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Pentagon Suspends Deliveries of F-35 Fighters After Finding Engine Part Came From China

An F-35A of Hill Air Force Bases 388th and 419th fighter wings takes off for a training exercise in Hill Air Force Base, Utah, on Nov. 19, 2018. (George Frey/Getty Images)

The Pentagon stated on Sept. 7 that it has halted deliveries of fifth-generation F-35 fighter jets after a component used in the plane’s engine was found to be sourced from China.

Lockheed Martin, the U.S. company that builds the F-35s, stated that the component is a magnet on the plane’s turbomachine pumps manufactured by U.S. aerospace parts maker Honeywell International. The defense company noted that the magnet was made with a cobalt and samarium alloy that originated from China.

A turbomachine is a part of what Lockheed Martin calls the F-35 aircraft’s “integrated power package,” which provides electrical power to start the plane’s engine.

On Sept. 7, Russell Goemaere, spokesperson of the F-35 Lightning II Joint Program Office (JPO), a Pentagon agency, told media outlets in a statement that the office became aware of the alloy’s origin last month, and the issue “is potentially in non-compliance” with federal defense acquisition regulations.

“The F-35 JPO temporarily paused the acceptance of new F-35 aircraft to ensure the F-35 program’s compliance,” he said.

Not Resulted in Security Risks

However, Goemaere said the magnet in question hasn’t resulted in any security risks.

“We have confirmed that the 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, and flight operations for the F-35 in-service fleet will continue as normal,” he said. “Once the issue was discovered, [the F-35 JPO] found an alternative source for the alloy that will be used in [a] future turbomachine.

“Further investigation is underway to understand the causal factors for the non-compliance and to establish corrective action.”

Epoch Times Photo An F-35B fighter jet prepares for take-off from the flight deck of UK Carrier Strike Groups HMS Queen Elizabeth in the Arabian Sea, off Mumbai coast on Oct. 21, 2021. (Punit Paranjpe/AFP via Getty Images)

The F-35 is flown by the U.S. Air Force, Navy, and Marine Corps, as well as some other countries.

Lockheed Martin and Honeywell each provided a statement to Politico.

“We are working with our partners and DOD [Department of Defense] to ensure contractual compliance within the supply chain,” Lockheed Martin spokesperson Laura Siebert said. “The F-35 remains safe for flight, and we are working with the DOD to resolve the issue as quickly as possible to resume deliveries.”

Honeywell spokesperson Adam Kress said, “We are working closely with DOD and Lockheed Martin to ensure that we continue to achieve those commitments on products Honeywell supplies for use on the F-35.”

The U.S. Government Accounting Office stated in April that the U.S. Air Force, Navy, and Marine Corps have 450 F-35 fighter jets, and the Pentagon plans to buy 2,500 in total.

Decouple From China: Expert

Responding to the Pentagon’s decision, Anders Corr, principal at the New York-based political consultancy firm Corr Analytics, took to Twitter to write that the United States should decouple from China.

“The U.S. discovered a Chinese magnet in the F-35 engine and is removing it,” Corr wrote, while tagging NATO. “Now if only our leaders realize that our economies are just as critical as our F-35s to collective defense from China, we can all proceed with economic decoupling.”

He made a similar call in May, after Secretary of State Antony Blinken said the United States won’t decouple from China and that the two nations “have to deal with each other for the foreseeable future” in a speech outlining the Biden administration’s China strategy.

“In fact, we can increasingly decouple from China, if we make that choice,” Corr wrote in response to Blinken’s speech. “And, moving towards that choice gradually gives us more bargaining leverage with Beijing.”

Since the start of the U.S.–China trade war, the concept of decoupling, or separation between certain sectors of the U.S. and Chinese economies, has become a much-talked-about option for the United States.

Companies dependent on Chinese supply chains are vulnerable to the Chinese regime’s influence. The Chinese Communist Party is also known for carrying out espionage activities, stealing intellectual property and trade secrets from companies and institutions.

Epoch Times Photo Then-U.S. President Donald Trump (L) talks to Chairman, President, and CEO of Lockheed Martin Marillyn Hewson (R) and Director and Chief Test Pilot Alan Norman (2nd L) in front of an F-35 fighter jet during the 2018 Made in America Product Showcase at the White House on July 23, 2018. (Alex Wong/Getty Images)

Former President Donald Trump raised the idea of decoupling from China during his presidency. Some Republican lawmakers have also made the same call.

‘China Has Been a Predatory Investor’

In February 2021, Sen. Tom Cotton (R-Ark.) released a new report on China, calling for the decoupling of certain U.S. and Chinese sectors, including critical minerals, entertainment, higher education, telecommunications, and semiconductors.

A month later, Rep. Mark Green (R-Tenn.) recommended that the United States should support the development of a manufacturing base in Latin America as the United States decouples from China.

Recently, Sen. Kevin Cramer (R-N.D.), in an interview on “Capitol Report” on NTD in July,  said that “we ought to find ways to decouple ourselves from China, not find more ways to bring them in, particularly with investments in our country.”

“China has been a predatory investor for a long time,” Cramer continued. “They’ve demonstrated a willingness to use economic enticement to gain access to very important assets.”

“We can’t just simply be addicted to [China’s] cheap stuff as an economic strategy, because at the end of the day, it ends up costing more than you gain.”