Kendall: F-35 Production Ramp-Up a Tough Call

Pentagon procurement chief Frank Kendall says he hopes to ramp up production of the single-engine, stealthy F-35, made by Lockheed Martin, but he will only do so if adequate progress is made in testing on the troubled program.

Production is slated to go as high as 44 aircraft in fiscal 2014 and then 66 aircraft in 2015 for the Pentagon — up from 29 — if all goes well. Testing thus far has been marred by propulsion problems, durability issues with some F-35 parts and faulty helmets. The tailhook for the F-35C carrier version is also a problem.

“The big decision for me on the F-35 will be the decision on the FY 15 budget: Do we ramp up or not?,” Kendall told reporters at a speech during the Credit Suisse/McAleese Defense Programs conference March 12.

“I put two years of flat [production] into the budget last year and I did it as a compromise between stopping entirely and the current plan at the time. That had a big impact on Lockheed. A lot of business slid off on that. I don’t want to do that again. I want to get the rate up if I can.”

Lockheed Martin, however, must deliver on its flight testing and software programs.

“If they stay on track, then we are going to go head and ramp up. The fate of the program is in Lockheed’s hands.”

U.S. Air Force Lt. Gen. Christopher Bogdan, the F-35 program executive officer, says the per-unit price is coming down with each progressive low-rate, initial production (LRIP) contract; the contractor is in LRIP 5. However, the aircraft in LRIP 4 is slated to cost about 7% more than those in the previous lot, Bogdan says.

Bogdan and Lockheed Martin expect to complete negotiations on LRIPs 6 and 7 this summer.

– By Amy Butler

– This article first appeared in AWIN First.


24 Comments on "Kendall: F-35 Production Ramp-Up a Tough Call"

  1. Seems this is government logic at work before finishing testing and get numerous defects solved. Think there jumping the gun way too fast.

  2. There is no justification to "ramp up" production. We are yet to have a jet with fully working mission systems. Without that, operational testing (those people that are supposed to be given a working jet in order to establish the aircraft's fighting capability and thus write manuals and doctrine for it, won't be of much use. Which brings us back to: why build so many immature aircraft until things are reasonably figured out? Understood that as a minimum, you have to build 3-6 STOVL jets per year just to keep from losing learning manufacturing curve and existing (not expanded) supply chain.

  3. Passive sensor software upgrades, signals intelligence and radiation power/accuity, will always outpace the overburdened and corrupt Military Industrial Complex that has scarred the defense industry for the past 10 years. "Major End Items" are a thing of the past.

    dump it, dump it now. any combat aircraft above 700 feet will be a giant ,easily engaged, red flag from now until…. " star trek ".

  4. Isn't there 1 sane person left in Washington that realizes the F-35 is nothing more than a giant money pit that is bankrupting America?
    The f-35 is the biggest mistake the DoD has ever made. Americans are paying 100s of billions of dollars for something that is already outclassed in ACM by the Eurofighter, SU-30/33,ect, Rafale and probably even the Gripen. Heck even the 30+ year old F-16 is more maneuverable than the F-35. Not to mention ZERO rear visibility.
    We have a bunch of idiots in the DoD and Congress to keep this donkey funded.

  5. The F-35 is the TFX/F-111 fiasco revisited. Wing loading of an F-105, which was routinely shredded by Mig 21s in Nam. With our enemies acquiring their own stealth aircraft, there will be dogfights in the future and this pig will be second best. Took out fire supression equipment to lighten the load, when this is supposed to replace the A-10 as a ground attack aircraft. F-35 should be canceled, and separate air superiority and ground attack aircraft should be developed, and the Navy should design their own stealth fighter for carriers. Air Force should not have their plane penalized with extra weight for carrier landings. F-35 is a jack of all trades, master of none.

  6. …..
    Flying Dorito. Need i say more?

  7. What am I missing, but wouldn't it make more sense at this point just to build more F-22s? At least we know how much those cost.

  8. Lets ramp up production on a short range tactical aircraft we can't get into or sustain in the theater where it will be needed because of range issues. Kind of makes whether or not it is even working a side bar really.

