F-35 jet plagued by shoddy quality control: Pentagon audit
AFPWASHINGTON--The U.S. military's bureaucratic watchdog on Monday accused companies building the F-35 fighter of shoddy management that could jeopardize the reliability, performance and cost of the aircraft.
October 2, 2013, 12:09 am TWN
The Pentagon inspector general cited 363 problems in the design and manufacture of the costly Joint Strike Fighter, the high-tech warplane that is supposed to serve as the backbone of the future American fleet.
For the United States and eight other countries backing the project, the report raises fresh questions about the technology and ultimate price tag of the F-35, which has struggled with production delays and cost overruns.
The office that oversees the fighter project, the plane's primary manufacturer Lockheed Martin and five subcontractors failed to carry out rigorous “quality assurance” practices, the report said.
The failures “could adversely affect aircraft performance, reliability, maintainability, and ultimately program cost,” according to the inspector general office's report.
A number of the shortcomings — including how software is managed — could possibly put safety at risk, it warned.
“Without adequate product evaluation of mission system software, Lockheed Martin cannot ensure aircraft safety requirements are met,” it said.
Designed to replace fighters in the U.S. Air Force, Navy and Marines and supported by a consortium of eight countries, the program is already the most expensive in U.S. military history with a price tag of US$395.7 billion.
Recent independent reviews have found the program has managed to rein in costs but the inspector general's findings suggested flawed production and design work could break the plane's budget in the future.
Officials have acknowledged the original concept for the F-35 was overly optimistic, as it called for starting production long before thorough flight tests were completed.
The idea, which the Pentagon calls “concurrency,” was based on the flawed assumption that technical hurdles had been worked out in computer modeling.
Monday's report appeared to confirm warnings about “concurrency” and said the Pentagon and Lockheed have often failed to review the quality of the work from subcontractors.