F-35 Joint Strike Fighter (JSF): Events & Contracts 2007
The F-35 Lightning II is a major multinational program intended to produce an “affordably stealthy” multi-role strike fighter that will have three variants: the F-35A conventional version for the US Air Force et. al.; the F-35B Short Take-Off, Vertical Landing for the US Marines, British Royal Navy, et. al.; and the F-35C conventional carrier-launched version for the US Navy. The aircraft is named after Lockheed’s famous WW2 P-38 Lightning, and the Mach 2, stacked-engine English Electric (now BAE) Lightning jet. System development partners included The USA & Britain (Tier 1), Italy and the Netherlands (Tier 2), and Australia, Canada, Denmark, Norway and Turkey (Tier 3). Singapore and Israel are “Security Cooperation Partners.” Now the challenge is agreeing on production phase membership and arrangements, to be followed by initial purchase commitments around 2008-2009.
This article covers the $300 billion international program’s events, main contracts, and ancillary programs during FY/CY 2007. For more recent updates, see 2009-2010 JSF news and contracts.
The F-35 Lightning II is not one aircraft; it is several.
The USAF and most allied air forces plan to fly the F-35A CTOL (Conventional Take-Off and Landing) variant, which is considered the “base” F-35. For the most part, it will replace air force F-16s and F/A-18 A-D model Hornets around the world. It is also touted as an A-10 replacement, but many observers are less confident.
The US Marines, British Royal Navy, and nations with small carriers like Italy and Spain will fly the F-35B STOVL (Short Take-Off, Vertical Landing) variant. It adds a vertical lift fan, and makes tradeoffs in a number of other areas. It replaces the Harrier “jump jet” with a supersonic-capable, stealthy alternative that is more stable to land, and doesn’t attract heat-seeking missiles into the aircraft’s center body.
The US Navy is currently the only planned customer of the F-35C, which makes changes to the wing, tail, and landing gear in order to handle the stresses of carrier catapult launches, and the controlled crashes of carrier landings. It will replace the US Navy’s F/A-18 A-D model Hornets.
- See the most current sub-section: “The F-35 Family of Aircraft” for fuller details and graphics covering each F-35 model.
- For full treatment of the controversies regarding the F-35 family’s air-to-air combat capabilities, and the aircraft’s performance, see: “The F-35’s Air-to-Air Capability Controversy.”
- for fuller treatment re: the limits of unarmored fast jets in the close air support role, read “The Major’s Email: British Harrier Support in Afghanistan, Revisited.”
The first test aircraft, an F-35A model AA-1, had its formal rollout on July 7/06. The testing phase will continue until 2013; meanwhile, funding for the first two production-model aircraft was approved, parts fabrication is under way as of June 2007, and component assembly began later in 2007.
The JSF program is ‘tiered,’ with 4 possible levels of participation based on admission levels and funding commitments for the System Design & Development (SDD) phase. It also includes a large number of defense contractors around the world. Note that all SDD funding totals below are in US dollar equivalents:
- Tier 1 Partners: The USA (majority commitment), Britain ($2 billion)
- Tier 2 Partners: Italy ($1 billion); The Netherlands ($800 million)
- Tier 3 Partners: Australia ($150M), Canada ($150M), Denmark ($125M), Norway ($125M), Turkey ($175M)
- Security Cooperative Participants status: Israel ($35M), Singapore.
Read “F-35 Program: Production Timelines & Structure” for further details.
During CY 2006 and the first months of 2007, the JSF program saw 4 major developments. The first and most obvious was the formal rollout of the first test plane on July 7/06, and the bestowal of its official name “F-35 Lightning II”. The second was the set of production phase agreements with all of the program’s participants.
The other two developments may have passed unnoticed unless one was looking. For instance, it was revealed that the F-22A Raptor and F-35 Joint Strike Fighter (JSF) also excel in reconnaissance and electronic eavesdropping. The aircrafts’ combination of powerful phased array AESA radars, passive electromagnetic antennas and sensors embedded throughout their frames, powerful onboard computer processing, and secure high-bandwidth communications will give them capabilities once available only to dedicated electronic attack aircraft. DID has the full report.
Experiments also discovered that the F-35’s AN/APG-81 AESA radar may also be able to function as a secure, ultra-high bandwidth communications link with other AESA-equipped aircraft (thus far, only American aircraft use AESA radars), allowing much more shared information than Link-16 or other current options could handle.
In FY/CY 2007, developments related to the overall program and to international partner participation included…
Dec 18/07: Lockheed Martin holds the rollout ceremony for the first F-35B STOVL aircraft. An additional 6 development F-35Bs are now in production. In 2007, long-lead procurement funds for the first 6 production STOVL aircraft were authorized, with the first Marine Corps training jets planned for a 2011 delivery. Lockheed Martin release.
Dec 7/07: F-35A AA-1 resumes flight, while the modified 737 CATBird test aircraft takes off on one of its final test flights before aerial avionics testing begins in the F-35s themselves. Lockheed Martin release.
Dec 4/07: The F-35 was supposed to resume test flights today, but the mission is scrubbed. The Fort Worth Star-Telegram’s aerospace blog Sky Talk reports that “there was a problem discovered with one of the many sensors on board the aircraft.”
Dec 4/07: The Dutch Rekenkamer (Court of Audit) issues a follow-on report covering The Netherlands’ planned F-35 purchase. Uncertain costs remain an issue, as do software-related risks and insufficient project staffing by the MvD. “Dutch Rekenkamer Issues F-35 JSF Program Reports” has excerpts from and links to the 2006 and 2007 reports.
Dec 3/07: DID runs a guest article from Johan Boeder, “F-35 JSF Hit by Serious Design Problems“. The article examines a series of testing failures that have grounded the F-35 test fleet for several months, and resulted in serious redesign of critical components.
The article raises concerns re: both the issues involved (electrical, engine, software), and the program’s lack of transparency regarding these issues, which has raised political questions in the Netherlands.
Oct 30/07: The Dutch may have been the first to sign the production phase MoU, but they are keeping their options somewhat open. Pulling out of the F-35 program would be costly, but the country does have a clear set of ‘Plan B’ options if the F-35 doesn’t live up to their expectations or cost requirements. Reader David Vandenberghe sends in a translation of a written parliamentary Q&A document related to the Dutch MoD Budget:
“(number 25) concerning possible alternatives to the JSF. In Short there are 3 alternatives to the JSF for the Netherlands: The Rafale F4, Eurofighter tranche 3 and the Advanced F-16. The governmental cabinet has decided, during the formation talks [to form a new Dutch government], to present its conclusion to replace the F-16 to the parliamentary chamber in 2010. For that purpose a re-evaluation will be made of all possible alternatives to the F-16 replacement…from JSF to the three above mentioned.”
