The F-35 Has A New Problem That Won’t Be Easy To Solve


July 18, 2019

David Axe

Security,

Former secretary of the army Mark Esper, who is Trump’s nominee to replace Mattis, in mid-July 2019 told a Senate committee the roughly 300-strong fleet of F-35s belonging to the U.S. Air Force, Navy and Marine Corps “is not expected” to meet Mattis’s readiness goal.

The F-35 Has A New Problem That Won’t Be Easy To Solve

The U.S. military’s growing fleet of F-35 stealth fighters will fall short of the 80-percent readiness goal that former defense secretary James Mattis instituted before quitting in protest of Pres. Donald Trump’s foreign policy in January 2019.

Former secretary of the army Mark Esper, who is Trump’s nominee to replace Mattis, in mid-July 2019 told a Senate committee the roughly 300-strong fleet of F-35s belonging to the U.S. Air Force, Navy and Marine Corps “is not expected” to meet Mattis’s readiness goal.

Esper blamed the F-35’s canopy, or “transparency.”

Transparency supply shortages continue to be the main obstacle to achieving this,” Esper told the committee. “We are seeking additional sources to fix unserviceable canopies.”

The Government Accountability Office highlighted the canopy shortage in an April 2019 report. The F-35’s canopy, which features a special coating that reflects radar waves and prevents them from bouncing off the inside of the cockpit — a potentially major source of radar returns — “failed more frequently than expected,” the GAO pointed out.

Lockheed Martin, which builds the F-35, searched for an additional subcontractor to help boost canopy-production, the GAO reported.

The F-35 isn’t the only warplane to fall short of the readiness goal. Mattis directed all Air Force, Navy and Marine Corps F-15, F-16, F/A-18, F-22 and F-35 squadrons to achieve an 80-percent mission-capable rate by the end of September 2019.

The F-16 fleet is expected to meet the readiness goal this year, Esper told the Senate. The Navy and Marines have reported that the F/A-18 force also will meet the goal.

But the Air Force’s small fleet of F-22 stealth fighters, like the F-35 fleet, likely will fall short of Mattis’s benchmark, Air Force brigadier general Heath Collins, the service’s program executive officer for fighters and bombers, said in June 2019.

The failure wasn’t for a lack of trying. The Air Force in 2018 and 2019 shifted $750 million into maintenance accounts for the F-22 and F-16 fleets in the hope of meeting Mattis’s goal.

The flying branch also temporarily withdrew F-22s from the Middle East, ending five years of continuous F-22 operations in the region. Older F-15C fighters for several months took over for the F-22s.

The extra spending and a break from Middle East ops weren’t enough to boost the F-22’s mission-capable rate. Since becoming operational in 2005, the 187 F-22s have achieved roughly a 50-percent readiness rate, on average — one of the lowest rates of all U.S. fighter types.

The F-22’s complex systems and delicate, radar-absorbing coating require intensive maintenance. The F-35 is proving equally hard to keep in the air.

The stealth fighter’s readiness woes come as new performance problems with the type also have come to light. Defense News in June 2019 obtained military documents detailing a wide range of serious problems with two of the three versions of the F-35.

The Air Force’s F-35A appears to be exempt from the latest flaws, but the Marine Corps’ vertical-landing F-35B and the Navy’s carrier-compatible F-35C both suffer what the services call “category 1” deficiencies.

In military parlance, a category-1 flaw in a plane can prevent a pilot from accomplishing their mission.

One problem cropped up during test flights in 2011, Defense News reported, citing the trove of military documents. In the 2011 tests, at least one F-35B and F-35C both flew at speeds of Mach 1.3 and Mach 1.4. A post-flight inspection in November 2011 revealed the F-35B sustained “bubbling [and] blistering” of its stealth coating.

Further supersonic tests in December 2011 revealed structural damage on an F-35C resulting from the extreme heat coming from the plane’s single Pratt & Whitney engine, one of the most powerful fighter engines ever made.

