F-35 No Longer the Problem Child

The F-35 program has made “major advances” over the last three years and is no longer “one of my ‘problem programs,’” Pentagon acquisition, technology and logistics chief Frank Kendall said Thursday. Speaking during a teleconference following a multi-day summit with government, contractor and allied nation F-35 managers, Kendall said he’ll green light boosting the F-35 production rate in September; going to 44 in 2015 and 66 in 2016. The meeting had a “completely different tone” than last year’s summit, noted Kendall. The program is “on track,” he said. Negotiations on Lots 6 and 7 are going “more quickly and more smoothly” than on Lot 5, which were tough because it was the first based on DOD’s “should cost” analysis, he noted. Air Force Lt. Gen. Christopher Bogdan, program executive officer, reported far better communications between government and vendor managers, and agreed that Lot 6 and 7 talks are moving fast. “We started negotiations about a month ago, and we’ve made more progress…in 30 days than we did in about 11 months last year.” Kendall said “this is not the program of 2010,” and while he said it’s too soon to “declare success,” he said there’s a clear path to fix any remaining F-35 deficiencies. Operating costs are better understood now that the Marine Corps and Air Force are training F-35 pilots, and he predicted “we can make a substantial dent in projections” of operating costs. They will be reflected in the September cost numbers, he said.