Home » Air » Video: Pentagon Explains F-35 Fire Investigation Findings

Video: Pentagon Explains F-35 Fire Investigation Findings

by defensetech on July 15, 2014

The head of the Joint Strike Fighter program and the Pentagon’s top weapons buyer discussed at the Farnborough International Airshow what the U.S. military has found during its investigation of the F-35 fire that occurred in June in Florida.

Lt. Gen. Christopher Bogdan and Defense Undersecretary Frank Kendall explained alongside Lockheed Martin and Pratt & Whitney officials why the F-35 remains grounded and what chances remain for the F-35B to perform at Farnborough this year as the U.S. had scheduled. Bogdan and Kendall explained in detail what the Pentagon believes caused the fire and why they don’t thing it’s a systemic issue.

Above is the video of the event put together by Managing Editor Ho Lin. Here is the article written by Associate Editor Brendan McGarry who is in Farnborough covering the airshow and was in attendance when Bogdan and Kendall spoke.

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{ 38 comments… read them below or add one }

hibeam July 15, 2014 at 12:43 am

What we found is that no one is ever held accountable. And new money always pours in. So its just one bone headed blunder after another and the long suffering US taxpayer is left holding the bag. Not unlike the border fiasco unfolding right now.

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Bernard July 15, 2014 at 9:52 am

The cost for this F-35 boondoggle keep going up and people still want to deny that the total program costs will be $400 billion if not more.

They need to cancel this POS.

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xXTomcatXx July 15, 2014 at 10:07 am

I guess you missed the part where he said the Full Rate Production unit cost is down to $85 million. That's nearly a 50% reduction. Keep in mind the original program estimates were $81 million. 9% cost rise is well within average.

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Bernard July 15, 2014 at 11:35 am

Right now they "don’t think it’s a systemic issue," when that changes to admitting that it is a systemic issue, you can kiss that 9% cost rise goodbye.

The F-35 was supposed to save costs by sharing parts across three branches of service. In the end it will be the most expensive and least effective fighter aircraft in US history.

It cannot fly, it cannot fight, it catches fire, it lacks payload, it lacks stealth (especially with external weapons), it lacks speed, it lacks maneuverability, it can't land (vertically) with weapons or too much fuel, when it (the Marine version) isn't landing or taking off the STOVL gear just adds weight and takes up space. It is compromised every single one of it's multiple roles that is supposedly designed for. Why are we wasting tax money on this? We should be fixing the VA with that money.

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xXTomcatXx July 15, 2014 at 12:18 pm

What baseless accusations and ridiculous claims! You manage to rob yourself of any credit by making wild claims and not providing an ounce of evidence.

For comparison, I'll discredit some of yours:
"It cannot fly"
The F-35 has already hit in excess of 50 degrees AoA, has a higher transonic acceleration than Super Hornets and Typhoons, it's faster than the F-16, and turning rate that exceeds the F-18.

"it catches fire"
As you noted, one caught fire.

"It lacks payload"
It's carries more payload than the 16, 18, or Typhoon and it's the only one that can carry some internally.

"It lacks stealth"
Show me a more stealthy aircraft.

"It lacks maneuverability"
That's simply conjecture as it's never been in a dogfight. Also, remember AoA is a part of maneuverability and the F-35's is superb.

"It can't land vertically with weapons or too much fuel"
Again, show your proof. The B variant cooks runways and decks, but that issue isn't unique to the F-35 (the Osprey's did the same thing).

"When it (the Marine version) isn't landing or taking off the STOVL gear adds weigh and takes up space"
That's nonsense, the F-35B has smaller landing gear than the C variant. By your complete lack of logic the Harrier's landing gear were also a waste of weight.

"It is comprised (I'm assuming you meant compromised) every single one of its multiple roles that is supposedly designed for."
The B variant cost the A and C variants in capability, but it ultimately saved cost in development and total life cycle cost.

The VA is a cabinet level arm of the government. It has it's own budget and is perfectly capable of fixing itself.

neo con artist July 16, 2014 at 4:16 pm

quote: "unit cost is down to $85 million?"

come on now. Even Neo Con Artists wouldn't believe that BS claim.

