Bargaining between the Pentagon, Lockheed Martin, and Pratt & Whitney regarding Lot 8 of F-35 strike fighter production continues, even as an investigation into the June engine fire that grounded the fleet proceeds. “Negotiations are not suspended, as you may have heard. We are moving forward,” Kyra Hawn, a system program office spokeswoman, said Wednesday. Program manager Lt. Gen. Christopher Bogdan said last month he expected Lot 8 to be concluded this summer. “Information derived from the accident investigation will inform any actions needed to address future modifications that may be required,” according to an SPO statement provided by Hawn. The SPO is gathering information about the accident to ensure there is “language” in the eventual contract “that protects the government” in case some new fault is discovered that must be corrected on the production line, she explained. “We need to insulate” the government against being responsible for the cost of fixing such problems, she added. The SPO statement concluded that the results of the investigation “should not significantly delay program progress.” Hawn could not comment on the status of the mishap and whether it was a total loss. She said the jet is under “lock and key” during the investigation, which is being headed up by Air Education and Training Command.
In a nighttime ceremony contrived to continue concealment of many of its features, the new B-21 bomber rolled out of Northrop Grumman's Palmdale, Calif. plant Dec. 2. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin said the aircraft's advanced technology represents "deterrence, the American way."