were a consideration in the F-22's development, but also said the F-22 could find a home in strike missions against rogue nations like North Korea and Iran.

"[The F-22s] are in an area where they would be solely or more suited for a sophisticated adversary like North Korea," Babione told ABC News. "In particular, its ability to penetrate highly defended locations -- such as North Korea -- only the Raptor would be able to get in there and prosecute the missions."

Another reason Gates argued against continuing the F-22 fighter is that he said he wanted to put some of that money into the newer F-35 jet fighter. That plane, which is also in development by Lockheed Martin, "will be the backbone of America's tactical aviation fleet for decades to come if -- and this is a big if -- money is not drained away to spend on other aircraft that our military leadership considers of lower priority or excess to our needs," Gates said in 2009.

"The F-35 is 10 to 15 years newer than the F-22, carries a much larger suite of weapons, and is superior in a number of areas – most importantly, air-to-ground missions such as destroying sophisticated enemy air defenses," he said.

The F-35, at a smaller price tag per plane than the F-22, is designed to replace the F-16 -- which incidentally was involved in operations in Libya -- and "will complement the F-22," according to Lockheed Martin and the GAO report. According to Lockheed, the F-35 is better suited for current combat operations since it has a superior air-to-surface attack capability, but can work in tandem with the F-22.

While the F-35 has experienced its own serious development issues, the first planes are scheduled to be delivered to the Air Force this spring, Lockheed told ABC News earlier this year.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

ABC News Radio