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Retrofit to F-35 Fleet to Fix Catastrophic Engine Vibration Won't Fix Unfixable F-35

Updated: Mar 4, 2023

Entire Fleet of F-35s will require a retrofit to fix catastrophic vibration issue

As recently reported in Air and Space Forces Magazine, every F-35 will undergo retrofitting to fix a harmonic resonance /vibration problem that resulted in an F-35B crashing at the Forth Worth Texas Naval Air Station Joint Reserve Base in December of last year.

That a harmonic resonance issue requiring a refit is just now being identified and fixed some 28 years into the program is emblematic of the F-35 program. Indeed, it is just one of the many hundreds of problems that have plagued the F-35 since development began on in it January of 1994, and since the first prototype flew October of 2000, over 22 years ago.

While all new aircraft have teething issues, the number of serious issues that the F-35 program continues to experience, many of which are unresolvable, dwarf those of any previous aircraft, including the troubled F-22.

Do not buy into any claims that the vibration fix for the F-35's F135 engine is going to finally fix the engines problems - it won't. The F135 engine is the number one reason, and will continue to be the primary reason that the F-35 will never achieve acceptable reliability goals. It is the number one reason the F-35 will continue to have miserable sortie generation rates vastly inferior to well-designed legacy aircraft like the F-16, the A-10 and the F/A-18.

However, an inadequate,unreliable engine is not the only reason the F-35 continues to be crippled. Other major problem areas include:

  • Software issues that have been made worse by rolling out millions of lines of new bug-ridden code on top of millions of lines bug-ridden code so that the Lockheed and the Pentagon can hype new Block III, IV, etc. features that supposedly make the F-35 even more amazing.

  • Air frame Structural issues - The F-35 can only tolerate supersonic speeds at high altitudes for short bursts before it sustains lasting structural damage.

  • Going supersonic negatively impacts stealth capabilities as stealth coating bubbles. Very expensive to re-coat/fix coatings after flying supersonic.

  • A fragile flying tinderbox - the F-35's extremely high fuel fraction has fuel being stored in every nook and cranny. This, in combination with the the desperation-driven 2004 weight saving exercise that saw important safety equipment removed to save weight, including the fuel tank’s ballistic liner, critical fueldraulic fuses, the flammable coolant shut-off valve, and the dry bay fire-extinguishing unit. This lack of fire safety equipment and an extremely high fuel fraction make F-35s into flying tinderboxes.

  • F-35 Lightning II cannot fly anywhere near potential lightning. Due to a number of issues that are beginning to look unresolvable, the F-35 cannot fly anywhere near weather conditions with lightning or potential lightning.

  • At $42,000 per flight hour, the cost to fly and maintain is budget- bustingly unsustainable. And the Government Accountability Office see no signs that this cost can be significantly reduced. As high is the cost is, it may actually be an underestimate of the real costs as it does not fully take into account that new engines will be required.

The above is just a small portion of the unresolved issues and problems that continue to cripple the F-35. These issues are symptoms of a plane whose design process was driven by a poor concept of operations leavened with wholly unrealistic expectations that the single-engine F-35 could reliably take the place of large twin-engined fighters.

Bottom line, a fundamentally flawed concept of operations and a poor design led to weight and and heat issues that cannot be overcome. Consequently, the the F-35 will never be a good plane. This has been evident for well over a decade.

For more on where the F-35 program went wrong and why it will never be a good plane

The F-35 Throwing good money after bad

Mr. President Cancel the F-35

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