Split the Line?

Lt. Gen. Christopher Bogdan, Joint Strike Fighter program executive officer, last week questioned whether it make sense to split F-35 production into three dedicated lines, given that commonality between the three variants is only about 20-25 percent. Speaking at a McAleese and Associates seminar in Washington, D.C., on March 10, Bogdan appeared to think hard about the answer. “We’ll have to see?” if Japan’s F-35A-only production line turns out to be more efficient than the other, multi-type lines, he said. Italy’s facility will build both F-35A and B models, and Lockheed Martin’s Fort Worth, Texas, plant makes all variants on one factory line. The original concept—and the one put into practice at Fort Worth—was that the types would be common enough that workers would be able to efficiently build whatever variant next came down the line. “There would be considerable expense in changing the (work) flow now,” an industry official said of the Lockheed line. “Learning curve would rise again for a while, and that’s not a direction you want to go,” he said. “Sometimes, you’re better off sticking with a system once you’ve got a system, even if it’s not the most efficient system.”