Jun 19 2012

US GAO report about F-35: mixed performance, major concerns

Gepubliceerd door JSFNieuws.nl om 20:44 onder Aanschaf JSF

Canadian newspaper The Hill Times summarises the latest US GAO report (50 pages):. “U.S. government spending watchdog raises more red flags about F-35’s soaring costs, delays and major failures“.

This year’s issue of the US Government Accountability Office F-35 report contains a continued story of mostly negative news about the F-35 program, but some positive developments mentioned also.

Some quotes from the US GAO report (50 pages, PDF download here).


Development costs:
2001: US$ 34,4 billion and development length 10 years
2012: US$ 55,2 billion (plus 61%) and development length 16 years

Acquistion costs (unit cost estimates):
2001: US$ 81 million
2012: US$ 161 million (plus 99%, inflation corrected)

Initial Operational Capability (planning):
2001: planned 2010-2012
2012: to be decided, possibly in 2019 (7-9 years delay)

Test flights: 21% completed, and US GAO reports “the most challenging still lies ahead.” IOT&E of a fully integrated and capable JSF not possible before spring 2017.

First four production contracts show cost overruns of between 7.1% and 14.4%. On average US$ 11 million has to be paid for the first 63 aircraft under contract (including UK and Dutch jets).

Affordability Challenges ahead

Overall program affordability—both in terms of the investment costs to acquire the JSF and the continuing costs to operate and maintain it over the life-cycle—remains a major challenge. As shown in figure 4, the annual funding requirements average more than $12.5 billion through 2037 and average more than $15 billion annually in the 10-year period from fiscal years 2019 through 2028. The Air Force alone needs to budget from about $6 to $11 billion per year from fiscal year 2016 through 2037 for procurement of JSF aircraft. At the same time, the Air Force is committed to other big-dollar projects such as the KC-46 tanker and a new bomber program.

Cost growth since 2007: 42 percent

The new program baseline projects total acquisition costs of $395.7 billion, an increase of $117.2 billion (42 percent) from the prior 2007 baseline. Full rate production is now planned for 2019, a delay of 6 years from the 2007 baseline. Unit costs per aircraft have doubled since start of development in 2001. Critical dates for delivering warfighter requirements remain unsettled because of program uncertainties.”

Software main risk, and growing risk…….

As often reported already (since 2007) by JSFNieuws.nl the software is one of the main risks in the F-35 program. “
Overall performance in 2011 was mixed as the program achieved 6 of 11 important objectives. Developmental flight testing gained momentum and is now about 21 percent complete with the most challenging tasks still ahead. Performance of the short takeoff and vertical landing variant improved this year and its “probation” period to fix deficiencies was ended after 1 year with several fixes temporary and untested. Developing and integrating the more than 24 million lines of software code continues to be of concern. Late software releases and concurrent work on multiple software blocks have delayed testing and training. Development of critical mission systems providing core combat capabilities remains behind schedule and risky.”

Bad news for the industry

Amazing statistic about the program and the threatening lack of orders (and lower return on huge industrial investment in the whole global supply chain): “Since 2002, the total quantity through 2017 has been reduced by three-fourths, from 1.591 to 365.”

Development missions systems risky and far behind schedule

Development of critical mission systems providing core combat capabilities remains behind schedule and risky. To date, only 4 percent of the mission systems required for full capability have been verified. Deficiencies with the helmet mounted display, integral to mission systems functionality and concepts of operation, are most problematic. The autonomic logistics information system, integral technology for improving aircraft availability and lowering support
costs, is not fully developed
.

Acquistion malpractice: Concurrent development and production

Most of the instability in the program has been and continues to be the result of highly concurrent development, testing, and production activities. Cost overruns on the first four annual procurement contracts total more than $1 billion and aircraft deliveries are on average more than 1 year late…The manufacturing process is still absorbing higher than expected number of engineering changes resulting from flight testing, changes which are expected to persist at elevated levels into 2019, making it difficult to achieve efficient production rates. More design and manufacturing changes are expected as testing continues, bringing risks for more contract overruns and concurrency costs.

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