Gates to restructure the F-35 JSF program

JSF F-35B BF-1 First Hover Test / © / Lockheed Martin

JSF F-35B BF-1 First Hover Test / © / Lockheed Martin

Posted By Frank Grealish

The US Defence Department has found $154 billion in efficiencies over the next five years and will be able to invest $70 billion of that saved money in more deserving accounts, Defence Secretary Robert M. Gates said today.

Gates emphasized that the nation is at war and faces a range of future security threats. "It is important to not repeat the mistakes of the past by making drastic and ill-conceived cuts to the overall defence budget," he said. "At the same time, it is imperative for this department to eliminate wasteful, excessive and unneeded spending."

Gates said he wants every dollar invested in defence spent in the smartest manner. The efficiencies continue a process to reshape and re-balance the defence budget that has already saved the nation $300 billion, he noted.

The secretary announced the savings and reinvesting of the efficiencies during a Pentagon news conference.

According to Gates "We will also move the development of the Marine variant (F-35B) to the back of the overall JSF production sequence. And to fill the gap created from the slip in the JSF production schedule, we will buy more Navy F/A-18s."

The Joint Strike Fighter program received special scrutiny given its substantial cost, ongoing development issues, and its central place in the future of U.S. military aviation. In short, two of the JSF variants, the Air Force version and the Navy's carrier based version, are proceeding satisfactorily.

Gates said "By comparison, the Marine Corps' short take-off and vertical landing variant is experiencing significant testing problems. These issues may lead to a redesign of the aircraft’s structure and propulsion – changes that could add yet more weight and more cost to an aircraft that has little capacity to absorb more of either.

As a result, I am placing the STOVL variant on the equivalent of a two-year probation. If we cannot fix this variant during this time frame and get it back on track in terms of performance, cost and schedule, then I believe it should be cancelled."


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