Watchdog’s Report: F-35s Achieve Mission Readiness Only 55 Percent of the Time

A Government Accountability Office (GAO) report to congressional committees made public Thursday found that F-35 Lightning II fighter jets are only available to fly 55% of the time.

That is below the stated goal of a mission-capable rate of 85% to 90%.

In addition to the operational issues, the 96-page report detailed that 73% of replacement parts needed to be returned to suppliers because the Department of Defense maintenance centers had inadequate resources.

“The military services must take over management of F-35 sustainment by October 2027 and have an opportunity to make adjustments — specifically to the contractor-managed elements,” the GAO wrote. “Reassessing its approach could help DOD address its maintenance challenges and reduce costs.”

According to the GAO, the Pentagon’s F-35 program is one of its most expensive, costing $1.7 trillion thus far. Of that amount, $1.3 trillion has been spent on the cost of operating and maintaining the jets.

The report found that the Pentagon was sending 73% of F-35 components back to the original manufacturer, Lockheed Martin, because of a lack of repair capability at bases.

In total, over 10,000 components are still waiting to be repaired.

Part of the reason for the delay might be Lockheed Martin’s control of the proprietary database of the jets. Military staff at three military bases told GAO that they did not have permission to enter the system.

“Not having ready access to part numbers hinders the repair of the aircraft because it delays the ordering and receipt of needed parts,” the report read.

“Since then, DOD has added new F-35s to its fleet, increasing the demand for repairs, while continuing to face delays establishing military service depot repair capacity,” it added.

The GAO subsequently made seven recommendations to address the maintenance delays, with the Pentagon reportedly concurring on all of them, the report pointed out.

The F-35 is used by the Air Force, Marine Corps, and the Navy. Maintenance concerns, including crashes, have plagued the advanced fighter jet model since its release several decades ago.

Just days ago, a $100 million F-35B variant crashed in South Carolina after the pilot encountered problems. He safely ejected.

The GAO report comes after a number of House and Senate congressional statutes urged the congressional watchdog to investigate the F-35 program.

In May, the office issued another report criticizing the meteoric growth in costs surrounding the maintenance of the jets since their introduction in 2006.

Luca Cacciatore

Luca Cacciatore, a Newsmax general assignment writer, is based in Arlington, Virginia, reporting on news and politics.

© 2023 Newsmax. All rights reserved.

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