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 Sqdn. at Luke AFB, Arizona, was facing the prospect of two weeks on the ground.
Because one of the pilots was on sick leave for two months, the unit had a helmet to spare. Strongin reasoned that he could just take the clip from the absent pilot’s helmet and screw it onto his own until the new part came in.
But no, that would be against policy, he was told by higher ups.
F-35 fleet set to triple by 2021
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 (ALIS) to reflect the change. He was able to fly the next day.
This specific problem was resolved quickly, but that is not often the case.
Across the F-35 enterprise, operators are struggling with severe maintenance challenges of which the most critical are a spare parts shortage, insufficient repair capacity and excessive glitches in the ALIS logistics system that tracks the health of the fleet. Meanwhile at the production level, suppliers and skilled workers are making mistakes that slow down the manufacturing process before a complete aircraft even comes off the line.
The sustainment challenges are emerging at a pivotal time for the program, with F-35 pilot training ramping up, international deliveries accelerating, and the Navy on track to achieve initial operational capability of its F-35Cs in 2019. As the global F-35 fleet is poised to triple by 2021, government and industry officials are facing mounting pressure to solve these challenges—and fast. (end of excerpt)
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