Achieving operational capability with the Air Force’s version of the F-35 strike fighter in August 2016 is “low risk,” said Lt. Gen. Christopher Bogdan, F-35 program executive officer, at AFA’s Air & Space Conference in National Harbor, Md., on Monday. Bogdan said “there is margin” in the program to accommodate delays even with the aircraft’s recent engine problems and perpetually challenging software issues. In software, the program has consumed four to five months of its six-month cushion, but Bogdan said he is not yet concerned, because the problems are being worked. As for other well-publicized F-35 technical issues—with the pilot’s helmet, the carrier landing hook, a fuel-dump problem, and ability to absorb lightning strikes—they are “in the rearview mirror,” he said. Each was a “big risk two years ago; now, not so much,” he said. Technical solutions to all of those issues are in hand and several are already nearly through flight test, said Bogdan. He said he loses little sleep over technical issues, because “there are no problems we can’t solve on this program.” He has slightly more concern about “programmatics and affordability,” and the latter is tied almost entirely to keeping the buy numbers intact.
As the U.S. continues to pursue a diplomatic resolution with Russia over its troop buildup on the Ukraine border, the Defense Department is looking into what capabilities it will need to reassure NATO allies if Russia does launch an invasion, its top spokesperson said Jan. 21.