Boeing is seeking to break financial and performance links with F/A-22 prime contractor Lockheed Martin, its long-time risk-sharing senior partner on the $43 billion programme.

A proposal under review would establish the partners as separate entities for submitting cost and "mission effectiveness" updates to the US Air Force, says Boeing senior vice president George Muellner.

Boeing issued the challenge to the F/A-22 teaming agreement, created nearly 20 years ago, in early September during a meeting of senior executives, Muellner says. The meeting was to discuss the next production phase - the Lot 4 low-rate initial production contract now being reviewed by the Defense Acquisition Board (DAB).

Orville Prins, Lockheed Martin Aeronautics business development director, says Boeing is not seeking to abandon the F/A-22 programme.

Boeing's move should help clarify how each team member performs under the contract by clearly defining each company's results, says Muellner. The F/A-22 programme is struggling to overcome a number of aircraft design and software anomalies that Boeing officials assert is not their company's fault.

Boeing is responsible for avionics integration and 70%of the mission software, as well as the aft fuselage and wings.

Although the proposal would split the reporting requirements, Muellner says, Boeing would remain financially liable for cost overruns covered under the original teaming arrangement.

The challenge to the teaming agreement comes at a sensitive time for the programme, as the contractors struggle to overcome nagging avionics software issues.

Lockheed Martin claims to have solved systemic software breakdowns that caused major subsystem shutdowns every 2h. In July, however, the DAB increased the avionics performance specification, introducing the mean time between avionics anomalies (MTBAA) requirement, which includes lesser software issues and, for the first time, hardware lapses.

Lockheed Martin is hoping two software upgrades expected to be installed before November will raise the MTBAA to 5-7h.

The precise MTBAA performance standard has yet to be set, but the issue was expected to be a key element of the DAB's most recent review meeting last week.

Lockheed Martin is hoping to sway the DAB closer to a 5h MTBAA threshold, allowing engineers time to address more complicated hardware problems. The programme may not enter the initial operational test and evaluation stage in March next year if the MTBAA goal is not achieved. USAF leaders have warned in the past that further delays could prompt cancellation.

Source: Flight International