USAF says cancellation an option as delays and budget overruns put pressure on F/A-22 programme

Lockheed Martin and Boeing have been warned that further cost overruns and schedule delays on the F/A-22 Raptor could result in cancellation, after the US Air Force revealed it will cost at least $700 million more and take 20 months longer than planned to complete development of the stealthy fighter.

"This programme is more fragile than a lot of people believe," says USAir Force assistant secretary for acquisition Marvin Sambur, making clear that cancellation could be an option if there are further cost overruns. "We have got to see real improvement."

The development cost increase will be funded from within the present F/A-22 budget to put pressure on Lockheed Martin and the USAF to bring costs under control. This means less money for production over the next three years, slowing the ramp rate and reducing the number of aircraft the USAF can afford below the 339 planned.

"There will probably be fewer aircraft," says Sambur. Cutting five or six F/A-22s from low-rate initial production would fund the overrun but, because this will affect the learning curve, the overall reduction in numbers could be greater, because production funding is capped. Sambur says the USAF is committed to buying at least 295 aircraft, and funding for enhancements to the F/A-22's air-to-ground capability will be left largely intact.

The "red team" which investigated the overrun estimates it could be as high as $1 billion, but could be reduced below $500 million if "future schedule efficiencies" are realised. Completion of development has slipped from March 2004 to November 2005, but operational testing is still planned to start next August and initial operational capability is still set for December 2005.

The schedule extension and cost increase is blamed on the impact of fin buffet and avionics stability problems on flight-test progress. A fix for fin buffet within the initial operational test flight envelope has been developed for production aircraft, but continuing efforts to increase the time between avionics restarts have diverted resources from software development.


Source: Flight International