F-35 Program VP: The Untold Truth About The F-35

Late last month, Time Magazine printed an article about the F-35 program, titled “The Most Expensive Weapon Ever Built“. Critical of the Joint Strike Fighter Program and focusing on the challenges it faces, the article contained several inaccuracies, according to Orlando Carvalho, Vice President and General Manager of the F-35 Program for Lockheed Martin.

In a letter to the editor of Time, a truncated version of which appears printed in this week’s issue, Carvalho expresses his disappointment that the author of the piece did not contact Lockheed Martin for comment, and corrected some of the misrepresentations contained in the article.

Carvalho’s full letter, made available by Lockheed Martin:

I was disappointed to read Mark Thompson’s Feb. 25 article, “The Most Expensive Weapon Ever Built”, because Lockheed Martin was not contacted in the course of writing this story. As the organization responsible for designing, testing and building this aircraft, we are the best “experts” to provide insight into the program’s challenges and successes.

If we had been contacted, then Mr. Thompson would have undoubtedly provided Time readers with an accurate and unbiased portrayal of the F-35 program, something I hope you agree they deserve.

With correct information, Time readers would know that the F-35 has conducted weapons release testing on multiple occasions, and that the helmet Mr. Thompson claims to be “plagued with problems” actually provides pilots with perspective and situational awareness unavailable with any other aircraft in operation today. The helmet has been used by pilots on more than 4,000 F-35 flights to date.

Mr. Thompson’s story said that the software needed to go to war “remains on the drawing board”, when in fact, more than 80 percent of all F-35 software is flying, 10 percent is in laboratory testing and only the final ten percent has yet to be developed.

We also could have prevented Mr. Thompson from inaccurately reporting that the Navy’s version of the F-35 will require carriers to sail closer to the enemy, when in fact, the F-35 will enhance the Navy’s combat radius by 40 percent over the legacy aircraft it’s replacing. And we would have shared that the cost of the F-35 is decreasing; in fact, since the first production jet was delivered in 2011, the cost per unit has been cut in half.

We agree that the F-35 program has encountered significant challenges, but Mr. Thompson’s story failed to acknowledge that we have worked with our partners to address each one.

We are proud of the enormous accomplishments of the men and women who work on and support this program every day. The F-35 is the most advanced weapon system in our history and will provide our warfighters with a game-changing advantage in the face of an increasingly dangerous world. The readers of Time magazine deserve to hear the whole story and we would be happy to help you tell it. I would like to personally extend Mr. Thompson an invitation to visit our Fort Worth, Texas facility, where we build the F-35 and he can speak candidly with our employees who know the program better than anyone.

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