Monday, March 28, 2011

An Open Letter to Lockheed Martin and the JSF Program Office.

Hey all.  If you aren't aware (what rock have you been hiding under), Bill over at ARES has an article covering the generator failure of the F-35 during a test flight a couple of weeks ago.  Take the time to read that one and this one too.  I challenged Bill to invite the JSF Program Office and Lockheed Martin to write a rebuttal to his article (and Graham's too by extension). 

It appears that he's declined.  

With that in mind I decided to pen a letter to both offices.  Below is a copy of what I sent them.


I'm sure its come to your attention that Bill Sweetman, Editor in Chief of Defense Technology International and a renowned Aviation Writer, has penned several articles critical of the F-35.

Many supporters of this program have sat back in amazement at the lack of response to many of his assertions.  The only rebuttal to his claims (to my knowledge) came from former Chief Test Pilot Jon Beasely during an interview that made its way onto YouTube.

His latest claims however, demand a statement from your offices and I would gladly welcome one either at my website or even better through Aviation Week's Blog - ARES.  

In this case.

On this issue.

Silence is not golden.

Very Respectfully,

Quite honestly, in the realm of the defense blogosphere, I'm a guppy.  I've experience tremendous growth over the last year (THANKS GUYS!) but to be honest BLACKFIVE or Information Dissemination would probably get a so sure.  But we'll see.

Pic of the day. March 28, 2011.

Photo by Cpl. Jeffrey Drew An amphibious assault vehicle with Company E, Assault Amphibian Battalion, 2nd Marine Division, travels along the beach after returning from the water at Onslow Beach aboard Marine Corps Base Camp Lejeune, N.C., March 24. A platoon of six vehicles spent the day participating in waterborne operations.

Assault Breacher Vehicle in action.

An Assault Breacher Vehicle moves into position to fire a mine clearing line charge during operation Rawhide, March 15. Marines with 1st Combat Engineer Battalion supported 3rd Light Armored Reconnaissance Battalion in their efforts to disrupt enemy supply lines during the three-day operation. (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl. John McCall/released)
An Assault Breacher Vehicle fires a mine clearing line charge during operation Rawhide, March 14. ABV's from 1st Combat Engineer Battalion launched MiCLC's to breach a path into a city used by enemy insurgents to smuggle weapons, drugs and improvised explosive device making material. (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl. John McCall/released)
A mine clearing line charge is detonated by Engineers with the Assault Breacher Vehicle platoon, 1st Combat Engineer Battalion during operation Rawhide, March 14. (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl. John McCall/released)
Marines with the Assault Breacher Vehicle platoon, 1st Combat Engineer Battalion repair an ABV during a vehicle convoy, March 17. Marines have had to learn how to fix their vehicles on the fly in order to keep moving. (U.S. Marine Corps photo/released)

F-35 news that you won't hear on ARES...

Bruce (thanks much!...I would have missed this) sent me this article by Loren Thompson confirming my suspicions about the F-35 program. 

F-35 Testing Well Ahead Of Schedule For 2011

Flight tests of the tri-service F-35 Joint Strike Fighter are running well ahead of the plan for 2011, with 181 flights completed as of March 25 against a plan of 133. In addition, the productivity of each flight test is increasing, with an average of 7.7 unique test points achieved per flight. The combination of additional test flights above plan and greater-than-expected productivity per flight has enabled the overall test program to complete 1,310 test points -- far above the number of 899 planned for this stage in the testing cycle. All three variants of the F-35 are being tested, with the average aircraft performing six flights per month.
The test program might have been dealt a serious setback on March 9 when a conventional takeoff variant was forced to make an emergency landing due to a dual generator failure. Generators provide the electricity that starts the fighter's engine and powers flight controls. However, the cause of the failure was quickly traced to faulty maintenance procedures which have now been corrected, and the test fleet has returned to service. These kinds of anomalies are commonplace in tests of new aircraft.
Lockheed Martin officials are confident they can resolve problems identified in testing with several parts of the short-takeoff/vertical-landing (STOVL) version of the F-35 being developed for the Marine Corps. Among the fixes required are a strengthening of the doors above the mid-fuselage lift-fan, reinforcement of a bulkhead, and resolution of excessive heat deposition at one point near the engine exhaust. Defense secretary Robert Gates recently put the Marine variant on a two-year probationary period to make the necessary fixes, while stating the Air Force and Navy variants were progressing well.
The conventional-takeoff Air Force version will be the most heavily produced F-35, comprising over 70 percent of the domestic production run and almost all of the export sales. The Air Force plans to buy 1,763 conventional-takeoff F-35s, while the Navy and Marine Corps collectively will buy 680 of their two variants. Overseas allies are expected to buy thousands of the planes over the next three decades as they replace aging Cold War fighters and seek a low-cost solution to their requirement for a versatile and survivable tactical aircraft.
Loren B. Thompson, Ph.D.
The tide has turned (I really should have known considering the response to a flight that returned to base successfully under back up power) and the F-35 is zipping through its flight test program.  With this new found momentum, expect attacks on the JSF program to intensify.  Remember, for some of the critics this is a do or die proposition.