The US Air Force and Lockheed Martin have overhauled the F/A-22 Raptor programme top-level management in the wake of a surprise $690 million potential cost overrun. The revelation is embarrassing as it comes at a time when the air force is fighting efforts to reduce the size of the planned purchase.

Both Brig Gen William Jabour, programme executive officer for fighters and bombers, and Brig Gen Mark Shackelford, head of the F/A-22 system programme office (SPO) at the Aeronautical Systems Center, have been replaced by the USAF. Taking over the two respective positions are the current Joint Theatre Air and Missile Defence Organization director Brig Gen Richard Lewis, and Boeing C-17 SPO director Brig Gen Thomas Owen.

Lockheed Martin Aeronautics simultaneously has appointed chief operating officer Ralph Health to oversee the F/A-22 programme. The incumbent programme general manager Bob Reardon will focus on readying the aircraft for the start of dedicated initial operational test and evaluation in the second half of next year. This follows the creation of a joint USAF/industry team to determine the size of the overrun and make recommendations to mitigate further problems.

According to industry sources, the projected hike in development costs is due to a series of software qualification delays and required testing.

"It is rare to see increases of this magnitude and obviously the change in leadership signals doubts about how well the programme's finances are being managed," says Loren Thompson, Lexington Institute defence analyst.

Source: Flight International