F-35 fighter program has serious problems, report indicates

Defense Secretary Robert Gates and other Pentagon officials have made it clear in recent weeks that they are unhappy about the F-35 joint strike fighter program.

The reasons are likewise clearly evident in the contents of internal government documents reviewed by the Star-Telegram.

Monthly reports prepared by the Defense Contract Management Agency show that as recently as mid-November, development of the F-35 was in serious disarray. Lockheed Martin and other contractors were producing key components and completing airplanes more slowly, not faster, documents show.

The reports are heavily redacted to prevent disclosure of detailed financial information, but indications of major problems leap off the pages. They include:

Nine flight test aircraft, all of which were to have flown by the end of 2009, were behind schedule by 4 1/2 to 8 1/2 months when the report was written, in November. Only one of those planes has flown since then.

The next plane expected to fly is now 11 months behind the schedule that was rewritten in early 2008.

"Initial production" aircraft, a number of which were to be delivered and flying this year for training and further testing, are running months behind schedule and falling further behind each month.

On-time deliveries of parts and components by suppliers, which was 88 percent in April, plunged to 71 percent by September. But the blame isn't just with the suppliers. The reports say many of those delays are caused by Lockheed's many design changes.

To read the complete article, visit

Related stories from The Olympian