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Air Force Grounds $400 Billion F-35s Because of 'Peeling and Crumbling' Insulation (washingtonpost.com) 193

An anonymous Slashdot reader quotes the Washington Post: Less than two months after declaring the controversial F-35 Joint Strike Fighter ready for combat, the Air Force on Friday announced that it was temporarily grounding 15 of the jets after it discovered that insulation was "peeling and crumbling" inside the fuel tanks. The setback is the latest for the $400 billion system, the most expensive in the history of the Pentagon. The problem comes as the program, which for years faced billions of dollars in cost overruns and significant schedule delays, had begun to make strides.

The insulation problem affects a total of 57 aircraft, the Air Force said, 42 of which are still in production... In a statement, Lockheed Martin said that "the issue is confined to one supplier source and one batch of parts." It emphasized that "this is not a technical or design issue; it is a supply chain manufacturing quality issue..." It is unclear how long the aircraft would be grounded, how long the problem would take to fix or what the larger affect on the program would be.

âoeWhile nearing completion, the F-35 is still in development, and challenges are to be expected," said an Air Force spokeswoman, adding "The F-35 program has a proven track record of solving issues as they arise, and we're confident we'll continue to do so."
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Air Force Grounds $400 Billion F-35s Because of 'Peeling and Crumbling' Insulation

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  • I want my money back. This pig isn't going to fly, and even if it does, this type of warfare is dead. Future wars will be fought with pilotless (and maybe even autonomous) vehicles. Cyber warfare will also be much more devastating than whatever damage this overpriced toy can produce. We should dock the pay of every congress critter who voted for it until it's paid back in full.
    • by dna_(c)(tm)(r) ( 618003 ) on Saturday September 17, 2016 @09:56AM (#52907167)

      "The F-35 program has a proven track record of solving issues as they arise, and we're confident we'll continue to do so."

      That's newspeak for "this program had an abnormal amount of bad problems."

      Also good news that the total cost diminishes with time, 1 trillion to 0.4 trillion in two years time. By 2018 it will be for free.

      • by amiga3D ( 567632 )

        Just another new lawn dart. It's going to replace the F-16 as the worst fighter in the arsenal.

    • by Opportunist ( 166417 ) on Saturday September 17, 2016 @10:15AM (#52907207)

      Nobody cares if that pig flies as long as its pork fills a few barrels.

    • Future warfare (Score:4, Informative)

      by sjbe ( 173966 ) on Saturday September 17, 2016 @10:53AM (#52907367)

      Future wars will be fought with pilotless (and maybe even autonomous) vehicles.

      Some will, some won't. You won't see large scale remote operated vehicles between major powers because they have one huge weakness - namely they can be jammed. They're useful against third world countries with limited military resources. I wouldn't have nearly so much faith in them against a major power like Russia or China. Autonomous fighting vehicles are not only not ready for combat yet, it's not clear that they are a good idea at all for a host of both practical and ethical reasons. Even if they manage to deal with those concerns adequately (and I doubt they will) we're still quite a long ways from having practical autonomous weapons platforms. (If the phrase "autonomous weapons platform" doesn't scare you there is something wrong with you)

      Cyber warfare will also be much more devastating than whatever damage this overpriced toy can produce.

      Not any time soon. Maybe someday but that day is a ways off. Right now bombs and missiles have a lot more power to shut down the infrastucture of a country than any hacker. Go to Syria and tell me how much damage has been done there with just conventional weapons versus hacking. The difference isn't even close and it's likely to remain that way for quite some time to come. Cyber warfare can cause some serious problems but it's a rather awkward way to kill them in any meaningful numbers.

      We should dock the pay of every congress critter who voted for it until it's paid back in full.

      Good luck with that.

