Military Capabilities

Key US lawmaker wants F-35 programme structure changes

15 November 2019

A US lawmaker believes F-35 prime contractor Lockheed Martin has had too much power in the programme’s 20 year history. Source: Lockheed Martin

Key Points

  • The HASC readiness subcommittee chief wants the structure of the F-35 programme to change
  • He believes the contractors have had too much leverage

A key US lawmaker wants the Pentagon to take greater control of the Lockheed Martin F-35 Lightning II Joint Strike Fighter (JSF) programme and move from total reliance on the contractors to a shared responsibility.

"Those services are going to demand authority over the well-being of their [aircraft]," John Garamendi, chairman of the House Armed Services (HASC) readiness subcommittee, told Jane's on 13 November. "That is a fundamental change in the way this thing has operated for 20 years..the power is shifting."

Garamendi said during a 13 November House hearing that the contractors have had the power in the programme's 20 year history while the Pentagon has had little. One example is how Lockheed Martin and the Pentagon have been disputing the intellectual property (IP) rights within the programme.

Lockheed Martin is holding on to the data rights because giving them up was not included in the original F-35 contract, Dan Grazier, military fellow with the Project on Government Oversight (POGO) watchdog group in Washington, DC, said on 13 November. This requires the Pentagon to negotiate a substantial fee with Lockheed Martin to buy this information, Grazier said in a June blog post at POGO.

"That is going to change because thus far this program has not worked well," Garamendi said.

The F-35 programme is also continuing to struggle with its supply chain, its Autonomic Logistics Information System (ALIS), and its long-term sustainment planning as it gets closer to an eventual full rate production (FRP) decision and a production ramp-up. The Government Accountability Office (GAO) testified on 13 November that spare parts shortages are keeping the aircraft on the ground more than expected.

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