F-35B Lightning (RAF & RN)

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Re: F-35B Lightning (RAF & RN)

Post by Timmymagic »

bobp wrote: 31 Mar 2024, 16:27 Update on delivery schedule plus serials...

Just to note UK based F-35 fleet is 30 aircraft, not 31 as per the tweet, as 1 aircraft has been added to the Test Fleet at Edwards AFB (ZM165/BK-31). Not sure how long that would be for, it could be for weapons integration work or to help with test points.

Incidentally ZM170 and ZM171, both the first TR-3 aircraft from Lot 15, are actually flying from Fort Worth now, but not yet handed over to RAF. Given delays with TR-3 its likely we won't see them until later in the year (I guess October/November) along with the 4 aircraft from Lot 16. So we could be due a bumper delivery at the back end of the year of 6 a/c, that to all intents and purposes increases the fleet by 20%. True combat capable fleet by 25%+. Obviously then there are 7 delivered in 2025, probably split into 2 deliveries.

Regarding the comments about squadron size above, for me it would make sense to have 12 a/c per squadron given the RN's comments around airgroup size for CSG25 of 24 and 'max' loadout in the future of 36...either that or a smaller squadron size of 8. We definitely won't have enough a/c for a Sqn size of >12 (unless its administrative for a/c under maintenance/reserve) with the planned purchase of 71 combat capable aircraft (that might in fact mean 70 a/c if BK-03 never gets upgraded). 4 x 12 Sqn's (207 OCU, 617 Sqn, 809 NAS and AN.Other). 17 TES would have the 3 ITF a/c and (possibly) 1 other (temporarily attached or BK-03 might make sense at one point).
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Re: F-35B Lightning (RAF & RN)

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Timmymagic wrote: 02 Apr 2024, 11:47 So we could be due a bumper delivery at the back end of the year of 6 a/c, that to all intents and purposes increases the fleet by 20%. True combat capable fleet by 25%+.
Jeesh that's a bit sad.

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Re: F-35B Lightning (RAF & RN)

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Timmymagic wrote: 02 Apr 2024, 11:47 Obviously then there are 7 delivered in 2025, probably split into 2 deliveries.
Last 7 are all from the same lot, Lot 17.

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Re: F-35B Lightning (RAF & RN)

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sol wrote: 02 Apr 2024, 15:12
Timmymagic wrote: 02 Apr 2024, 11:47 Obviously then there are 7 delivered in 2025, probably split into 2 deliveries.
Last 7 are all from the same lot, Lot 17.
They are, but its likely some will be ready for transfer earlier in the year and given the need for a/c for 809 NAS they'll probably be trailed over earlier in the year.

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Re: F-35B Lightning (RAF & RN)

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Timmymagic wrote: 02 Apr 2024, 11:47
bobp wrote: 31 Mar 2024, 16:27 Update on delivery schedule plus serials...

Just to note UK based F-35 fleet is 30 aircraft, not 31 as per the tweet, as 1 aircraft has been added to the Test Fleet at Edwards AFB (ZM165/BK-31). Not sure how long that would be for, it could be for weapons integration work or to help with test points.

Incidentally ZM170 and ZM171, both the first TR-3 aircraft from Lot 15, are actually flying from Fort Worth now, but not yet handed over to RAF. Given delays with TR-3 its likely we won't see them until later in the year (I guess October/November) along with the 4 aircraft from Lot 16. So we could be due a bumper delivery at the back end of the year of 6 a/c, that to all intents and purposes increases the fleet by 20%. True combat capable fleet by 25%+. Obviously then there are 7 delivered in 2025, probably split into 2 deliveries.

Regarding the comments about squadron size above, for me it would make sense to have 12 a/c per squadron given the RN's comments around airgroup size for CSG25 of 24 and 'max' loadout in the future of 36...either that or a smaller squadron size of 8. We definitely won't have enough a/c for a Sqn size of >12 (unless its administrative for a/c under maintenance/reserve) with the planned purchase of 71 combat capable aircraft (that might in fact mean 70 a/c if BK-03 never gets upgraded). 4 x 12 Sqn's (207 OCU, 617 Sqn, 809 NAS and AN.Other). 17 TES would have the 3 ITF a/c and (possibly) 1 other (temporarily attached or BK-03 might make sense at one point).
71 total fleet
3×12 aircraft front line Squadrons 1+8 aircraft OCU +3 trials.

