Military Hopes Airshows Help Boost F-35 Image


The military will put F-35 Lightning II fighters on a series of summer airshow tours this year in an effort to gain some good publicity for the jet program, which has been saddled with budget and technical problems. The Air Force Heritage Flight Foundation will display the fighter during its show season, starting with Luke Air Force Base’s event taking place in Arizona this weekend. The Marine Corps will take its version of the F-35 to the U.K. for the first time to take part in the Royal International Air Tattoo and Farnborough International Air Show in July.

Fortune’s recent report on what it called “a $400 billion image problem” notes that the F-35 was originally scheduled to appear at Farnborough in 2014, but an engine fire grounded the jet amid a series of engine and operational troubles. An Air Force official told a House subcommittee last week the jet has a “perception problem,” Fortune reported. “The public perception and the reality are so different,” said Lt. Gen. Christopher Bogdan, the Pentagon’s F-35 program manager. “Getting out there and telling the story is part of what we need to continue to do.” International media have also been critical of the F-35 program as governments abroad are among its customers. An Australian news outlet reported that a military think tank used the term “Ponzi scheme” in telling lawmakers to reconsider plans to take delivery of up to 72 of the fighters by 2023 for $17 billion.