A new McAleese & Associates report says U.S. Air Force officials addressed questions raised by lawmakers over the F-35 program during the House Armed Services tactical air and land forces subcommittee hearing on fiscal year 2022 fixed-wing aircraft programs Tuesday.
Jim McAleese, founder of McAleese & Associates and a three-time Wash100 winner, reported that Air Force leaders told House lawmakers that 41 F-35 conventional take-off and landing aircraft do not have an engine due to unscheduled F135 engine depot maintenance and that 56 F135 power modules are currently under repair at Tinker Air Force Base in Oklahoma.
Lt. Gen. Eric Fick, program executive officer for the F-35 joint program office, said several of those aircraft lacking engines are not mission capable because of required airframe repairs. He noted that no F-35 aircraft delivery has been delayed because of late F135 engine deliveries.
Fick told subcommittee members that the “need to look for new options for a propulsion system is pressing,” citing the need for “increased power and thermal management capability,” according to the report.
Fick said the F-35 JPO is establishing repair operations at other facilities, accelerating repair time at Tinker and keeping engines on aircraft longer in an effort to address the engine gap. He added that the program office expects to meet demand for engine power modules by 2024 and clear the backlog by 2029.
A Government Accountability Office report published Tuesday says the F-35 program has yet to fully address issues previously raised, such as resolving critical deficiencies with the aircraft and addressing supply chain problems that strain production and sustainment.