Lockheed Martin’s F-35 fighter jet has entered its 16th and supposedly final year of development, but the Pentagon says efforts to improve the aircraft have grown “stagnant.” A shortage of spare parts continues to be a problem, leading to an availability rate for missions of only about 50 percent. There have been no improvements on that key metric since October 2014, according to a report issued Tuesday by the Defense Department’s director of operational testing.
Other persistent problems include software that is still deficient and flaws in launching air-to-air missiles, according to Bloomberg, which obtained a copy of the Pentagon report.
The world’s most expensive weapons system is scheduled to begin combat testing in September, a process that should take a year and is required before the jet can begin full production — which Bloomberg notes is “the most profitable phase for Lockheed.”
Acquisition of the three versions of the F-35 — with unique iterations for the Air Force, the Navy and the Marines — is projected to cost $406 billion, with lifetime operational costs of $1.2 trillion.
Although the jet is still experiencing significant problems, “the Defense Department is moving to accelerate contracting and production for the fighter despite the persistence of technical and reliability issues disclosed in the current phase of development testing,” Bloomberg writes.