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CHIEF July 15, 2014 at 12:43 pm

WRONG

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Lance July 15, 2014 at 12:46 am

Other words the DoD stay in denial and tries to cover up that there hyped jet is a piece of crap.

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William_C1 July 15, 2014 at 2:21 am

It's an engine problem, not the entire fighter. Engine issues have happened with a lot of different fighter and engines. The F-14 and TF30, the F-15 and F100, the F/A-18 and the F404.

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oblatt22 July 15, 2014 at 4:47 am

Bill is right blades come of engines all the time – but all the other aircraft were designed to contain the damage. The tubby F-35 has inadequate damage control.

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xXTomcatXx July 15, 2014 at 10:03 am

I would trust GE's track record more than Pratt.

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William_C1 July 15, 2014 at 11:44 am

Based off the Tomcat I can certainly understand why you think that, and the early F100s were quite advanced engines for their time with a lot of troubles to work out. Yet since then all of Pratt's military turbofans I know of haven't had such a troubled early career. The competition between the two companies has certainly helped push both forward.

I know some who'd argue that cancelling the F136 was the right thing to do due to financial reasons but I'm again having doubts about that. In the long term I still hope to see the F136 to emerge as a second engine for the F-35 much like the F110 did for the F-16. Even better would be something incorporating tech from the ADVENT program.

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Atomic Walrus July 15, 2014 at 3:10 pm

Both the TF30 and F100 were pushing the limits of engine technology. The TF30 was one of the first military turbofans, and the F100 set new performance standards for its era. Being first usually means that you're first to encounter problems as well.

I'm still unconvinced about the benefits of a 2nd engine. It mitigates some technical risk, but it's far from perfect. Regardless of program intentions, there hasn't been an aircraft yet built where the type of engine can be swapped without some modification. Best case, a glitch in one type of engine would only ground part of your fleet because you're unlikely to buy 2 complete sets of different engines for each aircraft. Still, better than no aircraft flying at all. In terms of cost control, I think the case is pretty shakey: 2 complete logistics chains with lower volumes is definitely not a model embraced by anybody for cost reduction. If the government really wanted cost control, they should insist on ownership of the F135 design *they paid to develop* and then compete out builds between different manufacturers. Contractors hate this type of policy, but you see the benefit in fleet upgrade programs. One example is BAE Systems beating out Lockheed Martin for some F-16 upgrades.

Rod July 15, 2014 at 1:54 am

Different variants – but the fact that a friction fire was caused before take off is not very reassuring. I couldn't imagine what the longest flight in the aircraft's history across the pond would do.

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Big-Dean July 15, 2014 at 2:01 am

So the real story behind the story is that the F-35 pilots are on strike-no one wants to fly one across the pond

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oblatt22 July 15, 2014 at 2:08 am

What people don't realize is while they removed the damage control equipment from the F-35, each one now comes with a fully equipped PR team ready to explain when your aircraft has burns to the ground on the tarmac "it isn't a significant problem".

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damadtech July 15, 2014 at 3:28 am

That general has no business briefing anyone on anything more complicated than a pencil. How did he ever get promoted and put in charge of anything so technical or critical? It's rather easy to see why these type issues continue to occur.

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theDrD2k July 15, 2014 at 6:25 am

He got promoted because he knows nothing about the tech and is very confident in that fact.

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samuel July 15, 2014 at 8:53 am

You dont send out your best technical scientists to break down the problem for the enemy to understand. You send someone like him out to breeze about the issue and then something about lower cost. mission accomplished

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oblatt22 July 15, 2014 at 9:44 am

The enemy being the American taxpayer.

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xXTomcatXx July 15, 2014 at 9:37 am

Whoa!!! Forget the stupid manufacturing issue. Are we going to just ignore the latest cost estimates?!?! $85 million per copy for the FY19 buy?!?! That was unimaginable a year ago (at $161 million). Show me a new program cost estimate based on those numbers.

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oblatt22 July 15, 2014 at 9:48 am

Show me a F-35 cost estimate that has ever been right LOL.

