According to a leaked Pentagon report, New $100 million F-35 stealth fighter jets can only fly supersonic for short bursts or it may start to ‘crack’
Defense News claims the problem may make it impossible for the F-35 to conduct supersonic intercepts when in combat adding there was a “risk of structural damage.”
At extremely high altitudes, the U.S. Navy and Marine Corps’ versions of the F-35 jet can only fly at supersonic speeds for short bursts of time before there is a risk of structural damage and loss of stealth capability, a problem that may make it impossible for the Navy’s F-35C to conduct supersonic intercepts.
The Defense Department does not intend to field a fix for the problem, which influences not only the F-35’s airframe and the low-observable coating that keeps it stealthy, but also the myriad antennas located on the back of the plane that are currently vulnerable to damage, according to documents exclusively obtained by Defense News.
The F-35 Joint Program Office has classified the issues for the “B” and “C” models as separate category 1 deficiencies, indicating in one document that the problem presents a challenge to accomplishing one of the key missions of the fighter jet. In this scale, category 1 represents the most serious type of deficiency.
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The reported deficiencies were first observed in late 2011 following tests where the F-35B and F-35C both flew at speeds of Mach 1.3 and Mach 1.4, it’s claimed.
During similar tests of the F-35C in December 2011, “thermal damage” that compromised the structural integrity of the inboard horizontal tail and tail boom were apparent.
During one post-flight inspection in November 2011, it was discovered one jet had sustained “bubbling (and) blistering” of its stealth coating, according to the documents obtained by Defense News.
Vice Admiral Mat Winter, who leads the F-35 programme for the Pentagon, said his department has taken steps to tackle the problem.
Earlier it was reported how the hi-tech coating which makes the fighter jets “invisible” to enemy radar scratches off quicker than expected – and must be replaced after every fight.
In October the MoD was forced to ground its new fighter jet fleet after a faulty fuel tube caused a crash in the US.
Around 250 aircraft were grounded in the US and about 100 worldwide after a US F-35B stealth jet went down over Beaufort, South Carolina, in September.