All of the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter variants adopted across the Air Force, Navy, and Marine Corps “are breaking more often than planned and taking longer to fix,” the Pentagon's chief weapons tester told lawmakers on Wednesday.
Speaking before the House Armed Services Committee, Defense Department Operational Test and Evaluation (OT&E) director Robert F. Behler testified that the operational suitability of the Pentagon's F-35 fleet remains “at a level below service expectations.”
“The fleet-wide monthly availability rate for U.S. aircraft, for the 12 months ending September 2019, was below the target of 65 percent,” Behler said, noting that “no portion of the fleet” was close to meeting the ambitious goal of a 80 percent mission capable rate that then-Defense Secretary James Mattis set just over a year ago.
“None of the F-35 variants is meeting either the reliability or the maintainability metrics,” added. “In short, for all variants, aircraft are breaking more often than planned and taking longer to fix.”
This is no surprise for the perpetually-buggy aircraft. Indeed, the Pentagon's 2018 OT&E report released in February indicated that F-35's ongoing reliability issues have drastically shortened its airframe's life so far below expectations that there's “no improving trend in” available aircraft for both training and combat missions.
The following June, documented obtained by Defense News indicated that the Pentagon's F-35 variants continue to suffer from more than a dozen category 1 deficiencies that could potentially put pilots at risk during combat operations.
In July, then-defense secretary nominee Mark Esper told lawmakers that “unserviceable canopies” which an earlier GAO report had indicated “failed more frequently than expected” were preventing the DoD from reaching his predecessor's lofty readiness goal.
The Defense Department in October signed off on a $34 billion with Lockheed Martin to to purchase 478 F-35s from the defense contractor. At the moment, the Pentagon has been sending the most advnaced aircraft in modern military history into combat to blow up terrorist caves, so there's that I guess.