The U.S. Dept. of Defense and Lockheed Martin Corp. are negotiating how the contractor will compensate the Pentagon for having delivered inadequate parts for the F-35 Lightning II Stealth fighter aircraft. According to statements by DoD and Lockheed, the two agree on the scope of the problem and that some compensation is required, but a conclusive agreement is still in discussion.
Safety and/or manufacturing flaws have not been identified as a concern for the parts in question, but rather the availability of electronic data records of individual parts' history and remaining service life. Such data is critical for aircraft maintenance, and each F-35 reportedly has about 1,000 parts (among about 50,000 total per aircraft) that require individual data records.
A Lockheed Martin spokesman stated that the company is working with DoD's Defense Contract Management Agency to resolve the issues related to the parts data records.
Reportedly, over the course of many months Lockheed delivered parts considered inadequate for installation because they were supplied without the requisite data. F-35 maintenance technicians reportedly are unable to perform their work properly or on time due to the unavailability of suitable replacement parts.
One report claimed that in a single 2018 delivery, 80% of the supplied parts could not be installed because of missing data records.
More than a year ago a DoD inspector general reported the record-keeping problem in incidents stretching back many months. The missing data records and the prospect of a refund will be addressed by a House Oversight and Reform Committee hearing scheduled for Wednesday, July 22.
The Pentagon's F-35 program office said Lockheed's 2021-2023 support contract requires that 99% of delivered parts must include the required information in order for the contractor to collect its contract fees.
"As of June 2020, we're at 83% and climbing" and "we expect 90% (or higher)" by Dec. 31, according to the statement.
The F-35 is a series of three different, single-engine aircraft with Stealth capability and designed for ground attack and combat. It's deployed by the U.S Air Force, U.S. Marine Corps, and U.S. Navy, and the defense forces of multiple allied nations. Each aircraft is valued at $89.2 million to $115.5 million, depending on the model, and while Lockheed is the lead contractor there are hundreds of suppliers included in the program, the largest for the DoD.
To date, about 500 of the aircraft have been delivered to the USAF, USMC, and USN. Several hundred more of the aircraft have been delivered to U.S. allies' defense forces.