Deployment Now Targeted For FY2016
The Defense Department's joint strike fighter program is on
track to field the F-35 Lightning II in fiscal 2016, the program's
director Tuesday in Washington, DC. In remarks to the National
Aeronautics Association, Navy Vice Adm. David Venlet said that
although changes made to the program in January extended flight
testing and slowed development by about a year at an additional
cost of $4.6 billion, the program has made progress over the past
"We're not spending that amount of money in one year, but it's
the added content across the years to (2016) that consume the $4.6
billion," Admiral Venlet said. "We have no doubts that achieving
fairly high rates of production is obtainable, but it's going to
take some discipline on the way."
The fiscal 2012 defense budget request submitted this week has
little effect on the program, Admiral Venlet added. "There's no
change after (the Feb. 14 budget) announcement, and I believe I've
got a very stable requirement," said Admiral Venlet, who has led
the program since May. "We have not changed our inventory
The right plan is in place to ensure the program is efficient in
terms of cost-savings and production, he added, noting that the
program has undergone an intense technical review under his watch.
The latest restructuring, he said, was realistic, achievable and
based on deep assessments of all aspects of the program. "Previous
plans had shortcomings, but this plan is very resilient," he said.
"The plan has been able to overcome spotty parts shortages, engine
delivery problems, (and) it absorbed snow days where weather shut
down production in the Dallas-Fort Worth area."
Admiral Venlet said he has instituted more testing, increasing
the number of hours and flights that test pilots fly, having
recently increased the mandated number of test flights through
fiscal 2016 from 5,800 to 7,700. He's confident, he said, that the
additional $4.6 billion will hold up, as development and testing
concludes in 2016.
Competition for the F-35 contract began in 1996. The $200
billion contract was awarded to Lockheed-Martin in October 2001,
and the program immediately went into a 10-year testing and
Defense Department officials plan to purchase 325 aircraft
through 2016, and the overall program consists of 2,443 total
aircraft in three different variations. The variations include a
takeoff and landing variant for the Air Force, an aircraft
carrier-suitable version for the Navy and short takeoff and
vertical landing variant for the Marine Corps.