via Flight Global
Three weeks after a prominent member called the size of the F-35 joint programme office (JPO) “disturbing”, the Senate Armed Services Committee has proposed to disband the organisation just as an $8 billion follow-on modernisation programme is taking shape.I stand ready to be corrected on this but from my chair it looks like a major part of the F-35 business and operating plan has just been blown up by the Senate.
The committee’s version of the National Defense Authorisation Act for Fiscal 2017 approved on 16 May would eliminate the JPO after the Lockheed Martin fighter transitions to full rate production two years later. Management responsibilities would be divided by variant, with the US Air Force taking over procurement and modernisation of the F-35A and the US Navy gaining the same powers over the F-35C and the Marine Corps’ F-35B.
If adopted by the full Senate and the House of Representatives and signed into law by President Barack Obama, the provision would mark the single-largest change in the management of the programme since it was formed in the late-1990s to manage the fly-off between the Lockheed X-35 and Boeing X-32. It would also raise questions about the status of international partners under the new management structure.
The Senate committee wants the programme to be managed directly by the services that operate the aircraft, rather than under a joint office that reports directly to the offices of the Secretary of Defense.
“Despite aspirations for a joint aircraft, the F-35A, F-35B, and F-35C are essentially three distinct aircraft, with significantly different missions and capability requirements. Devolving this programme to the services will help ensure the proper alignment of responsibility and accountability the F-35 program needs and has too often lacked,” the committee wrote in a summary of the bill.
If this proposal survives and I see no reason why it won't then the dream of "duplicate" capabilities across the F-35 line, across services and nations is about to go the way of the dinosaur.
This has huge implications.
First it decimates the potential earnings of Lockheed Martin. If you owned stock in that company then you better be calling your people now! 25% of LM revenue is projected to come from continuing upgrades of the F-35. This move throws open the door to other players coming in. Next it also makes the idea of other people doing the "Israeli" thing of demanding some type of accommodation to do local upgrades more likely. The other big thing is that by killing the program office after it finishes development means the planning for block upgrades is essentially dead...each service will do its own thing...certain versions will be cleared to carry only a few of the weapons...costs will increase, the numbers bought reduced, and there will be no savings because of scale (as if there ever were).
The dream that was the F-35 died today, May 17, 2015.