Lockheed Martin Details F-35 Fighter Delay

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Lockheed Martin Details F-35 Fighter Delay

17 June 2004, Reuters

17 June 2004--WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Lockheed Martin Corp. plans to delay the first flight of its F-35 Joint Strike Fighter, the biggest U.S. warplane program and a model of international cooperation, to August 2006 from the fall of 2005, the company said on Thursday.

Fleshing out details of the previously reported delay, Lockheed said the first flight, by a conventional takeoff and landing model, would benefit from design refinements being made on the short take-off and vertical landing (STOVL) aircraft.

"A slip in the JSF program is not news," said Thomas Jurkowsky, a spokesman in Bethesda, Maryland. The STOVL version, the one most overweight, is expected to fly in 2007, he said.

"We've established our own target weights and we're not where we want to be," said John Kent, a company spokesman in Fort Worth, Texas, where final F-35 assembly is to take place.

The Pentagon Defense Acquisition Board, a top-level panel convened to weigh major weapons purchases, met Thursday to consider the program's "replan strategy," said Cheryl Irwin, a Defense Department spokeswoman.

No details of any decisions by the Defense Acquisitions Board were made available.

Lockheed's biggest partners in the program are Northrop Grumman Corp. and BAE Systems Plc.

Kent said F-35 low-rate initial production, originally scheduled for 2006, would be delayed to 2007 under the revised plan.

Eight other countries have pledged to invest more than $4.5 billion in the F-35's development phase, which would be extended one year to 2013, he said.

The project involves three models of the aircraft for the U.S. Air Force, Navy and Marine Corps, and the British Royal Navy, with 80 percent common parts.

As currently planned, the United States would spend an estimated $245 billion to develop and buy about 2,400 F-35s and support equipment by 2027. In addition, international sales of 2,000 to 3,500 aircraft have been projected.

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