      • We've been deploying autonomous attack vehicles for 70+ years. The V2 was autonomous. ICBMs are autonomous. Cruise missiles are autonomous. Barage balloons are autonomous. Even gps/laser guided bombs are autonomous. Radar/IR guided surface to air and AA missiles are autonomous

        If you need a vehicle to fly to a place, dump a ton of munitions and fly back we can handle that pretty easily. Even Air to Air combat is now handled by AI. http://magazine.uc.edu/editors... [uc.edu] There are no sensors that a h

        • by AF_Cheddar_Head ( 1186601 ) on Saturday September 17, 2016 @02:12PM (#52907987)

          By your definition a bullet is autonomous. once an ICBM is launched or a JDAM is released you cannot change its target. Just like a bullet.

          A truly autonomous weapon is capable of evaluating the on-going/changing situation and selecting the best target and attacking it, none of your examples is capable of this.

        • The humans aren't there for their sensors. The OODA is observe, orient, decide and act. The humans are mostly there for the decide and act portions. i.e. where to aim and when to shoot.

      • by Kjella ( 173770 )

        Even if they manage to deal with those concerns adequately (and I doubt they will) we're still quite a long ways from having practical autonomous weapons platforms.

        Mainly because we got no good way to tell or separate friend from foe, military from civilian, hostages and human shields from fighters and terrorists. But in a real war you nuke Hiroshima killing 20k+ soldiers but 70-146k civilians, one in four to one in eight is good enough. We have a lot of weapons that can act autonomously on a "if it moves, shoot it" basis that we wouldn't use today but would still be a lot more discretionary than nuking a city. I expect the next major war to be full of kill zones, if

    • Cyber warfare will also be much more devastating than whatever damage this overpriced toy can produce.

      I don't follow, perhaps you have a different definition of cyber warfare than what I am familiar with. The kind of cyber warfare I know of attacks certain kinds of infrastructure, communications, and electrical supplies. Which in most every case would be annoying, not deadly.

      We've all likely read about or seen in movies about how someone was able to "hack" into some control system and caused physical damage. Any reasonably designed system will not allow a remote user to do anything that can cause permane

  • by bogaboga ( 793279 ) on Saturday September 17, 2016 @09:46AM (#52907139)

    This is a piece from CBS

    Lt. Col. David Berke says there's no comparison between the F-35 and today's jet fighters.

    David Berke: I'm telling you, having flown those other airplanes it's not even close at how good this airplane is and what this airplane will do for us.

    David Martin: We have planes that are as fast as this.

    David Berke: You bet.

    David Martin: And can maneuver just as sharply as this one.

    David Berke: Sure.

    The Russians must be laughing!

    The F-35's radars, cameras and antennas would scan for 360 degrees around the plane searching for threats and projecting, for example, the altitude and speed of an enemy aircraft, onto the visor of a helmet custom-fitted to each pilot's head.

    They have had this technology in their SU-30s for at leat 4 years!

    • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday September 17, 2016 @10:10AM (#52907197)

      I hate the f-35, waste of money. But... that's a little bit disingenuous.

      Modern fighter jets are not rated solely on speed and manoeuvrability. Range, ceiling, avionics, weapons and all the rest are what make it a proper piece of kit. Dogfighting is low on the list of priorities in 2016.

      The Russians are laughing all right, but this is way down the list. I bet invading the Ukraine with almost no repercussions has them grinning widely. Trump expressing his willingness to ditch NATO probably has probably garnered a few giggles as well.

    • SU-30 is a single prototype.

  • Russia will soon be saying "now is the time!"
  • Not the same (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Saturday September 17, 2016 @09:53AM (#52907153)

    I worked on A-10s back in the early 80s. What a gorgeous, well-designed bird. Almost no real flaws. The old aviation companies were actually better. Republic, Fairchild, McDonnell Douglas, you name it. There is a reason why the F-16s and F-15s are still the backbone of the Air Force. Nothing else comes close. Likewise, nothing touches the A-10 for its intended role, and the Air Force cannot wait to get rid of it. Yes, the air frames are old, but the avionics packages are updated constantly, as are the engine parts and other critical pieces like stabilizers, etc., are fabricated in shops on various bases. The A-10 is the king at ground support.

    Methinks the military is trying so hard to design and develop a do-it-all bird they are not seeing the forest for the trees. The US military has the unfortunate habit of using birds designed for one thing try and fulfill other or all roles. They want this bird to DO IT ALL. This rarely, if ever, works. Hence the F-16 and F-15 are still kings of the sky.

