Australian officials know the stakes are high.
“We’re only a small player, but other countries are watching,” said a source at Australia’s Defence Materiel Organisation, part of the defence department, who was not authorised to speak publicly.
Bogdan approved the grounding just before leaving Washington to join Lockheed executives at the Avalon air show in Melbourne.
“I believe by the end of this week we would know what the root cause of that crack was. If it’s as simple as a foreign object damage problem, or a manufacturing quality problem, I could foresee the airplanes being back in the air in the next week or two,” he said.
Lockheed executives have been trying to reassure Canberra. They insist that problems with software and design, including imaging and night vision functions of the pilot’s helmet, are being resolved, and testing is ahead of schedule.
U.S. BUDGET CUTS ANOTHER WORRY
One U.S. defence official, who was not authorised to speak publicly, said the technical problems bedevilling the new fighter were less troubling than Washington’s budget woes.
Sweeping budget cuts due to take effect in the United States on March 1 could cut funding for the Pentagon’s biggest weapons program and delay work on seven jets this year alone.