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Report | Sept. 30, 2013

Quality Assurance Assessment of the F-35 Lightning II Program



We performed an evaluation of the F-35 Lightning II Program (F-35 Program) by conducting a series of quality assurance assessments of the Joint Program Office, prime contractor, and major subcontractors. We assessed conformity to the contractually required Aerospace Standard (AS)9100, “Quality Management Systems - Requirements for Aviation, Space and Defense Organizations,” contractual quality assurance clauses, and internal quality assurance processes and procedures for the following six contractors:

  • Lockheed Martin Aeronautics Company, Fort Worth, Texas (Prime Contractor and Aircraft Integrator);
  • Northrop Grumman Aerospace Systems, El Segundo and Palmdale, California (Center Fuselage Integrator);
  • BAE Systems, Samlesbury, United Kingdom (Aft Fuselage Integrator);
  • L-3 Display Systems, Alpharetta, Georgia (Panoramic Cockpit Display System);
  • Honeywell Aerospace, Yeovil, United Kingdom (On-Board Oxygen Generation System); and
  • United Technologies Corporation, Aero-space Systems, Fort Worth, Texas, and Independence, Ohio (Landing Gear System) 


We concluded that Lockheed Martin Aeronautics Company and its subcontractors did not follow disciplined AS9100 Quality Management System practices, as evidenced by 363 findings, which contained 719 issues.  Identified issues could adversely affect aircraft performance, reliability, maintainability, and ultimately program cost. 

The Joint Program Office did not:

  • Ensure that Lockheed Martin and its subcontractors were applying rigor to design, manufacturing, and quality assurance processes.
  • Flow down critical safety item requirements.
  • Ensure that Lockheed Martin flowed down quality assurance and technical requirements to subcontractors.
  • Establish an effective quality assurance organization.
  • Ensure that the Defense Contract Management Agency perform adequate quality assurance oversight. 

In addition, the Defense Contract Management Agency did not:

  • Sufficiently perform Government quality assurance oversight of F-35 contractors. 

Management Comments and Our Responses

The F-35 Joint Program Office and the Defense Contract Management Agency commented on the draft report on August 23, 2013.  However, we disagree with 7 of 13 of the responses to the recommendations, therefore the DoDIG is requesting additional response to the final report.

This report is a result of Project No. D2012-DT0TAD-0003.000.