The price is going up next year and that is the only thing that has been locked in the rest is just marketing flim-flam

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xXTomcatXx July 15, 2014 at 9:59 am

This isn't Lockheed making the claim (in fact they claim even lower). Even if it's 50% higher (triggers a Nunn-McCurdy), that's still $40 million dollars cheaper per copy. I knew the DoD directed Lockheed to make them cheaper, but I didn't realize that they were actually succeeding in doing it. I know, don't count em till they hatch, but that's pretty promising.

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oblatt22 July 15, 2014 at 3:17 pm

Yea you must be born recently we've had 10 years of low cost estimates that were never met. The next batch of LRIP will be more expensive not less.

But somehow in 2018 new discoveries is physics and economics means the price will drop 40%.

Its just laughable.

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xXTomcatXx July 15, 2014 at 3:34 pm

LRIP costs and FRP costs have nothing to do with each other (besides the fact that FRP is always less than LRIP). LRIP costs are always expected to be high. Infant mortality failure propagate in first of anything production. Costs are falling, deal with it, the sky is not.

And they're doing it with their own dollars.
http://australianaviation.com.au/2014/07/pentagon

hibeam July 15, 2014 at 10:46 am

Don't call it a grounding. Call it the Humvee variant.

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Mark July 15, 2014 at 4:47 pm

No video love for iPads. :-(

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Eggshen July 17, 2014 at 11:14 am

As a GE Aviation quality guy and former army ground pounder I'm going to actually defend Pratt a bit. Suck, squeeze, bang, blow…that's how a jet works in simple terms. You don't want to lose any air in the suck and squeeze steps so keeping the outer gaps tight between the compressor blades and the non-rotating case is critical to performance. There are actually whole teams of engineers that work on the space between rotating and non-rotating parts. This joke is they are in charge of nothing. The fire was not directly caused by friction. Friction caused the stage 2 blades to fail much sooner than designed and it sounds like some blades actually came apart and were ingested into the remain stages…which can cause a fire. If none of the other engines show this type of wear then it's too soon to throw bombs at Pratt about design or manufacturing issues. That said, if the engine were dual sourced only 50% of the fleet would be grounded.

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Bernard July 15, 2014 at 1:39 pm

"It cannot fly"
How is the F-35 going to fly when it is always grounded? The Navy's F-35's are still grounded. I don't know about the other's but after this fire I'd be surprised if any F-35's are taking off.

Not too long ago there was an issue where the diagnostic computers were throwing errors saying that the aircraft was unsafe to fly. They "fixed" that error by removing those diagnostics and doing the checks manually instead. So if an F-35 does fly it's only because they chose to ignore it's own computer's warnings not to fly.

"it's faster than the F-16"
No it is not, the F-16 tops out at 1,500 mph. The F-35 tops out at 1,200 mph.

"It lacks payload"
The F-35 can carry up to 8 weapons, 6 externally, 4 internally.
Both the F-16 and A-10 it is replacing can carry up to 11.
During STOVL operations the payload capacity of the F-35 is further reduced.

"It lacks stealth"
The F-22 and B-2 are both stealthier aircraft. They both use RAM while the F-35 doesn't.

"It can't land vertically with weapons or too much fuel"
The F-35 must be at half fuel load and have no remaining weapons in order to land vertically. The engine simply does not have enough thrust to support more weight. This is a simple matter of physics, the engine's max thrust is 43,000 lbs, while the air frame already weighs 32,300 lbs dry. That only leaves 10,700 lbs of room for a safe vertical landing.

"When it (the Marine version) isn't landing or taking off the STOVL gear adds weigh and takes up space"
"Harrier's landing gear were also a waste of weight."
I'm not talking about landing gear, I am talking about lifting fans, thrust vectoring piping, and other equipment that exists only to facility STOVL landing. You are correct in that the Harrier has the same problem. When a STOVL aircraft is not landing or taking off, that added weight is slowing down the air craft's performance. The space occupied by that equipment could be used for weapons and fuel if it were not for the STOVL. This is one of the trade offs of STOVL, and unfortunately for these planes the trade off costs are rather high.

"The B variant cost the A and C variants in capability, but it ultimately saved cost in development and total life cycle cost."
False, the F-35's $400 billion is more than the F-16, F-18, and Harrier projects combined. Maintaining our existing fleet is an order of magnitude cheaper while providing us with more capable aircraft.

