Pentagon pauses accepting new F-35s because of metal part made in China

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The Pentagon has paused accepting new F-35 fighter jets after learning one of its metal parts was made in China. The temporary pause does not impact the F-35s already in service.

The F-35 Joint Program Office learned in late August that one of the metals used in a magnet for the F-35 had been produced in China, which is a potential violation of a regulation that prevents the Defense Department equipment from the unauthorized use of metals from China.

The magnet is in the jet's turbomachine pump, a component that helps start the engine.

The Joint Program Office confirmed that the magnet does not transmit any information or harm any parts of the aircraft, so the F-35s already in service will continue their normal operations.

An F-35C Lightning II test aircraft taxies on the deck aboard the nuclear powered aircraft carrier USS Dwight D. Eisenhower of the coast of Norfolk, Va., on Oct. 9, 2015.  / Credit: Steve Helber / AP
An F-35C Lightning II test aircraft taxies on the deck aboard the nuclear powered aircraft carrier USS Dwight D. Eisenhower of the coast of Norfolk, Va., on Oct. 9, 2015. / Credit: Steve Helber / AP

The temporary pause is to allow the Pentagon to confirm whether the use of the metal is a violation, and if so, how to correct it. If the metal is found to be in noncompliance, then the Pentagon could pursue a national security waiver to allow the use of the metal in these jets.

A spokesperson for Lockheed Martin, the company that produces F-35s, said this temporary pause only affects three aircraft that are currently ready for delivery. Production of the F-35 continues at the company's factories in Fort Worth, Texas, Italy and Japan.

"We are working with our partners and DoD to ensure contractual compliance within the supply chain," Lockheed Martin spokesperson Laura Siebert said in a statement. "The magnet has no visibility or access to any sensitive program information. 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."

Russell Goemaere, a spokesman for the Joint Program Office, told CBS News there is an investigation into how the Chinese metal entered the process. The contracting company that  produced the magnets for Lockheed Martin has found a replacement metal to use going forward.

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