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F-35B put on 2-year probation   (Source: Lockheed Martin)
The Air Force may finally get a new tanker next month while F-35B is on probation

Any major program to procure new aircraft for the U.S. military is going to be long and the competition between bidders will be fierce since the contracts can be worth billions. One of these important and very costly projects for new aircraft is the F-35 project with versions slated for use in three branches of the military.

The USAF has noted that the initial operational capability (IOC) date for the F-35 is likely to slip beyond current projections. The revelation came from Air Force Secretary Michael Donley at a breakfast with reporters on January 12.

The reason for the delay in the IOC for the F-35 aircraft program came after a detailed Technical Baseline Review by Ashton Carter, the DoD procurement chief, and Joint Strike Fighter program manager Vice Adm. David Venlet. The report concluded that additional time and money was needed to complete the development of the F-35.

Donley said, "I think that's [delays in the IOC] implied with the additional dollars and time required in system development."

The biggest change in the F-35 program to come after the review was that the F-35B vertical landing variant of the aircraft has been put on a two-year probationary period. The F-35B was also decoupled from the carrier and conventional versions of the fighter to avoid delaying the other two versions significantly. The UK armed forces have already decided not to buy the F-35B, and will be ordering the carrier version instead.

Donley said, "The major decision from this TBR has been to decouple the testing of the U.S. Marine short take-off vertical-landing variant from the conventional and carrier variants to ensure we do not slow progress on the conventional and carrier variants."

Another even higher profile project that the Air Force is working on is the long running and problem plagued replacement for the aerial tankers in use. The drama surrounding the bidding process has gone on for years and a winner still hasn’t been selected. 

According to Defense News, EADS has stated that it expects the Air Force to pick a tanker in February. EADS also expects that it will be chosen the winner over rival Boeing.

EADS of North America CEO Sean O'Keefe said, "The contract award, which was announced as part of the request-for-proposal solicitation, was to have been around the middle of November last year. It has moved further toward next month, just as a consequence of due diligence."

The contract was supposed to have been awarded in November of 2010, but was delayed again. The DoD is seeking to make the award "not contestable" to avoid a rehash of what happened with the first contract award.

O'Keefe said, "Every indication would suggest that next month is more likely to be the contract award targeting period."

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RE: Well... no surprise here.
By schrodog on 1/13/2011 3:33:49 PM , Rating: 2
The F-35 is not designed to directly go up against the PAK-FA (That job would fall to the F-22 in most situations). As for redesigning the aircraft airframes, that would not be practical because you would be wasting a ton of money on R&D and would have to push the deadlines for testing, IOC, etc. much, MUCH, further out. Plus, you would have to modify the avionics to compensate for the new airframe design.

RE: Well... no surprise here.
By Amiga500 on 1/13/2011 4:27:37 PM , Rating: 2
Not really.

The flight algorithms would have to change, but the radar, MAWS, RWR etc etc could remain common.

It doesn't take that long to design the airframe. Software is the killer these days.

RE: Well... no surprise here.
By FITCamaro on 1/13/2011 10:52:40 PM , Rating: 2
And that is where they are having the delays.

RE: Well... no surprise here.
By Amiga500 on 1/14/2011 5:30:10 AM , Rating: 2
Do you want me to speak slower or what?

Hence why I am suggesting they scrap the airframe, build a proper fighter-bomber then put the same electronics in it.

[BTW, they are having other problems aside from software, namely fatigue on certain PSEs and also screech in the engine]

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