JSF development will cost more and take longer than reported to the Congress last year, and DOD wants to accelerate procurement. Two recent estimates project additional costs ranging from $2.4 billion to $7.4 billion and 1 to 3 more years to complete development.
Despite cost and schedule troubles, DOD wants to accelerate JSF procurement by 169 aircraft from fiscal years 2010 through 2015; this could require up to $33.4 billion in additional procurement funding for those 6 years. DOD plans to procure hundreds of aircraft on cost-reimbursement contracts, magnifying the financial risk to the government.
Ongoing manufacturing inefficiencies and parts problems have significantly delayed the delivery of test assets. The prime contractor has extended manufacturing schedules three times and delivered 2 of 13 test aircraft. The program is still recovering from earlier problems that resulted in design changes, late parts deliveries, and inefficient manufacturing. The contractor is taking positive steps to improve operations, the supplier base, and schedule management. Schedule risk analyses could further enhance management insight into problem areas and inform corrective actions.
Officials expect to deliver all test aircraft and fix many problems by 2010. By then, DOD plans to have purchased 62 operational aircraft and will be ramping up procurement. Procuring large numbers of production jets while still working to deliver test jets and mature manufacturing processes does not seem prudent, and looming plans to accelerate procurement will be difficult to achieve cost effectively.
DOD’s revised test plan adds a year to the schedule, better aligns resources and availability dates, and lessens the overlap between development and operational testing, but it still allows little time for error discovery and rework. DOD’s decision late in 2007 to reduce test aircraft and flight tests adds to risks while any additional delays in delivering test aircraft will further compress the schedule.
The revised plan relies on state-of-the-art simulation labs, a flying test bed, and desk studies to verify nearly 83 percent of JSF capabilities. Only 17 percent is to be verified through flight testing. Despite advances, the ability to so extensively substitute for flight testing has not yet been demonstrated.
Significant overlap of development, test, and procurement results in DOD making substantial investments before flight testing proves that the JSF will perform as expected.
Under the accelerated procurement plan, DOD may procure 360 aircraft costing an estimated $57 billion before completing development flight testing.
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