Live blog: Mr. Gates goes to Fort Worth

gates fort worth f35 pentagon channel.jpg



Secretary of Defense Robert Gates is hosting a “media availability” (aka press conference) in a few minutes from Lockheed Martin’s final assembly factory for the F-35 in Fort Worth, Texas.

You can watch the press conference live here: http://www.pentagonchannel.mil/

Gates has thrown his support behind the F-35, justifying his decision to close F-22 production after 187 jets by pointing to the ramp-up of the F-35 fighter. After Gates completes his factory tour in Fort Worth, he will travel to nearby Waco Greenville, Texas, to see L-3 Communications convert Hawker Beechcraft King Air 350ERs into MC-12W Liberty spy planes for the US Air Force. I will post updates from Gates’ press conference below.

  • Gates’ press conference has started at 11:29am EST. 
  • Gates: “

    I’m especially excited that things seem to be onschedule for the first training squadron in 2011 and IOC in 2012.”

  • Gates on F136 alternate engine:

    “We have looked at the business case a number of times in terms of an alternateengine for F-35. The general conclusion is it would cost several bill dollars in addition. It would,just by the nature of things, it would be 3 or 4 more years behind the F135engine and there’s no reason to believe that it would not encounter the samekind of development challenges that other new engines have encountered along the way … Wefeel very strongly that there is not a need for an alternate engine .. Thepresident’s advisers would recommend a veto if it’s left in the bill. The finaldecision is up to the president.”

  • Bonus points to any spotter who can identify which variant of the F-35 Gates is standing in front of in the picture above.

  • Gates on Joint Estimating Team’s prediction that the F-35 will be delayed two more years: “I don’t want too get specific about that because frankly I don’tknow the specifics or the assessment that was made. I know there was someassumptions made in making that assessment that others have some disagreementswith. My impression is that most of the high risk elements associated with thisprogram are largely behind us and I feel a good deal of confidence in the managementhere that the manufacturing process, the supplier chain … have been addressed orare being addressed.”

  • Gates on the F-35 costs: “

    I think the F-35 is at root the core of our combat tacticalaircraft in the future. Our planned buy of these airplanes at this point is inthe neighborhood of between 2,400 and 2,500 with hundreds more being purchase byour foreign partners. I think that the fact that we have an aircraft that has manycommon components for all three services is important for potential costsavings. [The F-35 at full rate production is] less than half the price for exampleof the F-22. My view is we cannot afford as a nation not to have this airplane.”

  • Press conference ended at 11:43am EST.



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18 Responses to Live blog: Mr. Gates goes to Fort Worth

  1. Jason 31 August, 2009 at 5:22 pm #

    My money is on the F-35C (The USN variant). Note the IFR probe door.

  2. eg 31 August, 2009 at 5:27 pm #

    “….less than half the price for example of the F-22…My view is we cannot afford as a nation not to have this airplane.”

    Pay your money and take your chances.
    They had better hope
    the aircraft remains viable in a combat role
    there are no major hiccups
    the engine doesn’t poop like the TF30 or F100PW-100

  3. Nick Ulivieri 31 August, 2009 at 5:53 pm #

    I think it is the F-35C as well. I was trying to compare the inlets and shape of the canopy with images of the variants, but once I noticed the IFR door it was pretty apparent.

  4. Dan 31 August, 2009 at 5:53 pm #

    “I don’t want too get specific about that because frankly I don’t know the specifics or the assessment that was made. I know there was some assumptions made in making that assessment that others have some disagreements with. My impression is that most of the high risk elements associated with this program are largely behind us and I feel a good deal of confidence in the management here that the manufacturing process, the supplier chain … have been addressed or are being addressed.”

    Never has one man in so many words to so many people said so little.

  5. eg 31 August, 2009 at 7:10 pm #

    “because frankly I don’t know”

  6. Dave 31 August, 2009 at 7:14 pm #

    That’s a B model. The short canopy and door behind the canopy is a dead give away.

  7. FlightDreamz 31 August, 2009 at 8:14 pm #

    I’m going to take a stab in the dark and guess it’s an F-35B (the Royal Navy & U.S. Marines Version). Because like Jason mentioned, you can see the door for the inflight refueling probe just above Robert Gates head so I KNOW it’s not the air force (F-35A) version. And at least two people jumped at the Naval F-35C version.

  8. Grunty 31 August, 2009 at 8:54 pm #

    F-35B BF-3

  9. Obamanite 31 August, 2009 at 10:31 pm #

    That’s a B model. Short canopy. Seem to see the door for the fan behind said canopy.

  10. ELP 31 August, 2009 at 10:42 pm #

    If you look at the photos close enough you can see puppet strings.

  11. Stephen Trimble 31 August, 2009 at 11:02 pm #

    Dave scores first by identifying the aircraft as an F-35B, but Grunty takes the cake by correctly noting it’s line number BF-3.

  12. Dave 1 September, 2009 at 12:52 am #

    Victory is mine… I knew it was BF-3.

  13. Stephen Trimble 1 September, 2009 at 1:01 am #

    Prove it!

  14. Solomon 1 September, 2009 at 1:13 am #

    sorry for not giving you a track back from ARES…i will in the future….great scoop….

  15. Dave 1 September, 2009 at 6:51 am #

    The answer is deduction… firstly BF-1 is tied up on the hover pit and has flags painted on it horizontally. There appear to be no flags in this photo. BF-2 is still half in primer… It unlikely BF-4 would be available. That leaves BF-3 which is painted and probably available to do this sort of thing while its waiting for its first flight.

  16. Grunty 1 September, 2009 at 9:09 am #

    Dave. The cake is mine. You can take credit for recognising it as the F-35B, but no way for BF-3!

  17. Mike 1 September, 2009 at 7:10 pm #

    Interesting. Thanks for covering this event. Thanks also for linking the video.

  18. ReconTeam 2 September, 2009 at 8:13 pm #

    Yeah, we can’t afford to not have enough F-22s either Gates, but you screwed that up. The F-35 does not look capable enough for the future.

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