Pentagon Grounds F-35B Due to Faulty Fuel Lines

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The F-35 Lighting II is not the only aircraft facing problems. The F-35B used by the Marine Corps are grounded after a fuel line detached and caused a propulsion system leak that led to an aborted take-off.

The F-35B is the most complicated design in the Pentagon’s F-35 program. It is capable of short take-offs and vertical landings. The test flights of the fifth generation jet plane conducted by the Marine Corps were immediately suspended after the incident.

The Pentagon’s investigation revealed a quality discrepancy resulting in a crimped line in the plane’s fueldraulic system was at fault. The propulsion system was made by Pratt & Whitney unit of the United Technologies Corp. (UTX).

Initially, the faulty fuel lines were planned to be sent to Europe, but in order to save time and money, it will be scanned in the U.S. The components will undergo a CT scan in order to detect the flaws.

Replacement fuel lines are already available and Marine Corps test flying are likely to resume soon.

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News Source: www.bloomberg.com, article.chicagotribune.com

Marines Finally Establish First F-35 Squadron

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The Pentagon’s most expensive and highly-criticized weapons program finally showed progress as the Marine Corps established the first squadron of the F-35b jet fighters. The F-35b’s new operational squadron is stationed at an airbase in Yuma, Arizona.

Three F-35b jets have already arrived at the base with 13 more units will come over next year. According to the base spokesperson, the service built a new hangar for the planes as well as a high-end flight stimulator for the pilots and maintenance facilities. The new squadron will start its initial flights by December or early next year.

A ceremony was held for the unveiling of the new squadron. It was attended by top Pentagon and Lockheed executives as well as Arizona Sen. John McCain who sits at the Senate Armed Services Committee.

The F-35 is the replacement for the aging fleet of the F/A-18 Hornet and AV-8B Harrier jets. Lockheed Martin is building three variants of the jet fighter for the U.S. Military and other countries. The F-35b model has STOVL capabilities.

“This squadron will be the first, not only in the Marine Corps or the United States, but the first in the world to bring a fifth-generation, multi-role, (short takeoff vertical landing) stealth fighter … into an operational status,” Marine Corps Commandant General James Amos said during his speech at the unveiling ceremony.

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News Source: news.terra.com

F-35 Training For US Marines to Start Soon

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US Marine Corps pilots will start flight training for the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter at the Eglin Air Force Base in Florida. This progress with the development of F-35 emphasize the service’ confidence with the JSF program.

Lockheed Martin had delivered 10 units of the F-35B model at the air base. The model can take off from shorter runways and has the capability to land like helicopters. Preliminary orientation flights had been conducted by test pilots in May, but the flights had been limited in scope and speed. For instance, vertical landings had not been tested. Most pilot training are confined in classrooms and simulators. The military needs to extensively train the pilots and maintainers to fly and repair the aircraft before it can enter service operations. The leaders of the Marine Corps are anxious to get the F-35 into service as it needs to replace the aging Harrier jump jets and the F/A18 fighters. The F-35 program had been restructured three times and had suffered delays in production and training.

The progress in the F-35 training will allow pilots to finally take the aircraft to the skies and be a step closer for the $396 billion program to be useful for the military.

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News source: www.courant.com

Pentagon suggests Taiwan buy F-35B, AV-8B

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The White House turned down the sale of F-16 C/D jets because of concerns that the sale would upset relations with China more than a sale to upgrade older jets, the officials said.

The Obama administration is expected to announce as early as Wednesday the sale of a package of equipment and weapons worth $5.8 billion to upgrade Taiwan’s fleet of 145 F-16 jets. In agreeing to the upgrades, President Obama and White House officials rejected a proposal sought by some in the administration to offer Taiwan66 new and more advanced F-16 C/D jets.

Administration officials briefed Congress on the deal Friday and are defending the decision not to sell new jets by asserting that the upgrades will give modernized Taiwanese F-16s a “near C/D” capability.

A congressional military specialist, however, said the expected arms package will be insufficient in bolstering Taiwan’s air power. In addition to announcing the Taiwanese military upgrade, the Pentagonthis week will release a congressional mandated study on Taiwan’s air power.

The study concludes that Taiwan’s military should buy short-takeoff and vertical-landing jets such as the British-design AV-8B Harrier jump jet or the new F-35B vertical-takeoff version, according to the officials familiar with the aircraft.That conclusion was based on anticipated Chinese missile strikes against Taiwanese airfields with cratering munitions that would thwart takeoffs by F-16s and other jets.

