The U.S. military's growing fleet of F-35 stealth fighters will fall short of the 80 percent readiness goal that former Defense Secretary James Mattis instituted before quitting in protest of President Donald Trump's foreign policy in January 2019.
Former Secretary of the Army Mark Esper, who is Trump's nominee to replace Mattis, in mid-July 2019 told a Senate committee the roughly 300-strong fleet of F-35s belonging to the U.S. Air Force, Navy and Marine Corps "is not expected" to meet Mattis's readiness goal.
Esper blamed the F-35's canopy, or "transparency."
"Transparency supply shortages continue to be the main obstacle to achieving this," Esper told the committee. "We are seeking additional sources to fix unserviceable canopies."
America's most expensive weapon — Lockheed Martin's F-35 Lightning II Joint Strike Fighter — is still struggling with a number of serious problems, such as destructive chain reactions triggered by a flat tire, a weird green glow on the helmet display that makes it difficult to land on aircraft carriers, and a loss of stealth at supersonic speeds.
Documents obtained by Defense News indicate that the U.S. military's fifth-generation F-35 stealth fighters continue to suffer from more than a dozen issues that could potentially put pilots at risk or jeopardize a mission.
(JASDF's 3rd Air Wing, 302nd Tactical Fighter Squadron)
The F-35 that went missing in April crashed after the pilot lost his spatial awareness and slammed the fighter into the Pacific Ocean at almost 700 mph, the Japanese defense ministry said Monday, according to multiple reports.
A Japan Air Self-Defense Force (JASDF) F-35A Joint Strike Fighter piloted by Maj. Akinori Hosomi of the 3rd Air Wing's 302nd Tactical Fighter Squadron mysteriously vanished from radar on April 9 about 85 miles east of Misawa Air Base.
The U.S and Japan dispatched military assets to assist in search and rescue operations. The U.S. ended its search in May, but the Japanese military kept going until last week.
The Air Force is preparing Nellis Air Force Base in Nevada to host an aggressor squadron flying F-35 stealth fighters.
The Air Force in May 2019 announced it would re-establish a defunct squadron that flew F-15s to simulate the enemy force in realistic war games. The service in 2014 shuttered the 65th Aggressor Squadron as a cost-saving measure.
The 65th Aggressor Squadron in its new form would operate nine early-model F-35A stealth fighters that the Air Force considers unsuitable for combat. The "red air" F-35s would help the Air Force to copy the tactics of Russian and Chinese squadrons respectively flying Su-57 and J-20 stealth fighters."