14 Juni 2017

Australia’s F-35As Grounded over Oxygen Issues

14 Juni 2017

RAAF F-35 aircraft (photos : DefenceConnect)

The US Air Force has grounded a fleet of F-35s after the aircraft started starving their pilots of oxygen.

The 56th Fighter Wing at Luke Air Force Base in Arizona suspended all F-35A flights last week after five pilots experienced hypoxia-like symptoms.

Australia's F-35As are among the 55 aircraft grounded, with the grounding currently indefinite.

US Airforce spokeswoman Major Rebecca Heyse said in a statement, "The 56th Fighter Wing will continue their pause in local F-35A flying to co-ordinate analysis and communication between pilots, maintainers, medical professionals and a team of military and industry experts.

"This co-ordination will include technical analysis of the physiological incidents to date and discussions on possible risk mitigation options to enable a return to flying operations."

Five incidents have been reported since 2 May with pilots experiencing hypoxia, but the Air Force said pilots all used their backup oxygen to land the planes safely and without serious harm to themselves.

While there are other F-35s based in Japan and Europe, the grounding is only specific to the Luke Air Force Base as no incidents have been reported elsewhere.

A team of pilots, maintainers, medical professionals and military and industry experts will investigate the issue

Australia will have 72 F-35As with the full fleet in service by the end of 2023. Two, AU-001 and AU-002, have been delivered and each cost more than US$120 million.

The F-35s are no stranger to controversy, with much criticism over costs and timing of the program.

While in Australia for Avalon Airshow, former head of the F-35 Joint Program Office Lieutenant General Christopher Bogdan addressed some of these controversies, noting “there has been a lot of controversy about how late that program is and completing that program, and how much it costs to complete that program".

"Back in 2011, this program was re-baselined, it was re-baselined because in prior years we have not done such a good job on the program. It was many years late, and many millions of dollars over budget, so in 2011 we re-baselined the program," Lt Gen Bogdan said.

The Lieutenant General also conceded there are ongoing risks to the program, including with the performance of some of the current aircraft.

"We have risks, we have things we have to sort out. There are challenges ahead," Lt Gen Bogdan said.

Despite the positive performances of the 200 aircraft in the field, Lt Gen Bogdan expressed his concern and disappointment with the performance of the older aircraft.

"The aeroplane today, the 200 aeroplanes out in the field are performing fairly well. Unfortunately, our older aeroplanes that came off the production line some years ago are not performing as well as the newer aeroplanes," he said.

"If you took a look at our newer aeroplanes compared to some of our older aeroplanes, you would see a very significant improvement in their aircraft availability, and their reliability and maintainability. That's a good thing, because what we're doing is we're building newer aeroplanes now, and eventually when we modify those older aeroplanes up to the standards of the newer aeroplanes, we'll have a fleet that's fairly robust."

Lt Gen Bogdan went as far to declare the reliability and maintainability of the older aircraft as "flat", and said there is much room for improvement, particularly in comparison to the newer aircraft.

"Unfortunately, today, the aircraft availability, the reliability and maintainability of the aeroplane is what I would call flat. It's not bad, it's just not getting a whole lot better really fast. Now if you separate out those good aeroplanes, they are getting better faster, but not if you include the older aeroplanes, and we have to work on that. That is a challenge we have on the program, that is a risk on the program, because we need to continue to drive the cost of flying and maintaining the aeroplane down, lower and lower each and every year."

Lt Gen Bogdan also cautioned about the ramp up of the production line, fearing the workload of the manufacturing companies.

"I'm worried about that, the ramp up of some of the aeroplanes coming off the production line, while at the same time we have 200 aeroplanes out in the field that we have to support," he said.

"Because those companies that are building pieces and parts for the production line, are the very same companies that we're turning to, to fix older parts on the aeroplane. There is a natural tension and a capacity issue with those industry partners in building new parts for the production line, and fixing the older parts on our aeroplanes in the field. That's a risk, that's a problem we have to work with."

The F-35 aircraft is the most expensive in history, with the 72 F-35As ordered by the Australian government is expected to cost $17 billion.

(Defence Connect)

7 komentar:

  1. Deficiencies continue to be discovered at a rate of about every year not only in US and some other operator like Aussies, and many more will undoubtedly be discovered before and during operation. We'll this is technology and no one is perfect. Unlike Chinese and Singapore made and it will likely be a death trap from whoever country who wanted to buy any military hardware in the said two Mongoloid Nation.

  2. Jangan-jangan pilotnya bengek tuh...herannya kalo ADIR kok baek-baek aja tak terdengar keluhannya?

  3. Guud maneuver,, guud agility,,,tough,,competitive prices,then go to sukhoi families!

  4. This is why singapore does not want to buy the f35 yet. Not until it is ready and the mamufecturer lokheed martin has fixed all its issues and enhance it with the upgrade ready by 2020. By then it would be a later Block 3 batch or a block 4

    1. For sure Benjamin US will not going to sell this to SIngapore.

    2. False they are trying to sell it to us but we are not confident with the current situation of the f35. In 2003 singapore joined the f35 programme as a security cooperative together with israel. To date singapore is the only member of the f35 programme that has yet to place and confirm an order while all the other f35 partners have done so with the exception of south korea as their fleet of 100 f15k and many f16 and f5s are suffecient. The south koreans are more on self reliance with their 4.5 gen fighter programme. Back during singapore's pm state visit to US obama alrdy mention in his speech that the US welcomes singapore should we want to purchase the f35. In conclusion the f35 will be singapore's next fighter until the problem is fixed. We are looking at a post 2020 buy here.

    3. Just to clarify when i meant with following members is all of them are already operating the f35. South korea has yet to as their f35 is still being built and might purchasing more. Hence theirs is not ready.