The US has temporarily ceased accepting Lockheed Martin F-35 fighter aircraft deliveries after finding a Chinese component in one of its parts.
The F-35 program office revealed that the alloy used in pump magnets on the aircraft was manufactured in China.
Although the alloy does not present a safety or security risk to the F-35s, integrating the component into the American aircraft could violate defense acquisition regulations.
China is a known rival of the US in weapons development. It has been cautious about using Chinese-made components over the risk of exposing its equipment to cyber-attacks or other malfeasance.
If proven to have violated defense acquisition policies, it would reportedly require a national defense waiver for deliveries to resume.
Lockheed Martin spokeswoman Laura Siebert explained the issue discovered on its F-35 combat jets.
She said the aircraft’s turbomachine manufacturer was informed by its lube pump supplier that the magnet has a cobalt and samarium alloy from China.
The delivery pause will provide more time to investigate and assess the situation.
However, Lockheed Martin assured that the recent issue would not interfere with the operations of F-35s already delivered to the US and military partners abroad.
The company has delivered 88 F-35 combat aircraft to global customers in 2022. It aims to supply 70 more before year-end.
“We are working with our partners and the DoD (Department of Defense) to ensure contractual compliance within the supply chain,” Siebert said.
“The magnet has no visibility or access to any sensitive program information. The F-35 remains safe for flight, and we are working with the DoD to resolve the issue as quickly as possible to resume deliveries.”
Lockheed Martin and the F-35 program office disclosed that an alternative source for the F-35 alloy has already been identified.
However, the final integration schedule of the F-35 magnets with the new alloys has yet to be determined.
Siebert also said that the company does not know when the delivery pause will be lifted.
“Honeywell has stopped work with the supplier providing alloy, and an alternative US source is already on order with anticipated delivery next month,” she explained.