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US military seeks quick waiver to restart halted F-35 deliveries

Two US Air Force F-35 Lightning II aircraft assigned to the 34th Fighter Squadron at Hill Air Force Base, Utah, arrive at Amari Air Base, Estonia, February 24, 2022. (US Air Force photo)

The US military is working to get a temporary hold on F-35 fighter jet deliveries removed after officials found out a part within the aircraft used raw materials from China, according to Pentagon officials.

The Pentagon’s top acquisition official said on Friday that an investigation was “moving quickly” to probe how an alloy made in China ended up in magnets in the turbomachine pumps of the Lockheed Martine-produced F-35.

Defense Department regulations do not allow the use of Chinese materials in the F-35’s turbomachine, made by Honeywell. The Pentagon earlier this week stopped accepting new jets from Lockheed.

The F-35 Joint Program Office as well as Lockheed have maintained that the Chinese-sourced alloy was magnetized in America and does not give any other country access to sensitive information and there are no safety issues.

“They’re looking at two things – one, impact on security if any, and impact on airworthiness or safety, if any,” Undersecretary of Defense for acquisition and sustainment William LaPlante said told reporters. “Right now, so far it doesn’t appear to be either of them.”

LaPlante said if the investigation finds neither is a problem then the Pentagon can issue a national security waiver to “get the production line moving again,” and deliver assembled jets that already contain the alloy.

The Pentagon would not move to replace the part at issue in already delivered aircraft if a waiver is issued.

Bloomberg reported on Friday that a total of 825 F-35 jets so far delivered since 2003 have the Chinese alloy within them.

The US deployed a total of six F-35 Lightning II stealth fighters to bases in Estonia, Lithuania and Romania after Russian President Vladimir Putin announced in February a “special military operation” in Ukraine’s Donbas region to “defend people” subjected to "genocide" there against government forces, stressing that Moscow has “no plans to occupy Ukrainian territory.”

Days before, the United States deployed F-35 fighter jets to Germany as part of a plan to bolster NATO forces amid rising tensions in Eastern Europe.

The jets were sent to Spangdahlem Air Base with pilots, maintainers and support personnel, the Air Force Reserve Command announced.

It said that the deployment “is being conducted in full coordination with the German government and NATO military authorities.”

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