Citing changes to one of the Defense Department’s most ambitious acquisition programs, F-35 Lightning II development is making steady progress, the F-35 Joint Program Executive Officer said Sept. 17.
Air Force Lt. Gen. Christopher C. Bogdan told military and industry experts at the Air Force Association’s 2013 Air & Space Conference and Technology Exposition that the program has changed for the better over recent years.
“A number of years ago there was not a great balance of risk between industry and the government,” Bogdan said, noting that a year later, the progress, though accelerating, will still take time.
Among the improvements, Bogdan reported increases in flight testing, including plus-ups in testing locations and qualified personnel resulting in increased production.
“This program is slow because it is vast,” he said. “Progress takes a lot of time, but time is something we don’t have a whole lot of.”
The general said he was confident the U.S. Air Force will have what it needs by 2016 to declare initial operating capability.
“I’m also confident that … our Italian partners and our Israeli friends will get delivery of their airplanes.”
Other changes include the establishment of a “cost war room,” an industry-financed office, which Bogdan said integrates industry and government experts in manufacturing, supply-chain and cost-analysis to monitor and control costs.
Also essential to driving down costs, Bogdan said, is increased buy-in and support from partner nations.
The general cited an example that the Netherlands recently announced their commitment to purchase the fifth-generation fighter as replacement for their aging fleet of F-16s.
“When we buy more aircraft, the price per airplane comes down,” Bogdan explained. “From a war fighting perspective, the ability for us to be side by side with our allies, flying the same aircraft with … similar capabilities in an (area of responsibility), is a very powerful signal to the rest of the world that we are one team.”