BUYER BEWARE: F-35 - The Fighter That Might Never Fight
Australia's F-35A stealth fighters may cost millions to bring up to a fighting standard - WITH the prospect of war looming ever larger, there are fresh fears Australia's new F-35 jets will never be able to fight
- The fix list for problems is extensive.
- Many are potentially fatal.
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Given those aircraft so far delivered to Australia are essentially the same specification, the Royal Australian Air Force must now either find the money to fix those F-35s it already has — or accept a smaller than expected fighting force than expected.
Exactly how much additional delay these fixes place on the F-35 program is also an issue. The RAAF has already had to buy a handful of F/A-18 Super Hornets to maintain its capabilities while it waits.
It had hoped the F-35A would begin to enter limited service in July 2019, with full operational capability by 2023.
The fix list for problems is extensive.
Many are potentially fatal.
The Pentagon's director of operational testing and evaluation reported earlier this year there were 158 "Category 1" software flaws that could cause death or injury.
Some modifications are as simple as updating the applications on a smart phone. Others need hardware upgrades. Yet more may require extensive rebuilding, such as addressing the vulnerability of its rear engine compartment and tail structure, fixing the pilot's oxygen supply and making the jet's ejection seat safe. And the aircraft isn't allowed to fly anywhere near lightning.
Eight aircraft are currently being assembled as the RAAF's next batch of F-35s. They're due for delivery next year.
Exactly how many of the above problems relate to these airframes is unclear
But the price tag does not include the incredible research and development component of the cost — nor the long list of updates, spare parts and man-hours needed to make each one operational.
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