To avoid similar damage, the military has limited F-35B and F-35C pilots to flying at supersonic speed for less than a minute at a time.

The test reports Defense News obtained reveal a second, previously little-known category-1 deficiency in the F-35B and F-35C aircraft. If during a steep climb the fighters exceed a 20-degree “angle of attack” — the angle created by the wing and the oncoming air — they could become unstable and potentially uncontrollable.

David Axe serves as Defense Editor of the National Interest. He is the author of the graphic novels War Fix, War Is Boring and Machete Squad.

Source: National Interest “The F-35 Has A New Problem That Won’t Be Easy To Solve”

Note: This is National Interest’s article I post here for readers’ information. It does not mean that I agree or disagree with the article’s views.


Supersonic speeds could cause big problems for the F-35’s stealth coating


By: Valerie Insinna and David B. Larter    16 hours ago

An F-35C flies over the U.S.s Navy’s stealth guided-missile destroyer Zumwalt as the ship transits the Chesapeake Bay on Oct. 17, 2016. (Andy Wolfe/U.S. Navy)

WASHINGTON — At extremely high altitudes, the U.S. Navy and Marine Corps’ versions of the F-35 jet can only fly at supersonic speeds for short bursts of time before there is a risk of structural damage and loss of stealth capability, a problem that may make it impossible for the Navy’s F-35C to conduct supersonic intercepts.

The Defense Department does not intend to field a fix for the problem, which influences not only the F-35’s airframe and the low-observable coating that keeps it stealthy, but also the myriad antennas located on the back of the plane that are currently vulnerable to damage, according to documents exclusively obtained by Defense News.

The F-35 Joint Program Office has classified the issues for the “B” and “C” models as separate category 1 deficiencies, indicating in one document that the problem presents a challenge to accomplishing one of the key missions of the fighter jet. In this scale, category 1 represents the most serious type of deficiency.

Click here for more on the hidden troubles of the F-35.

Both deficiencies were first observed in late 2011 following flutter tests where the F-35B and F-35C both flew at speeds of Mach 1.3 and Mach 1.4. During a post-flight inspection in November 2011, it was discovered the F-35B sustained “bubbling [and] blistering” of the stealth coating on both the right and left sides of the horizontal tail and the tail boom.

During similar tests of the F-35C in December 2011, “thermal damage” that compromised the structural integrity of the inboard horizontal tail and tail boom were apparent.

Vice Adm. Mat Winter, who leads the F-35 program on behalf of the Pentagon, told Defense News that the department has taken steps to mitigate the problem with an improved spray-on coating, but added that the government will not completely fix it — instead accepting additional risk.

As justification for the decision, Winter noted that the issue was documented while the jet was flying at the very edge of its flight envelope. He also said the phenomenon only occurred once for both the B and C models, despite numerous attempts to replicate the conditions that caused the problem.

“How often do we expect something like that to occur?” he said. “It’s very, very small.”

Greg Ulmer, Lockheed Martin’s F-35 program head, said there have been no cases of this problem occurring in the operational fleet and that incidents have been limited to the “highest extremes of flight testing conditions that are unlikely replicated in operational scenarios.”

Winter acknowledged that the deficiency could keep the Navy from accomplishing its supersonic intercept mission — as the documents charge — if similar issues were being experienced more widely across the F-35C inventory.

“If you had that performance on all of your fleet, then you would have a problem. That’s not the case,” he said.

“We have put into place what we believe are the appropriate technical fix to ensure that our F-35Cs have the full envelope and capability to do the high-speed mission, if needed. That’s where we are. Right now, our United States Navy and Marine Corps flying the sea agree with that,” he said.

The new coating, which was introduced in Lot 8, allows the jet to withstand hotter temperatures caused by the afterburner, the documents stated. Winter characterized the material as able to withstand “what we call the thermal shock wave,” but declined to specify how the coating works or how much protection it provides.

