The US Defenсe Department plans to decide whether to begin full-rate production of the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter before the end of 2020 and is confident the decision will not be delayed due to systemic obstacles in the supply chain for aircraft parts, Undersecretary of Defenсe for Acquisition Ellen Lord said during a press briefing on Tuesday.
"We expect the full rate decision in the fall of 2020," Lord told reporters.
Lord’s assessment was somewhat more optimistic than in October, when she warned the determination on the F-35 aircraft’s full-rate production could be delayed until early 2021. The Defense Department had previously expected to begin full rate production by the end of this year.
Lord said one potential supply chain problem, corrosion found in fasteners used in F-35 jets delivered thus far had been resolved.
The fastener issue prompted the Defence Department to briefly stop accepting delivery of F-35 jets from previous production lots before determining that the aircraft was safe to fly and resuming acceptance on 27 November, Lord noted.
"I have no indication of a systemic problem and that is why we have our government DCMA [Defenсe Contract Management Agency] reps on the floor every single day working along with Lockheed [Martin] to ensure we have no systemic problems", Lord said.
Lockheed Martin’s F-35 aircraft is a fifth-generation stealth multirole fighter. It is considered the most expensive weapons program in history, with a projected life cycle cost of between $1 trillion and $1.5 trillion.