NATIONAL HARBOR: A fix has been identified for the 15 F-35As currently banned from flying and tests on the engineering will begin next week, said Lt. Gen. Chris Bogdan. The head of the Joint Program Office told the Air Force Association conference here that the F-35s should have their fuel tank insulation problems fixed by the end of the year.
Then the 42 airplanes still on the production line will be fixed. The two F-35As made for Israel, which need to be there in December for a big rollout ceremony, will be worked on immediately, Bogdan said. Planes still in production for Japan, Norway, Italy and Israeli will need to be fixed.
The problems with the insulation on the cooling lines inside the planes’ were caused by a secondary supplier. They were discovered during depot modification of an F-35A and affect a total of 57 aircraft. The insulation should have no effect on the F-135 engines, built by Pratt & Whitney, because it gets caught by filters or clogs inlets before it can reach the engines.
Bogdan, who praised prime contractor Lockheed Martin for its response to the issue, said the highest levels of the company were involved in finding the engineering fixes and in agreeing to pay for all the work needed to fix them. Calling the mistake “pretty fundamental,” he noted that both Lockheed and the supplier had not detected the problem in the first place and allowed the wrong material to be bought and installed. He would not identify the supplier, but did say they would continue to supply insulation to the program.
Perhaps the biggest Joint Strike Fighter news in the long term was Bogdan’s estimate today that a block buy by allies and JSF partners of 450 aircraft would “conservatively” save $2 billion, including money saved by buying advanced parts for US jets. For readers not familiar with this approach, a block buy is not a multiyear purchase, which requires congressional approval. The block buy would occur over three years. Any partner buying planes in the lots covered by that sale would benefit from the savings starting with LRIP lot 12 and including lots 13 and 14. Bogdan is still hammering out prices with Lockheed for lots 9 and 10. He predicted a deal before the end of the year.