JSF Study Team Recommends
One Winner, Two Builders
by Dave Fulghum
05/19/00 04:11:02 PM U.S. EDT
U.S. Defense Secretary William Cohen and acquisition chief Jacques Gansler were briefed late this week by the team studying alternative acquisition strategies for the Joint Strike Fighter program, say Pentagon insiders. The team found it’s too hard to split the JSF program before picking a prime contractor and recommended instead that a single winning design be selected, and then both Lockheed Martin (top image) and Boeing (bottom) should be qualified for engineering and manufacturing development, the next phase of the JSF program.
Because both prime teams would wind up building airplanes, study group members won’t describe the team whose design is not picked as the losing team — only as the “non-winner.” This non-winner would be qualified through the major subsystems of the winner’s design and each company would put together its own subcontractor team, a plan that would ensure another round of competition prior to a production decision. The group said the more difficult question — deciding who builds which versions of the aircraft and how many — would be put off until later.
Critics in Congress say a single contractor should be selected on a winner-take-all basis and then be allowed to put together a team that includes the loser. To preserve the aerospace industrial base, it had been suggested that both Lockheed Martin and Boeing build the JSF. Contractors contend that even in a winner-take-all award the program would be split among the three major contractors (including Northrop Grumman) anyway. To keep prices down, all three would participate to some degree, as they do on the F-22 fighter program.