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Chinese alloy found in US flagship fighter jets

The discovery prompted the Pentagon to suspend delivery of F-35 fighter jets

The US Department of Defense has temporarily halted all F-35 fighter deliveries after learning that the warplane contained a component made from an alloy sourced in China, which violates federal acquisition rules, the Pentagon said on Wednesday.

The department noted that the reason behind the suspension was a magnet in the engine, which used a cobalt and samarium alloy that came from China. More specifically, the magnet is a part of a turbomachine that provides power to the jet's engine-mounted starter/generator. According to the Pentagon, the material poses no danger.

"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," Pentagon spokesperson Russ Goemaere stated, adding that any already deployed F-35's will continue operations as normal.

As it currently stands, US legislation and Pentagon policy prohibit the use of certain metals and alloys from a number of countries, including China, Iran, North Korea and Russia.

According to Goemaere, Lockheed Martin, the main contactor producing the 5th generation fighter, voluntarily reported non-compliance and has already found an alternative source for the component. A review is ongoing to determine how this happened, he noted.

The defense contractor said that it is working with the Pentagon and its partners "to ensure contractual compliance within the supply chain," adding that the F-35 remains safe for flight, and the company is doing its best "to resolve the issue as quickly as possible to resume deliveries."

The company plans to supply the US and its international partners with up to 153 of the fighters in 2022, having delivered 88 so far this year. The F-35 Program includes eight international partners - the US, the UK, Italy, Netherlands, Australia, Norway, Denmark and Canada, with another six countries procuring and operating the jets.

Although more than 840 F-35's have been delivered globally to date, production is still plagued by a number of defects. These deficiencies are sometimes detected after formal acceptance of the planes and present "a major concern negatively impacting the fleet," according to the Pentagon's Defense Contract Management Agency.