Only 160 of the 540 US F-35s can operate at full capacity.

WASHINGTON, USA – The US Department of Defense, via the Pentagon, has announced that only half of its fleet of 540 F-35 Lightning II fighter jets are combat-ready.

According to the Pentagon, the combat readiness rate of US F-35 Lightning II fighters is well below its 65% target. According to the head of the F-35 program, US Air Force Lt. Gen. Michael Schmidt, this preparation is “unacceptable.”

Combat ability

Lt. Gen. Schmidt announced that as of February, the United States had more than 540 F-35 fighters and that 53.1% of the F-35 fleet’s aircraft were combat-ready.

In addition, Lt. Gen. Michael Schmidt, in his written statement before the House Armed Services Committee’s aviation subcommittee during hearings on Wednesday, asserted that the number of aircraft capable of performing all of their functions at full [full capacity at service] is less than 30% [about 160 fighters] compared to the total fleet of 540 F-35s.

Lieutenant General Schmidt stated: “The combat readiness of our F-35 fleet is unacceptable; maximizing that percentage is my priority. Our goal is to increase the level of combat readiness by at least 10% within 12 months.”

Some problems

The percentage of multirole aircraft in the US F-35 fleet is currently 30%. That same percentage will be 39% in 2020. The reason for the decreased combat readiness rate is not clearly explained, but various parts and the engine failing faster than expected are believed to impact the combat readiness rate seriously.

In addition, in conducting a preliminary analysis of the 2022 Pratt & Whitney submission to the commission, it was noted that the Pratt & Whitney company delivered nearly all of its engines late.

In addition, the commission noted that the Lockheed Martin-designed power and thermal management system, which is responsible for engine cooling, was malfunctioning, significantly reducing engine life.

Despite everything, the F-35 remains the preferred fighter of the 5th generation. The main factor in retaining this title is the lack of a second, fifth-generation fighter aircraft that is currently NATO-compliant and can be supplied by foreign countries.