Of the 3, the Eurofighter’s $100+ million price tag rules it out as a cost substitute, though its superior air-air prowess could make it a capability substitute if the Netherlands decides that the F-35 can’t meet its needs. The French might be persuaded to cut an excellent deal on the 4+ generation Rafale due to that jet’s export failures, which might make it a cost substitute as well as a capability substitute if the F-35A’s price rises much over $55 million. The F-16 E/F Block 60 with the APG-80 AESA radar and built-in infrared tracking currently serves with the UAE, and is a clear cost substitute option at $40-50 million per aircraft.
Oct 25/07: The Jerusalem Post reports the Pentagon has agreed to supply the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter to Israel as early as 2012, which could make Israel the first nation after the USA to receive operational aircraft, instead of in 2014 or 2015 as planned. Previous objections to Israel’s installation of its own technology in the F-35 (as it has done with every US fighter it has received) were also reportedly overcome; at present, the only Israel technology in the standard version will be the JSF HMDS helmet mounted display system, designed in cooperation with Elbit Systems.
The agreement reportedly came in the wake of a Washington meeting between Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak and US Secretary of Defense Robert Gates, and may represent an attempt to deflect Israeli calls for an export version of the F-22A Raptor, which has more stealth and capability. “This plane can fly into downtown Tehran without anyone even knowing about it since it can’t be detected on radar” said an Israeli defense official. One hopes that the statement comes from someone who is not involved with the Air Force. For full coverage and links, read: “F-35s to Israel Early?”
July 30/07: Flight International reports that With its signing of the production, sustainment and follow-on development (PSFD) phase MoU, and US government approval to establish a final assembly and check-out (FACO) facility, Italy is set to capitalize on its commitments to Lockheed Martin’s F-35 by creating a regional support center at Cameri air base, near Novara, in the Piedmont region of north-west Italy. The facility will assemble aircraft for the Netherlands as well as Italy, and will be operated by Alenia under contract to Lockheed Martin. The Italian government will fund the facility, with construction and equipment provided almost totally by local companies and a decision on final approval and initial funding for the facility are expected in late 2007-early 2008.
“Italy is the second largest contributor partner after the UK in the PSFD phase with a $903 million investment, which will see $158 million in spending between 2007 and 2011 and a further $745 million between 2012 and 2046,” says undersecretary for defence Lorenzo Forcieri… Forcieri adds that a decision on aircraft acquisition is expected in 2010, so that F-35 deliveries can start by 2014.”
July 9/07: Australia’s cost per aircraft controversy returns like a recreational boomerang, as an article in Australia’s The Age Newspaper places the total per-aircraft cost at A$ 131 million in order bring each aircraft to full readiness for operational service. “Jets dearer than admitted” also explains the difference between “flyaway cost” to roll another aircraft out the door, and the “average procurement unit cost” which includes documentation, training, support systems and initial spares.
Australia’s DoD fires back with “JSF: Setting the Record Straight.” This release places the estimated average flyaway cost for Australia’s F-35As at about $A 80 million (currently USD$ 68.7M), and offers a “total project costs” figure of “around $A120 million” per aircraft. Note that A$ 80 million is still significantly higher than the USD $45-55 million (USD$ 55.0M currently = A$ 63.7M) Australian officials had quoted in response to previous questions.
See DID’s full, updated costing controversy coverage; including our note from official US documents that F-35As bought in 2013, which is when Australia wants to begin buying aircraft, would cost USD $108.8 million each as the flyaway cost.
July 9/07: Lockheed Martin and the Joint Strike Fighter program office have finalized the definition of the F-35’s Block 3 software. Software is a critical part of the F-35’s capabilities, and Block 3 is the production standard that the entire SDD(System Development & Demonstration) phase is aiming for.
The revised definition actually includes some enhancements, including a wide-area synthetic-aperture radar capability called “big SAR” in addition to the narrow field-of-view SAR modes that were already planned. Most IT projects of any stripe tend to see a lot of deletions just before production standard is reached; enhancements to planned capabilities are rather rare. Flight International report.
June 28/07: The US Congressional Research Service issues its report re: selling F-22EX aircraft to Japan (last revised: July 2/07). The report itself is completely non-committal – see “F-22 Raptors to Japan?” for full DID coverage of this issue. In a particularly interesting sidenote, however, the CRS report adds:
“A final industrial base issue pertains to the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter (JSF). Although originally intended to be complementary aircraft, F-22 and JSF capabilities, development, and production have converged. Implicitly if not explicitly, these aircraft are competing for scarce procurement funds. Extension of F-22 production would likely bring these aircraft into even sharper competition.”
June 18-22/07: The U.S. Navy’s F-35C Lightning II carrier variant completes its Critical Design Review (CDR), a prerequisite for the F-35C to move into Low Rate Initial Production. The review was conducted at Lockheed Martin in Fort Worth, TX; it involved officials from Naval Air Systems Command (NAVAIR), the Joint Strike Fighter Program Office, the F-35 international-participant nations and the F-35 contractor team. Terry Harrell, Lockheed Martin’s director of F-35 carrier variant development, said in the firm’s release that:
“We met our objectives for detailed design and performance while removing more than 200 pounds from the aircraft in the past seven months — a major accomplishment. Getting the design ready for this important milestone required tremendous teamwork among NAVAIR, the Joint Strike Fighter Program Office, Air Force Materiel Command’s Aeronautical Systems Center and the entire JSF contractor team.”
June 21/07: Jane’s Defence Weekly reports that the US Air Force (USAF) and Lockheed Martin officials in charge of the F-35 program are working on implementable budget and planning alternatives in case any partner country decides to drop out of the program and buy a different fighter during the final contract phase.
Any international program of this scope needs to have planning like this in hand. At least 3 countries are still weighing up formal offers of alternatives to the JSF, including Norway (JAS-39N Gripen+, Eurofighter), Denmark (JAS-39DK Gripen+), and Turkey (Eurofighter).
June 20/07: The influential, non-partisan Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments releases a report arguing that the F-35 family’s short range, even with fuel tanks added and long-range strike weapons fitted, creates major disadvantages in key areas of operation, especially in the Pacific theater. They argue that the USAF’s planned F-35 buy, “now seems neither affordable nor needed, and the U.S. buy can probably be reduced by as much as 50% without driving unit costs through the roof or abandoning close allies.” Reuters report via Canada’s Financial Post | Full CSBA Study [PDF format].
