100TH F-35 BEING BUILT, NONE YET OPERATIONAL
In January, the Lockheed Martin production facility in Fort Worth, Texas, reported it was well along "in the final phase of building the wings" of the 100th F-35 constructed by the Bethesda, Maryland, company. Of the first 99 F-35s, none is yet operational.
The F-35 isn't even close to fully operational -- it can fly only on sunny days. It can't fly at night. And it can't fly in clouds or near lightning. We know this because the Pentagon tells us so, in a report written for the Secretary of Defense by the Director of Operational Test and Evaluation, J. Michael Gilmore, dated February 15, 2013.
Although some media hyped the report as a "leaked document," Gilmore clearly expected the report would become public, since he included a description of its wide distribution within the government, concluding with the reminder: "By law, I must provide Congress with any test-related material it requests."
By March 5, Gilmore's report was on the internet and giving the Canadian government pause about buying the plane at all. Of the other ten countries partnering in F-35 development, Italy has already reduced the number of planes it will eventually buy. Norway, Turkey, and others are also having second thoughts -- as is even the U.S. Leahy indicates in his letter that "the jet is too costly to proceed
with purchases at today's planned levels," which are about 2,400 planes at a currently projected cost of $120 million each, give or take $30 million.
Gilmore's report covers the F-35 training program at Eglin Air Force Base in Florida for two months in the fall of 2012, a program originally scheduled to begin in August 2011, but the F-35 wasn't ready then. Even a year later, the training program "was limited by the current restrictions of the aircraft." The program partially trained 4 pilots in 46 days.
IF THE PILOT CAN EJECT, HE'LL BE LUCKY NOT TO DROWN
The report's executive summary gives a sense of what some of the "current restrictions" of the F-35 are: