Defeat of the Super-Villains, Part 1

Weight growth, historically has been one of the biggest nightmares in aircraft development, but it is well under control in the F-35 program, according to Dan Crowley, Lockheed Martin’s executive VP and F-35 general manager. Crowley told the Daily Report Thursday that weight growth has been held in check by rigorous oversight from configuration control boards, as well as the fact that partners in the nine-nation project “have to pay to be different;” i.e, to add unique equipment to the basic design. That tends to curb add-ons. Moreover, lots of the gear that has been strapped-on to fourth-generation fighters—recce pods, targeting pods, electronic warfare systems and the like—are already built in with the F-35. Weight growth has been budgeted for three percent a year. The Navy wanted to set six percent as “likely” but has been convinced that new analysis tools applied to the subsystems give all weight estimates much greater fidelity, Crowley said. During the “painful” year of optimizing the weight because the Marine Corps version was too heavy, Crowley said many pound-savers were found that have not yet been applied. If needed—and if the cost is justified—he says the various suppliers have found “300 pounds of ideas” to cut weight further. But the big weight scrub for the short takeoff and vertical landing version was so thorough that “there aren’t thousands of pounds” of weight reductions to be found anymore, he said.