From the Crikey grapevine, the latest tips and rumours …

Come fly with me? Not so much. One for the “I don’t want to sound incredulous but I can’t believe it” files -- you’ll never guess, but there’s another, major problem with the F-35, aka the Flying Boondoggle, the piece of military-industrial complex junk that is the longest-delayed and most expensive jet fighter in history. Australia foolishly decided to purchase a bunch of them as its next-generation fighter, despite having to buy some stop-gap Super Hornets because the damn things were delayed so long. We’ve chronicled the various problems with the F-35 before -- the somewhat limiting problem of the engine catching fire mid-flight, which led to the US grounding the fleet, the problem with the special fuel used by the jets that required its fuel trucks to be painted a lovely, low-vis white, the fighter’s gun, which doesn't um, shoot, the test results that were adjusted by moving the performance goalposts and a myriad of software problems that are continuing to push the plane timetable back. The latest problem was revealed by the US Government Accountability Office, which tested the reliability of the engines -- which aren't, to be fair, made by Lockheed but by Pratt & Whitney. The F-35 Marines variant could barely manage half the intended reliability performance. The model we’re getting managed about one-quarter of the intended performance. Pratt & Whitney -- here’s another surprise -- says the GAO didn’t test the engines properly -- although even P&W’s tests have the Marine version well below intended performance. Meantime the Pentagon Inspector-General issued (another) report this week on the plane criticising the overall management of the F-35 engine program, finding a mere 61 problems with it. In the scheme of things, that’s small beer for the next-generation fighter that might not be able to fly or shoot whenever it arrives.