More problems with the F-35

  • 24 July 2019
  • NormanL

The Defense Department's next generation fighter plane, the F-35, has had a long and troubled history...that appears to be getting worse. According to a DoD audit, there's a big problem with spare parts for the fighter -- and with the millions in salary bonuses paid to the contractor responsible for those parts:

The contract for RFI spare parts requires that the parts are ready for maintenance personnel to install on the jet, and have an Electronic Equipment Logbook, or EEL, that has information about part history and remaining life.

The audit concluded that Lockheed Martin was not supplying spare parts ready for use and may have been overpaid millions in bonuses.

"The DoD did not receive RFI F‑35 spare parts in accordance with contract requirements and paid performance incentive fees on the sustainment contracts
based on inflated and unverified F‑35A aircraft availability hours," the report states.

The Inspector General report indicates the Department of Defense will continue to pay up to $55 million annually for non-RFI spare parts until the issue is resolved.

"The 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 audit also raises the possibility of the issue creating "a life and safety concern for aircrews... if DoD personnel make mistakes on the number of hours the spare part was flown when manually tracking hours for limited life non‑RFI spare parts."

Problems of this sort have long plagued the defense industry. But that doesn't excuse the behavior on display here. The inspector general has recommended the DoD:

...pursue[s] compensation from Lockheed Martin for costs of non-RFI spare parts delivered since 2015, updated language about compensation for non-RFI parts in future contracts and updated quality assurance plans.

That's the least it can do. You can read the full inspector general report here.