Defense weapons manufacturer Lockheed Martin recently suspended deliveries of the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter citing a gas issue that could cause the aircraft to explode if it is struck by lightning.
On Wednesday, the company said that damage to a tube in the Lightning II’s Onboard Inert Gas Generation System (OBIGGS) was discovered during a routine maintenance check at the Ogden Air Logistic Complex in Utah.
“Lockheed Martin initiated a delay in deliveries while we verified F-35 production is conforming to specifications with regard to OBIGGS installation,” the company said in a statement, obtained by Military.com.
“We are working with the F-35 Joint Program Office on a root cause corrective action investigation to determine next steps, as it appears this anomaly is occurring in the field after aircraft delivery.”
The F-35 was the result of the Joint Strike Fighter program, which merged several combat aircraft systems of the 1980s and 1990s. From the beginning, several countries contributed funds to the design and were given the opportunity to bid on contracts.
In November, Pentagon officials acknowledged that the state-of-the-art F-35 fighter jet is not living up to its backers’ high expectations, falling short of key readiness milestones that have bedeviled the $428 billion program.
At the time, Ellen Lord, the Pentagon’s undersecretary of acquisition and sustainment, acknowledged several issues with the Pentagon’s costliest weapon, but expressed confidence that the issues with the program will be solved.
Deliveries of the aircraft have since resumed following an almost four-week suspension. The Joint Program Office has since advised F-35A squadron commanders to avoid flying the aircraft “within 25 miles of lightning or thunderstorms.”