After the preliminary design review was completed on schedule in April 2003, every subsequent milestone in the F-35 program was missed by at least one year. Yet Lockheed Martin continued to exude optimism, rejecting criticism that production was being ramped up before development and producibility issues were solved.
F-35 Lightning II
The Lockheed Martin F-35 development program has met or exceeded the revised flight-test schedule that was written following a technical baseline restructuring (TBR) last August, according to Lockheed Martin officials. But some significant technical issues remain, and affordability continues to be a key concern for the new-generation combat aircraft.
This time last year, newly restructured Sargent Aerospace & Defense was busily expanding its component-making facilities in anticipation of a full-blown industry recovery in the second half of this year. Preparing to depart for this week’s Paris Air Show, the U.S.
Lockheed Martin’s F-35 is the Pentagon’s largest cooperative program. Eight partner countries are collectively contributing $4.9 billion to the system design and development phase (SDD). They have projected a total buy of 597 aircraft as follows: Australia, 100; Canada, 65; Denmark, 30; Italy, 131; The Netherlands, 85; Norway, 48; Turkey, 100; and the UK, 138.
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.
The Pentagon issued a “stop work” order for the GE Aviation F136 engine in late March, and the Fiscal Year 2011 U.S. defense budget was finally signed into law last month, without funding for the alternative F-35 engine. But the fight for the F136 is not yet over.
U.S. defense contractors eliminated from the $10 billion competition to provide India’s medium multi-role combat aircraft (MMRCA) cite several other international programs and competitions as opportunities for their respective platforms. But the start of Japan's F-X contest in April and fighter requirements in countries including Denmark, Malaysia and Brazil did nothing to mask the clear disappointment expressed by U.S.
The ongoing impasse in Washington over the Fiscal Year 2011 U.S. federal budget means that the Pentagon can spend only at 2010 budget levels and cannot start new programs. Meanwhile, it has submitted a budget request of $553 billion for 2012, compared with $548 billion requested for 2011. But the mood in Congress has swung in favor of serious efforts to cut deficit spending. The years of burgeoning defense budgets in the U.S.
The expected costs to produce and sustain the F-35 Lightning II Joint Strike Fighter in service are “simply unacceptable in this fiscal environment,” according to senior Pentagon officials. Air Force acquisition executive David Van Buren and F-35 Joint Program Office chief Vice Admiral David Venlet told a U.S.
In another wide-ranging speech on future defense strategy, U.S. Secretary of Defense Robert Gates said that the U.S. Air Force must increase its focus on asymmetric threats and unconventional warfare.