While the CSBA was not specific re: how to restructure the force, we recently covered another CSBA report that noted the shrinking reach of US carrier aircraft, even as anti-ship threats acquired longer reach and the USA headed toward a future with 11 carriers but only 10 active carrier squadrons. Their recommendation? More unmanned UCAVs for the US Navy, to extend its reach significantly and fill in the missing aircraft.
June 13/07: Italy and the Netherlands have already signed a joint operating agreement, according to which the Netherlands will to consider whether its JSF aircraft can be assembled in Italy, while Italy will examine the feasibility of maintaining its engines and other aircraft components in the Netherlands. At the 2007 European JSF partners’ meeting, Norway also joined this agreement.
The participating countries also agreed to a Dutch initiative to set up a database on which students from European JSF countries looking for internships and training periods will be able to find opportunities with manufacturers involved in the JSF program. The aviation students of 32 universities in Europe will be organised and linked through a project called Euroavia. Dutch MINDEF release [in Dutch] | defense-aerospace translation.
April 19/07: US Under Secretary of Defense (Acquisition, Technology, and Logistics) approves the release of full funding for 2 F-35A Conventional Take-Off and Landing Variant in Low-Rate Initial production (LRIP) Lot 1, and long lead funding for the 5 F-35A CTOL and 6 F-35B Short Take-Off and Vertical Landing variants in LRIP Lot 2.
As well as the first two LRIP aircraft in production, the end of 2007 will see another 20 test aircraft in production/assembly. See Australian DoD release.
April 9/07: The Pentagon releases its April 2007 Selected Acquisition Report, and the F-35 is one of the systems covered.
Overall, program costs rose 8.5% from $276.46 billion to $299.82 billion. The biggest culprit was the Pentagon’s decision to decrese the annual buys and stretch the production schedule end from FY 2027 – FY 2034 (+$11.2 billion); accompanying that is a support increase due to aircraft configuration update, revised procurement profile, and methodology changes (+$6.42 billion). Commodity price increases for key structural materials like titanium was also an issue (+$5.47 billion).
Beyond that, increases due to revised assumptions based on contractor LRIP(low rate initial production) I proposals and methodology (+$8.3 billion) were offset by revised assumptions for prime and subcontractor labor rates (-$3.58 billion) and subcontractor costs (-$5.2 billion). Whether these changes will even out during the LRIP(low rate initial production) batches of F-35s, which already come with a much higher price tag than later production sets, was not discussed.
April 2/07: The US Government Accountability Office releases report #GAO-07-415: “Tactical Aircraft: DOD Needs a Joint and Integrated Investment Strategy.” They are not optimistic re: current Pentagon plans for its future TacAir mix of F-22s, F-35s and F/A-18 Super Hornets.
March 22/07: The US military is trying to end the GE/Rolls Royce F136 engine program again in FY 2008, leaving Pratt & Whitney’s F135 as the only engine option for the aircraft (see Feb 10/07 entry). The US Government Accountability Office is asked to examine the issue, and releases report #GAO-07-656T: “Analysis of Costs for the Joint Strike Fighter Engine Program.” An excerpt:
“Continuing the alternate engine program for the Joint Strike Fighter would cost significantly more than a sole-source program but could, in the long run, reduce costs and bring other benefits. The current estimated life cycle cost for the JSF engine program under a sole-source scenario is $53.4 billion. To ensure competition by continuing to implement the JSF alternate engine program, an additional investment of $3.6 billion to $4.5 billion may be required. However, the associated competitive pressures from this strategy could result in savings equal to or exceeding that amount. The cost analysis we performed suggests that a savings of 10.3 to 12.3 percent would recoup that investment, and actual experience from past engine competitions suggests that it is reasonable to assume that competition on the JSF engine program could yield savings of at least that much. In addition, DOD-commissioned reports and other officials have said that nonfinancial benefits in terms of better engine performance and reliability, improved industrial base stability, and more responsive contractors are more likely outcomes under a competitive environment than under a sole-source strategy. DOD experience with other aircraft engine programs, including the F-16 fighter in the 1980s, has shown competitive pressures can generate financial benefits of up to 20 percent during the life cycle of an engine program and/or improved quality and other benefits. The potential for cost savings and performance improvements, along with the impact the engine program could have on the industrial base, underscores the importance and long-term implications of DOD decision making with regard to the final acquisition strategy solution.”
March 15/07: The US Government Accountability Office issues a report on the F-35 program, which is well-described by its title: “Joint Strike Fighter: Progress Made and Challenges Remain” (#GAO-07-360). The strategy of buying aircraft before testing is complete was flagged as especially risky. See DID coverage & links.
Feb 27/07: Denmark becomes the 9th and final partner nation to sign up, as Minister of Defense Soren Gade signs the F-35 Production and Sustainment and Follow-on Development Memorandum of Understanding in Copenhagen, Denmark. Denmark joined the JSF program in 1997, and was the first European nation to enter the program’s system design & development (SDD) phase in 2002. Danish companies have received SDD contracts for advanced composites, communications software, control-surface components, and weapons pylons. See Lockheed Martin release.
Feb 20/07: Controversy continues in Australia regarding the F-35, and has spread to include the 24 F-18 E/F Super Hornets the government is moving to buy as a stopgap until the F-35A arrives. See DID’s coverage: “Australian Air Power Controversy: F-35 and Super Hornets Under Fire.”
Feb 10/07: The option of interchangeable engines (P&W F100, GE F110) worked so well for the global F-16 and F-15 fleets that a similar approach became part of the F35 Lightning II program. In 2006, the Pentagon tried to cancel GE/Rolls Royce’s F136 engine to save development dollars. High-level British protests and congressional opposition followed, and $340 million was restored to the F136 engine in the FY 2007 budget. Now Inside Defense reports that the FY 2008 budget submission cut all F136 funding again… can the F136 get itself resurrected again? Read DID’s “The F136 Engine: More Lives Than Disco?” for more background.
Feb 8/07: F-35 Lightning II Faces Continued Dogfights in Norway. Endre Lunde chronicles developments in Norway, including endorsement of the rival JAS-39 Gripen by one of the governing coalition’s political parties, and criticisms re: the F-35’s fit for air patrol over Norway’s long, over-water exclusive economic zone.
Jan 31/07: Norway formally signs the Production Phase MoU. See also Jan 23/07 entry.
