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The F-35 Can’t Shoot Straight: Report

Michael Rainey

The gun on the most common version of the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter is so inaccurate that its performance was deemed “unacceptable” in recent Pentagon tests, according to a report Thursday from Bloomberg’s Anthony Capaccio.

Accuracy isn’t the only problem for the 25mm canon on the Air Force version of the jet. The gun housing on the aircraft manufactured by Lockheed Martin is cracking, too, forcing the Air Force to restrict its use. (The less common Navy and Marine variants use a different type of gun mount, and those jets have received “acceptable” ratings for accuracy.)

The $428 billion F-35 program, whose total cost will exceed $1 trillion over its lifetime, still has more than 800 unresolved issues, many related to its troubled operating system, Capaccio said, based on the latest assessment from the Pentagon’s test office. Those issues include 13 “Category 1” problems that could affect safety or combat capability, and that the Defense Department says should be fixed before the manufacturer commences the next phase of production, which has a price tag of $22 billion.

The F-35 has also failed to pass what’s being called the Mattis Test, after former Defense Secretary Jim Mattis, which calls for the jet to be available 80% of the time for at least one kind of combat mission. While some units have been able to meet the requirement for short periods, most have been unable to do so on a sustained basis. And the great majority of units have been unable to meet the more demanding goal of “Full Mission Capability.”

Nevertheless, the Department of Defense continues to ramp up its purchases of the troubled jet. “Despite the incomplete testing and unresolved flaws, Congress continues to accelerate F-35 purchases, Capaccio said, “adding 11 to the Pentagon’s request in 2016 and in 2017, 20 in fiscal 2018, 15 last year and 20 this year.”

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