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F-35s, received by customers are flagged with notable defects


Nov 4, 2011
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F-35s, received by customers are flagged with notable defects​

By Boyko Nikolov On Oct 18, 2023

Lockheed Martin’s F-35 fifth-generation fighter aircraft, on receipt by clients, have been flagged for noticeable defects according to The Pentagon’s Defense Contract Management Agency. These faults interfere with flight readiness and overall performance.

This equates to a significant concern for military customers. The US Marine Corps most recently highlighted the ongoing prevalence of quality assurance defects. The Agency points out that these are being driven by parts shortages which in turn lead to production inefficiencies, and inevitably delay the delivery of many aircraft.

Coupled with rising F-35 production demands, the persistent issues with “scrap, rework and defect rates” during the assembly phase further undermine production efficiency. Factors contributing include workforce turnover and the performances of some suppliers remaining below par.

The Pentagon’s F-35 Program Office confirms that it is collaborating with Lockheed Martin to manage the quality assurance challenges. Every concern identified is being addressed actively. Efforts are also being undertaken to understand and alleviate the concerns expressed by the Marine Corps.

Despite the F-35 program being infamous for its struggles among American productions, the production capacity of the aircraft’s facilities surpassed all other Western fighter classes combined. The absence of any other new NATO-compatible, post-fourth-generation fighters for over a decade leaves the Pentagon with limited alternatives other than continuing the current program.

Recently, the aircraft’s availability rates have been under scrutiny, with increasing concerns amongst the House of Representatives over the F-35 Joint Program Office’s ability to enhance the aircraft’s performance in that domain.

Rob Wittman, Chairman of the House Armed Services subcommittee on tactical air and land forces, is vocal about the issues impacting the aircraft. He questions the discrepancy witnessed in what was promised and what is being delivered, especially in cases of poor availability rates.

Availability of the F-35 isn’t the sole concern. A recent incident in June at the Hill Air Force Base in Utah traced to a software defect, led to the destruction of an F-35. First deliveries of F-35A stealth fighters to Belgium were declined due to technical dissatisfactions and the need for software enhancements. Similarly, South Korea has expressed concerns over the aircraft’s diverse performance inadequacies.

Data from 2023 suggests that the F-35’s F135 engine issues have spiraled unavailability rates to a staggering 600 percent when compared to fourth-generation fighters in the U.S. Air Force. This has cost tens of billions of dollars in extra operational costs due to its insufficient power output.

Despite these issues, the F-35 remains essentially relied upon by the United States Military and its expanding security partners. This comes in the wake of China’s rapid advancements in its fifth-generation fighter programs, The J-20 and FC-31, providing them a notable performance edge over other fighters in the U.S. and allied fleets.


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