Head of the F-35 program Lt Gen Chris Bogdan has played down concerns over the engine problem that has grounded the F-35 fleet, instead seeking to highlight what he sees as the program’s achievements.
The Joint Program Office chief was keen to move on from negative press coverage of the F-35 and what he described as the program’s “turbulent history”, stating that since 2011 all major milestones have been met on schedule.
“What you see today is you see a program that has a different way of operating and you see a program that is now starting to meet the promises that everyone expects us to meet,” Lt Gen Bogdan said during a media briefing on the sidelines of the 2013 Chief of Air Force Symposium in Melbourne.
With regard to the discovery of the engine blade crack, he said that such incidents were to be expected in the course of developing a military aircraft, adding that such a grounding may well happen again in the future.
“We will find problems along the way,” said Lt Gen Bogdan. “Make no mistake about it, we are still in development. We have only finished about 35 to 40 per cent of the flight testing on this program so you have to believe that we are going to have other discoveries, just like our engine problem…You can expect that we are going to find other things that are wrong, but we have enough money and enough time in development to take care of those things.”
He said the cause of the crack is as yet unknown, and could be anything from foreign object damage to a manufacturing defect or a design fault, but stated that he believes an explanation would be found by the end of the week. Lt Gen Bogdan also said that he had been in contact with all of the F-35 program partner nations to explain the situation and that they understood the nature of the grounding.
“As unfortunate as it is to have to ground the fleet because of an engine problem it is not unusual,” he said. “One thing we are grateful for is that we found the problem on the ground during a routine inspection and not in the air, where it could have been catastrophic.”