Saturday, May 11, 2019

F-35 News. Let's get to the problem with the parts issue. Is it sequestration or something else???

The debate on the F-35 continues to rage and one thing has been bugging the hell outta me.

One commenter is saying that sequestration is the cause of the parts issue with the plane.

I have a real hard time believing that.  See, Congress adds more planes than the Pentagon requests AND IF they wanted more parts it seems like all they would have to do is ask.

So what the fuck gives?

Check this out via National Interest.
On April 24, 2019, the Government Accountability Office released a scathing report concerning the impact of spare parts shortages on F-35’s operational readiness and “lower-than-required” performance.

“The F-35 supply chain does not have enough spare parts available to keep aircraft flying enough of the time necessary to meet warfighter requirements. According to prime contractor data, from May through November 2018, F-35 aircraft across the fleet were unable to fly 29.7 percent of the time due to spare parts shortages.”

The global F-35 fleet showed only 45-52 percent readiness—with only 34 percent rated Fully Mission Capable. For comparison, most Air Force units have readiness rates of 70 percent and, prior to stepping down, Secretary Mattis mandated a military-wide goal of 80 percent readiness.

F-35 parts are separated into four different types of packages: those assigned to local bases, packages for operational or wartime contingencies, “afloat” packages for carrier deployment, and more extensive packages for regional depots.

Reportedly there is a backlog for 4,300 F-35 parts—or “600 parts a month” according to Vice Admiral Matthew Winter in a recent congressional briefing—which is causing long delays for necessary parts to reach frontline units. Depots are not expected to make up the backlog until 2024.

As a result, operational squadrons are improvising fixes.

“From May through November 2018 F-35 squadrons cannibalized (that is, took) parts from other aircraft at rates that were more than six times greater than the services’ objective. These high rates of cannibalization mask even greater parts shortages, because personnel at F-35 squadrons are pulling parts off of other aircraft that are already unable to fly instead of waiting for new parts to be delivered through the supply chain.”

The spare-parts shortage has its roots in several factors related to the rush to declare “initial operational capability” and to deliver aircraft to the over half-dozen program participants as quickly as possible. This has come at the expense of furnishing the necessary parts to a network of regional supply depots.

As a program official told the GAO: “planning for this network is 3 to 4 years behind the need because the program was more focused on producing the aircraft than on sustainment” and they “did not realize the complexity of setting up the network.”

Early low-rate-of-production F-35s were delivered without basic capabilities and structural fixes planned for later implementation, meaning that these limited-capability early jets require unique spare parts, complicating the supply-chain. Reliability issues in these older aircraft leave only 30 percent of them rated as “Available” and just 5 percent as “Fully Mission Capable.”

The reports note: “there are at least 39 different part combinations across the fleet. Additionally, DOD’s training and operational squadrons are flying F-35 aircraft with three different blocks of mission software—2B, 3i, and 3F—with Block 3F software having the full warfighting capability.”

The confusion of parts manifested itself dramatically when Marine F-35s deployed to the carrier USS Wasp in 2018. Out of 882 “afloat package” parts received by the unit for the mission, 382 (43 percent) turned out to be incompatible. The parts included pilot harnesses, breath masks, antennas, valves, and panel assemblies.

To obtain the necessary spares, the embarked squadron undertook an apparently typical “solution”—raiding 187 parts from the Iwakuni F-35 base, leaving it with only 43 percent of the parts it needed.

Contractors also struggled to provide appropriate numbers of parts in need of more frequent replacement: “…quantity of parts within their parts packages were not fully reflective of the actual demands…based on updated information about the reliability of certain parts and how frequently they needed to be replaced.”

The report also highlights that the shortage is partially due to contractors taking an average of a half-year (188 days) to repair faulty F-35 parts, two to three times longer than expected.

Unfortunately, there’s a significant possibility the spare parts shortage will get worse before it gets better due to heightening tensions between Washington and Ankara.

Turkish companies manufacture roughly 7 percent of F-35 parts, and Turkey itself plans to purchase over 120 F-35s.
Story here. 

Long story short?

This has nothing to do with sequestration.  This has everything to do with planners pushing to get as many jets into service as quickly as possible and saying to hell with the parts issue.

This isn't a Congress problem.

This is a Joint Strike Fighter Program Office problem.

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