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Senior F-35 official stresses affordability

Lt. General Christopher Bogdan, the government programme executive officer for the Lockheed Martin F-35 programme, warned on 5 March that further price increases and schedule slips are unacceptable.

"I have about six billion dollars left to complete the development programme by 31 October, 2017. I think that's enough money to get it done, but if we find things wrong and we have a discovery, something's going to give," says Bogdan. "The profound implication there is, if I start running out of money or running out of time, I'm going to go back to the warfighters and going to ask, what capabilities do they want me to shed?"

Bogdan's statements, made at a conference in Arlington, Virginia, underscore similar comments made the previous week in Australia, where he blasted aircraft manufacturer Lockheed and engine manufacturer Pratt & Whitney for attempting "to squeeze every nickel" out of government.

"I need everybody in this enterprise to worry about affordability. I need everybody," says Bogdan. "And that was a shot across the bow, because I have been slightly frustrated with real results, real actions that need to happen to reduce costs on this airplane."

"I have spoken with the senior leadership of Lockheed Martin and Pratt & Whitney a number of times over the past four or five days. They have assured me that they heard my message, they have assured me that they will concentrate on working to get a better relationship and drive costs out of this programme in the long term," he adds. "And I believe them, because I think they're sincere about that. The question is now, will the actions back up the words? I'm moderately confident I have their attention now, and we'll see where that goes."

Bogdan says he intends to open at least four areas previously held by major contractors for competition, to including the procurement and maintenance of support equipment, running the crucial autonomic logistics information system (ALIS) software, managing the aircraft's global supply chain and operating training centres.

The troubled F-35 programme is years behind schedule and billions of dollars over budget. While the first aircraft are being delivered to US military customers, initial operational capability is not scheduled until 2017 at the earliest due largely to software problems. Block 2B software testing is due to be completed before third quarter of 2013, and a crucial Block 3F software milestone shortly after.

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