    Case in point is the Republic F-105, likely the best light bomber the Air Force ever had. It was developed in the 1950s to quickly run nukes into and out of Europe. Had an internal bomb bay. It was the largest and fastest jet of its type when it went live in the inventory. Vietnam came around and they used it for bombing runs and dogfighting (something it was not designed to do). The F-105 carried more than a WWII B-17. They ended up using them as Wild Weasels, a role for which they excelled. Still my favorite AF bird ever.

    • Not to worry - once the F-35 is scrapped / sidelined, they'll re-re-refurb a bunch of B-52s as attack craft. New delta wings, new engines, new avionics, new weapons systems - see "Flight of the Old Dog" [wikipedia.org],. Further variants of the EB-52 Megafortress [wikipedia.org].
    • I don't think the military is trying hard at all to develop a do-it-all bird. In fact, I doubt most of the military cares, including the Air Force where they are far more interested in unmanned vehicles and cyber. JSF is a congressional project for money re-distribution. The portion of the military that cares about doing important things like winning wars, moved on from JSF a long time ago. It is a boring, uninteresting program.

      • Re:Not the same (Score:4, Interesting)

        by AF_Cheddar_Head ( 1186601 ) on Saturday September 17, 2016 @11:00AM (#52907395)

        As to drones, a significant portion of the AF is fighting them, pilots like flying and with more drones you get fewer seats for the pilots to sit in. Guess what the majority of the generals did as young officers, bingo they flew fighters.

        Once you get to be a Colonel you rarely fly but the ex-flyers are the ones that get promoted most often. Hell even a couple of the Cyber commanders were fighter pilots. You read that right not Computer guys but fighter pilots.

    • Times change (Score:5, Interesting)

      by AF_Cheddar_Head ( 1186601 ) on Saturday September 17, 2016 @10:46AM (#52907325)

      All the base level Fab shops are shutdown, manpower cuts. Fab work is done at depot or outsourced to contractor facilities. Sucks when you are in-country.

      The A-10 is a simple, single purpose bird. Really good at one job, destroying ground vehicles. The Army tries to tell us that the choppers are just as good until you tell them they aren't getting any A-10 air support. The USAF has never been fond of the close air support mission, not very glamorous.

      The bean counters always think a multi-purpose bird makes fiscal sense, that is until you actually try to build one. It works better to build a single purpose aircraft, the F-15 comes to mind then modify the basic airframe for other missions. AKA the F-15E.

      Worked at the 682 ASOC supporting ROMAD/TACP and ALOs.

      • Agreed.

        The A-10 and the F-15 are arguably the two greatest airborne weapons platforms ever built. They have long, well-proven track records showing that pound-for-pound no other pair of aircraft can match, period. They worked so well that we had to dream up some ridiculous bullshit reasons to replace them.

        Time and time again the A-10 has shown that it is the single most effective ground support plane ever built, and the F-15 is still patrolling the skies shooting down everything that's dumb enough to fly up

        • Now, pardon me but I need to ask you some questions. Have I answered all your customer concerns about your fighter aircraft in a timely and satisfactory fashion today? Have I accurately and politely provided answers to your questions in a courteous and prompt fashion and offered good customer service? Thank you very much bye!
      • The A-10 is a simple, single purpose bird. [...] The bean counters always think a multi-purpose bird makes fiscal sense, that is until you actually try to build one. It works better to build a single purpose aircraft, the F-15 comes to mind then modify the basic airframe for other missions. AKA the F-15E.

        The multipurpose F-35 is slightly CHEAPER than the single-purpose F-22.

        • So, you are saying maybe the F-35 isn't quite the money pit the detractors claim?

          I am not a fan of multi-role/multi-service aircraft in general, jack of all trades/master of none kind of thing.

          • So, you are saying maybe the F-35 isn't quite the money pit the detractors claim?

            I take no stance on that bigger issue, never having really dug into the details. However, it's obviously that switching to single-purpose craft isn't the magic incantation that will fix all the problems.

