Pentagon F-35 program chief lashes Lockheed, Pratt

Wed Feb 27, 2013 5:24am EST
 
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By Jane Wardell

AVALON, Australia (Reuters) - The Pentagon program chief for the F-35 warplane slammed its commercial partners Lockheed Martin LMT.N and Pratt & Whitney on Wednesday, accusing them of trying to "squeeze every nickel" out of the U.S. government and failing to see the long-term benefits of the project.

U.S. Lieutenant-General Christopher Bogdan made the comments during a visit to Australia, where he has sought to convince lawmakers and generals to stick to a plan to buy 100 of the jets, an exercise complicated by the second grounding of the plane this year and looming U.S. defense cuts.

Pratt & Whitney, a unit of United Technologies Corp UTX.N, is sole supplier of engines to the $396 billion F-35, or Joint Strike Fighter. Lockheed Martin provides the body of the radar-evading jet, the most expensive combat aircraft in history.

"What I see Lockheed Martin and Pratt & Whitney doing today is behaving as if they are getting ready to sell me the very last F-35 and the very last engine and are trying to squeeze every nickel out of that last F-35 and that last engine," Bogdan told reporters at the Australian International Airshow in southern Victoria state.

"I want them both to start behaving like they want to be around for 40 years," he added. "I want them to take on some of the risk of this program, I want them to invest in cost reductions, I want them to do the things that will build a better relationship. I'm not getting all that love yet."

A Lockheed Martin executive at the airshow declined to comment when reached by Reuters, saying he was unaware of Bogdan's comments. Executives from Pratt & Whitney could not immediately be reached for comment.

Bogdan caused a stir shortly after joining the F-35 program last August when he described the relationship between the government and Lockheed Martin as the worst he'd ever seen. There had been little improvement since then, he said.

"Are they getting better? A little bit," he said. "Are they getting better at a rate I want to see them getting better? No, not yet."   Continued...

 
Three F-35 Joint Strike Fighters (rear to front) AF-2, AF-3 and AF-4, can be seen flying over Edwards Air Force Base in this December 10, 2011 handout photo provided by Lockheed Martin. REUTERS/Lockheed Martin/Darin Russell/Handout