The F-35 Joint Strike Fighter, known as the cornerstone of modern US airpower, has reached a significant milestone with its entry into full-rate production as of March 2024.

However, a recent Government Accountability Office (GAO) report released on May 16, 2024, highlights that the program continues to grapple with severe production delays and modernization issues that could affect its operational readiness and cost efficiency.

Full-Rate Production Achievement

Persistent challenges overshadow this achievement despite the F-35 program declaring full-rate production—a phase indicating satisfactory performance and reliability.

The program’s transition was marked by the completion of its testing simulator and the execution of final simulated tests designed to ensure the aircraft meets stringent operational requirements.

Continued Delivery Delays

The GAO report underscores a troubling trend in the program: continuous delays in the delivery of engines and aircraft.

In 2023, 100 percent of the engines supplied by Pratt & Whitney and 91 percent of the aircraft from Lockheed Martin were delivered later than scheduled.

These delays have been attributed to an amalgamation of manufacturing hiccups and parts shortages, which have worsened over recent years.

Pratt & Whitney Engines

The diagram includes engine and engine core components involved in the F-35 modernization effort. (Source: GAO)

Modernization Stalls

As the Department of Defense (DoD) embarks on a comprehensive hardware and software modernization initiative known as Block 4, the F-35 faces another set of hurdles.