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Archive for June, 2019

The F-35 will not be flying on aircraft carriers in the near future, which is a major blow to the progam

Posted by altandmain on June 8, 2019

Recently, an article was published with the site “War is Boring”, about how the F-35 may be many years away from serious carrier operations.

It could be another decade before Ford-class carriers are able to launch F-35C jets

This is a very significant blow to the program. The whole justification of the F-35 program was inter-service platform sharing and the resulting cost savings that this would result in. Without this aircraft having a functional naval variant, one of the big justifications for the program is in serious jeopardy.

This comes on top of the Ford class of aircraft carriers, which has been experiencing issues with its  Electromagnetic Launch System (EMALS) and  Advanced Arresting Gear (AAG) systems, which means that the aircraft carrier cannot do the basic functions of launching and recovering aircraft. These are not, by the way the only problems the carrier is facing. It is also facing issues with its elevators. In addition, the nuclear propulsion system is also facing difficulties. These appear to be significantly worse than what problems are “normally” expected in a first of class vessel.

On top of these issues are the other ongoing issues with the F-35, which the Ford class is going to carry. These have resulted in a very poor rate of combat readiness for the aircraft and the General Accountability Office has raised concerns about the situation. Here as well is an older DOT&E report. If you go through the report, there are a number of problems that it uncovered worthy of an article it and of itself.

It  should be noted that the F-35C, the naval version is not the only aircraft with problems. The GAO and DOT&E reports cover some of this, but to put things into perspective, it is believed that the F-35B may only have a service lifetime of a little more than 2000 hours due to structural problems.

While it is very possible to have an aircraft that can serve both on land and for naval applications (indeed Picard here has proposals for that involved navalized versions of all of his aircraft), the F-35 is unlikely to realize any cost savings from the approach they have taken, which actually don’t share that many parts between the aircraft.

Going back to the original story, this problem with the F-35C simply not being able to function on aircraft carriers puts into question the whole (increasingly shaky) justification for the program.  It may very well be the proverbial straw that breaks the camel’s back, so to speak. Not only are the aircraft and the aircraft carrier deeply flawed, but the F-35C simply may not be able to work on aircraft carriers anytime soon.

If these different versions of the F-35 cannot deliver their promised capabilities, then the whole justification for the F-35 program begins to fall apart. I think that it is time to evaluate whether or not the program is truly worth and if not, well in a situation like this, the sunk cost fallacy comes into play. Committing additional resources for a failing program like this is totally counterproductive.

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