Military

F-35 test fleet has low readiness rate, may affect aircraft’s testing phase

F-35 fighter planes at California’s Edwards Air Force Base have a very low readiness rate, a non-governmental watchdog said.

The Project on Government Oversight’s Center for Defense Information reported last week that only 8.7 percent, of the 23 F-35s Joint Strike fighter planes in the Edwards AFB operational test fleet were “fully mission capable” in June 2019, when analysis of data from the Pentagon’s Joint Program Office was begun.

“The revelation that the F-35 program is struggling to overcome the last hurdle before it can legally move into full-rate production follows numerous recent reports, including by POGO as well as the Government Accountability Office, indicating the most expensive weapon system in history is far from ready to face current or future threats,” the POGO report said.

It noted that the planes’ Distributed Aperture System, which generates imagery of incoming threats on $400,000 pilots’ helmets, is a frequent source of failure. While the planes can still fly with certain non-functioning systems, the report said, “to fully test the program’s capabilities, all systems must function properly.”

An April report by the government’s General Accounting Office reached similar, disparaging conclusion. It cited spare parts shortages and limited repair capabilities, making F-35 planes throughout the U.S. military “unable to fly nearly 30 percent of the May-November 2018 time period. Also, the Department of Defense had a repair backlog of about 4,300 F-35 parts.”

It referred to the readiness rate as “abysmal,” and added that readiness figures for all the flight programs of the U.S. Air Force are declining. All 5,400 planes in the Air Force fleet had a “mission capable” rate, indicating they could complete at least one of their assigned tasks, of 77.9 percent.

That figure slid to 69.97 percent by 2018, and then-Secretary of Defense James Mattis demanded a capability rate of 80 percent. The goal has not been achieved, and current Defense Secretary Mark Esper said in July that the fleet of F-35s of the Army, Navy and Marines “is not expected” to meet Mattis’s goal of readiness.

In May, a subcommittee U.S. House Appropriations Committee approved only half the funding for the Pentagon’s spare parts purchases for F-35 planes, citing the GAO report.

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AEROSPACE

N.H. Air National Guard base gets its first KC-46A tanker

Washington (UPI) Aug 9, 2019


Pease Air National Guard Base, N.H., is the first guard base to receive a next-generation KC-46A Pegasus refueling tanker plane.
The plane arrived late Thursday at the 157th Air Refueling Wing for a ceremonial welcome as rock music played and fire trucks sprayed arcs of water. Pilot Lt. Gen. L. Scott Rice, Air National Guard, concluded his 40-year military career in bringing the plane to his home state.
The plane, developed from a Boeing 767 passenger plane, is replacing KC-135 Stratotan … read more


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