Monday, February 1, 2010

F-35 Program Chief Fired

Secretary of Defense Robert Gates fired USMC Gen. David Heinz from his post as the Pentagon's F-35 Program Manager today. Gates also announced that he is withholding $614 million in performance bonuses from Lockheed-Martin as punishment for delays in testing and cost overruns that have put the entire program behind it's often revised schedule by over a year.

There are only 3 test aircraft flying at this time, although Lockheed Martin reports that 9 aircraft have been completed. Those 3 completed only 10% of the test flights scheduled for 2009.

So, even if everything from this point forward proceeds perfectly (which is impossible!), our armed forces will have to wait an additional year without new aircraft to replace ones that have already been retired. The 'Fighter Gap' gets wider and wider ... (This to say nothing about the additional money that will have to come from the taxpayers...)

Now, do I blame Lockheed-Martin for this? Not really... I blame the Pentagon and those in Washington, who took the best case scenario laid out for the F-35 program, and built everything around it(budgets, aircraft retirements, aircraft procurement, manning). They should have known better. No one who has seen a major weapons system program in the past 30 years should have gone 'all in' on a perfect schedule laid out by a contractor.

Gates was right to fire this guy. There should be some firings at Lockheed-Martin. Gates should be gone as well - he should have known better, and it's been happening under his watch.

For those of you insteresed in the F-35, try
Image courtesy Lockheed-Martin

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