Steve O’Bryan, Lockheed Martin’s vice president for F-35 business development, said Friday the stealth fighter program is performing up to snuff. “We are making all our KPPs [key performance parameters] on the F-35,” O’Bryan told reporters during a briefing on the three-service, multinational fighter on the eve of the Navy League conference that starts today in Maryland. O’Bryan said the F-35 is hitting its marks both in terms of the aircraft’s performance and its planned slope of reliability and maintainability. As for the program’s continuing affordability, O’Bryan said, “The key to affordability is to get up the ramp rate as quickly as possible,” and he characterized Defense Secretary Robert Gates’ plan to accelerate the F-35 as one way to do that. O’Bryan said there is “room” in F-35 ramp rates to accommodate even more aircraft in early lots, but it all depends on getting suppliers to increase their rates of production. “It’s not the process” but the materials that will pace the project, he said. Due to long-lead requirements, the earliest lot that could be expanded would be the fifth low-rate initial production tranche, he said. LRIP 5 aircraft will be assembled in 2011. (For more on the F-35’s developmental progression, read Defeat of the Super-Villains, Part1 and Part 2)
The Pentagon awarded a contract worth over $2 billion for the next batch of F-35 engines to Pratt & Whitney on June 5. The deal for Lot 17 F135 engines, totaling $2.02 billion, is expected to be completed by December 2025.