A wide-ranging hearing on the F-35 revealed new details on the aircraft’s current operations, as well as its developmental struggles, including its beleaguered TR-3 upgrade.
WASHINGTON — US officials acted quickly in the wake of Hamas’s October 7 attack on Israel to provide new F-35 Joint Strike Fighter weapons capabilities and spare parts to the country, a lawmaker and defense officials said today.
The rapidly shared F-35 capabilities and parts, revealed during a congressional hearing, is one feature of Washington’s wide-ranging assistance to Jerusalem. The accomplishment for the program was an operational bright spot in a hearing otherwise dominated by concerns from lawmakers about the stealth fighter’s cost and schedule overruns.
According to Rep. Rob Wittman, a Virginia Republican and chairman of the House Armed Services tactical air and land forces subcommittee, the F-35 program successfully “accelerat[ed] F-35 weapons capabilities and increas[ed] spare parts supply rates” after the Oct. 7 tragedy.
Undersecretary of Defense for Acquisition and Sustainment William LaPlante testified today that Air Force Lt. Gen Mike Schmidt, who heads the F-35 program, and his team were able to share US-owned mission data files within a week’s time. After the hearing, Schmidt confirmed that LaPlante’s comments referenced capabilities provided to Israel, though he would not discuss specifics.
“We are always trying to provide spare parts and capabilities to every one of our customers,” Schmidt said.
“We are going to learn a lot” from Israel’s F-35 operations, Schmidt told lawmakers, noting that the country’s fleet has “high” mission-capable and fully mission-capable rates. The US fleet, by comparison, has struggled with its readiness rates.