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The expensive F35 fighter jet programme has been under scrutiny for several years now, as manufacturer Lockheed-Martin, the military and even Donald Trump acknowledge several major issues with the multi-role stealth fighter.
“Flight sciences testing continues to be a source of significant discovery, another indication that the programme is not nearing completion of development and readiness for IOT&E [initial operational test and evaluation – ed],” the office reported.
“Deficiencies continue to be discovered at a rate of about 20 per month,” it added.
One of the more concerning “deficiencies” was fatigue on part of the joint attaching the vertical tail to the rest of the aircraft, while testing also revealed excessive wear on the arrester hook after being used once.
Issues with weapons and handling continue to plague the F35 fighter jet
We’ve previously heard of weapons issues, but testing has revealed more concerns in this department. Two examples are problems related to the seeker tone for Sidewinder air-to-air missiles (the seeker tone growls in the pilot’s ear, letting them know when their missile is locked on) and “out of date launch zones” for long-range AMRAAM missiles.
Other weapon-related issues include excessive vibrations caused by the gun firing (knocking the 270 volt DC battery out of action) and excessive vibration on missiles and bombs in the weapons bay above 550 knots.
Pilots of the F35C carrier-borne variant have also reported “excessive vertical oscillations” during catapult takeoff, being deemed a “must-fix” problem by the US Navy.
“The F35A in the Block 3i configuration has numerous limitations that make it less effective overall in the CAS mission role than most currently fielded fighter aircraft like the F15E, F16, F18 and A10 in a permissive or low-threat environment, which is where CAS is normally conducted.”