Panetta Lifts F‑35 Fighter Variant Probation

NAVAL AIR STATION PATUXENT RIVER, Md., Jan. 20, 2012 — Defense Sec­re­tary Leon E. Panet­ta announced today he’s lift­ed pro­ba­tion from the Short Take­off, Ver­ti­cal Land­ing vari­ant of the fifth gen­er­a­tion F‑35 Light­ning II joint strike fight­er which is absolute­ly vital to main­tain­ing air supe­ri­or­i­ty.

Speak­ing dur­ing a town hall-style meet­ing here, the defense sec­re­tary dis­cussed the lat­est devel­op­ment in the progress of the joint strike fight­er pro­gram as ser­vice mem­bers, politi­cians and the civil­ian work­force lis­tened.

“Ear­ly in 2011 DOD was com­pelled to put [the Short Take­off and Ver­ti­cal Land­ing] … on pro­ba­tion,” he said.

“Over the course of last year, you here at Pax Riv­er helped make an incred­i­ble dif­fer­ence by com­plet­ing tremen­dous amounts of STOVL test­ing,” Panet­ta not­ed. “You demon­strat­ed that we’ve made real progress towards fix­ing some of the known prob­lems that we had with STOVL.”

Panet­ta laud­ed the joint strike fighter’s work­force at NAS Patux­ent Riv­er for their efforts to bring the STOVL vari­ant up to the stan­dards of the two oth­er exist­ing ver­sions of the F‑35, the Con­ven­tion­al Take­off and Land­ing and Car­ri­er Vari­ant.

“We now believe that because of your work, that the STOVL vari­ant is demon­strat­ing the kind of per­for­mance and matu­ri­ty that is in line with the oth­er two vari­ants of the JSF,” Panet­ta said.

“As a result of your hard work and the hard work of JSF’s gov­ern­ment and indus­try team … the STOVL vari­ant has made, I believe and all of us believe, suf­fi­cient progress so that as of today, I am lift­ing the STOVL pro­ba­tion,” he announced.

Panet­ta com­mend­ed the crowd for their hard work, but cau­tioned that the JSF pro­gram still has more work to do. “We’ve got a long way to go with the JSF test­ing, and it’s obvi­ous­ly not out of the woods yet,” he said.

“But I am con­fi­dent that if we con­tin­ue to do the hard work nec­es­sary … that both the Car­ri­er and the STOVL Vari­ant are going to be ready for oper­a­tions and are going to be ready for doing the work that they have to do, which is to help pro­tect this coun­try,” Panet­ta said.

“I want you all to know that as sec­re­tary of defense, my depart­ment is com­mit­ted to the devel­op­ment of the F‑35,” he said. “It’s absolute­ly crit­i­cal … that we get it right. And that’s why you’re here. The devel­op­men­tal test­ing that’s going on here will ensure that we get this right.”

Marine Corps Com­man­dant Gen. James F. Amos called Panetta’s deci­sion to lift the pro­ba­tion of the F‑35B “hard-earned.”

“Sec­re­tary Panetta’s deci­sion to take the F‑35B Light­ning II Short Take­off, Ver­ti­cal Land­ing vari­ant off pro­ba­tion was a hard-earned and reward­ing announce­ment for the entire DOD/industry team that worked very hard last year,” he said.

“Suc­cess­ful F‑35B per­for­mance ashore and at sea has very pos­i­tive­ly advanced the state of demon­strat­ed capa­bil­i­ty in 2011,” Amos said. “The pos­i­tive momen­tum gen­er­at­ed dur­ing 2011 will con­tin­ue as test­ing pro­ceeds, pro­duc­tion air­craft are deliv­ered, and fleet train­ing begins in 2012.”

Panet­ta said it is impor­tant that the U.S. mil­i­tary main­tains its tech­no­log­i­cal edge into the future. “That’s where we have to be,” he said. “We’re going to have a strong defense; we have got to be there.”

Panet­ta praised the capa­bil­i­ties of Patuxent’s work­force.

“Because of you, because of the very unique test­ing and capa­bil­i­ties that are offered here, we are able to main­tain that tech­no­log­i­cal edge,” Panet­ta said. “And I want to thank you again for your ded­i­ca­tion, for your com­mit­ment, for your great skills.”

Panet­ta laud­ed the Patux­ent Riv­er instal­la­tion call­ing it “a very unique facil­i­ty” and “a nation­al trea­sure” that is impor­tant to main­tain.

“These are world-class facil­i­ties … that [are] impor­tant to our mil­i­tary, impor­tant to our men and women in uni­form who have to put their lives on the line, and it’s impor­tant to our nation­al secu­ri­ty,” Panet­ta said.

“Please accept my deep­est thanks for your work and ded­i­ca­tion,” he said. “I could­n’t do it with­out you.”

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