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Simple Loose Bracket Caused Troubled F-35 to Go Up in Flames

© Flickr / US Air ForceA new set of software problems may mean yet another series of delays for the F-35 fighter, already the most expensive and troublesome military equipment project in US history.
A new set of software problems may mean yet another series of delays for the F-35 fighter, already the most expensive and troublesome military equipment project in US history. - Sputnik International
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It is an increasingly unpopular fighter plane that can go up in flames due to a loose bracket, and with the $1.45 trillion the US is expected to pour into the F-35 program over the course of its life, America could forgive every penny of its crippling student loan debt.

Officials have finally pinned down the root cause of a fire on an F-35B during flight tests at a Marine Corps base in Beaufort, South Carolina, at the end of October. An unsecured bracket in the weapons bay allowed electrical wires to shake free, leading to a spark near hydraulic lines and flammable components on the plane, Lt. Gen. Christopher Bogdan said in a recent news conference.

"It had passed its previous inspection, but the bracket still became dislodged," Bogdan said, adding that flight crews knew about the issue "long before" the October fire. Astonishingly, modified brackets have not been replaced on all F-35Bs, and pilots must be wary of a heightened risk of fire when flying the aircraft, according to Bogdan.

US President-elect Donald Trump quipped that the F-35 program is "out of control" and promised to give the program a fresh look as part of a movement to “drain the swamp” of overly-high military expenditures in the US. The unreliable planes have drained hundreds of millions of dollars from US coffers.

​The F-35 Joint Strike Fighter program, described by insiders as a money-pit, was previously derailed by flaws in logistical systems, avionics processors, landing gear, pilot helmets and seats, as well as the fuel tank. "Every time they test it they find another failure," Pierre Sprey, a member of the F-16 design team, told Sputnik Radio.

The F-35’s accessories, notably its $400,000-apiece flying helmet, have encountered a barrage of problems. Pilots report that a green glow created by the high-tech helmet, which displays target information and flight data, is like "looking through a dirty window." Further, the seat ejector poses an "elevated level of risk," including the possibility of accidental death, to pilots weighing less than 165 pounds, according to a government analysis. 

An F-35 being refueled at Eglin Air Force Base in Florida. - Sputnik International
F-35 Program Head Defends Troubled Jet Amid Trump Condemnation

A mishap with the jet’s coolant tubes caused the air force to ground 15 F-35s in September. In October, a spokesman said the fighters would again be operational before the end of the year.

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