The Government Accountability Office (GAO) is recommending the Department of Defense (DoD) to address risks in the production and modernization of F-35 fighter jets meant to support U.S. and allied missions.
GAO said in a blog post published Thursday that the DoD expects to spend $12.1 billion to modernize F-35 computer systems, an increase of $1.5 billion from last year. The DoD also delayed the delivery of 65 F-35 capabilities to 2024, according to GAO.
The agency noted that while the contractor for F-35 airframes is on track to achieve standard manufacturing best practices, two out of eight crucial requirements are yet to be addressed. The DoD would spend $428 billion in quality-related modifications if such practices were not met, GAO said.
In addition, the watchdog said the contractor is “still changing some of its processes” and is not constantly compliant with procedures meant to prevent issues such as material corrosion.
According to GAO, over 500 fielded F-35 aircraft failed to meet reliability goals and are “more likely than expected to be in maintenance rather than available for operations.”
Other issues cited by GAO include the suspension of Turkey from the F-35 program, resulting in supply-chain challenges such as the lack of suppliers for airframe and engine components.