Officials Emphasize Commitment to Joint Strike Fighter

WASHINGTON, May 9, 2012 — Senior lead­ers from the Air Force and Navy affirmed yes­ter­day that the F‑35 joint strike fight­er remains the cen­ter­piece of the tac­ti­cal air­craft pro­gram and will play a large part in the ser­vices’ ongo­ing mod­ern­iza­tion plans.

Navy Vice Adm. David J. Ven­let, F‑35 Light­ning II pro­gram exec­u­tive offi­cer, told the Sen­ate Armed Ser­vices Committee’s air­land sub­com­mit­tee that the F‑35’s basic engine designs were deemed sound and deliv­er­able after a bat­tery of tests and obser­va­tions over the past year.

“While there is still risk in the pro­gram, it is risk-bal­anced,” Ven­let said. “I have con­fi­dence in the resilience of the plan to absorb fur­ther learn­ing dis­cov­ery and stay on track.”

Still, Ven­let said, the pro­gram will “not exe­cute itself,” and will require resources, tools and process­es to enable dis­ci­plined deci­sions on devel­op­ment and incre­men­tal capa­bil­i­ty deliv­ery.

Tech­ni­cal and cost issues exist, the admi­ral acknowl­edged, but he added that the joint strike fighter’s enhanced capa­bil­i­ty can be the back­bone of fifth-gen­er­a­tion fight­ers.

Car­ri­er test pilots con­duct­ing approach­es at Patux­ent Riv­er, Md., have laud­ed the han­dling char­ac­ter­is­tics of the F‑35’s air­craft car­ri­er vari­ant, he said, and short take­off and ver­ti­cal land­ing results have demon­strat­ed sol­id per­for­mance.

“It is a tes­ti­mo­ny to the very effec­tive and impres­sive mar­riage of engine and air­frame,” Ven­let said, adding that mea­sures will stay in place to ensure the program’s long-term effec­tive­ness. “Rig­or­ous man­age­ment con­trol by the joint pro­gram office, sup­port­ed by the ser­vice sys­tem com­mands, will be applied with a … focus on pro­duc­tion and afford­able deliv­ery capa­bil­i­ty — our only mean­ing­ful exter­nal result.”

Navy Vice Adm. W. Mark Skin­ner, prin­ci­pal mil­i­tary deputy in the office of the assis­tant sec­re­tary of the Navy for research, devel­op­ment and acqui­si­tion, said afford­abil­i­ty will be a key focus in deliv­er­ing capa­bil­i­ties.

“Dur­ing these aus­tere times, we must per­sist in mod­ern­iz­ing and recap­i­tal­iz­ing our naval avi­a­tion forces and increase our capa­bil­i­ty through force mul­ti­pli­ers, such as the Navy Inte­grat­ed Fire Con­trol Counter-Air and using ’should-cost/will-cost’ process­es to bring more afford­able sys­tems to our warfight­ers,” Skin­ner said.

Lt. Gen. Janet C. Wolfen­barg­er, assis­tant sec­re­tary of the Air Force for acqui­si­tion, told the pan­el the fis­cal 2013 bud­get aligns with the Air Force’s tac­ti­cal avi­a­tion pro­gram as the ser­vice shifts its nation­al secu­ri­ty strat­e­gy to counter mod­ern-day threats.

“Our rapid­ly aging air­craft fleet dri­ves the urgent need to bal­ance pro­cure­ment of new inven­to­ry with sus­tain­ment of our cur­rent fleet,” Wolfen­barg­er said.

U.S. Depart­ment of Defense
Office of the Assis­tant Sec­re­tary of Defense (Pub­lic Affairs)