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“We gotta eject, Mav!!!”

by | Aug 6, 2022 | Office Space | 1 comment

Gentlemen, have any of you ever tried ground turducken? This is a particularly weird kind of “pseudo-roast” that comes from stuffing a deboned chicken into a deboned duck into a deboned turkey. Apparently, this odd concoction is popular in certain parts of America when beef becomes too expensive for many rural stores, restaurants, and cafes.

Personally, I’ve never tried it – I mean, I’ve tried some weird meats in my life (crocodile, kangaroo, and sea cucumber, to name a few), but I’ve never actually tried that.

I have, however, found the concept behind turducken to be of tremendous use in describing the F-35 Joint Strike Flying Piano, because that flying shitheap is basically three concepts and designs shoehorned into one, resulting in an overengineered, extraordinarily expensive, unappetising mess that does nothing particularly well.

Actually, that is rather uncharitable to both the aircraft and its designers. The F-35 does one thing extraordinarily well, and that is: spending eye-watering amounts of money on what essentially amounts to a giant jobs bank to produce a plane that “can’t climb, can’t turn, can’t run“, according to a 2008 RAND Corporation simulation that pitted the Turducken Plane against the Chinese PLA-AF.

Keep in mind, that was FOURTEEN YEARS AGO. Things have gotten… well, worse since then.

You remember that awful moment in TOP GUN when Maverick and Goose had to eject out of their F-14, because they got caught up in Iceman’s jet-wash, and that caused their engines to flame out one after another, thereby leading to an irrecoverable flat spin?

Yeah. That scene. Heartbreaking, ain’t it?

Well, it turns out that the Turducken Plane, on top of the GIANT list of other shit wrong with it, now has issues with some of its ejector seats:

WASHINGTON: The Air Force is grounding the majority of its F-35 Joint Strike Fighter fleet today, due to a faulty component inside its ejection seat that could prevent the pilot from being able to safely egress from the aircraft during an emergency, Breaking Defense has learned.

In response to an inquiry, Air Combat Command spokeswoman Alexi Worley confirmed the temporary standdown of ACC-controlled F-35s.


While ACC controls the majority of operational USAF F-35s, smaller numbers of jets are spread out among other major commands, including  United States Air Forces in Europe (USAFE) and Pacific Air Forces (PACAF). It was not immediately clear if those units would also be standing down their fifth-generation fighters for a safety check.

At issue are cartridge actuated devices — explosive cartridges used inside ejection seats to help propel the seat out of an aircraft during an emergency. According to the Air Force, certain production lots of CADs used in Martin-Baker ejection seats have been identified by the company as being defective and needing replacement.

The Swabbies and Leathernecks joined with the Featherheads shortly thereafter:

WASHINGTON: The US Navy and Marine Corps have quietly been inspecting their F-35 fleets for some time to determine if they are impacted by safety concerns stemming from potentially defective parts on ejection seats, with the Navy saying it completed inspections on July 26.

The issue with the Martin-Baker made ejection seat stems from cartridge actuated devices (CADs) — explosive cartridges used inside ejection seats to help propel the seat out of an aircraft during an emergency. The Navy disclosed earlier this week that certain production lots of CADs used in Martin-Baker ejection seats have been identified by the company as being defective and needing replacement, but had not previously said that the F-35 fleet was considered at potential risk.

Concerns that the ejection seat could imperil pilots have already grounded a number of other naval aviation fleets, as well as the majority of the US Air Force’s F-35 models, as first reported Friday by Breaking Defense.

The situation has not gone unnoticed by America’s allies operating the Turducken Plane either, though they are quite thoroughly split on how to deal with it. The Israelis, who produce probably the only version of the Turducken that actually kind-of-sort-of does what it says on the bloody BOX, the IAI F-35I multi-role fighter, grounded its fleet to inspect the jets for ejector seat issues. The Aussies, however, decided to keep flying the Joint Strike Flopter.

Keep in mind that this is the same jet that once had problems with its ejection mechanism because it was too forceful, thereby ensuring that pilots below a certain weight limit might suffer from snapped necks if they ever had to bail out of the aircraft.

Evidently, the gremlins dancing around this entire project decided to play a neat trick in the other direction, making sure that now, pilots might not be able to eject at all.

The lesson behind the F-35 is a painful one that the US MIC doesn’t seem to learn very well, and it is this:

Don’t rush something mission-critical into production when you haven’t tested and squashed all the serious bugs yet.

For that is, in fact, exactly what happened with the Turducken Plane. Because the F-35 was never intended to be a truly successful combat aircraft, but was instead always intended to be an impossible-to-cancel jobs programme for Lockheed Martin and a vast web of corporate subcontractors and military inspectors, both the company and the military decided to “test in flight” – which is to say, produce the plane and then see what happened.

This is kind of how the Italians used to build sports cars – they’d respond to customer complaints only when a number of them wrote in, telling them how dead they were. (I exaggerate, but only slightly.)

That might work if your company name is “Lancia”:

It works rather less well if your name is “Lockheed Martin”, and the total cost of your jobs programme runs to US$1.7T – and counting.

And it works even less well when your flagship fighter now has actual 5th-Gen competition from the Russians and the Chinese.

As I have pointed out in the past, the Russians, in particular, actually do understand how to build fighter aircraft that, y’know, work. The Turducken increasingly looks hopelessly expensive and dangerously unreliable next to the much cheaper, simpler, and, in the end, almost certainly more effective alternatives.

The F-35 might well be technologically brilliant, sure. It might actually be able to do what it says it can do – sneak up on enemies completely undetected (though, as I have repeatedly stated, I seriously doubt it, given Russian advances in mobile long-wave radar installations and overall anti-stealth technology). Perhaps the F-35 is actually good at dogfighting – it is, in fact, very manoeuvrable in flight:

The problem is that it is simply hopeless in terms of maintenance and downtime requirements. And that, ultimately, is what wins wars – whether or not your equipment shows up on the battlefield ready and able to fight.

If it does not, then no matter how SOOPER DOOPER SEEKRIT AWESUM EPIC your whiz-bang gadget turns out to be, someone with a much simpler technology – say, a baseball bat – will sneak up on you and smash your brains out while you’re busy trying to stop your Turduckens from falling out of the sky for no good reason.

And if your pilots cannot then eject out of their stricken fighters, then you haven’t just lost a hugely expensive piece of kit, you’ve lost the people trained to use that kit to its maximum effectiveness.

As with everything else about the Turducken, nothing about this story changes my view that, if the USA is ever genuinely dumb enough to get into an actual shooting war with the Russians and the Chinese, then the Turduckens will be slaughtered very, very quickly.

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1 Comment

  1. Darrell Freeman

    I am not sure how I have missed your terrific comments on the F-35. It is wonderful to see a truly realistic perspective on the ultimate “white elephant” program. As a former inside the Beltway type I have made enemies of former compatriots with my disparaging remarks on this entire program. Lockheed truly is the master of PR, influence, and payoffs. Ahh, F-104 then C-5 and now the top of the ladder with the F-35. A hearty thank you for your comments.


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