Fifteen Percent Of U.S. Air Force F-35s Don’t Have Working Engines

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A total of 46 F-35 stealth fighters are currently without functioning engines due to an ongoing problem with the heat-protective coating on their turbine rotor blades becoming worn out faster than was expected. With the engine maintenance center now facing a backlog on repair work, frontline F-35 fleets have been hit, with the U.S. Air Force’s fleet facing the most significant availability shortfall.

At a hearing before the U.S. House Committee on Armed Services’ Subcommittee on Tactical Air and Land Forces yesterday, Air Force Lieutenant General Eric T. Fick, director of the F-35 Joint Program Office, confirmed that 41 U.S. Air Force F-35s, as well as one Joint Strike Fighter belonging to the U.S. Marine Corps, another from the U.S. Navy, and three that had been delivered to foreign air forces were grounded without engines. Those figures were as of July 8.

An F-35A assigned to the 61st Fighter Squadron at Luke Air Force Base, Arizona, takes off as the sun sets, during corrosion testing of the F135 engine.
The exact breakdown of how many of each F-35 variant lack engines is unclear. The Air Force and the Navy only fly the F-35A and F-35C, respectively, but the Marines operate both F-35Bs and F-35Cs and various models are in service with other military forces around the world.

With regards to the Air Force specifically, as of May 8 this year, the service had received 283 F-35As, which means that around a little under 15 percent of the service’s Joint Strike Fighters can’t be flown due to this engine shortage.

"They had a rush on the depot due to unexpected Calcium-Magnesium-Alumino-Silicate (CMAS) degradation on deployed F-35As," Steve Trimble, Aviation Week’s Defense Editor and a friend of The War Zone, wrote on Twitter. "And the depot itself has been a bottleneck, with turn times at two-times planned rates earlier this year.”

The depot in question is the F135 Heavy Maintenance Center at Tinker Air Force Base, Oklahoma, which looks after the F-35’s turbofan engines, which are produced by Pratt & Whitney. The Heavy Maintenance Center is the primary repair depot for all F135 engines, including those operated by the Navy and Marine Corps units, and some of the foreign partners in the F-35 program.

While Trimble noted that those depot rates “are coming down now,” this is not good news for a program that has suffered its fair share of setbacks in recent months, with criticism of its operating costs, in particular, extending all the way to the top of the Air Force.

It’s also noteworthy that this particular engine problem has been rumbling on for some time now. Shortages of F135 powerplants were reported back in February when it emerged that the Tinker Air Force Base facility was unable to complete scheduled depot maintenance on the engines as quickly as required.

Contributing to the backlog was the discovery of “premature distress of rotor blade coatings,” Defense News reported at the time, meaning the depot was having to add unscheduled engine repairs to its worklist. Back then, an unnamed defense official confirmed to the same publication that the worn-out blades had led to a “serious readiness problem.”

That problem now seems to have gotten worse. As of February, it was predicted that 5-6 percent of the F-35 fleet might be left without engines by 2022, providing that planned fixes worked as hoped. If they didn’t, the same official told Defense News, then the figure could leap to 20 percent of Air Force F-35s being grounded.

The figures for last May suggest that while the effects of a fix may now be in kicking in, to some degree, the number of F-35s without engines is worse than was projected.

Prior to the details of the turbine rotor blades emerging, senior Pentagon officials were concerned that issues with the F-35’s engines were impacting mission capable rates — one of the metrics used to gauge how many of the Air Force’s aircraft are actually ready to conduct their assigned mission at any one time.

One of the results of those engine problems was the decision to reduce the number of air show appearances scheduled for the F-35A Demonstration Team, which is provided by the 388th Fighter Wing at Hill Air Force Base, Utah. That measure was hoped to reduce the burden on the engine depot.

Exactly when it became apparent that the work needed to address the CMAS blade coatings — coupled with the slower progress on F135 scheduled depot maintenance — is unclear. However, even in early 2020, the Pentagon had publicly flagged an engine shortage issue.