        • I hope so. It has a single engine instead of two.

  • by jargonburn ( 1950578 ) on Saturday September 17, 2016 @09:55AM (#52907161)

    "The F-35 program has a proven track record of solving issues as they arise, and we're confident we'll continue to do so."

    Funny, isn't it? If you throw enough money at most problems, they go seem to go away! From almost start to finish, this "program" has been an exercise in "work richer, not smarter".

  • One Plane (Score:5, Funny)

    by Ann Coulter ( 614889 ) on Saturday September 17, 2016 @09:56AM (#52907165) Journal

    We are getting close to having a one plane military.

    Law Number XVI: In the year 2054, the entire defense budget will purchase just one aircraft. This aircraft will have to be shared by the Air Force and Navy 3-1/2 days each per week except for leap year, when it will be made available to the Marines for the extra day.

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/... [wikipedia.org]

  • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday September 17, 2016 @10:00AM (#52907181)

    See subject: While working @ Lockheed Martin coding. Each day I had to pass thru a hangar (accompanied by a Colonel, who by now must be retired) where they were working on all types of planes (some in 'clean room' type settings) - he noticed I'd look over @ the far end of the hangar each time we passed. He inquired why. I told him I was looking @ a sign there that said:

    "Do your best work: Our young men & women's lives ride on it".

    This affected me personally since my brother is an officer in the military (about to retire though). I don't want him to die, let alone due to shoddy workmanship!

    He then said "Look kid, get used to one thing - the ONLY reason we got this contract was because we're the lowest bidder & build crap - that's how the REAL WORLD really works - so do NOT believe that sign!"

    To which I was astounded (especially considering how much money they had available considering it's nigh limitless from taxpayers - you'd think they'd have Quality Control assuring that wouldn't happen... they don't).

    So he took me into a troop carrier type plane & showed me the stud metal frames that were supposed to have iirc, 16 rivets each & instead, only used like 8. This was how they were able to do it, pinching pennies cutting corners.

    * I was NEVER the same after that & it was in 1996 - very VERY early in my career professionally in computers.

    I took off after that job was done & instead decided to work for things other than the military industrial complex (i.e. - I jumped to Bell South to work on the 1996 Atlanta Olympics project to allow their workers to do what is common place now via remote desktop (except we used Windows NT & Citrix (Pentium I 133mhz laptops & 32mb of RAM each, powerful machine then) via IBM Thinkpads into an Ascend Gateway via 56k dialup modems (they said it couldn't be done but myself & some DEC engineers made it work so they could work from home during the traffic jams to go into downtown Atlanta to work) - this was a better more noble effort than building war machines imo, especially ones built VERY subpar)...

    APK

    P.S.=> Money truly is the root of evil in this world - so much so, they don't give a flying "f" (pun intended) if our soldiers ride on junk... apk

    • "Do your best work: Our young men & women's lives ride on it".

      This affected me personally since my brother is an officer in the military (about to retire though). I don't want him to die, let alone due to shoddy workmanship!

      He then said "Look kid, get used to one thing - the ONLY reason we got this contract was because we're the lowest bidder & build crap - that's how the REAL WORLD really works - so do NOT believe that sign!"

      * I was NEVER the same after that & it was in 1996 - very VERY early in my career professionally in computers.

      I bet you that sign actually mean something back in the 40's, 50's, 60's and maybe the first half of the 70's. Before the Dark Times. Before the Age of MBA and Accountants making decisions.

  • The key takeaways from this article are: ...said an Air Force spokeswoman. ...The F-35 program has a proven track record of solving issues as they arise. Wow!! That instills a lot of confidence in F-35's.

  • On the Inside? (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Sir Holo ( 531007 ) on Saturday September 17, 2016 @10:44AM (#52907311)

    Insulation on the inside of the fuel tanks? Who puts insulation on the inside of a fuel tank?

    Reading between the lines, it is probably an anti-corrosion coating, not some foam or fiberglass.

    There's really only one product on the market for this, from ATFI [slashdot.org], and the company relies upon knowingly upon falsified data-analysis to make the sale. ATFI bragged about their contract as a subcontractor to the F-35 in a press release a year or two ago . . .

