Lockheed Martin Chief Offers F-35 Mea Culpa, Plus Optimism

 - June 6, 2011, 5:12 AM
Lockheed Martin CEO Bob Stevens says the F-35 program has stabilized after the Pentagon’s “rebaselining” of the project. (Photo: Lockheed Martin)

Lockheed Martin has learned “some painful lessons” during the development of the F-35, CEO Bob Stevens told journalists in late May. “There’s more realism now,” he added.

Stevens insisted the program has stabilized after last fall’s “rebaselining,” with the company meeting or exceeding the planned flight-test schedule since then. He claimed that software development on the program continues on plan and the current software flying on the airplane is demonstrating good functionality and solid stability. 

The five F-35 milestones Lockheed Martin has set for this year are “tracking to plan,” Stevens said. They are: short takeoff/vertical landings for the F-35B on the USS Wasp; ship suitability trials for the F-35C at NAS Lakehurst, N.J.; release of Block 1 software to the training base at Eglin Air Force Base, Fla.; the release of Block 2 software to the flight test; and completion of static tests.

Stevens rejected calls for a further slowing of F-35 production while development issues are resolved. He also took issue with a $1 trillion, 50-year life cycle cost estimate that emerged recently from a Selected Acquisition Report on the F-35. “We did not have an input to that study. We will have a much more affordable airplane than current estimates are predicting,” he insisted. 

After recounting export interest in the F-35 from Israel, Japan, Korea and Singapore, Stevens predicted that “the international pattern will unfold like the F-16. Customers such as the UAE will eventually buy it.”