WASHINGTON Dec 6 Air Force Lieutenant General
Christopher Bogdan assumed control of the Pentagon's F-35 jet
fighter program on Thursday, saying he believes the program is
well-positioned for the future after hard work by his
predecessor to put it on a "former, more realistic" footing.
Bogdan replaces U.S. Navy Vice Admiral David Venlet, who is
retiring after 36 years in the Navy and more than two years
running the $396 billion F-35 Joint Strike Fighter, the
Pentagon's biggest weapons program, which is built by Lockheed
At a Pentagon ceremony, Bogdan said Venlet and his team had
helped ensure the long-term survival of what he described as
"the most complex program in history."
"Not only did they right the ship and deliver the first
aircraft to an operational squadron, but we are now very
well-positioned for the future," he said, according to a
statement prepared by the Pentagon.
After a year of often tense negotiations, the Pentagon last
week reached a deal with Lockheed to buy a fifth batch of 32
additional F-35 fighters, a deal valued at $3.8 billion.
The Pentagon is negotiating a separate agreement with engine
maker Pratt & Whitney, a unit of United Technologies Corp
, to supply engines for that fifth batch of planes.
The program has reached other milestones in recent months,
including surpassing 5,000 flight hours and creation of the
first operational squadron of F-35s at a Marine Corps air base
On Wednesday, Naval Air Systems Command announced that the
Marine Corps version of the plane - the F-35B - had test dropped
a GBU-12 Paveway II laser-guided bomb, the second successful
weapons drop for the B model and the fourth for the program
The Air Force is also poised to approve the start of full
training efforts at Eglin Air Force Base in Florida, after
completion of an operational utility evaluation last month. The
decision could be announced soon, an Air Force spokesman said.
Lockheed is developing three different variants of the F-35
for the U.S. military and eight countries that are helping fund
the development: Britain, Italy, Turkey, Norway, Australia,
Canada, Denmark and the Netherlands. Together, these countries
plan to buy more than 3,100 fighters in coming decades.
Israel and Japan have also ordered the new fighter jet while
South Korea is weighing competing bids from Lockheed's F-35 and
Boeing Co's F-15 fighter.