Time is running out for the Lockheed Martin F-35 to make its international debut. The fleet remains grounded after the engine fire on June 23. “We’re working day and night to provide evidence to the airworthiness authorities, but we haven’t learned enough yet,” said Lt. Gen. Chris Bogdan, head of the F-35 Joint Program Office.
Bogdan was speaking today at the Royal International Air Tattoo (RIAT) at RAF Fairford, the major event four jets had been scheduled to fly to 12 days ago. The RIAT organizers have now abandoned hope of the F-35’s appearing here, but Bogdan said “we’re not giving up yet” on plans to display at the Farnborough Air Show next week. However, he said that engineers from Lockheed Martin and Pratt & Whitney have only just started examining parts from the affected aircraft. “I’m just glad we found out about this [problem] with the airplane still on the ground,” he said.
Despite the absence of the aircraft, Lockheed Martin and Pratt & Whitney went ahead with a full day of media briefings here today. The companies announced a new cost-reduction initiative that will see Lockheed Martin, Northrop Grumman and BAE Systems spend up to $170 million in affordability measures, such as changing materials. The goal is to reduce the unit recurring flyway cost of an F-35 to $80 million by 2019. Industry will get their investment back only if accrued savings are actually made.
“Affordability worries me most,” said Bogdan. But he issued a generally positive report card on the program. AIN will report in greater detail on Bogdan’s briefing and other F-35 news in Farnborough Airshow News next week.