F-35 deliveries to resume following Chinese alloy detection

By Briana Reilly / October 11, 2022 at 9:51 AM

The Pentagon is poised to resume accepting deliveries of the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter following a weeks-long stall stemming from the recent detection of a Chinese-sourced alloy within the jet's turbomachine.

The restart, OK’d by Defense Department acquisition chief William LaPlante late last week, gives DOD the all-clear to welcome a total of 126 Lot 13 and Lot 14 fighters from airframe vendor Lockheed Martin, according to an Oct. 8 statement.

The pause, announced last month, came after the F-35 Joint Program Office was notified of the sourced alloy used in a magnet on the Honeywell-built turbomachine. In the interim, officials initiated an investigation surrounding the alloy’s non-compliance with the Defense Federal Acquisition Regulations Supplement and determined a National Security Waiver would be needed to again begin shipments of the aircraft.

Politico first reported Oct. 7 that LaPlante’s waiver had been sent to Capitol Hill.

The resumption covers the F-35s under the Lot 12-14 production contract, and the last of those aircraft is projected to be delivered Oct. 31, per DOD’s statement. No flight safety issues have been detected stemming from the alloy’s discovery.

Lockheed spokeswoman Laura Siebert said the company expects deliveries to begin in the coming days. In all, 18 production aircraft were held as part of the pause, she added, and the company has delivered 88 jets thus far.

“We are resuming delivery of F-35 aircraft and remain committed to our supplier standards and contractual requirements in delivering the most advanced fighter jet in the world,” she said.

The F-35 is made up of 300,000 parts from more than 1,700 suppliers. All supplier parts on the F-35 are inspected at every stage of production to ensure they meet strict program standards before delivery and present no risks to the F-35 aircraft. The company says it was notified by Honeywell in late August of the sourcing issue, while Honeywell was first informed of the issue by its lube pump supplier for the turbomachine.

In media briefings since the issue was first reported, LaPlante has emphasized DOD officials’ efforts to gain “supply chain illumination” -- essentially enhance prime contractors’ understanding of the scope of their suppliers.

“And so what this is becoming is -- and it's been recognized for some time -- almost a real-time issue of tracking and making sure that there's integrity in your supply chain,” he said in a Sept. 9 briefing. “The good news is there are tools coming out using artificial intelligence and open source that can dive in and maybe find some of these things, but I think it's going to be a constant issue for us is understanding our supply chain.”