A Lockheed Martin executive reported “lots of progress” in fixing problems associated with the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter helmet-mounted display system (HMDS). But the company continues developing an alternate helmet display in case the existing system fails to meet requirements. Critical design reviews of both systems are planned in the fourth quarter.
F-35 Lightning II
Lockheed Martin plans to upgrade the daylight television camera on U.S. Army AH-64D Apache helicopters with a high-definition color-capable camera with improved field of view. The modernized day sensor assembly (M-DSA) is the last component of the Apache’s nose-mounted target acquisition and designation system (TADS) to be upgraded.
Striking machinists at the Lockheed Martin Aeronautics plant in Fort Worth, Texas, voted by a large margin to accept a revised contract offer from the company, bringing to a conclusion a 10-week walkout at the facility that assembles the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter. Members of the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers (IAM) Fort Worth Local 776 voted 1,873 to 447 on June 28 to accept a four-year contract, The Fort Worth Star Telegram reported.
Lockheed Martin CEO-in-waiting Christopher Kubasik says the company is committed to righting ongoing problems with the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter, which has doubled in unit cost and slipped in schedule by six years until full-rate production, now slated for 2019. Meanwhile, the Government Accountability Office (GAO) said the government is responsible for $672 million of the $1 billion-plus cost overrun from the program’s first four low-rate initial production (LRIP) contracts.
A machinists strike at the Lockheed Martin Aeronautics plant in Fort Worth, Texas, which manufactures the F-16 and the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter, has stretched into a seventh week, with no sign of an end. Demonstrations were also reported at the Naval Air Station in Patuxent River, Md., where union members are also employed, and at Lockheed Martin’s corporate headquarters in Bethesda, Md.
The UK Ministry of Defence (MoD) reversed course on its Carrier Strike program, confirming a switch from the F-35C CV version back to the F-35B STOVL version of the Joint Strike Fighter. The decision was expected, and has been driven by a doubling of the estimated cost (to more than $3.2 billion) to convert for “cat and trap” operations one of two new British carriers that are already under construction.
The U.S. Navy has started the process of eventually replacing its F/A-18E/F Super Hornet strike fighter and the EA-18G Growler electronic warfare derivative. On April 13, the service issued a request for information (RFI) seeking industry concepts for the F/A-XX fighter to replace Super Hornets and Growlers around 2030.
The U.S. Navy released a draft request for proposals (RFP) last month for its future airborne electronic warfare system, the Next Generation Jammer (NGJ), signaling a shift in the $2 billion program to the technology development phase. Contained in under-wing pods on the Navy’s EA-18G Growler, the NGJ will suppress advanced, integrated air defenses, communications systems, datalinks and other threats, replacing the long-serving AN/ALQ-99 tactical jamming system on the Boeing EA-18G and retiring Northrop Grumman EA-6B Prowlers.
The latest Selected Acquisition Report on the Lockheed Martin F-35 program has updated the Pentagon’s cost estimates. The eight international partners may take some comfort from the predictions of future unit recurring flyaway costs, once full-rate production begins. That is, if they defer the majority of their buys until then, which seems increasingly likely. The report also details the schedule delays that were officially approved last December.
Lockheed Martin has described progress in the F-35 development program, and solutions to some of the problems that have recently been identified. Having exceeded the planned flight-test sorties and test points in 2011 by 15 percent, the company is hoping for similar gains this year. Of the 59,585 test points scheduled for the development phase through 2016, just over one-fifth had been flown by the end of December.