U.S. Marine general keeps 'careful eye' on F-35 spare parts
PARIS - The top U.S. Marine in charge of aviation is "very confident" about the $391 billionLockheed Martin Corp F-35 fighter program ahead of a decision on the jet's combat-readiness, but said he is keeping "a careful eye" on the spare parts supply.
PARIS - The top U.S. Marine in charge of aviation is "very confident" about the $391 billion Lockheed Martin Corp F-35 fighter program ahead of a decision on the jet's combat-readiness, but said he is keeping "a careful eye" on the spare parts supply.
Lieutenant General Jon Davis , deputy commandant for aviation, said on Tuesday the 10 jets in an initial squadron had completed retrofits and were being repainted. Only a few items had to be checked off before the Marine Corps kicks off in mid-July a tough operational readiness review of the first F-35 squadron that could be sent into combat.
The Marines would be the first military service to declare the new jets ready for combat use.
"I believe that we'll be OK, but I want to take a look if we are short on spare parts," Davis said in an interview at the Paris Airshow. "I know we're going to need more than we have. I think there's risk there, and I wanted to lay out exactly what that risk is."
He said Congress had curtailed funding for F-35 spare parts in recent budgets, and he would likely need to request extra funds to avoid potential issues with the readiness of the aircraft if they had to be deployed overseas.
He said Lockheed was working with the Marines to ensure the planes had sufficient spare parts on hand.
Davis said he would not approve declaration of an "initial operational capability" unless the unit was ready.
The readiness review would cover 134 items, including rigorous flight and simulator tests for pilots, random maintenance tests, and landings on land-based pads near the air base in Yuma , Arizona , he said.
If the first F-35 squadron passes its review next month, officials could send it overseas to drop laser -guided bombs, provide close-air support and carry out other missions.
Orlando Carvalho, who heads Lockheed's aeronautics division, said in an interview that Marine Corps action would be a "huge milestone" for the program that marked its transition to a real operational military asset.
Carvalho said Lockheed had finished writing the 3B software that would mark the end of the jet's development program, and was starting to test and integrate the new code.