09/30/2013 Defence IQ Press
The Pentagon on Friday said it had finalized two contracts with Lockheed Martin Corp (LMT.N) valued at $7.8 billion for 71 more F-35 fighter jets, citing what it called significant reductions in the cost of the new radar-evading warplane.
The U.S. Defense Department said it signed a $4.4 billion contract for a sixth batch of 36 F-35 aircraft, with the average cost of the planes down 2.5 percent from the previous deal. All but $743 million of that amount had already been awarded to the company under a preliminary contract.
The two sides also signed a $3.4 billion contract for 35 aircraft in a seventh batch, which reflected a 6 percent drop in the average price from the fifth group, it said in a statement.
The Pentagon's F-35 program office said the cost of each F-35 conventional takeoff A-model jet would drop to $98 million in the seventh batch of jets, excluding the engine, from $103 million in the sixth lot. It marks the first time the price of the jet will have dipped below $100 million.
The U.S. government buys the engines directly from Pratt & Whitney, a unit of United Technologies Corp (UTX.N), under a separate contract. [Reuters]
The massive hulk of a F-35 joint strike fighter sits inside a hangar at the west-side factory of Lockheed Martin Aeronautics.
About a half dozen mechanics and engineers stand by and admire the jet until a demure woman in a pants suit and flats emerges from behind the tail of the plane.
The attention shifts to her. It is all smiles and handshakes, but the body language says she’s the boss: Lorraine Martin, who was appointed in April as general manager of Lockheed Martin’s F-35 joint strike fighter Lightning II program, the costliest defense program in U.S. history.
“I help other people do their excellent work,” she said. “My job is really to clear out obstacles for the engineers, the software designers, the folks building the aircraft.”
Martin, 51, is part of a growing trend of U.S. business leaders who exemplify “authenticity” and are able motivate multi-generational employees of diverse backgrounds, North Texas business school professors say.
Standing just five-feet tall, she is a wisp of a woman in charge of a bear of a program that has been rocked by cost overruns and technical failures almost since it began in 2001. After a year as the program’s deputy manager, Martin was named general manager as part of a broad leadership shakeup at the defense giant. Orlando Carvalho replaced Larry Lawson as top executive of the aeronautics division. Lawson departed in March for another firm.
Martin has entered an arena fraught with complexity. She is leading an F-35 workforce of 6,000 at the Fort Worth plant during an uncertain period in the jet’s development, when even small mistakes are amplified and Pentagon leaders are apt to express dissatisfaction at any moment.
“Any weakness she may have had or demonstrated, she’d probably be the 90-day wonder,’’ said Billy Johnson, executive director of the professional leadership program at the College of Business, University of North Texas. “She’d been out pretty quick.” [Star-Telegram]
With Vermont’s highest elected officials still deep in Defense Dept. denial over the disaster that is the Air Force’s F-35 strike fighter, a local city council threatens to bring some military sanity to Vermont (but nowhere else) by exercising its landlord right to reject as a tenant a weapon of mass destruction that will wreak havoc on the local neighborhood.
This initiative comes from four members of Vermont’s Progressive Party on the Burlington City Council, who plan to introduce a resolution on October 7 effectively barring the F-35 from being based in the middle of Vermont’s most populated area. In contrast, Vermont’s official “leadership,” almost all Democrats, still thinks basing nuclear-capable warplanes in a Vermont community is a dandy idea.
Whatever they say – which is next to nothing – Vermont’s governor, two Senators, lone Congressmen, Burlington mayor, and most of the legislature remain effectively committed to a fool’s errand on behalf of the military-industrial complex, one that will do nothing good for the vast majority of their constituents and will do real harm to many of them. These representatives consistently refuse to meet with their constituents for serious discussion of health, safety, cost, and other issues. This is what the breakdown of American representative democracy looks like up close. [Global Research]
The company that makes the embattled F-35 fighter jet has hired Charles Bouchard, who was a lieutenant general in the Canadian Forces, for a top job.
Lockheed Martin Canada announced Tuesday it has hired Bouchard, effective immediately. Bouchard will report to the executive vice-president of Lockheed Martin International, Pat Dewar, the company said in a news release.
"Bouchard will assume leadership of the portfolio of Lockheed Martin activities in Canada and will be the corporation's lead representative in the country," according to the release.
"Bouchard's appointment is a result of Lockheed Martin International's focus on providing customers with direct access to the company's broad range of products and solutions."
Bouchard retired from the Canadian Forces in April 2012, after leading what many considered to be a successful NATO mission in Libya. The Libya mission provided air cover to protect civilians and allow rebel forces to overthrow long-time dictator Moammar Gadhafi — a mission in which fighter jets played a massive role.
"We added a tremendous leader to our organization today. Charles will facilitate access to Lockheed Martin's broad portfolio of products and technologies to help Canada address its security and citizen service challenges," said Dewar. "We highly value our customers in Canada and we're investing for long-term partnership and growth." [CBC News]
Software remains the biggest risk of the F-35 program, according to U.S. Air Force Lt. Gen. Christopher Bogdan, the program executive officer. In a presentation at the Air Force Association (AFA) Air & Space Conference on September 17, Bogdan also discussed progress in fixing the Joint Strike Fighter’s helmet-mounted display systems (HMDS), and program costs.
Lockheed Martin’s scheduled delivery of the full-capability Block 3F software in 2017 “highly depends” on the performance of interim Block 2B and 3I software releases, Bogdan said. Block 2B is the “initial warfighting” software that adds sensor capabilities missing from the current training software releases, plus the AIM-120 AAM, GBU-12 laser-guided bombs, and the GBU-32 Joint Direct Attack Munition (JDAM). Block 3I is the same software, but hosted on new processors.
The Block 2B software was slated to be delivered for flight-test last month, but has been delayed until April next year, according to testimony to a Congressional committee last June by Michael Gilmore, the Pentagon’s director of operational test and evaluation (DOT&E). It is not slated for release to the fleet until mid-2015. Moreover, Gilmore told the committee, F-35s equipped with Block 2B “would likely need significant support from other fourth-generation and fifth-generation combat systems to counter modern, existing threats, unless air superiority is somehow otherwise assured and the threat is cooperative.”
However, in a mandatory report to Congress last June, the Marine Corps said it will achieve initial operational capability (IOC) with the F-35B equipped with Block 2B by only six months later, in December 2015. In his AFA presentation, Bogdan said he is “confident” that the Marine Corps would achieve its planned IOC date. He earlier told Vanity Fair magazine (which published a long article on the F-35 this month) that there is nothing in U.S. procurement law to prevent the Marines declaring IOC before operational testing is complete.
The U.S. Air Force plans IOC of the F-35A version by December 2016, which is before the Block 3F software is available, Bogdan noted at AFA. Block 3F adds weapons such as the AIM-9X AAM and AGM-154 Joint Standoff Attack Weapon (JSOW), and sensor capabilities such as full radar synthetic aperture radar mapping (SAR), plus expansion of the flight envelope. The Navy plans to declare IOC of the F-35C carrier variant in February 2019. [AIN Online]