The plot continues to thicken on the mystery of the Joint Cargo Aircraft contract. As I reported in Flight International magazine this week, I have received three different official estimates for cost and aircraft quantity, The joint programme office says the contract will cost $2 billion to buy 78 aircraft. L-3 Communications, the selected prime contractor, claims the $2 billion will buy 55 aircraft. The US Air Force, meanwhile, tells me that they’re both wrong and that the whole $2 billion figure is a “misprint”. According to the USAF, the actual cost is $1.5 billion and it’s going to buy 40 aircraft. I have not seen a more confusing post-contract award scenario yet.
Meanwhile, I still wonder how the USAF can legitimately claim that it fully backs the current JCA program, while also telling me that it’s continuing to evaluate the intratheater airlift requirement. The review is their ‘get out of jail free’ card. They can do anything they wish after the review specified how many and, possibly, which aircraft they need for the intrathearter airlift requirement. I will not stop asking this question until the USAF has put its share of the JCA order on contract with L-3 Communications, and even then I’ll probably remain skepitical, such is the depth of my cynicism on this issue.
In case you’re wondering, here’s the article I wrote from the Paris air show last week.