Certifying the Nuclear Fleet in a Cyber World

By Amy McCullough
May 1, 2018

The Air Force is already thinking about how it will certify its nuclear systems in a cyber environment. That’s a significant challenge considering the last time it certified such a system—the B-2 in the early 1990s—the internet didn’t exist, at least not as it does today.

“We built a plan on how to execute that because the time to worry about nuclear certification of our systems is not 2020, it’s 2018. You plan for it now,” said Lt. Gen. Jack Weinstein, deputy chief of staff for strategic deterrence and nuclear integration, during an AFA Mitchell Institute event on Capitol Hill on ​Tuesday. ​

Nuclear certification is the final step before a nuclear weapon system can reach initial operational capability. In 2017, the Air Force Scientific Advisory Board conducted a study on “Nuclear Surety and Certification for Emerging Systems,” in which the board offered several recommendations, including ensuring the Air Force Nuclear Weapons Center, Air Force Safety Center, and the NWS Program Offices were properly resourced “to support modernization.”


Pentagon Classifies Study of F-35 Jet’s Challenges in Pacific

By Anthony Capaccio
April 25, 2018

The Pentagon classified an assessment of the major challenges the Marine Corps encountered in deploying the U.S.’s first F-35 jets to the Pacific, according to a new Government Accountability Office report.

An unclassified version of the study released on Wednesday suggests the problems with the Lockheed Martin Corp. fighter — which would bolster U.S. capabilities in case of a conflict with North Korea — could be significant, touching on both critical software and supply chain issues.

“While the Marine Corps recognizes the advanced warfighting capabilities the F-35 will bring to the Pacific, it is facing challenges operating in the area,” according to the unclassified version. “In particular, it is uncertain how long the F-35 can effectively operate” if its software-intensive maintenance diagnostic system — critical for keeping the jets flying — “becomes disconnected from the aircraft,” according to the report.


With Older F-35s ‘On Life Support,’ Wing Struggles to Train Pilots

By Oriana Pawlyk
May 7, 2018

One of the busiest F-35 Joint Strike Fighter training units is hoping the U.S. Air Force can help relieve some of the pressures of training student pilots with ineffective resources.

The 33rd Fighter Wing, the leading training wing for F-35 student pilots, hopes it will receive additional F-35A aircraft, along with considerable upgrades to its existing fleet, to keep up with training demands, said Col. Paul Moga, commander of the 33rd Fighter Wing here.

“Right now, production is king. We’ve got to find ways to solve this aircrew crisis, and our contribution to that is getting our students through the training program as quickly as possible,” Moga said, referring to the service’s ongoing pilot shortage.


GAO: Bad Communication on F-35 Problems Threatens Future Deployments

By Oriana Pawlyk
April 25, 2018

The Marine Corps may struggle to support the ongoing deployment of its F-35B Joint Strike Fighter to the Pacific if the Defense Department won’t properly share the service’s operational challenges to the Navy or Air Force, according to a new Government Accountability Office report.

The GAO issued a report Wednesday saying that the Marine Corps relies too heavily on “personal relationships” with Air Force and Navy counterparts to share lessons learned from not only its first operational F-35 deployment, but also training exercises.

The Defense Department “has emphasized the need for the services to collect and share lessons learned not only at a service-specific level, but across all services, and it established the Joint Lessons Learned Program in 2000 to enhance joint capabilities through knowledge management in peacetime and wartime,” the 15-page report said.


More Problems For F35 Jet Diverted To Lubbock International Airport

March 29, 2013

A new problem for the F35 fighter jet that made an emergency landing in Lubbock two weeks ago.

Lockheed Martin officials tell us the jet tried to leave Lubbock and fly back to Ft. Worth this week, but experienced a problem with a communications channel of the flight control system and couldn’t leave.

The jet has been at Lubbock International Airport since March 11th, when a warning light forced the pilot to land here instead of Nellis Air Force Base in Nevada.


US F-35 fighter makes emergency landing in Fukuoka

April 24, 2018

A US F-35 stealth fighter jet has made an emergency landing at an Air Self-Defense Force base in Fukuoka Prefecture, western Japan.

