When U.S. Marine Corps Commandant Gen. Jim Amos took command in 2011 the career pilot said the services needed to "reclaim ownership" over major acquisition programs. The first on his list was the F-35B Joint Strike Fighter.
Amos set a goal to meet with the F-35 Joint Program Office every month to check on its status at a time when the program was mired in test delays and rising costs.
A year later, Amos said he's taken a relative step back from the program only meeting with the program office on a quarterly basis now that he's spun up on its progress. He's not any less concerned about the F-35's success, but Amos said he doesn't need monthly briefings since he understands the program's metrics. The four-star has them posted behind his desk.
"Last year I felt like I had to be more hands on, and on things like decisions in regards to if there is any trade space here in how the airplane is being developed," Amos said. "Are there any decisions I can make right now which will ease the burden on the airplane as it's going through."
Amos highlighted his focus on the F-35B's weight this past year. In May 2011, Amos said "you can't put a pound of weight on that program that I don't know about." He proudly pointed to the aircraft's decrease in weight over the past year.
"We only had less than 140 pounds of margin between the max weight the airplane could be and come back and do a vertical landing in the worst conditions," Amos said. "We are sitting at well over 300 pounds now. You do that a pound at a time. So I've been tracking that like a bird dog."
Keeping a close eye on the test flight schedule, Amos has taken notice of the ground Lockheed Martin has made up this past year in the flight schedules. A F-35B released a weapon in flight for the first time on Aug. 8 when it dropped a 1,000-pound GBU-32 Joint Direct Attack Munition (JDAM) over the Atlantic Ocean flying 400 knots at 4,200 feet after taking off from Naval Air Station Patuxent River, Md.
Amos did not address the June report from the Government Accountability Office that found the F-35 program's baseline acquisition costs have grown to $395.7 billion, an increase of $117.2 billion, or 42 percent since 2007.
"I think the airplane is progressing well. Looking at all the test flights, the points and where it's supposed to be and where it's supposed to be as it relates to projections. We're either on, or ahead of schedule. It's really, really doing well," Amos said.