These "deficiencies" to a lay person, are technically, and perhaps more appropriately, -"Incident Reports". Each F-35 test, and operational pilot, around the world, is able to open up a "ticket" if he/she spots a particular anomaly or deviation from the norm that he/she feels warrant a further investigation. This is not something unique to the F-35, but something all other types also support. Once an IR is reported, the program views the feedback and a board determines whether it is justified and if so it categorizes it as type determined by a host of factors but primarily by its severity, impact on the safety of the aircraft, and the mission effectiveness.
Once those IRs are open, the program (government PO, contractor teams, and the Integrated test teams) get to investigating it further by utilizing the resources they have at their disposal. Each incident comes to 2-3 conclusions. Either the board determines that they need to identify, isolate and fix the problem, if it is systemic, and then retire the issue, or if they determine that the problem is not as severe as initially categorized, they also have the power to downgrade the ticket and have it lower on the priorities. Additionally, they also have the power to just retire, without addressing, the low priority tickets if they feel that they do not require unique solutions and if future upgrades would naturally fix them without any additional intervention and that the issue has no adverse impact on the the aircraft meeting its combat effectiveness requirements or KPPs.
With that as a background, the JSF program had over 100 Category A IR's open by early 2018. The PEO last year promised that they would be going through each one of them at a faster rate so that they address, downgrade or retire them as fast as possible, as the number of aircraft in the fleet build up and as the full-rate production decision loom. Over the last 14 months or so they have closed, or adequately addressed more than 85 outstanding IR's. The ones that still remain open (the 13 cited in the articles) have been known for quite a while, are already addressed or have a solution in advance testing or actually being implemented into the fleet as we speak. None of those issues were considered severe enough for the Director, Operational Test and Evaluation (DOT&E) to not enter the program into its most pressing IOT&E phase, something it is expected to come out of in September/October of this year.
This AirforceMagazine article details each and provides what is currently known on them - http://airforcemag.com/Features/Pages/2 ... olved.aspx
The F-35’s logistics system currently has no way for foreign F-35 operators to keep their secret data from being sent to the United States.
This is not true based on the current reality. Someone may have wanted this addressed for obvious reasons but the solution (a new Sovereign Data Management tool) to these needs has already been rolled out with more to come. The original logistical system met its spec when it came to data transfers. However, foreign customers wanted additional modes and options which are being delivered to them. There are requirements, and then there are needs that are identified along the way and added to the existing requirements that users feel do not represent the full extent of what they would like.
The spare parts inventory shown by the F-35’s logistics system does not always reflect reality, causing occasional mission cancellations.
This PHM issue is being mitigated, but my guess is that this will remain the case until at least block 4. Yet, even with it still an issue, the USAF and the USN will likely meet its 80% mission capability rate requirement by September 2019. The PHM is improving but very slowly but the workaround for it is effectively doing what these services do with legacy systems so in the short term, improvements will help, but a more permanent solution will likely only come with block 4 in the early 2020's.
Cabin pressure spikes in the cockpit of the F-35 have been known to cause barotrauma, the word given to extreme ear and sinus pain.
Barotrauma is not unique to the F-35. Other aircraft pilots suffer it as well. Incidents are recorded and measured and the operators measure statistical probabilities of something like this happening. No new incidents of it have been reported IIRC several years and there is no current requirement that the F-35 or any other aircraft for that matter that the F-35 program is benchmarked against.
In very cold conditions — defined as at or near minus 30 degrees Fahrenheit — the F-35 will erroneously report that one of its batteries have failed, sometimes prompting missions to be aborted.
Cold weather operational testing which only concluded recently (2018 out in Alaska) identified this issue. The fix was rather simple - software patch that corrects the battery heater issue that results in this erroneous fault. Aircraft that will be deploying to Eielson Air Force Base will have this software fix and it will also be rolled in as a permanent solution along with the next C2D2 update that adds a ton of other capabilities and introduces other software fixes. Existing users can either request this software patch as a stand alone or just have it included in the next software build.
Supersonic flight in excess of Mach 1.2 can cause structural damage and blistering to the stealth coating of the F-35B and F-35C.
This was also something identified during supersonic testing many years ago. The fix was to have more robust stealth coatings on the parts where they were delaminating after prolonged supersonic operations. The solution was tested, approved, and cut into production in production LOT-8. For reference, they are currently producing LOT 11 so the fix has been in production fore more than 2 years.
After doing certain maneuvers, F-35B and F-35C pilots are not always able to completely control the aircraft’s pitch, roll and yaw.
This was an FCS issue identified by NAVAIR during its testing. It wasn't severe enough for them to feel that the F-35B or C could not meet its operational requirements or else they would not have entered the aircraft into a full blooded 10 month IOT&E last year. Regardless, the FCS fix has been developed and this incident should be retired by the end of the year just like most, if not all, of the remaining open IRs. As a reference, the F-35B routinely performs high AOA passes at air-shows, and one aircraft did the very same above the White House a couple of days ago.
If the F-35A and F-35B blows a tire upon landing, the impact could also take out both hydraulic lines and pose a loss-of-aircraft risk.
