The US Air Force’s F-35 fighter aircraft fleet suffered a massive decline in readiness rate and flight hours in 2022, according to a recent report by the Congressional Budget Office (CBO).
The conventional take-off-and-landing F-35A variant saw the biggest fall in availability rates, from 65 percent in 2021 to 54 percent last year.
The readiness of the jump-jet F-35B model also decreased by seven percentage points, from 61 to 54 percent.
Only the F-35C saw an increase in availability, from 53 percent in 2021 to 58 percent the following year.
The CBO clarified that the age of all three variants may have affected their readiness.
The Joint Strike Fighter fleet is relatively young, with more than half in service for less than four years.
The majority of jets are also US Air Force F-35As, so sample sizes are small for the US Marine Corps’ F-35Bs and the US Navy’s F-35Cs.
Last year, Bloomberg reported that the lack of spare engines has been keeping readiness rates low.
Since the beginning of 2020, an increasing number of F-35s have been unable to fly due to the lack of an operating engine.
According to the report, the problem is more visible in the US Air Force variant, comprising the largest fleet.
“They [defense department officials] recognized that they have not had adequate depot capacity to repair the power module and do not have sufficient capacity to meet the demand of future unscheduled and scheduled engine repairs,” the Government Accountability Office said.