That leaves sufficient for in use reserve and maintenance rotation.

In an emergency the OCU would form an operational squadron with a few added aircraft and whoever else they can scrape up with a rapid refresher course.

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Re: F-35B Lightning (RAF & RN)

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I would imagine that upgrades to the Tranche 1 airframes to bring them up to the latest spec will take a long while, so three squadrons max plus ocu.

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Re: F-35B Lightning (RAF & RN)

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bobp wrote: 03 Apr 2024, 15:20 I would imagine that upgrades to the Tranche 1 airframes to bring them up to the latest spec will take a long while, so three squadrons max plus ocu.
Well, the maintenance fleet should theoretically be big enough to absorb that.

Once 12 are upgraded to block4 they will re-equip a squadron, who in turn will give up their aircraft for the upgrade pulse line.

I'm assuming they are planning a pulse line at Marham??

It's either that, or simply operate a mixed fleet and time the upgrade around aircraft maintenance cycles.

The downside being some aircraft packing Meteor and Spear3, while others are stuck with paveway AMD AMRAAM.

That would make operational deployment more vexing..
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Re: F-35B Lightning (RAF & RN)

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mrclark303 wrote: 03 Apr 2024, 13:45 71 total fleet
3×12 aircraft front line Squadrons 1+8 aircraft OCU +3 trials.
Either it should be 74 in total with 17 Squadron included or 71 without it, for 3 frontline and OCU squadron. Also OCU squadron will probably have more than just 8 planes.

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Re: F-35B Lightning (RAF & RN)

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Apparently 12!

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Re: F-35B Lightning (RAF & RN)

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sol wrote: 03 Apr 2024, 20:46
mrclark303 wrote: 03 Apr 2024, 13:45 71 total fleet
3×12 aircraft front line Squadrons 1+8 aircraft OCU +3 trials.
Either it should be 74 in total with 17 Squadron included or 71 without it, for 3 frontline and OCU squadron. Also OCU squadron will probably have more than just 8 planes.
I believe 8 is the stated number for the OCU, it's a mix of synthetic and flight training.

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Re: F-35B Lightning (RAF & RN)

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mrclark303 wrote: 04 Apr 2024, 02:59 I believe 8 is the stated number for the OCU, it's a mix of synthetic and flight training.
As the fleet is growing I expect the demands on the OCU will be greater, so more a/c needed, what they end up with, say in 2030 is another matter.

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Re: F-35B Lightning (RAF & RN)

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bobp wrote: 03 Apr 2024, 15:20 I would imagine that upgrades to the Tranche 1 airframes to bring them up to the latest spec will take a long while, so three squadrons max plus ocu.
As I mentioned in an earlier post we won't see all 71 a/c at Block IV Lot 19 standard until 2031/32 at the earliest.

But....if we're sensible we'll forgo ordering any of the 27 Tranche 2 a/c at Lot 18 standard and order from Lot 19 onwards, which would mean they would be delivered at the full capability as it currently stands. We could then transition 617 Sqn and 809 NAS to wholly upgraded airframes as the combat fleet, sustain them at that as new a/c are received or older ones cycle through upgrades and gradually stand up the 3rd Combat Sqn, leaving 207 Sqn to last. A bit of fancy footwork could potentially see the 3rd Sqn have enough Block IV Lot 19 standard a/c to stand up 'some' capability in 2030.
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Re: F-35B Lightning (RAF & RN)

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I know it will reduced numbers for a while but would it be beneficial to send our F-35's to the states (soon or within the next few years) to get them upgrade to the TR3, this way all aircraft will be block 4 capable when it arrives.

Like people have said even when block 4 arrives in 2028, all our aircraft wont be block 4 capable till the 2030's. I am getting images of fleets within fleets, requiring different weapons and maintenance. I am just wondering with a little bit of protectiveness we could save ourselves a lot of trouble or is it not worth it?

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Re: F-35B Lightning (RAF & RN)

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Jdam wrote: 04 Apr 2024, 15:26 I know it will reduced numbers for a while but would it be beneficial to send our F-35's to the states (soon or within the next few years) to get them upgrade to the TR3, this way all aircraft will be block 4 capable when it arrives.

