Editor’s Note: Lieutenant General Christopher Bogdan is the head of the F-35 Joint Program Office. Better than anyone else, he knows and understands all of the challenges the program has faced–and continues to. Arguably the biggest takeaway for industry is this one: when it comes time to build the next generation of air dominance, do not build the same airframe for all three services. And definitely, above all else, make sure it goes better than this one has.

Perhaps the only thing U.S. military leaders know about their next fighter jet is this: they want the program to go better than the F-35’s did.

The sixth-generation fighter effort is still in its infancy; the aircraft it produces may not fly for decades. The Pentagon hasn’t even decided whether to build separate planes for the Navy and Air Force. But the services’ leaders are already cooperating to figure out how the futuristic fighter will fit into the battlefield of the future — and how they can avoid another tactical aircraft program that winds up so late, over budget, and short of its goals.

Ask the F-35 program’s current director for advice, and you’ll get this gentle warning: joint programs are hard.

Bogdan To Industry: Let's Do Better Next Time
All three variants of the F-35 Lightning II flying over the Eglin Air Force Base Complex in 2014. (U.S. Air Force Photo)

“I’m not saying they’re bad. I’m not saying they’re good. I’m just saying they’re hard,” Air Force Lt. Gen. Christopher Bogdan said Thursday. “You ought to think really hard about what you really need out of the sixth-generation fighter and how much overlap is there between what the Navy and the Air Force really need.”

When the F-35 was conceived in the 1990s, the goal was to buy a common plane for the Air Force, Navy, Marine Corps, and even America’s allies. The Air Force version would fly from traditional runways, the Navy version would operate from aircraft carriers, and the Marine version would be built to take off from short runways and land vertically. The goal was to have all three have 70 percent of their parts in common, which was meant to save billions of dollars in development and logistics costs.

The original article can be viewed in its entirety at Defense One right here.

(Featured photo courtesy of U.S. Air Force photo/Jim Varhegyi)