All three variants of the next generation F-35 jet are “breaking down more often than planned”, Robert Behler, the Pentagon’s director of operational testing has said
In a hearing with the U.S. House Armed Services Committee, he also confirmed that none of the variants are meeting the five “reliability or maintainability metrics”.
A key challenge is the “mean flight hours between critical failure” metric – essential the time between an airframe failure that results in the loss of a critical capability, or a key part needing replacement. The jet is currently lagging on this by “a large margin”.
However, the overall “mission capable” rate is increasing, from 55% in October 2018 to 73% last month. Behler said that “several key suitability metrics are [now] showing signs of slow improvement.”
Despite these challenges, Lockheed Martin announced just weeks ago that a $34 billion deal for 478 additional aircraft has been agreed. That deal also sees the cost of all three F-35 variants fall, with the F-35A dropping below $80 million.