The Joint Strike Fighter (JSF) programme office will respond on 10 May to Boeing and Lockheed Martin's revised plans to keep their competing concept demonstrator aircraft (CDAs) within budget and on schedule.

Both manufacturers received letters from the US Department of Defense in early April, asking for proposals on restructuring the CDA phase to stay within the $750 million airframe contract.

With 22 months remaining of the CDA phase before the final selection in April 2001, the two companies are struggling to stay on course. Lockheed Martin is reported to have overspent by $100 million on its X-35A/B, while Boeing has unveiled significant design changes from its X-32A/B demonstrator to the follow-on preferred weapon system concept (PWSC).

Suggestions that one of the two planned demonstrators in each programme might be scrapped to save costs has been ruled out. It is understood that the two new plans focus instead on deferring or delineating some PWSC-related tests from the CDA phase, to save on costs and time.

Lockheed Martin says that its X-35 will be the closest to the PWSC and so best demonstrates commonality, a short take-off, or vertical landing and carrier approach capability. Boeing, on the other hand, is placing the emphasis on validating its design methodology for the PWSC by producing a CDA that performs as closely as possible to that predicted.

Sources say that the problem all along has been reconciling Boeing and Lockheed Martin's projected costings with the programme office's own estimates, that , on past experience, have erred on the side of caution.

Source: Flight International