Lockheed Lemons: Only 29% of F-35s are Fully Mission-Capable

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(Ken Silva, Headline USA) With the U.S. on the verge of world war, the U.S. Air Force secretary has admitted that only a small fraction of its advanced F-35 fighters is fully mission-capable.

Air Force Secretary Frank Kendall made this surprising admission Wednesday at a congressional budget hearing, in response to questions from Rep. Matt Gaetz, R-Fla.

Gaetz asked Kendall how many F-35s are available for operations, to which Kendall said 55%. However, the number of F-35s that are fully mission capable is even less than that: 29%, according to the head of the F-35 program. Kendall said he had no basis for disputing the 29% figure cited by the head of the F-35 program.

Citing a GAO report, Gaetz argued that the number of capable F-35s is because the Pentagon has given too much power to Lockheed Martin for executing the F-35 program.

“This GAO report says the reason it’s failing is because the fox is watching the henhouse. The very contractor bilking the taxpayer for this platform is now in a position to where they can’t sustain it,” he said.

The Defense Department’s floundering F-35 program has been plagued with problems for years.

Last May, a Government Accountability Office found that the Pentagon lost more than 1 million F-35 parts over the last five years.

Another, separate GAO report from last year said that the F-35 program’s total procurement costs have increased by $13.4 billion since the last cost estimate in 2019.

“This is, in part, due to DOD spreading out aircraft purchases and adding years to its delivery schedule,” the GAO said. “Contractors also continue to have challenges with delivering aircraft and engines on time, but they are working to address these issues.”

The total cost of the F-35 program is now estimated to be roughly $1.7 trillion. This includes the delivery of 215 F-35s to the Air Force over the next three decades.

Ken Silva is a staff writer at Headline USA. Follow him at twitter.com/jd_cashless.

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