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IPFS News Link • Military

Shockingly low number of F-35s are 'fully operational'

•, By Jared Conaboy

What is good for defense contractors is not necessarily good for the military, nor the taxpayer, they are supposed to serve. Consider the F-35 program, which was supposed to deliver a jet that would make all other military jets obsolete. It has yet to do so, and the failures of the program sustainability speak to the idea that we need diversity in our procurement.

For one thing, too many F-35 sit idle. At a recent congressional hearing, Air Force Secretary Frank Kendall claimed that "55% is the number we have for operational availability" of F-35s. That percentage sounds low; imagine if your car would get you to work only 55% of the time. You would be looking for another option!

But things are even worse than that for the F-35 program. Under further questioning, Kendall and his team admitted that fewer than a third of F-35s are "fully operational." That tracks with a report from the Project on Government Oversight, which reported this year: "The Pentagon's top testing office, the Director, Operational Test & Evaluation (DOT&E), recently released its office's annual report, which showed that the F-35 program has a fleet-wide full mission capable rate of only 30%."

Under criticism that the F-35 has become a "paperweight," Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin  responded at another congressional hearing that he disagreed with the characterization and "in the future we should take [and] we should have a different approach" to "get our aircraft operational." That would seem like the least we, as taxpayers and citizens, should expect.

Another lawmaker, Rep. Donald Norcross, (D-N.J.), notes that the F-35 is "our largest weapons program." It is certainly the most expensive. "The F-35 Lightning II Joint Strike Fighter program remains DOD's most expensive weapon system program," the GAO wrote last year. "It is estimated that it will cost over $1.7 trillion to buy, operate, and sustain these aircraft."

1 Comments in Response to

Comment by Randeau
Entered on:

The "F" stands for Feckless!