Archief van de februari, 2013

Feb 28 2013

Canada: Boeing offers rival of F-35 — at half the price

Gepubliceerd door JSFNieuws.nl onder Global F35 News

Canadian CBC News television says “Boeing smells blood” after the Canadian Parliament forced the government to do a new evaluation in their fighter purchase process to replace the obsolete old CF-18 Hornets.

Boeing offers the new Super Hornet F/A-18 Super Hornet as a proven “real thing” against the “F-35 as a “shiny brochure of promises” and CBC News reports: “It has two engines to the F-35’s one — and, unlike the F-35, it’s ready now. Some 500 Super Hornets are already in service with the U.S. Navy. Dozens have already been sold to the Royal Australian Air Force, which, like Canada, was once committed to the F-35 but gave up waiting for it to prove itself.”

At half the price

The operating and support costs of the F-35 are sky-high. As CBC News writes: “The Super Hornet costs about $16,000 an hour to fly, he says — and the F-35 will be double that. Really? That sounded too good to be true — so CBC News dug into Boeing’s figures to see how credible they are.
According to the GAO, the Super Hornet actually costs the U.S. Navy $15,346 an hour to fly. It sounds like a lot — until you see that the U.S. Air Force’s official “target” for operating the F-35 is $31,900 an hour. The GAO says it’s a little more — closer to $32,500. CBC also asked Lockheed Martin to say if it had any quarrel with these numbers — and it did not
.”

CBC News asked Boeing about the “stealth argument”:

The next question is, though — is it a second-rate plane? Instead of the “Fifth Generation” stealth fighter that Lockheed Martin advertises, does Canada want to settle for a not-so-stealthy Generation 4.5?
Boeing is ready for that question, too. Mike Gibbons, the VP, phrases his answer carefully.
“We know that the Super Hornet has effective stealth, and that’s really the key. In fact, we believe we have a more affordable stealth than many other platforms that are being designed specifically and touted as stealthy platforms.”

Possibly a real competion in Canada

CBC News contacted the European manufacturers of the Typhoon — also known as the Eurofighter — as well as Dassault, the French maker of the Rafale, and Sweden’s Saab, which makes the Gripen. All said they’ve been contacted by the Canadian government and were ready to make their pitches.

Read more: CBC News; 27-feb-2013; “Boeing touts fighter jet to rival F-35 — at half the price

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Feb 28 2013

Pentagon: “No additional cracks found in F-35 engines”

Gepubliceerd door JSFNieuws.nl onder Global F35 News

The Pentagon said on Wednesday to Reuters that no additional cracks have been found on F-35 fighter engines during inspections begun after the February 19 incident that has grounded the entire fighter fleet and halted operation of the engines on the ground.

“Sources familiar with the investigation told Reuters on Tuesday that Pratt & Whitney is 99 percent sure the fan blade problem that grounded the Pentagon’s F-35 fleet was not caused by high-cycle fatigue, which could force a costly design change.”

Read more: Reuters; 27-feb-2013 “Pentagon says no additional cracks found in F-35 engines

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Feb 27 2013

Several problems cloud Turkey’s F-35 commitment

Gepubliceerd door JSFNieuws.nl onder Global F35 News

The Journal of Turkeys Weekly writes:

Turkey has been one of the keenest partners in the multinational Joint Strike Fighter (JSF) consortium, but major disputes with the leading manufacturer in this huge program have weakened Turkish enthusiasm.

Last month, Turkey’s defense procurement authorities announced they were postponing an order to purchase the country’s first two F-35 fighter jets to be built by the JSF partnership. They cited “rising costs and technological failures” for their decision

Dispute about access to software code

“In another contentious issue, Turkey demands to obtain software source codes which the U.S. has been reluctant to share. Turkey announced in March 2011 that it was placing its order for 100 jets on hold due to the ongoing source code refusal issue. Ankara said the negotiations for access to the F-35 source codes, including codes that can be used to control the aircraft remotely had not yielded satisfactory results and that under these conditions Turkey could not accept the aircraft.

