Wednesday, March 21, 2007

F-35: catching LCS disease?

The U.S. Government Accountability Office on Thursday recommended that the Pentagon limit production of costly F-35 Joint Strike Fighters to 24 annually in the near-term until the jet's capabilities have been demonstrated in flight testing.

Lockheed Martin Corp. is the prime contractor for the supersonic, radar-evading jet being developed by the United States and eight international partners.

"We are recommending that the Secretary of Defense limit annual production quantities to no more than 24 aircraft per year, the current manufacturing capacity, until each variant's basic flying qualities have been demonstrated in flight testing now scheduled in the 2010 time frame," the report said.
Smart move by the GAO. We are talking LMT.

That being said, I believe the F-35 is a much more mature program than LCS - in a variety of ways. There will be the expected cost over-runs and problems - but I think this program will be inside "norms," however, the report does give me pause.

You can read the full report
here. This is the money quote.
Accurately predicting JSF costs and schedule and ensuring sufficient funding will likely be key challenges facing the program in the future. JSF continues to pursue a risky acquisition strategy that concurrently develops and produces aircraft. While some concurrency may be beneficial to efficiently transition from development to production, the degree of overlap is significant on this program. Any changes in design and manufacturing that require modifications to delivered aircraft or to tooling and manufacturing processes would result in increased costs and delays in getting capabilities to the warfighter.
While we are talking about the F-35, can I vent again? Did you know the USN and USMC versions (F-35B/C) do NOT have an internal gun? At least the USAF remembers the lessons of Vietnam and the F-4. Heck, the Boys in Blue only have to have a short term memory for that. The 20mm cannon on our fighters is proving, again, to be critical in counterinsurgency, CAS, and minimal collateral damage strikes. Read all about it.

No comments: