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F-35 Joint Strike Fighter (JSF) Lightning II Program


In a statement on "Department Budget and Efficiencies" on January 06, 2011, Secretary of Defense Robert M. Gates said "The Joint Strike Fighter program received special scrutiny given its substantial cost, ongoing development issues, and its central place in the future of U.S. military aviation. In short, two of the JSF variants, the Air Force version and the Navy's carrier based version, are proceeding satisfactorily. By comparison, the Marine Corps' short take-off and vertical landing variant is experiencing significant testing problems. These issues may lead to a redesign of the aircraft's structure and propulsion - changes that could add yet more weight and more cost to an aircraft that has little capacity to absorb more of either. As a result, I am placing the STOVL variant on the equivalent of a two-year probation. If we cannot fix this variant during this time frame and get it back on track in terms of performance, cost and schedule, then I believe it should be cancelled. We will also move the development of the Marine variant to the back of the overall JSF production sequence. And to fill the gap created from the slip in the JSF production schedule, we will buy more Navy F/A-18s."

The Department of Defense released a Joint Strike Fighter Fact Sheet on the same day. It stated that the Secretary of Defense Gates' program decisions regarding JSF were made on the basis of a Technical Baseline Review (TBR), the most thorough and in depth review of the JSF program in years, conducted by the new JSF Program Executive Officer, VADM Dave Venlet, at the direction of Undersecretary of Defense (AT&L) Ashton Carter after the 2010 Nunn-McCurdy breach. The TBR involved 120 technical experts reviewing every detail of the program over a period of months, supported by the full strength of the Departments of Navy and Air Force expertise in tactical aircraft. Secretary Gates' direction for the JSF program was also included.

With regards to the development and test program (System Design and Development or SDD) the Secretary of Defense directed that the JSF program decouple testing of the Short Take-Off/Vertical Landing (STOVL) version (F-35B) from the Carrier Version (CV; F-35C) and Conventional Take-Off and Landing (CTOL; F-35A) version, so that all would proceed as rapidly as possible. This would also prevent the STOVL version from delaying the other variants. An additional $4.6 billion would be added to the SDD program through its completion in 2016, on top of the $9.2 billion to go already planned by the end of 2010, for a total to go SDD cost of $13.8 billion. Through FY11 approximately $37 billion had been spent on JSF SDD. Also, the schedule would be extended so that the SDD would end in early 2016 instead of mid-2015 as planned in the 2010 JET II Revised schedule. The extra SDD funding was needed because: (A) TBR found that additional testing would be needed that was not previously planned; and (B) cost estimates for previously planned testing were too low. All 3 services were to reassess their planned IOCs based on revised SDD schedule, but had not done so by January 2011.

The FY12 Defense Budget was to include funding for a US buy of 32 aircraft, approximately the same as in FY11. There were 2 reasons for holding JSF production at existing levels for another year: (A) the final assembly process at Fort Worth was still maturing; (B) slowing production reduced concurrency risk while development and testing were continuing. Beginning in FY13, production would be ramped up by a factor of 1.5 per year, in accordance with the recommendations of the Manufacturing Review Team (MRT). This was the ramp up that optimally balanced efficiency against concurrency risk. It was the fastest that DOD estimated in January 2011, based on the TBR, that future production could prudently be increased. The ramp, plus planned US buys, left adequate room for partner country orders and foreign military sales. Slowing production in the next few years would not have a significant effect on overall JSF unit costs in the future.

Within the US ramp up, the STOVL version would be put on "probation" by being held at a production rate of 6 per year in FY12 and FY13. The reason for probation was that the STOVL version was experiencing technical issues unique to that variant that would add to the aircraft's cost and weight. The probation period was 2 years because that was the time it was expected to take to engineer solutions to the issues and assess their impact. At the end of probation, an informed decision could be made about whether and how to proceed with the STOVL version. In the meantime, 6 per year was the minimum number required to ensure continuity in the engineering workforce involved in assembly of STOVL at Fort Worth without loss of learning, and to sustain the supplier base of STOVL version unique parts. For FY11, the production of the STOVL version would be scaled back to 3 aircraft, since 16 were funded in FY10 and these had still not been produced. To compensate for the production delays in JSF, the Department of the Navy would buy 41 more F/A-18s between FY12 and FY14.

CAPE estimated in January 2011, that the unit cost of JSF, averaged over variants, had almost doubled since the program began (from $50 million in FY02 dollars to $92 million). This cost growth was deemed unacceptable and the Department of Defense determined that it had to be reversed. A rigorous "should cost" effort was underway at that time between the JPO and the JSF contractors to reverse JSF cost growth. Some progress towards cost reduction was made in Low Rate Initial Production 4 (LRIP4), an FPIF contract with a target cost substantially lower than the CAPE ICE estimate and 50/50 share line. The TBR gave the Department of Defense the best basis it had had in years to plan and manage the JSF program.

In a speech to Surface Navy Association on 13 January 2011, Commandant of the Marine Corps General James F. Amos stated that "The F-35B STOVL JSF remains vital to our doctrine of conducting expeditionary operations. The capability inherent in a Short Take-Off and Vertical Landing jet facilitates our doctrinal form of maneuver warfare and our need for close air support in the many austere conditions and locations where we will likely operate in the future. When evaluating runways around the globe, there are 10 times as many 3,000-foot runways capable of handling the STOVL JSF variant as there are 8,000-foot runways required for conventional fighter aircraft. The Marine Corps maintains the organic ability to build an expeditionary 3,000-foot runway in a matter of days in support of STOVL missions conducted in uncertain, non-permissive or remote environments, which are the places where we expect to be employed. In light of the decision announced last week relative to the STOVL JSF, the Marine Corps is committed to working closely with industry during the next two years to get this platform back on track in terms of performance, cost and schedule. I am absolutely confident that this can be done. With a fully-fielded fleet of F35Bs, the Nation will maintain 22 capital ships-11 carrier and 11 amphibious assault-with 5th generation strike assets aboard."

On 2 November 2011, USAF Major General Jay Lindell told House Armed Services Committee's Subcommittee on Tactical Air and Land Forces that the USAF would declare the initial operating capability (IOC) for the F-35A based on achieving the required Operation Requirements Document-compliant capability and capacity criteria, and not on a specific date. Furthermore, the USAF was analyzing the impacts to program delivery timelines due to the most recent program restructure. The results of that analysis were expected to be available later in 2011, at which time the USAF would reevaluate its IOC estimate. As of June 2010, the estimated IOC date for the USAF's F-35A was some time in 2016. Major General Lindell suggested that the USAF was subsequently expecting the IOC estimate to be revised by the end of 2011 to be sometime in 2018.

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Page last modified: 09-03-2012 14:13:06 ZULU