Also, I forgot one big issue with the F-35. Range.
1,200 nmi for the A model, 900 nmi for the B model (see how much STOVL costs?), and 1,400 nmi for the C model. Meanwhile the F-16 has a range of 2,280 mni, and the A-10 has a range of 2,240 nmi. Even the Super Hornet has a range of 1,275 nmi.

Our current aircraft more than twice the range of the F-35. What use is a fighter aircraft if it can't even make it to the target?

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Atomic Walrus July 15, 2014 at 2:40 pm

Assessing the capabilities of a tactical aircraft is a little more complicated than doing a "Boy's Own" comparison of statistics. For one thing, top speed isn't worth much in modern aircraft – the name of the game is transsonic acceleration. Your range numbers are highly selective. Comparing ferry range in a clean configuration is nice, but the more pertinent question is combat radius. The F-35 has about 50% greater combat radius than a Super Hornet, which means a lot for carrier operation. Comparing number of weapons pylons is almost a non-sequitur. Are you claiming that an A-1 Skyraider is a more capable aircraft than a B-52 based on the number of pylons on the aircraft wings? Finally, bring-back weight is always an issue, and you should note that even conventional aircraft usually have a lower landing weight than take-off weight. Carrier aircraft are especially constrained, which is why the F-14 rarely flew with a full load of Phoenix missiles in service: they'd have to dump some of them just to meet their landing weight requirements.

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Strykerfire July 15, 2014 at 6:04 pm

"How is the F-35 going to fly when it is always grounded?"
Every jet in the history of forever has always been grounded at one point. Remember the incident with the F-22? Look how long that was grounded.

"No it is not, the F-16 tops out at 1,500 mph. The F-35 tops out at 1,200 mph."
That's only if the F-16 is clean (no weapons, pylons, tanks, etc). If you were to configure both jets with the same payload, the F-35 would outrun it by a lot.

"The F-35 can carry up to 8 weapons, 6 externally, 4 internally."
Both jets have 11 hardpoints (if you count the centerline on the F-35). However, in an operational squadron the F-16 would have external fuel tanks, pods, etc. So at best it would only carry two GBU-31's and 4 missiles. The F-35 can carry more than that (in a non LO mission) with more fuel without tanks.

"The F-22 and B-2 are both stealthier aircraft. They both use RAM while the F-35 doesn't. "
The F-35 uses RAM as well. It's just isn't applied on most panels to reduce maintenance.

Also, I forgot one big issue with the F-35. Range.
1,200 nmi for the A model, 900 nmi for the B model (see how much STOVL costs?), and 1,400 nmi for the C model. Meanwhile the F-16 has a range of 2,280 mni, and the A-10 has a range of 2,240 nmi. Even the Super Hornet has a range of 1,275 nmi. "
You're stating their ferry range (no weapons or pylons, only tanks). If it was the same with the F-35 with external tanks, the range would be greater than the rest.

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xXTomcatXx July 15, 2014 at 3:49 pm

The case worked just fine for the F-16. It wasn't an even production line, but competition should dictate who gets more orders. Last I read was somewhere near an 85/15 blend of GE/Pratt engines in the F-16s.

The F135 and F136 engines are completely interchangeable http://www.reliableplant.com/(S(t5abpcr3cj0esy45m

As for the contracting aspect of having one firm design and opening up production. This has been proven to not work on initial production. The design firm (the incumbent if you will) always has a technical advantage in the production competition. Remember, the US government doesn't own every piece of data that went into the F-35 design, just what they explicitly paid for. Data rights are killing the DoD's bargaining position in this sense.

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Bernard July 15, 2014 at 6:02 pm

Weapon hardpoints aren't just pylons under the wings. They are any place where an individual weapon can be physically attached to an aircraft. That includes internal bays.

Weapon hardpoints determine how many different weapons an aircraft can carry. Now that the F-35 is going to be the sole CAS option for the USAF, it needs to be able to carry as many different types of weapons as possible to adapt to rapidly changing combat situations on the ground. Having fewer hardpoints means each individual plane will have fewer options on a sortie.