Jan 25/07: Turkey signs the MoU for the F-35’s production phase. Early estimates are that Turkey will want around 100 F-35As. During the session, Turkish Defense Minister Vecdi Gonul was asked about the Eurofighter (q.v. Nov 30/06 item). He replied that Turkey had decided to buy around 30 F-16 planes instead, a contract DID covered. Full story coverage at the above link.
Jan 23/07: Norway announces that it will participate in the F-35’s production phase. Norway’s Forsvardsdepartmentet has issued a release saying that Defence Minister Anne-Grete Strom-Erichsen has decided to sign the production phase agreement for the Joint Strike Fighter Program, owing to improvements in “industrial cooperation.” On the other hand, the release takes pains to note that Norway plans to sign agreements with the Gripen and Eurofighter teams as well. See full DID coverage.
Dec 15/06: Lockheed Martin’s release announces F-35 AA-1’s successful first test flight, and provides details. This flight begins a 12,000-hour flight-test program. Defense-Aerospace, meanwhile, quibbles that the flags on the aircraft were mistakenly arrange back-to-front, instead of front-to-back.
Dec 12/06: Britain formally signs the F-35 Production Phase MoU. See UK MoD Release.
Dec 11/06: Anglosphere up. Tier 3 Partner Australia formally signs the production phase MoU, at a Pentagon ceremony that Canada and Britain also attended.
Dec 11/06: Tier 3 partner Canada formally signs the production phase MoU, and estimates up to $7 billion in industrial opportunities. In the Production, Sustainment and Follow-on Development Phase of the F-35 program, Canada’s contribution is expected to exceed C$ 500 million (currently about $435 million) over 44 years. Thus far, 54 Canadian companies, universities and research institutions have won 154 contracts to date valued at approximately C$ 157 million (about $135 million).
While no commitment has been made yet re: replacing the current F-18 fleet with up to 80 F-35As, Canada is using its participation in the F-35 program to help define its future fighter requirements. See full DID coverage.
Nov 30/06: With Turkey’s Defense Industry Executive Committee convening on December 12, 2006 to discuss the F-35 Lightning II’s looming production MoU milestone (among other issues), Eurofighter officials said that the group has made Turkey an offer of its own for the estimated $10-12 billion fighter program. The consortium is offering Turkey “equal partnership with equal voting rights as other member nations” and a sliding scale of local work share depending on the number of fighters bought. The offer reportedly includes a $9 billion local work share with a 120 fighter buy, $6 billion with 80 aircraft, or $3.2 billion with a 40 aircraft purchase. See full DID coverage.
Nov 20/06: The GE/ Rolls-Royce F136 fighter engine team held a successful Preliminary Design Review (PDR), a three-month process led by the F-35 Program Office and Lockheed Martin and including Wright Patterson Air Force Base, the U.S. Air Force, the U.S. Navy, and defense officials representing the F-35 program’s international participants. The PDR assesses the progress to the F136 design and its unique hardware, as well as the strategy to move the engine into a production phase later this decade. The event is a key milestone in the F136’s $2.4 billion System Development and Demonstration (SDD) phase, launched in August 2005. The next major milestone is the Critical Design Review in late 2007. Thus far, GE says the F136 program is moving forward on-budget and on-schedule. See GE press release.
Nov 17/06: Inside the Navy reports that the Marine Corps wants to reverse course on a summer 2006 funding cut, in order to ensure the maiden flight of the short-takeoff variant takes place in FY 2008. Concerns about the F-35B vertical landing variant’s technical maturity had prompted the Marines and Navy to propose a 14-month delay, removing 35-72 aircraft from the FY 2008-2013 spending plan (see Aug 22/06 entry). What changed? A recent program analysis and evaluation said the technical and schedule risk were within acceptable margins. With renewed confidence in the schedule comes renewed eagerness to keep the F-35B on track. If funding can be found as the Office of the Secretary of Defense finishes its FY 2008 defense budget proposal and attendant six-year spending plan.
Nov 14/06: The Netherlands’ Secretary of Defense Cees Van der Knaap has signed the Production Sustainment & Follow On Development (PSFD) MoU in Washington D.C. together with his American counterpart, Deputy Secretary of Defense Gordon England. See the Ministerie Van Defensie release [Dutch], and the speech given during the signing ceremony [English]. With the help of our readers, DID also expands our coverage to include translations detailing the divergent Dutch political positions around the F-35 as their elections approach. Read “Dutch Sign F-35 Production MoU, But Political Challenges Remain.”
Nov 13/06: Aviation Week’s Aerospace Daily & Defense Report publishes “Rumsfeld’s Ouster, Dems’ Arrival Could Bring TACAIR Changes.” There are a number of predictions that the changes will involve more F-22As, followed by fewer F-35s and more F/A-18 Super Hornets.
Nov 10/06: Australian Defence Minister Dr. Brendan Nelson announced that the Australian Government has given First Pass approval for the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter. The minister plans to sign the JSF Production Sustainment and Follow-on Development (PSFD) Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) in December 2006, once final administrative arrangements are in place. The decision has been strongly criticized in Australia, with concerns centering around its air superiority during the period from 2010 (when its F-111s receive early retirement) to operational capability with the F-35s around 2015-2018. See full DID coverage, and note also Nov 1/06 and Oct 2/06 entries, below.
Nov 6/06: EDO Corporation announces a contract from Lockheed Martin for the fabrication of precision, advanced-composite structures for the F-35 Lightning II. The contract calls for the delivery of components for 14 aircraft, and is valued at $1.8 million with delivery scheduled to be completed by December 2008. In addition to composite structures, EDO is developing pneumatic weapons-release systems and advanced antennas for the F-35s. See EDO press release.
Nov 1/06: AVM Criss: Does Groupthink Power Australia’s JSF? Follow-on to DID’s updated Oct 2/06 article. Retired Australian Air Vice Marshal Peter Criss pens a guest article, and discusses both the JSF decision and what he contends is a larger problem of groupthink within Australia’s DoD.
Oct 31/06: News services in South Korea contend that they may be considering the F-35 Lightning II instead of their Phase 2 purchase of 20 F-15K Strike Eagles. DID looks into the reports, and concludes that the Lightning may fly in South Korean colors one day – but probably not as a 2007-2011 acquisition, given the program’s timelines as noted above and the cost of low-rate initial production F-35s.
Oct 19/06: DID’s article “Elec Tricks II: $9.7M for Further Research” is a follow-on to our earlier piece that cites the potential for the F-35’s AN/APG-81 AESA radar to act as a secure, high-bandwidth communications relay (see section introduction). It seems the concept is being taken seriously, and given additional funding.
