Lockheed Martin might need additional funding to continue evolving its Joint Strike Fighter (JSF) proposal in the event that the programme office delays release of the final operational requirements document (ORD) until next year, the company has warned.

The final ORD is scheduled to be completed by mid-December and officially the JSF programme office remains confident it can meet this target. An industry source, however, warns there is a "very good possibility of this dragging into next year," as the three US services work to sign off on a common set of requirements

According to Lockheed Martin JSF business manager, Craig Happel, reconciling design configurations with changes in requirements is a "lengthy process ...taking months, not weeks." He adds that at present there is no provision for "additional funds to address changes in the ORD."

The draft ORD is released and Boeing and Lockheed Martin are working to refine their final respective design iterations for the JSF preferred weapon system concept (PWSC). The ORD will freeze JSF specifications and requirements and form the basis of the request for proposals due to be released late next year leading to a final selection in the second quarter of 2001.

"Contractors can continue to evolve their designs to meet that requirement and try for a competitive edge," says the JSF programme office, but it adds that under the present concept demonstration phase contract "there is no provision for contractors to spend their own money." Any changes or improvements made with company funds would be inadmissible.

With the two companies three years into the programme there is very little government contract money left other than that reserved for completing and flight testing the Boeing X-32 and Lockheed Martin X-35 concept demonstrator aircraft next year. Another possible option, says Happel, would be for the Department of Defense (DoD) to allow it to use bid money to evolve the design

The only alternative is a government funded top up would be to use company money, which the DoD has traditionally opposed for fear of igniting a spending war. "There is government recognition we're going to have to do that because they've not got the ORD finalised," says an industry official.

Source: Flight International