03:55 GMT +330 March 2017
    It may be seven years late and $160 billion over budget, but the F-35 fighter - the most expensive piece of fighting equipment in history - may finally make its official debut this summer.

    F-35 Delayed Again: Defective Ejection Seat Would Likely Snap Pilots’ Necks

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    The flawed design of the Martin-Baker ejection seat means another major delay in production of the aircraft and hundreds of billions of dollars in costs for US taxpayers.

    The US Air Force is exploring replacements for the F-35 Martin-Baker ejection seat, citing revelations that the seat could endanger pilots, according to Defense News. This marks the latest setback for the F-35 fighter jet that has cost US taxpayers over $1.5 trillion.

    The decision to consider alternatives to the Martin-Baker ejection seat followed a government report finding that pilots below 136 pounds faced a high likelihood of suffering a fatal neck injury upon ejecting from the fighter jet. Pilots weighing between 136 and 165 pounds also face an "elevated level of risk" due to the defective ejection seat.

    Ejection seats hold a special importance for pilots of the $250 million fighter jet in light of recent tests that show the fifth-generation fighter spontaneously shuts down mid-flight due to ongoing software malfunctions.

    After a steady stream of delays, the advanced aircraft was not expected to be cleared for mass production until sometime in 2019, the planes being combat-ready by 2021. Industry experts believe that the defective Martin-Baker ejection seat risks delaying production of the F-35 even further by disrupting Lockheed-Martin’s supply chain and workshare strategy.

    Despite the potential for enhanced delays in the fighter jet that has cost the American people more than the gross domestic product of all but the eight richest countries, Air Force Lt. Gen. Arnold Bunch, the service’s top uniformed acquisition official, confirmed that the service intends push forward, potentially relying on United Technologies’ ACES 5 ejection seat as an alternative.

    "We believe it is prudent to look at what it would take to qualify the ACES 5 seat as a potential risk mitigation step if additional things happen as we go through the testing of the Martin-Baker seat," Bunch said Friday. "We believe it’s prudent to determine what it would cost, how much [impact there would be on] the schedule, what the timeline would be, if something else happened and we wanted to go a different way."

    The US Air Force is slated to buy 1,763 F-35A fighter jets, making it the single largest customer in the program. Given that the Martin-Baker ejection seat included as a generic component in the Lockheed aircraft, other American military branches are likely to run into similar issues.

    Under the current industrial partnership agreement, UK companies produce about 15 percent of each F-35 jet, creating and supporting over 24,000 British jobs. If the US Air Force does pursue purchasing replacement ejection seats from US-based United Technologies, it will likely still need to pay full cost on the defective seats from UK-based Martin-Baker in order to comply with the agreement.

    A US Air Force source warned that this complication could result in a substantial premium over the existing cost for the F-35 fighter jet, threatening to bankrupt the fighter jet venture altogether.

    "Instead of one seat, you have two separate seats with supplies/supply chain duplication," the source said. "That would drive costs skyrocketing for everybody because it impacts quantity of scale because the Air Force has the largest majority. Then costs go up for both the Air Force and the rest of the enterprise."

    The US Air Force now faces the troubling reality of either forcing US taxpayers to spend billions in extra expenses for a jet that may not be operable for another decade, or placing fighter pilots into a malfunctioning aircraft without a safe ejection capability.


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    ACES 5, Ejection seat, military-industrial complex, Brexit, F-35 II Joint Strike Fighter Program, fighter jet, Martin-Baker, NATO, United Technologies Corporation (UTC), White House, US military, US Air Force, US Department of Defense (DoD), Lockheed Martin, Pentagon, Lt. Gen Arnold Bunch, Jeremy Corbyn, Ash Carter, Jens Stoltenberg, John Kerry, Boris Johnson, Barack Obama, David Cameron, United States, United Kingdom
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    • avatar
      Hey, whadya expect for only $1,500,000,000,000? An ejector seat that WORKED?
      That's EXTRA!
    • avatar
      Andrew J
      It should be fine, nothing to worry about.
    • jo6pac
      The graft from Lockheed that keeps on giving $$$$$$$$$$$$$$ and no one goes to jail. We in America us to do some amazing things and today you are just amazed if what the vendors make will work$
    • Anne
      Buy it from Russia. Is a lot cheaper and is working :) and tested in Syria lol
    • avatar
      jasin reply toAnne(Show commentHide comment)
      Anne, Their systems are excellent, as long as NATO terrorists aren't shooting the ejecting pilots from the sky,
    • avatar
      But on a brighter note, they finally finished applying the red lipstick and gluing on the wiggly tails!
    • avatar
      I love the every other day F-35 failure porn on Sputnik. I can imagine the editors high fiving each other when another delay, setback or overrun hits some news feed. This dog is the gift that keeps on giving too as there seems to be no end to the corruption and chaos that is the F-35.
    • jo6pac
      The other problem is employees and service personal plug in personal cell phones and tablets in to the planes systems to charge batteries. They have installed spyware in 1/3 of the planes grounding them.
    • avatar
      I suppose now that Israel will have to wait despite the recent announcement.
    • The Night Wind
      Against the new Russian and Chinese fighters, the ejector-seat would be the most important part of the aircraft.
    • avatar
      goldcamshaftin reply tomichael(Show commentHide comment)
      michael, Israel might be able to fix the problems before the us/uk does.
    • avatar
      They should let mcKain do the testing of this beast, after a short training only on how to keep it flying in a straight line and how to eject, bible in hand.
    • avatar
      michaelin reply togoldcamshaft(Show commentHide comment)
      goldcamshaft, my thoughts exactly and then charge the other purchasing countries repair costs. :) Hey, a new industry.:)
    • Annein reply tojas(Show commentHide comment)
      jas, Hahahahahahahaha Yes, I know hahahaha
    • avatar
      There's no mention on Sputnik of the USAF exercise last week pitting the F-35A against the F-15E. The F-35A was 8-0 against the F-15E in simulated air-to-air combat. Given that the F-15 is the most successful air-superiority fighter in modern history, that's a mighty impressive victory. Israel got to test their first F-35 last week and immediately doubled their order (and canceled their request for more F-15s). That speaks for itself. The F-35 is late and over-budget, but it's shaping up to be a fantastic platform. The ejector seat is only a risk to pilots that weigh less than 130 pounds. You'll be hard pressed to find a US or UK pilot under 130 pounds. It might be of concern for the Japanese.
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