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article imageOp-Ed: More problems emerge with F-35 fighter jet

By Ken Hanly     Mar 9, 2013 in Politics
Ottawa - Canada originally planned to buy 65 of the F-35 jets from Lockheed-Martin but there has been nothing but controversy about costs and problems with the plane since the original announcement several years ago. Now new problems with the plane are emerging.
On July 16 2010, Prime Minister Stephen Harper announced that the government intended to procure 65 F-35 fighter jets to replace aging CF-18 Hornets for a total of $16 billion (Canadian). Deliveries were planned for 2016. Ever since that original announcement the entire program has been subject to withering criticism. Costs were very much underestimated and the whole planning process was meant to ensure that the F-35 would be the only aircraft to fit the requirements. There was no competition.
The Canadian auditor-general issued a damning report on the third of April last year. The report said that the government did not run a fair competition. Costs were quite significantly understated and decisions had been made without required approvals or documentation.
The situation still remains unclear almost a year later. However in late February of this year, Lockheed Martin competitor Boeing, was lobbying Canada to buy the Super Hornet instead of the F35 claiming that overall cost of ownership would be half that of the the F-35. The whole procurement process is now looked upon by many as a complete fiasco and more and more problems with the plane itself are emerging. It has an inability to operate in cold weather apparently, has problems with radar, and now it seems problems with cockpit design as well. NDP defence critic Matthew Kellway said in the Canadian House of Commons: "Mr. Speaker, the Conservatives committed to buying the F-35 multiple times. They told us it is on the right track multiple times. According to the Pentagon, the F-35 needs a heated hanger in Florida, it cannot fly at night, and the pilots stay out of the clouds."
Russia Today reports on a leaked memo from the Director of the Operational Test and Evaluation Directorate to the vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. The report cautions that even training missions cannot be safely performed at this time: The report reads in part: “The training management system lags in development compared to the rest of the Integrated Training Center and does not yet have all planned functionality.”
Other sections of the report outline some of the flaws that make the cockpit unsafe for pilots:
“The out-of-cockpit visibility in the F-35A is less than other Air Force fighter aircraft
The head rest is too large and will impede aft [rear] visibility and survivability during surface and air engagements.
Aft visibility will get the pilot gunned [down] every time in dogfights."
The Pentagon already admits that aft visibility could be a significant problem for all F-35 pilots. In a chart included in the report 8 crucial flaws are listed. Along with the visibility problems, there is a risk of the aircraft fuel barriers catching fire, and the likelihood that a pilot trying to eject in an emergency will be unable to escape. The Pilot Vehicle Interface or PVI as it is called are also deficient particularly the helmet-mounted display.
Less than a month ago the whole fleet of F-35s was grounded because of a cracked turbine found in a routine inspection. Each jet according to the most recent estimates will cost $238 million (US). It will cost the US around $1 trillion to keep the planned fleet running through 2050. Meanwhile, the Canadian situation is completely opaque, the way the Conservative government likes it. Responding to a question as to whether the Conservative government was still planning to buy a total of 65 F-35's Canadian Defense Secretary Peter McKay said: "We are committed to giving the Canadian Air Force the best opportunity for mission success." When the question was repeated, McKay gave a similar answer::"Well, we're committed to buying aircraft that give the Canadian Forces the chances they need to perform mission success."
This opinion article was written by an independent writer. The opinions and views expressed herein are those of the author and are not necessarily intended to reflect those of DigitalJournal.com
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