Oct 13/06: Pratt & Whitney’s F135 jet engine has achieved Initial Flight Release from the F-35 Joint Program Office (JPO). This makes it eligible to power the F-35A flight test program, set to begin in late 2006.
Oct 11/06: The Dutch Court of Audit has issued its report on the F-35 project, covering subjects ranging from the auditing challenges on international programs to program cost and risks, to Dutch industrial participation. Its overall tone can be fairly described as cautionary, and it presents the F-35 as a risky investment. This could be significant given the November 22, 2006 elections, which are currently seen a a very close race for the current center-right coalition. DID has full coverage.
Oct 2/06: Recently-retired Australian Air Vice Marshal Peter Criss has puclicly broken ranks with Australia’s DoD, and advocates buying the F-22A Raptors for Australia instead of early-production F-35As. DID has the coverage – including a very in-depth submission to a Parliamentary Committee that supports Criss’ view and explains some of the thinking behind it. Follow-on additions include the position of the opposition Labour Party (buy F-22As initially, then consider the F-35 once it’s in full-rate production), and adds links to formal submissions for Australia’s DoD.
Note also our July 12/06 entry in this section; opposition in Australia is fueled in part by the country’s expected buy of early-production aircraft, whose cost could be over $100 million each.
Unless otherwise specified, contracts are issued by the US Naval Air Systems Command (NAVAIR) in Patuxent River, MD to Lockheed Martin Aeronautics Co. in Fort Worth, TX.
Dec 6/07: Northrop Grumman Corporation (NGC) announces that it has authorized Terma and Lystrup in Denmark, and Turkish Aerospace Industries, Inc. (TAI) in Ankara, Turkey, to begin fabricating subassemblies for the first 2 F-35 Lightning II production aircraft. Their composite components and aircraft access doors will be used in the F-35 center fuselage, which are produced at NGC’s F-35 assembly facility in Palmdale, CA
Janis Pamiljans, vice president and F-35 program manager for Northrop Grumman’s Integrated Systems sector, said that Terma and TAI will each serve as a 2nd source supplier during F-35 low rate initial production (LRIP), beginning with the initial phase (LRIP-1), which started in October 2007. A February 2007 letter of intent with TAI also makes the Turkish firm a second source for producing F-35 center fuselages; under that agreement, TAI will produce a minimum of 400 center fuselages, beginning in LRIP-2. NGC release.
Nov 28/07: Pratt & Whitney delivers the first F135 short-takeoff/vertical-landing (STOVL) propulsion system, including the Rolls-Royce Lift System, to Lockheed Martin in Fort Worth, Texas. The propulsion system will support airframe and engine interface evaluations for the first STOVL flight test aircraft, scheduled for its initial flight in May 2008.
The P&W release states that as of their release date, the F135 STOVL propulsion system “has accumulated over 1,700 STOVL hours and over 4,300 total run hours. Pratt & Whitney’s F135 engine has exceeded 8,500 system development and demonstration (SDD) ground test hours.”
Nov 21/07: A $13.8 million cost-plus-fixed-fee modification to a previously awarded cost-plus-incentive/award-fee contract (N00019-06-C-0291) to conduct pre-production manufacturing assistance and planning tasks to ensure sufficient subcontractor technical knowledge to support the F-35 II Lightening Joint Strike Fighter production ramp rate.
Work will be performed El Segundo, CA (72%); Fort Worth, TX (14%); and Preston, United Kingdom (14%) and is expected to be complete in November 2008.
Nov 15/07: The issue of how to give all F-35 recipients the same fighter, without compromising key American secrets, has always been a tough balancing act. Toward that end, Lockheed Martin Aeronautics Co. in Ft. Worth, TX received a $134.2 million modification to a previously awarded cost-plus-award-fee contract (N00019-02-C-3002) to continue the design, development, verification, and test of Joint Strike Fighter (JSF) Partner Version Air System development under the JSF Delta System Development and Demonstration Effort (Delta SDD). In English, they want to develop a version of the F-35 Lightning II that meets U.S. National Disclosure Policy, but keeps as much commonality as possible so it doesn’t create a second-class export aircraft – or the perception of same.
Stealth “low observable” technology is one good example of sensitive technology that comes under restrictions, and key features like wing edges and surface coatings are made in secure US facilities and added post-assembly. The decision on whether to release stealth technology is made by a high-level American group called the LO/Counter-LO Executive Commitee (LO/CLO-Excom). See also Aviation Week’s Ares: “My JSF Is Stealthier Than Yours, Or Is It?” Other highly sensitive areas include software code, which can be protected with lock-outs and tamper-proofing – but that runs up against the widely-expressed requirement of partner nations for “operational sovereignty” and modifiability. Tamper-proofing, plus APIs that serve as software “sockets” for other programs to plug into, may be the best solution. If the F-35’s core software hasn’t been designed like that from the outset, however, redesigns that maintain security while enabling the right APIs can be expensive.
Work will be performed in Fort Worth, TX (68%), Orlando, FL (24%), and El Segundo, CA (8%), and is expected to be completed in October 2013. Contract funds will not expire at the end of the current fiscal year. The Naval Air Systems Command, Patuxent River, MD issued the contract, which is a follow-on to a $602.6 million contract issued on Nov 10/03. Time will tell how successful the Delta SDD effort will be.
Nov 12/07: BAE Systems announces that electrical power has been applied on schedule to the first production F-35B Short Take-Off and Vertical Landing (STOVL), initiating a series of ground tests of the aircraft’s circuits, electronic components and wiring that will lead to the inaugural flight of the STOVL aircraft in spring 2008. BAE System’s employees from Warton and Samlesbury, UK, who are currently based at programme partner Lockheed Martin’s plant in Fort Worth, TX, represented the company at a special ceremony to mark the ‘power on’ milestone. Maj. Gen. C.R. Davis, F-35 program executive officer, was also present at the event and commented:
“Power-on is one of the major milestones in the life of the STOVL aircraft and we have eagerly anticipated it for some time. The F-35 has the most complex electrical system of any fighter to date. We had great success with the first jet we flew, but that jet taught us some very important lessons about its electrical system and those lessons have been incorporated into the jet we powered up today. Congratulations to the team and on to first flight.”
See Aug 17/07 entry and “F-35 JSF Hit by Serious Design Problems” for more background re: that cryptic comment.
