Tuesday, August 6, 2013

F-35: Cancel the program? Probably not

The rumor mill is in full swing with all sorts of interesting rumors flying about.  In the wake of DoD approval of LRIPs 6 and 7, we now have some in the media claiming the Pentagon is considering cancelling the F-35 program in order to weather the 500 billion 10 year defense spending cut.
In a briefing held on July 31, Pentagon officials laid out a number of ways in which Pentagon would deal with $500 billion in automatic budget cuts required over the next ten years. Defense secretary Chuck Hagel, however, didn’t disclose the option of scrapping the fighter to the reporters during the briefing. He said Pentagon may have to choose between a decade- long holiday from modernizing its technology and weapon system and a much smaller force.
Or, in other words, "we read between the lines and have concluded he was talking about the F-35 program".

While I'm sure that it was probably an "option" some action officer in the Puzzle Palace appended to any study they did of ways to survive the cuts, that's an action officer's job - to put all the options, whether really viable or not, on the list.  It is then up to leadership to winnow those options down to those which are indeed viable.  Oh, and another suggestion that the F-35 program really isn't on the line?
More than 2,400 manufacturing jobs could be added at Lockheed Martin in Fort Worth over the next several years if production ramps up as expected on the F-35 joint strike fighter, officials say.

Currently, Lockheed Martin has more than 10,000 employees working on the F-35 program, including about 1,600 production workers involved in building the jet fighter at the company’s west-side plant.

In six years, the company expects that the program’s “ramped-up rate” will require an additional 2,417 workers to manufacture more than 150 fighters a year. That’s four times the current rate of production of three aircraft per month. 
Lockheed is a pretty careful company not prone to releasing information unless they're pretty sure it's accurate or probable.  Apparently they are privy to enough information about their future with the F-35 that they're talking about adding jobs -- good, high paying, technical manufacturing jobs in a time when those are sorely needed.

Then consider that the US has 9 allied nations who too are depending on the F-35 and committed to its purchase.

Hardly a scenario that screams "cancel" is it?


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