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Kendall Cites Progress on F-35 Performance, Schedule, Cost

DoD News // June 01, 2015

The F-35 Lightning II joint strike fighter program is making progress on performance, schedule and cost, Frank Kendall, undersecretary of defense for acquisition, technology and logistics, told U.S. reporters last week during a teleconference from Norway.

Kendall was in Oslo to attend the two-day F-35 CEO Conference, an annual meeting in which senior U.S. government leaders, international partners and industry members discuss the F-35 program’s status and strategic outlook. This was the first year a partner nation hosted the high-level meeting.

“We're continuing to execute to the [2011 F-35 Technical Baseline Review],” Kendall said, “and we're exceeding our expectations on cost and performance and we’re close to our projections on schedule.”

The undersecretary noted that there was a fundamental change in the direction of discussions at the Oslo meeting.

Focusing on the Future

“We are not sitting here worried about the risk of completing baseline development,” he said. “We’re turning our focus much more toward fielding the program, upgrades in the future and getting whatever efficiencies we can going forward.”

As she began the meeting, Norway’s Defense Minister Ine Marie Eriksen Søreide used a phrase that Kendall quoted to members of the media as representing the status of the F-35 program.

“We're ‘turning the future into the present,’ she said, “and I think the present is going to be much more about F-35 operations than it has been before, and we're looking forward to continuing to make progress in that regard.”

Kendall said next year he hopes to hold the CEO meeting at the first operational base for the F-35, after the Marine Corps’ F-35B reaches initial operational capability, or IOC, later this year.

Initial Operational Capability

IOC refers to fielding F-35 squadrons capable of handling a range of combat missions. For the Marine Corps, Marine Fighter Attack Squadron 121, or VMFA-121, known as the Green Knights and based at Marine Corps Air Station Yuma, Arizona, will be the first F-35B operational squadron.

“We’re on track to do that, Kendall added, “and we're on track to have Air Force IOC the following year and the Navy a couple of years after that, and our partners will start IOC-ing as well.”

F-35 follow-on development was one of the meeting topics, he said.

“The threat constantly changes out there. People develop weapons that they want to have integrated into the platform and technology has matured that we want to insert into the platform,” Kendall said, “so we designed [the] F-35 so we can upgrade it throughout its lifecycle.”

More details on changing threats, integrating weapons, and an F-35 block buy on Defense.gov.