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LockMar Defends JSF Against JET

One of the top Joint Strike Fighter officials outlined the arguments he will present Wednesday to OSD's Program Analysis and Evaluation office, the Joint Evaluation Team, and the Cost Improvement and Analysis Group about why the program is not an additional two years behind schedule.

Dan Crowley, F-35 executive vice president and program manager for the Joint Strike fighter, told reporters after the roll out of the plane's carrier version that the Joint Evaluation Team had identified four areas that posed threats to the program's manufacturing; schedule and cost: personnel retention; software; and the frequency of flight tests.

The JET report found that the JSF program faced a likely delay of two years, Crowley said. Lockheed had manufacturing issues under control, while the JET had based it analysis "largely on legacy results" such as how the F-18 and other planes have fared in construction, Crowley said.

The second issue the JET identified is the kind of thing only a major defense program might suffer from -- how to intelligently and economically shed the 4,000 engineers who have made the program possible in the first place. Crowley said JSF should be able to shed half of those jobs by the end of the year and absorb many of the remaining positions inside the company.

One of the most ticklish issues facing the program is software development, according to the JET. Crowley said the program's software development "has been better than planned" in contrast to the JET's estimate that it would grow substantially. He pointed to the fact that, although the program is in the early stages of flight testing, they have "never had a jet abort because of software."

Finally, the issue that probably means the most in terms of pushing the program out of its scheduled envelope, is flight testing. The program projects 12 sorties a month but the JET thinks this is probably too optimistic, Crowley said.

Boil all this down and Crowley said he believes the JET is judging JSF by the false standards of past programs because they don't have data from programs managed as JSF is being developed and managed. They are being conservative, in effect, because they don't how else to be until the JSF program proves them wrong.

We'll see who's right and whether JET, PA and E and the CAIG believe the Joint Strike Fighter Program is flying the right course.

Full disclosure: Lockheed flew me and a small group of journalists down to Fort Worth and paid for us to stay in a hotel.

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