This will likely ruin the day of many of the program's critics, but it seems DoD is of the opinion that the F-35 program is both viable, desirable and making good progress. That's certainly the impression Undersecretary of Defense for Acquisition left in a talk with F-35 stakeholders:
“Unless there’s a major surprise, I think we will be able to increase production,” said Frank Kendall, the undersecretary of Defense for acquisition, technology and logistics. In a wide-ranging conference call with reporters, Kendall lauded what he described as a major turnaround for the program over the past year, saying the F-35 Lightning II is no longer one of his “problem programs.”Even LTG Christopher Bogdan was positive:
He also said negotiations for a sixth batch of the fifth-generation fighters are going “more smoothly” than past negotiations, and the government intends to drive a hard bargain with contractors Lockheed Martin and Pratt & Whitney.
Also on the call was Lt. Gen. Christopher Bogdan, head of the military’s F-35 Joint Program Office who made headlines in February when he accused Lockheed and Pratt of “trying to squeeze every nickel out of that last F-35 and that last engine.” And he was unapologetic on Thursday, saying his past comments “were heard by our industry partners.”How important is this program? Critical. And it appears the Pentagon has made the decision to go all in on the fighter:
The general praised Lockheed and Pratt for leadership shakeups that he said have led to better communication between the Pentagon and the two companies. In March, Larry Lawson, former head of Lockheed’s aeronautics business, stepped down — a move industry consultant Loren Thompson said might have been the result of “tense relations with the government customer.”
Kendall also suggested the F-35 would emerge as a winner if the Defense Department were forced to absorb large spending cuts in the coming years as a result of sequestration, saying the “department will probably have some additional flexibility in how it moves resources around” and that “the F-35 is our highest priority conventional warfare weapon system.”