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Boeing battles to cut F-22 costs

Boeing is attempting to slash costs on the Lockheed Martin/ Boeing F-22 fighter by up to $12 billion over the life of the programme, partly through a series of production initiatives.

The move follows the review of the Joint Estimate Team (JET) US Department of Defense price watchdog, which warned of possible cost growth exceeding $1.4 billion during the initial engineering, manufacturing-and-development phase, and $12 billion over the production phase, to cover 438 aircraft.

F-22 programme manager and vice-president Bob Barnes says: "Our budget is $48.3 billion, so we have to avoid the potential of cost growth of $12.9 billion . We plan to cut $2.5 billion out of the engine contract and $10.4 billion in the air vehicle. We're under way with a series of initiatives, looking at $12 billion savings, more than the $10.4 billion, which is our goal."

Of the savings, up to $2.3 billion will come from improvements in producability. A further $2 billion saving could result from a planned move to "lean-production" techniques, while up to $2.4 billion is estimated to be salvageable if the US Government opts for a multi-year procurement similar to the deal struck with McDonnell Douglas over the C-17 military transport..

Changes to product support could net a further $2.5 billion, material savings up to $500 million and "lean-management" techniques a further $500 million.

Boeing also believes that the winner of the Joint Strike Fighter project - where Boeing and Lockheed Martin are head to head - could shave up to $300 million off the price of the F-22 in spin-off cost savings. The proposed changes to processes and manufacturing on the F-22 will initially cost $45 million to implement, but, if adopted, they would produce long-term savings of up to $620 million.

Lockheed Martin and Boeing have proposed a total investment of $107 million in revised procedures and manufacturing changes to help obtain savings. John Sandvig, F-22 weapon systems leader, says: "This is provided by the contractors, not the Government," and adds that industry-team members would be re-imbursed as a function of yield.

Based on a pro rata calculation, Boeing has estimated that its 1995 costs were 28% lower in the F-22 EMD and V-22 Osprey programmes, compared to the 1985 baseline work which it performed on the Northrop Grumman B-2 bomber and earlier V-22 tilt-rotor work, a programme which it carries out with Bell Helicopter Textron.

By 2000, it estimates that its costs will be 38% lower during F-22 low-rate initial production, mainly because of advances in assembly and manufacturing such as electron-beam welding of fuselage sections and induction-formed fuselage skins.

By 2005, costs are expected to be 48% lower during F-22 high-rate production. This is expected to result from advances, including concurrent drilling of upper and lower wing skins, real-time radiography during assembly and the introduction of techniques to weld the aft fuselage integrally.

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