Pentagon sees progress on F-35 jet; software still a concern

WASHINGTON, June 12 Thu Jun 12, 2014 4:31pm EDT

WASHINGTON, June 12 (Reuters) - Lockheed Martin Corp's F-35 fighter jet is making steady progress but needs further work on software development, reliability rates and the cost of operating and maintaining the new warplanes, the Pentagon's chief weapons buyer said on Thursday.

Frank Kendall, undersecretary of defense for acquisition, technology and logistics, told reporters the Pentagon was looking at a series of measures, including incentives tied to future payments and investments in process improvements, to reduce the cost of building, operating and maintaining the planes.

Air Force Lieutenant General Chris Bogdan said the program had already lowered the longer term projected "sustainment" cost by 9 percent, and hoped to eventually achieve a 30 percent reduction from the initial estimate, which had come in just over $1 trillion over the next five decades.

Kendall said the Pentagon was also starting to look at a possible future multi-year procurement agreement for the planes, given the large numbers of jets to be bought by the U.S. military services and other countries. (Reporting by Andrea Shalal)

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