Only Half of F-35s Available for Flight, Program Head Says
News that two-thirds of the Navy‘s aging F/A-18 Hornets were stuck on the flightline lit up headlines last year. But the defense department’s brand-new 5th-generation fighter program is also struggling to ensure that its shiny new aircraft are flyable, the three-star director of the program this week.
Of the 280 operational F-35s purchased to date by U.S. and international partners, only 51 percent are currently available for flight, Vice Adm. Mat Winter, director of the F-35 Joint Program Office, told reporters Wednesday at a round-table event.
WASHINGTON — As the production rate of Lockheed Martin’s F-35 joint strike fighter goes up, the company is wrestling with quality escapes involving the jet’s low observability features, which now amount to about half of all defects on the aircraft, the company’s vice president of the program revealed Monday.
Last week, Vice Adm. Mat Winter, the head of the government’s F-35 Joint Program Office, slammed Lockheed for what he sees as its too-slow progress on eliminating so-called quality escapes — errors made by Lockheed’s workforce that could include drilling holes that are too big or installing a dinged part.
While those errors are minor, the rework done to bring the plane up to requirements is driving up the amount of money and time spent producing an airplane, Winter said.