Joint Strike Fighter Block Buy Risky

The Pentagon’s director of operational test & evaluation wonders whether it’s a good idea for the F-35 program to push a “block buy” approach on the jet before operational testing is finished. In his annual report, just released, J. Michael Gilmore said the block buy—a kind of international multiyear contract—is risky given that there are still “discoveries” occurring in flight test that have to be fixed before the jet’s objective 3F software block is cleared for combat. Ramping up production would increase the number of jets that would have to be sent back for modification after going through the production line, he said, noting that Marine Corps operational jets have had to make two visits back for modification already, and that service only declared them operational last July. Gilmore also wondered whether committing to the block buy would reduce Lockheed Martin’s incentives to fix the jets in a timely fashion. Part of the Title 10 code stipulates the Pentagon adopt a “fly before you buy” approach, Gilmore noted. (Read the full report; Caution, large-sized file.) (Go straight to the F-35 section of the DOT&E report.)