Pentagon: International F-35 MRO A Model For Future Programs

An F-35 at the Ogden Air Logistics Center.

Credit: U.S. Air Force

The international approach to maintenance, repair and overhaul (MRO) of the F-35 needs to be a model for other weapons as the Pentagon looks to co-develop and co-produce critical systems, the Defense Department’s top weapons buyer argues.

The F-35 Joint Strike Fighter program has stood up two MRO facilities for the jet, one in Japan and one in Italy, so international operators do not all need to come back to the U.S. for the work. Bill LaPlante, the under secretary of defense for acquisition and sustainment, says this setup needs to become the norm as key weapons take on more international production and sustainment.

“The importance of allies can’t be overstated,” LaPlante said Oct. 25 at the ComDef 2023 conference in Arlington, Virginia. “In the Indo-Pacific alone, our allies and partners must play an essential role in maintenance, repair and overhaul of our weapons systems capabilities. … We’re going to need to have more MROs around the world.”

The U.S. and Australian governments this summer announced plans to cooperate on the Guided Weapons and Explosive Ordnance Enterprise (GWEO), which will include co-production of Lockheed Martin’s Guided Multiple Launch Rocket System (GMLRS) by 2025.

Arthur Sinodinos, the former Australian ambassador to the U.S. and current partner and chair of the Australia Practice at The Asia Group, says GWEO began because of discussions with the U.S. military that showed that once a war starts in the Indo-Pacific, the U.S. won’t be able to supply Australia with additional munitions as stocks will be rapidly depleted. So Australia needed to find a way to become more independent in munitions production.

GMLRS is an initial step for the program, but “our ambition is to do more in that space,” he says.

In addition, NATO coming out of the Vilnius, Lithuania, summit in July said it is going to focus more on multiyear, multicountry procurements of munitions, LaPlante says.

“We are working behind the scenes very, very hard to get those set up,” he says.

Brian Everstine

Brian Everstine is the Pentagon Editor for Aviation Week, based in Washington, D.C. Before joining Aviation Week in August 2021, he covered the Pentagon for Air Force Magazine. Brian began covering defense aviation in 2011 as a reporter for Military Times.