Wednesday, January 26, 2011

More delay and cutbacks in the F-35 program

Bloomberg reported yesterday:
The Pentagon reduced its five-year budget request by $6.9 billion by delaying the purchase of 124 F-35 fighter jets from Lockheed Martin Corp., the military program office said today.
The delays are needed because “the final assembly process” at Lockheed Martin’s Fort Worth, Texas, facility is “still maturing,” the Pentagon said in a fact sheet issued Jan. 6. Second, slowing production reduces the overlap between development and assembly while testing is extended into 2016 from mid-2015, it said.
Testing into 2016. Meaning that assurances from Minister MacKay about Canadian delivery by 2016 should be taken with a grain of salt.

When you hear that it's the Marine F-35B version that's causing most of the delay and that the version Canada is considering buying is largely unaffected, skepticism is warranted. Delay of one version causes delay for the others:
Joe DellaVedova, the Pentagon's F-35 spokesman, provided additional details, including the $6.9 billion savings figure on Tuesday.
DellaVedova said development of the Air Force and Navy versions of the F-35 would be extended by 10 months until the first quarter of 2016, while 20 months would be added to the development of the Marine Corps variant.
Canada's proposed F-35s would fall into the 10 month delay category too. Note also:
Mr. Burbage also said Lockheed was concerned that the slowdown in production could complicate efforts to gain economies of scale and lower the cost of each plane.
U.S. cutbacks in the number of planes ordered may also affect Canadian aerospace industry contracts which in turn get the trickle down impact of fewer planes ordered. This is the downside of the Lockheed Martin integrated "global supply chain" that the Harper ministers like to tout.

These are the latest red flags from the American F-35 program. When the Americans themselves are dialing back, it should be giving us pause.