A second shift should have been introduced at the F135 Heavy Maintenance Center last month, Defense News reported, which should help mitigate the problem as the depot seeks to bring reduce the time it takes to process an engine from over 200 days to around 122 days.

For its part, Pratt & Whitney said it introduced a hardware modification to the engine blades last year and that the same treatment is being made to engines as they pass through the overhaul process.

It is worth remembering too, of course, that the F-35 enterprise almost had an alternative engine to the F135. However, the General Electric/Rolls-Royce F136 turbofan was deemed to be an unnecessary expense and was eventually canceled in 2011, when the project was over 80 percent complete. With the benefit of hindsight, it can well be imagined that an alternative source of engines would be very valuable right now.

While the engine issues regarding the F135 may well prove to be more temporary in nature, the latest revelation does come amid growing concerns about the sustainment costs associated with these jets, more generally. There were also reports about F135 cost growth as a result of Turkey being ejected from the Joint Strike Fighter program, although this hasn’t been linked in any way to the maintenance issues currently ongoing.

Looking further ahead, there is the potential to upgrade the powerplant for the F-35 as part of the long-term roadmap for the jet. An adaptive-cycle engine, designed to modulate the airflow, improving fuel efficiency, and boosting range, is one of the options. Pratt & Whitney and General Electric are both working on designs under the Air Force Research Laboratory’s Adaptive Engine Transition Program, or AETP. In the shorter term, technology that emerges from AETP could end up providing the basis for an F135 upgrade, too.

Meanwhile, in an event that seems unlikely to have been entirely coincidental, the F-35A Demonstration Team on May 25 paid a visit to Tinker Air Force Base “as a show of appreciation for the men and women who perform depot-level maintenance on the F-35’s engine and related components,” in the words of an Air Force press release.

“The commander of Air Combat Command [General Mark Kelly] said he wanted to do something to motivate the forces that are powering the F-35,” said Brigadier General Jeff King, Oklahoma City Air Logistics Complex commander, at the time.

Among the other items on show on the maintenance side were “new, more advanced, borescopes, a flexible camera used to inspect internal engine components.”

After the flight demonstration, F-35 Demo pilot Major Kristin “Beo” Wolfe said: “We would not be combat-ready without all the hard work of the F135 engine team.”

With that in mind, it must be hoped that the efforts that have been taken to smooth the process of engine maintenance, and fix the problem of excess wear and tear on turbine rotor blades, will finally address the engine backlog and put those 46 F-35s back on a combat-ready status.
https://www.thedrive.com/the-war-zone/4 ... ng-engines

This plane is having as much problems and cost overruns as the F-111 did years ago. Just another example of the Robert McNamara violation of the KISS principle by trying to have one combat aircraft be able do it all. Also following the Boeing plan of Quality Control.
Facts do not cease to exist because they are ignored.-Huxley
"We can have democracy in this country, or we can have great wealth concentrated in the hands of a few, but we can't have both." ~ Louis Brandeis,

Re: Fifteen Percent Of U.S. Air Force F-35s Don’t Have Working Engines

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The F-35 is already 1/4 of it's way through its lifecycle, and we still have problems with the fundamentals of the aircraft. Its easy to blame Boeing, but the Pentagon owns this one. They keep changing the design, and continue to do so. Notice Israel isn't having the same problems, their F-35's are rocking it.
“I think there’s a right-wing conspiracy to promote the idea of a left-wing conspiracy”

Re: Fifteen Percent Of U.S. Air Force F-35s Don’t Have Working Engines

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FrontSight wrote: Fri Jul 16, 2021 1:05 pm The F-35 is already 1/4 of it's way through its lifecycle, and we still have problems with the fundamentals of the aircraft. Its easy to blame Boeing, but the Pentagon owns this one. They keep changing the design, and continue to do so. Notice Israel isn't having the same problems, their F-35's are rocking it.
Boeing has nothing to do with the F-35 that is a Lockheed problem. I referenced Boeing QA due to their software issues and other problems with their 737 Max.
Facts do not cease to exist because they are ignored.-Huxley
"We can have democracy in this country, or we can have great wealth concentrated in the hands of a few, but we can't have both." ~ Louis Brandeis,

Re: Fifteen Percent Of U.S. Air Force F-35s Don’t Have Working Engines

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TrueTexan wrote: Fri Jul 16, 2021 1:41 pm
FrontSight wrote: Fri Jul 16, 2021 1:05 pm The F-35 is already 1/4 of it's way through its lifecycle, and we still have problems with the fundamentals of the aircraft. Its easy to blame Boeing, but the Pentagon owns this one. They keep changing the design, and continue to do so. Notice Israel isn't having the same problems, their F-35's are rocking it.
Boeing has nothing to do with the F-35 that is a Lockheed problem. I referenced Boeing QA due to their software issues and other problems with their 737 Max.
My bad, you're right. Still, the issues are more DOD than Lockheed. Lockheed has just smiled and said "sure, we can do that, but..." And the DOD never seems to be put off by the "but".
“I think there’s a right-wing conspiracy to promote the idea of a left-wing conspiracy”

Re: Fifteen Percent Of U.S. Air Force F-35s Don’t Have Working Engines

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senorgrand wrote: Fri Jul 16, 2021 1:21 pm Boondoggle...UAVs are the future of air combat, not piloted craft.
Spoken like a guy who has never flown a combat aircraft...Until a 'UAV' can see 360 degrees and make instant decisions..sorry, UAVs aren't any 'answer'. Next war won't be like a video game.

As for the F-35....the jets I flew, F-4 and F-14..had issues up to the day they were retired. YES, the F-35 is very 'MacNamara'-esque but avionics wise, it is light years ahead of anything the Chinese or Russians have either in development or on active duty.
I see the F-35 being 'supplemented' for a long time by the F-18E/F and the F-15EX. Either of those are also vastly superior to any Russian or Chinese jet.
If the F-35 is actually a fully-functional, highly effective multirole combat aircraft despite the many, many stories about its inadequacies, it would be the best piece of military deception since the landing at Calais.
As for a F-35 'replacement'..there are plans drawn up for the replacement of the replacement already..how the US aircraft companies stay in biz...

Re: Fifteen Percent Of U.S. Air Force F-35s Don’t Have Working Engines

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F4FEver wrote: Sun Jul 18, 2021 8:32 am
senorgrand wrote: Fri Jul 16, 2021 1:21 pm Boondoggle...UAVs are the future of air combat, not piloted craft.
Spoken like a guy who has never flown a combat aircraft...Until a 'UAV' can see 360 degrees and make instant decisions..sorry, UAVs aren't any 'answer'. Next war won't be like a video game.

As for the F-35....the jets I flew, F-4 and F-14..had issues up to the day they were retired. YES, the F-35 is very 'MacNamara'-esque but avionics wise, it is light years ahead of anything the Chinese or Russians have either in development or on active duty.
I see the F-35 being 'supplemented' for a long time by the F-18E/F and the F-15EX. Either of those are also vastly superior to any Russian or Chinese jet.
If the F-35 is actually a fully-functional, highly effective multirole combat aircraft despite the many, many stories about its inadequacies, it would be the best piece of military deception since the landing at Calais.
As for a F-35 'replacement'..there are plans drawn up for the replacement of the replacement already..how the US aircraft companies stay in biz...
That is why the Air Force continues to fly the F-16 and A-10. As for the F-4 I remember the Air Force F-4 pilots during Vietnam calling it the flying Crowbar lose one engine and it flies like a crowbar. :D

One thing I never understood, the Navy designed planes has two people to fly their fighters, while the Air Force designed planes only require one person? I asked a person that had been crewman in the F-18 backseat and he couldn't give me an answer except that was the Navy way.
Facts do not cease to exist because they are ignored.-Huxley
"We can have democracy in this country, or we can have great wealth concentrated in the hands of a few, but we can't have both." ~ Louis Brandeis,

Re: Fifteen Percent Of U.S. Air Force F-35s Don’t Have Working Engines

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TrueTexan wrote: Sun Jul 18, 2021 10:27 am
F4FEver wrote: Sun Jul 18, 2021 8:32 am
senorgrand wrote: Fri Jul 16, 2021 1:21 pm Boondoggle...UAVs are the future of air combat, not piloted craft.
Spoken like a guy who has never flown a combat aircraft...Until a 'UAV' can see 360 degrees and make instant decisions..sorry, UAVs aren't any 'answer'. Next war won't be like a video game.

As for the F-35....the jets I flew, F-4 and F-14..had issues up to the day they were retired. YES, the F-35 is very 'MacNamara'-esque but avionics wise, it is light years ahead of anything the Chinese or Russians have either in development or on active duty.
I see the F-35 being 'supplemented' for a long time by the F-18E/F and the F-15EX. Either of those are also vastly superior to any Russian or Chinese jet.
If the F-35 is actually a fully-functional, highly effective multirole combat aircraft despite the many, many stories about its inadequacies, it would be the best piece of military deception since the landing at Calais.
As for a F-35 'replacement'..there are plans drawn up for the replacement of the replacement already..how the US aircraft companies stay in biz...
That is why the Air Force continues to fly the F-16 and A-10. As for the F-4 I remember the Air Force F-4 pilots during Vietnam calling it the flying Crowbar lose one engine and it flies like a crowbar. :D

One thing I never understood, the Navy designed planes has two people to fly their fighters, while the Air Force designed planes only require one person? I asked a person that had been crewman in the F-18 backseat and he couldn't give me an answer except that was the Navy way.
He couldn't eh? My aunt matilda's mustache.
I raise the BS flag on that one. Maybe this 'F-18 backseat guy' could go wander out onto the flightdeck and notice the F-18Es there(single seat).

Apples and oranges. F-15C/F-16C/F-22/F-35A were/are air superiority fighters. Air superiority over the central plains of Europe so the Soviet advance to the English channel could be stopped. CVs there to threaten the Soviet flanks in north atlantic and pacific.
F-14 was designed a a fleet defense aircraft hauling the Phoenix using the VERY complicated and hard to use Awg-9 radar..so the CV can 'threaten the flanks of the Soviet Union'. F-18 was single seat from the get go..replacement for the A-7..light attack but also easily used for air superiority and fleet defense. F-18F(2 seats) a replacement for the A-6..all weather attack..like the F-15E..which also has 2 cockpits. 'Going downtown', at night, crappy weather, close to the ground..pilot needs to fly..back seater does the weapon systems stuff.

'AirForce...flare to land, squat to pee'..USAF had all sorts of derogatory names for the Phantom..the USN called it the 'Phantom'....
Last edited by F4FEver on Tue Jul 20, 2021 7:51 am, edited 1 time in total.

Re: Fifteen Percent Of U.S. Air Force F-35s Don’t Have Working Engines

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What I gather is the prevailing logic - if you buy the argument that there is any - behind the F-35 is the avionics package. Well, and the McNamara thing. Fun thing, they've been talking about its potential to direct stealthy UAV 'wingmen' in combat for years.

I suspect that the real purpose is a combination of legitimate technical problems, deliberate misinformation, and Black Project accounting to fund the Fun Stuff.

Re: Fifteen Percent Of U.S. Air Force F-35s Don’t Have Working Engines

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While Russia just announced its version of the F-35.
Russia Officially Unveils New Checkmate Fighter, But Performance Claims are Ambitious

Russia officially unveiled its new Checkmate fighter at the MAKS airshow July 20, offering a series of ambitious performance claims about the jet, which it is clearly promoting as a low-cost, single-engined alternative to the F-35 in the world market. Company officials said an unmanned version may become available.

