F-35 jet deliveries to resume following waiver for Chinese-origin alloy

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Deliveries of Lockheed Martin Corp.’s F-35 will resume after the Pentagon’s acquisitions chief issued a “national security waiver” from a ban on a Chinese alloy used in a component on the fighter jet.

The component -- a magnet in a device supplied by Honeywell International Inc. -- has been used in the plane since 2003. After the Chinese alloy was discovered, the Pentagon suspended deliveries of new F-35s last month, citing regulations on “specialty metals.”

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William LaPlante, the undersecretary of defense for acquisition, signed the waiver to allow deliveries of aircraft to resume despite the banned alloy, he said in a statement released Saturday.

Lockheed said Honeywell has found an “alternative US source” for the alloy that will be used in the production of future aircraft starting November.

Eighteen aircraft were held as part of the delivery pause, Lockheed said in a statement Saturday.

The waiver, signed on Friday, lets the Pentagon accept 126 aircraft in current production contracts that run through October 31, 2023. “Acceptance of the aircraft is necessary for national security interests,” LaPlante said.

The Defense Department’s F-35 program office has said the part has no technical flaw and poses no security risk to the US’s top stealth fighter.

Rather, it’s a question of supply-chain security and why the banned alloy wasn’t detected by Honeywell.

The part was provided to a Honeywell subcontractor by a lower-tier supplier, Lockheed has said.

US law and Pentagon acquisition regulations prohibit the use of specialty metals or alloys made in China, Iran, North Korea or Russia. The Defense Contract Management Agency reported the violation to the F-35 program office on August 19.

The episode isn’t unprecedented: A decade ago, the Pentagon granted a waiver to Honeywell to use Chinese magnets in other F-35 components, saying the program, already beset by delays and cost overruns, would have been slowed even more otherwise.

The F-35 program has more than 1,700 suppliers from around the world, according to Lockheed.

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