Roughead in the Offense

While the nation’s national security, diplomatic, and defense leadership has been in the beleaguered Middle East, one service chief is looking at his future fleet.

Chief of Naval Operations Adm. Gary Roughead swung by Fort Worth, Texas, July 28 for the big roll out of his most-favored aircraft, the F-35 (carrier variant, of course). The (contrived?) event marked the Navy’s Joint Strike Fighter shift from production to its test phase.

“The JSF will show the world that our sailors will never be in a fair fight because this airplane will top anything that comes its way,” said Roughead according to the Lockheed Martin release.  We think Gary may have been playing to the crowds as well as Lockheed suits. Nice quote, though.

Roughead has been a huge proponent of the new bird, explaining to lawmakers that the F-35 is what his Navy needs. It seems the CNO cannot get away quickly enough from the old-but-reliable F/A 18 Hornet in favor of the F-35, which also will be flown by the Air Force and the Marine Corps. (Our guess is the Corps doesn’t have much choice.)

Roughead, a surface line man, has come under attack over his push for the F-35 as his service’s fighter. Some question a Navy with just one type of fighter jet. There is concern a defect could ground the fleet. There is precedence: Defects have grounded other birds like the Navy’s now-retired retired A-6. (The cracks in the wings came after the Intruder had been naval workhorses for many years.)

In remarks by a service chief who wants what he wants, Roughead said this aircraft was absolutely needed on time, or there would be a gap in the number of aircraft deployed.  It has been some time since the Navy has had a major program running on time and on budget. On time for the F-35 is an operational aircraft by 2015 — a lot can happen in six years.

So why would ol’ Gary head to Fort Worth for an event that is more about Lockheed Martin than the Navy or its aircraft? Lockheed has been one of the major culprits in the defense budget busting culture. The littoral combat ship price tag ballooned from $220 million a copy to roughly $600 million. Lockheed also is behind the ridiculously expensive VH-71 presidential helicopter to nowhere

Adm. Gary Roughead strong-arming contractors? Was this a warranted warning shot over the bow?

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