Air Force and Pentagon investigators opened a criminal probe of Lockheed Martin Corp. in 2016 over faulty coolant line tubing inside F-35 jets after 57 were either temporarily grounded or required production line fixes, according to officials confirming the previously undisclosed inquiry.
The U.S. Attorney for the Northern District of Texas reviewed a criminal “product substitution” case developed by the Air Force Office of Special Investigations and the Pentagon Inspector General’s investigative arm but declined last December to prosecute, Linda Card, an Air Force spokeswoman, said in an email on Thursday.
Lockheed voluntarily agreed to replace the faulty tubing at a cost of $19 million, the inspector general’s office disclosed in its new semi-annual report. “After Lockheed Martin repaid the U.S. Government and all criminal and administrative remedies were exhausted, the case was administratively closed” in June of this year, Card said.
The grounding in September 2016 became international news because it surfaced just seven weeks after the Air Force declared its first F-35 jets combat-ready. Service mechanics discovered “peeling and crumbling” insulation wrapped around lines that carry liquid to cool combat systems and computers. (end of excerpt)
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