Thursday, March 7, 2013

F-35: LTG Bogden corrects the record

Apparently there's a learning curve even for Lieutenant Generals when dealing with the press on a high visibility program:
U.S. Air Force Lieutenant General Christopher Bogdan told a defense conference that he'd reached his quota for "juicy, controversial, headline-making quotes" for the month after lashing the plane's manufacturer Lockheed Martin Corp and enginemaker Pratt & Whitney during an air show in Australia. 
Of course, what everyone should know is that "costs" on any program, in the wake of the unilateral defense spending cuts made by the Obama administration followed by the impact of sequestration are going to have all DoD program chiefs hollering about keeping them down.   Anyone with business experience recognizes such actions as a form of negotiation.  But, of course, that's now how his words were interpreted by the press.
Bogdan told a conference hosted by Aviation Week on Tuesday that his comments were taken "a little out of context" and he had never said the $396 billion fighter program - the Pentagon's largest weapons program - was in trouble. "I will overcommunicate all the troubles we have on this program as long as you don't overreact," he said. 
I got a chuckle out of that last comment.  Of course the press did overreact, thus the reason for the comment and the necessity to set the record straight.  Costs, as we've chronicled here, are coming down.  However, as we've mentioned, the laws of economics still apply.  Cut the program, cut the production total, etc. and that will drive the price, per copy up.

Back to Bogden - he admits that costs are coming down:
On Tuesday, Bogdan cited progress on the quality of software work being done by Lockheed, and said production costs were the "shining star" of the program since they were now coming down. 
He also pointed to a few of the issues the critics love to bash and pretty frankly said, "no big deal":
He said technical issues such as the plane's complex helmet and the tailhook on the Navy's version of the plane, did not keep him up at night since the program was still in development. "The fact of the matter is we are still in development. We only have a third of our flight test program completed. You've got to expect that we're going to find things," he said. Bogdan said defects and issues could still arise during the rest of flight testing, which meant that the jet could be grounded again at some point. "I hope not, but it's not unexpected," he said. 
Of course they're not unexpected to anyone who has followed any military weapons system through it's development.  It is only the critics who have no such experience, or apparently never learned from what experience they might have (or find it more convenient to ignore that experience) where you'll see every developmental issue characterized as a fatal flaw.


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