MCAS, YUMA- In late August the Marine Corps declared the F-35 ready for combat. The program experienced years of delays and is currently billions of dollars over budget. One of the key deciding factors in declaring the joint strike fighter ready for combat was a test done aboard the U.S.S. Wasp called ‘Operational Test One’.
“It was not a test, it was a demonstration,” Dan Grazier, a former Marine and member of a government watchdog group said. “Pretty much they just wanted pictures of the F35 taking off an aircraft carrier.”
The Project on Government Oversight, otherwise known as POGO secured the results from Operational Test One through a Freedom of Information request. The detailed report admits the exercise was not a test because it did not mimic real life scenarios. Furthermore the results from Operational Test One found the F35 was not effective and could not be used in any type of limited combat operations.
Mandy Smithberger with POGO says if these jets are taken into combat, our pilots could be in danger. “The Marine Corps declaring the F35 ready for combat was merely a PR exercise.” Smithberger says ideally when jets are taken into combat they need to be ready to go about 80-percent of the time, during this test they were having trouble getting them to work 50 percent of the time.
“And there have been even new tests that have come out that say there are problems with the ejection seat,” she added. “Pilot under a certain weight are at risk of death if they try and eject.”
For Grazier his concern is also the pilots. He maintains because the Lightning II cannot fly enough to be tested, our pilots are at a disadvantage and their training will suffer. “I spent 10 and a half years of my life in uniform, I get no satisfaction in criticizing the Marine Corps,” he said. “These pilots are not going to be trained, god forbid they have to go up against an opponent, they are not going to be as good.”
In total the F35 program is billions over budget and will in total cost tax payers more than a trillion dollars, and POGO says the problems are nowhere near being fixed. Reports suggest the F35 has problems with taking off, landing, flying in general, navigation, weapons systems and the multitudes of computers on board make it vulnerable to being hacked.
“The reason people should care about this is because we are putting our pilots in danger,” Smitheberger stated. “It is time to tell Congress to slow this program down.”
For Grazier he feels it is now his duty to protect his brothers and sisters in uniform.
“I still have a lot of friends in the Marine Corps, some who may have to fly this plane. If I can help out by bringing this issue to light then I am going to do that, I will not stop.”