Navy Under Secretary not worried about F-35B grounding

Navy Under Secretary Bob Work didn’t seem concerned Tuesday about the recent grounding of the F-35B Joint Strike Fighter when he discussed its future.

The Marine version of the F-35 was grounded after a pilot aborted a take off on Jan. 18 because of problems with the propulsion system. It has remained grounded since.

Pratt & Whitney built the propulsion system. Their engineers have diagnosed the problem as a crimp in one of the fluid lines of the fuedralic system, which is a system that uses jet fuel rather than hydraulic fluid to lubricate mechanical parts.

Work said he was not concerned with the grounding and pointed to the vendor, Pratt & Whitney, as the source of the problem. He made sure to point out that the F-35B is also off probation.

“The F-35B is off probation. It’s doing well. Probably heard about a recent grounding. It’s going to be an issue with the vendor, it was a vendor issue, a problem. The plane is doing well,” Work said Tuesday.

Both Navy and Pratt &Whitney officials expect the crimp in the lines to be fixed soon and the F-35B to continue its testing regimen.

“The team continues to work diligently toward completing the investigation and implementing corrective actions with the supplier,” Partt & Whitney spokesman Matthew Bates said in a statement. “We anticipate a return to flight” soon.

As for the F-35B’s place in the Navy. Work said the service remains committed to the massive fleet planned for the F-35B to go along with the doubling the number of aircraft carriers in the U.S. Navy.

“Because of [the F-35B] we’re going from 11 aircraft carriers to 22,” Work said.

About the Author

Michael Hoffman
Michael Hoffman is the executive editor at Tandem NSI and a contributor to Military.com. He can be reached at mhoffman@tandemnsi.com.
  • blight_

    The -A and -C march on…surprised they weren’t checked either, unless it was a component unique to the LiftSystem?

    • chad

      I’m still unclear about the justification for the b-model. Now that the plane is essentially complete, we obviously can’t go back, but it seems likely that integrating the short takeoff/vertical landing capability put pretty severe constraints on the already ambitious F-35 requirements. I imagine we could have had a cheaper F-16/18 replacement and just let the harrier and its unique capabilities go away. So why is the B model important?

      1) Forward basing – logistically complicated and risky for an aircraft of the complexity of the F-35, probably not going to happen.

      2) Organic fixed wing air support for MEU – It seems if we’re going to do anything serious we’re likely to have a CVBG or the air force around to provide fixed wing air support, and the addition of 6 or so F-35’s will provide a marginal contribution.

      3) 11 to 22 carriers. I gather this means that the flat deck amphibs can now take on a more substantial air wing of a dozen (or more) F-35’s and behave like miniature CV’s, with a cost in their ability to deploy Marines. Might be useful for small wars, like Libya, although our lack of involvement in that campaign was more a matter of politics than capability. Given that we have more CV’s than anyone else in the world (or any combination of anyone elses in the world), this doesn’t really seem necessary.

      Other reasons? Obviously our allies with small carriers require the F-35B if they are going to have fixed wing naval aviation, but this doesn’t speak to our needs. It seems like we’ve increased the cost and compromised the performance of our F-16/F-18 replacement to preserve a capability of only marginal utility to our forces.

      • chad

        Ack. Meant to post the above as comment instead of reply. Apologies. Not sure how to delete this.

      • dennisbuller

        Good reasoning.
        I think #3 is the most important though. Having worked on the carriers I understand that the biggest problem the Navy faces is the limit to how many aircraft they can cram on a carrier.
        Throw the F-35B on the Gator Freighters and you have made those ships a big force multiplier. The Harriers are just antiques.
        Those ships can now could be taken seriously in the role of air superiority in theater. Even with shorter legs than the carrier versions will be able to secure the skies around the fleet. And of course support the troops as they go ashore.
        I think the F-35B is more important as a force multiplier than the F-35C. The Navy has a decent aircraft now, the Super Hornet. The Harrier has served faithfully, but even with the newer versions I think the F-35B is a order of magnitude better.

        • tiger

          The Other Harrier users have planes to replace as well. Italy, Spain, Thailand have Harriers to replace. Japan’s Hyūga-class helicopter destroyers are big enough to handle the B model as well.

        • chad

          We have more carriers than any other nation (or combination of nations) and each of these is far superior to any single aviation ship that any other navy in the world can float. The degree of overmatch is almost ridiculous already, and we are spending a ton of money on the B model so the Marines can have their own private carriers. So now our B-team carrier fleet will be better than any other navy in the world. Why is a second STOVL carrier fleet necessary when we already have overmatch with our giant normal carrier fleet?

