Recent figures reveal a worrying scenario in the panorama of the United States Air Force in relation to the F-35 fighters and their level of combat readiness.
F-35: United States and its alarming availability
According to a defense official, US F-35s are only 56% available across all military branches. The Department of Defense is looking to achieve at least 64% readiness by next year, but even so, this situation represents a significant gap in the program’s future.
In the event of a conflict with China, the United States requires the maximum number of F-35s possible to ensure air dominance. The mission capability goal for the F-35 fleet is 70% and 75% for the Air Force, Marine Corps, and Navy variants, respectively.
Lt. Gen. Mike Schmidt, executive program director for the F-35 Joint Program Office, has identified several issues to address: degradation, unit-level maintenance, supply chain optimization, and returning inactive aircraft to long-term to its mission-capable status.
Army: The challenges and the evolution of the program
This problem is not new. In 2022, the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) released a report on the availability and use of the F-35, using data from 2021. The CBO found a decreasing trend in the availability and use of all three F-35 variants with age.
A subsequent study in 2023, based on 2022 flight data, revealed that F-35A availability fell by 11 percentage points, while F-35 B availability decreased by 7 percentage points, and F-35C availability increased by 5 percentage points.
Maintaining the stealth level of aircraft is difficult, as stealth coatings require replacement, and repairs take time to complete.
F-35: What future awaits them?
The alarm about the readiness and readiness of the F-35 has been raised, and the problems likely go beyond the initial difficulties. Possibly, it is necessary to invest more resources in the program to guarantee the correct operation and availability of these fighters.
The F-35 is America’s best fighter, and keeping it in the air as much as possible is critical. The current situation could be providing China with valuable information on US Air Force readiness, potentially affecting future operations in Taiwan.
The current state of F-35 fighters in the United States is worrisome, with only 56% combat readiness. Issues such as degradation, maintenance, and supply chain must be addressed quickly to ensure these aircraft’s combat effectiveness and availability.
The current situation could have implications for the defense strategy and the posture towards potential conflicts, such as a confrontation with China over Taiwan.