Mrt 15 2011

Testimony US-GAO’s Michael Sullivan: JSF progress still lagging

Gepubliceerd door JSFNieuws.nl om 19:50 onder Ontwikkeling JSF

On Tuesday March 15, 2011 at 11:30 a.m. EST a hearing started of the Subcommittee of the Armed Forces of the U.S. House of Representatives about the US Navy and US Marine Corps, and Air Force Tactical Aviation Programs. Main subject was the progress and funding of the Joint Strike Fighter program.

Key note speaker was Mr. Michael J. Sullivan, Director for Acquisition and Sourcing of the U.S. Government Accountability Office about his findings in the F-35 program.

Statement of Michael Sullivan, US-GAO about Joint Strike Fighter

In a written statement, supporting his testimony, Michael Sullivan provided the members of the Committee on Armed Services of the US House of Representative with a clear overview of the current status of the F-35 Program.

Read the full statement “Joint Strike Fighter - Restructuring Should Improve Outcomes, but Progress Is Still Lagging Overall”, download with this link US GAO-11-450T Joint Strike Fighter; 15-mar-2011″,

Summary What US GAO Found

DOD continues to restructure the JSF program, taking positive, substantial actions that should lead to more achievable and predictable outcomes. Restructuring has consequences—higher up-front development costs, fewer aircraft bought in the near term, training delays, and extended times for testing and delivering capabilities to warfighters. (1) Total development funding is now estimated at $56.4 billion to complete in 2018, a 26 percent cost increase and a 5-year schedule slip from the current baseline.
(2) DOD also reduced near-term procurement quantities by 246 aircraft through 2016, but has not calculated the net effects of restructuring on total procurement costs nor approved a new baseline. Full-rate production moved to 2018, 5-year delayed.
(3) Affordability for the U.S. and partners is challenged by a near doubling in average unit prices since program start and higher estimated life-cycle costs. Going forward, the JSF requires unprecedented funding levels in a period of more austere defense budgets.
(4) The program had mixed success in 2010, achieving 6 of 12 major goals and progressing in varying degrees on the rest. Successes included the first flight of the carrier variant, award of a fixed-price aircraft procurement contract, and an accelerated pace in development flight tests that accomplished three times as many flights in 2010 as the previous 3 years combined.
(5) However, the program did not deliver as many aircraft to test and training sites as planned and made only a partial release of software capabilities.
(6) The short takeoff and landing (STOVL) variant had significant technical problems and deficient flight test performance. DOD directed a 2-year period to evaluate and engineer STOVL solutions.
(7) After more than 9 years in development and 4 in production, the JSF program has not fully demonstrated that the aircraft design is stable, manufacturing processes are mature, and the system is reliable. Engineering drawings are still being released to the manufacturing floor and design changes continue at higher rates than desired. More changes are expected as testing accelerates.
(8) Test and production aircraft cost more and are taking longer to deliver than expected. Manufacturers are improving operations and implemented 8 of 20 recommendations from an expert panel, but have not yet demonstrated a capacity to efficiently produce at higher production rates. Substantial improvements in factory throughput and the global supply chain are needed.
(9) Development testing is still early in demonstrating that aircraft will work as intended and meet warfighter requirements. About 4 percent of JSF capabilities have been completely verified by flight tests, lab results, or both. Only 3 of the extensive network of 32 ground test labs and simulation models are fully accredited to ensure the fidelity of results. Software development—essential for achieving about 80 percent of the JSF functionality—is significantly behind schedule as it enters its most challenging phase.

Continuous stream of design changes

In a program where testing was supposed to be “verifying what is already known” there is a remarkable stream of design changes. Adding risc, costs and problems in the global supply chain. Read the GAO testimony, page 8:
Specifically, the program has not yet stabilized aircraft designs—engineering changes continue at higher than expected rates long after critical design reviews and well into procurement, and more changes are expected as testing accelerates. Also, manufacturing cost increases and delays in delivering test and production aircraft indicate need for substantial improvements in factory throughput and performance of the global supply chain.
Program Has Still Not Fully Demonstrated a Stable Design and Mature Manufacturing Processes as It Enters Its Fifth Year of Production.

