The Pentagon’s F-35 program office said the magnetic components used in aircraft propulsion devices supplied by Honeywell International had been used on the aircraft since 2003.
On Wednesday, the Pentagon suspended deliveries of new F-35s to ensure the program complies with regulations related to “special metals.”
The F-35 program, which can produce more than 3,300 jets, will now seek a national security waiver from top Pentagon acquisitions officials to proceed with deliveries of new, assembled aircraft containing the alloy. This was conveyed by spokesman for the F-35 program Russell Goemaere, as quoted by Bloomberg, Saturday (10/9/2022).
“The program office does not anticipate replacing the magnets on the planes being sent,” he said. Replacing them could require costly and time-consuming repairs of more than 500 US training and operational aircraft.
The Pentagon and Lockheed Martin, which makes the aircraft, claim to have found a US source for alloys or alloys for future aircraft. “Further investigations are underway to understand the factors causing non-compliance and to establish corrective actions,” Goemaere said.
US law and Pentagon acquisition regulations prohibit the use of special metals or alloys made in China, Iran, North Korea, or Russia. The Defense Contract Management Agency reported the breach to the F-35 program office on August 19. A decade ago, the Pentagon granted Honeywell a waiver of using Chinese magnets in other F-35 components, saying the program, already beset by delays and cost overruns, would be slowed further.
It has no technical flaws and poses no security risk to the US top stealth fighter or its 8 million lines of software code. Rather, it’s a question of supply chain safety and why the banned alloy went undetected by Honeywell. The Pentagon’s assessment that China is the biggest threat to the US globally only adds to the challenge.
When the delivery halt was announced, Honeywell said it was working with the Pentagon and Lockheed Martin. “And is committed to supplying high-quality products that meet or exceed all customer contractual requirements,” he said.
His spokesman, Adam Kress, said the company had no additional comment. The device in question is the magnet found in Honeywell’s turbo engine which integrates the aircraft’s auxiliary power unit and air cycle engine into a single piece of equipment that provides electrical power for ground maintenance, main engine ignition and emergency power. “This includes cobalt and samarium alloys, which were recently determined to be manufactured in the People’s Republic of China and magnetized in the US,” the F-35 program office said. “It was awarded to a Honeywell subcontractor by a lower-level supplier,” Lockheed Martin added.
“We are working with our partners and the Department of Defense to ensure contract compliance in the supply chain,” Lockheed Martin spokeswoman Laura Siebert said in a statement. “We are working with DOD [Department of Defense] to resolve the issue as quickly as possible to resume deliveries.” Lockheed Martin delivered 88 of the 148 F-35 fighter jets it contracted this year before the termination.