Wed, Sep 07, 2011
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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