“It may be some future advanced materials that can withstand the pressure and the temperature,” Winter said. “Then we see that, and we go, ‘Hey, look, we’ve got this on the book,’ [and] we do a test check to see if that new material solves that problem.”

The Defense Department has also instituted time limits on the number of seconds the F-35B and F-35C can fly at speeds in excess of Mach 1.2 while at full afterburner.

However, those restrictions are somewhat complicated, and it is unclear how pilots are expected to monitor their compliance to the limits while in flight.

For example, an F-35C can only fly at Mach 1.3 in afterburner for 50 cumulative seconds, meaning that a pilot cannot clock 50 seconds at that speed, slow down for a couple seconds and then speed back up. However, the time requirements reset after the pilot operates at military power — an engine power setting that allows for less speed and thrust than afterburner — for a duration of three minutes.

The F-35B can fly for 80 cumulative seconds at Mach 1.2 or 40 seconds at Mach 1.3 without risking damage.

But for both the C and B models, flying at Mach 1.3 over the specified time limits poses the risk of inducing structural damage to the aircraft’s horizontal stabilizer.

It is infeasible for the Navy or Marine Corps to operate the F-35 against a near-peer threat under such restrictions, the documents acknowledge.

“Pilot observed timers are not practical/observable in operationally relevant scenarios,” one document read. Another document said that “pilots will be unable to comply with time limit in many cases due to high mission workload, resulting in lost missions due to aircraft damage.”

And when those timer violations occur, they will result in “degradation of [stealth], damage to [communications, navigation and identification] antennas, and/or significant [horizontal tail damage],” one document explained.

How significant is this problem?

The limitations on the afterburner, when combined with another deficiency pertaining to the plane’s maneuverability, could prove deadly in close-combat scenarios.

The concept of operations for the F-35 is to kill an enemy aircraft before it can detect the fighter jet, but relying on long-range kills is a perspective that, for historical and cultural reasons, naval aviation distrusts. In the Vietnam War, when air warfare began heavily relying on missiles and moved away from the forward gun, it caused a spike in air-to-air combat deaths.

The lesson naval aviation took away was to prevent the latest and greatest technology from offsetting the learning of fundamentals, and it was the impetus behind the formation of Top Gun 50 years ago, a naval strike fighter course for training and tactics development.

“The solution is: ‘Hey, we’ll just limit the afterburner to less than a minute at a time,’ ” one retired naval aviator said, when told of the issue. “Which, with what the aircraft is supposed to do and be capable of, that’s a pretty significant limitation.”

“If you want to use it on the first or second day [of a conflict], it has to be stealthy, so you can’t hang a lot of external stores, which means you have to use internal fuel and internal weapons. And that means you have to launch fairly close in and you’ve got to be close enough to do something to somebody. And that usually means you are in a contested environment,” the aviator said.

“So you’re saying that I can’t operate in a contested environment unless you can guarantee that I’m going to be however far away from the thing I’m trying to kill,” the aviator added. “If I had to maneuver to defeat a missile, maneuver to fight another aircraft, the plane could have issues moving. And if I turn around aggressively and get away from these guys and use the afterburner, it starts to melt or have issues.”

The issue is compounded for the Navy, which must operate forward for months at a time, because any significant issues with coatings or the structure of aircraft would require a depot-level repair. And so a damaged aircraft would remain damaged until its host ship return to home port, reducing the combat effectiveness of the air wing.

“We might have to be operating at sea for eight months, so if you damage something on week one, guess what? It’s damaged for the rest of the deployment. And it affects your ability to evade detection by the enemy — you just degraded that asset permanently until you can get it somewhere where it can be fixed, at great expense and time,” the aviator said.

However, a naval aviator currently in service said the afterburner problem may not be that troubling to pilots, who must frequently work around a jet’s limitations. The key, he said, is understanding how often the issue occurs.

“I think you’d do well to go back and look at all the times they used the afterburner and that didn’t happen,” he said. “We’re talking about tens of thousands of sorties at this point that this aircraft has flown.”

