Thursday, May 10, 2012

Senate panel gets F-35 update

Senior Air Force and Navy leaders told the Senate Armed Services Committee's airpower panel that the F-35 remains the centerpiece of the services' modernization program. Vice Adm. David J. Venlet, F-35 program executive officer, said technical and cost issues remain, but the F-35 is an impressive marriage of engine and airframe, and carrier test pilots have lauded its handling. (Source: American Forces Press Service, 05/09/12) Venlet told the panel the next contracts for F-35s will be tied more closely than previously to testing, assembly and software progress. Six of the 31 aircraft in the next round won't be awarded until Lockheed Martin meets at least five criteria, including successful review this year of the latest software release. (Source: Bloomberg, 05/08/12) Venlet later touted a fix for the jet's troubled, high-tech helmet, which officials hope will solve jitter picture and lag time issues. A "micro-inertial measurement unit" is expected to fix the jitter and "signal processing changes in the software and the architecture" could fix the lag. Program officials also plan to improve a camera installed on the helmet which they believe will fix "the acuity and night vision," he said. (Source: Navy Times, 05/09/12) Meanwhile, Lockheed Martin issued a press release about the milestones in the F-35 flight test program, noting progress in the first four months of 2012 ranging from a record number of flight hours in March to the 30 local area orientation flights at Eglin Air Force Base, Fla., home of the F-35 training center. (Source: Lockheed Martin, 05/08/12)