          • whatever

            As “good” and expensive as the carriers are, a dozen good and inexpensive anti-ship missiles can waste the best US carrier, whatever that is. They may be useful in bullying small countries, but are sitting ducks for countries like Russia and China.

          • chad

            Well, this would seem to apply equally to the smaller carriers, if true. So why multiply the number of sitting ducks? If destroying them is as easy as you suggest, then adding another few with quite a bit less capability sounds like a bad idea.

        • Phillip

          The problem with #3 is the F-35B is going to be a USMC only aircraft. With the mantra of dont break up the MAGTAF, the rest of DOD is going to have to ask nicely to use a LHA/D loaded with JSF as a non-Marine Strike asset. There was a brief period (before costs went through the roof) about the airforce looking at getting a couple of Bs. I just dont see the Marines having enought F35Bs availabe for “fleet tasking” and that the “JSF carrier” concept is only a talking point to get funding. Also remember one of the key assets on a carrier is the AEW (E2-C) and a LHA/D cant handle them. The British Falkland’s operations shows why AEW is vitial.

    • Guest

      From what i’ve read the sub-standard crimp was in a section of the fueldraulics system which i believe only services the swivel module actuators, hence not an issue for the -A or -C.

  • chad

    I’m still unclear about the justification for the b-model. Now that the plane is essentially complete, we obviously can’t go back, but it seems likely that integrating the short takeoff/vertical landing capability put pretty severe constraints on the already ambitious F-35 requirements. I imagine we could have had a cheaper F-16/18 replacement and just let the harrier and its unique capabilities go away. So why is the B model important?

    1) Forward basing – logistically complicated and risky for an aircraft of the complexity of the F-35, probably not going to happen.

    2) Organic fixed wing air support for MEU – It seems if we’re going to do anything serious we’re likely to have a CVBG or the air force around to provide fixed wing air support, and the addition of 6 or so F-35’s will provide a marginal contribution.

    3) 11 to 22 carriers. I gather this means that the flat deck amphibs can now take on a more substantial air wing of a dozen (or more) F-35’s and behave like miniature CV’s, with a cost in their ability to deploy Marines. Might be useful for small wars, like Libya, although our lack of involvement in that campaign was more a matter of politics than capability. Given that we have more CV’s than anyone else in the world (or any combination of anyone elses in the world), this doesn’t really seem necessary.

    Other reasons? Obviously our allies with small carriers require the F-35B if they are going to have fixed wing naval aviation, but this doesn’t speak to our needs. It seems like we’ve increased the cost and compromised the performance of our F-16/F-18 replacement to preserve a capability of only marginal utility to our forces.

  • Lance

    More of the line the planes isn’t working at all. But some General in the USMC wants it SOOOOO bad he looking the other way and so Marines get a inferior plane. It will take years longer and pilots lives to makes this piece of junk at least fly (who knows abut fight) and so we see why the USMC will not get any new toys soon when they stick to a failed design like the B.

    The solution is to buy Cs like the Navy and go back to the drawing board for a new STOVL attack plane.

  • Weaponhead

    The loss of 6 AV-8Bs in Afghanistan in 1 raid showed the risk of forward basing. Even ignoring that, you still need to get massive amounts of fuel, ordnance, and spare parts to these areas severely limiting exactly where you can do this.

    Then there is the issue about why I need a $150+M aircraft for the CAS mission? If you go all internal carriage all you can carry is 2 Mk-83 JDAM or LGB with 2 AMRAAM. Hope you have 2 targets or less, and you can use that weapon for the target you have. Maybe you have your gun pod maybe you don’t. If you carry external weapons then you didn’t need an F-35 anyway. Oh yeh, if you get hit flying the CAS mission, you are less likely to get home in your F-35 than a Hornet.

    Any wonder why we are going broke as a nation?

  • HeavyArrow

    Personally I think the companies need to stop pointing fingers at each other and actually fix the problem without making such a huge deal about it.

  • The Anti-ELP

    1. You need to haul fuel, and massive amounts of Ammo to a FOB if you have a fleet of helos any way! Do you think helos don’t need fuel and weapons trucked or flown in?

    2. If you need to fly CAS mission over the strait of Formosa, you certainly want SOMETHING stealthy. Are you going to use drones? can you plink tanks and landing ships with cruise missiles? Once agian ELP and the anti-F-35 crowd assume that non of these questions have been asked. They assume that they are smarter than 10+ air forces combined.

    3. The customer wants a stovl aircraft. Do you think for a second that if we refused to build one all of the other majors aviation players in the world would also refuse to build one? So then why is the customer incompetent for wanting the only stovl 5th generation fighter on the market? Why is the company incompetent for trying to give the customer what they ask for? Again please stop pretending your smarter than all of the worlds air forces.

