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F-35 on time to deliver global security, Air Force official said

WASHINGTON (AFNS) -- Work leading up the completion of the multinational F-35 program is largely on track, the F-35 Lightning II Joint Program Office executive officer said in remarks during the 2014 Air Force Association’s Air & Space Conference and Technology Exposition here Sept. 15.

Lt. Gen. Christopher Bogdan reported steady progress across all elements of the program, though he acknowledged lags in some aspects due to development and testing complexities.

“If we’re going to deliver a total weapons system to partners and to the services,” Bogdan said, “we’ve got to take a holistic weapons system approach wherever it matters, not just on the airframe.”

Bogdan credits program re-baselining in 2012 in helping to establish realistic objectives and timelines for completion of development and testing. Program delays like the engine issue that caused a fire in June do not, he said, necessarily translate into a major breach in the program.

The general also reported additional engine fixes should be decided by mid-October, and he expressed confidence it would not impact the Marine Corps’ planned initial operational capability date of summer 2015 or the Air Force’s planned initial operational capability date of summer 2016.

Sequestration-related budget reductions and impending limits to be imposed by the 2016 Budget Control Act add to the complexity of bringing the F-35 program to full standing; however, Bogdan said the United States is committed to doing the very best it can for the warfighters, taxpayers and partners to ensure that the F-35 meets the nation’s defense needs.

“I have faith in the Department of Defense leadership when they tell me and the services that if sequestration comes, ‘We’re going to do everything we can to minimize impact on the program,’ because that is what we need to do,” Bogdan said.

Bogdan also said three regional capability centers in North America, Europe and the Pacific will engage engineering expertise and capability of joint and international partners including the United Kingdom, Italy, the Netherlands, Turkey, Canada, Australia, Denmark and Norway to build a global sustainment posture that will reduce program operations, support costs and enable F-35 global reach.

Getting the F-35 program to that end will require what Bogdan said are critical elements in most acquisition programs: trust and credibility.

“If we in the Joint Program Office lose the trust of the Congress, the taxpayer, the trust of the partnership, or the trust of the services and we’re not working in the best interests of the program, this program is lost.”

Discipline, transparency, integrity and realism, Bogdan said, make up a 360-degree accountability approach that enables the JPO to execute the program and deliver F-35As’ critical capabilities to warfighters.

By combining advanced stealth with speed and agility, fully-fused sensor information, network-enabled operations and advanced sustainment, Bogdan explained the F-35 delivers innovative capabilities to meet security needs of the United States, partner nations, and allies worldwide with increased interoperability and cost-sharing.