Even as Lockheed Martin execs are complaining about a new Pentagon policy that wants to push some of the cost overruns on the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter onto the company, costs incurred for fixing already built or nearly built airplanes to resolve problems now being uncovered in testing, the company -- and the Department of Defense are paying the bills in other ways.
Bloomberg reports, what Lockheed officials didn't say yesterday, that the Pentagon has had to reduce its next order of F-35s from 34 planes to 30 so that it can find the money to pay for making changes to the 61 planes already in production to cover problems that been discovered along the way in testing.
It seems that Congress, beginning to face up to the nation's astounding deficit problem, is no longer willing to just write more checks for the F-35 program.
Over the last decade and more, longtime observers of the Pentagon's weapon's buying practices both outside the government and inside (read any GAO report on the F-35) warned against producing airplanes before the test program was at least well down the runway. Here's a commentary from a 2009 article in Jane's by Winslow wheeler and Pierre Sprey.
Instead of embracing “fly before you buy”, they are rushing headlong into their plan to produce up to 513 aircraft with only two per cent of flight testing now complete. In that handful of test hours, the programme has already discovered significant problems in the avionics and engine that now must be fixed.
Even more astounding, the programme plans to verify only 17 per cent of the aircraft’s characteristics with flight-testing, according to the Government Accountability Office and Pentagon insiders. The rest will be verified by computer simulations, testbeds, and desk studies. Desk studies?
Here's the full article. Download Wheeler-Sprey on F 35 and Gates as in Janes
Contractors like Lockheed want concurrency because they tend to make higher profit margins on production than they do on research and development. The military likes it because once people are employed building weapons they now Congress rarely kills a troubled program.