WASHINGTON --- The U.S. Department of Defense has stopped accepting most deliveries of F-35 jets from Lockheed Martin Corp because of a dispute over who will cover costs for fixing a production error, three people familiar with the matter said.
Lockheed confirmed on Wednesday that the Pentagon had halted deliveries of the jet over a contractual issue, but did not give further details.
Last year, the Pentagon stopped accepting F-35s for 30 days after discovering corrosion where panels were fastened to the airframe, an issue that affected more than 200 of the stealthy jets. Once a fix had been devised, the deliveries resumed, and Lockheed hit its target aircraft delivery numbers for 2017.
But deliveries were paused again over a dispute as to who will pay for what will likely be a complex logistical fix that could require technicians to travel widely to mend aircraft based around the world, said the people, who spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to speak publicly about the matter.
When the Pentagon stops taking delivery of F-35s, foreign customers can also be affected. So far at least two foreign governments have stopped accepting F-35s as a result of this issue, two of the sources said.
A Lockheed spokeswoman said on Wednesday: “Production on the F-35 program continues and we are confident we will meet our delivery target of 91 aircraft for 2018. While all work in our factories remains active, the F-35 Joint Program Office has temporarily suspended accepting aircraft until we reach an agreement on a contractual issue and we expect this to be resolved soon.” (end of excerpt)
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(EDITOR'S NOTE: The Pentagon on Thursday confirmed the delivery stop in a statement to Reuters.
“F-35 deliveries have been temporarily paused while the government and Lockheed Martin reach an agreement on a contractual issue regarding repair work to remediate the known aircraft fastener hole primer quality escape,” the statement said, referring to a primer applied to aluminum fasteners to prevent corrosion.
“This is not a safety of flight issue but rather a contractual resourcing issue that needs to be resolved. The government has implemented this pause to ensure the warfighter receives a quality product from industry,” the Pentagon added.)
--Editor's Note with Pentagon statement added at 23:30 GMT on April 12.