F-35 fighter: Pentagon warns Lockheed
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Pentagon officials slammed Lockheed Martin Corp's performance on the $396 billion F-35 fighter jet program and said they would not bail out the program again if problems with the plane's cutting-edge pilot helmet and software were not resolved.
Deputy F-35 program manager Air Force Major General Christopher Bogdan said on Monday the government's relationship with Lockheed was the worst I've ever seen in many years of working on complex acquisition programs.
He said those tensions posed a bigger threat to the Pentagon's biggest weapons program than even nagging problems on the plane's software, helmet and a complex computer system that manages functions ranging from parts supply to mission planning.
The F-35 was designed to work with a sophisticated helmet that displays all the information the pilot needs to fly the plane.
Air Force Secretary Michael Donley told reporters the Pentagon had no more money to pour into the program after three costly restructurings in recent years. That meant any additional cost overruns would eat into the number of planes to be ordered, schedule delays or reduced capabilities, he said.
The department is done with major restructures that involve transferring billions of dollars into the F-35 program from somewhere else in the defense budget. There's no further flexibility or tolerance for that approach, Donley said.
The unusually public criticism of Lockheed's work on the F-35 program followed a very painful Sept. 7 review that focused an array of ongoing program challenges.
Lockheed responded with a brief statement, saying it would continue to work with the Pentagon's F-35 program office to deliver the new fighter. We remain committed to continuing our work to solve program challenges and build on the momentum and success we've achieved during the past couple of years, said spokesman Michael Rein.
Bogdan, who joined the program five weeks ago and is slated to move into the top spot later this year, said the Pentagon needed to revamp its overall approach to the program even as it maintained pressure on Lockheed to improve its performance.
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