AVALON: F-35 programme chief lambasts Lockheed, P&W

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The Lockheed Martin F-35 Lightning II programme's key contractors need to take a longer view on the Joint Strike Fighter effort, the US military's programme head, US Air Force Maj Gen Christopher Bogdan, says in a new criticism of the relationship between industry and its customer.

"What I see Lockheed and Pratt & Whitney doing today is behaving as if they are getting ready to sell me the very last F-35 and very last engine, and are trying to squeeze ever nickel out of that last engine and airplane," says Bogdan.

"The behaviour I want to see is that they are knowledgeable about selling me 3,000 airplanes and 4,000 engines. I want them to take the long view."

Bogdan made the critical comments during a media roundtable at the Avalon air show near Melbourne, Australia, on 27 February, after being asked about the relationship between Lockheed and the F-35's joint programme office (JPO). In September 2012, the official created a stir in defence aerospace circles by saying the relationship between the parties was at the lowest level he had ever seen it.

"Are [Lockheed and P&W] getting better? A little bit," he says. "Are they getting better at a rate I want to see them get better? No, not yet."

Bogdan notes that it took the JPO and P&W six months to negotiate the engine maker's fee for the F135s that will power the 35 aircraft within the programme's lot five contract for low-rate initial production, which was finalised in November 2012.

"The fundamental cause of the six-month delay was the fee they would earn," says Bogdan. "You would think that a company such as Pratt & Whitney that had just received the greatest Christmas gift you could ever get would act a little differently." This comment was made in reference to the US Congress's decision in 2011 to stop funding an alternative F-35 power plant, the F136, that was being jointly developed by General Electric and Rolls-Royce.

"I want them to behave as if they want to be around in 40 years," says Bogdan of the programme's lead contractors. "I want them to share risks, invest in cost reductions, and also invest in the relationship, so that in 40 years we want to them to be around. I'm not getting all that love yet."

Despite his renewed criticism of Lockheed and P&W, Bogdan says progress is being made to redress several of the problems that have plagued the programme, including software development, the pilots' helmet, and addressing other technical issues.

Lockheed did not respond to Flight International's request for a comment with regard to the official's statements.