Oct 26/07: Northrop Grumman completes the center fuselage for the first weight-optimized F-35A Lightning II aircraft. This “weight optimized” version is the final initial production design, and comes about as a result of a year of intensive design efforts that targeted the F-35B in particular but also affected other models. The AF-1 center fuselage is one of 19 center fuselages Northrop Grumman is producing for the current system development and demonstration (SDD) phase of the F-35 Lightning II program.
The milestone comes just 24 hours after the company officially began the first phase of F-35 low rate initial production at Northrop Grumman’s composites manufacturing center in El Segundo, CA. NGC release.
Oct 18/07: BAE Systems announces that they have started manufacturing the first titanium and aluminum frames that will form part of the aft fuselage for the first F-35C carrier-launched aircraft.
Aug 24/07: United Technologies Corp. subsidiary Pratt & Whitney Military Engines in East Hartford, CT received an estimated $60 million advance acquisition contract for long lead components, parts and materials associated with the Lot 2 Low Rate Initial Production (LRIP) of 6 F-135 F135 Conventional Take-Off and Landing (CTOL) propulsion system installs and 2 spares for the U.S. Air Force and 6 F135 Short Take-off and Vertical Landing Air Systems (STOVL) propulsion system installs and 2 spares for the U.S. Navy. Work will be performed East Hartford, CT (70%), and Bristol, United Kingdom (30%), and is expected to be complete in March 2011. This contract was not competitively procured (N00019-07-C-0098). Pratt & Whitney release.
Note that $60 million provides only for advance ordering items, not complete engine sets for the 6 F-35A and 6 F-35B aircraft ordered under the July 27/07 entry. See the “F-35B JSF cutaway” graphic, above, to note the additional center lift fan and wing exhaust nozzles added to the F135 on the F-35B STOVL version.
Aug 17/07: United Technologies Corp. subsidiary Pratt and Whitney Military Engines in East Hartford, CT received a $71.5 million modification to a previously awarded cost-plus-award-fee contract (N00019-02-C-3003). It covers F135 gearbox redesign and re-qualification, and delivery of 9 redesigned gearboxes that will be incorporated into F135 flight test engines being delivered to Lockheed Martin for the F-35 flight test aircraft. Work will be performed in East Hartford, CT and is expected to be complete in December 2009.
Follow-up investigations by Flight International reveal that this contract was awarded because the F-35C’s power generator was mistakenly designed to offer only 2/3 of the required maximum output. The generator is made by Hamilton Sundstrand, and a Lockheed subcontractor could be subcontracted with no publicity – but because the increase required was so large, Pratt & Whitney’s gearbox that transfers the power coming off the F135 engine into energy that can be used by the generator also required redesign. Since P&W has their own separate government contract, the US DoD must publicly award a contract to redesign the part.
July 27/07: Lockheed Martin Aeronautics Co. in Fort Worth, TX received an estimated $2.44 billion advance acquisition contract for long lead components, parts, and materials associated with the Lot 2 Low Rate Initial Production (LRIP II) of 6 F-35A Conventional Take-Off and Landing (CTOL) for the U.S. Air Force and 6 F-35B STOVL(Short Take-off and Vertical Landing) for the U.S. Marine Corp. In addition, the contract provides for associated ancillary mission equipment, sustainment support, special tooling/special test equipment and technical/financial data.
The inclusion of the F-35B in similar numbers would appear to be a positive sign for that variant’s engineering progress. Work will be performed in Fort Worth, TX (75.5%); El Segundo, CA (15.6%); and Samlesbury, United Kingdom (8.9%), and is expected to be complete in February 2011. Contract funds will not expire at the end of the current fiscal year. This contract was not competitively procured (N00019-07-C-0097).
Feb 20/07: Fighter manufacturing affected by the position of the moon? Apparently. BAE is using new systems as part of Eurofighter manufacturing, and they’ve also been incorporated into F-35 production:
“To get round the problem BAE Systems has spent over GBP 2.5 million putting in special automated alignment facilities which use laser-trackers and computer-automated jacks. But what really ensures that each Typhoon’s airframe is built as close to perfection as is humanly possible are the giant ‘floating’ concrete rafts on which the aircraft and measuring equipment sit…”
Feb 6/07: Northrop Grumman ISS International has signed a Letter of Intent (LOI) with Tusas Aerospace Industries, Inc. (TAI) to be a second source for the F-35 Lightning II center fuselage. TAI will produce a minimum of 400 center fuselages starting in the low rate initial production (LRIP) phase of the program. The LOI represents a potential value in excess of $3 billion in then-year dollars.
TAI had previously signed a $100 million, long-term agreement with Northrop Grumman in June 2005 to produce composite parts and sub-assemblies for the F-35 center fuselage, a component for which Northrop Grumman has primary responsibility. See Northrop Grumman release.
Jan 23/07: Norwegian firm Kongsberg announces almost NOK 2 billion (about $308 million) in “framework agreements” with Lockheed Martin and Northrop Grumman related to composite structure production for the F-35. That award could triple or quadruple over the F-35’s lifetime – Kongsberg will have to invest in a new factory, and the whole agreement set is conditional on Norway choosing the F-35. Which is why the other yet-to-be satisfied condition is a guarantee from the Norwegian government to reimburse Kongsberg at some agreed-upon level if they choose another fighter. Those negotiations are ongoing. See full DID coverage.
These contracts are issued by the program’s prime contractors to other companies for work on the program.
Dec 4/07: Lockheed Martin Aeronautics Co. in Ft. Worth, TX receives a $38.5 million modification to a previously awarded cost-plus-award-fee contract (N00019-02-C-3002) to provide for the design, development, integration and testing the Joint Strike Fighter autonomic logistics information system (ALIS) central point of entry system. Work will be performed in Orlando, FL (67%) and Fort Worth, TX (33%), and is expected to be complete in October 2013. The Naval Air Systems Command at Patuxent River, MD issued the contract.
ALIS is designed to be the F-35’s complementary maintenance hub, and an IEEE paper has described it as “perhaps the most advanced and comprehensive set of diagnostic, prognostic, and health management capabilities yet to be applied to an aviation platform.” See “You Can Track Your F-35s, At ALIS’ Maintenance Hub” for more on the system, its connection with the ongoing defense procurement death spiral, and the reason it is so critical to the F-35’s success.
Nov 12/07: BAE Systems announces that it has completed Design Verification Testing for the crew escape system for the F-35B Short Take Off and Vertical Landing (STOVL) variant.
