Procurement: April 15, 2000

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The Pentagon is on the verge of changing its acquisition strategy for the Joint Strike Fighter. Under the plan (which has been expected for some time) one JSF design will be picked, but both contractors will build it, competing each year with the low-bidder getting more of the work. Records of similar programs in the past show that the idea produces excellent products but no real savings. Companies that win one year have to hire extra people, only to fire them the next year if they do not submit the low bid. The Air Force version of the JSF was expected to cost $28 million, but this is creeping up to $29 or $30 million due to software development costs. The Navy version, reinforced to land on carrier decks, is expected to cost as much as $38 million each. The vertical-take-off-and-landing Marine Corps (and British) version is a major technological challenge. The Marines want the aircraft to fly to the target, and then be able to fly home carrying two AMRAAM missiles and two JDAM bombs that were not used. Worse, once it gets home, the Marines want their plane to hover for five minutes (burning 250 pounds of fuel per minute) and then be able to taxi to a rearming area. All of this "bring back" capability adds weight quickly, and there are questions if the engines can deliver the required performance. --Stephen V Cole

 


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