Sen. Carl Levin (D-Mich.), chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, plans to hold a hearing this week specifically to discuss the troubled F-35 strike fighter program. One of the reasons he gave at the committee’s March 4 hearing on the Fiscal 2011 Air Force budget proposal was the March 2 revelation by Air Force Secretary Michael Donley that the service’s planned initial operational capability date had likely slipped by two years to late 2015. (The Navy thinks it must also delay its IOC, to 2015 or later.) Of course, Levin also cited the program’s restructuring and firing of its program manager, not to mention a looming Nunn-McCurdy breach. Apparently Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.), ranking member of the committee, has been “bird dogging” the F-35 issue, in Levin’s words, and requested the special hearing. No word, yet, on which defense officials will attend.
Whether the F-35 fighter will get new engines from the Air Force’s cutting-edge Adaptive Engine Transition Program is a question that needs to be resolved at the Defense Department level, Air Force Secretary Frank Kendall told lawmakers May 17—and he anticipates an answer in the 2024 budget.