The CLIMATIC final stage of the US Joint Strike Fighter (JSF) competition is to begin on 15 April, with the release of a request for information (RFI) to the Boeing and Lockheed Martin teams.

The RFI is expected to outline a new acquisition strategy. A US Department of Defense assessment of alternatives to the "winner takes all" approach was to be completed by the end of March. The final JSF operational requirements document was approved in mid-March, clearing the way for negotiations on the engineering and manufacturing development (EMD)phase to begin.

JSF programme office director Gen Mike Hough believes it is "prudent" to revise the acquisition strategy to maintain competition in fighters, engines and avionics for future US requirements. "We got to where we are [on JSF] with competition," he stresses.

Hough says the review looked at options that would not affect "cost, initial operational capability [IOC] and international participation". The average JSF unit cost "is still in the low to mid 30s [millions of dollars]", Hough says. The schedule calls for EMD to begin next April, leading to a first flight in 2005 and IOC in 2008.

Negotiations on international participation are under way. The UK, as the only full collaborative partner, is negotiating a 10% stake in the EMD at an expected cost of $2.5 billion, says Jon Schreiber, JSF programme office director of international programmes.

Negotiations begin this month with the Netherlands. Canada, Denmark, Italy, and Norway have indicated that they want to carry on discussions, Schreiber says.

Hough predicts that "20 to 30" countries will eventually join the programme. The bulk of these will be foreign military sales (FMS) participants, which will pay a fee to receive information on the aircraft, says Schreiber. No talks on joining EMD have yet been scheduled with Israel, Singapore and Turkey, the FMS participants in the current JSF concept demonstration phase.

The UK, if it stays in the programme, is expected to sign by September and participate in source selection.

Source: Flight International