Read more: Journal of Turkish Weekly; 27-feb-2013; “Lockheed dispute clouds Turkey’s F-35 commitment

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Feb 27 2013

Sources say: “Pratt rules out worst-case cause for F-35 blade crack”

Gepubliceerd door JSFNieuws.nl onder Global F35 News

Reuters reports:
Pratt & Whitney is 99 percent sure the fan blade problem that grounded the Pentagon’s 51 new F-35 fighter jets was not caused by high-cycle fatigue, which could force a costly design change, according to two sources familiar with an investigation by the enginemaker.”

Read more: Reuters; 26-feb-2013; “Pratt rules out worst-case cause for F-35 blade crack: sources

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Feb 27 2013

Pentagon F-35 Program Chief Lashes Lockheed, Pratt

Gepubliceerd door JSFNieuws.nl onder Global F35 News

AVALON, Australia — The Pentagon program chief for the F-35 warplane slammed its commercial partners Lockheed Martin and Pratt & Whitney on Wednesday, accusing them of trying to “squeeze every nickel” out of the U.S. government and failing to see the long-term benefits of the project.

Read more: Reuters; 27-feb-2013; “Pentagon F-35 Program Chief Lashes Lockheed, Pratt

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Feb 26 2013

US Stinson Center: F-35 worth killing giving its technical problems

Gepubliceerd door JSFNieuws.nl onder Global F35 News

Paul Barrett of Bloomberg Businessweek writes about the US sequestration hysteria in Washington:

As sequestration hysteria grips Washington, top uniformed officials at the Pentagon have joined Defense Secretary Leon Panetta in warning that across-the-board spending cuts due to take effect on March 1 will cripple the American military and endanger the effectiveness of soldiers, sailors, and pilots.”

He has five ideas for major Pentagon budget cuts that “would actually improve the national defense by instilling a new spirit of budget discipline“:

1. Ground the glitch-ridden F-35 Joint Strike Fighter program.
2. While we’re at it, how about parking the Ground Combat Vehicle?
3. Even the generals admit that they don’t need updated version of the M1 combat tank
4. Dock the Littoral Combat Ship
5. Excess bureaucracy must go.

But, as in many other articles the F-35 the most important focus points, Bloomberg motivates that choice as follows:

The F-35 was supposed to produce state-of-the-art stealth jets. It is seven years behind schedule and 70 percent over cost estimates. At almost $400 billion, the F-35 has become the most expensive weapons system in U.S. history and one that offers only marginal improvements over existing aircraft, according to Barry Blechman, co-founder of the Stimson Center, a nonprofit policy institute in Washington. (../..) The F-35 is “worth killing, particularly given its technical problems,” Blechman said. “Putting the F-35 into production years before the first flight test was acquisition malpractice,” Frank Kendall, the Pentagon’s acquisition undersecretary, said in February 2012. (../..)”

Read more: Bloomberg Bussinessweek; 25-feb-2013; “Five Military Cuts That Would Fix Sequestration

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Feb 26 2013

Smoke in cockpit after electrical incident F-35B

Gepubliceerd door JSFNieuws.nl onder Global F35 News

Reuters reported today a previouysly unreported incident with the F-35B prototype BF-2.

Kyra Hawn, the spokeswoman for the JSF Program Office said in a reaction to Reuters, that an there had been an incident involving a F-35B (prototype) BF-2 on February 14, 2013.
There was smoke (but no fire) in the cockpit a problem detected within the power thermal management system (Kyra Hawn: the smoke in the cockpit was a software issue, not a hardware issue with the auxiliary power unit).

Integrated Power Pack/temperature control unit

The CBNC article: “Honeywell said it would inspect the system, which manages the distribution of hot and cold air in the F-35 fuselage, once it arrived at the company’s Phoenix testing facility.” (complete system is send to Honeywell; because the software code generates smoke, a novel). The will inspect the system and develop a permanent fix. Only the temperature control system (part of the total Integrated Power Pack system) was being sent back to Honeywell.
The Honeywell IPP is a unique system that combines the normal functions of a back-up generator, APU/starter, emergency power unit and the air cycle machine (ACM) that runs the environmental control system. Clear explanation in “Talking about my generators”. (Aviation Week; March-2011)

JPO/Lockheed Martin: “No lithium-ion battery problem with F-35”

Honeywell is the manufacturer of the F-35 “power thermal management system,” which uses a (Saft) lithium-ion battery. The battery technology (not the producer) is similar to those whose failures have grounded the entire fleet of Boeing 787 Dreamliners.

