F-35 Facing Facts of Life

The US military remains committed to the F-35 strike fighter, but the nation’s top uniformed military officer said more programmatic tweaks may lie ahead. “There [are] some fact-of-life changes that we will probably have to make based on the ability to procure it on the timelines that we’d like to have it,” said Army Gen. Martin Dempsey, Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman, during an Atlantic Council-sponsored talk on Dec. 9 in Washington, D.C. Dempsey’s comments were made in the context of the strategic review that the Defense Department is undertaking to shape its 2020 force in the face of steep budget cuts. He spoke on the same day that the Pentagon awarded Lockheed Martin a $4 billion contract to supply 30 F-35s, including 21 F-35As for the Air Force, in the aircraft’s fifth low-rate initial production lot. Recently, Vice Adm. David Venlet, F-35 program executive officer, called for F-35 production to slow down so that engineers can modify the aircraft based on lessons from flight testing before too many airframes come off the assembly line requiring retrofit. (Atlantic Council webpage of event, including link to video) (DOD list of major contracts for Dec. 9)