A near six-month delay in securing spare parts and other issues have significantly curtailed the operations of the United States’ futuristic fighter aircraft, which Australia is buying for $17 billion.
The Australian Defence Force has ordered 72 of the F-35A version of the fifth-generation fighters from the US with the first six due to be delivered late next year and initial operational capability scheduled for December 2020.
But the Lockheed Martin-built aircraft with stealth capability and an extraordinary integrated sensor package has been beset by a series of developmental problems that have ranged from an inability to fly in thunderstorms and oxygen-supply problems to the ejection system potentially killing or maiming lightweight pilots.
The latest issues with spare parts and related challenges were uncovered by the US Government Accountability Office and are likely to provide fodder for critics who fear the aircraft will face cost blowouts and run years behind schedule because of the complex and experimental nature of the systems being used.
The issues being canvassed could provide a blueprint for the issues Australia could face in maintaining its own fleet. (end of excerpt)
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-- Dec. 06, 2017: corrected typo in headline.