15 Jun 2011 By DAVE MAJUMDAR DefenseNews
A Defense Acquisitions Board (DAB) review that would have established a new cost baseline for the triservice F-35 Lightning II has been postponed until the fall, the Joint Strike Fighter (JSF) program's top official said June 15.
The review had been scheduled for late May, then was rescheduled for mid-June. Now, senior leaders have decided to wait until more real-world data is gathered and planning is complete.
"It was decided: why don't we let a little bit more of the performance of the program both in test and production play out through the summer; why don't we let that integrated master schedule get finished, do a schedule risk assessment of it, present that to service leadership, let them ponder IOC [initial operating capability], let the operational test planning complete," said JSF program executive officer Vice Adm. David Venlet. "Then, rather than set a baseline now with a whole bunch of go-finish-your-homework assignments, we will go finish the homework and then present the new baseline for [Pentagon procurement chief] Dr. [Ashton] Carter's approval in the fall of this year."
The delay is a matter of being thorough, not an indication of new problems, Venlet said.
"That is not a sign of alarm. It is, I think, a determination to continue in a deliberate fashion with good solid fundamentals applied to get things done," he said.
Venlet called the independent cost estimate and the program's internal cost estimate mature and tightly integrated.
The jet is doing well in testing and it is meeting its key performance parameters (KPP), Venlet said.
The Air Force's F-35A model had previously fallen just short of some of the parameters.
"There is not a lot of margin, but we expect all of them to be met," Venlet said. "We have data and some issues in development that caused us to assess a current status of the range for the [Conventional Take-off and landing variant] to be below its KPP number … but we also have a body of test data. We're sort of getting an aggregation of measured test points of specific fuel consumption that's better than the models."
There are also certain easy ways to gain extra range by accessing what would otherwise be considered unusable fuel by manipulating values giving the jet some extra margin, he said.
He also noted that some fluctuation is expected in day-to-day performance numbers during flight testing