The US Department of Defense has stopped accepting most deliveries of F-35 jets from Lockheed Martin because of a dispute over who will cover costs for fixing a production error.
Last year, the Pentagon stopped accepting F-35s for 30 days after discovering corrosion where panels were fastened to the airframe, an issue that affected more than 200 of the stealthy jets. Once a fix had been devised, the deliveries resumed, and Lockheed hit its target aircraft delivery numbers for 2017.
But deliveries were paused again over a dispute as to who will pay for what will likely be a complex logistical fix that could require technicians to travel widely to mend aircraft based around the world.
A Lockheed spokeswoman said on Wednesday: “Production on the F-35 program continues and we are confident we will meet our delivery target of 91 aircraft for 2018. While all work in our factories remains active, the F-35 Joint Program Office has temporarily suspended accepting aircraft until we reach an agreement on a contractual issue and we expect this to be resolved soon.”
At the heart of the dispute is the government’s inspection of the planes during Lockheed’s production, which failed to discover problems with the fastenings, the sources said. Because neither party caught the issue at the time each is pointing the finger at the other to pay for the fix.
During routine maintenance at Hill Air Force Base in Utah last year, the Air Force detected “corrosion exceeding technical limits,” where the carbon fiber exterior panel is fastened to the aluminum airframe.
A lack of protective coating at the fastening point that would have prevented corrosion was identified as the primary problem