    4. please stop saying the plane doesn’t work. that’s a gross misrepresentation http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ssD9crDcoYg

  • tee

    $150 Million, the last price with engine and the available software block was $295 Million a copy. It would only see $150 Million if EVERY ORIGINALLY PLANNED AIRCRAFT was built. And we all know that is already not going to happen because of canceled orders from the UK & Italy alone.

    • chad

      Does this include R&D or is this flyaway costs? We shouldn’t consider sunk costs when making a procurement decision.

  • tiger

    “Fuedralics?” Has this been used before?

  • Hunter76

    The death bells are tolling for the Flying Maginot Line (F35).

  • Barry

    Oops. One of our FOBs was just attacked. Some of our planes got shot down or failed to return. Normal, it’s war. We lost 6 F-35B. Each one cost $295+ million. A capital write-down of $1.8 billion.

    Going to go do the job of an A-10 in a F-35B. Really?

    When is one of those smart air force customers going to persuasively explain the logic here?

  • The Anti-ELP

    Applying the Logic used here, a B-17 cost 200K a B-2 costs 2 billion
    since we can buy 10K B-17s the B-17 is a better weapons system.

  • retired 462

    He’s probably not worried about he cost of them either.

  • johnvarry

    Lots of disinformation being posted here.

    Comments that the F-35 flies like a F-4 Phantom II is absurd. The pilots who fly it compare it to the F-18 Super Hornet in performance.

    The F-35B will also give the USMC a ELINT/ECM/ECCM capability that they do not currently have on the Gators

    USMC does fly F-18’s but not from the Gator carriers which is the whole point of having the B model. The AV-8B received much praise for its performance in both Iraq actions and in Afghanistan. There’s a reason Gators were loaded almost wholly with AV-8B’s and used as Attack carriers during Gulf War I.

    Many aircraft in Gulf War had to fly back to base after mission. USMC AV-8’s were able to land right behind front lines on highways and rearm and refuel and be back on station within minutes.

    The ability to forward base close air support 10 min away rather than at a airbase or carrier 45min away makes all the difference in the world to the boots on the ground.

    While the USMC praises the F-35B for is stealth that is not their primary concern. The USMC desperately needs a aircraft capable of replacing the aging AV-8B Harriers in the combat air patrol, close air support, escort, and recon roles while flying from the Gators.

    The Gator fleets don’t usually operate with the CVN fleets. That is why Gators with AV-8B Harriers were the assets on hand for the Libya mission and is why AV-8B’s were used for SAR missions into Libya.

    When a A-10 can land and take off from a Gator then maybe it will be relevant to compare the A-10 to the capabilities of a F-35B.

    Last I heard the UK had decided to go back to F-35B’s due to cost to refit Queen Elizabeth as a CATOBAR carrier were much higher than predicted originally.

    Comments the USMC should drop the F-35B in place of F-35C’s are spoken by people who have no comprehension of the aviation needs of the USMC.

  • tee

    We need to Cancel the “Junk Strike Fighter” program, I thought that the F-35A could be Salvaged but after reading “Reduced F-35 performance specifications may have significant operational impact” on “Flight Global” I don’t think so. Here is a Quote from an Experienced Pilot ( . “What an embarrassment, and there will be obvious tactical implications. Having a maximum sustained turn performance of less than 5g is the equivalent of an [McDonnell Douglas] F-4 or an [Northrop] F-5,” another highly experienced fighter pilot says. “[It’s] certainly not anywhere near the performance of most fourth and fifth-generation aircraft.”) Read the rest your self, Not Looking Good.


    ‘http://www.flightglobal.com/news/articles/reduced-f-35-performance-specifications-may-have-significant-operational-impact-381683/

  • PAW

    Fueldraulics was used on the SR-71. It saves weight but drives complexity in the hydraulic components.

  • Menzie

    “Because of [the F-35B] we’re going from 11 aircraft carriers to 22,” Work said.

    Wait what? Is he referring to Marine VTOL harrier/helo platforms added to the 11 current carriers? If so then we are not going from 11 to 22 we are going from 22 to 22. You mean current use of a harrier makes a marine vtol platform not a carrier until F35’s are embarked on it?
    Or does he mean we are building 11 more carriers to supplement the 11 currently in use/planned? I hope not. Where are we getting the money? MAking a few trillion dollar platinum coins are we?
    So we would go bankrupt just to increase our platforms form 11 to 22? I am leaving while the leaving is good.

    • chad

      The point is that with AV-8B’s the capability of those carriers is rather marginal, but with (up to 20, I think, on the new America) F-35B’s, they would be far more useful.

    • tiger

      Actually we have 10 CVN’s in service & 1 building (Gerald Ford ). CVN 71 is IN the yards for refuel & overhaul till mid 2013.

