Joint Strike Fighter rivals Boeing and Lockheed Martin are to be called in by the US Department of Defense on 9 April to be told how the DoD intends to restructure the programme in an attempt to head off rising costs.
The planned revision of the programme will see the Pentagon modifying the project's requirements or revamping its budgetary schedule, sources close to the programme say, although the exact nature of those alterations is still being determined.
The JSF programme office (JPO) recently revealed that it was about to restructure the project at the current concept demonstration of aircraft (CDA) phase to prevent high levels of "risk" being retained further into the project because of over-spend by rival bidders Boeing and Lockheed Martin.
JPO deputy director Maj Gen Mike Haugh appeared to rule out a new cash injection soon after the planned restructuring was disclosed, but sources suggest the option is still "a live one".
Any extra cash would almost certainly have to come from the overall JSF budget, the aim being to balance the books now rather than later, minimising the possibility of an eventual major escalation in cost.
"The idea is that if money is made available now and the project put back on track in terms of cost, the risk involved in the later phases - and most importantly in production - will be reduced," says an industry source.
Alternatively, potential costs could be reined in simply by reducing the amount of work due to be completed in the current phase, putting the programme on track for the next engineering, manufacturing and development (EMD) phase.
Boeing says it is "only" $8 million over budget, while rival Lockheed Martin is denying reports of over-spend of $100-200 million. Lockheed Martin stresses that it has never approached the DoD for further funding or asked for changes to the programme, and says that reported excess costs are based on inaccurate models of projected spending.
"What people have done is look at projects from 25 years ago and say that based on those figures we're going to end up way over budget," the company says. "But that ignores technological advances and other changes that render the excess cost projections meaningless."
Lockheed adds that it is in any case instituting measures that will allow it come in on budget by the time of down-select.
Source: Flight International