Air Platforms

US granted waivers for use of Chinese metals in F-35

05 January 2014
The US Navy's F-35C carrier variant is one of three F-35 types that may use magnets made of Chinese metals. Source: US Navy

Key Points

  • The Pentagon issued a series of waivers in 2012 for the use of special metals from China, Japan, and 'other locations'
  • The decision to use special metals from China on the F-35 came as the US government voices growing concern about China's military build-up

The US Department of Defense (DoD) in 2012 waived laws banning the use of specialty metals manufactured in China, Japan, and 'other locations' for the country's premier international fighter programme, the F-35 Lightning II Joint Strike Fighter.

Joe DellaVedova, spokesmen for the US government's F-35 Joint Program Office (JPO), said that the Pentagon issued a series of waivers for the metals beginning in November 2012 and continuing until April 2013.

The use of Chinese metals is of particular note, coming as the US government voices growing concerns about the growth of China's military.

The specialty metals were used in magnets on the F-35. They required waivers because of their origins outside the United States, which rendered them 'non-compliant' with US law.

According to the F-35 JPO, the Pentagon granted the waivers because identifying other suppliers would have taken up valuable time for the F-35 programme.

"There was no risk associated with the use of the materials and the time required to re-qualify a compliant high performance magnet would have resulted in significant delays to the programme," said DellaVedova in a 6 January statement.

F-35 officials have been anxious to speed up the timeline for F-35 development, an international programme for the United States and eight partner countries that has been riddled by major cost overruns and schedule delays.

The F-35 JPO began to look into the 'non-compliant' parts when it realised the Pentagon had issued the waivers, according to DellaVedova.

"There was never any risk of technology transfer or other security breach associated with these manufacturing compliance issues," said DellaVedova.

"The JPO is working with industry to put in place long-term solutions to avoid the need for future waivers."

It is unclear what other locations besides China and Japan provided specialty metals for the F-35.

F-35 prime contractor Lockheed Martin deferred comments on the matter for the F-35 JPO.

COMMENT

US law has banned the procurement of specialty metals from outside the United States in US weapons since 1973. In 2006, another law banned the purchase of items and components that include the specialty metals.



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