Lt. Gen. Christopher Bogdan, F-35 Lightning II program executive officer, visited Luke Air Force Base and held an all-call to brief the F-35 program.
Bogdan discussed the bottom-line issues with the F-35 program such as costs, international interests and distribution as well as changes from when the program first started 14 years ago. It began with the choice of the Lockheed Martin and Boeing Joint Strike Fighter concept demonstration phase. In October 2001, The X-35 from Lockheed was chosen and Lockheed, teaming up with Northrop Grumman, began production with the first F-35 rolling off the line at Ft. Worth, Texas, in 2006.
As with any new program, Bogdan covered the issues with the program past and present, but also outlined the F-35 program’s priorities. The program phases consisted of development, sustainment and fielding, production and follow-on development. Bogdan spoke about the many ideas to enhance the jet that were unable to be included in it due to budget constraints.
“With a big program like this, you have to have priorities,” Bogdan said. “For some decisions, you have to make tough calls. Sometimes you cannot make everyone happy. If I have to choose between spending a million dollars on a map light versus spending a million dollars fixing a helmet that isn’t safe when a pilot reaches an eight or nine gravitational force, I have to choose the best option for the program.”
Bogdan spoke about the culture of the program focusing on the integrity, transparency, accountability and the discipline that the program requires to be successful.
“This entire program runs on trust,” Bogdan said. “Our partners trust us with billions of dollars to produce airplanes for them. The percentage of the money they are spending compared to their economy, compared to their military budgets are two, three, four or 10 times more percentage wise, so this program runs on trust for us to do the right thing not only for us but for our partners as well.”
The general emphasized deliveries of the fighter jets not only to Luke, but to our partners around the world as well. Safety and security have been two of the biggest priorities of the program to make sure that normalization of the program runs smoothly and that the program succeeds when it comes to acceptance and affordability of the fighter jet.
“When we received the first F-35 in March of this year, the dream started to become a reality,” said Brig. Gen. Scott Pleus, 56th Fighter Wing commander. “Luke has been in the business of training fighter pilots for 23 years and we will continue to be the place for those fighter pilots. We are honored to have Lt. Gen. Christopher Bogdan leading the charge to make sure those F-35s rolling off the ramp at Lockheed Martin are the best that we can have.”