Here’s something the public didn’t know until today: If one of the U.S. military’s new F-35 stealth fighters has to climb at a steep angle in order to dodge an enemy attack, design flaws mean the plane might suddenly tumble out of control and crash.
Also, some versions of the F-35 can’t accelerate to supersonic speed without melting their own tails or shedding the expensive coating that helps to give the planes their radar-evading qualities.
The Pentagon’s $400-billion F-35 Joint Strike Fighter program, one of the biggest and most expensive weapons programs in history, has come under fire, so to speak, over more than a decade for delays, rising costs, design problems and technical glitches.
But startling reports by trade publication Defense News on Wednesday revealed flaws that previously only builder Lockheed Martin, the military, and the plane’s foreign buyers knew about.
The newly-exposed problems underscore the potential fragility of American air power as the armed services work to replace more and more old fighters with as many as 2,300 F-35s while also reconfiguring to confront the increasingly deadly Chinese and Russian air forces.
The problems might also help to explain why acting defense secretary Patrick Shanahan reportedly described the F-35 program as “fucked up.”
Defense News obtained military documents detailing a wide range of serious problems with two of the three versions of the F-35. The Air Force’s F-35A appears to be exempt from the latest flaws, but the Marine Corps’ vertical-landing F-35B and the Navy’s carrier-compatible F-35C both suffer what the services call “category 1” deficiencies. (In military parlance, a category 1 flaw in a plane can prevent a pilot from accomplishing their mission.)
The F-35 program and the office of the secretary of defense did not respond to requests for comment.
One problem cropped up during test flights in 2011, Defense News reported, citing the trove of military documents. In the 2011 tests, at least one F-35B and F-35C both flew at speeds of Mach 1.3 and Mach 1.4. A post-flight inspection in November 2011 revealed the F-35B sustained “bubbling [and] blistering” of its stealth coating.
Further supersonic tests in December 2011 revealed structural damage on an F-35C resulting from the extreme heat coming from the plane’s single Pratt & Whitney engine, one of the most powerful fighter engines ever made.
To avoid similar damage, the military has limited F-35B and F-35C pilots to flying at supersonic speed for less than a minute at a time.
But that could make it impossible for aviators to keep up with, or avoid, Russian and Chinese fighters flying faster than the speed of sound without any restrictions. “It is infeasible for the Navy or Marine Corps to operate the F-35 against a near-peer threat under such restrictions,” Defense News paraphrased the documents as saying.
The test reports Defense News obtained also reveal a second, previously little-known category 1 deficiency in the F-35B and F-35C aircraft. If during a steep climb the fighters exceed a 20-degree “angle of attack”—the angle created by the wing and the oncoming air—they could become unstable and potentially uncontrollable.
To prevent a possible crash, pilots must avoid steeply climbing and other hard maneuvers. “Fleet pilots agreed it is very difficult to max perform the aircraft” in those circumstances, Defense News quoted the documents as saying.
The implications are chilling. In a dogfight with a Russian or Chinese jet that can exceed a 20-degree angle of attack, an American flying and F-35 could be at a serious disadvantage.
The revelation of the two performance flaws comes at a critical time for the 18-year-old F-35 program. Pentagon officials plan to declare an end to the testing phase of the F-35’s development sometime in late 2019 and clear the fighter for mass production.
The stealth fighter enjoys strong support from Congress, owing in part to the thousands of jobs the JSF program sustains, albeit at a cost of around $10 billion a year to U.S. taxpayers. In anticipation of a green light for mass production, the Pentagon and Lockheed in early June reached an informal agreement on a $34-billion deal for 470 F-35s.
The Air Force told The Daily Beast it is confident in its own version of the F-35. “Fielding and deployment plans for the F-35 have not changed,” the Air Force’s Air Combat Command said in a statement. “The F-35 plays an essential role in U.S. air combat superiority and we are highly confident in its capabilities and performance.”
The military and Lockheed have identified possible fixes to all the problems Defense News revealed. A new coating could minimize heat damage. Better flight-control software could mitigate the risk of a crash during hard maneuvers. “We expect this item to be resolved or downgraded,” Greg Ulmer, a Lockheed vice president, told Defense News in reference to crash risk.
But if the program doesn’t apply the fixes before F-35 production picks up, it’s possible the deficiencies will become “baked in” on scores or even hundreds of F-35s. Retroactively fixing deficient jets could cost billions of dollars.
To a great extent, the damage is done. Owing to the Pentagon’s controversial decision to manufacture F-35s while still testing them, Lockheed has delivered around 400 early-model F-35s to the U.S. Air Force, Navy and Marine Corps and to U.S. allies such as the United Kingdom and Israel.
The Air Force, Marines, and Israel have already deployed their F-35s in combat against lightly-armed militant groups.
More than 100 of those early F-35s are B-models that cannot safely fly fast or maneuver hard. They’ll need fixing. It won’t be cheap. The military was already spending billions of dollars modifying older F-35s. That bill could grow to cover the flaws Defense News revealed.
