Pentagon Running Out Of Parking Space For F-35s

In a report, the US Government Accountability Office revealed that Lockheed Martin is running out of parking space for F-35s that the Pentagon has refused to take.

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The US Government Accounting Office (GAO) has provided us with the most recent blotter item. It is headlined “F-35 Joint Strike Fighter: Program Continues to Encounter Production Issues and Modernization Delays.”GAO claims that Lockheed Martin is out of room to store all of the finished F-35s that the Pentagon won’t take.

These aren’t individual failures. The Department of Defense (DOD) completely suspended the planes’ acceptance of the stealth fighters last summer as Lockheed worked out major hardware and software issues related to “Technology Refresh-3” (TR-3), a $1.8 billion package meant to increase the jets’ capabilities.

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At Hill Air Force Base in 2020, USAF F-35 pilots perform an “elephant walk” — an exercise supposedly meant to prepare for mass takeoffs, but which strikes us more as a self-indulgent, $44,000-per-jet-per-hour circle-jerk (USAF photo)

According to GAO, “some test pilots reported that they had to reboot their entire radar and electronic warfare systems mid-flight to get them back online.” The F-35’s radar and electronic warfare systems are the most severely affected by the software bugs. Gee, that sounds kinda bad.

At Lockheed’s factories, the jets are piling up as the TR-3’s problems persist. “If TR-3 software is delayed past April 2024, Lockheed Martin is projected to exceed its maximum parking capacity and will need to develop a plan to accommodate more parked planes,” the GAO stated, referencing a milestone that had already passed when it released its report. Lockheed allayed worries last week by stating in a statement that “specific details about parking will not be shared due to security considerations.”

Thanks to contract provisions that state that “the government assumes the risk of loss of aircraft ‘in the open,’ which is subject to the contractor’s share of loss and deductible under the contract,” the government is exposed to liability risk even while the jets are parked at Lockheed, according to the GAO.

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This F-35B Lightning II crashed during a landing at a Texas reserve base in 2022 (KDFW via

According to GAO, stability in the program won’t occur until “at least June 2024.” When that day finally arrives, it will just mark the beginning of the end of this most recent episode because, according to GAO, it will take a year to deliver the backlogged planes.

Meanwhile, most don’t even bother requesting a figure for the quantity of F-35s that haven’t arrived. “DOD deemed reporting the specific quantity of aircraft to be unsuitable for public release,” according to GAO, in an opaque move that is undoubtedly motivated only by the desire to save the military-industrial complex from shame.

Last week, reporters received a clear indication from the chairman of the House Armed Services Tactical Air and Land Forces subcommittee. According to Defense One, Rep. Rob Wittman (R-VA) stated, “We know one thing for certain: there’s going to be at least over 100 aircraft stacked up on the tarmac.”

The F-35 program is already the most costly weapons program in history, with an estimated cost to the United States of more than $2 trillion. Even if the number is startling enough on its own, the National Interest provides the following extra context:

The fifth-generation F-22, not exactly a cheap program, cost taxpayers $66 billion. The entire U.S. annual defense budget is under $900 billion – nearly three times the defense budget of China, and ten times the defense budget of Russia. Yet, the F-35 program is pushing the $2 trillion mark.

Even more concerning details on the F-35s already in the Pentagon’s possession were revealed in a previous GAO analysis, as the Epoch Times reported earlier this year. It stated that “only 15 to 30 percent of F-35s may be capable of combat.”

Coincidentally, since Lockheed Martin was given the F-35 contract 22 years ago, its owners have seen increases in dividend payments every 22 years.

This year, GreatGameIndia reported that, according to Reuters, a court has ordered the Netherlands to halt F-35 parts for Israel due to concerns that the transfer may aid in human rights breaches.

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