F-35 Funnies

Maybe I should start a trend: when I’m sad or lonely, I can just google “F-35 problem” and I’ll be laughing until it hurts in no time.

First off, let me just clear this up: propaganda displays of military aircraft flying over stadiums or cities is a really bad idea. They’re nowhere near as reliable as commercial aircraft and they’re expensive. It’s also really distasteful. Consider that most of the world’s experience of an American aircraft flying over ends in dust, screams, and blood, there’s something inherently sick about treating fly-overs as entertainment.


The Air Force F-35 jet team that performs at air shows around the world has had to scale back appearances this year. The problem: a growing shortage of engines because of longer repair periods, some due to previously unreported shortcomings with engine blade coatings.

The Air Combat Command that controls the F-35 demonstration team late last month cut the number of 2021 shows by eight performances, or about one-third, to ensure the flying doesn’t aggravate a worsening service-wide shortage of Raytheon Technologies Corp. engines.

The engines on A-model F-35s have been running “hot,” or close to the limits of their design, and that heat has caused premature cracks, or delamination, of turbine blade coatings. That’s required the engines to be removed or repaired earlier than anticipated, aggravating an already backlogged depot system. The cracks in the coating aren’t a flight safety issue, but they reduce an engine’s useful life, said a defense official.

Every single military aircraft expert I’ve read anything from, says the F-35’s single-engine ‘overclocked’ design is a bad idea. They put so much crap in the plane and then couldn’t get the performance even close to the original specs so “let’s just run the engine harder!” gets it closer to the specs. Remember, this was originally going to be a stealth first strike fighter that could “supercruise” onto a target from a long distance. Instead it turned out to be a short-legged overly wing-loaded aircraft in search of a mission – it’s not a fighter, it’s not close-support, it’s not a bomber – it’s an F-35! It’s the best F-35 at F-35ing that anyone has ever spent a trillion dollars for.

And now it’s not even a good fly-over demo plane.

The engine issues are also under review by congressional auditors.

“We are currently writing a report that discusses engine problems – among others,” Diana Maurer, a Government Accountability Office director, who oversees the agency’s work on defense maintenance and sustainment, said in an email. “The engine sustainment problems are potentially so significant that we broke off a separate review just to focus on what DoD is doing to address them.”

“yup, just click on the wing and then ‘delete’ – when it asks if you’re sure, say OK”

The next bit of F-35 comedy gold is that the control software and inventory software is a mess. I wrote about that before [stderr] there is a logistical tracking system that monitors performance and flight hours, part replacement and the location of parts (i.e.: it tells American spies exactly where every F-35 is and what it’s been up to, lately) – the original version was so bad that the Air Force started a whole parallel implementation by a bunch of enthusiastic amateurs that was going to be a whole lot better. The unexpected, shocking news is that – that hasn’t worked. So now the Air Force is turning to the computer science departments at some universities. [bloomberg]

The Pentagon has tapped the software expertise of three top U.S. universities to assess what still must be done to fix balky software on Lockheed Martin Corp.’s F-35, the costliest U.S. weapons system.

An independent technical assessment is being executed by software subject matter experts from the Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Lab, the Carnegie Mellon University Software Engineering Institute, and the Georgia Tech Research Institute, according to F-35 program spokeswoman Laura Seal.

The F-35 is a flying computer. Each of the fighter jets made by Bethesda, Maryland-based Lockheed will have more than 8 million lines of code, more than any previous U.S. or allied fighter, and software flaws have bedeviled the $398 billion program.

Picture me recoiling in horror. I spent a year as a consultant to the database research group at University of Maryland under Dr Nick R. whose group did a lot of implementation consulting for NASA and other government agencies. I know how that sort of project goes – it’s not the kind of design work and system engineering that results in good code. Throwing consultants at an expensive disaster results in a bigger, more expensive disaster.

“It’s a flying computer.” Said as though they just figured that out. Wow.

I predict there will never be a stream of F-35 LOL-memes.


  1. cartomancer says

    Have they thought about maybe just scrapping the plane entirely and spending the money saved on bribing enemy forces into submission?

  2. sonofrojblake says

    My local paragliding club had a talk about a year ago from BAe’s chief test pilot, a man with a long career who has flown more kinds of aircraft than most, and who had VERY complimentary things to say about the F-15 and the Typhoon. He’d been invited by our chairman, who also works for BAe and has worked on the F-35. Someone asked Test Pilot Chap about the F-35 (a plane he has had some dealings with, although his “everyday ride” as he put it) and what he thought of it. It’s fair to say that his answer was very… diplomatic.

  3. says


    I brought that up in the comments of one of the previous stderr articles on F-35 follies.

