ISLAMABAD - The US military’s fleet of F-35 stealth aircraft will miss the 80-percent readiness goal set by former Defense Secretary James Mattis for 2019, a new report has revealed.
Acting Pentagon chief Mark Esper, Trump’s nominee to replace Mattis, told a Senate hearing recently that America’s fleet of roughly 300 F-35s, operated by the US Air Force, Navy and Marine Corps “is not expected” to reach Mattis’ readiness goal by September 2019, which he set before quitting his position in protest to President Donald trump’s foreign policy.
Esper blamed the issue of “transparency” for pilots as the main reason behind the issue, referring to the aircraft canopies, according to the National Interest reported.
“Transparency supply shortages continue to be the main obstacle to achieving this,” Esper told the congressional committee. “We are seeking additional sources to fix unserviceable canopies.”
The Government Accountability Office (GAO) had warned about the canopy shortage for the F-35s in an April report.
The F-35 uses specially designed canopies with anti-radar coating that prevent radar waves from bouncing off the inside of the cockpit.
The canopies “failed more frequently than expected,” the GAO pointed out in its assessment.
Lockheed Martin Co, the company making the F-35, has been searching for additional subcontractors to help boost canopy-production, according to the report.
The canopy issue is also expected to affect the US Air Force’s F-22 stealth fighters, Air Force brigadier general Heath Collins, the service’s program executive officer for fighters and bombers, said in June.
The failure comes even as the Air Force funneled $750 million into maintenance accounts for the F-22 and F-16 fleets in 2018 and 2019 t meet Mattis’s goal.
The F-22’s complex systems and delicate, radar-absorbing coating require intensive maintenance. The F-35 is proving equally hard to keep in the air.