F-35 aircraft: Does US’ most-advanced multirole fighter jet have China-made components?
The US has halted deliveries of F-35 fighter jets after finding the pumps in the aircraft had Chinese-origin parts. As the probe is on, Lockheed Martin, the company which manufactures the aircraft, has assured the already operational jets are ‘safe’
The US Pentagon has stopped accepting new F-35 fighter jets following the discovery of a Chinese-made part being used in one of the world’s most sophisticated aircraft.
The fighter jet is manufactured by America’s Lockheed Martin, a global security and aerospace company.
As per the Pentagon, Lockheed Martin has already found a substitute for the Chinese-origin magnet used in the stealthy fighter jet, CNN reported.
What has the Pentagon said about the controversy? Will there be consequences for Lockheed Martin? What are the features of F-35 stealth fighter jets?
Let’s look at the row in detail:
The aircraft in question
The F-35 Lightning II is considered the world’s most advanced multirole fighter jet.
“The F-35 brings a decisive advantage to the battlespace, providing an asymmetric advantage across the multi-domain spectrum. The F-35’s transformational capabilities enable pilots to operate in any environment, against any threat,” says Lockheed Martin.
The single-seat aircraft is available in three variants– conventional take-off and landing (CTOL), short take-off / vertical landing (STOVL) and carrier variant (CV), News18 reported.
The F-35 fighter plane is operated by the US Air Force, navy and marine corps, as well as forces of 10 other countries.
Chinese component in US’ advanced jet
A US official informed that a magnet in the F-35 jet’s engine was made using “unauthorised material from China”.
The Pentagon stated that the magnet neither grants access to sensitive program information nor compromises the security of the fifth-generation aircraft already in operation.
“We have confirmed that the magnet does not transmit information or harm the integrity of the aircraft and there are no performance, quality, safety, or security risks associated with this issue and flight operations for the F-35 in-service fleet will continue as normal,” F-35 joint program office spokesperson Russell Goemaere was quoted as saying by CNN.
How did the story come to light?
On 19 August, the Defense Contract Management Agency (DCMA) alerted the F-35 joint program office at the Pentagon that an alloy in the fighter jet engine’s turbomachine pump was sourced from China.
While Lockheed Martin constructs the overall stealthy fighter aircraft, the turbomachine is made by Honeywell International Inc.
In late August, Honeywell notified Lockheed that “alloy sourced from the People’s Republic of China”, that was supplied by a “fifth-tier” subcontractor, was used in a magnet in F-35 fighter jets, Bloomberg reported.
After Lockheed Martin reported the violation of US’ federal defence acquisition rules, the F-35 joint program office “temporarily paused the acceptance of new F-35 aircraft to ensure the F-35 program’s compliance” with defense regulations “pertaining to specialty metals,” the Pentagon spokesperson Russell Goemaere said, as per The Hill.
The Pentagon has not revealed how many F-35 jet deliveries have been affected or how many contained the Chinese alloy.
Lockheed Martin is slated to provide 153 F-35 jets to the US in 2022, of which 88 have been delivered, CNN reported.
Lockheed Martin’s stand
Lockheed Martin has assured that its F-35 aircraft is “safe” and they are working with the defence department to carry on with the deliveries of F-35 fighter jets.
“We are working with our partners and DoD to ensure contractual compliance within the supply chain. The magnet has no visibility or access to any sensitive program information. The F-35 remains safe for flight and we are working with the DoD to resolve the issue as quickly as possible to resume deliveries,” Lockheed Martin said in a statement, as per CNN.
Honeywell, responding to the row, said it “remains committed to supplying high-quality products that meet or exceed all customer contract requirements”.
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DCMA is investigating the “causal factors” that led to a China-made part being used in F-35 aircraft manufactured for the US.
A US law and a Pentagon acquisition regulation ban the application of certain specialty metals or alloys produced by “covered countries” including China, Iran, North Korea and Russia, as per Bloomberg.
If found guilty of violating the rules, Lockheed Martin would require a national security waiver to continue the delivery of the remaining fighter aircraft.
The F-35 joint program office, DCMA and Lockheed Martin are holding meetings every day to conduct a deeper examination of the supply chain, a source told Politico.
Notably, some Pentagon officials in the past have given waivers to other China-made magnets on the jet, Reuters reported.
With inputs from agencies
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