Critical Year for JSF
Program will meet major milestones, but must survive defense budget battle
By OTTO KREISHER, Special Correspondent
Obama’s proposed $533.7 billion
fiscal 2010 defense budget, which is
expected to require terminations or
slowdowns in some big procurement programs.
According to a Feb. 17 report
from the Congressional Research
Service, the Defense Department’s
quarterly Selected Acquisition
Report of Dec. 25, 2007, estimated
the JSF program at $298.8 billion
for 2,456 aircraft. The average procurement cost is estimated at
$103.9 million per aircraft.
Those figures, and the fact that
the current per-unit cost estimates
are more than 38 percent higher
than estimates made in October 2001, according to the
report, have made the JSF a prime target of the
Government Accountability Office (GAO) and critics
of defense spending, and a likely hot topic during the
upcoming defense budget debate in Congress.
In a written statement to the Senate Armed Services
Committee in January prior to his nomination hearings as deputy secretary of defense, William J. Lynn III
said it would be “very difficult” for the Department of
Defense to keep all of its weapons development programs within the fiscal 2010 budget. In particular, he
noted, “a critical question is the appropriate mix
between the [Air Force’s] F- 22 and the F- 35.”
The F- 35 is the result of several efforts by the various services to produce a new tactical fighter, which
eventually were merged. The goal was to produce a single aircraft that would meet the Air Force requirement
for a lightweight fighter to replace its F-16s and A-10s,
the Navy’s need for a carrier-based strike fighter with
lower radar signature, or stealth, and longer range than
its F/A-18s, and the Marine Corps’ demand for a jet that
could replace its short-takeoff and vertical-landing
(STOVL) AV-8B Harriers and supersonic F/A-18s.
Program officials say the stealthy F- 35 Lightning II will be equal
or superior to any likely adversary.
■ The F-35A, or Air Force version, is expected to have a combat
range of 1,200 nautical miles and a weapon load of 13,000 pounds.
■ The F-35C, or Navy carrier model, will be able to fly 1,400 miles
— twice the range of the F/A- 18 — and carry 17,000 pounds of
■ The Marine Corps’ F-35B, a short-takeoff and vertical-landing
version, is expected to have a range of 900 miles and a weapon
load of 11,000 pounds.
The F- 35 Lightning II, or Joint Strike Fighter
(JSF), which is to be the centerpiece of future
Navy and Marine Corps tactical air capabilities, will take some major steps forward this year. That
is, if the program is not shot down or stalled by defense
As it stands now, “2009 is shaping up to be a year of
firsts for the F- 35 program,” said Dan Crowley,
Lockheed Martin executive vice president and F- 35
program general manager.
Lockheed expects to complete the last of the 19 developmental and test F-35s and deliver the first production-model aircraft this year, as well as initiate full-scale flight
test operations at Edwards Air Force Base (AFB), Calif.,
and Naval Air Station Patuxent River, Md. The initial
multiservice training squadron should get its first F- 35
Those would be key stepping stones for the first
Marine F- 35 squadron becoming operational in 2012,
with Air Force and then Navy units to follow within
But first, the “fifth-generation” stealthy strike fighter
must survive the upcoming battle over President Barack
SEAPOWER / MAY 2009