Friday tends to be a quiet news day, but that doesn't make Lockheed Martin's news release of September 13 less unusual. After all, the heading does suggest that it contains "news", but reading the entire document (which accompanied a Washington briefing) reveals little except that Joint Strike Fighter program vice-president Tom Burbage thinks that the new jet will be survivable, effective and more affordable than legacy systems.
In other news, the earth is round and Salma Hayek is a woman.
However, there's also been some not-so-good news and comment swirling around the JSF in the past few days. The Senate Defense Appropriations Subcommittee eliminates two JSFs from 2009 and three from 2010, threatening to disrupt the start of the steep ramp-up in production that the program office plans, in part in order to keep the F-22 line warm for the next administration.
The Center for Defense Information (CDI) - no friend to most defense programs - released a hostile analysis by Pierre Sprey (one of the "Fighter Mafia" credited with initiating development of the F-16) and analyst Winslow Wheeler. The analysis drew a long and detailed rebuttal from the program leadership.
Last week, too, the Australian press reported on leaks from a classified computer wargame, Pacific Vision, conducted at Hickam AFB. According to Australian reports. JSFs in combat with Su-35s were "clubbed like baby seals". Defense Minister Joel Fitzgibbon has apparently sought more details of the exercise, saying that it "vindicated his stance on the controversial fighter." Fitzgibbon has supported the program but indicated that he wants to see more progress before committing Australia to the new fighter.
The leaks have boosted Australian domestic opposition to the JSF, where the independent Air Power Australia group has published some critical analysis of JSF's capability against the Su-35.
So some of this may explain the activity from the JSF team...