A new wing:
The head of the F-35 Joint Program Office (JPO) says the outer wings of 32 carrier-based C-models need to be replaced to carry the Raytheon AIM-9X Sidewinder, the aircraft’s primary dogfighting weapon.
The U.S. Navy variant experienced an undisclosed amount of oscillation or turbulence during flight trials with the AIM-9X in December 2015, and Lt. Gen. Christopher Bogdan says aircraft already delivered need to be retrofitted with strengthened wings.
“It was discovered the outer, folding portion of the wing has inadequate structural strength to support the loads induced by pylons with AIM-9X missiles during maneuvers that cause buffet,” Bogdan says in written testimony to Congress on Feb. 16.
Engineers have already produced an enhanced outer wing design, which is now undergoing flight testing. The issue has impacted the timeline for fielding AIM-9X, which is being rolled out for the Navy in Block 3F. “Once the new design is verified to provide the require strength, the fix will be implemented in production and retrofitted to existing aircraft by swapping existing outer wings with the redesigned ones,” Bogdan writes.
The AIM-9X is the heat-seeking sidekick to the Raytheon AIM-120C advanced medium-range air-to-air missile. Without it, the F-35 would be incapable of high off-boresight shots at close range. Because of a seven-year schedule delay, the fifth-generation fighter will carry air superiority missiles that are one generation behind its legacy counterparts, which are already carrying the newest AIM-9X Block II and AIM-120D.
It can’t dogfight, it can’t use the current generation of missiles, 2 of the 3 variants do not carry a gun, the software is a mess of spaghetti, it cannot hit moving targets, and it costs an arm and a leg and several toes.
This deal is getting better and better.