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US Air Force planning for future F-35 fleet management office

16 May 2018
The USAF is planning for what it wants once the F-35 JPO is disbanded. Source: US Air Force

Key Points

  • The USAF is planning for a F-35 fleet management office
  • This would replace the current JPO that the Pentagon wants to disband

The US Air Force (USAF) is in the early stages of planning for a fleet management office that would emerge after the Pentagon disbands the Lockheed Martin F-35 Lightning II Joint Strike Fighter (JSF) Joint Program Office (JPO).

Air Force Materiel Command (AFMC) Chief General Ellen Pawlikowski told reporters on 15 May that the goal of this office will be to strengthen the management structure so it is more responsive to the service’s F-35 needs. Gen Pawlikowski said although the JPO has done a brilliant job helping to drive aircraft production costs, it will be difficult to keep this large group of aircraft moving forward together with all its different players.

“The speed and agility that you hear us talk about nowadays in terms of being able to meet the national defence strategy is going to make that type of organisational structure … too cumbersome,” Gen Pawlikowski said at a Defense Writers Group breakfast.

Gen Pawlikowski believes the USAF will continue to leverage the F-35’s commonality as the aircraft’s basic design structure, including engines, is already set. She said as the USAF evolves the aircraft need to respond to different missions, the weapons could also evolve because of the roles the F-35 will play, compared with how the US Marine Corps (USMC) and US Navy (USN) will use the aircraft.

“There will be some more uniqueness, but … there’s benefit in that economy of scale which we are all benefiting from now, which I think we will continue to want to leverage,” Gen Pawlikowski said.

The USAF has a contracting relationship with Lockheed Martin that runs through this single programme office and Gen Pawlikowski said the service needs to ensure it maintains the benefits from this type of relationship and that it does not end prematurely.

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