The US Air Force is facing a severe problem in early 2021. The maintenance of the fleet of nearly 375 F-35 stealth fighters of the US Air Force suffers from a severe shortage of engines, learned BulgarianMilitary.com.
The F-35 is powering by a Pratt & Whitney F135 engine. According to a defense official quoted by Defense News, it could be months before the situation begins to improve. “Serious readiness problem” are the exact words used by the American media source in front of the reporter interviewing him.
According to the source, 6% of the existing F-35 fleet expects to be technically defective and unfit for combat this year and next. However, another source claims that this threshold will reach 20%, which makes approximately between 75 and 80 F-35 fighters landed for a long time in the US Army’s repair depots.
The main problems, according to the source of Defense News, are two. The first problem is non-compliance with the program for scheduled repairs and renewal of the fighters’ afterburner turbofan engines at the leading center for heavy maintenance of the F-35 at the Tinker Air Force Base, Oklahoma.
The second problem is the finding of a technical fault. There is damage to the coatings of the rotor blades of some engines. Defense News did not say how many of these engines were affected but said the number was small.
The US Department of Defense has known about the problem since last summer. The DoD then received a report that the repair depot would not cope with engines’ planned treatment for the coming years. The same issue was reported to the public in January this year by Ellen Lord, an employee of former President Donald Trump’s administration.
Much more workload, lack of specific data, and lack of specific equipment are the reasons that led to the shortage of diesel engines for F-35 stealth fighters and affected the planned repair work of the center for heavy maintenance.
Everyone is waiting for June
Everyone expects June to come this year, when a second shift at the Heavy Repair Center will run at full speed, helping to repair aircraft engines. The DoD did notify Pratt & Whitney of this change.