The US Air Force has come out strongly against a newly released General Accounting Office (GAO) report on the Lockheed Martin Boeing F/A-22 Raptor, refuting claims that it has failed to account for a further $1.3 billion in production cost growth. It also says that inaccurate reports are undermining efforts to stabilise the programme.

GAO's report, released by Congressional F/A-22 critic John Tierney, concludes that the defence department estimates do not incorporate $1.3 billion in added cost identified by the air force during development. They include delayed award of the multi-year production contract, inflation rises from later deliveries, a change in avionics subcontractor and reduced savings from the Joint Strike Fighter. There is also the danger of costs being pushed up by slippages in the development testing schedule.

"The latest air force estimate includes these factors," responds the USAF. The US Congress in 1997 capped production funding for the F/A-22 at $37 billion, but the latest government-projected production costs are now over $42 billion. The USAF recently transferred $876 million from production to make up shortfalls in development spending, which resulted in an overhaul of both government and contractor programme management.

The GAO says the USAF has failed to invest fully in the production improvement programme (PIP), designed to generate long-term savings through manufacturing improvements and keep the F/A-22 within budget. Some of the intended PIP money was used to fund the initial two production lots in 2001-2. "It is unlikely the air force will achieve the estimated $3.7 billion in cost growth offset from the implementation of these PIPs if investment continues to be less than planned," says the GAO.

The defence department says the report "fails to provide credible evidence that investment in PIP reduces costs".


Source: Flight International