Stephen Trimble / Washington DC

Meanwhile, Lockheed Martin and USA face disclosure issue

As international partners in the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter (JSF) programme criticise the industrial returns from the development phase, Lockheed Martin and the US government are facing another potentially disruptive issue - how international partners in a high-technology stealth programme can be supported outside the USA without violating national disclosure policy.

In early November, the JSF programme office contracted Lockheed Martin to look at three highly sensitive areas: simulation and modelling for interactive warfighting tests of US and international versions; logistics infrastructure planning; and flight testing of the secretive design changes for the international partner versions required by US disclosure rules.

Logistics planning, for example, is a major concern for an aircraft designed with US-protected stealth technology, but owned and operated by a foreign government. "We're selling them an aircraft that's very stealthy. We know they need to maintain that aircraft and we're working to make that happen," says Jon Schreiber, director of international programmes in the US/UK-led JSF Joint Program Office. "We're looking at how we can accommodate that need and still protect US technology."

The US government has already tweaked international partner version's designs to protect sensitive technologies. Schreiber says the changes are insignificant in terms of warfighting capability, and claims that US officials have granted security exemptions to maintain commonality. "There are differences between what the USA is going to be flying and what [the international partners are] going to be flying in certain areas," says Schreiber, but he declines to specify the changes. "We don't divulge that information. The National Disclosure Policy prevents us from doing that."

Meanwhile, some international partners are critical of the returns on the system development and demonstration part of the JSF programme. Italy is in "tough negotiations" with Lockheed Martin over workshare, while Norway, unhappy about the scale of work filtering down, is rethinking its participation. Even the UK, a Level 1 partner, is concerned about the lack of technology transfer.

Additional reporting by Julian Moxon in London

Source: Flight International