Wednesday, January 4, 2012

RBC downgrades Lockheed; think-tank pushes for more F-35 production Provided by iPolitics Staff

RBC Capital Markets downgraded Lockheed Martin over the possibility for future challenges related to the production of the F-35 fighter jet and further potential cuts to the program looming in the U.S.

Lockheed was downgraded to underperform, according to the Wall Street Journal’s Market Watch. RBC had “previously rated the military contractor at sector perform,” says the WSJ.

In a note to clients, RBC said it expects to see further pressure on the F-35 program in 2012.

The news comes a day after Aviation Week unearthed an August 2011 presentation by director of engineering Doug Ebersole, a new addition to the JSF team.

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Bill Sweetman notes Ebersole describes that his challenge in the role is to “transition engineering community of practice from one that ‘reviews and reports’ to one that ‘engages and influences.’”

Over at AOL Defense, Colin Clark hints — thanks to “one close observer of the program” — the move may “mark a fundamental shift in the program.”

Clark expands on that:

“Traditionally, the government monitors what a company does and then reports to senior defense officials and Congress as to what is happening and how well — or not — the program is doing. But these slides seem to indicate that the Joint Program Office will send people to Fort Worth, where the Lockheed Martin program is headquartered and where the planes are actually assembled, and engage in oversight and rapid intervention on the floor and in the design process.”

In other words, it might be a move to try to bring the program to heel. We’ll see.

Meanwhile Wednesday, the Heritage Foundation released a listof five necessary defense-related moves that it thinks the U.S. ought to make in 2012:

“Iran is rattling sabers. Iraq may be falling apart. In North Korea, one of the world’s most inexperienced and unpredictable leaders has his thumb on the country’s nuclear button. Talks with the Taliban look like an instant replay of the Paris peace negotiations with Hanoi. The Arab Spring has turned into a long winter of discontent. Now is not the time to be gutting defense.”

Given that, James Jay Carafano writes that “rather than slowing production of the F-35… the Pentagon ought to be ramping up production. It is time to reap the benefits of the $50 billion taxpayer investment in the program.”

At the same time, he says the Pentagon should “reopen the recently cancelled F-22 production,” given the two fighters were, he says, meant to operate together.

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