    Adm Greenert made the devil's advocate observation that it makes little sense to build a gen 5 aircraft and hang gen 4 weapons from it. Not to mention when you look at actual total cost of moving a F35 into theater and sustaining it compared to just buying more TLAMs there clearly should be someone calling a big time out on tacair expenditures period.

    If we are looking to deter China we aren't going to accomplish that with a tactical aircraft with an unrefueled combat radius that requires us to be well inside the first island chain to sustain any serious operational tempo. In addition for those that use dogfighting as their benchmark if you are in a dog fight you already screwed up the battle.

  9. F-35 = BUST!
    We are better off putting AESAs in our F-15s and F-16s and giving them new displays, ect. Give the pilots more flying time and develop even betters missiles/bombs. That will save the American taxpayer hundreds of billions of dollars.

  10. US-concstitution | March 13, 2013 at 11:46 pm | Reply

    When dealing with a 5th generation fighter/bomber support type aircraft in which this is slated to become, getting into a dogfight with a future russian 5 generation fighter the f-22 would outperform, taking into account the new ayesa radar system which is the real game changer in future air to air combat. The F-35 is built around those 5th generation radar systems, as a support role if a situation were to arise where having such a system is required. Comparing this plane to the french alpha-rameo's is a joke. It is all about the electronics of this new craft and the benefits of this planes cost far outweigh the risks of not having a support type fleet of this plane at our disposal.

  11. A half-century ago, President Eisenhower used his farewell address to warn his fellow Americans of a "military-industrial complex" that will endanger our nation's liberties.

    Very precisely, Eisenhower said: "In the councils of government, we must guard against the acquisition of unwarranted influence, whether sought or unsought, by the military-industrial complex. The potential for the disastrous rise of misplaced power exists, and will persist.

    "We must never let the weight of this combination endanger our liberties or democratic processes. We should take nothing for granted. Only an alert and knowledgeable citizenry can compel the proper meshing of the huge industrial and military machinery of defense with our peaceful methods and goals so that security and liberty may prosper together."

  12. People forget that basic aerodynamic performance is critical to all fighter and attack aircraft. F-22 pilots expect to be involved in more dogfights then before because they cannot carry many missiles and once they are expended they will have to use the gun.

    Even in BVR combat performance matters. Greater speed means missiles launched with more energy thus with greater range and lower time of flight. Greater speed and maneuverability means a greater kill zone for your weapons and a smaller one for the enemies.

    Compared to even 3th generation fighters the F-35 is completely outclassed. Really the aircraft is designed to be a light bomber only the range is so bad it cant do that properly either.

  13. Can the whole program, take what works and incorporate it in a new F-16 Block……Buy more Eagles preferably the Silent Eagle variant, maybe even add some features from the F-22 into the airframe and by Typhoons from Britain, The Navy and Marines can buy more SuperHornets…..The Chinese or Russians dont have and will not have for decades the aviation assets this nation has.

  14. Mitchell Fuller | March 14, 2013 at 10:12 am | Reply

    Before additional production is committed to on F 35:

    1. General Bogdan needs to take a batch of current planes all models and really shake them out with around the clock flight testing and ground testing for a year to determine additional weaknesses in plane. These weaknesses then need to be corrected and corrections incorporated in to future production.

    2. Cockpit design needs to be modified to give pilot the same non computer generated situational awareness as a pilot has in an F 15 or F 16. Pilot not having this is a serious design flaw (amongst many).

    3. A second company needs to contracted to provide an additional engine for use, so entire fleet would not be grounded as has happened with P&W engine. This is a strategic matter that needs to be acted on immediately.

  15. Its not that tough a call: the answer is NO – until the testing problems are resolved in the opinion of the testing manager. The problems are so myriad, that the test program manager considers continued training in the aircraft to be a waste of time.

    The Pentagon program head (who wants to job to retire) is saying otherwise (what a stunning revelation that is!).

