“Mr. Shanahan told us that he did not say that the F-35 aircraft was ‘f—-d up.’ He told us that the F-35 aircraft is ‘awesome,’ the report states.”Mr. Shanahan told us that he said the F-35 program was ‘f—-d up.’ “
“He added that these comments were “always relative to a level of performance, and the number of categories where you have … fundamental problems,” it adds, noting Shanahan’s overall criticisms of the F-35 program were based on a variety of issues, including “insufficient spare parts in the inventory” and the cost per flight hour not decreasing fast enough.”
The jet — which maintains stealth capabilities, making it harder for enemy radars to detect — has been a favorite of President Donald Trump, who has lauded the F-35 several times for being “invisible.”
However, the aircraft has also drawn sharp criticism in recent years after facing a long list of setbacks — including problems with software, engines and weapon systems.
And critics have continued to express skepticism about its combat capability despite reassurances by US military leaders who say the kinks are being worked out.
More questions have been raised about the F-35 this month after one flown by the Japanese Self-Defense Force crashed into the Pacific. Japan has since grounded its remaining fleet of 12 of the stealth jets.
Tokyo plans to make the planes the mainstay of its fleet, with 147 in house or on order. South Korea and Australia also fly the F-35 in the Pacific, and Singapore has said it wants to buy the jets.
Specifically, issues related to the aircraft’s supply chain remain an obvious concern as sustainment costs for the F-35 are estimated at more than $1 trillion over a 60-year life cycle, according to GAO estimates.
“F-35 aircraft performance is falling short of warfighter requirements — that is, aircraft cannot perform as many missions or fly as often as required,” the GAO found. “This lower-than-desired aircraft performance is due largely to F-35 spare parts shortages and difficulty in managing and moving parts around the world.”
The Pentagon and Lockheed Martin have both said they are working with the GAO to implement specific recommendations outlined in its latest report.
“The department worked with the Government Accountability Office on this F-35 sustainment report. The department concurred with all eight of the report recommendations, and provided a specific, official response to each as detailed on pages 69-72 of the report,” Defense Department spokesperson Lt. Col. Mike Andrews said in a statement to CNN.
Lockheed Martin also said it is “taking aggressive action to build supply chain capacity, reduce supply chain costs and improve part availability to help drive sustainment costs down while enhancing readiness.”
“We are investing, taking aggressive action and partnering with the government and our supply base to achieve shared cost reduction goals, while also improving readiness to meet the Pentagon’s 80 percent mission capable rate,” the company said in a statement.