Lockheed's F-35 Has Date With Sky Set For Next Week

December 8th, 2006  
Team Infidel

Topic: Lockheed's F-35 Has Date With Sky Set For Next Week

Dallas Morning News
December 8, 2006
Navy pushing Marines Corps to cut funding for program
By Richard Whittle, Special Contributor to The Dallas Morning News
WASHINGTON--­ Lockheed Martin Corp.'s new F-35 Lightning II, the Joint Strike Fighter, is to make its first flight next week, even as Marine Corps officials resist Navy pressure to cut funding for their jump jet version of the multi-service aircraft.
Marine Brig. Gen. David Heinz, deputy director of the Pentagon office that runs the JSF program, said a conventional F-35A would take off from Lockheed's Fort Worth facility possibly as early as Monday and fly a cautious pattern for an hour, checking basic maneuverability and other items.
As Pentagon officials finalize next year's defense budget request, the Marines have been trying to fend off a Navy move to cut the F-35 program by $1.9 billion and use the money for other needs, said defense analyst Loren Thompson of the Lexington Institute, a think tank with close ties to the military.
"The Navy has tried to cut near-term funding for the F-35 program to free up money for shipbuilding and other priorities," Mr. Thompson said. "However, senior policymakers have told the service to put the money back into the program."
The program employs about 4,000 people at Lockheed's plant in Fort Worth.
Marine Lt. Gen. John Castellaw, deputy commandant for aviation, told reporters at a briefing Thursday that the jump jet JSF, the F-35B, is vital to his service. The F-35B will replace several Marine aircraft and be far more than just an expensive "bomb truck" providing close air support to troops, he said.
The F-35B will carry two 1,000-pound bombs and two missiles. But it also will be a "systems platform" carrying a wide array of sensors and other gear allowing it to jam enemy radars, perform surveillance, stream data and battlefield video to troops on the ground and serve as a link with spy drones and satellites, Gen. Castellaw said.
The F-35 is to come in three versions, including one for normal runways and one for aircraft carriers. It is to be bought by the Air Force, the Navy and at least eight foreign allies as well.
The jump jet version for the Marines, Britain and Italy is the most expensive of the three types, expected to cost about $70 million a plane.
"The other services participating in the program are not as strongly committed to the [jump jet] version as they are to their variants," Mr. Thompson said. "If there were no [jump jet] version, it would reduce the overall cost of the program."
Gen. Castellaw also emphasized the Marine Corps' commitment to the V-22 Osprey tilt-rotor troop transport, built by Bell Helicopter Textron Inc. in Fort Worth and Amarillo in a 50-50 partnership with Boeing Co. About 2,500 people work on the V-22 at Bell's plants in Fort Worth and Amarillo.
Redesigned and retested after two fatal crashes six years ago that nearly ended the program, the V-22 will go into combat for the first time next year and "will show its capabilities when we get it deployed," Gen. Castellaw said.
A decision on where the V-22 is used will depend on where combat commanders need it and what senior Pentagon officials approve, but expectations are that it will go to Iraq.
Gen. Castellaw declined to confirm that but said, "I like to go to the sound of the guns."
On another Texas project, Gen. Castellaw said it appeared Bell Helicopter has "sorted out" production problems that delayed a $6.2 billion program to rebuild UH-1 Huey and AH-1 Cobra helicopters for the Marines. The new aircraft are to have rotors with four blades instead of two and other improvements but use old airframes.
"We're about three to four and a half years behind," Gen. Castellaw said, noting that Hueys and Cobras are getting the most use and therefore wear and tear of any Marine aircraft in Iraq. "What we're expecting is that Bell will be able to get back on line."
The program employs about 200 in Fort Worth and about 100 in Amarillo.
Bell spokesman Greg Hubbard said that was partly because the cabins of old Hueys and Cobras "were almost hand-made, custom-built." That made it nearly impossible to remake them with modern tooling that relies on precision parts, he said.
December 10th, 2006  
that's some interesting stuff there, TI.
December 11th, 2006  
I'm not surprised. When the British decided to go back to CVTOL carriers they no longer needed the F-35B. This means the U.S Marines are the only branch that still requires a VTOL aircraft. And considering the considerable expense VTOL is in general, well I as said I'm not surprised the Navy wants them to ax it.

Besides why does the Marines a need an own airforce anyway? In WWII it made sense because the US Army Air Corps was focusing more on steregic bombing than CAS support. But that has now changed. CAS are now part of the USAF bag of tricks (as much as they hate doing it). IMHO, I say with the exception of Helicopters leave the jets to the USAAF and the NAVY.

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