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June 11, 2012

Consultant says F-35 program is progressing nicely

BF-02 External Weapons Image 2-22-2012Loren Thompson, Washington defense think tank executive AND consultant to Lockheed Martin, says don't believe everything you read about the troubles of the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter program.

Contrary to what us media types report, Thompson says in a column in Forbes today that all is going rather well with Lockheed Martin's work to develop the next generation, stealthy, all missions for all wars airplane.

The reality is that for the third straight year flight tests are ahead of schedule, the cost to build each plane is falling fast, and international partners are so enthused that new customers are getting in line for the F-35 on a regular basis (South Korea will be next).  So how come you don’t know any of this?  The reason you don’t know it is that political appointees have decided they can score points with Congress by attacking their own program, and national media always lead with the most sensational information.

Now Thompson and others affiliated with pro-defense industry think tanks, most of whom probably receive significant sums in financial contributions from Lockheed and its major F-35 partners, have been calling consistently for the Department of Defense to take the shackles off and start buying many more F-35s even though the planes are not expected to be ready for military use much before 2020. 

But the top official running the program for the Pentagon, former Navy test pilot and engineer Vice Admiral David Venlet, told the Senate recently that a go slow pace was justified.

“The development program is taking longer and costing more to overcome technical issues,” Venlet said in prepared testimony. “The strategy continues the department’s rigorous management control.

“It is important that Lockheed Martin dependably perform and establish confidence that the F-35 is a stable and capable platform,” Venlet said.

Now in all fairness it does seem like the flight testing program is going well, at least in terms of activity. Now what the flight tests tell the engineers about the aircraft's performance and needed improvements is not something that's readily available to the public.
And for the polar opposite of Thompson's view of the world, check this Sky Talk post and the link in it to a  recent op-ed piece by Winslow Wheeler, now a defense analyst with the Project on Government Oversight.



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Elliot S

just sell the 22 Raptor, it is cheaper by about 50 million dollars and it does more, even if the f 35 comes out today your paying more for less.

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