Kyra Hawn emphasized: “It has no linkage whatsoever with the lithium-ion batteries.”

Also Lockheed spokesman Michael Rein said to the press: “There is no evidence that the lithium ion batteries are a contributor to this event, no battery faults were observed at any time.”

Other IPP incidents:

July 2008: On 23-Jul-2008, both flying F-35 prototypes were grounded after problems were detected with ground cooling fan electrical circuitry, US DCMA reported 18-Aug-2008 that test were delayed as a result of testing anomalies on the 28 Volt and 270 Volt Battery Charger/Controller Unit, the Electrical Distribution Unit and the Power Distribution Unit.
It was an issue due to design problems. Flights were resumed first week of September-2008.

August 2011: A precautionary grounding of all 20 F-35’s that had reached flying status was ordered 3-Aug-2011 after a valve in the Integrated Power Package (IPP) of F-35A test aircraft AF-4 failed. On 18 August 2011 the flight ban was lifted to allow monitored operations.
A permanent resolution would be installed later.

Source:
CBNC (Reuters); 25-feb-2013; Honeywell to test some F-35 parts after smoke incident

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Feb 25 2013

JSF F-135 engine findings expected this week

Gepubliceerd door JSFNieuws.nl onder Global F35 News

Aaron Mehta of Defense News has more news about the grounding of the F-35 after the F-135 engine malfunction last week:

A preliminary report on the engine malfunction that grounded the entire F-35 Joint Strike Fighter fleet is expected by Friday, according to a program spokeswoman.”

““We still do not know enough to determine the root cause of the crack or project the actual impact,” Hawn wrote. “We should have initial structural engineering data collected, and associated analysis/recommendation by week’s end (if not earlier).””

““I could foresee the airplane back in the air in the next week or two,” Gen. Chris Bogdan, the JSF program head, told Agence France-Presse in Melbourne. “If it’s more than that, then we have to look at what the risk is to the fleet.”

Read more: Defense News; 25-feb-2013; JSF findings expected this week

And:
Reuters; 23-feb-2013; Initial blade test results expected as early as Wednesday

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Feb 25 2013

Australia: Super Hornet could take F-35 orders

Gepubliceerd door JSFNieuws.nl onder Global F35 News

Reuters reports from Melbourne about Canberra’s looming decision to buy more Super Hornets yes or no; to be expected within three to six weeks.
“Many defense insiders expect plans for a fleet of F-35s to be revised to feature 48 Super Hornets – 12 equipped as EA-18G Growlers with radar-jamming electronic weapons – and as few as 50 Joint Strike Fighters.”

“The Super Hornets will eat into F-35 orders,” said Sam Roggeveen, a former Australian government intelligence and arms analyst, now with the Lowy Institute security think tank…”

Read more: FoxBusinnes; 25-feb-2013; Grounding, budget woes cloud F-35 warplane sales push in Australia

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Feb 23 2013

F-35 fleet grounded after new F-135 engine problems

Gepubliceerd door JSFNieuws.nl onder Global F35 News

UPDATE-2

Kesteren – Last Thursday, 21-February-2013, the Pentagon ordered a grounding for all F-35 aircraft, after a routine check at the Edwards Air Force Base revealed a crack in a low pressure turbine blade in an engines of a F-35A. During 2007-2009 there have been repeated problems with turbine blades, which led to significant delays in the test program and a partial redesign of certain parts of the engine.

On 19-February-2013 a routine inspection took place of of a Pratt & Whitney F135 engine at Edwards AFB, USA. During the inspection using a borescope, there were indications that there was a crack in a LPT turbine blade. It was confirmed after further investigation. The turbine blade is sent to Pratt & Whitney in Middletown (CT), USA for further investigation.

Statements JSF Program Office

The F-35 JSF Program Office said in a statement to the press: “It is too early to know the fleet-wide impact of this finding, however as a precautionary measure, all F-35 flight operations have been suspended until the investigation is complete and the cause of the blade crack is fully understood. The F-35 Joint Program Office is working closely with Pratt & Whitney and Lockheed Martin at all F-35 locations to ensure the integrity of the engine, and to return the fleet safely to flight as soon as possible.”
Chris Bogdan, head of the JSF Program Office, suggested in a briefing in Australia, that the root cause could be known before the end of this week and also when it would be something simple as a FOD (Foreign Object Damage) problem or a manufacturing glitch the F-35 could be back in the air in a couple of weeks.

Some facts about what happened

It was a F-135 engine with 700 hours, of which 409 flight hours. The aircraft was the F-35A testaircraft AF-2. The half-inch long crack was found in a turbine blade of the low pressure turbine section. This makes it unlikely that it is caused by so-called FOD (Foreign Object Damage), such as a bird strike, because such an object has to pass the Fan Section (3 stages) Compressor Section (6 stages), combustor and high pressure turbine section before reaching the low pressure turbine section. Cracks in turbine blades in the low pressure turbine section usually are caused by high thermal or other stressing loads of the turbine blades. The forces in the 40.000 lb (about 29.000 hp) engine are enormous. A grounding after such a discovery usually takes relatively short (e.g. one week), normally a manufacturing error or some incident is the root cause. Until then, for safety reasons a grounding may be the standard procedure. Reuters reported 24-Feb-2013: “In fact, two jets were airborne at air bases in Maryland and Arizona and had to be recalled, said one of the sources.” At this moment all 51 F-35s, of all versions, in use at several airfields to support the test and training program, are grounded.

Long history of engine problems since 2006

It can not be excluded that the root cause of the current problem is more structural than a simple manufacturing error or an isolated incident. Since 2006 there had been a series of engine problems with the F-135 engine.

Already in May 2006, Aviation Week reporter David A. Fulghum wrote 0a detailed article “Joint Strike Fighter F135 Engine Burns Hotter Than Desired” and described the risk of a shorter engine life or engine damage caused by higher than expected temperatures on the F-135 engine.
In August 2007 and February 2008 there were serious problems. Turbine blades broke off suddenly by a form of metal fatigue. The cause was sought in a combination of factors.
On 30 August 2007 in test engine FX634, after 122 hours of testing, a turbine blade in the 3rd LPT stage broke off completely. On 4-February-2008 something similar happened to engine FTE06, also in the 3rd LPT stage, after 19 hours.
These problems with the engine contributed significantly to the delays in the JSF test program for the period 2007-2008.

Redesign of the engine in 2008

In early 2008, an engine, the FX640 ground test engine, was equipped with numerous sensors and instruments. On April 21, 2008 a test process was started to find the cause of the problem. Through a detailed test plan the forces and tensions that arise in the engine were mapped by different power ranges. At that moment it seemed to be primarily an issue of the F-35B STOVL (vertical landing) version. The cracks in the turbine blades were created in exactly the same place, and seemed to occur when switching from forward to vertical drive. Later in 2008, the results became available. The blade crackes seemed to have been caused by certain vibrations that triggered a material failure.
This led to a redesign of a number of elements in the engine. One of the upgrades was a change of the distance between the turbine blades. After the redesign the engine was retested and recertified. At the end of 2008 Pratt & Whitney issued a press statement, that they were convinced that the problems were solved.

In 2009, problems with redesigned engine

In July 2009, the then head of the JSF Program Office, General Heinz was still not happy with the F-135 problems, he said against the press: “The problems include too many individual blades that fail to meet specifications, as well as combined “stack-ups” of blades that fail early. I’m not satisfied with the rates that I’m getting.”
A few days later he was commissioned by the Pentagon not to comment publicly on problems with the F-135 engine.
In September 2009, again serious engine problems revealed during testing of the Pratt & Whitney F-135 engine. At a crucial moment in the debate in the U.S. Congress on the choice of two competing engine types (the Pentagon wante to delete the second engine choice (GE / Rolls Royce F-136) a Pratt & Whitney F-135 engine broke. Again the cause seemed to lie in broken turbine blades. However, now the problem occured in the new engine type with the redesigned turbine blades.

