Home » Air » JSF Program Points Finger at Contractors for Grounding

JSF Program Points Finger at Contractors for Grounding

by Ward Carroll on January 29, 2013

Our friends at Politico Defense are reporting the following:

Government and industry engineers are blaming three defense contractors for a “quality discrepancy” that resulted in the grounding of the Marine Corps’ F-35B variant earlier this month. The Pentagon’s F-35 program office announced yesterday it is “developing a return to flight plan” for the 25 grounded F-35Bs after determining the cause of a mechanical error that occurred Jan. 18 aboard an aircraft prior to takeoff.

“Evidence revealed a quality discrepancy from the company that produces the fueldraulics line,” Joe DellaVedova, a spokesman for the F-35’s Pentagon program office, said in a statement. “Stratoflex, the company that produces the line, Rolls-Royce and Pratt & Whitney have instituted corrective actions to improve their quality control processes and ensure part integrity.”

This, of course, follows the Red Stripe issued by NAVAIR last week that grounded all of the Marine Corps variants of the JSF.

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{ 25 comments… read them below or add one }

Lance January 29, 2013 at 1:39 pm

More name calling and excuse from the Pentagon when the problem is the B model just isnt working but some general wants it regardless. Its the same mess DoD buyers every time.

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PolicWonk January 29, 2013 at 2:19 pm

Well, they basically "designed" the LHA-6 America-class flattops around the F35B. The idea was to create a new, highly innovative LHA by removing the well deck and cargo space to make more room for aircraft, spare parts, and fuel.

Most people would simply call a highly innovative design like this a CV. They would be mistaken, however, because this flattop isn't burdened by catapults or the angled flight deck. This is where the F-35B comes in (along presumably with V-22's and maybe a handful choppers that could also land on a conventional carrier).

Now this could be the reason why the "America" class LHA is already being limited to only 2 of this design. Apparently, the hull is usable with a hull deck, so maybe it isn't a complete waste.

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Skyepapa January 29, 2013 at 3:59 pm

Please review f-18 development history. Similar scenario. We find QC issues and address them and move ahead to a useful product. Stop being dramatic.

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BlackOwl18E January 29, 2013 at 6:19 pm

Okay, first of all, you and I already had this conversation in this forum here:
http://defensetech.org/2012/05/23/elgins-f-35bs-t

Second of all, no, the F-35 is breaking all records in being delayed, having technical difficulties, major design flaws, and sky rocketing costs. The F-35 is eating away the entire defense budget at a time when the economy is not at its best and we here in the Navy are having difficulty just keeping trained personnel and enough ships to maintain a presence abroad.

In fact the F-35 has no other program in history with comparable problems of the same scale.

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Nadnerbus January 30, 2013 at 1:09 am

The Super Bug was first ordered in 1992 and entered fleet service in 1999, a seven year time span. The JSF was first put forward in, what, 1996? Won the fly off in 2001, and 12 years later is still not at IOC, for any of its variants.

Obviously the Super Hornet benefited from a more mature development curve, but that is kind of the whole point.

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Skyepapa January 30, 2013 at 10:53 am

Nadnerbus, I agree with the point on your second line about the Super's benefit from the legacy. But to me that mean's Black Owl and others are comparing apples to oranges and essentially ignoring the reason one might develop a brand new system. There were probably plenty of Black Owls at work fighting the legacy F-18 too.

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Moe Sizlack January 29, 2013 at 4:26 pm

Ok….the anti-F-35 crowd is in force today. And bashing a weapons program seems to be going good. But, here is my point of view, and from someone such as my self who is just a ordinary guy who follows defense blogs and posts with a alternate point of view that hopefully will open some eyes here on this blog response section.

See, as with every new fangled weapons program, the program always goes through some sort of growth pains and there are it critics. But the critics very quickly go brain dead when they forget to look at past weapons programs and the problems they had. And thankfully, the F35 program has not had a crash or a death related to a crash….yet.

But, programs such as the F111 did. And pilots did die during crashes. But, after all the bugs were worked out, the F111 went on to become a very sucessful weapons program and even a bomber version was developed.

The reason I am comparing the F35 to the F111, is because the program is running a paralell path…a plane for every mission. New technology. High expectations of promised performance. And of course, a high price tag. But the question here is will the F35 program be allowed to continue to develop it full capabiities before some short sighted politico either kills the program or part of it and end up wasting millions in developmental costs….or will it continue into service and become the most sucessful weapons program to date….you be the judge.

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Charley A January 29, 2013 at 8:29 pm

The F-111 was never anything but a bomber, with the Navy giving up on its usefulness as a fighter. The TFX had a painful development history, but in the end, it worked out as a single service aircraft. Another parallel: The Australians were an early adopter of the F-111 (F-35A,) but had to lease F-4s (F/A-18F) as an interim aircraft until they could get the F-111C working….

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Dfens January 29, 2013 at 4:52 pm

And now, to punish that sub-contractor to a sub-contractor to a sub-contractor to the prime contractor the Department of Defense in all of its wisdom and glory will proceed to pay that sub-contractor to a sub-contractor to a sub-contractor to the prime contractor an exorbitant amount of money to fix the process that cause those tubes to be made with a kink in them, and the prime contractor will take their 10% cut off the top of that money and the sub-contractor will get their free 10% and pass the money along to their sub-contractor who will get their free 10% and then pass it along to their sub-contractor who will slip their 10% of free money right off the top of that stack of bills and everyone will be happy. I hope that teaches them all a lesson, because I'm sure the stupid US taxpayer won't be paying any attention at all.

