F-35 failure forces countries to reconsider contracts
Ongoing incidents onboard the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter jets have caused the US Air Force to suspend the program themselves several times as of late, and with other countries lined up to purchase the planes at roughly $200 million a pop, malfunctions, delays and growing costs are raising more than just a few eyebrows.
From Sydney, Australia on Thursday, US Air Force Major General John F. Thompson, deputy Joint Strike Force Program executive officer, told reporters that the military vowed to see no further delays in the F-35 program that has so far been marred with mishaps.
General Thompson reassured representatives from Britain, Australia, Turkey, Canada, Denmark, Norway, Italy and the Netherlands this week that, despite consistent concerns, he was confident that the program would see no further flukes. That decision came after Canada announced that it was considering the cancelation of an order of 65 warplanes; Japan, who intended on ordering a few dozen themselves, said they were also considering pulling out.
"We have been given the adequate time needed to execute the program,” explained General Thompson. "There was plenty of lively discussion on affordability and production. What we pledged today was to maintain a very open line of communication."
Despite investing $382 billion in its F-35 program, the US has continued to encounter setbacks along the way. Last year the Air Force suspended operation of its fleet of 20 Joint Strike Fighters after they experienced malfunctions, and that was already the third time the program was put on hold. With the Pentagon publicizing last month that the US was going to postpone its own plans for a fleet of 179 F-35s citing budget concerns, now other countries are considering the same.
On top of technical and mechanical problems, countries considering purchasing the planes cite growing costs as a big issue. The US decided to momentarily move aside its plans for nearly 200 planes saying it would save the Defense Department over $15 billion, but now that decision is proving disastrous for others. Lockheed Martin, the manufacturer of the aircraft, said that the postponement will only put a higher price tag on the cost of the plane, which isn’t good for potential purchasers. Even still, US officials say that future roadblocks will be rare from here on out.
"I am absolutely confident that we will get where we want to go," added Thompson, reports Reuters. "But from a procurement standpoint, it's up to each partner to decide what they want to procure and how much they want to procure to address their capability gaps."
Both Britain and Australia have confirmed that they will wait until a later date before formally signing off on the acquisition of the fleets they had in mind. In the end, however, the US says the still expect to sell more than 700 of the jets overseas within the next decade.