Another Year and Additional F-35 Complications | Citizens Against Government Waste

Another Year and Additional F-35 Complications

The WasteWatcher

Add one more item to the list of innumerable glitches in Lockheed Martin’s F-35 Joint Strike Fighter (JSF) program.  

According to the fiscal year (FY) 2019 report by the Department of Defense’s (DOD) Director of Operational Test and Evaluation, released to the public on January 31, 2020, testers consider the “accuracy of the gun, as installed in the F-35A, to be unacceptable.”  While all three versions of the JSF come equipped with a 25mm gun, the Air Force’s version is the only one with an internal mount.  The gun accuracy of the F-35B and F-35C have been deemed acceptable.

The report also noted that the JSF program currently carries 873 unresolved deficiencies, including 13 Category 1 items, which involve the most serious flaws that could endanger aircrew and aircraft.  While this is an overall reduction from the 917 unresolved deficiencies and 15 Category 1 items found in September 2018, the report stated that “although the program is working to fix deficiencies, new discoveries are still being made, resulting in only a minor decrease in the overall number of deficiencies.” 

Furthermore, “there are many significant deficiencies that should be addressed…” to ensure that the platform is stable prior to additional functions planned for the JSF in Block 4, the next round of procurement.

Unfortunately, members of Congress have routinely disregarded the warning signs surrounding the program, happily increasing the rate of acquisition.  Between FYs 2018 to 2020, legislators earmarked $6.5 billion to purchase 58 JSFs beyond the number requested by the DOD, including $2 billion for 22 F-35s in FY 2020.  It is worth noting that additional money will be needed to fix the known problems in these 58 aircraft, a situation that was completely avoidable should members of Congress have simply met, and not exceeded, the funding level requested by the Pentagon.

The JSF program has long served as the posterchild for defense procurement run amok.  In development for nearly 18 years and more than eight years behind schedule, total acquisition costs now exceed $428 billion, nearly double the initial estimate of $233 billion. 

The problems of the most expensive weapon system in history – expected to reach $1.2 trillion over the lifetime of the platform – continue unabated.  Its poor performance will continue until members of Congress begin to hold the contractor accountable for the vast cost overruns and delays.

Unfortunately, given Congress’ track record on the issue, this seems highly unlikely.

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