Secretary of Defense nominee: F-35 won’t hit readiness goal this year

Posted at 11:43 AM, Jul 17, 2019
and last updated 2019-07-17 16:34:17-04

WASHINGTON, D.C. -The F-35 Joint Strike Fighter is not expected to reach a readiness goal set for it.

The fighter jet has variants for the Air Force, Marine Corps, and Navy.

In September 2018, then Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis ordered the Air Force and Navy to increase missions capable rates for the F-35 to be above 80 percent by the end of September 2019.

In written responses submitted to questions from the Senate Armed Services Committee for his nomination to become the next Secretary of Defense, Mark Esper indicated the F-35 will not meet that objective.

Esper wrote that "transparency (canopy) supply shortages continue to be the main obstacle to achieving this," and added that the Department of Defense was seeking additional resources to fix the canopies.

An April report from the Government Accountability Office found that shortages, repair backlogs, and mismatched parts are grounding F-35 jets.

The canopy issue was specifically outlined in the GAO report.

"DOD found that the special coating on the F-35 canopy that enables the aircraft to maintain its stealth failed more frequently than expected, and that the manufacturer could not produce enough canopies to meet demands. To address these challenges, the program is looking for additional manufacturing sources for the canopy and is considering design changes."

The report found that F-35s were unable to fly nearly 30% of the time between May and November 2018 because of a lack of needed parts.

You can read the full report from the GAO here.