  • Barry

    Why are we surrounded by so many wimps. It’s time to face the fact: the emperor has no clothes. The program is a failure. Throwing good money after bad will not recover or justify the sunk cost. Time to kiss those $50 billion good-bye and start fresh on new programs. Tweak existing systems to the max. If you want an STOVL, design one from the ground up. If you want an F-16 replacement, or a carrier plane, ditto. Reset the procurement system. Beginning with firing a hell of a lot of useless brass at the Pentagon.

    • eaglemmoomin
      • Barry

        Precisely my point. The F-35 is a poster boy (girl?) for our dysfunctional procurement culture. What you outline as the alternative is unacceptable. Ten or 20 years to turn this mess around? What are you, a fatalist or a proponent of big government? We need more accountability and more productivity from our government; we must demand it. But, if you’re just going to smugly shrug, like the rest of the trolls on this thread, then you, too, are part of the problem, not part of the solution. We can do better, and we must do better. Cancel the F-35!

  • Tribulationtime

    The Under secretary knows things we don´t ( I hope). Stealth is the Sin and the Gift of Lighting II so if in the next war stealth don´t give a full advantage they are chunk. No further discussion is relevant. And I´m not qualified to tell if is more a sin than a gift .

  • Will Leach

    Just an observation in regards to FOBs, it seems like much of the discussion revolves around a false dichotomy between VTOL and long perfectly paved runways. What ever happened to conventional STOL? As many have noted, FOB are going to be getting supplies somehow, either by way of road, rough airfield, or helicopter. In any case, the size of the logistical footprint will probably be related inversely to how forward the base is, otherwise how is it an FOB? And if the base has a road or rough airfield, couldnt an easy to repair and maintain plane like the A-10 land on such a surface? If the base is supplied only by air drop of helo wouldnt the footprint, loiter time and sortie rate of a helocopter be better than an advanced VTOL jet? Granted the helo wont help much in terms of air superiority, but will a few F-35 with the limited resources available in BFE be able to provide round the clock air superiority anyways?

    There is a similar issue with the Gators. Will the F-35s on a Gator or similar craft be able to independently provide air superiority as well as suffecient CAS? If not, then why not go with helos? In any case, is turning an amphibius craft into a carrier good for taking pot shots at easy targets? Doesnt going this route really lower the amphibius potential of such ships?

    On a broader note, we have spent what, 50 to 100 billion dollars on this thing right? There is plenty of reason to expect the lifetime cost of the F-35 to be upwards of a trillion dollars. Knowing more about the likely performance and cost of the Lightning II than we ever had, and being only 5 -10 percent of the way into our planned investment, isnt this exactly the time to bail out if this is isnt the right plane? Can someone please explain fo me why we shouldnt think long and hard about continuing this program, and without reliance on buzzwords?

    Defend the plane all you want, thats fine, its part of a discussion thats important to civilian oversight and national defense. But please dont pretend the conversation is over, or not worth having. After all, do you really want to defend a plane on the basis of not wasting investment? Wouldnt all that investment, if worthwhile, have given us technology and lessons for the future?

    • Will Leach
      • The Anti-ELP

        Will I have the same issue here frequently. My thinking is that opinions that are not shared by the host are usually blocked/banned/ deleted. Thats why it seems like there is no pro F-35 crowd. the descent is blocked. If you can see this say something.

    • JohnB

      In terms of national security, the best thing by far would be to terminate the program and consider the lost money as R&D investments. The most likely outcome is that the services will buy a few hundred units, and then terminate the program. I believe that one of the reasons the DoD-LM relationship is so bad, and every negotiation takes an eternity, is that they all know that there will never be any 2,500-something orders – one thousand at most, probably way less.

      With the F-22, next-gen bomber and UCLASS, there’s no critical need for an F-35 low observable light bomb truck. The program can be terminated pretty much without consequences, like when the Army cancelled FCS. USAF har already decided on teen-series life-extension and upgrade, and if necessary they could manufacture a few hundred F-22 as a stop-gap measure. The USAF tactical stragegists should develop a future integrated swarm concept; getting themselves on top of the curve.

  • Roy Smith
  • Kevin

    I have a question. Its my impression that the -35 is designed to replace the f-15 e model and the -22 is designed to replace the f-15 c model. What if we just built entirely new f-15’s and -16 and a-10’s? Slowly build new ones and slowly replace the current ones we have. I guess it would be way too expensive but if you did it over time it wouldn’t be that bad. I don’t much about this kind of stuff though.

    • Will Leach
  • jack

    Why is he worried it’s only more of the taxpayer dollars being spent on this endless money pit of a program.