Lockheed Martin plans interim meeting to assess data on F-35A CTOL version

The critical design review (CDR) for the Lockheed Martin F-35 Joint Strike Fighter (JSF) has been postponed by several months into 2005 as the programme organisers continue to wrestle with excess weight. A final development schedule that will shuffle testing and deployment dates is scheduled to be approved later this week.

In place of the previously scheduled CDR, F-35 prime contractor Lockheed Martin and government programme officials plan to stage an interim review meeting next month. "The period in April previously reserved for CDR will now be reserved for design integration maturity review [IMR]," says Lockheed Martin.

The Joint Programme Office says the IMR sessions will be used to capture and assess all current design data on the F-35A conventional take-off and landing (CTOL) design and the common items shared between all three aircraft variants. IMR will be used to recommend a series of trade studies examining weight issues with the short take-off and vertical landing (STOVL) aircraft, with these to lead to the final CDR event sometime in the next calendar year.

The original schedule had set the final CTOL review for next month, followed in October by the STOVL CDR, with the US Navy's carrier variant CDR to follow early in 2005.

A surplus 450-900kg (1,000-2,000lb) that is hampering performance targets for the STOVL variant has already forced the programme to extend the development phase by 12 months and shift $5 billion from production accounts.

Confronting the problem early, programme officials are seeking US Department of Defense approval to resequence several milestone events within the new 12-year system development and demonstration plan. The proposal is understood to call for shifting STOVL flight tests and initial operational capability (IOC) to the end of the cycle. Current timelines show that STOVL first flight will follow the CTOL by a few months in fiscal year 2006, but precede CTOL IOC by a full year in FY2010.

Separately, Lockheed Martin has been awarded a $9 million contract to modify the F-35's weapon system, partly for the integration of the Boeing Small Diameter Bomb.

Source: Flight International