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
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."