LUKE AFB, Arizona and WASHINGTON --- When F-35 pilot Maj. Matt Strongin broke the plastic clip that connects his mask to his helmet, he was told that due to a backlog, it would take two weeks to ship a replacement clip from Texas.
In the meantime, Strongin, chief F-35 instructor at the 56th Training Squadron at Luke AFB, Arizona, was facing the prospect of two weeks on the ground.
The unit had a helmet to spare because one of the pilots was sick and out for two months. Couldn’t Strongin just take the clip from the sick pilot’s helmet and screw it onto his own until the new part came in?
No, that would be against policy, he was told.
Strongin did not let the issue drop. He sent his request up the chain to the F-35 Joint Program Office (JPO), which issued an “exception” to the policy and updated the software of the Autonomic Logistics and Information System, which tracks each part of each aircraft worldwide, to reflect the change. Strongin was able to fly the next day.
Strongin’s specific problem was resolved quickly, but other pilots are not so lucky. The pilots at the U.S. Air Force’s two F-35 training hubs are now feeling the impact of a major problem that is emerging across the enterprise: a severe shortage of spare parts and limited capacity to repair those that are broken, leading to low readiness levels across the fleet. And as the Air Force battles another critical shortage—the pilots themselves—the training bases are arguably facing the most urgent challenge. (end of excerpt)
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