An F-35 jet arrives at Hill Air Force Base in Utah, Sept. 2, 2015.

An F-35 jet arrives at Hill Air Force Base in Utah, Sept. 2, 2015. AP Photo / Rick Bowmer

Defense Business Brief: F-35’s new leader; Navy’s big choice; 3D-print milestone; and more...

What type of leader does the F-35 stealth fighter program need right now? I asked Bridget Lauderdale, who has been running the program for Lockheed Martin for the past two months.

“I think that the F-35 program needs a leader with experience, with a priority on listening to the voice of the customer; with a commitment to partnership; to collaboration, to a set of common goals, a dogged focus on executing to our commitments; and someone who is both challenging and enabling to the team, to my workforce,” Lauderdale said in an interview earlier this week. “I would tell you, that combination is certainly where my head is, and I'm committed to [giving] the very best of myself each and every day, to my customers to the team.”

Lauderdale, a seasoned Lockheed executive, got the job in April. Her predecessor, Greg Ulmer, was named executive vice president of Lockheed’s Aeronautics division following the death of Michelle Evans in early January.

She takes over the program as the Pentagon is pushing the company to lower the cost of owning the jet, and the U.S. Air Force is deciding whether it will purchase fewer F-35s  than planned.

Among the items on Lauderdale’s to-do list (in no particular order): lower the jet’s sustainment cost, upgrade the existing F-35 fleet, and win international competitions in Canada, Switzerland, and Finland.

The Navy must choose between developing a next-generation fighter, a destroyer, or a submarine, acting Secretary Thomas Harker said in a June 4 memo posted by USNI News this week. “The Navy cannot afford to simultaneously develop the next generation of air, surface, and subsurface platforms and must prioritize these programs, balancing the cost of developing next-generation capabilities against maintaining current capabilities,” the memo states.

Leonado delivered the first of 32 TH-73A pilot training helicopters to the Navy on Thursday. The company is expected to deliver 130 helicopters to the Navy by 2024.

The Air Force said GE can 3D print a key part of the F110 engine, a power plant used on F-16 and F-15 fighters. “The latest milestone in the USAF and GE’s pathfinder Pacer Edge program, this F110 component is the first engine component designed for and produced by metal additive manufacturing to be qualified by any US Department of Defense entity,” the company said. Said another way: This is a step toward increasing readiness.

Lockheed still expects to close its purchase of Aerojet Rocketdyne by the end of year, CFO Ken Possenriede said. “We still feel really good about this,” he said Tuesday at a UBS investors conference. The Federal Trade Commission is still reviewing the proposed sale

Weekend reading: It’s the Government Accountability Office’s annual assessment of the Pentagon's major weapon programs. 

From Defense One

F-35 Supply Chain Recovering From COVID Slowdown, Lockheed's New JSF Chief Says // Marcus Weisgerber

2021 deliveries could return almost to the level once planned for 2020.

New Air Force One Could Be Delayed Another Year // Marcus Weisgerber

The GAO's latest cost estimate brings the price tag to $2.6 billion apiece.

Digital Engineering Could Speed Wartime Arms Production // Marcus Weisgerber

It could also allow contractors to build and modernize weapons they did not create.

If China Is the No. 1 Threat, Why Doesn't the 2022 Budget Reflect It? // Tara Copp

The Middle East will continue to demand resources even as troops withdraw from Afghanistan.

Navy Finds 32 Problems with Littoral Combat Ships // Caitlin M. Kenney

Study reveals "key reliability issues" and maintenance averaging up to two weeks per month to fix.

What 5G Will Actually Do for the U.S. Military // Patrick Tucker

Lots of sensors, lots of data, open up the possibilities of energy conservation, better security, robot teaming, and much more, military experiments show.

Navy Drone Refuels Fighter Jet, a Key Step Toward Adding UAVs to Carrier Wings // Caitlin M. Kenney

The MQ-25 T1 Stingray is slated for tests on an aircraft carrier later this year ahead of a planned 2025 deployment.

Pentagon's Accelerating 'Connect-Everything' Effort Hinges on Uncertain Cloud Program // Patrick Tucker

If the JEDI program collapses, JADC2 is going to need a replacement cloud.