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Posted: 9/14/2004 1:04:27 PM EDT
F-35 / JSF chief confident remaining problems will be resolved

By Laura M. Colarusso

The F-35 Joint Strike Fighter weight issues have largely been resolved, but incorporating both a gun and a refueling capability on the short-take-off variant has not been accomplished, top Navy, Air Force and industry leaders said today.

Rear Adm. Steven Enewold, JSF program executive officer, said at the Air Force Association conference in Washington, D.C., that engineers have shaved about 2,700 pounds from the short-take-off-vertical-landing variant of the F-35. Shrinking the bomb bay and downsizing the vertical tail are two of the design changes JSF program officials hope to incorporate into the final plans, said Tom Burbage, F-35 executive vice president.

Another 1,200 pounds of weight savings have been found through engine improvements that create more thrust and waivers that allow the aircraft to operate under different ground rules, Burbage added. These initiatives won’t slim down the STOVL variant, but they will allow the aircraft to operate within key performance parameters at its current weight, Burbage said.

“I’m cautiously optimistic that we will get there,” Enewold said. “I think our challenge now is to prove it.”

Originally, the STOVL was about 4,000 pounds overweight, program officials said. The conventional-take-off-and-landing and carrier variants of the F-35 will benefit from the weight-reduction exercises. Each will shed about 1,500 pounds thanks to the work done to pare down their STOVL cousin, the admiral said.

Air Force officials have expressed interest in buying the STOVL variant, though how many and by when remains an open question. Air Force Secretary James Roche and Chief of Staff Gen. John Jumper told reporters Sept. 13 the service is in the process of studying those issues.

How many STOVL aircraft the Air Force buys would likely eat into its planned production run of more than 1,700 conventional F-35s.

Gen. Hal Hornburg, commander of Air Combat Command, said JSF is needed to modernize the fleet of A-10s and F-16s. However, the Air Force might need to make a decision between getting a gun, needed in close-air-support situations, and an aerial refueling capability, needed to extend the combat range of the aircraft, Hornburg said.
Link Posted: 9/14/2004 1:16:45 PM EDT
I love watching that show on Discovery (or is it the History channel) where the JSF picked between the Boeing and the LM. I watch it every time it's on.
Link Posted: 9/14/2004 1:17:52 PM EDT

Originally Posted By M4arc:
I love watching that show on Discovery (or is it the History channel) where the JSF picked between the Boeing and the LM. I watch it every time it's on.

Oh my god, me too. I'm such a friggin' junky.
Link Posted: 9/14/2004 1:19:04 PM EDT
They better not wimp out on having a gun. Every combat aircraft needs one.
Link Posted: 9/14/2004 7:17:19 PM EDT
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