of the problems plaguing the program is that the exact demand
for the aircraft is still unknown. With demand unknown, it's hard
for the program to justify increasing costs and has led the Pentagon
to cut back on some program flight tests and to reconsider some of
the program features like the development of a second engine for the
In November, reports surfaced that with the
increasing cost overruns many of the countries that had intended to
purchase the F-35 are now reconsidering the number of aircraft they
will purchase. The Dutch parliament for example could reduce the
number of aircraft is purchases from the planned 85 to 57 to reduce
costs. With several countries, reconsidering their purchases the
overall orders of the F-35 could be cut
Military.com reports that the
F-35 program is behind schedule and over budget. According to
reports that were prepared by the Defense Contract Management Agency
for the Defense Department, Lockheed and its contractors are months
behind in deliveries of key components and test aircraft for
Even worse than delays is the fact that the reports
say the entire development budget for the aircraft could be exhausted
within a year. The Pentagon has already said that the development of
the aircraft could take two more years and billions more in funds.
Dan Crowley, a senior Lockheed executive running the F-35
program said that the reports about delays and cost overruns were
mostly true. However, he maintains that the program is past most of
the major delays.
He said, "We're not drawing farther
from the schedule. We're going to meet the schedule beginning in
A new F-35 aircraft had its first test flight on
Saturday and the plane was only the fourth aircraft to make a test
flight since the contract was awarded to Lockheed in 2001. So far,
only seven of the 13 test aircraft have been completed while all 13
aircraft were supposed to have been tested and completed for testing
in early October.
The test aircraft that flew this weekend was
a milestone for the program. The airplane was the first conventional
takeoff F-35A model, the previous aircraft that were tested were the
F-35B models designed for short-takeoff-vertical landing. The Two
F-35B models have made a total of 37 combined test flights in the
last 18 months.
Military.com quotes aerospace engineer
Hans Weber saying, "The airplane is so ambitious, it was bound
to have problems."
Some fear that the Pentagon might cut
flight tests and test aircraft further to save money for the program.
Webber said, "You need to do the testing the engineers
originally said needed to be done."
As flight tests
progress any changes made to rectify problems found in testing will
have to be fitted to the other aircraft. This will further drive
costs for the program up.