Report: US Air Force’s F-35 Program to face further unforeseen delays - M5 Dergi
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Report: US Air Force’s F-35 Program to face further unforeseen delays

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Despite finally achieving full-rate production in March 2024, the US Air Force’s F-35 program should brace for further delays stemming from the late arrival of key aircraft components.

The US Government Accountability Office (GAO) stated this after conducting a comprehensive study on the production issues plaguing the program.

According to the watchdog, F-35 engine contractor Pratt & Whitney did not deliver any engines on time last year and was more than two months late on average.

The delay was blamed on quality issues discovered with some engine parts, which resulted in failure to meet requirements during testing.

In addition, contractor Lockheed Martin delivered only nine percent of engines on time in 2023, causing the number of jets waiting for delivery to grow.

TR-3 Upgrade

Besides new engines, the F-35s were supposed to receive an important hardware and software upgrade, the Technology Refresh 3 (TR-3).

The TR-3 will provide the aircraft with enhanced computing power, sensor capabilities, and overall performance to take on a wide variety of missions.

However, core components of the TR-3 have also faced delivery delays, hampering the modernization effort.

About 80 F-35s have reportedly been ready for delivery since last fall, but the service has not accepted any aircraft yet until the TR-3 hardware and software are installed and stable.

Corrective Measures

Pratt & Whitney submitted a corrective action plan to the US Department of Defense to mitigate manufacturing issues and parts shortages.

Though the document is not publicly available, it reportedly includes steps to enhance delivery performance.

Lockheed Martin also took steps to address the issues, including the acquisition of additional tooling to improve the production capacity of critical parts.

Additionally, it plans to deliver 20 F-35s to the US Air Force every month once the aircraft has been cleared for transfer.

“Even at this faster rate, delivering all the parked jets will still take about a year after the TR-3 software is completed and certified,” the GAO report concluded.

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