Standard-Examiner

Pentagon stops taking F-35s from Lockheed, Hill AFB impacts unknown

Friday , April 13, 2018 - 3:34 PM

An F-35 Lightning II aircraft assigned to Hill Air Force Base takes off from the base.

PAUL HOLCOMB/U.S. Air Force

An F-35 Lightning II aircraft assigned to Hill Air Force Base takes off from the base.

HILL AIR FORCE BASE — The Pentagon has stopped accepting deliveries of the F-35 from Lockheed Martin, but it’s unclear how the stalemate will impact two major operations involving the next-generation fighter at Hill Air Force Base.

Reuters reported Wednesday that the Department of Defense had stopped taking the jets from the defense contractor — a standoff attributed to a disagreement over which entity should pay to fix a production error. The error is described as something that will involve a “complex logistical fix that could require technicians to travel widely to mend aircraft based around the world.”

According to Reuters, Lockheed officials confirmed the Pentagon had stopped new deliveries because of a “contractual issue,” but provided no other details. 

RELATED: Hill Air Force Base's second F-35 fighter squadron begins operating in June

Hill’s Ogden Air Logistics Complex performs maintenance on all of the Air Force F-35s, and the base’s 388th and 419th fighter wings fly the agency’s first operational combat fleet of the fighter jets. Hill’s first two F-35s arrived in late 2015, and the base is scheduled to receive regular shipments until 2019, when 78 planes will fill out three operational fighter squadrons there.

A statement from the Air Combat Command’s Public Affairs office, funneled through Hill Public Affairs, provides little clarity on how the issue could affect those two enterprises.

“We have not received word from military officials that there will be an impact at the 388th Fighter Wing or Hill Air Force Base concerning a reported F-35 delivery issue,” the statement said. “We are flying and training as normal.”

The DOD stopped accepting the jets last year for 30 days after corrosion was discovered in air frame panels, according to Reuters. Despite the interruption, Lockheed delivered all jets that had been scheduled for 2017.

RELATED: Air Force: Grounded F-35s return to air, parts supplier responsible for problem

Ten of Hill’s F-35s were grounded at the tail end of 2016 when crews there discovered peeling and crumbling of insulation inside one of the jet’s fuel tanks. 

The government watchdog group Project on Government Oversight says the jets already delivered to the military “continue to face problems with insulation and corrosion.”

You can reach reporter Mitch Shaw at mishaw@standard.net. Follow him on Twitter at @mitchshaw23 or like him on Facebook at Facebook.com/MitchShaw.StandardExaminer.