Sleepless in Crystal City

What keeps the new F-35 program manager up at night? Cuts in production, which would have the effect of unraveling major threads of the program, says Marine Corps Maj. Gen. David Heinz, whom the Senate confirmed on May 21 for his second star to take over the F-35 shop from Air Force Maj. Gen. Charles Davis. In fact, more than any technical challenge, maintaining the procurement schedule is the biggest risk to the program, Heinz told reporters Tuesday. “I worry about these economic times driving a short-term mindset that says ‘just flatten the ramp,’” he explained. Doing that, he said would start a vicious cycle that raises cost, throws the international partnership akimbo, disrupts suppliers, and wrecks schedules, he said. The F-35 is affordable because it was started with “an affordability mindset,” said Heinz. Concurrency (see above), and building test aircraft on actual production tooling was all calculated to bring the aircraft in at the lowest cost. If Congress decides to order continued production of F-22 or some other project, “now we’re back to arguing over how much is available in the top line and how much of it is available to F-35,” Heinz said.