Fixes could take a while. “The services will have to wait five years or more to get a fully functional aircraft, if they ever do,” Dan Grazier, an analyst with the Project on Government Oversight in Washington, D.C., told The Daily Beast.
In the meantime, the armed services possess scores of F-35s they cannot safely send into high-tech combat, according to Grazier. “The program is definitely not ready for active service.”
80 Million Stimulus Check Direct Deposits Have Been Processed. When Will They Arrive?
Americans will start to see their stimulus payments this week, a centerpiece of the $2.2 trillion rescue package meant to provide a buffer against the coronavirus pandemic that’s shuttered much of the U.S. economy.
The Internal Revenue Service has begun sending $1,200 payments to middle and lower income adults, plus $500 for their minor children, though it could take until September for every eligible person to get the money.
The first payments “should be deposited directly into individuals’ bank accounts; the precise date you will see payments in your account depends on how long individual banks typically take to process direct deposits,” according to a press release from House Ways and Means Committee Republicans.
The IRS will first send the money to individuals for whom the agency has direct deposit information. The remainder will be mailed as checks. That process is expected to begin April 20 but could take until the fall to complete.
The IRS processed more than 80 million payments on Friday that should be available in bank accounts early this week, Sunita Lough, the IRS deputy commissioner for services and enforcement, said in a video conference Monday.
Payments will be made first to those earning the least.
The IRS has launched a tool for non-tax filers, such as those who had income under $12,200 last year and weren’t required to file a federal return, to enter direct deposit information to get their payments.
The agency plans to have a second website up by April 17 that will show people the status of their payments, including the date the money is scheduled to be deposited or mailed. That tool will also let people who’ve typically gotten their tax refund in the mail to provide their bank account details to get their stimulus payment more quickly.
The IRS is using information from 2018 and 2019 tax returns to process the payments. It says taxpayers who’ve yet to file a return this year should do so as soon as possible, and elect to receive the refund via a direct deposit. The information can then be used to distribute the stimulus payments. Social Security and disability recipients will receive their payments automatically.
The tax deadline was extended to July 15 from April 15 to give people more time to file and pay during the pandemic.
Taxpayers who don’t need extra time and who expect to get a stimulus payment should file as soon as possible so the agency has their most up-to-date details on file, said Christina Taylor, head of operations for Credit Karma Tax.
“The quicker, the better,” she said.
Americans earning $75,000 or less, or $150,000 and below as a couple, are eligible for the full $1,200 payout per adult, plus $500 for each child under 17. Those amounts are reduced for people with higher incomes, and people who make $99,000 or more in earnings (or $198,000 for a couple) get nothing, even if they have children. Individuals must have a Social Security number to receive a payment.
A Case of Hantavirus Has Been Reported in China. Here’s Why You Shouldn’t Worry.
A man who died in China Monday reportedly tested positive for a hantavirus, but that doesn’t necessarily mean you should worry another pandemic is coming…
A man who died in China Monday reportedly tested positive for a hantavirus, but that doesn’t necessarily mean you should worry another pandemic is coming.
Hantaviruses are a family of virus that spread through rodents, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
In Yunnan Province, a man died on his way back to Shandong Province, according to Global Times, an English-language Chinese news outlet.
“He was tested positive for #hantavirus. Other 32 people on bus were tested,” the news outlet tweeted.
The tweet, sent amid a pandemic caused by a new coronavirus, has been shared more than 15,000 times.
Though countries across the globe are on high alert due to uncertainty around the coronavirus, there is no indication that the hantavirus poses a global public health threat.
According to the CDC, hantavirus cases are rare, and they spread as a result of close contact with rodent urine, droppings or saliva.
Certain kinds of rats and mice in the United States can carry the virus, which is transmitted when someone breathes in contaminated air.
“The hantaviruses that cause human illness in the United States cannot be transmitted from one person to another,” the CDC says on its website. Rare cases in Chile and Argentina have seen person-to-person transmission when a person is in close contact with someone sickened by a type of hantavirus called Andes virus, the CDC says.
In the U.S., the virus can cause hantavirus pulmonary syndrome, a severe respiratory disease that can be fatal. Symptoms include fatigue, fever, muscle aches, headaches, dizziness, chills, and abdominal problems. Coughing and shortness of breath can occur later in the disease as the lungs fill with liquid, the CDC says,
Hemorrhagic fever with renal syndrome, found mostly in Europe and Asia, can also occur, which causes pain, fever, chills, nausea, and blurred vision, the CDC says. More serious symptoms include acute kidney failure.
Cases in the United States have typically been concentrated in the western and southwestern states.
From 1993 to 2017, there were only 728 confirmed hantavirus cases in the United States, with most being non-fatal, according to CDC data. In comparison, since late January, when the first known coronavirus case was identified in the U.S., there have been 46,805 confirmed coronavirus cases nationwide, according to a Johns Hopkins University tracker.
