US defence chiefs have few options but to give the go-head for the $225 billion Joint Strike Fighter (JSF), says the director of the Pentagon's JSF programme office. "There are not a lot of options left," says US Marine Corps Major General John Hough. "I understand the politics, but the bad news is we need the aircraft - everything we've got is old. We've given the world a great option that is affordable and meets requirements."

Hough says the Bush administration could give the JSF a crucial go-ahead "within days" when it has to ask Congress for funding to begin the $25 billion engineering, manufacturing and development (EMD) phase to build full scale prototypes. This would give the Pentagon and other customers the option to go to full scale production at a later date, with US requirements alone worth in excess of $200 billion in business for the world's aerospace industry. His comments come as the JSF concept demonstration process enters its final short takeoff and landing (STOVL) phase, with Boeing's X-32B already flying and Lockheed Martin's X-35B expected to hover before the end of the Le Bourget show.

"I am optimistic the JSF will get high marks from President Bush and [Secretary of Defence] Donald Rumsfeld. The 2002 budget is fully funded. If EMD is in budget it is a good sign." Hough is full of praise for the rival contractors' aircraft. He says Boeing's X-32B has shown "spectacular performance and reliability", and he expects similar results from the Lockheed X-35B.


"I am in awe of what the contractors have done," he says. "I've got a winner that meets the needs for the warfighter between 2010 and 2040. I've got bang for the buck. This is a good show, a good job, a good programme. A technical success." Hough hints that he is not happy with the idea of the current "winner takes all" procurement process, with a single contractor being selected to carry out the EMD phase. "Now my charter says winner takes all - subsequent to EMD there may be talks."

Source: Flight Daily News