Tag Archives: Government Accountability Office

​US to deliver F-35 jets to Israel to maintain military edge

Navy variant of the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter.

US Vice President Joe Biden said that Israel will be getting a shipment of the United States’ new F-35 fighter jet so that its military can retain its “qualitative edge” in the Middle East.

Biden made the announcement in Washington, DC while giving a speech during a celebration of Israel’s Independence Day, Reuters reported. The relationship between Israel and the US has been strained over the past few years due to disagreements about Jewish settlements in Palestinian territories and Iran’s nuclear program, but the two nations continue to maintain strong military ties.

“Next year we will deliver to Israel the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter, our finest, making Israel the only country in the Middle East to have this fifth-generation aircraft,” Biden said.

According to Haaretz, the deal involves Israel purchasing 14 F-35 jets for $110 million each. That is in addition to a previous agreement in 2010 that saw Israel agree to buy 19 jets. The first two planes are set to arrive in Israel in 2016, with the others making their way into the country by 2021.

While the US has invested a lot of time and money into the high-tech, high-powered F-35, questions remain about its effectiveness. The trillion-dollar program has suffered numerous setbacks over the years and issues continue to crop up.

Earlier this month, the House of Representatives’ Armed Services Committee learned that the jet’s software maintenance system gives false-positive readings 80 percent of the time. The Autonomic Logistics Information System (ALIS) is meant to flag issues with the plane so that maintenance teams can repair them, but Air Force Lt. Gen. Christopher Bogdan told lawmakers it still “has a long way to go.”

“We have taken steps in the last two years to change fundamentally the way we develop ALIS, but it takes time to realize those results,” Bogdan said, though he added that the software is not a central part of the plane. A smaller version is being developed that should be ready in July.

Before that, news reports stated that a computer glitch kept the aircraft’s four-barreled rotary cannon from firing, potentially delaying the jet from being fully operational until 2019.

Last year, the vice president of the Super Hornet and Growler programs at Boeing – a rival of Lockheed Martin, which manufactures the F-35 – questioned the stealth capabilities of the jet, arguing that it’s not as effective against Chinese and Russian air defense systems as other aircraft are.

 

Money for nothing? Boeing says F-35 isn’t so stealth after all

As the price of the Pentagon’s most expensive weapons endeavor ever soars even further, critics are calling into question the cost and capabilities of the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter program.

When all is said and done, the United States Department of Defense is expected to spend over $1 trillion on acquiring a fleet of the fancy stealth jets. But while concerns have been raised repeatedly regarding the program for years now, some new reports suggest that the military might soon sign-on to buy other state-of-the-art aircraft.

On Friday this week, Military.com reported that the US Navy has not only decided to drop the number of Lockheed Martin-made F-35s it plans on purchasing from 69 to 36, but that 22 new EA-18G Growlers built by Boeing have been added to a list of unfunded priorities.

Reporters Kris Osborn and Michael Hoffman wrote for the website that Boeing “has worked not so quietly this past year to offer the Navy an escape hatch from the costly Joint Strike Fighter program.”

According to their report, since at least last summer Boeing has been urging the Navy to buy more F/A-18 Super Hornets and Growlers as concerns continue to emerge about the F-35.

As RT reported extensively in the past, the F-35 program has been anything but a success for the DOD thus far — just last month, in fact, it was found out that ongoing software problems were going to push delivery of the Joint Fighter fleet even further behind schedule.

But now in addition to the continuously increasing costs, the F-35’s actual ability to stealthily soar through the sky is being called into question.

Mike Gibbons is the vice president for Boeing’s Super Hornet and Growler programs, and has good reason to talk down the F-35s—after all, less money to Lockheed Martin likely means more for his firm. Regardless, Gibbons told Osborn and Hoffman that the F-35 is no longer as advanced of a stealth craft as once claimed, and is not as effective as the Growler when it comes to countering a wide spectrum of air defense systems.

“The density of the threat is getting more complex and more difficult. The electromagnetic spectrum is getting more complex and more difficult and requires more of what the Growler provides in electronic attack and electronic awareness. Only the Growler has this capability,” Gibbons told the website.

Russia and China, Gibbons added, have developed air defense systems that put the F-35’s stealth technology to the test. And if those capabilities should improve, then the Pentagon’s widely-touted weapons program may be no match for the offensive capabilities of foreign militaries. Advocates for Growlers say that those aircraft can outsmart some of that stealth-defying technology, but the ability to actually stay hidden may soon be slipping away from the DOD altogether.

“[Stealth] is needed for what we have in the future for at least 10 years out there and there is nothing magic about that decade,” added Chief Naval Officer Adm. Jonathan Greenert. “But I think we need to look beyond that. So to me, I think it’s a combination of having aircraft that have stealth but also aircraft that can suppress other forms of radio frequency electromagnetic emissions so that we can get in.”

But as developers continue to strive towards perfecting the F-35s, other problems aren’t exactly disappearing. RT reported last month that a study from the US Government Accountability Office had determined recently that the estimated acquisition cost of the F-35 fleet had dropped by around $11.5 billion during the last year. Just last week, however, the Pentagon published its latest Selected Acquisition Reports, and in it acknowledged that the price of the program had actually increased by about $7.4 billion.