In May 1993, a hantavirus outbreak occurred in an area between Arizona, New Mexico, Colorado and Utah. A 2012 outbreak in Yosemite sickened 10 people. In seven states, 17 people were infected in a 2017 outbreak.
Amber Guyger Guilty of Murdering Black Neighbor Botham Jean in His Own Home
A former police officer who argued she had a right to use lethal force when she killed an innocent man after mistakenly entering his apartment has been convicted of murder.
Amber Guyger faces a lengthy prison sentence after a jury found her guilty of the murder of Botham Jean in Dallas on 6 September last year – a verdict Jean family attorneys hailed as a significant moment in the battle to hold police accountable.
Guyger is white. Jean was black.
Standing in a packed hallway outside the courtroom in Dallas, attorney Lee Merritt told reporters the ruling was “a huge victory not only for the family of Botham Jean, but as his mother, Allison, told us a moment ago, this is a victory for black people in America”.
He said: “It is a signal that the tide is going to change here, [that] police officers are going to be held accountable for their actions.”
Merritt said the community should not have had to wait “on pins and needles” for the conviction of someone who killed a man who was “completely non-aggressive, sitting at home eating a bowl of ice cream and someone barged into his home and shot him to death.”
He added: “This should have been automatic, anticipated, expected, but it is extremely rare. From this day forward we are pushing so that it’s not rare.”
The jury began deliberating on Monday afternoon and reached a verdict on Tuesday morning, with sentencing to follow. Guyger pleaded not guilty. In Texas, murder usually carries a sentence of five to 99 years in prison but judge Tammy Kemp had allowed the jury to consider convicting the lesser charge of manslaughter.
Jurors, however, decided that Guyger had committed murder.
Ben Crump, a lawyer for the Jean family, told NBC local news, said: “Thank God, finally America saw the humanity of an unarmed black man who was killed in an unjustifiable way and they returned a verdict that is befitting the criminal, cowardly act of this woman, killing Botham Jean in his own apartment.”
Crump added in a press conference: “This is a precedent now that will go forth across America for equal justice for everybody.”
He said the incident underscores the need for better police training and that the verdict was for “so many unarmed black and brown human beings all across America” who died in interactions with police.
Jean, a 26-year-old accountant, had settled down on his couch to watch television and eat some vanilla ice cream when Guyger entered his home. She claimed she mistakenly believed it was hers and thought he was an intruder.
Kemp controversially allowed the jury to consider whether Guyger’s conduct could be justified under Texas’s so-called “castle doctrine”. Expanded in 2007, it is comparable to “stand your ground” laws in other states and allows a civilian to use deadly force if he or she “reasonably believes … [it] is immediately necessary” in certain circumstances, such as during a burglary.
Though Jean was on his own property and Guyger the intruder, seemingly inverting the intent of the law, her attorneys argued she made a “mistake of fact” when she went to the wrong home, making her subsequent conduct reasonable. They said she was tired after a long day and many other residents had found themselves at the wrong unit in the past because signage was unclear and floors looked similar.
“She made a series of horrible mistakes,” Toby Shook, one of her attorneys, said. “The law recognises that mistakes can be made.”
Prosecutors said it was “absurd” to believe the 31-year-old’s “commando-style” behaviour was reasonable, especially given her training as a police officer and status as a more than four-year veteran of the department.
They noted that Guyger failed to retreat and call for back-up, questioned the veracity of her claim to have given Jean verbal commands before firing, and pointed out that after calling 911 she appeared to provide only limited medical assistance as Jean, who was from St Lucia, lay dying from a chest wound.
Rather than feeling tired, prosecutors alleged, she was distracted because she had been “sexting” a colleague. Jean had a bright red mat in front of his door that ought to have been impossible to miss.
Guyger – who was fired by Dallas police – wept while testifying.
“I was scared this person inside my apartment was going to kill me,” she said. “I ask God for forgiveness and I hate myself every single day. I feel like a piece of crap.”
In closing statements, Jason Fine, a prosecutor, called most of her testimony “garbage”. Fine said Jean did not act in a threatening manner, but started to stand up “like a normal reasonable person who has somebody busting into his home, and before he can even get up he is shot dead in his own home.
“Killing this man was unnecessary and unreasonable from start to finish.”
Special security measures were put in place during the trial. Jean’s death sparked protests and demands for justice from activists who cited it as one of a long line of racially charged shootings by a police department that lacks accountability. Though she was off duty, Guyger was still in uniform and used her service weapon when she encountered Jean.
Critics of the department have also claimed Guyger was given preferential treatment. It emerged during the trial that the head of the Dallas Police Association told another officer to shut off an audio-visual recording system inside a patrol car so that he could have a private conversation with Guyger soon after the shooting.
She still faces a civil lawsuit brought by Jean’s family.
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