The Pentagon has determined an exemption for the F-35 Lightning II program to deliver fighter jets containing unauthorized Chinese material.
The exception was granted by Under Secretary of Defense for Acquisition and Sustainment William LaPlante on Saturday. “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,” explained a statement from the Department of US Defense.
The US government had suspended delivery of Lockheed Martin fighter jets in September after discovering that a magnet made from a metal alloy originating in China had previously been used without authorization.
The part, supplied by Honeywell International, is a device that integrates the fighter’s auxiliary power unit. Under US law, unauthorized Chinese content (as well as components from Iran, North Korea and Russia) in US-made military items is prohibited.
Despite this, the Pentagon office responsible for the F-35 program says the Chinese component has no technical flaw and does not pose a safety risk to the aircraft’s operation.
The parts will not be replaced on aircraft that have already been delivered and are in service, as they would entail costly and time-consuming retrofits, according to the US Department of Defense.
However, a new supplier of the part, this time from the United States, has already been contacted to supply the demand for components in future aircraft produced by Lockheed Martin.
“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,” said LaPlante.