Like people have said even when block 4 arrives in 2028, all our aircraft wont be block 4 capable till the 2030's. I am getting images of fleets within fleets, requiring different weapons and maintenance. I am just wondering with a little bit of protectiveness we could save ourselves a lot of trouble or is it not worth it?
The Upgrades can take place at Marham, a lot of time during normal scheduled maintenance, albeit deeper maintenance. I suspect that the US facilities will be just as busy with upgrades so we'd gain little.

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Re: F-35B Lightning (RAF & RN)

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Anyone thinking, as Justin Bronk or Nicholas Drummond seem to, that we should abandon GCAP and go all in on F-35 needs their head examining....and their bank account for any funds from LM....

I'm normally quite supportive of F-35 (but not at the expense of Typhoon or GCAP), but christ its hard....

Yet more delays with TR-3 and talk of Block IV being 'reprofiled'...which is a clear admittance of total failure.

https://breakingdefense.com/2024/04/f-3 ... ity/?amp=1

And in other news....TR-3 delays mean that by the time they're presently forecasting to re-start deliveries, and thats if it doesn't slip further and they can get agreement to allow delivery of non-combat capable aircraft on the promise of a future software drop (allegedly 'within a year'), that there will be c170 brand new aircraft, parked up and undeliverable by the end of September....no wonder LM is trying to get people to accept F-35 without full TR-3 as promised....even the vast Plant 4 at Fort Worth is going to run out of space....

https://www.forbes.com/sites/erictegler ... 33b3e22f4e
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Re: F-35B Lightning (RAF & RN)

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Hopefully this is relevant to Timmy's last comment. From Aviation Week.

PS Bronk is a prize twit, totally in the pocket of US manufacturers. Drummond is ex-infantry.
F-35 Office Targeting July For Long-Awaited Avionics Upgrade
Brian Everstine April 16, 2024

The F-35 Joint Program Office (JPO) is now targeting acceptance of a long-awaited avionics upgrade for July, a best-case scenario, which would finally allow F-35 customers to begin receiving jets again.

Lt. Gen. Micheal Schmidt, the JPO’s program executive, told lawmakers on April 16 that the July acceptance of Tech Refresh 3 (TR-3) software is the “first realistic opportunity” if the current version is accepted. That version is truncated, with not all of the anticipated capabilities, and needs to be proven to be stable and airworthy.

But a Software Architecture Independent Review Team brought in to watch over the TR-3 process warns that acceptance is more likely to be in August or September. The projections are a delay from Lockheed Martin’s last projection of June, from a January earnings call.

“TR-3 aircraft acceptance depends upon completing a stable, capable, and maintainable software build for release to flight test,” Schmidt said in testimony to the House Armed Services tactical air subcommittee. “Achieving this depends upon fixing specific issues in TR-3 software. The F-35 JPO and industry are working intensely to resolve the deficiencies to improve software stability on the ground and in the air.”

The plan is to deliver a release of TR-3, 40P01, with a truncated version of capabilities though it will be stable. These will be used in training but will not be combat-coded. The second release, 40P02, will include full combat capability.

“Future risks hinge upon whether TR-3 will require additional incremental software releases to test and implement critical fixes. If risk manifests in labs or flight test, TR-3 may require additional software releases (taking between two and six weeks per release).”

The $1.6 billion TR-3 cockpit upgrades are a critical part of the overall $16 billion Block 4 upgrade, which also includes a new radar and electronic warfare suite.

The Joint Program Office stopped accepting deliveries of F-35s in July 2023 because of the TR-3 delay. Schmidt would not specifically say how many jets have not been delivered, but said there are a “significant amount” of jets sitting and waiting. Lockheed Martin delivered just 97 F-35s last year, and the military services in their fiscal 2025 budget requests lowered procurement from expected levels.

TR-3 software development has been mired in issues largely related to differences between performances in simulations and in flight. Schmidt told lawmakers that the “yield of TR-3 is not where it needs to be” though it has been improving.

Speaking with reporters during a hearing recess, Schmidt said the F-35 Joint Executive Steering Board and F-35 customers have agreed to criteria by which they would accept truncated TR-3 capabilities. Once the office can get to a stable, capable and maintainable software version, plus terms and conditions signed with Lockheed, then it can proceed.

“It’s not an exact science, but we need to truncate pretty soon to get to a July delivery because there’s a lot of stuff we need to do,” he says.

