F-35 Fighter Jets Face Serious Flaws, Report Finds

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An F-35 fighter plane flies over the White House on June 12, 2019. (Eric Baradat/AFP/Getty Images)
An F-35 fighter plane flies over the White House on June 12, 2019. (Eric Baradat/AFP/Getty Images)

With Meghna Chakrabarti

The F-35 fighter jet is the military’s most expensive new weapons system. But it has serious flaws that could threaten pilot safety. So why is the jet being pushed into production?


Anthony Capaccio, defense reporter for Bloomberg News. (@ACapaccio)

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Bloomberg: "Lockheed's F-35 Parts Often Aren't Ready to Use, Watchdog Finds" — "Lockheed Martin Corp. has failed to supply ready-to-install spare parts for its F-35 fighter — from wheels and tire assemblies to seats — and may have been overpaid as much as $10.6 million in bonuses, according to the Defense Department’s inspector general.

"'We determined that the DoD did not receive ready-to-issue F‑35 spare parts in accordance with contract requirements and paid performance incentive fees on the sustainment contracts based on inflated and unverified' hours that Air Force and Marine Corps planes would be ready to fly, the Pentagon’s internal watchdog said in a report released Monday.

"It happened because the Pentagon’s F-35 program office 'did not conduct adequate oversight of contractor performance,' according to the report. It found the office hasn’t resolved 'contractor non‑performance related to the delivery of non‑ready-to-issue spare parts since 2015.'

"'F‑35 aircraft are already proving to be more expensive to sustain than originally planned and, as the DoD adds more aircraft to the F‑35 fleet, the strain on the aircraft logistics system will increase,' the inspector general said. Problems with parts not ready to be installed 'may continue to multiply and affect already increasing sustainment costs and F‑35 mission capable rates,' it said.

"The long-term cost of operating and supporting the fleet of fighters over more than six decades has increased to $1.196 trillion, according to a Pentagon’s latest cost assessment of major projects."

Lockheed Martin: "Lockheed Martin Comments on Defense News Reporting" — "The F-35s today are meeting or exceeding performance specifications and delivering unprecedented capability and safety compared to legacy fighter aircraft. The feedback we receive from F-35 pilots is exceptional – and any pilot who has flown a legacy jet consistently relays back that if they are being sent in to harm’s way – they want the F-35, every time.

"These issues are important to address, and each is well understood, already resolved or on a near term path to resolution. We’ve worked collaboratively with our customers and we are fully confident in the F-35’s performance and the solutions in place to address each of the items identified."

Grace Tatter produced this segment for broadcast.

This segment aired on June 20, 2019.


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