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F-35 deployment to Japan hit with sustainment problems

Since the US Marine Corps’ deployment of the Lockheed Martin F-35B Lightning II to MCAS Iwakuni, Japan in January 2017 the aircraft has been hit with an assortment of sustainment problems.

Many problems plaguing the first overseas deployment of the F-35 are logistical in nature and are related to the aircraft’s distance from maintenance and parts manufacturing facilities in the USA, according to a 25 April report titled “DOD Needs to Share F-35 Operational Lessons Across the Military Services” by the Government Accountability Office.

There are 16 F-35Bs in the VMFA-121 deployed at Iwakuni.

Issues with the F-35B supply chain include lengthy travel times for parts, inaccurate estimated delivery dates, delays at customs and difficulty shipping Autonomic Logistics Information System equipment, known as ALIS.

For instance, the Marine Corps learned that it needs to take “into consideration weather concerns when shipping ALIS equipment,” GAO said. “While the aircraft were transferred to Japan through Alaska, ALIS was moved through Hawaii because of concerns about how the freezing temperature would affect the logistics system.”

Other issues with sustaining the F-35 in Japan include long repair times, shortages and poor reliability of certain aircraft parts.

As the A, B, and C variants of the F-35 Lightning II are stationed around the world, the GAO suggested in its report that the office of the F-35 program executive officer, Vice Admiral Mat Winter, create a formal communication mechanism for the Marine Corps to share its operational best practices and lessons learned with the US Navy and Air Force.

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