Meanwhile, the JPO is beginning work on the F135 Engine Core Upgrade (ECU) and a new program to improve the aircraft’s power and thermal management system (PTMS). The latter is in the early stages, as it is a fiscal 2024 new start that just received funding, and work is beginning on having Lockheed Martin “fully characterize the airplane” and better define PTMS needs.

The F135 ECU is “proceeding nominally,” and work will progress on both refining the cooling requirement and focusing on keeping retrofits affordable, he says.

The JPO is meeting with Pentagon and military service acquisition officials to begin the process of standing up a separate subprogram focused on ECU and PTMS, he says.
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Re: F-35B Lightning (RAF & RN)

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Ron5 wrote: 17 Apr 2024, 16:29 Hopefully this is relevant to Timmy's last comment. From Aviation Week.

PS Bronk is a prize twit, totally in the pocket of US manufacturers. Drummond is ex-infantry.
It's quite incredible really. The JPO needs to deliver a real shock to LM, otherwise they are not going to change. We're in 2024 and the only progress on Block IV over the next few years that we can be absolutely certain of is the Project team moving its completion repeatedly to the right...

At some point someone is going to have to say that it isn't good enough and demand change. But I'm not sure the JPO will do that. This has been going on since the programmes start and LM just don't seem to be able to change the trajectory. The Air Force general quoted sounded like he had had just about enough. Turning up to report that there is a year delay when a month or 2 ago you were being told that would be ready in a couple of months must be soul destroying.
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Re: F-35B Lightning (RAF & RN)

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They knew they needed a new engine in 2006 for power management reasons, uk risk mitigation was the f136 power plant and 18 years later they are getting round to it.
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Re: F-35B Lightning (RAF & RN)

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SW1 wrote: 17 Apr 2024, 17:52 They knew they needed a new engine in 2006 for power management reasons, uk risk mitigation was the f136 power plant and 18 years later they are getting round to it.
I thought a new engine is off the table and they've focusing on improvements to the current.

Anyhoo, from this morning's Flight:
Frustrations build in Washington over continued halt on F-35 deliveries

Lawmakers in Washington are becoming increasingly agitated about the lack of new Lockheed Martin F-35 fighter jets being delivered to the US military.

Specifically, members of Congress are frustrated with the inability of military airframer Lockheed to complete airworthiness certification on the latest technical configuration of the advanced stealth fighter, known as Technical Refresh-3 or TR-3.

Ongoing difficulties certificating the TR-3 package, which includes improved avionics and new operating software, compelled the Pentagon to stop accepting most new deliveries of the F-35 in July 2023.

TR-3 is intended to radically improve the F-35’s already-powerful suite of onboard communications and data processing systems, turning each jet into a battlefield node for collecting and distributing information during combat, according to the Pentagon.

Washington continued to accept a small number of older TR-2 configured jets, but the issues substantially reduced Lockheed’s F-35 delivery figures for last year. The airframer turned over just 98 F-35s in 2023, despite an annual production capacity of 156 jets.

Lockheed has been struggling for over a year to achieve airworthiness certification on the TR-3 configured F-35 design, which began flight testing in January 2023. Chief executive James Taiclet described the process as being in “very late innings” one year ago during an April 2023 earnings call.

The company has repeatedly pushed back its projection for completing TR-3 certification, with the latest estimate being sometime in the third quarter of 2024.

Lockheed Martin’s main F-35 assembly line is in Fort Worth, Texas, with supplemental faculties in Japan and Italy operating under local production agreements

Fed up with the delays, elected officials in Washington are openly expressing frustration with Lockheed, and to a lesser extent the Pentagon, for attempting to push the technology into service before it was ready.

Congressman Rob Wittman, who chairs the armed services subcommittee on tactical air and land forces, described his dissatisfaction with the TR-3 situation – and Lockheed’s handling of it – during a 16 April hearing on fixed-wing aircraft procurement.

“It was bitterly disappointing to myself and other committee members that we had to learn about another shift to the right to Q3, not directly from the contractor, but from an earnings call that we had to read in the newspaper,” the Virginia Republican noted, referencing comments Taiclet made in January during the 2023 year-end earnings announcement.

Wittman went on to describe “lots of shortcomings with how TR-3 has been tested and developed”.

Lockheed has produced more than 1,000 F-35s, although deliveries remain around 990 aircraft, owing to an ongoing halt to new deliveries for the past eight months

That sentiment is apparently shared by members of the opposition Democratic party, including the subcommittee’s ranking member Donald Norcross of New Jersey.

