PAUL LEWIS / WASHINGTON DC
As contractor selection nears, the programme office anticipates integrating the losing company into the EMD team
This week's planned announcement selecting either Boeing or Lockheed Martin as the Joint Strike Fighter (JSF) competition winner is expected to be rapidly followed by a move to integrate the losing contender into the successful team in an effort to preserve a competitive US aerospace industrial base and offset any adverse impact on share values.
There is widespread anticipation within industry and an acknowledgement from the programme office that there will be a fundamental shift away from the "winner takes all" acquisition once a final selection is made and JSF shifts to engineering and manufacturing development. "Let's get a winner and then bring the winner or loser in and sit down and say how we're going to keep this guy alive," says Maj Gen Mike Hough, JSF programme office director.
There has been growing political and industrial concern for sometime that the size of the JSF programme and the lack of any alternative near-term programmes will mean only one Us fighter manufacturer will exist. Around 5,000-6,000 JSFs, worth $1 trillion, are expected to be built.
"We got here by competition," says Hough. "When one guy starts to die off because of winner takes all, what are you going to do in 10 years from now?" Political moves to change the acquisition strategy came too late during the concept demonstration phase and would have required a major change and delay in the tendering process. The decision therefore was taken to select a prime contractor, who would then be expected to accommodate the other as part of its EMD effort.
Boeing says it has set aside "noble work" that it bid on, but if it won the competition could be offered to Lockheed Martin. "We looked at the job as if we were the unsuccessful bidder and how we would like to participate. We would want a vertical involvement from the upper management, down through manufacturing and possible final assembly," says Frank Statkus, Boeing JSF general manager. Lockheed Martin for its part says "if the government expresses the desire to incorporate the loser in the winning team we would be able to accommodate them".
A Boeing source says the company will be looking "to broaden and deepen" its "One Team" consortium and it will talk to companies that are linked exclusively with Lockheed Martin after the downselect. Boeing has no airframe partners, adds the source, so BAE Systems and Northrop Grumman could participate. BAE's avionics business is a member of Boeing team, but the UK manufacturer's military aircraft element is working with Lockheed Martin.
Companies wishing to join the team will have to bring capabilities that help the aircraft meet the programme and affordability targets.
Source: Flight International