Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Carter To Review Rescoped JSF Development

Officials at the Joint Strike Fighter Joint Program Office are preparing
to present a series of briefings to the Defense Acquisition Board (DAB)
led by Ashton Carter in the coming weeks.
The outcome and decisions made by Carter, the Pentagon's acquisition
chief, will establish the new procurement baseline for the $380 billion,
single-engine, stealthy fighter program. Carter's issuance of a
memorandum following the DAB meeting next week will trigger a series of
activities crucial to moving the multinational program forward, Vice
Adm. David Venlet, program executive officer for JSF, tells Aviation Week.
The DAB will be asked to approve a new path for development, or
Milestone B in Pentagon parlance. The development phase had previously
been approved for the F-35 but was revoked last year when the program
declared a massive breach of its original cost estimate. Though already
in production – the Pentagon is under contract for four
low-rate-initial-production (LRIP) lots – the reissuing of the
development plan is crucial to continuing the program.
One new item being briefed to the forthcoming DAB will be the path
forward on the JSF's helmet system. The selected design, which is built
by Vision Systems International (VSI), will continue despite problems
with jitter and complications with the night-vision capability. However,
in parallel, Lockheed Martin is assessing alternatives to the VSI
option. Venlet says the alternate designs will not involve the
installation of a head-up display, though they may not offer as
"elegant" a helmet-mounted display as VSI.
Once Carter codifies a new acquisition program baseline, the Pentagon
will set forth on crafting a new selected acquisition report (SAR) for
Congress. This SAR will outline detailed, up-to-date cost data for
lawmakers and will likely be a reference for international partners
looking to buy the aircraft.
Though an F-35 SAR was issued last month to Congress along with those
for other major procurement programs, that document lacked the most
recent cost information, according to program officials.
Meanwhile, an in-depth "should-cost" review of the production effort is
under way in advance of negotiations with prime contractor Lockheed
Martin for LRIP Lot V. The LRIP V deal should be solidified by late
fall, Venlet says. The cost review is partly necessary because the
Pentagon expects to have less than 30% of the actual cost data in for
LRIP IV production at that point.
Also upcoming is a renegotiation of the development contract for JSF;
the new contract will include the added testing that was identified in
last year's massive technical baseline review. Development is now
estimated to cost $51 billion.

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