The F-35 has a big reactor problem.

We reported on June 30 that the Government Accountability Office (GAO), a kind of US court of auditors, had published a killer report, “Aviation Air Force and Navy: Actions to Address Ongoing Sustainability Risks,” showing that hundreds of Americans were unprepared for war.

Bloomberg took a closer look at a new report from the Government Accountability Office, which this time looks specifically at the flaws of the F-35. The program, if it does surprisingly well for export, thanks to the political and commercial power of the United States, is very expensive and suffers from a number of problems – serious at times – very bewildering.

According to GAO, one of the most important concerns the F-35 will and will face in the coming years is its reactor. It was supplied by Pratt & Whitney, a subsidiary of giant Raytheon Technologies, and is more complex to maintain than initially anticipated, which could put too many aircraft in the fleet into service.

These problems are not new: the lack of parts has plagued the F-35 and its engines for a long time. But this GAO’s latest focus on what it sees as a major logistical failure never occurs.

Because while 820 aircraft have already been delivered worldwide, out of a potential number set at 3,000 to the US and its allies (Switzerland, Greece, Germany and Finland are among the latest buyers), Lockheed Martin and the Pentagon are in talks to provide US forces with an additional 375 packages over three years. .


This stubbornness in buying F-35s in large numbers may come as a surprise, with the Government Accountability Office noting the aircraft’s staggering maintenance costs, particularly due to problems surrounding the reactor. Thus, the Pentagon is in all the trouble in the world to stay in the financial nails of the program, which was first estimated to have cost $1,300 billion over its sixty-six years.

The cost of supplying and maintaining the aircraft reactor could reach $1 billion by 2028, compared to $315 million last year. It is huge, but it seems insufficient: since 2020, “An increasing number of F-35s cannot fly due to a lack of operational engines”pings the Government Accountability Office.

Acknowledging the report, program officials recognize the problem and the need to work hard to find a solution. According to them, the problem does not come from a design flaw, but from a material covering the turbine blades of the engine.

he is It will degrade faster than expected.especially for aircraft operating in dusty environments – we recall that Israel, to name a few, operates F-35s in its desert and is undoubtedly one of the victims of the problem.

Despite some bickering between the Pentagon and Lockheed Martin over who will have to pay hundreds of millions of dollars in additional costs, there appears to be some progress: The number of days needed for repair has fallen from 207 in October 2020 to 119. January 2019, and the defective coating is systematically replaced with another one – it looks more resistant.

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