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Report: Joint Strike Fighters Susceptible to Corrosion

Monday, May 13, 2019

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Recently, in a report obtained by ABC, Australian defense officials have been advised to consider round-the-clock dehumidification systems at the Williamtown RAAF base to avoid corrosion risk for its fleet of F-35A Joint Strike Fighters.

The concerns were first raised in 2017, a year before the next-generation fighters were due to arrive in Australia. To assess the risk of possible metal stresses and cracking, auditing and consulting firm KPMG (Zug, Switzerland) was tasked with taking a report on the “intergranular corrosion mitigation options” for the $17 billion 72-fighter fleet.

Courtesy of the Australian Air Force

Recently, in a report obtained by ABC, Australian defense officials have been advised to consider round-the-clock dehumidification systems at the Williamtown RAAF base to avoid corrosion risk for its fleet of F-35A Joint Strike Fighters.

According to the report, the problem with intergranular corrosion is that, "It can degrade the material properties causing stress cracking and cause tensile stress which can impact adjacent components.”

Since Aluminum Alloy 7085 was used in the construction of the F-35s, it has an increased susceptibility of experiencing a chemical reaction between itself and the environment. Although, of the three bases, only Williamtown was reported as having potential problems.

These issues can be pointed to the climatic conditions, salt spray and higher number of air quality alerts the region has experienced in recent years.

"While up to 54 of the fleet of 72 aircraft can be housed at Williamtown at any one time, all aircraft will be rotated through Williamtown and are therefore susceptible to intergranular corrosion," the report said.

However, the jets will also be based at the Luke Airforce Base in the U.S. state of Arizona and a RAFF base at Tindall in the Northern Territory.

In lieu of the issued report, KPMG has recommended a full-time use of mobile dehumidification units, in combination with other systems. Projected costs for the suggested equipment were redacted from KPMG’s report.

When the new fighter jets arrived at the Williamtown base in December 2018, the Defence Minister Christopher Pyne noted that each plane cost $124 million and characterized good value for money.

"This is the largest acquisition of the Air Force's history, $17 billion, and arguably the most lethal in the Air Force's history, certainly of its time," Pyne said.

In addition to reports on possible corrosion, the fighter planes have also been experiencing delays and cost overruns in the U.S. as well as various concerns in software faults and overheating.

   

Tagged categories: AS; Australia; Climate Control; Controlled Dehumidification; Corrosion; Corrosion protection; Corrosion resistance; Dehumidification; Environmental Controls; NA; North America; Quality Control; Salt exposure

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