JPO pauses F-35 deliveries due to Chinese-produced part

By Briana Reilly / September 7, 2022 at 2:18 PM

The F-35 Joint Program Office has suspended deliveries of the Joint Strike Fighter aircraft after officials found a component of the platform's turbomachine is sourced from China.

The Defense Contract Management Agency first notified JPO of the discovery of the sourced piece -- the alloy used in a magnet on the Honeywell-built turbomachine -- on Aug. 19, a spokesman said, leading to the pause as defense officials and executives at airframe prime contractor Lockheed Martin investigate.

No flight safety issues have been detected stemming from the discovery, and contractors say they have identified a new U.S. provider of the alloy.

“We have confirmed that the magnet does not transmit information or harm the integrity of the aircraft and there are no performance, quality, safety or security risks associated with this issue and flight operations for the F-35 in-service fleet will continue as normal,” the JPO spokesman added in a statement to Inside Defense.

First reported today by Politico, the stall in deliveries impacts customers ranging from the military services -- the Air Force, Navy and Marines -- to international customers who for the most part fly the conventional-takeoff-and-landing version of the aircraft.

While it’s unclear how long the suspension will last, a Lockheed spokeswoman wrote in an email that the company has delivered 88 jets thus far and remains on track to deliver the previously planned 148-153 aircraft this year.

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.

“We are working with our partners and DOD to ensure contractual compliance within the supply chain,” Lockheed spokeswoman Laura Siebert said. “The magnet has no visibility or access to any sensitive program information. The F-35 remains safe for flight, and we are working with the DOD to resolve the issue as quickly as possible to resume deliveries.”

Honeywell spokesman Adam Kress said in a separate statement that the company is “committed to supplying high-quality products that meet or exceed all customer contract requirements.”

“We are working closely with DOD and Lockheed Martin to ensure that we continue to achieve those commitments on products Honeywell supplies for use on the F-35,” he added.

The notification kicked off an investigation surrounding the alloy’s non-compliance with the Defense Federal Acquisition Regulations Supplement, the JPO spokesman said. The review is continuing “to understand the causal factors for the non-compliance and to establish corrective action.”

If officials determine there is a statutory compliance issue, Lockheed will need a National Security Waiver to restart deliveries, according to the company -- something that the under secretary of defense for acquisition and sustainment, William LaPlante, would need to decide.

Meanwhile, executives are looking into “mitigation plans” that could allow deliveries to resume for now, per the company. As the investigation continues, completed production aircraft are slated to stay with Lockheed until deliveries restart.