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Sunday, July 26, 2009

Awesome: F-35 ordered by Israel is 2 years behind schedule

Two weeks ago, I reported that Israel had placed an initial order for 25 of the new F-35 Joint Strike Fighter jets, with a contract to be signed in early 2010 and the first plane to be delivered in 2014. Two days later, I reported that the resolution of a dispute with the United States over the F-35 would result in Israel forfeiting the technological advantage of using some of its own technologies in the place. JPost now has more bad news: The F-35 is two years behind production schedule.
The probe was conducted by the Pentagon's Joint Estimate Team (JET) and its findings were revealed on Saturday by the Congressional Quarterly. According to the report, the JET panel concluded that the fighter jet will not be ready to move out of development and into full production until 2016, two years later than initially scheduled.

Earlier this month, the Israel Air Force submitted an official Letter of Request for 25 aircraft. The assumption in the IAF at the time was that if a contract were signed by the beginning of 2010 it would begin receiving the aircraft in 2014. If the Pentagon report is correct, then Israel's receipt of the planes will also likely face major delays.

News of the JET findings came just days after Defense Secretary Robert Gates scored big legislative wins when the Senate voted convincingly to end production of the high-priced F-22 jet fighter. The air force, navy and Marine Corps plan to buy more than 2,400 F-35s.
Congressional Quarterly adds:
Talk of the program's problems comes amid intense debate over the future of another fighter plane, the F-22. Defenders of the F-22 argue that continued production is vital to national security.

The White House and some lawmakers who favor halting the production of any new F-22 warplanes say the F-35 will fill the gap and meet the nation's combat aircraft needs.

Senators and aides now lament that the Pentagon oversight panel's more pessimistic view on the F-35 program was not publicly released during the F-22 debate. They are calling for more open disclosure of the problems with the development of the F-35.

The Pentagon's Joint Estimate Team (JET), which was established to independently evaluate the F-35 program, is at odds with the Joint Program Office, which runs the F-35 program, the aides said. The oversight panel's calculations determined that the fighter won't be able to move out of the development phase and into full production until 2016, rather than 2014, as the program office has said.

That's assuming there are no further problems with the program, which has already faced cost overruns and schedule delays. The Government Accountability Office (GAO) said the delay could cost as much as $7.4 billion. The discrepancy between the Joint Estimate Team and the Joint Program Office was noted in a March report by the GAO, but it received little attention at the time.

"In every parameter and in every respect, the Joint Program Office's projections were always a hell of a lot rosier than what the Joint Estimate Team found," said one Senate aide who was briefed on the findings.

Sen. Christopher S. Bond, R-Mo., who has often criticized the F-35 program and has called it the "Joint Strike Failure," said his attempts to get internal Pentagon data on the program have often been rebuffed.

"They are wrapped so tight on that F‑35," said Bond, who added that the Pentagon is so invested in the program that it is loath to release negative information, especially during a debate over Air Force funding.

"They bet too much on the F-35. It's too big to fail," Bond said. "It's like Citigroup."

Pentagon spokesman Geoff Morrell said there is no delay in the completion of the first production aircraft, which is due next year, but he said more testing is needed to determine whether full production would be able to begin on schedule.

"The JET is not the gospel. It is but one view, albeit an important one, of our testing program," Morrell said. "The program office has a very different view. The truth is that we don't know which will prove to be correct, but there's no reason to believe our testing regime will result in the kind of delays the JET is predicting."

The Joint Estimate Team's report was given to congressional committees last year and was not hidden or suppressed by the Pentagon, Morrell said. He said it is now being dredged up by F-22 supporters.

Moreover, the Pentagon has the ability to fund increased testing to make up for any potential delays, he said.
I find an objective outside source a lot more credible than the people running the program who have an interest in making it look good. And given the way that this administration has railroaded its legislation through Congress, I doubt the Senate had access to that JET report before the F-22 vote last week.

Read the whole thing.


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