F-35 Program Has Issues DCMA Says

by: Matthew Potter
November 19, 2009

Category: Boeing, Business Line, Companies, Congress, Department of Defense, development program, Events, Federal Budget Process, Lockheed Martin, Military Aviation, production program, Restructuring, Services, U.S. Air Force, U.S. Marine Corps, U.S. Navy | RSS 2.0

The F-35 Joint Strike Fighter (JSF) has become the aviation program in the Obama defense budget. This multi-variant, multi-service aircraft will be the only new tactical aircraft built in the United States for several years now that the F-22 Raptor was canceled in the 2010 budget. In fact Secretary of Defense Robert Gates wanted to speed up production and testing of the aircraft in order to replace the aging F-15 and F-16 fleet more quickly.

Earlier this summer there were reports that a review panel had found the potential for delays and cost growth in the program that would seriously affect the plans for the aircraft. Yesterday there were reports that the Defense Contract Management Agency (DCMA) has been reporting that the program is facing production and test delays as well as having cost issues. DCMA monitors contractors for performance and delivery and reportedly Lockheed Martin and its supporting contractors are already behind on the latest schedule established in May, 2008.

When the budget was announced with the decision to cancel the F-22 and focus on the F-35 some doubts were raised that the plan would work out. The schedule was not firm enough and cost was still being worked out for the three different aircraft being developed for the U.S. and its Allies. The F-35 if unit costs do rise significantly could see lower annual buy quantities which stretches out production and extends the time the older aircraft must be flying. While it is certainly possible that the schedule problems may be overcome delays and cost increases will undermine the reasoning behind the whole proposed Obama aviation modernization budget. This report may give Congress pause and interest in re-starting the F-22 production.

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