If you want to hear F-35 boss Vice Adm. David Venlet speak his piece publicly you've got to catch one of his rare engagements outside DoD when he's sent to reassure some part of the public that the program is on track.
That's too bad because Venlet, in his two years on the job, actually has gained some credibility for fairly straight talk, when he talks to Congress or a meeting or, very rarely, the press.
Such was the case last week when Venlet spoke at a Credit Suisse defense investment conference and, the DoDBuzz blog reports, and said the F-35 is fixable:
Venlet said the F-35 flight test program is running as fast as it can, and of course it’s going to find problems — that’s the point. “These are normal teething problems that you always fight in fighter aircraft development,” he said, per Credit Suisse’s note. “This simply requires good old-fashioned systems engineering, to fix problems as we find them.”
The jet’s “software issues,” which Secretary Panetta has told Congress are his biggest worry? They’re working on them, Venlet said — “We are productionizing software literally as we are still testing it.”
The infamous helmet? That’s being “addressed,” Venlet sai insightd; program officials think the “alternate goggles-based system” will work for now as a backup, and Venlet promised he would keep on the helmet situation until he thought it was squared away. F-35 pilots were supposed to get the world’s most wham-o-dyne cockpit setup, including a helmet that displayed live video and sensor information, but engineers haven’t yet been able to make it work exactly to spec.
The F-35C’s tail hook? That’s “a damping/bouncing issue that we could not have found before, and have fixes for now,” Venlet said.
After a decade of troubles with the program and wildly optimistic, even misleading reports, there's a need, as they say in Missouri, to "show me" but at least Venlet has earned some credibility points compared to predecessors.