The Marine Corps’ F-35B fighters are among the oldest operating aircraft to come out of the Joint Strike Fighter program, and they’re beginning to run into some maintenance issues. While many of the repairs being made to the aircraft are upgrades to bring them in line with the latest software releases and accompanying hardware upgrades, a fair share is for typical aircraft maintenance issues—and those issues are leading to an increasing number of aircraft left grounded waiting for parts.
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As Defense News’ Valerie Insinna reports, that’s often because the wait time for delivery on some parts is a month or longer. And according to a GAO report, the lead time for some F-35 replacement parts could be two years or longer. Between waiting for parts and time spent offline for upgrades, F-35s worldwide were unable to fly 22 percent of the time between January and August of 2017. The GAO report, published last October, warned of “sustainment challenges” faced by the F-35 program—many of them because of poor planning and delays in bringing repair parts suppliers and depots onboard.
If anything major goes wrong with an F-35, it could spend a lot more time waiting to be repaired. “DOD does not have enough capacity to repair F-35 aircraft parts because the establishment of repair capabilities at the military depots is six years behind schedule,” the GAO report stated. “Repair capabilities at the military depots were originally planned to be completed by 2016, but program officials told us that some capabilities have now been delayed until 2022.”