F-35 jets in service to America’s military carry a little bit of Chinese metal, which has become a big issue because the alloy is banned in America, requiring a waiver to allow the metal to remain in place.
According to a report by Bloomberg, the Chinese alloy was allowed a decade ago by the Pentagon when the F-35 program was mired in delays and cost overruns and has been in every plane made since 2003.
The F-35 Joint Program Office said that notification from the Defense Contract Management Agency does not impact the readiness of the 825 F-35s already delivered as part of an order of more than 3,000 planes, according to Bloomberg.
However, delivery of more planes was suspended until a waiver could be granted to allow the use of the metal.
“We have confirmed that the magnet does not transmit information or harm the integrity of the aircraft and there are no performance, quality, safety or security risks associated with this issue and flight operations for the F-35 in-service fleet will continue as normal,” F-35 Joint Program Office spokesman Russell Goemaere said in a statement to Politico.
“Defense contractors voluntarily shared information with DCMA and the JPO once the issue was discovered and they have found an alternative source for the alloy that will be used in future turbomachines,” Goemaere said.
The program office does not expect to replace magnets in F-35s that have already been delivered, Goemaere said, according to Bloomberg.
Bloomberg said the magnet includes a cobalt and samarium alloy “recently determined to be produced in the People’s Republic of China” according to the F-35 program office. The part was magnetized in the U.S., it said.
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The turbomachine in which the magnet is located provides electrical power for ground operation sn and maintenance.
“Honeywell remains committed to supplying high-quality products that meet or exceed all customer contract requirements,” company spokesman Adam Kress said in a statement to Politico. “We are working closely with DOD and Lockheed Martin to ensure that we continue to achieve those commitments on products Honeywell supplies for use on the F-35.”
American law and Pentagon rules ban the use of specialty metals or alloys from China, Iran, North Korea or Russia.
William LaPlante, the Pentagon’s top acquisition official, said the waiver to keep the metal in place would be issued if there are no safety or security issues surrounding the part, according to USNI.
“I’m hoping this can be resolved pretty soon,” LaPlante said.
He said the issue reflects the complications of modern supply lines.
“It’s part of a broader issue, which we call supply chain illumination. Good news is that there are tools coming out using artificial intelligence and open sources that could dive in and maybe find some of these things. But I think it’s going to be a constant issue for us — understanding our supply chain,” LaPlante said.
“I’ve just seen enough cases of discovering things in supply chains that I wouldn’t be surprised by anything. I’ve often said … [a] company that says they know their supply chain is like a company saying they’ve never been hacked. It’s an endless battle.”