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Joint Strike Fighter Update – Training and FMS

As the Pentagon and Lockheed Martin (LMT) continue to negotiate the latest production buy for the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter (JSF) the program continues its path towards completing development, testing and begin fielding. With the recent, unexpected change in leadership for Lockheed one of the issues that has come up is the focus on the JSF program. On Tuesday the Assistant Secretary of Defense for Acquisition, Technology and Logistics (OSD(AT&L)), Mr. Frank Kendall, made clear that the company needs to concentrate on continued delivery of the aircraft and not worry about its short term business goals.

The program overall continues to make progress in different areas including completion of the Operational Utility Evaluation of pilot training Thursday. This means that the data collected through the process of teaching 4 pilots over the last six weeks will be reviewed by the Air Force Training Command (AFTC) eventually leading to approval of the program allowing formal training to begin.

In related matters a group of Royal Air Force and Royal Navy maintainers continue their training at Eglin AFB now supported by 2 British owned aircraft. The U.K. is one of the major overseas partners in the F-35 program and will also begin instructor pilot training this month.

In other Foreign Military Sales (FMS) related F-35 news both Japan and Denmark agreed to have companies there begin making components for the aircraft. As part of the overall program many of the other nations buying the fighter will contribute components from their domestic suppliers. In Japan up to 40% of their version of the aircraft will be produced domestically. Northrop Grumman (NOC), who produces fuselage and other assemblies for Lockheed, signed an agreement with a Danish composite manufacturer to provide items like doors, panels and skin assemblies. This is a follow on agreement to one signed in 2007.

The F-35 remains the most expensive acquisition program in history and a key part of U.S. modernization plans. Despite its struggles with schedule, testing and cost it continues to see investment in it by the U.S. and its partners. While there may be near term haggling about the price it is expected that the next production batch will be on order by the end of the year. As more aircraft are delivered training will continue to increase in amount and complexity.

Photo from MultiplyLeadership’s flickr photostream.

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