According to the US Government Accountability Office (GAO), as of March 2023, the fleet’s Lightning II combat capability rate (or the percentage of time an aircraft can perform its assigned missions) was 55%, well below target of the Pentagon for 85–90%. More: Top 10 best fighter jets in the world (VIDEO and PHOTOS)
The report, which was prepared by an independent congressional watchdog, comes just days after a Marine Corps F-35 crashed in South Carolina. A long search ensued, raising alarming questions about how the plane could have “disappeared” for an entire day before the wreckage was finally found.
“The most expensive project”
The F-35’s share of the total US tactical aircraft fleet is expected to continue to grow, which bodes well for manufacturer Lockheed Martin. Each fighter jet costs the government approximately $160 million.
The U.S. military has a total of 450 F-35s (various variants are used by the Air Force, Navy, and Marine Corps), and the Pentagon plans to buy about 2,000 more fighters by the mid-1940s. The total cost of the program will be $1.7 trillion, with $1.3 trillion spent on maintenance.
According to a report by the Government Accountability Office, it is the most expensive defense procurement project in the world. At the same time, the F-35 is gradually becoming the main fighter in all three branches of the US military, which means it will perform more and more missions.
The F-35 Lightning II has joined the air forces of US NATO allies as well as in Asia, including Israel. One of the biggest customers was the British Ministry of Defence, the Financial Times also writes.
“Maintenance issues are negatively impacting F-35 readiness,” due in part to “fundamental and organizational maintenance gaps,” the Government Accountability Office report said.
The Pentagon is years behind in creating sufficient maintenance capacity, which in turn is causing repair delays and a 10% reduction in the number of airworthy aircraft. More: More than 1 billion dollars is given by the USA for the F-35
Part of the problem is that maintenance is done by contractors and the Pentagon has limited control over decisions in this area. Delays also occur due to shortage of spare parts, low qualification of personnel, insufficient auxiliary equipment and lack of technical data necessary to carry out repairs.
The Pentagon will assume control of F-35 maintenance through October 2027, a milestone for evaluating the aircraft’s core readiness strategy, the Government Accountability Office concluded.
“We are committed to working with the government to develop plans for the future of F-35 capabilities that will ensure readiness and deter adversaries,” Lockheed said in a statement.
Translation: Gancho Kamenarski