  16. Professor Ski!!! | March 14, 2013 at 2:46 pm | Reply

    Simple idea get ride of the aircraft. Take the technology that has worked the best, and put it to use on a improved av-8 harrier, a good start would be to add a Vulcan 20 mike mike internally, and strengthen the air frame for more pylons. A super harrier would probally cost a quarter of a single f-35. This sequester will help make the military understand that the multiple billion dollar flying computer with a toilet on board isn’t always needed. We must prepare for a second Falklands war, war with Iran in support of Israel, the problem on the border, the North Koreans and the communist Chinese!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  17. If its nothing but a money pit just upgrade the F-15 , F-16XL ,F/A-18 Super Hornets.Harriers With tech from the F-35. And build more F-22`s We know these systems work. Until we get our house in order.

  18. F-15 and F-16 are becoming obsolete. Most of the rest of the world matches or exceeds our current 4th gen fighters. Russia/India and China are preparing to field 5th gen fighters.

    Comparing the F-35 to a F-105 is rather stupid. F-105 was designed for high seed dash to deliver a nuclear warhead and dash out. It was designed for high straight line speed not for maneuvering. Pilots have compared F-35 to the Super Hornet in performance.

    Many "experts" claimed the F-16E/F was a performance dog while being developed while failing to realize that the fly by wire is one of the last things to be optimized. At Aero India 2009 Super Hornets put on a impressive aerobatic display considered the equal of the F-16 and Eurofighter. The Super Hornet did this with all six under wing pylons loaded. It was one of the only aircraft to do this.

    F-35 is comparable in empty weight, loaded weight, thrust to weight ratio, maneuverability, wing loading, and handling as the F-18 E/F Super Hornet.

    The F-15 was the first US aircraft designed for air superiority and designed as a high energy fighter.

    F-35A with 50% fuel has roughly same thrust/weight ratio as F-16E/F Block 60.

    For those of you singing the praises of the F-16 keep in mind that pilots are no longer praising its handling. The F-16 went from a A model of about 16,000lbs empty to about 22,500lbs for the E/F/Block 60. The F-16 is no longer considered the light super maneuverable fighter it was when new.

    Empty weight of a F-16E/F is about 22,500lbs. PW F110 making about 28,000lbs thrust. GE F110 engine making about 32,000lbs thrust. Has to carry stores and SNIPER XL pods externally.

    Empty weight of a F-35A is about 29,500lbs. PW F135 making about 43,000lbs thrust. Carries stores internally, SNIPER XL targeting capability is built into airframe.

    Yes F-35 has poor visibility to rear…when using eyeballs. EODAS creates a virtual cockpit that when operational creates a virtual environment that allows pilot to see in any direction without aircraft's structure blocking view in any weather or visibility condition.

  19. In response to several of the posts asking why we don’t build more F-22’s instead of the F-35, the answer is very disturbing. The F-22 program was shut down due to the high cost per plane, which was around $120 million each. When Lockheed shut that program down, they completely dismantled the production line. Lockheed made this impossible to do so, in order to force the F-35, as the only option.
    There is no mention of the unit cost for LRIP 4 or 5. You have to dig very deep to get these numbers, and currently it is guessed that the cost will be over $140 million dollars each!
    So my question is why did we cancel the best air superiority fighter the world has ever seen due to a $120 million dollar each price tag, and are now trying to replace it with an inferior all purpose multirole aircraft that cost over $140 million each?

  20. From "Defense-Aerospace" "Denmark: Second JSF Partner Country Begins New Fighter Evaluation".
    .The Death Spiral Begins, after all the Reports released since Jan.

  21. The sad part is the Air Force and the Navy could make due with their updated, existing aircraft.
    The Marines really need this. The F-35B would be a huge boost to the Marines and the Navy as a whole. It would make all those Gator Freighters much more potent.
    So in some respects I am rooting for the B but do not really care about the A or C……
    We need to get Boeing back into the fighter market to put pressure on Lockheed on pricing. right now there is no competition….

  22. StevenDDeacon | March 18, 2013 at 6:23 pm | Reply

    If not the F35 ,,, then what? The loss of air superiority will be the biggest tragedy in the history of the United States armed forces since Pearl Harbor!

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