Dec. 7 (Bloomberg) -- The leaders of the U.S. Senate Armed Services panel are pressing Defense Secretary Leon Panetta to detail plans to resolve potential training safety shortfalls in Lockheed Martin Corp.’s F-35 Joint Strike Fighter.
Senators Carl Levin, a Democrat of Michigan and the chairman of the panel, and John McCain of Arizona, the committee’s ranking Republican, are calling on Panetta to provide information on how the Pentagon will resolve safety- related issues and whether “the path forward” will “ensure the safety and adequacy of operational training” of F-35 pilots.
Director of Operational Test and Evaluation Michael Gilmore, in an Oct. 21 memo, said there are “serious concerns” with commencing as early as November initial training at Eglin Air Force Base, Florida, on the Pentagon’s most expensive program.
He recommended a delay of as much as 10 months to fly the Lockheed Martin plane 1,500 more hours on top 1,000 already flown at Edwards Air Force Base, California by experienced test pilots.
The F-35 “has not yet met the prerequisites previously set for reducing” air-mission abort rates and “resolving other safety-related issues before initiating training,” Gilmore said in a four-page memo to the department’s top weapons buyer, Frank Kendall.
Levin and McCain are asking Panetta “to review this matter and conclude to your own satisfaction” that the approach proposed by the F-35 program office and Air Force “will ensure the safety and adequacy” of the F-35 training once it begins.
-- Editors: Steven Komarow, Terry Atlas
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