Engine problems are reducing the readiness levels of the F-35 the most expensive weapons program, as per the auditors of Congress.
F-35 engine problems are affecting the hardest on the version that is used for the Air Force, which has the largest fleet of F-35s. (REUTERS)
Engine shortages are reducing the efficiency of the F-35 which is the most expensive weapons program as per congressional auditors. Since the beginning of the year 2020 the amount of fighter jets “have not been able to fly due to the lack of an operating engine,” the U.S. Government Accountability Office stated in prepared testimony on Thursday to a House Armed Services subcommittee. The most severe problem is with the model used for the Air Force, which has the largest number of F-35s.
The engines manufactured by Raytheon Technologies Corp.’s Pratt & Whitney unit aren’t breaking down more frequently than anticipated, however, the process of replacing or fixing them in the event of failure takes longer than anticipated. The reason is that breakdowns typically require the power module which takes a lot of time as well as GAO has stated that the Pentagon isn’t able to provide enough depot maintenance capacity when increasing the amount of F-35s in the fleet has increased.
Expressing displeasure over anger over the F-35 engine Rep. John Garamendi, the subcommittee’s chairman, announced that he would make an appointment with Pratt & Whitney representatives to give testimony. “Watch out, I’m coming after you,” the California Democrat declared.
The GAO evaluated it as F-35 levels of readiness for the Air Force, Navy, and Marine Corps have improved since the beginning of 2019, but they are still below the goals of the program. The aircraft can fly and carry out all its missions 39 percent of the time during 2020 before falling to 38% by the fiscal year 2021. It’s far below the targets of 72 percent in those in the Air Force and 75% for the Navy and Marine models.
Defense Department officials said “they recognized that they have not had adequate depot capacity to repair the power module and do not have sufficient capacity to meet the demand of future unscheduled and scheduled engine repairs,” the GAO declared.
The issue of engine repair and the ramifications it has for readiness, provide an example of how the Pentagon has a difficult time reducing the estimated $1.3 trillion expense to operate and maintain the aircraft manufactured through Lockheed Martin Corp. over an estimated 66-year lifespan. This is separate from the problems with the $398 billion program to design and construct the fighter. As of now 788 of these planes are in the hands of the U.S. military and customers overseas.