Oct 11, 2013
Cracks found in F-35B test model
The discovery will have no impact on flights occurring on any of the three F-35 variants, but will require that the test model be shut down for two to four months while inspectors look at the issue.
The cracks appeared after more than 9,400 equivalent flight hours, or roughly 17 years of flight time. The F-35 program of record requires a lifecycle of 8,000 hours per plane; the test vehicle will eventually go through a simulation of two lifetimes, or 16,000 hours.
In other words, while the cracks are hardly a good thing, this was a problem discovered after extensive stress testing designed to find such problems. That said, a fix will need to be introduced into the production line, as well as added to previously produced models.
About 50 of the F-35Bs will require retrofitted bulkhead repairs.
The F-35B will be used primarily by the US Marine Corps, which have targeted July 2015 for Initial Operational Capacity (IOC). That IOC date will not be impacted by this issue.