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Pentagon finds unauthorized Chinese material in F-35 fighter jets; stops accepting them

F-35s from the 62nd Fighter Squadron visit Joint Base San Antonio-Lackland, Oct. 21, 2021. (Air National Guard Photo by Staff Sgt. Ryan Mancuso)
September 07, 2022

The U.S. Department of Defense confirmed on Wednesday it has halted accepting new F-35 fighter jets after discovering an engine part made from unauthorized Chinese materials.

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F-35 Lightning II Joint Program Office (JPO) spokesperson Gulianna Dunn confirmed to American Military News on Wednesday afternoon that officials discovered “an alloy in magnets used in F-35 turbomachine pumps” was produced in China and potentially violates the Defense Federal Acquisition Regulations Supplement (DFARS) which bans unauthorized materials from China.

As a result, the F-35 JPO “temporarily paused the acceptance of new F-35 aircraft to ensure the F-35 program’s compliance to DFARS pertaining to specialty metals,” Dunn said.

The discovery was made by defense contractors on Aug. 19, three weeks after the Air Force grounded its F-35 jets over a potential problem with ejection seats. The JPO received a formal disclosure about the non-compliant material on Sept. 2.

Dunn added that the Chinese-made magnet “does not transmit information or harm the integrity of the aircraft and there are no performance, quality, safety, or security risks associated with this issue.”

Flight operations for all F-35s in the current U.S. military fleet will continue as normal, Dunn said.

A new source for the alloy has been located and will be used in future manufacturing. An investigation into the non-compliant material is also underway.

The Air Force had grounded most of its F-35 fighter jets on July 29 after uncovering a potential problem with their ejection seats.

Alexi Worley, a spokesperson for the Air Force’s Air Combat Command (ACC), told American Military News at the time that the command began looking into the F-35 ejection seat concern on July 19.

“On July 19, we began a Time Compliance Technical Directive to inspect all of the cartridges on the ejection seat within 90 days,” Worley said. “Out of an abundance of caution, ACC units will execute a stand-down on July 29 to expedite the inspection process.”

Worley did not specify what problem may exist with the ejection seat. She said the stand-down affects “all” of ACC’s F-35 aircraft “with a few exceptions.”