Graham Warwick/WASHINGTON DC

Some of the cost reductions the US Air Force is counting on to stay within the funding available for production of the Lockheed Martin/Boeing F-22 Raptor may not materialise, US Congress has been warned.

Several of the production cost reduction plans (PCRPs) already implemented have exceed expectations, however, and the USAF continues to believe production of 333 F-22s can stay within the $39.8 billion cap imposed by Congress.

The USAF is counting on $21 billion in cost reductions to stay within the cap. In a report to Congress on progress with F-22 affordability initiatives, the USAF says about half the PCRPs have been implemented.

The status of the remaining $10.2 billion in reductions is a matter of dispute. The US General Accounting Office (GAO) argues that at least $3 billion in projected savings are tied to events outside USAF control. These include multi-year procurement beginning in 2004, which will have to be approved by Congress.

The USAF is also counting on saving $1.2 billion as a result of the F-22 team members also being involved in production of the Joint Strike Fighter, but the GAO argues that programme could be delayed or even cancelled.

While the USAF continues to believe all $10.2 billion in PCRPs will materialise, the US Office of the Secretary of Defense (OSD) is assuming only $6.1 billion in additional savings. The OSD's estimate of F-22 production cost is $48.6 billion - almost $9 billion above the cap. If this proves correct, the GAO warns, the USAF will have to build about 85 fewer F-22s to stay within Congressional funding limits.

Source: Flight International