NORFOLK, Va. — There is more bad news for the military's troubled F-35 Joint Strike Fighter program.
A new report finds the Defense Department's strategy for maintaining the aircraft's highly-advanced engine has shortcomings.
At $1.7 trillion overall, or $78 million apiece, the F-35 Lightning II Joint Strike Fighter is the DOD's most ambitious and costly weapon system.
Now, the latest report from the Government Accountability Office reveals that the F-35 engine sustainment strategy has resulted in a high number of the jets being deemed "non-mission capable."
"About 9% of the F-35's in service were unable to fly because of some kind of problems with the engine. That's higher than the goal which is 6%. And that's much higher than the services would like to see," said Diana Mauer, a director in the GAO's Defense Capabilities and Management team.
She said these latest findings are troubling to the various military branches, but especially the Air Force.
"They were frankly concerned about the ability to do what they need, being able to successfully complete their desired mission outcomes that's degraded if you have an excessive number of aircraft that are sitting on the tarmac due to the lack of an operating engine," she said.
Engines for the Lockheed Martin-built plane are provided by Raytheon Technologies Corp.’s Pratt & Whitney unit.
The report says if corrective actions aren't taken by the department and the prime contractors, "the F-35 program... will not meet the desired outcomes of the military services or national defense requirements."
"It has a lot of amazing capabilities. But when you're making something that complex, it's not necessarily surprising that you're going have some hiccups along the way," said Maurer.
Unfortunately, this is not the first bad report the F-35 has gotten.
Last year, the GAO found the program was $165 billion over budget, and eight years behind schedule.