Lightning Response

The F-35 program office issued a blistering rebuttal on Friday to the charge that the stealth fighter project has incurred a significant cost overrun (see above). A spokeswoman for the F-35 program said the Aviation Week Ares blog entry ostensibly revealing a new Joint Strike Fighter Nunn-McCurdy breach was “biased” and unfounded. Since the F-35 program’s actual Nunn-McCurdy breach of three years ago, costs have remained “relatively stable,” she said. F-35 costs did increase by 38 percent in the 2006 case, but mainly due to external factors, not management, she explained. “About 90 percent of the growth,” the program office wrote, “has been due to cost of materials, labor rates, increased amounts of materiel required to begin manufacturing, and reductions in total quantities” (italics added by program office for emphasis). The spokeswoman went on to say the Ares blog misrepresented figures quoted by Maj. Gen. Charles Davis, outgoing F-35 program manager, regarding unit costs for the stealth fighter.