“Going back year after year, talking about this and each time we’re kicking the can down the road.” Norcross said in the hearing. “It’s always something new.”

Norcross went on to ask the Pentagon’s top officer for F-35 procurement, Lieutenant General Michael Schmidt, how many completed F-35s are in Lockheed’s possession awaiting delivery.

Schmidt declined to provide a specific figure, citing security concerns, but confirmed it is “a significant number” of aircraft.

Lockheed declined to answer any questions on the matter, citing the so-called quiet period required under US securities laws ahead of financial filings. The company is scheduled to deliver its first quarter earnings on 23 April.

It has previously said it is continuing to assemble F-35s at its full target rate of 156 aircraft annually. An average of 13 jets per month, combined with a delivery stoppage date of August 2023, would put more than 100 jets as being held in storage.

When asked for his assessment of delays, Schmidt said the Pentagon is exploring options for a “truncated” version of TR-3 that could be ready this summer.

“The first realistic chance is July of this summer,” the three-star general said, noting the JPO’s internal software review team estimates a more likely time frame of August or September.

“I’m as frustrated as you that I can’t nail down a specific date and be extremely clear about exactly when we will deliver,” Schmidt added.

It is unclear what a truncated version of TR-3 would look like. Schmidt says such an approach would likely use the F-35’s existing operating software, perhaps with some “little tweaks” for more modest capability improvement.

The acknowledgement represents a major setback to the Pentagon’s long-term plan for the fifth-generation fighter, which includes new sensor suites, more long-range precision weapons, improved electronic warfare features and more powerful data fusion in the forthcoming Block 4 design of the F-35.

Those upgrades are dependent upon the improved computing power delivered by the TR-3 package, which now appears to be at risk.

The F-35 has become a pillar of Washington’s global security strategy, with 20 countries committed to the fifth-generation fighter. F-35Bs from the US Marine Corps and UK Royal Air Force have operated together from the HMS Queen Elizabeth aircraft carrier

Schmidt says the real cause of delays to TR-3 certification is an attempt to address “hardware immaturity” with “a lot of software workarounds” – a condition driven in large part by the Pentagon’s push to rapidly add new capabilities to the F-35.

“That’s not a long-term winning solution,” he adds.

In response to problems with both hardware and software, Schmidt says the JPO intends to “re-imagine Block 4” with a set of capabilities that are ready for employment, rather than attempting develop them concurrently with active production.

He bluntly describes such concurrent development programmes as “pipe dreams” that undercut “engineering rigour”.

“We’ve already made poor choices,” Schmidt acknowledges, vowing a new approach.

“But I need some help from industry,” he told lawmakers.

Despite years of delays and costly technical issues, both the Pentagon and Congress appear committed to the F-35 programme, which has become a centrepiece of US war planning.

“We are all in on this aircraft,” Wittman says.

The Pentagon plans to acquire a staggering 2,456 F-35s across the US Air Force, US Navy and US Marine Corps, covering all three variants of the stealth fighter.

Lockheed completed assembly of the 1,000th F-35 example in January.

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Re: F-35B Lightning (RAF & RN)

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So by late September this year we could be in the rather odd position of having 1160 odd F-35 built in total....but c170 being parked up and undelivered. 15% of the total built...And all 990 delivered to date are in need of that same TR-3 upgrade so that they can start down the upgrade path to Block IV capability...if its delayed past September we'd hit 200 undelivered just before New Year...

The worst thing is I suspect the customers will have no choice but to accept the 'truncated' TR-3 models as otherwise their own force generation/training activities will face issues...the UK for example has 6 x TR-3 aircraft due this year....with 2 already built and 4 due for delivery towards the back, and a further 7 due next year. If we tried to hold off until full TR-3 release we'd be effectively without a full Sqn's worth of aircraft for an entire year at a critical force generation point for 809 NAS so I suspect we'll just have to accept the less capable TR-3....

If they had a choice I suspect they'd tell LM no deal until it was fully ready.

Countries are already foreseeing problems...

https://www.defensenews.com/global/euro ... ade-plans/

And to be honest given all the talk of 're-imagining Block IV' from the JPO I will not be surprised if Spear, Meteor etc are delayed past 2030....which would be rather convenient for the likes of LM...
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Re: F-35B Lightning (RAF & RN)

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Interesting exchange in congress

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