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Nadnerbus January 30, 2013 at 1:14 am

It's almost like a monopsony of the scale of the DOD is in need of some sort of civilian oversight or something. Thankfully we have hard working elected representatives holding their feet to the fire on this one.

I'm just kidding, they are busy trying to ban your guns and borrow more money.

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SeymourHawks February 5, 2013 at 7:35 pm

The issue is similar to the F-22 mess…we are paying premium prices for 25 year old technology that doesn't work…is late in delivery, of inferior mechanical quality, has several critical subsystem that are not combat ready. Lockheed Martin says they will fix all of the issues if the tax payers pay them more money. I wonder if the executives of that company got their multimillion dollar bonuses during the design and fabrication of these aircraft?

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meanmarine February 6, 2013 at 12:39 pm

The Government furnishes the engines for almost all military aircraft produced by Lockheed and Boeing as Government Furnished Material and I suspect the same is true for the F35. As such the Government is responsible to the prime contractor for the delivery and quality of that engine. The question is to what extent did the government and P&W maintain quality control over the supplier of the defective parts and the engine prior to delivery to LM.

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Gordon Raymer February 6, 2013 at 4:09 pm

Can the F35 do a no wind vertical take off with a full operational load?

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Marine Pilot February 6, 2013 at 6:41 pm

Not designed to, STOVL- Short Take Off Vertical Landing.

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homepage August 4, 2013 at 11:46 am
blight_ January 29, 2013 at 12:13 pm

It's a pity we aren't invested in rolling out new electronics on old platforms and prefer to bundle development with new fighter programs. As if new fighters weren't expensive enough-let's pay for new doodads while we're at it.

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LtKitty January 29, 2013 at 12:34 pm

A couple years ago I would have never believed you regarding upgraded Super Hornets being viable options opposed to the F-35. I was a wet behind the years, stubborn 18-year-old who looked at the F-35 as the best thing since sliced bread. I had no knowledge about how F-35 program was going or its capabilities, management and costs.

I guess your relentless persistence has opened my eyes to other options. I still think the F-35 can be useful, but it's projected role in our military needs to be scaled back to consider a wide variety of factors: costs obviously being a HUGE one.

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JamalTheBanker January 29, 2013 at 3:51 pm

How do you expect the US to compete in air supremacy with China and Russia developing their own 5th generation fighter tech? While an upgraded Super Hornet may be more cost efficient, the stealth aspect of the aircraft is what puts us ahead of the rest of the world. You can only update you PowerBook 100 so many times before you need a MacBook pro.

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tiger January 30, 2013 at 10:14 am

Hmmmm, I would not sign a check to Boeing just yet. All the planes are NATO standard. So what is there to integrate better? Plus, Boeing is a bit busy with other contracts. The folks up North may not be so keen on buying American again so soon.

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Nadnerbus January 30, 2013 at 1:25 am

I've been thinking this way for a while. The naysayers always said that we needed to stay that generation or two ahead for the qualitative advantage, which necessitated simultaneous development of all these new technologies at once. How is that going for us? China and Russia are developing "stealth" platforms of their own, quality unknown, and we can barely get our second gen 5 aircraft into production.

Develop the subsystems on their own until they are mature enough to test out on current platforms. Bring it up to further maturity, then stuff all the new good stuff into the next big thing. We just can't afford the quantum leaps any more.

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blight_ January 30, 2013 at 9:41 am

https://www.acquisition.gov/far/current/pdf/FAR.p

" When selecting contractors to provide products or
perform services, the Government will use contractors who
have a track record of successful past performance or who
demonstrate a current superior ability to perform."

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blight_ January 30, 2013 at 9:43 am

It would mean a greater place for the people who build out the avionics, instead of the aircraft mfr and systems integrator being top dog.

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BlackOwl18E January 30, 2013 at 1:43 pm

Yes, I did prove it. You even helped me prove it. You said that the costs of the Super Hornet could be compared to those of the F-35 if you included those of the older Hornet into them.

Here was my reply: "you had to include the Legacy Hornet numbers in order to justify a case for the dollars spent on the F-35! That just makes the F-35 look even worse. Look at all that the Legacy Hornet has done with the dollars spent on it! Not only look at what it has done in the hands of our Navy and Marine Corps pilots, but also look at how well we were able to export it to our allies and how they were and still are extremely capable fighting forces that were able to assist us because of it. You, my friend, just opened up a can of worms and gave me yet another argument as to why we need to cancel the F-35! Thank you!"

You still failed to answer my argument then and you have not here either. I also want you to know that I am still very grateful for you giving me this argument. ;)

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Dfens January 30, 2013 at 3:45 pm

When you pay them more to fail, the past performance measurement falls off fairly uniformly across all suppliers. Much like having multiple vendors "compete" for new weapons contracts, it sounds good, but quickly becomes meaningless.

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Ron February 6, 2013 at 3:20 pm

Youre nuts and misinformed.

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