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Fighter Jet Delivery Halted Over Corrosion Issue

Friday, November 3, 2017

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Corrosion problems are to blame for a 30-day hiatus in the delivery of F-35 fighter jets to the U.S. military, according to media reports published Wednesday (Nov. 1).

Aerospace manufacturer Lockheed Martin halted delivery of the planes from Sept. 21 through Oct. 20, according to the Pentagon’s F-35 Joint Program Office. The JPO, which oversees the “Joint Strike Fighter” program, cited corrosion on fastener holes in fuselage substructures for the stoppage.

F-35A
U.S. Air Force photo/R. Nial Bradshaw

Delivery of F-35 fighter jets was halted for one month while Lockheed Martin and the military worked on a solution to corrosion issues around fastener holes in the fuselage.

The JPO told PaintSquare Daily News in a statement that the issue stemmed from fact that the defense contractor "had not applied the required primer in fastener holes on F-35 substructures during the aircraft production process." The corrosion problem was discovered during maintenance on F-35A jets at Hill Air Force Base, in Utah.

"In partnership with the JPO, we are taking a holistic fleet-wide approach to plan and implement corrective action on aircraft in production and fielded jets, which allowed deliveries to resume," a Lockheed Martin spokesperson said in a statement. "We continue to be on track to meet our delivery goal of 66 F-35s by the end of 2017 and have delivered 54 aircraft year-to-date."

About the Planes

The F-35 project includes three models—the F-35A, the most common variant, used by the U.S. Air Force; the F-35B, planned for use primarily by the Marine Corps; and the F-35C, planned for use by the Navy and Air Force. Some F-35A jets have been delivered to, or are on order for, countries including Australia, Israel, South Korea and Turkey.

The Defense Department told Reuters that corrective action is necessary, but the corrosion problem does not pose an immediate safety risk. The fastener holes on planes already in service will have primer applied during maintenance; new models will now have primer applied in the spot that was previously missed.

More than 200 F-35 jets have been delivered to date, and repair delays have already been reported as a considerable problem with the planes.

The F-35 program is the most expensive weapons program in U.S. history, with production of the nearly 2,500 jets ordered by the DOD estimated to cost more than $400 billion, and total costs over the lifetime of the program set to reach $1.5 trillion. The first jets were built in 2006, the planes in the U.S. fleet were declared operational last year, and the F-35 is expected to be in service through 2070.

The program has been a lightning rod because of its rising costs and repeated mechanical and technical issues. In January, shortly after his inauguration, President Donald J. Trump called for a review of the program, asking the Pentagon to find a way to reduce costs.

Corrosion Questions

In 2010, a team of DOD corrosion experts delivered a report on the F-35 and the earlier F-22 fighter, holding that both jets were at risk for corrosion. The team, from the Office of Corrosion Policy and Oversight, noted that the F-35 featured design elements that were put in place to save weight and benefit the environment, but that corrosion was not taken into account sufficiently during design.

The JPO responded in 2011 with a report indicating that the F-35 had a comprehensive corrosion prevention program in place, and that the corrosion team’s concerns about the type of primer used on the jets were being addressed.

   

Tagged categories: Aerospace; Aluminum; Corrosion; Military; Primers

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