The Pentagon announced this week that while the recently grounded F-35 fleet will be returning to limited flight, it will not be participating in this month’s Farnborough Air Show. The fighter jets had already missed the other prominent European air show of the summer, the Royal International Air Tattoo.
While the program has taken criticism in the weeks following the grounding, which was due to an engine fire at Eglin Air Force Base, but Defense News published an editorial this week calling for patience, and pointing out that losing some PR points over the summer’s air shows is inconsequential to the overall importance of the Joint Strike Fighter program.
From the editorial:
Any ambitious development effort on this scale is bound to experience problems. JSF has already overcome numerous setbacks that critics said were show-stoppers. It will overcome this one, as well — and likely many others, besides, before it is successfully fielded.
Launched nearly two decades ago, JSF is the world’s largest and most complex military program ever. Changing requirements and mounting engineering challenges have slowed schedules and spiked costs over time, but the Pentagon and its partners have made cost control a top priority.
The program has been restructured, oversight has increased and testing requirements improved. The US and its eight partner nations have ratcheted up the pressure on prime contractor Lockheed Martin and its partners, like engine-maker Pratt & Whitney, to deliver on cost and schedule.
Now, with 60 percent of development testing completed, the program is moving through test goals and demonstrating real capability and declining cost. That’s a success story.