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Majumdar D, 11-Jun-2013. Strike Rate, Flight International

Majumdar D, 11-Jun-2013. Strike Rate, Flight International

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Published by: Foro Militar General on Jun 17, 2013
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Flight International
11-17 June 2013
After an often troubled development phase, Lockheed Martin says the $397 billionF-35 Joint Strike Fighter programme is close to delivering operational capability
The STOVL F-35Bis in use with a firstUSMC squadron
he Pentagon’s tri-service F-35 JointStrike Fighter is making progress to-wards completing its developmentalphase and entering operational serv-ice with the US Air Force, US Navy and USMarine Corps, contractor Lockheed Martinsays. The US government watchdog agency,the Government Accountability Office (GAO),agrees that the much delayed and often trou- bled programme is making headway, in a re-port released earlier this year.“The programme met or substantially metmost of its key management and developmenttesting objectives for the year,” the GAO statesin its report, in unusually positive terms. “Wealso found that the programme made progressin addressing key technical risks, as well asimproving software management, manufac-turing, and supply processes.”Not even the US Congressional sequestra-tion law has had much of an impact on the$397 billion effort. The USAF still hopes to buy 1,763 jets, while the Department of theNavy (DoN) expects to acquire a total of 680 –of which the USMC will acquire 420 and theUSN 260. The exact breakdown of the DoNpurchase is in flux, but previously it was ex-pected that 340 short take-off and verticallanding (STOVL) F-35Bs and 340 carrier vari-ant F-35Cs would be built.
For the immediate future, the Department of Defense’s F-35 purchases are limited to a max-imum of 32 aircraft per year, although theUSAF in particular hopes to ramp up produc-tion towards the end of the current five-yeardefence spending plan.However, in the President’s 2014 budgetproposal, DoD purchases will be limited to 29aircraft, including 19 USAF F-35A conven-tional take-off and landing examples, sixSTOVL F-35Bs for the USMC and four F-35Csfor the USN. Another three to five aircraftmight be cut from the USAF’s fiscal year 201319-aircraft buy because of sequestration, butno final decision has yet been made, accord-ing to testimony before Congress by serviceleaders. Meanwhile, the DoN might lose oneof its 10 jets. Overall, however, DoD leadersmaintain the F-35 is vital to US national secu-rity and they are committed to the JSF pro-gramme. As such, the gargantuan effort is inno danger of cancellation, even if productionis delayed.One area where there has been substantialturnover this past year is within F-35 pro-gramme leadership. Vice Adm David Venlet,who led the F-35 Joint Program Office throughsome of the jet’s most difficult years, recentlyretired. In his place, the Pentagon has ap-pointed the mercurial USAF Lt Gen ChrisBogdan, who on assuming the mantle of lead-ership denounced the dysfunctional relation-ship between Lockheed and the government.Meanwhile, at Lockheed, the aeronautics business sector underwent a transition with
11-17 June 2013
Flight International
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“The programme madeprogress in addressing key technical risks”
division head Larry Lawson leaving the com-pany for Spirit Aerospace. In Lawson’s placeOrlando Carvalho took the helm, while day-to-day management of the F-35 programmefell to Lorraine Martin. It is possible that new-ly-appointed Lockheed chief executiveMarillyn Hewson made the changes to helprepair the company’s fraying relationshipwith Pentagon leadership.Additionally, Tom Burbage, in many re-spects the international face of the F-35 pro-gramme, retired after more than a decade atthe helm. His position is not being directly re-placed, says Lockheed.Although there has been some consterna-tion in allied nations about the cost of buyingand sustaining the F-35, support for the pro-gramme has remained more or less stable,says Lockheed. In some cases, additionalcountries have jumped on board the pro-gramme as the security environment dictatesthe need for a fifth-generation fighter in lightof growing threats: particularly in the Pacifictheatre. Lockheed has 61 firm foreign militarysales (FMS) in hand for the F-35, but predictsa total of 758 FMS jets. Additionally, the com-pany projects that JSF partners will buy an-other 660. Total projected international salesfor the F-35 range from 800 to 1,500 aircraft. “Ithink we have good support both domestical-ly and internationally,” says Steve O’Bryan,Lockheed vice-president of F-35 programmeintegration and business development. “WhatI see is more of the international countriescoming in committing to the programme.”O’Bryan cites recent decisions by Norwayand Australia, firming up their commitmentsto the stealthy new type. In April, Norway an-nounced it intends to fully fund its purchaseof the F-35, while Australia recently reaf-firmed it will buy 100 A-model jets. There areeight countries under contract to buy the F-35so far, O’Bryan adds. Additionally, the first Is-raeli and Japanese aircraft are expected to bedelivered in 2016, he says.Meanwhile, Lockheed is optimistic aboutsecuring an F-35 order from South Koreawhen it makes a selection for its F-X III con-test in June. Canada’s F-35 order, however, isin limbo and Denmark is now up for grabs.The F-35 has the first five lots of productionaircraft under contract, O’Bryan says. Duringthe course of those lots, the cost of buildingthe F-35 has reduced by more than 50%, hesays. Contracts for the sixth and seventh low-rate initial production lots are expected to besigned this year. Lockheed has submitted its bid for those contracts, O’Bryan says, addingthat it is important to note that every produc-tion contract signed to date has come in belowthe government’s initial estimates. Thatmeans, says Lockheed, if the trend continues, by 2020 the F-35 will cost $85 million per air-craft in “then-year” dollars.
At present, Lockheed says it has completed 81aircraft, of which 64 are flying with the USand UK militaries. Of those, nine test aircraftare participating in developmental flight testsat NAS Patuxent River, Maryland, while adozen more are doing the same at EdwardsAFB, California. A further 23 aircraft are con-ducting aircrew training at Eglin AFB, Florida.USAF operational testers at Nellis AFB, Ne-vada, have received four F-35s, while the firstoperational USMC squadron at MCAS Yuma,Arizona has received four F-35Bs. The re-maining 26 are at Lockheed’s Fort Worth plantin Texas, awaiting delivery. Preparations arealready under way to ready the USAF’s andUSMC’s next F-35 training sites at Luke AFB,Arizona, and MCAS Beaufort, South Carolina.Flight testing of the F-35 is progressing, butsoftware development remains the primaryconcern.For 2012, the F-35 flight-test plan called forthe completion of 988 flights and 8,458 testpoints by 31 December, says Lockheed. In ac-tuality, the programme flew 1,167 flights andaccumulated an aggregate total of 9,319 testpoints, it adds. All three variants exceededtheir total test point goals for 2012.For 2013, the F-35 flight-test plan calls forthe completion of 1,153 flights and 9,362 test
The USAF wants1,763 F-35As
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