Connect with us

Hi, what are you looking for?

Smart Bombs: Military, Defense and National Security

F-35 Joint Program Office: Hardware Issues Related to Crash are Secret

F-35A In Flight
A U.S. Air Force pilot navigates an F-35A Lightning II aircraft assigned to the 58th Fighter Squadron, 33rd Fighter Wing into position to refuel with a KC-135 Stratotanker assigned to the 336th Air Refueling Squadron over the northwest coast of Florida May 16, 2013. The F-35 Integrated Training Center was established at Eglin Air Force Base and was responsible for conducting student pilot training and maintainer training for Airmen, Marines and Sailors responsible for the aircraft.

A lot is known about the Lockheed Martin F-35 Lightning II Joint Strike Fighter, but many of its details will remain very much shrouded in mystery. This week the action to correct hardware issues that contributed to the crash of a single-engine F-35A Lightning II that was part of the 58th Fighter Squadron, 33rd Fighter Wing in May will remain a secret. The F-35 Joint Program Office announced the decision on Monday.

“Explicit details related to corrective actions have the potential to compromise operational security,” a JPO spokeswoman told Air Force magazine, without elaborating.

What the JPO did confirm is that it participates in accident investigations and works to identify “corrective actions and evaluates, prioritizes and incorporates those actions into aircraft maintenance and production procedures.” The “safety of the flights” also remains the highest priority “in the adjudication of corrective actions” for the fifth-generation advanced stealth fighter aircraft.

The JPO offices also noted that there are now 585 F-35s in service around the world, and those aircraft have accumulated more than 335,000 safe flying hours. The Lockheed Martin-built fighter is also safe to fly while the JPO determines and implements corrective measures.

In addition to the necessary corrections to the aircraft’s “secret sauce,” what isn’t known is who will bear the responsibility for any hardware deficiencies or who will pay to correct those issues. As Air Force magazine also reported, it would be somewhat unusual for the U.S. government not to reveal the correct measures required when a military aircraft crashes due to hardware and software deficiencies, even if just in part.

What is known, based on the accident investigation board (AIB) report, which was released early last month, is that the F-35 crashed in May mainly because the pilot had incorrectly set a “speed hold” that was too high during the landing process. However, a number of other issues with the Joint Strike Fighter have been identified by the AIB that may have contributed to the crash. Those included issues with the helmet-mounted display, the jet’s oxygen system and even ineffective simulator training, which differed from what would be experienced by the pilot in similar conditions.

Other problems included a delayed response to the pilot’s commands to raise the nose, as well as flight control software that reportedly overrode those commands. The mishap pilot, along with other pilots who have flown the F-35, have also reported that the aircraft’s life support system requires the pilot to work too hard to breathe and that can result in a “cognitive degradation” and lead to fatigue during the mission.

While the F-35 is one of the most advanced fighters in the world, it isn’t reportedly easy to make an instrument landing approach and the life support system could have made the landing “more challenging.” The pilot’s report suggested the jet was physically “draining” to fly has been corroborated by “emerging research,” the AIB found.

“There appears to be a physiological toll taken on the pilot’s cognitive capacities as a result of breathing through the on-demand oxygen system,” the AIB noted.

The JPO declined to comment when the report was released and referred questions back to Air Education and Training Command (AETC), which was the AIB convening authority. AETC has since referred queries back to the JPO as it is responsible for necessary changes to the aircraft’s hardware. It seems that this could just remain another secret of the F-35.

Peter Suciu is a Michigan-based writer who has contributed to more than four dozen magazines, newspapers and websites. He is the author of several books on military headgear including A Gallery of Military Headdress, which is available on

Written By

Expert Biography: A Senior Editor for 1945, Peter Suciu is a Michigan-based writer who has contributed to more than four dozen magazines, newspapers, and websites with over 3,000 published pieces over a twenty-year career in journalism. He regularly writes about military hardware, firearms history, cybersecurity, and international affairs. Peter is also a Contributing Writer for Forbes. You can follow him on Twitter: @PeterSuciu.



  1. D Y

    November 26, 2020 at 7:19 pm

    This is already doomed to be a disaster.

    Mandating a specific cartridge results in the complete elimination of revolutionary improvement and advancement. See the M1 Garand or M14 for examples of where government mandates have stifled improvements. Not that they aren’t fine rifles…but the cartridges and features of said weapons were dictated, when the weapons could have been even better. I’d throw the M17/19 pistols in there too, but I guess we don’t want to argue about how the US is about the only military on the planet who can’t train troops to keep their fingers off the trigger of a Glock. But those would be the same people pushing the 6.8, and the same people that conspired to keep the US Military using metal magazines when they knew full well the polymer variants worked better.

    If SIG can push their hybrid cartridge to 80,000PSI, using a non-scientific comparison, it could be possible to reduce the size of the cartridge 25% while keeping current performance. That alone would be massive. But no, we REQUIRE a bigger cartridge (with worse ballistics than a smaller projectile), which necessitates a larger firearm, and bulkier/heavier loads for troops.

    Let’s force industry to use a round that was designed 18 years ago (with Remington no less, where are they now? Lol), and does nothing to take advantage of modern projectile designs. 6.8 is akin to round nose 30-03 loads. 6 or 6.5mm rounds make far more sense today than 6.8. There are about HALF as many .277 (6.8spc bullet diameter) bullets on the market compared to 6 or 6.5MM bullets

    An unaerodynamic bullet does NOTHING to ensure commonality between rifles and the SAW, while being effective against soft targets. Just by looking at the SPC you can see that it is severely lacking in the technology that has given rise to rounds such as the 6.5 Grendel and 6MM ARC. Now imagine if the gloves came off and the government just told industry the expectations, and let industry cone up with a solution? Instead, we are theoretically going to be stuck with a round that was designed upon the magazine and rifle limitations of the M16,tracing its roots back to the 1950s. How are we going to move forward with thinking like this.

  2. William Nichols

    November 26, 2020 at 11:23 pm

    The author obviously didn’t do much research on the cartridge other than reading what others have posted videos or articles online. The cartridge is a 6.8×51 and is significantly lighter than the 7.62×51 although slightly heavier than the 5.56×45. However each of the NGSW (SAW replacement) weapons being tested is around 9-11lbs lighter than the most stripped down M240. The NGSAR w/ suppressor (carbine/rifle) is in similar weight to a M4 standard issue with optics but no suppressor.

  3. Curtis Conway

    December 22, 2020 at 11:18 am

    Interesting comments on the Joint Strike Fighter!

    • AZ Gunslinger

      December 23, 2020 at 11:59 am

      Curtis, I had the same thought. BTW, I’ve been wondering why the F-35 doesn’t just go with the ubiquitous 9mm cartridge.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.