The U.S. Dept. of Defense halted deliveries of F-35 Lightning II Joint Strike Fighter jets earlier this week following the news that some raw materials sourced from China have been incorporated into a critical part. U.S. laws prohibit suppliers of military equipment to source materials or parts from foreign adversaries.
It’s not known how long the deliveries may be delayed, though the jet builder Lockheed Martin has stated the pause will not affect its delivery goals for 2022.
The issue involves a magnet in a turbomachine built by Honeywell that powers an engine-mounted starter/generator. The part is produced domestically using an alloy of cobalt and samarium sourced from China. The material is magnetized domestically too, according to Lockheed.
Lockheed confirmed the sourcing issue was discovered in late August.
The halt in deliveries was initiated to achieve compliance with the Defense Federal Acquisition Regulation Supplement (DFARS), the regulation governing sources for defense materials and components.
"We have confirmed that the magnet does not transmit information or harm the integrity of the aircraft, and there are no performance, quality, safety, or security risks associated with this issue, and flight operations for the F-35 in-service fleet will continue as normal," according to a spokesman for the Pentagon’s F-35 Joint Program Office.
A Lockheed spokeswoman said magnets installed on already-delivered F-35s will not be replaced.
The F-35 is a single-engine, Stealth-enabled aircraft designed for deployment for ground attack and combat, and available in three variants. Operators include the U.S. Air Force, U.S. Navy, and U.S. Marine Corps, plus defense forces in nine allied nations. Supply deals are pending for six other foreign customers.
More than 800 F-35s have been manufactured since 2006.
While Lockheed is the primary contractor for the F-35, it leads a program with over 1,700 suppliers.