The F-35 Lightning II program can't win for
losing. The long running issues with the aircraft have been well documented and
have led to delays in the program. Many of the flight issues with the F-35 have
centered on the more mechanically complex F-35B STOVL version of the fighter
aircraft. A new report has surfaced that highlights some previously unknown
problems with the F-35 program.
According to a report
compiled by the Pentagon Director of Operational Test and
Evaluation, the F-35 aircraft all suffer from various problems with handling,
avionics, afterburner, and the helmet-mounted display systems. The F-35A and
F-35B variants are specifically said to suffer from "transonic wing
roll-off, [and] greater than expected sideslip during medium angle-of-attack
testing" according to the report. The report also notes that many of the
components being used in the aircraft are not as reliable as expected.
The F-35B has had various issues with
subcomponents in the past, specifically the ones that allow the door behind the
cockpit to open so the aircraft can get the air needed for vertical landing.
The F-35B has made successful
vertical landings recently.
One key problem that is common on the aircraft is
an issue described as afterburner "screech" reports Defense
News. Apparently, the F-135
engine provided by Pratt and Whitney has a problem where airflow causes
severe vibrations that prevent the engine from reaching maximum power.
The helmet-mounted display system in the aircraft
is also having issues, but the report doesn't delve into this exact problems.
The F-35 has no traditional heads-up display like other aircraft flying today -
all pilot data is on a display inside the helmet.
Lockheed martin spokesman John Kent said,
"The F-35 air system advances Helmet Mounted Display technology to
capabilities not flying today on any other tactical platform. With this
advancement in technology come challenges that the program is actively
managing. The challenges are being worked with the supplier." Kent goes on
to say, "While there are no current plans to change suppliers, options are
being considered in parallel that mitigate the most stressing issues. Flight
testing is proceeding with the HMD installed and used with no safety of flight
The report also mentions an issue with the
aircraft’s onboard inert Gas Generation System that helps prevent oxygen from
building up inside the fuel tanks where it becomes a fire hazard. The report
recommends a redesign for the system.