US GAO Report Finds F-35 Lacks Enough Spare Parts to Remain Operational More Than 55% of the Time

According to the U.S. Government of Accountability Officer (GAO), the U.S. F-35s do not have enough spare parts to facilitate operational flight status more than 55% of the time. The entire report can be found here. This shortfall is mostly attributed to the fact that the DoD has failed at transitioning from contractor-heavy support to the program and establishing DoD-led depot level maintenance.

The key highlights from the reports read below:

“DOD faces costly maintenance issues for the F-35, such as:

Delays setting up military service depots—facilities to complete the most complex repairs

Inadequate equipment to keep aircraft operational

Maintenance and supply delays affecting aircraft readiness

Also, while DOD intends to transition more maintenance responsibilities from contractors to the government, it doesn’t have a plan to achieve this goal.”

Additionally, the GAO made this overall assessment:

“Maintenance challenges negatively affect F-35 aircraft readiness. The F-35 fleet mission capable rate—the percentage of time the aircraft can perform one of its tasked missions—was about 55 percent in March 2023, far below program goals. This performance was due in part to challenges with depot and organizational maintenance (see fig.). The program was behind schedule in establishing depot maintenance activities to conduct repairs. As a result, component repair times remained slow with over 10,000 waiting to be repaired—above desired levels. At the same time, organizational-level maintenance has been affected by a number of issues, including a lack of technical data and training.”

The GAO made seven recommendations:

  • The Secretary of Defense (SECDEF) should reevaluate if the DoD or contractor support takes the lead on IT-related programs for the F-35.
  • The Secretary of Defense (SECDEF) should reevaluate if the DoD or contractor support takes the lead on maintenance related to the F-35.
  • The Secretary of Defense (SECDEF) should reevaluate if the DoD or contractor support takes the lead on supply support sustainment to the F-35 program.
  • The Secretary of Defense (SECDEF) should reevaluate if the DoD or contractor support takes the lead on support equipment sustainment related to the F-35 program.
  • The Secretary of Defense (SECDEF) should reevaluate if the DoD or contractor support takes the lead on the engineering sustainment to the F-35 program.
  • The Secretary of Defense (SECDEF) should reevaluate if the DoD or contractor support takes the lead on training and training support sustainment elements related to the F-35 program.
  • The Secretary of Defense (SECDEF) should reevaluate if the DoD or contractor support takes the lead on technical data sustainment to the F-35 program.

Ultimately, this report outlines how the DoD is relying too heavily on contractor support for the F-35. This reliance, especially in sustainment is inflating costs and not providing parts fast enough to keep the planes in the air.

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Tessaron
Tessaron
United States Military Academy and American Military University Alumni. Victor covers flash military, intelligence, and geo-political updates.
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