By Debbie Gregory.

The Lockheed Martin F-35 Lightning II program is the most expensive military weapons system in history. And now it appears that the U.S. Air Force is facing problems when it comes to acquiring spare parts for the jets.

The family of single-seat, single-engine, all-weather stealth multirole fighters are the fifth-generation combat aircraft designed to perform ground attack and air superiority missions.  But keeping them in top flying condition may be a challenge that could seriously impact the role the next-generation fighter jet plays in defense of the United States.

With the F-35 program projected to remain in service until 2070, developing a strategy for dealing with spare parts and repair issues is imperative.

One approach being considered is increasing the pace of establishing organic depot repair capabilities, which are facilities operated by the military rather than contractors to address spare parts and repair issues.

The spare parts issue is just one of the problems facing the F-35 program. Errors in the manufacturing process made by Lockheed’s workforce could be minor, but still cause delays: drilling holes that are too big, installing a dinged part, scratching the coating system and then over-spraying on the re-paint, and the failure to apply primer to prevent corrosion in certain fastener holes.

According to the Air Force, “the F-35’s ability to collect, analyze and share data is a powerful force multiplier that enhances all airborne, surface and ground-based assets in the battlespace and enables men and women in uniform to execute their mission and return home safe.

The Air Force is scheduled to buy nearly 1,800 F-35s. The Navy and Marine Corps are scheduled to purchase nearly 700 F-35s. Let’s hope that the money needed to keep these jets flying isn’t throwing good money after bad.