Other aircraft that the Navy operates also have afterburner limits, he explained.

“I think that number needs context,” he said. “It looks scary on its own, but [the Super Hornet] has afterburner limits. They’re not that restrictive, but they have them. The aircraft has an afterburner, you want it to work.

“But I would want to get context for that number: Does this represent 0.002 percent of all sorties? If that’s the case, I don’t give a sh–, and I’ll probably have 15 other things fail before that.”

Bryan Clark, previously a top aide to former Chief of Naval Operations Adm. Jonathan Greenert and now an analyst with the Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments, likened the limitation on the afterburner to similar restrictions on submarine and ship operations.

“I think the operational impact is not huge, since it only applies during a small fraction of the jet’s operational profile. In subs and ships, we have a ‘safe operating envelope’ that defines where the platform is engineered to operate reliably for a long time. We can operate outside the safe operating envelope for a short time, but there are risks to doing so. The operator or commander needs to balance those risks against the benefits,” he said.

“That is similar to this situation,” he added. “The pilot can be on afterburner as long as needed to evade a threat but has to know the risk of structural damage increases. The pilot can balance that against the risk of getting shot down because he or she didn’t evade fast enough.”

The most important piece will be how well trained the pilot is on the aircraft, he continued.

“As a submariner, I knew the risks of being outside the safe operating envelope and how those risks increased over time and would impact ship performance.”

Source: Defense News “Supersonic speeds could cause big problems for the F-35’s stealth coating”

Note: This is Defense News’ report I post here for readers’ information. It does not mean that I agree or disagree with the report’ views.


J-20 Flies to Another Airfield for Other Tests due Perhaps to Major Progress


J-20 No. 2011 flying to another airfield for tests. Photo: lt.cjdby.net/SE. TEAHOUSE

J-20 No. 2011 flying to another airfield for tests. Photo: lt.cjdby.net/SE. TEAHOUSE

Recently China’s J-20 No. 2011, the new prototype of the stealth fighter jet, appeared at another airfield after its recent test flights, rousing speculation that it is to undergo some other tests that have to be done at another site. That has also been the case with its predecessors Nos. 2001 and 2002, which were sent to other test centers in May and November 2012.

Made by Chengdu Aircraft Industry Corp. Photo: Fengtianba

Made by Chengdu Aircraft Industry Corp.  J-20 No. 2011 flying to another airfield for tests. Photo: Fengtianba

Recently China’s J-20 No. 2011, the new prototype of the stealth fighter jet, appeared at another airfield after its recent test flights, rousing speculation that it is to undergo some other tests that have to be done at another site. That has also been the case with its predecessors Nos. 2001 and 2002, which were sent to other test centers in May and November 2012.

Source: huanqiu.com “J-20 flies to another test sight for further tests” (summary by Chan Kai Yee based on the report in Chinese)

Related posts:

  • New Version J-20B Stealth Fighter Surpasses US F22 but Unknown to US Military dated May 10, 2014
  • China’s J-20 But the Foreplay, the Real Killer Is in Space dated May 7, 2014
  • New Stealth Coating for China’s New Version of J-20 Stealth Fighter dated April 30, 2014
  • China’s New J-20 Equipped with EODAS Similar to F-35 Surpasses F-22 dated March 18, 2014
  • China’s J-20 Stealth Fighter Jet to Be Commissioned in 2017 Using Russian Engines dated March 17, 2014
  • China’s New J-20 with More Powerful Engine, Better Undetectability–Major General Zhu Heping dated March 5, 2014
  • Maiden Flight of New-Version J-20 Installed with China-made WS-15 Engine with 18-ton Thrust dated March 1, 2014
  • Details of New-Version J-20 Stealth Fighter Jet with Lots of Improvement dated January 19, 2014

China’s New Version J-20B Stealth Fighter Surpasses US F22


EODAS slot in the belly of the new version of J-20

EODAS slot in the belly of the new version of J-20

Some Western military analysts alleged that J-20 failed to be a fifth-generation fighter in its true meaning, however, some foreign media believe that China is continuously improve J-20 and may turn out J-20B, a new version of J-20.

