Report: Lack of parts hinders F35 jet fighter's combat readiness - WKOW 27: Madison, WI Breaking News, Weather and Sports

Report: Lack of parts hinders F35 jet fighter's combat readiness

Posted: Updated:
F35A US Department of Defense photo F35A US Department of Defense photo

MADISON (WKOW) -- As state and regional leaders await a final decision on whether the U.S. Air Force will choose the 115th Fighter Wing of the Wisconsin Air National Guard to receive F-35A fighter jets as part of a new mission, a report from a federal watchdog agency shows there are likely to be several problems with maintenance of the plane going forward.

The U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) found the Department of Defense's "capabilities to repair F-35 parts at military depots are 6 years behind schedule," which has resulted in average repair times of at least six months.

"From January through August 7, 2017, F-35 aircraft were unable to fly about 22 percent of the time due to parts shortages," the GAO concluded.

The findings would impact maintenance of F-35A's, according to a GAO official who spoke to 27 News Monday. 

"You can fix some things locally, but when you're talking about the (military) depots, there are some parts and components that - when you take it off - you have to send it to the depot to be repaired," said Cary Russell, who authored the GAO report. "You can't do that at a unit level, so, if the depots aren't set up and capable. that would prolong the availability of parts. And so, that would affect the ground maintaining there at the squadron level

State and local elected officials are counting on getting new F-35A's to keep the 115th's mission at Truax Field operational.

The Air Force announced in December 2016 that the 115th Fighter Wing is one of five finalists to receive new F-35A jets.

That list will soon be narrowed down to two "preferred" bases that will get the new planes.

The 115th currently flies the oldest fleet of F-16 fighter planes still in Air Force operation, which are expected to be discontinued in the next decade.

If they are discontinued - and the 115th doesn't get a new mission - the unit could dissolve.

The 115th Fighter Wing is comprised of 1,200 airmen as well as 50 full-time employees.

It contributes roughly $100 million dollars per year to the local economy that would be lost without a new mission.

The other finalists for the F-35A are National Guard units based in Montgomery, AL; Boise, ID; Jacksonville, FL and Detroit.

The Greater Madison Chamber of Commerce has orchestrated the "Together Truax" campaign to bring the planes to Madison, but officials there had no comment on the GAO report Monday.

The 115th Fighter Wing also didn't respond to a request for comment from 27 News.

Powered by Frankly