US Marines' Version of F-35 Fighter Is Not Ready for Real Combat

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It's the latest awkward moment in a long series of blunders haunting America's most expensive piece of military equipment: the US Marine Corps bended the truth when it said in July that its version of the controversial F-35 fighter jet was combat ready because, according to the War Is Boring website, it is not.

The announcement was made after what was essentially a demonstration, not a realistic operation test. Even though Lockheed Martin, the manufacturer of the stealth fifth-generation multirole fighter, presumably made every effort to make sure everything went according to plan, the demonstration did not go smoothly. But the US Marine Corps acted as if nothing happened.

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This has become evident when the Project on Government Oversight obtained a full version of the document prepared by the Pentagon's Director of Operational Test and Evaluation (DOT&E) after the tests conducted on May 18 – 29, 2015. The memorandum revealed that the US Marine Corps will have to tackle a number of maintenance and reliability problems described as "significant near-term challenges" with regard to the $400-billion aircraft.

The majority of the seven F-35Bs, which took part in the 11-day tests, would not survive in realistic combat conditions. They needed extended maintenance, lacked key equipment and software and could not clock the planned flight hours, according to the War Is Boring website. Some spare parts were not available on spot and had to be flown in from the mainland.

"Maintainers aboard the ship had their hands full during the test. One aircraft lost a 'turkey feather' retaining pin in the engine when the plane first landed aboard the ship. This rendered the aircraft Not Mission Capable (NMC), an acronym which is repeated over and over again in the report," Mandy Smithberger and Dan Grazier observed.

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Some issues were deemed beyond fixing. One plane flew only one brief mission that ended in an emergency landing.

"While there is nothing unusual about military equipment requiring maintenance to remain operational, the number of mechanical and electronic maintenance problems during this short period of time, and on such a highly publicized event, is remarkable," Smithberger and Grazier pointed out.

A squadron of six aircraft, according to the DOT&E, needs to have a readiness rate of 80 percent to meet combat needs. However, the F-35Bs which took part in the demonstration had trouble maintaining a 50 percent readiness level.

© Flickr / US Air ForceLockheed Martin, another leader in the industry with its F-35, F-22, F-16, F-117, and C-130s saw shares grow more than 3.53%.
Lockheed Martin, another leader in the industry with its F-35, F-22, F-16, F-117, and C-130s saw shares grow more than 3.53%. - Sputnik International
Lockheed Martin, another leader in the industry with its F-35, F-22, F-16, F-117, and C-130s saw shares grow more than 3.53%.

"The USS Wasp operational test, which seems no more than a PR exercise, simply confirmed that beyond the highly publicized questions regarding the F-35's combat effectiveness, more pressing issues remain about its basic reliability. If the most expensive weapons system in history can't even get off the ground often enough to train pilots adequately, then all the money spent on it has been wasted," Smithberger and Grazier noted.

The July announcement that the F-35B achieved initial operational capability (IOC) was hailed as a milestone for the Joint Strike Fighter program plagued by delays and ever-increasing costs. As it turns out, essentially this landmark event has not happened yet.

© AP Photo / LM OtteroLockheed Martin F-35 Joint Strike Fighter
Lockheed Martin F-35 Joint Strike Fighter - Sputnik International
Lockheed Martin F-35 Joint Strike Fighter
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