The F-35’s Martin-Baker ejection seat will be different, for 2 reasons. One, it must accommodate a very wide range of pilot sizes under its multinational charter. Two, the HMDS helmet-mounted display weighs more than a standard pilot helmet. That puts a lot more stress on the neck, especially when rockets are blowing you out of the plane fast enough to avoid hitting the tail while moving at supersonic speeds. Just to make things interesting, requirement #1 makes requirement #2 harder.
Oct 12/07: The F-35B’s ultra-slimfast diet has a spinoff benefit for ALCOA. Alcoa’s expertise proved very useful during the F-35B’s weight reduction program. Now Lockheed Martin has handed Alcoa’s Power and Propulsion business a 10-year, $360 million contract by Lockheed Martin to supply advanced patented 7085 alloy aluminum die forgings for the F-35 program. Alcoa Forged and Cast Products in Cleveland, OH will design and manufacture all the large aluminum structural die forgings for more than 1,200 aircraft. Parts include 15 large bulkheads that weigh 1,800-6,000 pounds, range from 10-23 feet in length, and act as the primary structural support for the wing and engine. They will also work on 6 wing box parts which serve as an important component of the skeletal structure to the wing. Meanwhile, other Alcoa aerospace units will provide items like highly-engineered joining devices from Alcoa Fastening Systems, specialty alloy plate from Alcoa North American Mill Products, and high-pressure turbine blades for F-35 JSF engines and structural aluminum castings from Alcoa Power and Propulsion.
As part of the JSF contract, Alcoa plans to invest $24 million in Cleveland Works primarily for new machinery, equipment and infrastructure improvements. Alcoa Forged and Cast Products is being supported by the State of Ohio with a $400,000 Rapid Outreach Grant, and up to $450,000 for employee training. Full DID article.
Oct 9/07: The Royal Air Force Centre for Aviation Medicine at MoD Boscombe Down puts the F-35’s HMDS Helmet display through its paces. Pilots from the RAF, U.S. Air Force, Lockheed Martin and BAE Systems flew 2 specially modified BAE Hawk T Mk1s in flight regimes ranging from -2g to +9.5g. Their objective was to verify comfort, fit and stability under high G conditions. Since the F-35 will be the first tactical fighter jet in over 30 years to fly without a Head Up Display above its instrument panels, this capability is mandatory and HMDS will ship with the F-35s to all domestic and international F-35 customers. The JSF HMDS first flew aboard an F-35 in January 2007, and additional RAF CAM flights with the system have been underway through September and October 2007. VSI release | DID article.
Sept 27/07: Cubic Defense Applications announces a $50.3 million development contract from Lockheed Martin Aeronautics Co. to design and integrate an embedded version of its latest-generation P5 air combat training system for the F-35 Lightning II. The system will be based on Cubic’s successful pod-based P5 Combat Training System/Tactical Combat Training System technology and Individual Combat Aircrew Display System (ICADS) software, and will reside on Lockheed Martin’s Offboard Mission Subsystem (OMS). The development contract also contains a requirement for a fully encrypted and exportable data link, a first-ever component for a Cubic air combat training system.
Cubic is scheduled to deliver 5 prototypes consisting of airborne instrumentation and ground station planning and debrief software systems as part of F-35 System Development and Demonstration. The airborne training instrumentation will be installed in all F-35s, and integrated in the aircraft as an embedded feature with easy removal if the need arises.
Cubic and its partners, DRS Technologies Inc. of Fort Walton Beach, FL and FAAC of Ann Arbor, MI will use a P5 Internal Subsystem designed for F/A-18 Hornet and AV-8B Harrier aircraft as the baseline for the F-35 Internal Subsystem. FAAC will assist Cubic in developing the weapons simulations for the F-35 and its new-generation weapons systems. The subsystem is interoperable with P5 training systems now being produced, so fighter pilots using pod-based or embedded P5 systems will be able to train with F-35 pilots. Cubic release.
Sept 24/07: BAE Systems announces that it has completed acceptance testing at Lockheed Martin Aeronautics’ Mission Systems Integration Laboratory in Fort Worth, TX for the F-35 Lightning II electronic warfare (EW) suite spiral release 2. This spiral release provides the capabilities to perform initial manufacturing system checkouts on F-35 BF-4, the first full avionics aircraft, scheduled to fly in the first quarter of 2009. This system will be used for integration, and then released to the production floor and installed in an F-35 aircraft. After 66 months, this component of the F-35 project remains on-time, on-budget, and under its weight limit.
BAE Systems completed hardware and software testing on the initial flight-representative hardware for the electronic warfare system that included designing, building, and testing the electronic support measures and countermeasures hardware, and more than 120,000 lines of software code. The delivery provides several critical capabilities that comprise the foundation for 2 additional planned software releases to be introduced during the flight test program. The final electronic warfare suite will detect, analyze, evaluate, and react to radar and other EW threats fielded by potential adversaries.
The 5-year project has included an upgrade kit for the program’s electronic support measures test bench, which examines, correlates, and accounts for signals that bounce off an aircraft’s reflective surfaces. This has strong EW implications, as well as stealth implications. The project also included an update of the interface units for the F-35 radio frequency test system, which reflects how the system would operate under real-world conditions. BAE release.
Sept 19/07: British training and simulation equipment maker EDM Ltd. announces a contract from Lockheed Martin Simulation, Training & Support for an Ejection Systems Maintenance Trainer (ESMT) and a Weapons Loading Trainer (WLT). The ESMT is a device used for training maintainers to safely remove and replace the aircraft canopy and ejection seat. The ESMT will also provide training in performing maintenance tasks on the egress system. The WLT will be used to train weapon handlers in the safe handling and loading/unloading of weapons on to the aircraft. The win follows a global competition; EDM has delivered similar systems to the multinational Eurofighter project.
Sept 27/07: The Australian government announces a number of additional subcontracts to Australian firms:
- Lockheed Martin has extended Melbourne-based Marand Precision Engineering’s existing ground support equipment and tooling contracts, with substantial additional work in the offing.
- Partech Systems, a small company based in Nowra, NSW, has secured additional JSF test equipment work from Northrop Grumman.
- In its first JSF contract, Adelaide’s Levett Engineering will machine specialised components for Lockheed Martin.
- Production Parts in Melbourne has won additional work with JSF prime contractors and Parker Aerospace for airframe and engine components.
- BAE Systems (UK) has welcomed bids from both Marand and the Metaltec/Broens joint venture Aerotech International for the supply of specialized JSF tooling. BAE will begin discussions on the specific tool types required from each company.
Sept 17/07: Lockheed Martin is leveraging experience from the F-35 program and its Autonomic Logistics Information System to place proactive diagnostics into the US Marines’ land vehicles. Read “USMC Putting Prognostics in its Vehicles.”
