Armed Forces News

The F-35 Lightning II Joint Strike Fighter program could miss its test schedule and not meet manufacturing leading practices standards, the Government Accountability Office (GAO) stated in a May 12 report.

In the report, GAO – the government’s chief watchdog agency – stated that the F-35 program had to extend its planned operational testing schedule last year by nine months. While the testing was completed, the action nonetheless delays the decision to move to full-rate production until sometime between this September and next March, GAO stated.

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Additionally, even as the program has increased production rate and negotiated lower prices per aircraft, GAO stated, “Only 3,000 of the airframe contractor’s manufacturing key processes meet predefined design standards for ensuring product quality.”

The 500 aircraft now fielded also are falling short of reliability and maintainability goals as well, GAO stated.

“Although the contractor is changing manufacturing processes to address problems and improve efficiency, more remains to be done,” GAO stated. “Unless the program office evaluates the risks of not meeting these leading practices, the military services and international partners are at risk of not receiving the quality of aircraft they purchased.”