Report | April 27, 2015

F-35 Engine Quality Assurance Inspection (Redacted)



We inspected the F-35 engine (F135) program’s quality management system for conformity to contractually required AS9100C, “Quality Management System,” statutory and regulatory requirements, DoD policies, and internal quality processes and p rocedures. F 135 engines are procured by the Department of Defense from Pratt & Whitney for the F-35 Lightning II Program.


A. Additional program management oversight is required by the F-35 Joint Program Office (JPO) and the Defense Contract Management Agency (DCMA), as evidenced by the 61 nonconformities (violations of AS9100C, regulatory requirements, and DoD policies) that we documented during our inspection.

B. The F135 critical safety item (CSI) program did not meet DoD CSI requirements, including requirements for parts identification, critical characteristic identification, part determination methodology, and supplier identification.

C. The F-35 JPO did not establish F135 program quality goals and objectives that were mutually agreed upon by Pratt & Whitney for current contracts. Additionally, Pratt & Whitney metrics did not show improvement in quality assurance, process capability, and

D. The F-35 JPO did not ensure that Pratt & Whitney proactively identified, elevated, tracked, and managed F135 program risks, in accordance with the F135 risk management plan.

E. The F-35 JPO did not ensure that Pratt & Whitney’s supplier selection criteria and management of underperforming suppliers were sufficient.

F. The F-35 JPO did not ensure that Pratt & Whitney demonstrated adequate software quality management practices. Pratt & Whitney had an outdated software development plan, requirements traceability issues, and a software quality assurance organization that did not perform required functions.


A.1.a – A.1.c. We recommend that the F-35 JPO coordinate with DCMA to conduct an effective root cause analysis and implement corrective actions for all 61 nonconformities identified during our inspection; review the contract data requirements list (CDRL) and determine specific items that should require approval; and evaluate open major variance requests to determine whether specification changes are required and if achievable closure plans can be developed.

A.2.a – A.2.c. We recommend that DCMA review CDRL items to identify any deliverables that impact DCMA program surveillance and coordinate with the F-35 JPO to resolve CDRL distribution issues; review and update the Memorandum of Agreement (MOA) with the F-35 JPO to ensure that all DCMA functions to evaluate waivers and deviations are clear and in accordance with the Federal Acquisition Regulation; and ensure that all associated data required to substantiate corrective action closure are accessible, available, and retrievable.

B.1 – B.2. We recommend that the F-35 JPO ensure that contractual flow down of all CSI requirements and Pratt & Whitney’s CSI program processes and specifications meet the intent of current DoD CSI requirements and ensure that CSI parts or assemblies for already delivered engines meet current DoD CSI requirements.

C.1 – C.3. We recommend that the F-35 JPO establish F135 program quality goals and objectives that are mutually agreed upon by Pratt & Whitney and track Pratt & Whitney’s performance against those objectives; ensure that Pratt & Whitney’s quality plan meets contractual requirements; and ensure that Pratt & Whitney consistently analyzes and reports key product characteristic process capability index (Cpk) data for F135 engine hardware and that performance improvement plans are established.

D. We recommend that the F-35 JPO ensure that Pratt & Whitney identify, elevate, track, and manage all risks that affect the program, including software and supply chain risks.

E.1. We recommend that the F-35 JPO work with DCMA to ensure that Pratt & Whitney clearly defines, documents, and implements minimum baseline criteria for supplier selection and actions to be taken for suppliers that continue to be high risk.

E.2. We recommend that DCMA perform additional surveillance on Pratt & Whitney’s corrective action requests issued to suppliers and ensure that they are closed within a reasonable timeframe.

F.1 – F.3. We recommend that the F-35 JPO ensure that Pratt & Whitney resolve nonconformities related to software quality management systems; ensure that Pratt & Whitney’s Software Quality Assurance organization conduct audits, reviews, and verification activities of both internally developed and supplier-developed software; and ensure that Pratt & Whitney assess the impact of insufficient software verification on delivered engines.

Management Comments and Our Response

The F-35 JPO and DCMA provided comments on our findings and recommendations. The F-35 JPO agreed with seven recommendations, partially agreed with two recommendations, and disagreed with four recommendations. DCMA agreed with three recommendations and partially agreed with one recommendation.

The F-35 JPO disagreed with evaluating open variance requests, stating that the F135 program is still in development and the F-35 JPO is working to either meet or change the requirements at the end of the system development and demonstration phase. The F-35 JPO partially agreed with our recommendations on CSIs but still plans to align with updated DoD requirements and to work with the contractor to align with DoD requirements by May 2015. For engines already delivered, the F-35 JPO will first determine if significant escapes are discovered while aligning the F135 program with current DoD requirements before taking appropriate action. The F-35 JPO partially agreed with our recommendation on risk management but committed to ensure that Pratt & Whitney identifies, elevates, tracks, and manages all risks that affect the program.  The F-35 JPO disagreed with our recommendation on software quality management, stating that software is developed to the correct product software level, the software development plan is not obsolete, and the F135 propulsion system software was properly tested.  Comments from the F-35 JPO did not fully address the specifics of our recommendations; therefore, further comments are required.

DCMA partially agreed with our recommendation to document corrective action closures but committed to work on a central repository to maintain corrective action documentation. Comments from DCMA addressed all specifics of the recommendations, and no further comments are required.