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Building jet while ground and flight testing was ongoing was a "miscalculation" according to Venlet

The problems and delays with the F-35 fleet continue to mount. AOL Defense reports that testing and analysis have turned up so many potential areas of issue in the airframe of F-35 fighters that Vice Adm. David Venlet has said that he feels production needs to slow down. Venlet notes that the number of hot spots and potential cracks found in the airframe over last year have gone up significantly. Slowing the rate of production would allow testing to continue and parts that need redesigned to be found and fixed before the cost of retrofitting them to existing aircraft mounts.
 
Venlet said, "The analyzed hot spots that have arisen in the last 12 months or so in the program have surprised us at the amount of change and at the cost. Most of them are little ones, but when you bundle them all up, package them, and look at where they are in the airplane and how hard they are to get at after you buy the jet, the cost burden of that is what sucks the wind out of your lungs."
 
[Source: Lockheed Martin] 

Venlet also noted that the original plan for concurrency with the F-35 where the fighter was built while flight testing and ground testing was completed has proven to be a miscalculation. He added, " You'd like to take the keys to your shiny new jet and give it to the fleet with all the capability and all the service life they want. What we're doing is, we're taking the keys to the shiny new jet, giving it to the fleet and saying, 'Give me that jet back in the first year. I've got to go take it up to this depot for a couple of months and tear into it and put in some structural mods, because if I don't, we're not going to be able to fly it more than a couple, three, four, five years.' That's what concurrency is doing to us." 
 
According to Venlet, despite the fact that airframe fatigue testing and refined analysis on the F-35 has only just begun, enough potential issues have been found that the needed redesigns and replacement components for completed aircraft might add as much as $3 million to $5 million to the cost of each jet.  The price of each of the jets including all three variants of the F-35 has been about $111 million in the LRIP4 contract.
 
Venlet notes that even with the redesigns they are foreseeing due to hot spots found, the changes expected have nothing to do with the F-35's capability to fly and perform its missions. The changes are simply needed to ensure that the F-35 can fly for its 8,000-hour usable lifespan. He also noted that this sort of hotspot finding and weaknesses was not surprising and didn't indicate a problem with the aircraft.
 
[Source: Lockheed Martin] 
 
"It's a fighter made out of metal and composites. You always find some hot spots and cracks and you have to go make fixes. That's normal. This airplane was maybe thought to be a little bit better, wouldn't have so much discovery. Well, no. It's more like standard fighters," Venlet said.
 
Adm. Venlet didn't specify how much he feels the production should be slowed, but he was specific that flight testing doesn't need to be slowed. In fact, he states that testing should be accelerated as much as possible.
 
The most problem plagued version of the fighter, the F-35B STOVL is now conducting sea trials. In an effort to lower the cost of the F-35 in LRIP5, the Pentagon is asking Lockheed to cover some of the overrun costs.

Source: AOL Defense





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