Pentagon acquisition chief William LaPlante said on Oct. 8 that he had signed a national security waiver submitted by Lockheed Martin [LMT] to allow the company to resume deliveries of its F-35 fighters.
“Today, I signed the national security waiver that allows DoD to accept Lot 13 and Lot 14 F-35 aircraft containing non-compliant specialty metals in Honeywell [HON] integrated power package turbomachines,” LaPlante said in a DoD statement. “Acceptance of the aircraft is necessary for national security interests. This determination applies to a total of 126 F-35 aircraft awaiting delivery or to be delivered under the Lot 12-14 production contract. This determination applies from the date of my approval through the acceptance date of the last aircraft delivered under that contract, which is currently projected for October 31, 2023.”
The Pentagon said last month that it had paused its acceptance of new F-35s for the U.S. Air Force, Navy and Marine Corps after the Defense Contract Management Agency told the F-35 Joint Program Office on Aug. 19 of a Chinese-made cobalt and samarium alloy in the aircraft’s Honeywell turbomachine pumps (Defense Daily, Sept. 7).
Lockheed Martin has said that Honeywell has stopped work with the supplier of the Chinese alloy for the F-35 turbomachine pumps and that Honeywell has identified an alternative U.S. source for production beginning next month.
“Eighteen aircraft were held as part of the delivery pause, and we anticipate DD-250 (delivery) in the next week,” Lockheed Martin said on Oct. 8. “Prior to the pause, we had delivered 88 aircraft of our scheduled 148-153 F-35s to be delivered in 2022.”
According to an industry timeline, an F-35 3rd tier lube pump supplier for the turbomachine told Honeywell that an F-35 5th tier supplier had been using Chinese-made alloy in their magnets. Honeywell then informed Lockheed Martin that the alloy used in the turbomachine magnet came from China.
“For several decades, the DoD has entrusted supply chain visibility and risk management to companies in the private sector that provide it with defense capabilities,” per a February DoD report on securing defense supply chains in response to President Biden’s Executive Order 14017. “Consequently, the DoD has limited visibility into some sub-tiers of defense supply chains and does not track these vulnerabilities as they impact weapons programs. As supply chains have become more global in scale, prime contractors have lost some visibility into the sub-tiers of their supply chains, especially below third-tier levels.”
That report said that “the average American aerospace company relies on roughly 200 first tier suppliers” and that “the second and third tiers have more than 12,000 companies.” The F-35 has more than 1,700 suppliers globally, Lockheed Martin said.
Since at least 2018, DoD’s industrial policy office has worked on a DIBNow system to identify suppliers.