The Lockheed Martin F-35A Joint Strike Fighter has been revealed to have a significant flaw. It can't hit moving targets such as cars.
Despite being regarded as one of the most technologically advanced warplanes in the world, reports suggest that the Lockheed Martin F-35 has one significant shortcoming – it cannot strike moving ground targets using the targeting and weapons system delivered in its final combat Lightning II configuration.
This shortcoming means that the F-35 is limited to striking fixed or slow-moving objects such as surface-to-air missiles or major infrastructure targets and buildings.
The US Air Force plans to buy a total of 1,763 F-35A conventional takeoff and landing jets in coming years worth $400bn, while the UK has ordered 138 planes and Australia has committed to purchase 100 F-35 aircraft.
The F-35 Joint Strike Fighter has been described as the ‘most expensive weapon in history’ at a cost of more than $1tr.
But it looks like that even with this significant budget assigned to its development, the aircraft’s aforementioned shortcoming is a glaring and a potential combat weakness.
New missile is the proposed answer
The Manufacturer contacted Lockheed Martin for a response regarding this claim. In response, a Lockheed Martin spokesperson said: “We have a solution. The Joint Program Office is looking to add the Enhanced Paveway II (GBU-49) to the list of ordnance the F-35 can employ in 3F.
“They want to achieve this in 2017. It looks promising because the GBU-49 is similar in shape and size to the GBU-12 which is already certified.”
The Enhanced Paveway II (GBU-49) is a laser guided bomb which the US Air Force hopes to integrate into the F-35’s arsenal in time for full combat capability.
Built by US defence contractor Raytheon, it features Enhanced dual-mode GPS and is new version of the laser-only GBU-12.
This lead-laser capability is built into the weapons front end, so it doesn’t need to rely on the electro-optical targeting systems (EOTS) employed by many previous combat aircraft.
Director of the US Air Force’s F-35 integration office, Brig. Gen. Scott Pleus, said adding the new weapon was a key solution to addressing the F-35’s current shortcoming.
“The ability to hit a moving target is a key capability that we need in current close-air support fight, and the GU-49 is a great solution for the F-35 and, frankly, for all of our legacy platforms to hit these moving targets,” he said.
Last in a long list of issues for the F-35
The F-35 project has been plagued with a long list of issues and delays and was even subject to claims by Edward Snowden that the Chinese Government had stolen the design plans for the aircraft.
In September last year, just over a month after they were declared “combat ready”, the US Air Force grounded 10 of the aircraft due to “the discovery of peeling and crumbling insulation in avionics cooling lines inside the fuel tanks,” the Air Force said in a statement.
A recent Pentagon report suggests the F-35 won’t be ready to begin full combat testing until 2019, due to having hundreds of faults.
The Pentagon’s latest brutal assessment of this high-priced aircraft was part of an annual report from the Pentagon’s director of operational test and evaluation Michael Gilmore. The dossier includes a five-page evaluation of the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter.
In the Report, Gilmore wrote: ‘The Services have designated 276 deficiencies in combat performance as “critical to correct”… but less than half of the critical deficiencies were addressed with attempted corrections…”
Continuing, Gilmore wrote: ‘Deficiencies continue to be discovered at a rate of about 20 per month, and many more will undoubtedly be discovered before and during IOT&E.’