Le JSF continue sa chute finale

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Le JSF continue sa chute finale

La flotte entière de JSF (F-35) a été interdite de vol à la suite de la découverte d’une fissure dans une ailette d’un moteur Pratt &Whitney F135 de l’avion. Cette décision suit une première mesure d’interdiction de vol du F-35B (version à décollage vertical pour le Corps des Marines) courant janvier, qui vient d’être levée, – pour à nouveau se trouver reconduite pour une autre cause afférente également au moteur au travers de la décision générale d’interdiction de vol. Il s’agit évidemment de la nième mesure prise dans le cadre du programme qui poursuit, on n’ose dire “paisiblement” mais dans tous les cas sans crainte ni du ridicule ni de la catastrophe, sa spirale d’effondrement. Le programme est totalement déstructuré, paradoxalement entre les nombreuses mesures de restructuration qui n’arrivent qu’à accroître les avatars, et il se trouve bien engagé sur la voie d’une complète dissolution. Il se confirme donc parfaitement comme un programme-Système suivant le cycle surpuissance-autodestruction.

Le quotidien Navy Times (article repris par Air Force Times, journal-frère sur les questions de l’USAF) consacre un long article à la mesure et à divers à-côtés, le 22 février 2013. Les réactions officielles sont, comme d’habitude, faites pour endiguer tout sentiment de panique.

«The Pentagon has suspended all test flights for the entire Lockheed Martin F-35 Joint Strike Fighter fleet due to engine problems. The move came nine days after the Pentagon cleared the F-35B jump-jet variant, designed for the U.S. Marines, to resume tests after a monthlong suspension. Both suspensions are due to problems with the engines. It also comes at a time when the program is facing increased scrutiny from lawmakers and senior DoD officials. Unlike the last suspension, which was only for the B variant, this suspension affects all three variants: the F-35A Air Force conventional takeoff version, the F35-B for the Marines, and the F35-C carrier variant for the Navy.

»“On Feb. 19, 2013, a routine engine inspection revealed a crack on a low pressure turbine blade of an F135 engine installed in a [conventional takeoff] test aircraft at Edwards Air Force Base, Calif,” wrote Kyra Hawn, Joint Program Office (JPO) spokeswoman, in a statement. “Engineering teams are shipping the turbine blade to Pratt & Whitney’s Engine Facility in Middletown, CT, to conduct more thorough evaluation and root cause analysis. It is too early to know the fleet-wide impact of this finding, however as a precautionary measure, all F-35 flight operations have been suspended until the investigation is complete and the cause of the blade crack is fully understood,” Hawn wrote. […]

»Matthew Bates, a P&W spokesman, wrote in an email that following the test flight, “maintainers conducted a routine boroscope engine inspection and discovered the crack.” “A routine boroscope visual inspection provided an indication there was a crack, and a subsequent Eddy Current Inspection, or ECI, appears to corroborate the results of the boroscope inspection. However, additional testing will be required to fully understand the cause,” he wrote. Bates added that the engine with the crack has 700 total engine operating hours, with 409 of those accrued in flight. He believes the engine analysis should take “roughly” a week.»

Les commentaires, quand il y en a, sont prudents mais vraiment extrêmement inquiets. AOL.Defense cite, le 22 février 2013, un commentaire sur le problème du moteur selon lequel «[A] potential exists for catastrophic failure». Le même article de Navy Times cité plus haut reprend des commentaires de Richard Aboulafia exprimant cette inquiétude prudente du type “le JSF n’avait vraiment pas besoin de cela”, et place l’incident sur l’arrière-plan des menaces de séquestration. De ce point de vue, des échos d’un symposium de l’Air Force Association, que reprend l’article, sont évidemment rien moins qu’encourageants. Le catastrophique JSF évolue dans une catastrophe générale qui est celle du Pentagone, lequel évolue dans une catastrophe encore plus générale (avec quelques étoiles de plus), qui est celle des USA… Tout s’emboîte parfaitement.

«“We don’t know what it means yet,” said Richard Aboulafia, an analyst with the Virginia-based Teal Group. “It could be a one-off. We just have to investigate right away.” Still, the timing of the F-35 grounding comes as the Pentagon is facing much budget uncertainty. It’s under a lot of political heat and scrutiny, both in terms of cost and performance,” Aboulafia said. “It just doesn’t need this.” […]

»The JSF was a major topic of discussion at the AFA conference, with top Air Force brass expressing concern about the impacts of sequestration on the already delayed program. In the morning, Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. Mark Welsh told the gathered audience that three Air Force F-35s that were due to be delivered this year may be pushed back to 2014 due to the budget situation.

»“I can’t give an answer on how it’s going to affect contracts in the future.” Lt. Gen. Burton Field, the deputy chief of staff for operations, planning and requirements, told reporters when asked how the delays could impact the overall F-35 buy. “It’s a balancing act to try and preserve what we can for the future.” Field seconded Welsh’s statement at a congressional hearing last week that the program will have to be looked at in light of sequestration. “We think everything is on the table. We’re not sure if anything is off the table,” Field said.»

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