(TheConservativeTimes.org) – A government watchdog report released last Thursday warns that maintenance delays on the F-35 fighter jets leave them mission-capable only 55 percent of the time, NBC News reported.
According to Diana Maurer of the Government Accountability Office, the aircraft should be mission-capable between 85-90 percent of the time, meaning that with the F-35, “taxpayers are not getting their money’s worth.”
Led by Lockheed Martin, the F-35 is one of the Pentagon’s most expensive programs, costing $1.7 trillion over its lifespan. Much of the costs associated with the program, $1.3 trillion, go to the maintenance and operation of the fighter jets, according to the GAO report.
In her report, Maurer said sustaining the F-35 “rests entirely on Lockheed Martin” and its sub-contractors. According to the GOA, while this is not unique to the F-35 program, in this instance, the contractor-led approach has caused delays.
Military maintenance staffers at three locations told the GAO that they are not permitted to search for spare part numbers for F-35s since the proprietary database of parts is controlled by Lockheed Martin. The lack of “ready access to part numbers” obstructs repairs and maintenance since it “delays the ordering and receipt of needed parts,” according to the report.
The GAO found that more than 10,000 components for F-35s are in the queue awaiting repair.
The stealth fighter jet is used by the US Marines, Air Force, and Navy.
According to the report, prior concerns over the maintenance of the jets have led to a push for the Defense Department to take over the management of maintenance for the F-35s. However, this change is not scheduled until late 2027.
As part of last year’s Defense authorization bill, Congress mandated the Government Accountability Office review after the ongoing problems with maintenance were identified.
In its report, the GAO listed seven recommendations to address the delays, with the Pentagon concurring with all of them.
Lockheed Martin said in a statement that it is ready to partner with the Pentagon to ensure “mission readiness” and enable deterrence.
The GAO’s report comes just days after the debris of an F-35B Lightning II stealth fighter was found in South Carolina the day after the pilot was forced to eject.
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