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.
— Christopher Mims™ (@mims) April 26, 2016
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.