It is hard enough trying to follow UK defence acquisition issues without having to understand another but an interesting snippet from the USA might have significant consequences for the UK’s Joint Combat Aircraft (JSF/F35)
As part of the Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 1982, Senator Sam Nunn (D-GA) and Representative David McCurdy (D-OK) included an amendment intended to limit cost growth in major weapons programs which was taken into law in 1983.
It states that should a programme’s costs grow by more than 15% Congress has to be formally notified and a detailed explanation forthcoming. If costs have risen by 25% or more then cancellation should be the outcome unless the Secretary of Defense submits a detailed explanation certifying that the program is essential to the national security, that no suitable alternative of lesser cost is available, that new estimates of total program costs are reasonable, and that the management structure is (or has been made) adequate to control costs.
So what does this mean for the UK?
Ordinarily nothing but in the last few days Air Force General Norton Schwartz has confirmed what everyone and their aunty has been predicting, that the F35 Joint Strike Fighter programme is likely to punch through the reporting boundary for a Nunn McCurdy breach. This comes on top of mounting bad news including the replacement of the programme manager and a likely slip (yet again) in delivery dates.
The F35B is the preferred aircraft to fulfill the RAF/RN Joint Combat Aircraft requirement although the final choice has yet to be made, the planning assumption is that the STVOL B model will be obtained.
There is no doubt that the F35 is too big to fail and certainly too big to cancel but inevitably, costs have risen and will continue to rise, delivery dates have slipped and will continue to slip.
In a nutshell, a higher unit price, lower specification and less of them.
Business as usual then