Furthermore the B-52 is not a CAS aircraft, it is heavy bomber and even then it can hold 108 bombs (24 externally, 84 internally) compared the A-1 Skyraider's measly 15.

"Carrier aircraft are especially constrained, which is why the F-14 rarely flew with a full load of Phoenix missiles in service: they'd have to dump some of them just to meet their landing weight requirements."
Which is nothing compared to the F-35 having to dump all weapons and half of it's fuel. Is it going to take off without weapons and half fuel? What use would it be then?

"top speed isn't worth much in modern aircraft – the name of the game is transsonic acceleration"
Say's you. The new game is BVR (beyond visual range), the missiles have more fuel and can keep up the chase much longer. The faster you go, the further that missile is going to have to go to reach you.

"Assessing the capabilities of a tactical aircraft is a little more complicated than doing a "Boy's Own" comparison of statistics."
Yet that's exactly what you are doing in defense of the F-35 except you are cherry picking from a much smaller pool.

"The fact is that in most measurable combat metrics the F-35 is outclassed by these aircraft that is trying to replace.The F-35 has about 50% greater combat radius"
What meaning does "combat radius" have without a weapons load out specified? If you are going to use that for comparison, then you need an Apples to Apples comparison with the exact same loadouts on both planes.

Also, for the Air Force the ferry range will affect trips to forward bases.

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BlackOwl18E July 15, 2014 at 10:53 pm

Lockheed once estimated that the F-35 was going to enter service in 2012. Guess how that turned out?

Cost estimates from Lockheed Martin mean absolutely nothing. They are just saying whatever they think they need to in order to keep the money coming in. NONE of their cost estimates that they plan years ahead have proven to be true when the time came for them to be bought in the budget.

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Bernard July 16, 2014 at 9:18 am

"Every jet in the history of forever has always been grounded at one point."
Nice try. Not every jet spends 90% of it's time grounded.

"That's only if the F-16 is clean (no weapons, pylons, tanks, etc). If you were to configure both jets with the same payload, the F-35 would outrun it by a lot."
Apparently not, or the top speed in the F-35 would be higher. The F-16 is more aerodynamic, it does more with substantially less thrust.

"Both jets have 11 hardpoints (if you count the centerline on the F-35)."
Not true, the center-line is not usable due to the bay doors. Also, we should remember that the internal bays limit the type of weapons that can be carried there. Further restricting it's value in CAS missions.

"The F-35 uses RAM as well. It's just isn't applied on most panels to reduce maintenance."
The conclusion is the same, less stealth. Also, once you use those external pylons all that stealth technology goes down the drain. So if you want the F-35 to be stealthy at all then you're back down to two cramped internal bomb bays with a poor payload capacity.

"You're stating their ferry range"
Give me a range comparison with equal load outs on an F-35 and an F-16. Also, if you want the F-35 to use it's stealth it will have to drop the external fuel tanks.

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xXTomcatXx July 16, 2014 at 9:29 am

What about "Not Lockheed's cost estimate" did you not understand?

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Atomic Walrus July 16, 2014 at 2:38 pm

The problem with the F-16 approach is that you only get to compete the engines once. Most of the cost of an engine is supporting it throughout life, and F-16s couldn't swap engines easily.

The F135 and F136 were supposed to be completely interchangeable. Since the program was cancelled, that capability was never demonstrated or validated. As I mentioned, it's also never been done in any other aircraft, so I treat the claim with skepticism until proven otherwise. Before cancellation, there were already indications that the F136 would function better with a redesigned intake – shades of F110…

Bidding engine builds wouldn't be easy, and certainly not feasible at the point. However, the government needs to get a lot smarter about contracting and retaining control of designs if they really want to crack the problem. The trick is that I suspect the contractors are going to obtain their margins one way or another, and will tend to outflank the government eventually anyway.

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BlackOwl18E July 17, 2014 at 12:50 am

Let me rephrase that. Almost every "optimist" project that the JSF's price will get better has proven to be a failure.

In fact there are still many predicting that the costs will rise: http://breakingdefense.com/2014/04/dod-says-f-35-

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