The Inside Story of the F-35 Lightning II

20 February 2024
12:00 PM – 1:00 PM AEDT

Charles (Tom) Burbage
Captain, USNR, Ret; Lockheed Martin F-35 Executive VP, Ret. 

Dr Elizabeth (Betsy) Clark
Director, Independent Project Review Institute (IPRI)

Adrian Pitman
Senior Associate, Independent Project Review Institute (IPRI)

This webinar will discuss the development and fielding of the F-35 Lightning II as described in the recently published book by the presenters on the F-35.  The F-35 Joint Strike Fighter is dominant in the world today and, based on its upgradeability, that dominance will continue for decades. Virtually everything about the aircraft – the engine, its stealth, data integration, low observability, ejection seat, flexibility, and ease of flying – takes technology to a new high.  The F-35B variant is the first production aircraft in the world that can fly supersonic and land vertically, greatly enhancing deployment capability.

Little known to the general public is the fact that the F-35 is flying not only with the US Navy, Marines and Air Force but will eventually be flying with at least 18 allied nations that have placed orders.  Australia declared Initial Operational Capability (IOC) in December 2020 and is nearing Full Operational Capability with 72 aircraft.

This outstanding multi-role aircraft with its three variants replaces multiple aging aircraft.  While costing billions to develop and field, the reality is that the scope of the planned production run (until the 2050s) and other innovations and partnerships will drive the unit cost down tremendously.  Also, the more F-35 aircraft that are built and operated, the greater the savings on training and logistics compared to the existing multiple aircraft types.  The US and our allies are experiencing more interoperability than we ever before dreamed was possible.

The webinar will discuss several major challenges that were met by the program as well as Australia’s important role as a partner in development and as a supplier to the program.

About the presenters

Tom Burbage retired from the Lockheed Martin Corporation in April 2013. He began his industry career with the then Lockheed Corporation in 1980 working a number of Navy programs, including the P-3 Orion and S-3 Viking. In December 1987, he was appointed Vice President for Washington Operations for all Lockheed Aeronautics programs. In 1992 he was named Vice President for Business Development and Product Support and in 1995 he became the Vice President and General Manager for the F-22 Raptor Air Dominance Fighter Program. In 1999, he was named President of the Lockheed Martin Aeronautical Systems Company in Marietta, Ga., and led the restructuring and downsizing of that company prior to the Lockheed Martin Aeronautics consolidation in January 2000. In November 2000, he was named Executive Vice President and General Manager of the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter Program, leading the Concept Demonstration Phase and Lockheed Martin’s competitive selection as the Prime Contractor in October of 2001. The F-35 is the first tri service, multinational program and is generally regarded as the largest program in the US Department of Defense. In this capacity, he led the development of global industrial participation for the nine-nation partnership and the integration of technical requirements for the international coalition.

Mr. Burbage is a principal in the consulting firm Global Alliance Advisors, LLC.

Mr. Burbage currently serves as the Chairman of the Board of Directors for Terma North America and the Chairman of the Board of Directors for Chemring North America and is also a member of the Board of Directors for AeroVironment, Inc. He is a strategic advisor to the Board of Directors for Kale Aerospace in Istanbul, Turkey and a member of the Strategic Advisory Board for TCOM, LLP.

Elizabeth (Betsy) Clark has spent much of her 40-year career studying successful projects and programs and assisting projects in trouble.  Betsy’s career began in 1979 after earning her doctorate in cognitive psychology.  She joined General Electric in Arlington, Virginia where she conducted controlled experiments with computer programmers in order to understand the mental processes involved in programming.  During that time, she was featured in GE’s Annual Report to Stockholders.   Betsy founded Software Metrics Inc in 1982, a Virginia-based consulting company specializing in software cost and schedule estimation and in working with organisations and projects to establish effective measures to track progress, determine objective status, and provide early warning of problems.

Betsy has spent the past 35 years studying large, complex system development projects.  She has reviewed countless defence projects in the US and Australia and well as projects within the Federal Aviation Administration and US Customs and Border Protection.  Betsy is valued for her ability to accurately identify strengths and areas needing improvements and to predict software milestone completion dates.  Her schedule projections for delivery of the software for the world’s largest defence program, the F-35, were credited by the F-35 Program Executive Officer, Lt. Gen. Chris Bogdan, as being the most accurate of the many estimates generated by multiple organisations.

Adrian Pitman was Director of Acquisition Engineering Improvement in the Australian Defence Materiel Organization (DMO) when he was tasked in 2011 to lead an independent Australian assessment of the F-35 Program prior to Australia formally committing to buy the first 14 of 100 F-35 aircraft. He subsequently conducted a further seven reviews to monitor Program performance.

Adrian served in the Royal Australian Air Force for twenty years followed by thirty-five years of service as a Senior Technical Officer and Technical Director in Australian Department of Defence.  This included seven Years with the RAN Directorate of Aircraft Engineering followed by twenty-eight years in the Defence Acquisition and the Defence Materiel Organisations.  During his career, Adrian has worked and been associated with five generations of British, French and US fighter aircraft operated by the Royal Australian Air Force. He is now a Senior Associate with the Independent Project Review Institute (IPRI).


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