The U.S. Defense Department announced Wednesday that a component in Lockheed Martin’s F-35 fighter jet employs an alloy produced in China that may not comply with federal regulations. Deliveries of the aircraft have been paused by the Pentagon as it investigates the Chinese-made material.
The component of concern is part of the fighter jet’s turbomachine, the system that “provides power to start the engine and during ground maintenance,” per Breaking Defense. The turbomachine is manufactured by Honeywell, and a magnet in the lubricant pump allegedly utilizes an alloy of cobalt and samarium that may run afoul of the Defense Federal Acquisition Regulations Supplement — the law that governs which entities may accept government contracts that involve sensitive information.
Pentagon spokesperson Russell Goemaere stated to media that the part does not pose a danger to F-35s already in service, nor is it a threat to national security. Courtesy of The Hill:
“We have confirmed that the magnet does not transmit information or harm the integrity of the aircraft and there are no performance, quality, safety, or security risks associated with this issue and flight operations for the F-35 in-service fleet will continue as normal,” Goemaere said.
The Pentagon has received 88 F-35s from Lockheed Martin thus far in 2022, and the defense contractor expects to produce roughly 150 before the year is finished.
Reuters adds that there are other magnets made of Chinese material used in the F-35, and that limitations on foreign materials were waived to allow these components to be used in the fighter jet. That may very well happen again in this case. The finding was first relayed to the government’s F-35 Joint Program Office on August 19, and Honeywell has reportedly already moved to a different supplier for the magnet’s alloy. However, the extent of the impact this will have on F-35 production is still unclear.