The path not taken.
- Oct 9, 2009
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Lockheed: Reported Deficiencies in F-35 Already Fixed or Being Resolved
Lockheed Martin took the unusual step June 12 of issuing a point-by-point rebuttal of a press report describing deficiencies with the F-35 family of aircraft.
The company claimed that deficiency issues identified in reporting by Defense News on June 12 are each “well understood, already resolved or on a near-term path to resolution.” The company said it has “worked collaboratively with our customers” on the issues and “are fully confident in the F-35’s performance and the solutions in place to address each of the items identified.”
The Defense News stories, timed to coincide with the F-35 CEO meeting in Arlington, Va., collected deficiency reports harvested from internal Joint Program Office and Pentagon documents, and combined these with reporting on other deficiencies identified by Pentagon test organizations. Some of the problems noted had been discussed publicly, and in Government Accountability Office audits, while others had not. The reports largely go back to late 2018 and early 2019, when the F-35 had just begun Initial Operational Test and Evaluation, the graduation exercise that will allow it to progress to the next program milestone.
Lockheed Martin addressed ten deficiencies in its rebuttal, the majority of which affect only the Marine Corps F-35B and Navy F-35C. One was that there’s no way to prevent user data about foreign F-35s from migrating back to the US through the Autonomic Logistics Information System, or ALIS, which aggregates worldwide maintenance and parts information to detect trends and anticipate parts and service needs. Lockheed said “ALIS meets sovereignty requirement,” but that some customers, late in 2019, asked for “more data control capability.” It said it had deployed a new Sovereign Data Management Tool to control some of the data sent to the common database, “and early feedback from the fleet is positive.”
The US has already halted delivery of equipment related to the F-35 programme to Turkey and there will be industrial implications as well.
Turkey is a partner in the programme manufacturing some elements of the aircraft and designated as one of several maintenance sites for its engines. Some 937 separate parts for the F-35 are manufactured in Turkey, about 400 of which are made exclusively there. The US is already taking steps to source these parts elsewhere. Turkey is effectively being frozen out of the F-35 project, although US officials insist that all of this is reversible if Turkey changes its mind.
The U.S. has threatened to end Turkey’s participation in the F-35 fighter program by July 31 if Ankara doesn’t scrap the S-400 deal. Turkey could separately face sanctions under two pieces of legislation that allow punishment of entities doing business with parts of the Russian state. Major Turkish defense contractors could be cut off from the U.S. financial system and virtually barred from buying American components or selling their products in the U.S.
Q: In September 2018, then-Secretary of Defense Mattis ordered the Air Force and Navy to increase mission capable rates for the F-35, F-22, F-16, and F-18 inventories to above 80 percent by the end of September 2019. In addition, Secretary Mattis directed the Military Services to achieve demonstrable reductions in operating and maintenance costs on all four platforms, beginning in FY 2019.
What progress has the Department made in increasing mission capable rates and decreasing costs for all four platforms?
The Air Force has improved mission-capable rates for the F-16 fleet by increasing parts supplies and adding maintenance shifts, and is expected to meet the 80 percent goal. The F-22 fleet is still challenged by the lack of low-observable maintenance capacity, exacerbated by the extreme damage at Tyndall Air Force Base from the effects of Hurricane Michael. Although F-22 mission-capable rates are improving, the fleet is not expected to achieve the 80 percent goal this year. Improving mission capable rates for both fleets required additional funding investment for this fiscal year. The Navy is on track to meet its FY19 goal of 80 percent mission capable F/A-18 E/F and EA-18G by September 2019. Aircrew qualifications (flight hour execution) hit a high for FY19 in May. To meet the 80% goal and readiness recovery objectives, the Navy has taken the following actions: established Maintenance Operations Center (MOC) to coordinate maintenance activities and optimize resources; instituted Organizational-level and Depot-level (Fleet Readiness Center) reforms improving the processes for 150-Day and 80-Day periodic inspections; improved maintenance squadron manning (fit, fill, and experience level) and improved processes for component production; instituted supply chain reform eliminating issues driven by fragmentation of data across multiple sources/functions; and coordinated deployment of engineering and supply chain resources to address top-degraders.
The F-35 fleet is not expected to make the 80 percent goal. Transparency (canopy) supply shortages continue to be the main obstacle to achieving this. We are seeking additional sources to fix unserviceable canopies.
Q: If confirmed, specifically what would you do to expedite progress toward achieving the goals set by Secretary Mattis?
I understand the Air Force is examining and investing in a number of commercial best practices, such as conditions-based maintenance, to increase mission capability rates, improve readiness, and reduce sustainment costs across all aircraft fleets. If confirmed, I intend to press for higher mission