USA — Adjustments Put F-35 on Track, Program Director Says

ARLINGTON, Va., Feb. 16, 2011 — The Defense Department’s joint strike fight­er pro­gram is on track to field the F-35 Light­ning II in fis­cal 2016, the program’s direc­tor said here yes­ter­day.
In remarks to the Nation­al Aero­nau­tics Asso­ci­a­tion, Navy Vice Adm. David Ven­let said that although changes made to the pro­gram in Jan­u­ary extend­ed flight test­ing and slowed devel­op­ment by about a year at an addi­tion­al cost of $4.6 bil­lion, the pro­gram has made progress over the past year.

“We’re not spend­ing that amount of mon­ey in one year, but it’s the added con­tent across the years to [2016] that con­sume the $4.6 bil­lion,” Ven­let said. “We have no doubts that achiev­ing fair­ly high rates of pro­duc­tion is obtain­able, but it’s going to take some dis­ci­pline on the way.”

The fis­cal 2012 defense bud­get request sub­mit­ted this week has lit­tle effect on the pro­gram, Ven­let added.

“There’s no change after [the Feb. 14 bud­get] announce­ment, and I believe I’ve got a very sta­ble require­ment,” said Ven­let, who has led the pro­gram since May. “We have not changed our inven­to­ry objec­tives.”

The right plan is in place to ensure the pro­gram is effi­cient in terms of cost-sav­ings and pro­duc­tion, he added, not­ing that the pro­gram has under­gone an intense tech­ni­cal review under his watch. The lat­est restruc­tur­ing, he said, was real­is­tic, achiev­able and based on deep assess­ments of all aspects of the pro­gram.

“Pre­vi­ous plans had short­com­ings, but this plan is very resilient,” he said. “The plan has been able to over­come spot­ty parts short­ages, engine deliv­ery prob­lems, [and] it absorbed snow days where weath­er shut down pro­duc­tion in the Dal­las-Fort Worth area.”

Ven­let said he has insti­tut­ed more test­ing, increas­ing the num­ber of hours and flights that test pilots fly, hav­ing recent­ly increased the man­dat­ed num­ber of test flights through fis­cal 2016 from 5,800 to 7,700. He’s con­fi­dent, he said, that the addi­tion­al $4.6 bil­lion will hold up, as devel­op­ment and test­ing con­cludes in 2016.

Com­pe­ti­tion for the F-35 con­tract began in 1996. The $200 bil­lion con­tract was award­ed to Lock­heed-Mar­tin in Octo­ber 2001, and the pro­gram imme­di­ate­ly went into a 10-year test­ing and devel­op­ment phase.

The Defense Depart­ment plans to pur­chase 325 air­craft through 2016, and the over­all pro­gram con­sists of 2,443 total air­craft in three dif­fer­ent vari­a­tions. The vari­a­tions include a take­off and land­ing vari­ant for the Air Force, an air­craft car­ri­er-suit­able ver­sion for the Navy and short take­off and ver­ti­cal land­ing vari­ant for the Marine Corps.

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

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