Engineering drawings released since design review and the number and rate of design changes exceed those planned at program outset and are not in line with best practices. Critical design reviews were completed on the three aircraft variants in 2006 and 2007 and the designs declared mature, but the program continues to experience numerous changes. Since 2007, the program has produced 20,000 additional engineering drawings, a 50-percent increase in total drawings and about five times more than best practices suggest. In addition, changes to drawings have not yet decreased and leveled off as planned.

The Program now anticipates 10.000 more design changes in 2013 than anticipated in 2007. This will have costly consequences in a program with so many aircraft in early production. With a major risk, there will be more of the same:
With most of development testing still ahead for the JSF, the risk and impact from required design changes are significant. In addition, emerging concerns about the STOVL lift fan and drive shaft, fatigue cracks in a ground test article, and stealth-related issues may drive additional and substantive design changes.

Especially the last remark about “stealth-related issues” and “substantive” design changes needs attention.

The absence of fully accredited labs

Page 13 describes how the JSF test program relies much more heavily than previous weapon systems on its modeling and simulation labs to test and verify aircraft design and subsystem performance. But only 3 of 32 labs and models have been fully accredited to date. One of the arguments in the JSF program was that “the program was unique by its use of ground labs and flying labs, like the well-known CATbird. Accreditation is essential to validate that the models accurately reflect aircraft performance.

Software growing bottle-neck

Software is a rapidly growing concern: Software providing essential JSF capability is not mature and releases the test program are behind schedule. Officials underestimated the time and effort needed to develop and integrate the software, substantially contributing to the program’s overall cost and schedule problems atesting delays, and requiring the retention of engineers for longer periodsSignificant learning and development work remains before the programcan demonstrate the mature software capabilities needed to meet warfighter requirements. The JSF software development effort is one of the largest and most complex in DOD history, providing functionality essential to capabilities such as sensor fusion, weapons and fire control, maintenance diagnostics, and propulsion. JSF depends on millions more lines of software code than the F-22A Raptor and F/A-18E/F Super Hornet.
Good progress has been reported, however: Delays in developing, integrating, and releasing software to the teprogram have cascading effects hampering flight tests, training, anaccreditation. While progress is being made, a substantial amount of software work remains before the program can demonstrate full warfighting capability. The program released its second block, or increment, to flight test nearly 2 years later than the plan set in 2006, largely due to integration problems.

Software Delivery to Flight Test Slips:

Block 0.1 Flight Sciences: Planned 2006; delivery 2007.
Block 0.5 Initial Mission: Planned 2008; delivery early 2010.
Block 1.0 Initial Training: Planned 2008; delivery early 2012.
Block 2.0 Initial Warfighting: Planned early 2010; estimated early 2014.
Block 3.0 Full capability: Planned mid-2011; estimated mid-2015.

Some capabilities has been moved to “future” blocks to make the currently planned blocks “lighter”. In normal speak: less features for more money and years later. Countries supposing to get certain necessary operational capabilities in Block 3 will receive them in Block 4 or Block 5; in 2018 or 2010; and paying “sustainment and upgrade” contracts to pay for it.

Concluding Remarks

Michael Sullivan ends his testimony with these concluding remarks:
The JSF program is at a critical juncture—9 years in development and 4 years in limited production–but still early in flight testing to verify aircraft design and performance. If effectively implemented and sustainethe restructuring DOD is conducting should place the JSF program on a firmer footing and lead to more achievable and predictable outcomes. However, restructuring comes with a price—higher development costs,fewer aircraft received in the near term, training delays, prolonged times for testing and delivering the capabilities required by the warfighter, and impacts on other defense programs and priorities. Reducing near-term procurement quantities lessens, but does not eliminate the still substantial and risky concurrency of development and production. Development and testing activities will now overlap 11 years of procurement. Flight testing and production activities are increasing and contractors are improving supply and manufacturing processes, but deliveries are still lagging.

Source:
US GAO, Michael Sullivan; testimony 15-mar-2011 US House of Representatives.

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