At the heart of the dispute is the government’s inspection of the planes during Lockheed’s production, which failed to discover problems with the fastenings, the sources said.
A dispute with Lockheed Martin over a production mistake on the F-35 has prompted the Pentagon and at least two foreign countries from accepting deliveryof new aircraft.
Corrosion “exceeding technical limits” was discovered during routine maintenance at Hill Air Force Base (AFB) last year. The Pentagon determined that the “lack of protective coating at the fastening point” between the carbon fiber exterior panel and aluminum airframe to be the cause.
As reported by Reuters the dispute centers on who will foot the bill for Lockheed Martin technicians to travel around the world to remedy the issue on jets based overseas.
Last year, the Pentagon stopped accepting F-35s for 30 days after discovering corrosion where panels were fastened to the airframe, an issue that affected more than 200 of the stealthy jets. Once a fix had been devised, the deliveries resumed, and Lockheed hit its target aircraft delivery numbers for 2017.
A Lockheed spokeswoman said on Wednesday: “Production on the F-35 program continues and we are confident we will meet our delivery target of 91 aircraft for 2018. While all work in our factories remains active, the F-35 Joint Program Office has temporarily suspended accepting aircraft until we reach an agreement on a contractual issue and we expect this to be resolved soon.”
The fastening issue on the F-35 fleet was not affecting flights, nor was it a safety concern, the Pentagon said.
At the heart of the dispute is the government’s inspection of the planes during Lockheed’s production, which failed to discover problems with the fastenings, the sources said. Because neither party caught the issue at the time each is pointing the finger at the other to pay for the fix.
Two jets were received by the Pentagon despite the suspension because of specific needs in the field, a source told Reuters.
Noteworthy the delivery pause is the latest of several production issues that have arisen in the Pentagon’s most expensive weapons program, and comes at a time when the administration of President Donald Trump has criticized the cost of the fighter.
In 2016, a fix for insulation problems in the fuel tanks and lines of the jets caused a slowdown in deliveries.
This article by Dario Leone originally appeared on The Aviation Geek Club in 2018.