On Friday, former Government Accountability Office employee Winslow Wheeler wrote for CounterPunch.org that the latest report is a “major embarrassment” to the GAO given that the group’s report from last month made claims quite to the contrary.

“In truth, the future of the F-35 program remains clouded, and most cloudy of all is the ultimate unit cost of the aircraft and the impact of that cost, as its reality unfolds, on existing and future buyers,” Wheeler wrote.

Others, however, have suggested that the number of future buyers may soon shrink as well: on Thursday this week, the Australian military was blasted in a harshly worded op-ed published in the Brisbane Times who condemned efforts to acquire F-35 for down under.

“Twelve billion dollars is a big wad of the folding stuff to drop on whizz bangs,” John Birmingham wrote for the paper, “And $12 billion probably won’t come close to the final cost of the F-35 Joint Strike Fighters both mainstream political parties are committed to buying.”

“I got ten bucks says it’ll be more like twice that amount, but you’ll have wait 30 or 40 years to collect. That’s how long these things will be in the air. Assuming they shed their habit of shedding bits and pieces of equipment and airframe at inconvenient moments,” Birmingham added. “Like when they’re in the air.”

Enhanced by Zemanta

​Software problems will set back F-35 joint strike fighter another year – report

Delivery of the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter will be more than a year behind schedule due to ongoing software problems, according to a US government report. The delay marks the latest snag in the ongoing saga of the world’s most expensive aircraft.

According to a new Government Accountability Office report, the F-35’s mission management system software needs a vast debugging effort to meet the plane’s various requirements.

“Challenges in development and testing of mission systems software continued through 2013, due largely to delays in software delivery, limited capability in the software when delivered, and the need to fix problems and retest multiple software versions,” the GAO auditors wrote.

“The Director of Operational Test and Evaluation (DOT&E) predicts delivery of warfighting capabilities could be delayed by as much as 13 months. Delays of this magnitude will likely limit the warfighting capabilities that are delivered to support the military services’ initial operational capabilities—the first of which is scheduled for July 2015—and at this time it is not clear what those specific capabilities will be because testing is still ongoing.”

The GAO said the plane needs eight million new lines of software code to overcome the current functionary glitches.

The report added that only 13 percent of the Block 2B segment of software had been tested as of last January. The target for this prime operational component of the plane was 27 percent.

Earlier this year, the Pentagon‘s chief weapons tester, Michael Gilmore, provided an in-depth report to Congress on the F-35’s technical features, emphasizing what he calls the “unacceptable” characteristics of the aircraft’s Block 2B software, according to a draft obtained by Reuters in January.

“Initial results with the new increment of Block 2B software indicate deficiencies still exist in fusion, radar, electronic warfare, navigation, electro-optical target system, distributed aperture system, helmet-mounted display system, and datalink,” Gilmore’s report said.

Due to the high number of technical problems, the 2B software overhaul would not be finished until November 2015 – 13 months later than originally planned, the report predicted. This scenario would delay release to the F-35 fleet until July 2016, a year after the Marine Corps anticipated having “initial operating capability” with its version of the joint strike fighter.

The all-in-one plane, designed for a host of potential missions, is to have similar versions for the US Air Force, Navy, and Marine Corps.

GAO auditors questioned whether the US government can still afford the F-35 program. Plans are for the purchase of 2,457 planes for the US military by 2037. Development and acquisition costs are estimated to be about $400 billion.

To remain on schedule for 2037, the Pentagon must “steeply” increase spending on the program over the next five years, the GAO said, to the tune of $12.6 billion per year for the next 23 years for only research and acquisition costs. Pentagon brass has called the $1 trillion estimated operation and maintenance costs “unaffordable,” the GAO reported.

In response to the GAO findings, the F-35 program’s head, Maj. Gen. Christopher Bogdan, said in a statement that “software continues to remain our number one technical risk on the program, and we have instituted disciplined systems engineering processes to address the complexity of writing, testing and integrating software.”

The report, released Monday, detailed only the latest problems with what some have dubbed “the jet that ate the Pentagon,” plagued with chronic cost overruns and delayed deliveries.

The Lockheed Martin fighter jet’s price tag is estimated to end up costing US taxpayers more than $1 trillion, factoring in maintenance expenses. Though, the Pentagon said in August that the program’s estimated cost was “slashed” to a trim $857 billion.

Critics of the plane’s many functions say it’s too loaded down to be any more capable than the older, less-expensive F-16 fighter jet, which the F-35 is to replace along with F/A-18s, and A-10s.

The F-35 Joint Strike Fighter program, which started in 2001, is 70 percent over initial cost estimates and years behind schedule. Despite its fantastic price tag, the F-35 has even failed to generate the number of jobs its proponents had originally promised to Congress.

In January, the Center for International Policy said Lockheed had “greatly exaggerated” its claim that the F-35 program will sustain 125,000 American jobs in 46 US states in an effort to win support for the program.

In addition to the US, Lockheed is making F-35 versions for Australia, Britain, Canada, Denmark, Italy, the Netherlands, Norway, and Turkey. Israel and Japan have placed orders for the fighter jet. South Korea ordered 40 joint strike fighters on Monday – the same day as the release of the GAO report.

Despite the myriad problems in the F-35’s development, the first trans-Atlantic flight of an F-35 fighter jet is set for July, as the plane will take part in two international air shows near London, Reuters reported.

Enhanced by Zemanta