    Looking today, I see that ATFI has disabled their RSS scroller, and has disabled their previously-functioning link NEWS [atfinet.com] menu-link at the top of their website.

    Huh. No better way to show that they are the guilty party, eh?

    • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

      by Anonymous Coward

      I don't think its really intended for insulation, though it probably has some insulating properties. From what I can gather it is some kind of foam that is intended to prevent tank fires, fuel sloshing and as part of the aircraft leak prevention measures.

      https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Self-sealing_fuel_tank

      • From what I can gather it is some kind of foam that is intended to prevent tank fires, fuel sloshing and as part of the aircraft leak prevention measures.

        https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/... [wikipedia.org]i

        So it's a foam that (among its functions) seals leaks.

        And it's peeling off the inside of the tank.

        If a piece of that gets sucked over to the fuel feed it should seal up that "leak" pretty effectively. Then again, if it gets sucked into the fuel line it might seal the engine's injectors, or the fuel filter.

        Any of those cou

    • <quote><p>Insulation on the <i>inside</i> of the fuel tanks? Who puts insulation on the <i>inside</i> of a fuel tank?</p><p>Reading between the lines, it is probably an anti-corrosion coating, not some foam or fiberglass.</p><p>There's really only one product on the market for this, from <a href="AHREF=">ATFI</a>, and the company relies upon knowingly upon falsified data-analysis to make the sale. ATFI bragged about their contract as
    • It is indeed insulation. The F35 uses fuel as a heat sink for electronics, the insulation is wrapped around a cooling tube that runs through the fuel. The insulation material used is not compatible with the fuel and degrades.
    • by suss ( 158993 )

      They put insulation inside fuel tanks with racing cars too, for several reasons.
      I found the patent for the airplane version: here [google.com].

  • That is, the hands of the mechanics combating desperately to keep them operational and airworthy.
  • by irving47 ( 73147 ) on Saturday September 17, 2016 @11:32AM (#52907489) Homepage

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Space_Shuttle_external_tank

    Who you NOT gonna call when getting your fuel insulated. (internal OR external)

  • Now, I'm not going to defend the F-35 program against all it's issues, and there are issues, but fire-retardent foam inside fuel tanks is a problem that is solved, and has been for a very long time. This is just one supplier who fucked up, and that supplier will pay a price for it's incompetence. The issue was discovered, it will be easily fixed, and they will be flying again in short order. Yeah, I know they have been grounded, but that's exactly what you are supposed to do when an issue is discovered. "F-
  • by rbrander ( 73222 ) on Saturday September 17, 2016 @05:16PM (#52908559) Homepage

    Col. Jim Burton's "The Pentagon Wars" is back in print. While the Kelsey Grammer/Carey Elwes comedy movie is focused on their reluctance to test the Bradley Fighting Vehicle, much of the book is about the development of the F-16 by the "Fighter Mafia" - Col. John Boyd, Pierre Sprey, Chuck Finney, and designer Harry Hilliker - and how how hard they had to fight to get the F-16 built and accepted.
    The F-16 hate in this forum could be coming from the 3- and 4-stars that wanted another standard Pentagon product: twice the weight and twice the price of the aircraft that came before it. But the F-16 was lighter and cheaper than the F-15 and focused laserlike on the job of dogfighting.
    The F-35 has finally gone as far as you can go in the other direction: multi-multi-purpose, does everything, but the weight and especially the cost are almost comically bloated.

    The question is not whether an F-35 could beat an F-16: it's whether a billion dollars of F-35 could beat a billion dollars of F-16s. And that's not even up for discussion.

  • this probably isn't one of them.

    Bad components happen. When Washington Roebling was building the Brooklyn Bridge he discovered that the cable contractor had cheated by supplying sub-standard steel. He was faced with a decision: rip it out and start over, or leave the bad cable in place. He chose to leave the bad cable in place because his design was robust enough to afford him that choice. And mind you, this was at the time the most advanced, most technically difficult bridge ever constructed. To this da

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