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Another government triumph?

Another government triumph?

Oh dear! It looks like our F-35A Lightning II strike fighters might be hangar bound because of a spare parts shortage. Morning Mail understands the gravity of this at a time when North Korea threatens to skewer us with a nuclear missile or two and now, today, the vodka quaffing Russian wants to do the same to little-old Australia. MM has contacted Mr Turnbull but had to wait a while because his mobile was being used to take his usual morning selfies in The Lodge Gardens. The requisite 10 shots in different attire takes time. Anyway, the waffler has agreed to MM’s offer of our squadron of fully armed Sopwith Camels to protect the skies over Australia for the interim. What a smart lad he is!

A spare parts shortage for the ­futuristic strike fighters being bought by Australia is so severe that minor items such as plastic clips for pilots’ oxygen masks have taken two weeks to be ­replaced. Defence says the performance of the first five Australian aircraft being used for training operations in the US is above the average for the global fleet.

Source: News Corp

Spare parts shortage hits F-35A Lightning II strike fighter fleet

Australia will buy 72 of the fifth-generation F-35A Lightning II fighters from the US at a cost of about $17 billion, with the fleet scheduled to be at final operational capability in 2023.
Defence boasts the training operations are proceeding as planned with the five planes collectively amassing 1400 operational hours of flying, but the US fleet of the aircraft has been struck down with readiness issues relating to parts and repair delays.
US publication Aviation Week and Space Technology last month revealed how the lack of supply of spare parts and delays in repairs were potentially interfering with pilot training and the availability of the aircraft.

It listed a case where a US pilot was told there was a two-week delay to replace a broken plastic clip that connected his oxygen mask to his helmet. A request to borrow a spare helmet was eventually granted, allowing the pilot to fly the next day.
Quoting US Republican senator Matt Gaetz of Florida in a March hearing of the house armed services tactical air and land subcommittee, the publication said the maintainers of the aircraft were battling for parts.
“We’ve gotten report after ­report that the parts are not available to ensure that we have got capable aircraft to meet the training syllabus,’’ Senator Gaetz said.
Australia’s joint strike fighter acting head Air Commodore Damien Keddie flagged the issue of parts in response to questions by a Senate committee examining major projects.
He said the aircraft had several needs that had to be addressed before reaching final operational capability, including ensuring there was a global sustainment system.
“This is a global asset and we are maintaining this in a number of different countries around the world,’’ he said.
“We’re not going to claim full operating capability until we have a mature sustainment system in place. The platform, the jet itself with the programs, is where we expect it to be at this stage.
“It’s the ancillary products, all of the rest of the fundamental inputs to capabilities, that haven’t come yet.’’
Commodore Keddie also ­revealed that the planes required software upgrades to program missions.
A Defence spokesman responding last week to the US parts issue said: “The Royal Australian Air Force is satisfied with the current levels of aircraft availability, noting the Global Support Solution will evolve and mature commensurately with the fleet expansion.’’

{ 18 comments… add one }
  • DT 16/04/2018, 6:45 am

    “Compounding the problem is the fact that the F-35 enterprise does not have enough capacity to repair components “in a timely manner,” because the establishment of repair capabilities at the military depots is six years behind schedule, GAO found. These capabilities were planned to be completed by 2016, but some capabilities have now been delayed until 2022, according to the watchdog.

    This creates a domino effect on parts availability, Lt. Gen. Jerry Harris, the Air Force deputy chief of staff for strategic plans and requirements, told the subcommittee.

    “We are late standing up our depots to actually turn and fix those parts, so we’ve been going back to the original equipment manufacturers to get new parts most of the time rather than fix them,” Harris said. “So those parts themselves are stacking up.”

    The JPO hopes to fix the problem by accelerating the stand-up of an organic government depot repair capacity, primarily to fix subsystems like tires, wheels, and avionics, so the supply chain can focus on spare parts and new production parts, JPO chief Vice Adm. Mat Winter said. This capability will be established in fiscal 2018, he said.

    The JPO also spent $1.4 billion in fiscal 2017 to increase spare part purchases, build up repair capacity and improve the speed of repairs, according to program spokesman Joe Dellavedova.

    “If you can afford to buy something but you have to keep it in the parking lot because you can’t afford to own and operate it, then it doesn’t do you much good,” Winter said.”

    Aviation Week

    • MM. Ed. 16/04/2018, 6:55 am

      Good stuff! Your knowledge of such matters is formidable and most informative, even more so if you would be kind enough to expound upon the acronyms, GAO and JPO for example. Thanks.

      • DT 16/04/2018, 7:10 am

        My post was taken from Aviation Week and I am registered there.

        Government Accountability Office: GAO

        F-35 Joint Procurement Office: JPO

  • Zoltan 16/04/2018, 7:20 am

    government accountability office? Can we have one please?

  • DT 16/04/2018, 7:21 am

    I would also like to point out that F-35 is a formidable fighting and surveillance platform and a new generation aircraft that cannot be directly compared to, say, F-18 Super Hornet. Although the “Growler” version of F-18 does have technology to jam communications and radar systems that F-35 is equipped with.

    Basically F-35 is a computer game station inside an aircraft that is well armed and uses stealth technology to remain invisible to enemy surveillance. Apparently the pilot of F-35 spends far less time flying the aircraft than an F-18 pilot is required to do and therefore has more time to use the computer capabilities which includes dealing with enemy aircraft from great distance away, carrying out ground level attacks, providing ground intelligence to ground/sea forces and probably a lot more.

    Israel has already used F-35 for attack purposes (I forget what the target was) and I read that their airforce is very impressed with the aircraft and said it provides air superiority in their region.

