The Acting Minister for Defence Jason Clare today welcomed the restructure of the Joint Strike Fighter (JSF) Program by US Defense Secretary Robert Gates.
The restructure follows a detailed six month Technical Baseline Review of the JSF Program’s progress by the US Department of Defense to examine the remaining development tasks and the resources and time required to complete them.
The restructure will see an extension of the System Design and Development phase and a reduction in the production rate in the earlier batches of aircraft. The US will fund costs associated with extended design and test activity.
The JSF Program involves the development of three different types of aircraft:
1) the F-35A Conventional Take Off and Landing (CTOL) variant;
2) the F-35B Short Take Off and Vertical Landing (STOVL) variant; and
3) the F-35C Carrier Variant (CV).
Australia is purchasing the CTOL variant. The US Air Force is also purchasing this variant.
Secretary Gates confirmed today that this variant was on schedule and proceeding satisfactorily.
In 2010 it exceeded its test flight targets.
Secretary Gates advised that the STOVL variant being developed for the US Marines is experiencing significant testing problems and has now been placed at the back of the overall JSF production sequence.
Mr Clare welcomed the news that the development of the aircraft Australia is purchasing is on schedule and proceeding satisfactorily.
„It is less expensive and less complex than the other variants. The restructure announced by Secretary Gates means it is now at the front of the production queue“, Mr Clare said.
Defence has advised that the restructure of the US JSF Program will reduce overall program risk to Australia and should not affect Australia’s planned introduction date for the JSF.
The Australian Government approved the acquisition of the first 14 aircraft in November 2009. The first two aircraft will be delivered in 2014. The first 10 aircraft will initially remain in the United States for pilot and maintainer training. The remaining four aircraft are planned to arrive in Australia in 2017 for operational test and evaluation activities with other ADF equipment to achieve an initial operational capability in Australia from 2018.
Defence has also advised it is confident Australia has adequate buffers in place to withstand any changes to the cost and schedule.
“Australia has always adopted a conservative approach to JSF cost estimates and has explicitly included contingency funds and buffers to the schedule,” Mr Clare said.
“While there is no need to change our cost and schedule estimates, Defence will continue to assess options to ensure that cost and schedule buffers remain adequate.”
A recent agreement between Lockheed Martin and the US Department of Defense to move to fixed price contract agreements – at a lower price than independent estimates – has enhanced confidence in the costs for future JSF production.
In December last year Mr Clare met with senior US Defense officials in Washington and inspected the Lockheed Martin JSF production line in Fort Worth Texas.
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