    None of this is to say that the F-22 was working super well, but it did seem to me, from what little I knew, that keeping the airframe and redesigning the stealth coatings and whatever else was too maintenance-intensive would have been vastly cheaper than designing a new plane from the ground up.


    On that previous F-35 follies comment thread, you discussed the possibility of writing a future post on stealth coatings (including some tidbits on their survivability/maintenance requirements). If you did write that post, I didn’t notice it. I’d be happy if you would provide a pointer to the article (if extant) or, if you’ve yet to write it, I’ll just point out that there’s still interest in the topic from one of your readers.

  4. komarov says

    Tangentially related, in the category of axes to grind, subcategory fly-overs: “Captain Tom” Moore, the hundred-year old Brit who raised millions for the NHS, recently died, so the BBC had a recap of his last year including his 100th birthday. Eager to cash in on some good public relations (said the cynic) the govenrment jumped on the opportunity when Moore became a celebrity. The chap was knighted (good for him) and – this was news to me – the RAF apparently organised a fly-over in honour of his birthday.

    It’s very flattering, I’m sure, but at the same time it boggles my mind. Here’s a private citizen who somehow managed to raise a lot of cash for the overstressed, underpaid NHS workers in the middle of a horribly mismanaged pandemic. The NHS famously being a government organisation. And the current government being lead by an idiot who famously toured the country with a “350 million pounds per week for the NHS” slogan to make the Brexit catastrophy sound more appealing. The same idiot who is also very much responsible for the pandemic mismanagement. This very prime minister, government and their armed forced aparently got it into their heads that a good reaction to such an astounding act of charity would be to piss away at least as much money on a fly-over instead of, oh, maybe adding it to the pile.

    Tangential, I warned you. May also cure your laughter-til-it-hurts. Incompetent governance is as depressing as it is common-place.

  5. Who Cares says

    Remember, this was originally going to be a stealth first strike fighter that could “supercruise” onto a target from a long distance.

    Wasn’t it not also supposed to be capable of doing that as a VTOL plane? Or did they remove that after they realized that tacking that onto all the other conflicting demands would mean they’d have a better chance at creating a working Macross/Robotech mecha then a functional plane?

  6. sonofrojblake says

    It better be capable of VTOL, or at the very least VSTOL, because otherwise our government is going to look VERY silly when the aircraft carriers we bought (which can’t launch or retrieve conventional fighter-bombers) don’t have working aircraft to carry. I mean – we’ve bought the carriers already and don’t have the planes yet, which is embarrassing enough, but it’ll be even worse if they never turn up.

  7. bmiller says

    Aging empires with such a creaking superstructure of corrupt and ravenous parasites are never a source of good engineering. Meanwhile, the Chinese are building ports and rail lines and even cities (even if the quality of construction is awful).

  8. says

    There are currently 3 basic models of the F35:

    The A, which is the conventional takeoff model designed for use from conventional airfields. The A is what the Royal Canadian Air Force will buy if the F35 is chosen to replace our CF18 fleet.

    The B, which is the short takeoff, vertical landing (STOVL) model. The UK is supposed to operate it off their carriers.

    The C, which is designed for takeoff from aircraft carriers that possess a launch catapult. It has a bigger wing, a stronger tail hook, and strengthened landing gear.

    Israel has the I model, which is an A with modified software so it can use Israeli made electronic warfare equipment and weapons.

    It seems unlikely the F35 will be cancelled. 615 have been built, and several hundred more are currently on order. It’s too big to die at this point.

  9. Ketil Tveiten says

    @komarov: to be fair, the Captain Tom flyby was a Spitfire and a Hurricane, so not really a budget-breaker. Boris can still go get fucked, of course.

  10. mailliw says

    Willi Messerschmidt said “it’s easy to design a plane that meets all the requirement of the air ministry, as long as you don’t expect the resulting aircraft to fly”.

  11. cvoinescu says

    @Marcus: “It’s a flying computer.” Said as though they just figured that out. Wow.

    Maybe they could set them up to mine Bitcoin while not flying, to defray some of the cost.

  12. konrad_arflane says

    Consider that most of the world’s experience of an American aircraft flying over ends in dust, screams, and blood, there’s something inherently sick about treating fly-overs as entertainment.

    Yeah. My mom has a plot at a sort of urban farming collective thingy not far from an airport. One day while I was there helping out with something or other, a military transport plane came in fairly low, flanked by two fighters (F-16s, I think). Everybody stopped what they were doing to gape and point at the sky, except one guy, an immigrant, who said “Sure, you guys go “ooh” and “aah”, but back in Afghanistan, we’d shout “Oh shit, run!”

    It’s always nice to have things put in perspective.

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