By this point it seems to be clear that the US military will be moving forward with the Lockheed Martin F-35 Lightning II Joint Strike Fighter as the future of our air power wing. The amount of money we’ve flushed into this program thus far would more than cover the increase in the national debt this year and the plane hasn’t been without more than its fair share of controversy. The plane, which some allege attempts to be all things for all people, performed poorly in its first air to air combat testing, proving unable to beat the F-16 (or even the F-14) in a dog fight. There have also been serious questions raised about its ability to be “stealthy” in battle scenarios. Further independent reviews of its overall mission capability have pretty much declared it to be a “train wreck” which is not capable of unsupported combat against any serious threat.

Earlier this year we found out about one more item on the “to be fixed” list for the craft even as it’s already being deployed in multiple locations. It turns out that the plane’s onboard radar system had a tendency to suddenly freeze up mid-flight and the only way to get it started again was to reboot the system like an old Windows computer. (Guardian)

The much maligned F-35 Joint Strike Fighter has yet another problem with its software: the radar stops working requiring the pilot to turn it off and on again.

The Lockheed Martin plane, which has been in development since 2001 and is the most software-driven warplane ever built, has experienced several failures and setbacks that have seen its cost balloon and its delivery delayed. Each jet is now expected to cost about £100m…

US air force major general Harrigian told analyst firm IHS Jane’s: “What would happen is they’d get a signal that says either a radar degrade or a radar fail – something that would force us to restart the radar.

“Lockheed Martin discovered the root cause, and now they’re in the process of making sure they take that solution and run it through the [software testing] lab.”

Fortunately, this one appears to be a software problem rather than a hardware failure, so an update on the coding end seems to getting it under control, but keep in mind that this program has been in development since 2001. Fifteen years later we’re still running into bugs of this nature which can shut down a critical portion of the plane’s capabilities? If a glitch such as this were an isolated incident we could easily write it off as a minor hitch and keep moving forward but that’s hardly the case.

Keep in mind that there’s still apparently no resolution to the fact that pilots below a certain weight are at greater risk of literally breaking their necks if they have to eject from the plane. (Defense News)

Weeks after Defense News revealed that the military services had restricted lightweight pilots from flying the F-35 joint strike fighter, the US Air Force officially acknowledged an increased risk of neck damage during ejection to middleweight pilots as well.

In a news release issued Oct. 16, the Air Force confirmed a Defense News report that pilots under 136 pounds are currently barred from flying the fifth-generation aircraft, expected to be the backbone of American airpower for decades to come. It also acknowledged an “elevated level of risk” for pilots between 136 and 165 pounds.

“We expect the manufacturer to find and implement a solution,” said Air Force Secretary Deborah Lee James in the statement.

Bearing in mind that we have a far more “diversified” military now with an increasing number of female pilots, the idea of having some jet jockeys who weigh in at less than 165 pounds is hardly a trivial question. And the Air Force expects the manufacturer to find and implement a solution. What, pray tell, is Lockheed Martin going to do about a problem like that at this stage of the game? Much of it revolves around the weight and shape of those massively complicated, Matrix looking helmets the pilots have to wear to interact with all of the plane’s computer systems. Are we going back to the drawing board on that design as well?

Every time I write an article about the troubles encountered in the F-35’s development I invariably get feedback from supporters who claim that these criticisms are overblown and that it’s a fine fighter jet nonetheless. Perhaps so. And with time, it may wind up being a suitable platform for aerial warfare. But any honest assessment at this stage makes this project look like a budget busting, ill considered boondoggle as far as I’m concerned.

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