A government quality assurance assessment of the Lockheed Martin F-35 found major faults with the programme, and criticised Lockheed and component suppliers for “insufficient rigor in design, manufacturing and quality assurance processes.”
The report from the Department of Defense’s Inspector General’s office was released on 30 September, outlining specific faults of the government’s Joint Program Office (JPO), primary contractor Lockheed and several subcontractors. The JPO, which is composed of officials from every major F-35 customer, largely agreed with the assessment.
“The F-35 JPO, Lockheed Martin, and its subcontractors were not ensuring that the necessary quality assurance process controls and disciplines were in place to produce a consistent and reliable product,” says the report. “This lack of process discipline and attention to detail creates an elevated risk of delivering nonconforming aircraft to the warfighter.”
The report made eight major recommendations, of which the JPO objected to two. Many are in the process of being corrected.
“As of 24 September 2013, 269 of the findings (78%) have been closed, with the remaining 74 still in work, with corrective action plans (CAPs) in development or approved but not fully implemented,” says the JPO, in a statement largely echoed by Lockheed. “The majority of the findings are consistent with weaknesses previously identified…and do not present new or critical issues that affect the health of the program.”
Such programme weaknesses are not uncommon in major defence programmes, and the F-35 has been repeatedly reviewed by a number of parties.