WASHINGTON, US — The US Department of Defense, through the Pentagon, has announced that only half of its fleet of 540 F-35 Lightning II fighter jets are combat-ready.
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According to the Pentagon, the combat readiness rate of US F-35 Lightning II fighter jets is well below their target of 65%. According to the head of the F-35 program, Lt. Gen. Michael Schmidt of the US Air Force, this readiness is “unacceptable.” Lt. Gen. Schmidt announced that as of February, the United States had more than 540 F-35 fighter jets and 53.1 percent of the aircraft in the F-35 fleet were combat-ready.
Additionally, Lt. Gen. Michael Schmidt, in his written statement to the House Armed Services Committee’s subcommittee on aviation during Wednesday’s hearings, stated that the number of aircraft capable of performing all of their duties fully [full capacity on duty], is less than 30% [about 160 fighters] compared to the total fleet of 540 F-35s.
Lt. Gen. Schmidt said, “The combat readiness of our F-35 fleet is unacceptable, maximizing that percentage is my priority. Our goal is to increase the level of combat readiness by at least 10% within 12 months.”
The share of full-purpose aircraft in the US F-35 fleet is currently 30%. The same percentage was 39% in 2020. The reason for the decrease in combat readiness rate is not clearly explained, but it is believed that various parts and the engine failing faster than expected have a serious impact on the combat readiness rate.
In addition, while conducting a preliminary analysis of the presentation of Pratt & Whitney 2022 in the committee, it was highlighted that the company Pratt & Whitney delivered almost all its engines late. Additionally, the commission said the Lockheed Martin-designed power and thermal management system that provides engine cooling performed poorly, significantly reducing the engine’s life.
Despite all this, the F-35 remains the most preferred fighter jet of the 5th generation. The main factor in retaining this title is the lack of a second fifth-generation fighter aircraft that is currently NATO-compatible and can be supplied by foreign countries.
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