Lockheed Martin CEO Bob Stevens has admitted that more money and time will be needed to complete the F-35 JSF program in the wake of news reports claiming the program is headed for further delays and cost escalations of up to three years and US$5 billion.
Speaking to US finance media on November 4, Stevens said “We have to improve the performance of that airframe. The software has been performing well when it’s on the aircraft but it’s going to take some more resources.” He added that the company and the JSF Program Office (JPO) were “probably going to examine the need for more time, more people and more dollars.”
JPO head RADM David Venlet reportedly brief US Defense Secretary Robert Gates on the findings from a review of the program, and his report is expected to go up before the Defense Acquisitions Board (DAB) when they next meet on November 22.
In the meantime, InsideDefense.com and the Fort Worth Star Telegram have reported the first two Low Rate Initial Production (LRIP) F-35As that were due to be delivered to Eglin AFB for the commencement of pilot training by the end of this year will instead be instrumented and diverted to the USAF test Pilots School at Edwards AFB where the aircraft’s flight envelope will be expanded in an effort to claw back lost schedule.
The Pentagon has also added six months to the time taken to test early F-35s as they come off the Fort Worth production line to ensure they are ready for flight test. Both the diversion of the LRIP jets and the additional ground test time is expected to delay the commencement of pilot training at Eglin by nearly nine months to the end of the northern summer in 2011.