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Manufacture This

The blog of the Alliance for American Manufacturing

Global demand for the F-35 fighter jet is sky-rocketing and shows no signs of slowing.

Production of the warfare game-changer must increase significantly to keep up with orders coming in from American allies around the world. This is excellent news for the American workers employed in Lockheed Martin’s manufacturing facilities — but if many of the most critical components are coming from questionable sources overseas, then the increased production may hold unforeseen consequences.

Lockheed Martin produces the F-35 jet in a large facility in Fort Worth, Texas.  In 2015, the company delivered 45 F-35 jets for the U.S. and our allies in Europe, including Norway and Italy.

That number is expected to increase to more than 120 aircraft each year, with 493 jets in operation by the end of 2019. In order to facilitate such a massive increase in production, more than 17 new operating locations will be created.

But according to the Joint Program Office, more than half of them will be overseas, another troubling development for F-35 production.

“The failure of a single electronic part can leave a soldier, sailor, airman or Marine vulnerable at the worst possible time." Senate Armed Services Committee

As retired Brigadier General John Adams noted in the 2013 report ReMaking American Security, critical components of the F-35 are currently made overseas in countries such as China, including lithium ion batteries and high-tech magnets. Both of these components are essential to the combat readiness of the F-35 fighter jet and are therefore critical to our national security. 

Foreign suppliers like those in China operate outside of any American oversight or quality assurance. This means that the parts could be counterfeit, defective or even intentionally sabotaged.

In 2012, the Senate Armed Services Committee reported that a yearlong investigation uncovered thousands of fake or counterfeit Chinese parts utilized in the production of American military equipment. The number of suspected fake parts topped 1 million.

“The failure of a single electronic part can leave a soldier, sailor, airman or Marine vulnerable at the worst possible time,” the report noted. “Unfortunately, a flood of counterfeit electronic parts has made it a lot harder to prevent that from happening.”

We cannot leave our troops so unprotected, especially in the production of the F-35 fighter jet, which has become a crucial component of our national security. The manufacturing of our national defense must occur among trusted suppliers using American facilities and American workers.

To neglect this fact is to erode our national security and sacrifice the safety of our heroes serving abroad.