The F-35 Lightning II program is on track and demonstrating “continuing progress in all aspects,” Frank Kendall, undersecretary of defense for acquisition, technology and logistics, said May 24.
Kendall spoke during a conference call with reporters after an F-35 chief executive officer roundtable meeting in Phoenix.
“There has been no change in our schedule expectations to note,” he said.
The aircraft’s cost continues to come down in production, consistent with earlier projections, Kendall said.
“We remain focused on the sustainment part of the program,” he said. “Increasingly, in fact, we’re turning our emphasis to that because that is where we still see opportunity to further reduce cost.”
The roundtable brought together a variety of stakeholders, including international partners, CEOs of the major industrial participants, U.S. military officials and Office of Secretary of Defense leadership, Kendall said.
He noted two F-35s arrived in the Netherlands earlier this week. According to the F-35 program, the planes will be in the Netherlands for three weeks for testing and to take part in an air show to introduce the fifth-generation fighter to the Dutch people.
The F-35 program, also known as the Joint Strike Fighter Program, is the Defense Department’s focal point for defining affordable next-generation strike aircraft weapon systems for the Navy, Air Force, Marine Corps and allies.
The F-35 will bring cutting-edge technologies to the battlespace of the future, according to the program’s website.
The CEO roundtables, which are held annually, promote open communication between senior service, the Office of Secretary of Defense, and industry leadership on events and issues that have or could impact the F-35 program.
The joint program office will be evolving and changing as the activities that are being conducted for the F-35 change, Kendall said.
“There will be a move toward follow-on development (and) continued modernization of the aircraft, which will occur throughout its life,” he said.
The F-35 is expected to be ready for its final test phase in 2018, Kendall said.
“We reviewed the status of operational test planning; there is a consensus that is likely to occur in calendar year 2018, given the realities of the schedule at this time,” he said.
Flexibility is the key, Kendall said, as the program moves forward, evolves and seeks to be the most cost-effective model for sustainment.
Kendall said he has received great feedback from partners.
“The F-35 has clearly demonstrated its value to the operational community,” he said. “Its operators are willing to take advantage of its many features and capabilities that they don’t have in current aircraft.”
The Air Force, he said, is on track to make initial operational capability later this year.