    The RAAF took delivery of two F-35s which are still in the US (last time I heard) where RAAF senior pilot officers are learning how to fly them and use the systems so that they can become pilot instructors in Australia. I watched an interview with them and they were full of praise for the F-35.

  • Biking Voter 16/04/2018, 9:12 am

    Does this mean that the helmet and oxygen mask used in the F-35 is a non standard fitment compared to other aircraft in the US airfarce?

    Surely a plastic clip should be a common item across the board for latching masks to helmets. Or are all fighter aircraft affected by missing clip syndrome?

    The F-35 might be a great aircraft, so of course the RAAF drivers that are over there learning its habits will waxing lyrical about it, but I don’t believe that it is the right aircraft for Australia. If they already now can’t find a plastic clip in the country of manufacture what hope have we got here of being able to fully support them given our distance from the spare parts candy shop.

    In Australia, this aircraft will spend more time on the ground rather than in the air because of parts shortages due to its higher maintenance requirements because of its complexity.

  • Zoltan 16/04/2018, 9:42 am

    In a nuclear age denying the country nukes is hamstringing the “defence” forces isn’t it? Perhaps the Sopwith Camel would suffice anyway

  • Clarion Call 16/04/2018, 10:02 am

    In the meantime we could do with a few turbo-charged zeppelins to fill the void. Not many spare parts needed at the best of times. Just like the Defence Services chiefs…full of hot air.

  • Joe Blogs 16/04/2018, 11:20 am

    Looks like becoming the F-35 Collins.

    If we must have Lightnings, at least P-38s would be in the sky a bit more often.

  • DT 16/04/2018, 3:43 pm

    And so they said about the F-111 fighter-bomber swing wing jet aircraft.

    It proved to be the best of its type in the world and was only retired from service because of stealth technology and some other technology.

    Australia now uses F/A-18 Super Hornets escorted by tanker aircraft for in flight refuelling, which can be unarmed F/A-18s with under wing fuel tanks.

  • Botswana O'Hooligan 16/04/2018, 4:33 pm

    I am not going to comment because of bias I think that the F-35 is a horse built by a committee aka Camel. The committee want it to do too many things like a jack of all trades and I am afraid that it is going to be the master of none. We apparently are not going to get the STOL version that is supposed to be able to operate from a cowpat in a paddock and it probably can so my logical question is one of -how does one get all the support equipment by the tonne and lots of those tonnes including delicate computers, into the paddock and park next to the cow pat–. They are still arguing about the TSR-2 and the F-111 but one still wonders why the Poms cut up all the templates and scrapped all but one TSR-2′-. It appeared to be a good aeroplane but the Poms have this bad habit of buggering up airframes as old blokes like me know from bitter experience.

  • Tom 16/04/2018, 4:34 pm

    The F35 will occupy an important niche in the RAAF’s capabilities, but the RAAF needs a credible ‘second tier’ attack force, similar to the role currently held by the not often heard of Hawks, to which aspiring F18 pilots get posted to gain some experience before moving on to the Hornet.

    If we ever get involved in something militarily that seriously threatens our national interests or even survival, (rather than notional detachments assigned to American wars to show political support rather than full-on commitment to a war of survival), it’s more than likely to be regional, and committing the F35 to the ‘down and dirty’ close air support in a regional engagement (in a area like the highlands of New Guinea for example) would be placing an enormously expensive asset at unacceptable risk to factors not easily controlled.

    The F35 can stand off and direct the air (and to quite some degree, the land) battle, but it would be foolish in the extreme to commit it to close air support. We need that second tier aircraft, something cheap and cheerful (relatively speaking), an aircraft that can be deployed to a bare-bones airfield and operate with minimum support.

    We have a very similar situation with out Army helicopters, where we have some very glitzy kit, but glitzy kit that is in
    (a) too small numbers,
    (b) very expensive to operate, and
    (c) so complex that it’s unlikely to continue operating in a ‘bare bones’ environment where the high levels of maintenance such aircraft require will not be available.

    We need a second tier utility helicopter (like we one had – when it was out first tier helicopter) that can be used for the many jobs that don’t need to be done by a Rolls Royce equivalent at Rolls Royce operating prices.

    But back to the F35 and second tier fighters, even cheap and cheerful costs considerable money, and the people controlling the purse strings have to make a decision, and as is the case with all such things, it all comes down to money and how much we are willing to spend.

    • DT 16/04/2018, 7:52 pm

      Like:

      Boeing F/A-18F Super Hornet x 24
      BAe Hawk 127 Lead-In Fighter & Trainer x 33

      and F-35 to replace 71 McDonald Douglas F/A-18A & F/A-18B

  • Tom 16/04/2018, 4:40 pm

    Mr O’Hooligan, I did not see your post before writing my last offering, (note the one minute difference in posting time), but I see the are very much on the same page in our concert about the shortcomings of relying on just the F35.

  • DT 16/04/2018, 7:54 pm

    F-35 STOL version is far superior to the Harrier Jump Jet.

  • Clarion Call 16/04/2018, 8:23 pm

    Holy crap. Information overload. From what I’ve been reading lately (overseas data) the jet fighter, complex though it is, will be made redundant with the advent of pilotless drone-type aircraft that can withstand those G forces a normal human cannot. What’s more… they are a damned sight cheaper than the newies mentioned above and can fly from any location. It seems like the pilot of an F-35 will have to be a superhuman individual with the brain of a scientist and the reflexes of a champion athlete. Where do we find such people?

    • Zoltan 16/04/2018, 11:43 pm

      Here I am

  • Don 16/04/2018, 9:29 pm

    Think we can cut the PM a bit of slack on this one – would not matter who holds the reigns the situation is the same. What would TA have done to avoid such a situation – nothing as out of his hands. Still, for the PM bashers that populate this site no question it is his fault. Thank you to DT in particular for getting some sense into reader contributions.

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