F-35 investment delay urged

first_img “The GAO report implies flight-test results come as a big bang at the end of the program when, in fact, we learn as we go from each ground and flight event,” the Lockheed Martin statement said. “The cost to implement GAO’s version of incremental development and acquisition would be so prohibitive it would dwarf the alleged cost risks the GAO report asserts,” the company said. Lockheed Martin said it is incorporating lessons learned from recent aircraft programs, including the F-22A Raptor it is building for the Air Force, to further reduce technical risks. A number of technologies proved in flight and ground tests on the F-22A are being used in the F-35, the company said. Other technologies that will be used by the F-35 are being tested on the ground or in flight using other aircraft. “For F-35, flight test is based on thousands of hours of component and system level testing in labs and facilities. We will know 80 percent or more about the system before we even begin flight test,” the company said. The F-35 will have logged approximately 1,350 flights and 2,500 hours of flight testing before the military services take delivery of the first production aircraft in August 2009. The first F-35 test aircraft came off the assembly line in February in Fort Worth, Texas, and is undergoing ground testing. The airplane is expected to fly in the fall, said Lockheed Martin spokesman John Kent. The aircraft will make a few shakedown flights in Texas before flying to Edwards Air Force Base for flight testing. The F-35 is being built for the Air Force, Navy and Marine Corps. A number of foreign countries, including the United Kingdom, are also planning to buy the jets. Although the aircraft are assembled in Texas, the Antelope Valley is a site of a great deal of work for the program. Northrop Grumman workers assemble the jets’ center fuselage in Palmdale. Parts are produced at Lockheed Martin’s Palmdale plant. Flight testing of the aircraft will be done at both Edwards and at the Navy’s flight test center in Maryland. Jim Skeen, (661) 267-5743 [email protected] 160Want local news?Sign up for the Localist and stay informed Something went wrong. Please try again.subscribeCongratulations! You’re all set! Among the GAO’s recommendations are delaying investments in production of the aircraft until preproduction aircraft undergo sufficient testing to validate the base airframe design, then limiting production numbers to just the aircraft needed to conduct operational testing. Operational testing examines the plane’s war-fighting capabilities. The GAO also recommends that the Pentagon use an approach similar to how the F-16’s war-fighting capabilities grew over decades rather than the planned, single-step, 12-year development adopted for the F-35. “The F-16 fighter program, the Air Force’s JSF predecessor, successfully evolved capabilities over the span of about 30 years, delivering increases of capabilities quickly and often, as technologies became available,” the report said. “Structuring the program into separate and manageable increments based on what is achievable now and in the future would allow more predictable cost and delivery estimates.” Lockheed Martin, the F-35’s prime contractor, says the GAO’s recommendations, if adopted, would delay putting needed technology into combat pilots’ hands – in some cases by as much as 10 years – and drive up costs. The company, in a formal response to the report, said testing is already under way on the ground and using other aircraft. Lockheed Martin and partner Northrop Grumman won the production contract after a fly-off in 2000 and 2001 between X-35 prototypes and Boeing aircraft. PALMDALE – Governmental auditors are recommending that Congress delay investing in the production of the F-35 joint strike fighter until flight testing proves the design and mission systems work as predicted. Put together in Texas but with parts and assembly work done in Palmdale, 424 of the jets are proposed by the Pentagon to be produced, at a cost of $49 billion, before they begin initial operational testing, the Government Accountability Office said. “Producing aircraft before testing demonstrates the design is mature, increases the likelihood of design changes that will lead to cost growth, schedule delays, and performance problems,” the GAO report said. “Confidence that investment decisions will deliver expected capability within cost and schedule goals increases as testing proves the JSF will work as expected.” last_img

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