[Update: Bill Sweetman's Facebook post, which I quoted below, is the reason he's temporarily barred from the F-35 beat, Aviation Week tells Danger Room. The plot thickens. It makes you wonder if one of his 91 Facebook friends tattled on him.]
Bill Sweetman notified me this morning that he has been temporarily ordered off the F-35 story by Aviation Week management.
Aviation Week editor Tony Velocci initially told me “no comment”, but added: “Itwas supposed to be an internal personnel matter but I’m really sorry to hear thathe’s spreading it around.”
Sweetman is the editor of Defense Technology International, a monthly magazine published by the Aviation Week Group.
It’s not clear what immediately precipitated the decision. But Sweetman is well-known as arguably one of the most outspoken — and, it should be said, well-spoken — critics of the F-35 program.
Lockheed Martin denies having any role in Sweetman’s removal from the F-35 beat. “I can tell you Lockheed was not behind this,” a spokesman says.
Sweetman recently visited Lockheed’s F-35 factory in Fort Worth, Texas, along with Velocci and Aviation Week staff writer Amy Butler. On the eve of his visit, Sweetman on 26 April posted a typically droll comment on his private Facebook page:
“Gentlemen, your target for tonight is
. Flacks are predicted to benumerous and persistent on the run-in and over the target, and bullshit isexpected to be dense throughout the mission. Synchronize watches and good luck.” Fort Worth
Full disclosure: Sweetman is a personal friend and former co-worker at Jane’s. As a military technology journalist, I have great respect for his vast and detailed knowledge of weapon systems of all kinds.
But Sweetman himself would tell you he approaches F-35 coverage unlike other journalists. I see my role as simply to report the facts offered by both critics and supporters, allowing my readers to draw their own conclusions. Sweetman approaches F-35 coverage from the standpoint of an analyst who has empirically concluded the program is a flop. That position is always going to create a tension with his traditional role as journalist.
For the record, Aviation Week’s full statement is below:
“Aviation Week is committed to providing objective aerospace and defense journalism based on independent and balanced coverage. Following comments posted on his personal Facebook page, the editorial team has decided that Bill Sweetman will not be covering the F-35 program for a period of time. We will continue to hold our journalists to the highest standards of editorial integrity to best serve the aerospace and defense community.”
Update: Lockheed Martin has released a full statement:
“Lockheed Martin has not asked Aviation Week to take disciplinaryaction against Bill Sweetman nor have we asked that he be removed from reporting onthe F-35 program or any other Lockheed Martin program. In fact on April 27 Billand other members of the Aviation Week staff visited Lockheed Martin facilitiesin
forbriefings on the F-35 program. We have a longstanding professional relationshipwith the entire Aviation Week editorial staff, including Bill Sweetman, and we continueto work openly with them on all programs, including F-35.” Fort Worth