Aug 13/07: Northrop Grumman has delivered the 2nd round in a 5-round F-35 software release to prime contractor Lockheed Martin. This step includes the initial release of software required to perform manufacturing checkout of the first F-35B short take-off vertical landing (STOVL) variant, and continues Northrop Grumman’s unbroken, 2-year-long streak of on-time software deliveries to the F-35 Lighting II program.
The company has already delivered updates for software modules used to perform three critical functions: 1. functional test of key sensor subsystems such as radar, electronic warfare, and communication/navigation/IFF; 2. download of maintenance information from the aircraft; and 3. in-flight detection and pilot notification of safety-critical faults. This stage added 3 more key features as part of the initial manufacturing release (IMR): 4. Prognostic and Health Monitoring (HUMS) software; 5. Maintenance Interface Broker software, which is used by maintenance personnel to download diagnostic information from the aircraft; and 6. Mission Domain software, which includes navigation; software models for aircraft performance; and the Mission Systems Integrity Monitor (MSIM) that notifies the pilot of critical in-flight failures.
In the corporate release, Janis Pamiljans, F-35 program manager for Northrop Grumman’s Integrated Systems sector, says that “We’re doing everything we can to support the F-35 industry team’s goal of flying the first STOVL variant in the spring of 2008.” Northrop Grumman plans to deliver the other 3 rounds of software updates for the STOVL software modules between now and spring 2008.
July 26/07: Raytheon Systems Limited (RSL) has been awarded a contract to support the integration and flight trials of the GPS/INS and laser guided Paveway IV bomb on the F-35B STOVL Lightning II aircraft. The contract is valued at GBP 24 million (about $49.2 million). The integration program will focus on providing documentation, input to the development of the aircraft systems and flight clearance of the weapon on to the aircraft. The latter part of the program will concentrate on support to flight trials and certification.
Paveway IV is a British program that has experienced some delays. Raytheon Missile Systems (RMS) in Tucson, AZ will supply the Enhanced Computer Control Group (ECCGs) guidance sections, Telemetry sub-systems, Instrumentation, Test Equipment and associated support. In addition to the general support activities, Raytheon UK will also be providing BAE Systems with the required trials hardware. Raytheon UK release [PDF format].
The release adds that the Italian Navy also plans to operate the F-35B, alongside the US Marines and Royal Navy. While service with the Italian and Spanish Navies was seen as likely given the construction of their new carrier/LHDs to accommodate the F-35B, it had not previously been announced.
July 9/07: Simulation firm SimiGon announces that its SIMbox based NxLearn Learning Management System has been selected for the F-35 Lightning II Joint Strike Fighter (JSF) training program. NxLearn will be one element of NxSys, Lockheed Martin’s integrated training system infrastructure. SimiGon release.
June 20/07: Alliant Techsystems (ATK) announces a Letter of Agreement (LoA) with Lockheed Martin to produce fiber placed components for low-rate initial production (LRIP) on the F-35 Lightning II. ATK will use advanced fiber-placement technology to provide upper wing-box skins, lower wing-box skins, and nacelle skins during LRIP lots 1-3 for the F-35A and F-35B STOVL. ATK also will provide upper wing-box and nacelle skins for the F-35C carrier variant. Beginning with LRIP lot 4, ATK is under contract to supply Lockheed Martin with a minimum of 30% of the total fiber-placed composite components used in wing production.
Specific terms of the agreement were not disclosed. ATK release.
Jan 23/07: Vision Systems International, LLC in San Jose, CA (VSI) announces that their Helmet Mounted Display System (HMDS) recently flew for the first time on an F-35 Joint Strike Fighter aircraft. The release adds that:
“The HMDS has been in development for five years and recently completed all required safety of flight tests, allowing in-flight seat ejections up to 450 KEAS (knots equivalent air speed). It has demonstrated structural integrity to 600 KEAS as a critical risk mitigation step towards full flight certification.”
Jan 23/07: The Joint Strike Fighter Cooperative Avionics Test Bed (CATB), a 737-300 aircraft extensively modified by BAE Systems, successfully completed its maiden flight at Mojave, CA, following an effort that as lasted nearly 3 years. The “CAT-Bird,” is a flying test bed that replicates the F-35 avionics suite; among other things, it will be used to verify “sensor fusion” – the F-35’s capability to collect data from multiple sensors and fuse it into a coherent situational awareness display.
Creating the CAT-Bird was no minor task. Structural modifications include the addition of a nose extension to simulate the F-35, a 42-foot-long spine on the top, a 10-foot “canoe” on the bottom to accommodate electronic equipment, and twin 12-foot sensor wings that replicate the leading edge of the F-35’s wings. The inside of the plane also was transformed. An F-35 cockpit will allow the sensor inputs to be displayed as they would be in the fighter itself, while rest of the interior houses equipment racks for the avionics equipment, plus 20 workstations for technicians to assess the performance of the avionics. See BAE release.
Dec 16/06: Engine testing isn’t cheap. A USAF article puts some numbers beside the role Arnold Engineering Development Center will play in F-35 engine testing. Jeff Albro, AEDC’s program manager for the Pratt & Whitney F135 turbine engine, has said that:
“We spent about $17 million on facilities upgrades… Most of it was specifically and uniquely required for the JSF engine — things other legacy programs haven’t had to have before.” Engine test program costs here, ranging from facility upgrades that began here in 2001, through Operational Capability Release, are nearly $200 million according to Albro.
Nov 16/06: BAE Systems is using a new high-precision machining tool from StarragHeckert of Switzerland at the Company’s F-35 site in Samlesbury, UK. The new 5-axis machine immediately went into production, machining a titanium component that will sit in the F-35’s aft fuselage. A second 5-axis StarragHeckert machine is scheduled for installation by the end of the year. Machining metals like titanium is very difficult, especially at the precision levels required in a plane like the F-35. See also DID’s Nov 17/05 coverage re: titanium machining innovations by Stork NV and their resulting contract from Pratt & Whitney for engine components.
Tom Fillingham, BAE Systems managing director, F-35 Lightning II said: “Although we are still in the System Development & Demonstration (SDD) phase, which will see us deliver 23 aircraft over the next 3 years, we are already working to a schedule that requires a new aircraft to start assembly every 4 weeks – a rate which is more akin to production phases of a programme… As we are increasing the rate at which we start to assemble the aircraft, BAE Systems and the supply chain have to supply more components, hence we need additional capability and capacity.”
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