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Lockheed Running Out Of Parking Space For F-35s Pentagon Refuses To Accept

Another day, another indication of what a spectacular, snakebit clusterf**k the F-35 program is. 

The latest blotter entry comes to us from the US Government Accounting Office (GAO), via a new report pointedly titled “F-35 Joint Strike Fighter: Program Continues to Encounter Production Issues and Modernization Delays.”According to GAO, Lockheed Martin is running out of parking space for all the completed F-35s that the Pentagon refuses to accept. 

These aren’t one-by-one rejects. Last summer, the DOD put a complete freeze on accepting the stealth fighters until Lockheed fixed huge hardware and software problems associated with “Technology Refresh-3” (TR-3), a $1.8 billion package intended to expand the planes’ capabilities.  

At Hill Air Force Base in 2020, USAF F-35 pilots perform an “elephant walk” — an exercise supposedly meant to prepare for mass takeoffs, but which strikes us more as a self-indulgent, $44,000-per-jet-per-hour circle-jerk (USAF photo)

The worst of the software glitches affect the F-35’s radar and electronic warfare systems, “with some test pilots reporting that they had to reboot their entire radar and electronic warfare systems mid-flight to get them back online,” says GAO. Gee, that sounds kinda bad.  

As the TR-3 woes continue, the jets are stacking up at Lockheed’s facilities. Referencing a milestone that had already passed when it published its report, GAO wrote, “If TR-3 software is delayed past April 2024, Lockheed Martin is projected to exceed its maximum parking capacity and will need to develop a plan to accommodate more parked planes.” Deflecting concerns, in a statement last week, Lockheed said, “Specific details about parking will not be shared due to security considerations.” 

Even while they’re parked at Lockheed, the jets present a liability risk to the government, thanks to contract provisions under which “the government assumes the risk of loss of aircraft ‘in the open,’ which is subject to the contractor’s share of loss and deductible under the contract,” GAO reports.  

This F-35B Lightning II crashed during a landing at a Texas reserve base in 2022 (KDFW via Military.com)

GAO says the software won’t be stabilized until “at least June 2024.” Whenever that day comes, it will only be the beginning of the end of this latest chapter, as GAO says eventual delivery of the backlogged jets will take a year.   

In the meantime, silly taxpayer, don’t bother asking for a specific number of undelivered F-35s. In a lack of transparency that’s surely driven soley by a desire to shield the military-industrial complex from embarrassment, “DOD deemed reporting the specific quantity of aircraft to be unsuitable for public release,” said GAO.  

The chairman of the House Armed Services tactical air and land forces subcommittee gave reporters a strong hint last week. “We know one thing for certain: it’s going to be at least over 100 aircraft stacked up on the tarmac,” said Rep. Rob Wittman (R-VA), according to Defense One

Already the most expensive weapons program in world history, the F-35 is on pace to cost Americans more than $2 trillion. The number is staggering enough on its own, but here’s some additional context via the National Interest:

The fifth-generation F-22, not exactly a cheap program, cost taxpayers $66 billion. The entire U.S. annual defense budget is under $900 billion – nearly three times the defense budget of China, and ten times the defense budget of Russia. Yet, the F-35 program is pushing the $2 trillion mark.

As the Epoch Times reported earlier this year, a different GAO report had even more unsettling information about the F-35s that are already in the Pentagon’s hands, indicating that “only 15 to 30 percent of F-35s may be capable of combat.”

Lockheed Martin was awarded the F-35 contract 22 years ago — and, just coincidentally, Lockheed Martin shareholders have enjoyed 22 years of consecutive dividend increases. 

Source: zerohedge.com

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