Panel seeks F-35 production delay

JSFbuttonOverzichtspagina JSF


Panel seeks F-35 production delay

DAVE MONTGOMERY, Star-Telegram Washington Bureau, 11 mei 2006

WASHINGTON -- The Senate Armed Services Committee is calling for a one-year production delay and a $1.2 billion cut in Lockheed Martin's F-35 joint strike fighter, dealing another congressional setback to the Pentagon's most expensive acquisition program.
Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas, a member of the panel, said he will fight the proposal on the Senate floor and joined other supporters in warning that the recommendation could have the unintended effect of escalating production costs and endangering international support for the next-generation fighter. "This may be penny-wise and pound-foolish," Cornyn said in a telephone interview Wednesday.
The panel's May 4 decision, outlined in documents that began circulating this week, constitutes the latest signal that the F-35 program, a mainstay for Fort Worth-based Lockheed Martin Aeronautics, faces growing scrutiny on Capitol Hill. The House Armed Services Committee is proposing a $241 million cut in the program. The program's total cost is now projected at $276.5 billion. A manufacturing team led by Lockheed Martin is building three variants of the aircraft for military services in the United States and Great Britain, with current plans calling for a total of 2,443 aircraft.
Eight foreign countries are participating in the $40.5 billion development program and are engaged in negotiations with U.S. officials to decide their participation in the decades-long production phase.
Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., a presumed 2008 presidential contender who is in line to become Senate Armed Services Committee chairman next year, is leading efforts to slow F-35 production amid criticism that the developmental aircraft is being moved toward full-scale production without adequate testing.
In a report reflecting McCain's concerns, the committee cited a Government Accountability Office study, which said that the F-35 program will begin low-rate initial procurement in 2007 "with less than 1 percent of the flight test program completed."
Cornyn, in a written dissent to the committee's decision, said a one-year delay in production could "drive up costs" and postpone planned deliveries of operational aircraft to the military, now scheduled to begin in 2012. A production slowdown could also "adversely affect our international partners," Cornyn said.
The first flight of a developmental F-35 is scheduled for this fall.
Tom Jurkowsky, chief spokesman at Lockheed Martin's corporate headquarters in Bethesda, Md., and Kathy Crawford, spokeswoman for the government's F-35 program office, echoed Cornyn's concerns.
"Once you start building in delays, you're going to add to the cost of the program," said Jurkowsky. "If this were to come to pass, a slowdown of production would unnecessarily delay deliveries ... and make the program more expensive overall."
Lockheed Martin plans to build 1,763 F-35s for the Air Force and 680 for the Navy and Marines. Britain, which has a $2 billion stake in the development program and consequently represents the most influential international partner, plans to buy 150 for its Royal Navy and Marines.
Supporters pointed out that the committee recommendations represent only the first phase in the congressional budget process and face further consideration by the full House and Senate.
A joint House-Senate negotiating committee will shape the final 2007 defense budget.

JSFbuttonJSF artikelen Campagne tegen Wapenhandel
JSFbuttonJSF kamer- en regeringsstukken
JSFbuttonJSF artikelen (internationale, militaire) pers
JSFbuttonLinks