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Wed, Sep 07, 2011

Another Setback For JSF

Testing Finds Flaws In F-35 Wing Structures

Just weeks after the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter got back to flight testing, a new design problem has cropped up. An aluminum beam in the wing structure has been found to be "defective," an issue that could lower the aircraft's wing life from 8,000 hours, or about 25 operational years, to just 1,200 hours, which equates to about five years of flying.

While Gizmodo reports that F-35 program spokesman Joseph DellaVedova said "This is not considered a serious issue," Michael Gilmore, the Pentagon's top testing official, told Bloomberg News that the fix will be "a difficult and complex process." And the repair will have to come out of the program's existing budget.

As those who have followed the program know, the JSF program has been plagued by cost overruns and delays. The test fleet was recently grounded due to a power supply problem, and had only just been returned to operational status. Back in January, then-defense-secretary Robert Gates had put the program on notice by imposing a two-year probation after discovering other structural flaws. Budget hawks have long viewed the program, often described as the most costly defense acquisition in history, as a tempting target. A major program review is also reportedly planned as pressure grows on Congress and the President to cut spending.

But the JSF does have its fans. Recently, Senators Jony Cornyn (R-TX) and Saxby Chamblis (R-GA) sent a very direct letter to the Pentagon, and incoming Secretary of Defense Ashton Carter, chastising the DoD for its tepid support for the program. Perhaps not surprisingly, the F-35 accounts for thousands of jobs in those two states.



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