The jet landed at Tsuiki Air Base just after 11 AM on Tuesday.

The Defense Ministry says the plane belongs to the US Marine Corps at Iwakuni Air Station in Yamaguchi Prefecture.

The ministry says the jet may have had problems involving part of its body during flight. No injuries or damage have been reported.

The ministry also says the emergency landing is the first by a US F-35 in Japan but not at a US base.

The US military is investigating the cause of the incident.


F-35: Still No Finish Line in Sight

By Dan Grazier
March 19, 2018

Jim Roche, then-Secretary of the Air Force, made an announcement on October 26, 2001, that all aviation enthusiasts had been waiting for: a winner had been picked to design and build the Joint Strike Fighter. The American people were assured the new jet would enter service in 2008 and be a high-performance replacement for the military’s aging airframes while only costing between $40 million and $50 million.

The F-35 has now entered an unprecedented seventeenth year of continuing redesign, test deficiencies, fixes, schedule slippages, and cost overruns. And it’s still not at the finish line. Numerous missteps along the way—from the fact that the two competing contractors, Lockheed Martin and Boeing, submitted “flyoff” planes that were crude and undeveloped “technology demonstrators” rather than following the better practice of submitting fully functional prototypes, to concurrent acquisition malpractice that has prevented design flaws from being discovered until after production models were built—have led to where we are now. According to the latest annual report from the Director, Operational Test & Evaluation (DOT&E), 263 “high priority” performance and safety deficiencies remain unresolved and unaddressed, and the developmental tests—essentially, the laboratory tests—are far from complete.


Pentagon stops accepting F-35 jets from Lockheed over repair cost dispute

By Mike Stone
April 11, 2018

The U.S. Department of Defense has stopped accepting most deliveries of F-35 jets from Lockheed Martin Corp (LMT.N) because of a dispute over who will cover costs for fixing a production error, three people familiar with the matter said.

Lockheed confirmed on Wednesday that the Pentagon had halted deliveries of the jet over a contractual issue, but did not give further details.

Last year, the Pentagon stopped accepting F-35s for 30 days after discovering corrosion where panels were fastened to the airframe, an issue that affected more than 200 of the stealthy jets. Once a fix had been devised, the deliveries resumed, and Lockheed hit its target aircraft delivery numbers for 2017.

But deliveries were paused again over a dispute as to who will pay for what will likely be a complex logistical fix that could require technicians to travel widely to mend aircraft based around the world, said the people, who spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to speak publicly about the matter.


GAO report on F-35 Aircraft Sustainment: DOD Needs to Address Challenges

Oct 26, 2017

The Department of Defense (DOD) is sustaining over 250 F-35 aircraft (F-35) and plans to triple the fleet by the end of 2021, but is facing sustainment challenges that are affecting warfighter readiness (see table). These challenges are largely the result of sustainment plans that do not fully include key requirements or aligned (timely and sufficient) funding. DOD is taking steps to address some challenges, but without more comprehensive plans and aligned funding, DOD risks being unable to fully leverage the F-35’s capabilities and sustain a rapidly expanding fleet.


Air Force Risks Losing Third of F-35s If Upkeep Costs Aren’t Cut

By Anthony Capaccio
March 28, 2018

The U.S. Air Force may have to cut its purchases of Lockheed Martin Corp.’s F-35 by a third if it can’t find ways to reduce operations and support costs by as much as 38 percent over a decade, according to an internal analysis.

The shortfall would force the service to subtract 590 of the fighter jets from the 1,763 it plans to order, the Air Force office charged with evaluating the F-35’s impact on operations and budgets, in an assessment obtained by Bloomberg News.

While the Defense Department has said it has gained control over costs for developing and producing a fleet of 2,456 F-35s for the Air Force, Navy and Marine Corps — now projected at $406 billion — the internal analysis underscores the current and looming challenges of maintaining and operating the warplanes.

It may cost as much as $1.1 trillion to keep the F-35s flying and maintained through 2070, according to the current estimate from the Pentagon’s independent cost unit.


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