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Whither The Fighter Gap -- F-35 May Be Late

It is being reported that an independent oversight board has released a report saying that the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter (JSF) may be two years late going into production. The rapid transition of this aircraft into production to begin replacing elderly F-16 and F-18 fighters now in service was key to Obama and Gate's plans to end F-22 production.

In the 2010 budget proposal from the Administration the F-22 was ended at 187 aircraft including the last batch under way. The F-35 was given more money to increase its production quantity to enter service more quickly and modernize the U.S. fighter fleet. The Joint Estimate Team (JET) established to conduct a review of the program finds that the JSF Program Office jointly managed by the Navy and Air Force as most program office's do has a more positive view of the progress of the program. The F-35 is similar to many large development and acquisition programs in that it has suffered delays in the past.

The JET feels that there will be issues identified in developmental testing that may lead to delays in getting to the next milestone and full production. This too is not uncommon as that is the whole point of testing. Boeing is having similar issues with the 787 discovering an issue with the joint of the wings to the fuselage that is delaying the aircraft a few months while a fix is found.

The JET report is being highlighted now by those in Congress opposed to the end of the F-22 production. It is true that any delay in production of the F-35 will leave a period of time where the U.S. may see a decline in the total number of their aircraft due to aging issues and no new production.

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