By Anthony Capaccio
June 28, 2017
Costs to operate and support Lockheed Martin Corp.’s F-35 will balloon unless the deteriorating reliability of the Pentagon’s costliest program improves, according to an assessment from the Defense Department’s own testing office.
The aircraft and its parts aren’t as reliable as expected, and it’s taking longer to repair them than planned, according to the presentation by the director of operational testing for defense officials and congressional aides. About 20 percent of the jets must await spares in depots because suppliers can’t keep up with expanding production while fixing returned parts.
Past attention focused on costs and delays in what’s now a projected $379 billion program to acquire the planned fleet of 2,443 fighters for the Air Force, Navy and Marine Corps. But operating and maintaining the advanced jets for decades to come presents another set of challenges that may strain Pentagon budgets.
The availability of spare parts for the 203 F-35s already assigned to bases “is getting worse, affecting fly rates” and pilot training, according to the presentation dated May 8 and obtained by Bloomberg News. Reliability metrics linked to “critical failures have worsened over the last year,” as improvement “has stagnated.”[FULL ARTICLE]