WASHINGTON (AP) - Air Force Secretary Michael Donley said Tuesday that theservice's plan to use the Pentagon's marquee fighter jet, the F-35Joint Strike Fighter, will probably be delayed by two years andcost significantly more than initially expected.
Donley told reporters the F-35 isn't likely to be ready for theAir Force until 2015.
The jet had been scheduled to become initially operational in2013 before the Pentagon uncovered serious problems with thecontract. Last month, Defense Secretary Robert Gates announced thatat least one senior manager would be fired and $614 million inperformance bonuses would be withheld from lead contractor LockheedMartin Corporation.
"We remain fully committed to this program," Donley said.
But waiting until late in the 2015 budget year for the jet toreach a milestone known as initial operating capability is "thebest estimate today on where we'll be," he added.
The delay suggests the program's problems were perhaps deeperthan officials expected. When Gates discussed the program lastmonth, he said he thought the early production milestone wouldremain intact.
Donley said that when Gates made his remarks, the service wasstill working through detailed reviews of the program.
He said problems are being addressed. "We want to hold thecontractors' feet to the fire," he said. "We want to incentivizethem to make good on the promises they made earlier and deliver onschedule."
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