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More Reports of Bad News for the Joint Strike Fighter (JSF)

by: Matthew Potter
November 4, 2010

Category: Business Line, Companies, Congress, Countries, Department of Defense, development program, England, Events, Federal Budget Process, Holland, Lockheed Martin, Military Aviation, Norway, production program, Restructuring, Services, U.S. Air Force, U.S. Marine Corps, U.S. Navy | RSS 2.0

There are now reports that yet another review of the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter (JSF) schedule and cost is going to show more bad news for the advanced fighter and strike aircraft. The briefing to the Secretary of Defense Robert Gates is based on data gather from the current test program.

The program is facing further schedule delays and cost increases as their have arisen issues with the software and some of the aircraft’s engineering. This is not surprising as the whole point of the test and development phase is to find these kind of things and allow them to be fixed before sustained production of the aircraft begins.

Unfortunately these issues may add another five billion dollars and two to three years of development to the program. This will be on top of the restructuring of the program that has already happened over the last two years which increased the development time and increased the total program cost by billions. Criticism of the JSF has increased over that time as well as it becomes more expensive and is taking longer to complete and go into production. Congress threatened to not fund the 2011 production buy in total but ended up reducing it by half.

The United Kingdom as part of its Strategic Defense and Security Review (SDSR) is looking at reducing their commitment to the F-35 and perhaps abandoning the Vertical Take Off and Landing (VTOL) version that is also being procured for the U.S. Marine Corps. Norway and Holland have also discussed delaying the introduction of the aircraft — a delay they may have no choice but to accept now.

The JSF is a very complicated program. These further delays and cost growth will put pressure on the current Defense Department struggling to control spending and make it more efficient. If quantities are reduced or the VTOL version abandoned it will have a significant effect on the remaining parts. The delays in service also increases the length of the “fighter gap” meaning more money will be needed to keep the older aircraft flying or cause customers to look for other solutions.

Lockheed Martin (LMT) the company leading the program will see its bottom line affected even more. They have already lost fee due to the schedule problems and the new fixed price contract structure will mean that delays and cost growth may also impact revenues and earnings.

Further slips to the program are not what the Defense Department and Lockheed need.

Photo from WestendRaider’s flickr photostream.

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