Engine problems continueing until now

After problems in 2009 officials no longer publicly commented about the engine problem. Also there were no indications that there actually were problems with the engine or that there were any reliability issues.
In April 2011, however, Admiral Venlet, the then Head of JSF Program Office, told reporters that some engine problems were impacting on the delivery schedule.
The grounding of last week put the engine back in the spotlight of publicity. However, at this moment it is not the complex F-35B STOVL version, but an engine in an F-35A, the Air Force version.
For Pratt & Whitney, hopefully it is an one-off, and not a structural problem.

Overview of earlier F-135 engine problems 2006-2011 and sources

Aviation Week; 28-mei-2006; David Fulghum; “Joint Strike Fighter F135 Engine Burns Hotter Than Desired”

Defense Industry Daily; dec-2007; Johan Boeder; “JSF hit by serious design problems

JSFNieuws; 8-feb-2008; “New engine problem Pratt&Whitney

Flight International; 27-mar-2008; Graham Warwick; “F-35 JSF engines in critical tests as Congress deliberates

Flight International; 24-nov-2008; Stephen Trimble; “Locheed delays first F-35 STOVL flight again, but engine fix

Aviation Week; 13-sep-2009; Graham Warwick; “BREAKING NEWS: F135 damaged in ground test

Flight International; 27-apr-2011; Stephen Trimble; “New engine snag upsets F-35 manfacturing progress

Reuters; 24-Feb-2013; Andrea Shalal-Esa; “Half-inch crack blamed for U.S. F-35 fighter jet grounding – sources

Overview of other F-35 groundings

May 2007: The first incident was recorded in May 2007, when the F-35A prototype AA-1 experienced an electrical short that disabled flight controls on the horizontal stabliser.
A grounding was ordered and continued until December 2007, due to time needed to redesign several parts of the 270-volt electrical system and F-135 engine problems.

July 2008: On 23-Jul-2008, both flying F-35 prototypes were grounded after problems were detected with ground cooling fan electrical circuitry, DCMA reported 18-Aug-2008 that test were delayed as a result of testing anomalies on the 28 Volt and 270 Volt Battery Charger/Controller Unit, the Electrical Distribution Unit and the Power Distribution Unit.
It was an issue due to design problems. Flights were resumed first week of September-2008.

December 2008: On 12-dec-2008 the F-35 was grounded again as a result of engine and ejection seat anomalies. Seat anomalies wered observed in ejection seat sequence during an escape system test on 20-Nov-2008. It took nearly 3 months to solve the problems and AA-1 returned to the skies 24-Feb-2009.

May 2009: The F-35 fleet didn’t fly between 7-May-2009 (84th flight of prototype AA-1) and 23-Jun-2009. No comments were available from JPO or L-M.

October 2010: F-35 fleet grounded after the fuel pump shut down above 10,000ft (3,050m).
The problem was caused by a software bug.

March 2011: The entire F-35 fleet grounded some weeks after test aircraft AF-4 experienced a dual generator failure. After both generators shut down in flight, the IPP activated and allowed the F-35’s flight control system to continue functioning. The problem was traced to faulty maintenance handling.

June 2011: Carrier-based F-35C suspended from flying after engineers at NAS Patuxent River discovered a software problem, that could have affected the flight control surfaces. Grounding from 17-June-2011 until 23-June-2011.

August 2011: A precautionary grounding of all 20 F-35’s that had reached flying status was ordered 3-Aug-2011 after a valve in the Integrated Power Package (IPP) of F-35A test aircraft AF-4 failed. On 18 August 2011 the flight ban was lifted to allow monitored operations. A permanent resolution would be installed later.

January 2012: 15 Lockheed Martin F-35s are grounded for about 12 days to repack improperly installed parachutes (reversed 180 degrees from design). The grounded aircraft are equipped with new versions of the Martin Baker US16E ejection seat, designated as -21 and -23.

January 2013: The F-35B STOVL variant was grounded 18-Jan-2013 after detection of a failure of a fueldraulic line in the aircraft’s propulsion system. The Pentagon cleared all 25 F-35B aircraft to resume flight tests on 12 February 2013. Problem caused by a manufacturing quality problem.

Februari 2013: On 21-Feb-2013, the Pentagon ordered a grounding for all F-35 aircraft, after a routine check at the Edwards Air Force Base revealed a crack in a low pressure turbine blade in an engines of a F-35A.

Author: Johan Boeder

JSFNieuws130223-JB/jb

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