The US Department of Defense plans to eventually divide management of the Lockheed Martin F-35 Lightning II programme between two offices: one managed by the US Navy and Marine Corps, and another led by the US Air Force. The Joint Programme Office, which currently handles the fighter programme, will ultimately be disbanded.
The plan was outlined in a letter sent to Congress in March from Ellen Lord, undersecretary of defence for acquisition and sustainment. The letter was first reported by Inside Defense. The DOD confirmed the letter and said it plans to develop a detailed implementation plan later this year.
The transition would be conditions-based and would be phased in three steps: a measured restructuring of the existing F-35 management, which would begin immediately; a subsequent transition to separate service-run F-35 programme offices reporting to a joint programme executive officer; and then a full transition to separate service-run F-35 programme offices reporting to service programme executive officers and service acquisition executives within each respective military department.
The Joint Programme Office confirmed the restructuring in an email.
“We are implementing improvements to increase transparency, and we'll continue to assess and evaluate the most efficient ways to support and manage this vital national defence program,” the Joint Program Office said. “It is important to highlight that there is no immediate timeline for this.”
International sales of the aircraft will be managed by the respective service offices: The US Air Force office will handle F-35A variant, and the US Navy and Marine Corps office will manage the F-35B and F-35C variants.