Russian Periscope 2 magazine says like many US and Russian advanced fighter jets, J-20 has to undergo continuous improvement on the basis of the data collected in test flights. In fact there have already been great improvements.

The magazine speculates that J-20’s coating has been improved in light of test data and infrared characteristics of its engines are being assessed.

The greatest improvement will be the new radar China is developing for J-20.

The US has been monitoring J-20 closely in order to improve F-22 to counter J-20.

It will install the most advanced infrared detection device on F-22 if it finds that J-20 has not been able to satisfactorily reduce its infrared emission. However, the US has entirely failed to monitor J-20’s radar. It does not even know the waveband and peak value of the radar.

Source: qianzhan.com “Russian media exposes Chinese J-20 surpasses US F22 in combat capability but US military is no aware of that”

Related posts:

  • China’s J-20 But the Foreplay, the Real Killer Is in Space dated May 7, 2014
  • New Stealth Coating for China’s New Version of J-20 Stealth Fighter dated April 30, 2014
  • China’s New J-20 Equipped with EODAS Similar to F-35 Surpasses F-22 dated March 18, 2014
  • China’s J-20 Stealth Fighter Jet to Be Commissioned in 2017 Using Russian Engines dated March 17, 2014
  • China’s New J-20 with More Powerful Engine, Better Undetectability–Major General Zhu Heping dated March 5, 2014
  • Maiden Flight of New-Version J-20 Installed with China-made WS-15 Engine with 18-ton Thrust dated March 1, 2014
  • Details of New-Version J-20 Stealth Fighter Jet with Lots of Improvement dated January 19, 2014

New Stealth Coating for China’s New Version of J-20 Stealth Fighter


Photo taken by a netizen of J-20 with new coating. Photo by Gangwa of fyjs.cn

Photo taken by a netizen of J-20 with new coating. Photo by Gangwa of fyjs.cn

Photo taken by aother netizen of J-20 with new coating. Credit: lt.cjdby.net

Photo taken by aother netizen of J-20 with new coating. Credit: lt.cjdby.net

Photo taken by aother netizen of J-20 with new coating. Credit: fyjs.cn/zhonnanhai baobiao

Photo taken by aother netizen of J-20 with new coating. Credit: fyjs.cn/zhonnanhai baobiao

Photo taken by a netizen of J-20 with new coating. Credit: fyjs.cn/blong_shi

Photo taken by a netizen of J-20 with new coating. Credit: fyjs.cn/blong_shi

Some new photos of China’s new version of J-20 with new stealth coating have recently been posted on the Internet. The New J-20 no. 2011 shines bright in the photos with silvery coating. Some web users exclaimed that it looked like a sci-fi galaxy fighter jet and simply mad one blind by its brightness. Analysts say that the new coating makes the fighter better undetectable.

Source: huanqiu.com “New J-20 with reflecting coating looks like a sci-fi galaxy fighter” (summary by Chan Kai Yee based on the report in Chinse)

Related posts:

  • China’s New J-20 Equipped with EODAS Similar to F-35 Surpasses F-22 dated March 18, 2014
  • China’s J-20 Stealth Fighter Jet to Be Commissioned in 2017 Using Russian Engines dated March 17, 2014
  • China’s New J-20 with More Powerful Engine, Better Undetectability–Major General Zhu Heping dated March 5, 2014
  • Maiden Flight of New-Version J-20 Installed with China-made WS-15 Engine with 18-ton Thrust dated March 1, 2014
  • China Breakthrough in Providing Good Engines for J-20 Stealth Fighter Jet dated February 27, 2014
  • Details of New-Version J-20 Stealth Fighter Jet with Lots of Improvement dated January 19, 2014