Pentagon leaders pleased by F-35 improvements June 13, 2013
Frank Kendall, Under Secretary of Defense for Acquisition, Technology and Logistics at Fort Worth's Lockheed plant on June 13, 2013
Photo by Alyson Peyton Perkins
J. Parker Ragland
Special to the Business Press
Fort Worth - During a news conference Thursday at Fort Worth’s Lockheed plant, Frank Kendall, Under Secretary of Defense for Acquisition, Technology and Logistics, said he is “cautiously optimistic” about increasing production of the F-35.
The F-35 Lightning II is multirole jet that combines stealth technologies with fighter capabilities. The aircraft is a product of the Joint Strike Fighter (JSF) Project. The plane achieved its first flight in December 2006 but is not planned to be introduced into the U.S. Armed Forces until the end of 2015.
Kendall assured that “the development program is executing close to planned. A couple of areas are slipping a little bit in schedule, but the slips are not dramatic.” He continued, “At this point in time, unless there’s a significant surprise, I think we will be able to raise production and have an increased rate in the FY-15 budget, which we’ll be preparing and submitting after the first of the year.”
In 2010, the Defense Department was not as optimistic about the direction of the F-35 program. Since then Lockheed has made several leadership changes in the program.
Currently, the program is about 40 percent of the way through the flight test program, and some of the more difficult software remains incomplete.
Referring to a recent negotiation at Lockheed Martin, Kendall urged that there was a “decidedly different tone” in this meeting than those he has chaired in the past.
To date, 9,300 employees, of the 14,000 employed at Lockheed Martin’s Fort Worth facility, are working on the F-35 program. The overall economic impact to the Fort Worth economy from the F-35 is $4.6 billion, totaling $4.8 billion to the state of Texas.
“Ultimately, it [these changes] will mean that we will get the production rates up to a much higher level; it will mean more work here in Fort Worth and in other places where people are building elements for the F-35,” said Kendall. “We’re right now running at about 30 aircraft per year. We had a little bit for international partners. We plan to ramp up to several times that, ultimately, and that will obviously be an increased capacity and workflow through the factory here.”