I’m grateful to the Daily Telegraph for this article:
Amercia’s much-vaunted new F-35 stealth jet has reportedly suffered the latest in a series of problems with the discovery of a software glitch which prevents the use of its on-board cannon.
The jump jets – 14 of which have been ordered by Britain – are costing US taxpayers nearly $400 billion (£257 billion) and are due to enter service next year.
But the Pentagon has been forced to deny reports in America that it will take a further four years before they will be able to shoot their guns.
The news will cause further embarrassment for the programme, which has been dogged by delays, soaring costs and glitches since its inception in 2006.
Billed as the world’s most advanced — and expensive — fighter jet, the cost per plane has doubled to $161.1 million and it will be six years late in entering full production.
29 Oct 2014
The F-35 has been the Pentagon’s flagship programme, with 2,443 jets due to be deployed across all three services.
However, according to the Daily Beast website, the F-35 still does not have the software it needs to operate the four-barrelled rotary cannon.
This would be a particular problem when the aircraft is being used to support ground troops as a gun is more precise than dropping a small bomb — with the latter more likely to cause friendly-fire casualties.
There has been increasing criticism of the programme in the United States, even from within the administration.
In January, the Pentagon’s testing office described the F-35’s performance as “immature” and two months later the administration’s own accountability office highlighted delays in software delivery and its effectiveness.
Other critics, including William Hartung, of the Centre for International Policy, have even questioned whether the basic design is fit for purpose.
The F-35B Lightning II was to be the star turn of the Farnborough International Airshow
He warned that the plane would be too small to function as a bomber, too cumbersome in dogfights and too vulnerable to support ground troops.
Earlier this year, the F-35 was supposed to be the star attraction at the Farnborough Air Show in Hampshire, but it failed to appear after the entire fleet was grounded following a fire at a Florida airbase in June.
Other reported problems for the fighter, which is being manufactured by Lockheed Martin, have included a discovery that the engine can shut down when the fuel gets too hot to work as a coolant, although this too was disputed by the Pentagon.
The Ministry of Defence has ordered 14 F-35s, of which a handful are already being tested in the United States.
A contract for the first four was signed a few months ago and the first stealth jets are due to operate from RAF Marham in Norfolk from 2018.
However a spokesman for the Pentagon denied that there was a software problem which would delay the plane being fully effective when it enters service.
He said a Congressional report into the software earlier this year admitted that there had been delays but this would not “preclude the programme office from meeting any initial operational capability.”
(C) Daily Telegraph.