One of the top Pentagon officials overseeing development of the F-35 joint strike fighter says program managers are confident that work is proceeding close to schedule and won't have any more significant delays.
A team of Defense Department cost analysts, which a year ago predicted further delays and cost increases, has begun a new review of the F-35 development effort headed by Lockheed Martin.
Air Force Brig. Gen. C.D. Moore, deputy program executive officer for the F-35 program office, responded in writing to questions from the Star-Telegram about the program's status.
A year ago, the Joint Estimating Team (JET) predicted that it would take two years longer and at least $3 billion more to complete development and testing of the F-35, plus an additional $11 billion to reach planned procurement levels. The program office disagreed. Do you still disagree with that assessment?
The F-35 program team remains confident in its ability to deliver to commitments within the baseline program. The program continues to make excellent progress as demonstrated by an ongoing reduction of technical risk, successful maturation of processes and systems, and effective cost controls.
The F-35's most critical technologies are reaching maturity with all variant hardware designs nearing completion and software development more than 70 percent complete. Our integrated laboratory and flying test beds have identified and retired risks well before flight test at a rate unprecedented in previous aircraft development programs.
Eighty percent of test flights have concluded with no unplanned maintenance requirements -- a reliability rate that would be high for an operational fleet. Manufacturing precision is the best ever for a new fighter at this stage of production, with notable improvements in quality and processes as more aircraft enter production.
The JET estimate projected completion of the developmental and operational test phases by 2016 versus the [program office] estimate of 2014. The [Defense] Department added $476 million [in the fiscal 2010 budget request] to address near-term risks ... and agreed there were a number of critical events/milestones during FY09 and FY10 that would provide a better assessment of which estimate was more accurate.
Is the contractor team performing as planned and expected, given that key deadlines seem to have slipped considerably from the schedule put forth last year?
Despite the challenges inherent on this complex development program, the F-35 government/contractor team continues to perform effectively in meeting key schedule milestones, as we prepare to field the entire fleet of developmental test aircraft over the next year, as well as deliver the first production aircraft next summer.
Flight test flight activity has dropped well behind the revised schedule, roughly six months behind at this point. Is there a good explanation for why? Is this delay going to have a domino effect, or can delays be made up?
The test articles have taken longer to build than planned, primarily due to late parts and configuration changes. Production delays for each of the test jets averages [about] three months.
A variety of mitigation actions have been taken to eliminate schedule delays for future production deliveries. We have also taken measures to address the later than desired delivery of the test aircraft, and based on quantity of test assets, projected fly rates and experience to date in flight/lab testing, we're optimistic that the planned test program remains executable within the baseline schedul
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