NATIONAL HARBOR, Md.–The major F-35 stakeholders–prime contractor Lockheed Martin [LMT], engine manufacturer Pratt & Whitney and the Defense Department have established a “cost war room” to help drive down lifecycle costs of the jet, according DoD’s F-35 chief. 

F-35 JPO PEO Air Force Lt. Gen. Christopher Bogdan

F-35 Joint Program Office Program Executive Officer Air Force Lt. Gen. Christopher Bogdan said yesterday the point of the cost war room is to keep the jet affordable in the future for the United States and its international partners. Bogdan said the cost war room is a physical office space supplied, and paid for, by Lockheed Martin and staffed by manufacturing and supply chain experts from DoD, Pratt & Whitney and Lockheed Martin to work together and brainstorm ways to reduce costs. Bogdan said the office space is located near Lockheed Martin’s office in the Crystal City neighborhood of Arlington, Va.

“It is a tried and true way to drive costs out of the sustainment side of a weapon system,” Bogdan said, adding that the cost war room approach was successfully used in the United Kingdom on the Eurofighter Typhoon fighter jet and the U.S. Navy’s Virginia-class submarine. DoD oversees the cost war room, Bogdan said at the Air Force Association’s (AFA) annual conference here. He said he expects to see results “over the next year or two.” 

Bogdan said in an overall review of the program that F-35 is on a “realistic baseline” with “slow, but steady” progress on all fronts. He added slow is not a poke at industry because the F-35 is an extremely complicated program. Bogdan also said the F-35 program will be about 50 percent done with its flight test program by the end of the year.

Going forward with the program, Bogdan said affordability is still the number one priority and that his goal is to deliver “fifth generation capability at a fourth generation price” by 2019, when DoD expects to declare initial operational capability (IOC) for all three variants. Backing up Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. Mark Welsh’s remarks from yesterday, Bogdan also reiterated he’s confident the Air Force will reach IOC for its F-35A variant by 2016. 

“I’m less confident about what happens after 2016,” Bogdan said.

 While affordability may be the number one priority, Bogdan said there is “absolutely no doubt” software remains the “number one risk” for the program. Bogdan said in March DoD and Lockheed Martin “radically” changed and improved how it designs, tests and delivers F-35 software increments, going from a rate of one increment every 30 days to every three days (Defense Daily, March 13). Bogdan also said DoD will test the problematic tailhook on the Navy’s F-35C aircraft carrier variant in October or November. 

Pratt & Whitney, developer of the F-35’s F135 engine, is a division of United Technologies Corp. [UTX]. Lockheed Martin develops the F-35 along with subcontractors Northrop Grumman [NOC] and BAE Systems.