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Pentagon gives green light for tri-service F-35 Joint Strike Fighter program

November 9, 2004 (by Lieven Dewitte) - The Pentagon has cleared the next stage in the development of the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter, a procurement project valued at more than $240 billion, the biggest ever, the Defense Department said last week.

The X-35C, which underwent flight testing in 2000 and 2001, is now exhibited at Patuxent River Naval Air Museum in Maryland. The X-35C conducted much of its carrier-suitability testing at the Patuxent River Naval Air Station. [LMTAS photo]

US acting undersecretary of defense for acquisition, Michael Wynne, approved the project's "path forward" and an optimized design for the fighter's short take-off, vertical-landing (STOVL) version.

The decision came after a mid-October program review in which Lockheed Martin was able to demonstrate that its development team had shaved over 1.2 tons of excess weight from the fighter jet.

Wynne also awarded aditional funding for a potential alternative F-35 engine being developed by General Electric which will compete with a rival design by Pratt & Whitney. Some Defense Department officials had opposed the dual engine development program as unduly costly

General Electric is to be awarded a transition contract "in a manner consistent with preparing for system development and demonstration," a major development stage, a brief synopsis of the Oct. 14 program review said.

With the Pentagon's approval, the procurement plan is now on track, with production scheduled to begin in 2005 and test flights slated for 2006.