United Aircraft Corp.—parent company for all of Russia’s aircraft makers, including Sukhoi, Ilyushin, MiG, and Tupolev—says the Checkmate will fly in 2023, will be in series production in 2026, and will be offered for export at the bargain basement price of $25-$30 million per copy. That’s well below the price of the F-35, which is running at just under $80 million a copy for the conventional-takeoff F-35A model, after some 665 examples have been produced. A company press release said the Checkmate was developed “in record time.”
https://www.airforcemag.com/russia-offi ... ambitious/
Facts do not cease to exist because they are ignored.-Huxley
"We can have democracy in this country, or we can have great wealth concentrated in the hands of a few, but we can't have both." ~ Louis Brandeis,

Re: Fifteen Percent Of U.S. Air Force F-35s Don’t Have Working Engines

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FrontSight wrote: Thu Jul 22, 2021 2:50 pm So do I have this right?

The US currently has 283 F-35's, of those precisely ONE squadron is combat operational. And we're just okay with this?

Not exactly
Did you know the F-35 is proven in combat with six services having employed the aircraft in combat operations or NATO missions? ... The U.S. Air Force's 34th Fighter Generation Squadron recently completed exercise Red Flag 21-1 without losing a single F-35A sortie to a maintenance issue.
The U.S. Air Force deployed the F-35 to the U.S. Central Command area of responsibility for 18 consecutive months and the jet delivered operationally: 42 jets, 1,100 airmen, 1,319 sorties, 352 total weapons dropped and 3,774 25MM rounds expended.
Fifty-two of the 78 F-35As belonging to the active-duty 388th Fighter Wing and the reserve 419th Fighter Wing on Jan. 6, 2020 lined up on the runway at Hill Air Force Base in Utah.
The so-called “elephant walk” marked the wings’ declaration of “full warfighting capability
.”
The large-scale staging also is a reminder of the importance of rapid sortie-generation for U.S. forces, especially in South Korea.
Sometime later this year, the aircraft carrier USS Carl Vinson will leave its homeport of San Diego and head for the Western Pacific. The carrier will bring along two new additions for the cruise: the F-35C Joint Strike Fighter and the CMV-22 Osprey tiltrotor.
I was in a USN Operational Test Squadron(VX-4) when the F-18 was being evaluated and that jet had FAR more problems than the F-35 has. As a matter of fact, VX-4 gave the F-18 a big thumb's down initially...

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Anyone else remember the flaming deathtrap that was the Bradley IFV?

Now, I believe the design is compromised AF. I also believe in the principle of open-source coding, where publicizing hax and design flaws helps speed up the patch rollout and leads to better, more secure software faster than otherwise. I expect if the F-35 ever sees combat, it will turn out to be totally inadequate at the tasks that its predecessors performed with panache - looking at you, A-10 - yet surprisingly good at weird new niche stuff - think EF-111.

Re: Fifteen Percent Of U.S. Air Force F-35s Don’t Have Working Engines

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wings wrote: Fri Jul 23, 2021 8:51 pm Anyone else remember the flaming deathtrap that was the Bradley IFV?

Now, I believe the design is compromised AF. I also believe in the principle of open-source coding, where publicizing hax and design flaws helps speed up the patch rollout and leads to better, more secure software faster than otherwise. I expect if the F-35 ever sees combat, it will turn out to be totally inadequate at the tasks that its predecessors performed with panache - looking at you, A-10 - yet surprisingly good at weird new niche stuff - think EF-111.
Let’s not forget the F-16.
Facts do not cease to exist because they are ignored.-Huxley
"We can have democracy in this country, or we can have great wealth concentrated in the hands of a few, but we can't have both." ~ Louis Brandeis,

Re: Fifteen Percent Of U.S. Air Force F-35s Don’t Have Working Engines

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tonguengroover wrote: Fri Jul 23, 2021 7:35 pm I'm not believing these reports on the F-35.
Why would we want to alert our enemies to some enormous failure of our newest strike fighter.
I bet Putin doesn't believe it.
Don't believe it, up to you. Don't care what putin believes or not. Not gonna convince you of anything but I still know a 'few' guys flying jets in the USN and altho there are some mostly software glitches with the new F35..the below is balderdash.
The US currently has 283 F-35's, of those precisely ONE squadron is combat operational. And we're just okay with this?

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