Lockheed Martin should begin producing four F-35 strike fighters a month at its Fort Worth, Tex., facility beginning in 2013, David Van Buren, top Air Force acquisition official, told Senate lawmakers Thursday. The current build rate is one to 1.5 airplanes per month. “This will require continued further improvements in section-build span times, subcontractor performance, and other various efficiencies,” said Van Buren. It will also require that structural and flight testing proceeds without major discoveries that would impact the aircraft’s configuration, he said. Pentagon acquisition executive Ash Carter, appearing with Van Buren, said officials are trying to strike the perfect balance between ramping up too fast and lagging behind schedule. “You want to get into production as quickly as you can, but you don’t want to get in there so fast that you end up rebuilding the early aircraft on the basis of what you learned in tests,” he said. (Van Buren-Carter-Venlet joint statement)
After a long period in which munitions were almost an afterthought and sacrificed to pay for other priorities, the Air Force needs to focus on them in order to have the right “package” of capabilities for future conflicts, Chief of Staff Gen. Charles Q. Brown Jr. said June 7.