Sing We Now of the F-35

The F-35 is “incredibly good” and “a remarkable product,” Pentagon acquisition chief Frank Kendall said Friday, but if he had the program to do over again, he would not have put all the tactical air eggs in one corporate basket. Speaking at a press conference to comment on the Pentagon’s latest self-assessed acquisition system report card, Kendall said, “the reason the F-35 is taking so long is it’s an incredibly complex weapon system. It’s also an incredibly good weapon system.” The sophisticated sensors, stealth, and its “integrated suite of capabilities” makes the F-35 “very, very useful to the operator and to teams of operators in different aircraft, working together.” The capability came at the cost of complexity, he said, “which means more time, more engineering, more testing.” But, “at the end of the day, I think we’re getting a remarkable product in the F-35.” In retrospect, Kendall said if he could go back to the origins of the F-35—long before he had the top Pentagon acquisition job—“I would prefer not to structure something so that we put so much capability into one prime contractor. I just think it’s healthy to have … more competition.” In the F-35, “we made a decision that really limited competition on that class of aircraft.” He added, “We’re trying to re-open it as we go forward” with regard to open architecture upgrades and new capabilities.