With 200,000 fleet hours flown, and more than 400 aircraft currently flying, there have ZERO incidences of both the hydraulic lines being damaged as a result of a tire blowout or other issue. The program judged the risk of this happening on the F-35C as the highest, and as such the hydraulic lines on that type were moved some time back to further reduce the odds of this ever happening.
A “green glow” sometimes appears on the helmet-mounted display, washing out the imagery in the helmet and making it difficult to land the F-35C on an aircraft carrier.
The Green-Glow issue is a well known issue on the program which has been discussed here earlier as well. The Current Generation-II helmet mitigates this issue to a significant extent an in fact does so to such a level where the US Navy feels it is OK to put the aircraft into service with it. The service had previously made it clear that they would not declare IOC with the generation 1 helmet.
Yes, on certain conditions the Gen II helmet operates at a degraded performance though that performance has been deemed to be acceptable though not highly desirable. The USN has now taken the aircraft out to sea multiple times at night to verify this. The USMC operates the aircraft at night with the same Generation-II helmet routinely and does so halfway across the world during actual operational deployments.
That said, the Generation III helmet eliminates all of those issues and restores the expected performance of the system during all potential operational conditions. It is not something that is on the drawing board - it is a fully developed product that has even been tested and is currently being qualified for operational use. Expect units to begin transitioning into Generation-III helmets starting later this summer.
The sea search mode of the F-35’s radar only illuminates a small slice of the sea’s surface.
Enhanced maritime radar modes were eliminated from the baseline 3F SDD build many years ago as no maritime anti-ship capability was expected to be available until early block 4 (no Harpoon integration required) beyond JSOW. New Maritime modes to the radar and the combat system are currently being developed and will be fielded with the early versions of the block 4 along with new maritime weapons such as the JSM, AARGM, SDB II and JAGM-F. Non 3F capabilities and weapons have been moved up as far as schedule is concerned so if any operator, particularly the USN or USMC wanted these additional modes to be pushed to the left, they could have asked for them. I think they are satisfied with where they are at baseline, and where they are headed with C2D2 which adds both software and hardware changes and more importantly more maritime strike weapons.
When the F-35B vertically lands on very hot days, older engines may be unable to produce the required thrust to keep the jet airborne, resulting in a hard landing.
This is an engine issue and from my understanding this has to do with tweaking the software so that adequate power is extracted from the engines on landings in certain conditions. There is a program office issues clarification on this matter that I can't seem to locate (will put it here once I dig it up) but the program does not forsee any hardware changes required to fix this issue.
All but a handful of these IR's are likely to be downgraded or completely eliminated by the end of this year if not much sooner. Open IR's, or even open category A IR's is not uncommon as I expect most current operational aircraft in the USAF, or USN fleet to have them. Every time a major upgrade is done you will see a spike in things spotted as the programs begin working on retiring or addressing these things one by one.
As the Norweigan pilot wrote in his excellent blog post
some time ago, it isn't uncommon to have some IR's open in perpetuity as review boards don't ever deem issues to be severe enough to require funded solutions be developed, or because the ITF can't isolate faults or replicate very rare incidents in a test environment to further analyze it.
This is why the process of developmental testing and Operational Test and Evaluation is expected to be a nuanced one that has both objective and subjective elements as well as relative comparisons (how is X done vs legacy employment of a WS). In the US, the test community, the operator community and ultimately the DOT&E led test effort primarily answers two questions - Is the evaluated weapon system operationally effective (can it win against its bench marked threat in a realistic operational scenario)
- Is the evaluated weapon system operationally suitable (can it deploy, and fight based on the existing level of performance and support)
KPP's and other performance parameters are dealt with during developmental testing.
Open IR's (the so called "deficiencies") are a dynamic reporting metric where older ones are downgraded or eliminated while new ones are added as new capability is added. This is an ongoing process. Unless there are actual IR's which the review board feels impact the safety of the aircraft and the lives of pilots they are dealt with in batches and an appropriate course of action charted for each one. No safety related IR is open on any JSF variant. The review board and the supporting elements can go full Andon when it comes to operations or even production if they feel a safety IR demands it (hence the groundings).
As the article states, the CAT 1 (exclusively Cat 1B) deficiency count was 111 in January of 2018. The number came down to 64 CAT 1 by last summer and was further cut by 80% over the last 12 months to the current state of 13 remaining open CAT 1B IR’s. It wasn’t that they managed to scramble together and solve 50 deficiencies in a matter of just 4-6 months last year (as reading the article would lead one to believe) and then managed to do the same for 50 more since then. The appropriate way to read this is that efforts identified, tested, designed and implemented finally began providing data and evidence that was sufficient to convince the review board that the open issues had been adequately resolved to either completely retire those issues or downgrade them in severity. Some of these things just take time to go through and address, compile data and present to the authorities so that they can addressed in the reporting. The number is constantly changing as you have new IR’s entered into the system by operational or test pilots as new things are discovered, or as new capability is added.And then there are issues that you deliberately, and consciously, keep open for an extended period of time because you expect the natural evolution of the software to fix them without requiring any dedicated intervention or program commitment.