A report from the US Government Accountability Office (GAO) has made important recommendations about the F-35 to Congress and the Pentagon.
The GAO draws attention to the significant deficiencies that the F-35 fighter continues to have, and to the budgetary cost of correcting them. Belgium’s CDH opposition party considers that these are serious warnings against one of the two candidates vying to replace the Belgian Air Force’s F-16s, and Georges Dallemagne, a CDH member of Parliament, has asked the government to think twice before closing the door to the European offer.
According to the GAO report released in early June, the 5th-generation aircraft - of which 300 have already been delivered to US and Allied air forces - still has 966 defects, including 111 rated as category 1 and 855 in category 2.
The GAO report, titled “F-35 Joint Strike Fighter: Development Is Nearly Complete, but Deficiencies Found in Testing Need to Be Resolved,” (55 pages) was published on June 5, and can be downloaded here.)
Category 1 covers defects that may jeopardize safety and any other "critical" requirement. Category 2 covers defects that could jeopardize the success of a mission. Some of them will not be solved before full production starts. In that case, the additional costs to repair the critical defects of the aircraft that have already been delivered will amount to $ 1.4 billion.
The GAO writes that it is "fundamental" that the promoters of the F-35 program guarantee the "reliability" of the aircraft in each of its versions "since its affordability" in the long term is "already questionable.”
Next year, the US Department of Defense will decide whether to approve full-rate production for the F-35, "the most expensive and the most ambitious weapons acquisition program in military history.”
The GAO recommends that the Department provide Congress with a "sound business case" before it releases funds for the F-35 Block 4 under development. It also recommends that all critical defects be resolved before full production, a recommendation accepted by the Department.
"These worrying findings, and these harsh recommendations, once again confirm the fears expressed by the CDH about the possible choice of the F-35 to equip our Air Force instead of European competitors who have already proven themselves in combat.
“If the US Court of Audit considers that the additional costs and reliability problems of the F-35 will be difficult to sustain for the US Defense, we can easily imagine the impact they would have on Belgian Defense," Dallemagne said.
He will question Defense Minister Steven Vandeput this morning (Wednesday June 13, 2018) during a scheduled hearing by the Belgian Parliament’s defense committee.