A defense official said that conclusion appears skewed to support the administration’s decision not to sell new F-16s by highlighting airstrip vulnerability.

The Obama administration has been seeking closer military ties to China. In January, Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates proposed holding talks on nuclear weapons, missile defenses, cyberwarfare and space. A Chinese general promised to study the proposal.

Pentagon spokesman George Little declined to comment on the pending arms sale. He said U.S. arms-sale policy is based on the three joint communiques with China and the Taiwan Relations Act.

On military ties, Mr. Little said: “From our perspective, we have made progress in our dialogue as we work toward a healthy, stable and reliable and continuous military-to-military relationship.”

Source: The Washington Times

USN requests 28 Super Hornets,10 ships for 2012

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The Navy Department has proposed buying 28 Super Hornets, building 10 ships, and scrapping a Marine ship-to-shore tank as part of its $176.4 billion budget proposal for fiscal 2012.

The Navy on Monday requested a baseline of $161.4 billion for fiscal 2012, up $800 million from last year’s proposal. However, Congress never approved that budget, and the federal government is relying on an extension of last year’s funds called a continuing resolution, a bankroll that expires in early March. That extension has left the Navy grappling with misappropriated funds and a de facto $5.7 billion cut.

“It’s a crisis on the secretary’s doorstep, it’s a crisis for the Navy,” Rear Adm. Joseph Mulloy, a Navy budget official, said of the funding impasse at a Pentagon press briefing Monday.

The $18.6 billion aviation request includes the purchase of 67 F/A-18 E and F Super Hornets through fiscal 2016, 41 more of the airplanes than previously planned. Of those airplanes, 28 would be bought in the fiscal 2012 and another 28 in fiscal 2013. Additionally, the budget calls for 72 F-35C Lightning II Joint Strike Fighters through fiscal 2016, down from the 74 previously planned.

The first seven carrier-ready planes will be purchased in the next fiscal year. Mulloy said the reduction was due to sequencing at Lockheed Martin’s assembly plant. The budget also scraps 65 F-35Bs, a Marine Corps version of the airplane that is capable of taking off and landing on small runways.

The Navy will also build more P-8A maritime patrol craft than originally planned. Previous budgets called for nine airplanes, but now the Navy wants 11.

Some programs went untouched. For example, the Navy still wants 30 MV-22B, 24 MH-60R and 18 MC-60S helicopters.

The Navy is ramping up shipbuilding, with two more ships than previously planned. The Navy plans to build two Virginia-class attack submarines; one Arleigh Burke-class destroyer; four littoral combat ships, double the two planned for this year; one San Antonio-class amphibious transport dock; one joint high speed vessel; and a second mobile landing platform auxiliary. The total price tag for the Navy’s shipbuilding plan is $14.1 billion.

- Navytimes

Marine Corps chief voices confidence in F-35 variant

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The Marine Corps’ top leader said he was confident Lockheed Martin Corp would solve technical problems with the service’s version of the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter and save it from cancellation.

Defense Secretary Robert Gates last week put the short takeoff, vertical landing (STOVL) model of the F-35 on “probation” for two years to fix significant problems, saying the program should be canceled if solutions were not found within that period.

“I completely support that,” Marine Corps General James Amos told the annual conference of the Surface Navy Association, adding that he also supported Gates’ decision to terminate the $13 billion Expeditionary Fighting Vehicle being developed for the Marines by General Dynamics Corp.

Amos said he intended to keep a close eye on the F-35B, the STOVL variant, because of its importance to the Marine Corps.

The Marines Corps will likely order service life extensions for some of its F/A-18 fighters to cover any gap resulting from the delay in the F-35 program, he said.

Amos said Lockheed was making strides in solving engineering problems with the F-35B, including an issue with the doors that have to open to allow the vertical lift fan to draw in air, as well as weight issues with the airplane’s bulkhead.

“I think this is engineering at this point. I’m optimistic. We can do this,” Amos said, adding that it would be critical to control the weight of the aircraft going forward.

Amos said he recommended that Gates cancel the EFV amphibious landing craft because of its “onerous” procurement cost as well as the high cost of operating and supporting it.

He said the Marine Corps would have spent about 80 percent of its ground tactical vehicle budget to buy 535 EFV vehicles, while there were 20,000 to 25,000 other Marine vehicles that needed to be replaced or upgraded in coming years.

- Reuters