The Half-Full F-35 Glass

There’s “more good news than bad news” on the F-35 strike fighter program, said Lt. Gen. Christopher Bogdan, F-35 program executive officer, on Tuesday. Speaking at an Aviation Week conference in Arlington, Va., Bogdan said “generally, we are on track” and “we’re not missing any major milestones,” and he sees “no reason we can’t finish on time with the money we have planned.” The schedule is “realistic” and while “things are not perfect . . . there’s still risk,” said Bogdan, who is optimistic for success. While it’s “a true statement” that software is behind schedule, Bogdan said he thinks it’s possible the program will catch up. A bigger problem is actually weapons certification, said Bogdan. “We lost seven months” of certification flight test time because of the discovery of a loads issue with the weapons bay doors, he said. Cost-wise, he noted, Lot 5 production was cheaper than Lot 4 and “I’m confident Lot 6 will be cheaper than 5, and Lot 7 will be cheaper than 6.” Production costs are the “shining star” of the program, as they continue to decline with the learning curve and quantity increases, and “costs will come down” even further, said Bogdan during his March 5 talk.