Order Code RL30563
CRS Report for Congress
Received through the CRS Web
Joint Strike Fighter (JSF) Program:
Background, Status, and Issues
Updated February 15, 2002
Analyst in National Defense
Foreign Affairs, Defense, and Trade Division
Congressional Research Service ˜ The Library of Congress
Joint Strike Fighter (JSF) Program:
Background, Status, and Issues
The Defense Department’s Joint Strike Fighter (JSF) is one of three aircraft
programs at the center of current debate over tactical aviation, the others being the
Air Force F-22 fighter and the Navy F/A-18E/F fighter/attack plane. In November
1996, the Defense Department selected two major aerospace companies, Boeing and
Lockheed Martin, to demonstrate competing designs for the JSF, a joint-service and
multi-role fighter/attack plane. On October 26, 2001, the Lockheed Martin team was
selected to develop further and to produce a family of conventional take-off and
landing (CTOL), carrier-capable (CV), and short take-off vertical landing (STOVL)
aircraft for the U.S. Air Force, Navy, and Marine Corps and the U.K. Royal Navy as
well as other allied services. Originally designated the Joint Advanced Strike
Technology (JAST) program, the JSF program is a major issue in Congress because
of concerns about its cost and budgetary impact, effects on the defense industrial base,
and implications for U.S. national security in the early 21st century.
The JAST/JSF program evolved in response to the high cost of tactical aviation,
the need to deploy fewer types of aircraft to reduce acquisition and operating costs,
and current projections of future threat scenarios and enemy capabilities. The
program’s rationale and primary emphasis is joint-service development of a nextgeneration multi-role aircraft that can be produced in affordable variants to meet
different operational requirements. Developing an affordable tri-service family of
CTOL and STOVL aircraft with different combat missions poses major technological
challenges. Moreover, if the JSF is to have joint-service support, the program must
yield affordable aircraft that can meet such divergent needs as those of the U.S. Air
Force for a successor to its low-cost F-16 and A-10 fighter/attack planes, those of the
U.S. Marine Corps and the U.K. Royal Navy for a successor to their Harrier STOVL
aircraft, and the U.S. Navy’s need for a successor to its carrier-based F-14 fighters
and A-6 attack planes and a complement to its F/A-18E/F fighter/attack planes.
This report discusses the background, status, and current issues of the JSF
program. Continuing developments and related congressional actions will be reported
in CRS Issue Brief IB92115, Tactical Aircraft Modernization: Issues for Congress,
which also discusses the Air Force F-22, the Navy F/A-18EF, and the Marine Corps
V-22. These aircraft and the Air Force’s B-2 strategic bomber and C-17
cargo/transport plane are the most expensive U.S. military aircraft programs. (See
CRS Report 95-409F, Long-Range Bomber Facts: Background Information by
Samuel Wolfe and Dagnija Sterste-Perkins, August 8, 2000 and CRS Report
RL30685, C-17 Cargo Aircraft Program by Christopher Bolkcom, updated
Introduction . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 1
Program Management and Schedule . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 3
Funding and Projected Costs . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 5
Congressional Action . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 7
FY1994 - FY2001 . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 7
Designs and Performance Capabilities . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 10
Foreign Sales and Allied Participation . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 12
Alternatives to JSF . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 14
Major Issues . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
Need for New-Generation Aircraft . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
Affordability of Program . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
Feasibility of Joint-Service Aircraft . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
Implications for U.S. Defense Industry . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
Appendix A: JSF Operational/Performance and Cost Requirements* . . . . . . . 22
Appendix B: Pictures of JSF Variants . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 23
List of Tables
Table 1. JAST/JSF Funding . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 8
Joint Strike Fighter (JSF) Program:
Background, Status, and Issues
The Joint Strike Fighter (JSF) program is expected to develop and build a family
of new-generation tactical aircraft for the Air Force, the Marine Corps, the Navy, and
Britain’s Royal Navy. As now projected, the JSF is the Defense Department’s largest
acquisition program in terms of cost and number of aircraft to be produced. Current
plans call for production of 2,912 aircraft in three versions — 1,763 for the Air Force,
609 for the Marine Corps, up to 480 for the Navy and 60 for the British Navy. 2
Additional aircraft may be bought by Australia, Belgium, Canada, Denmark, the
Netherlands, Norway and other allied governments.
The Air Force plans to purchase a conventional landing and takeoff (CTOL)
version of the JSF to replace its current force of F-16s. The Marine Corps and the
Royal Navy plan to procure a short take-off vertical landing (STOVL) version of the
plane to replace their current fleets of Harrier vertical/short take-off and landing
(VSTOL) attack planes. 3 The Navy plans to procure a carrier-capable CTOL version
— termed a CV — to replace older carrier-based aircraft.
The JSF program is scheduled to begin production around 2005, with first
aircraft deliveries projected to start in 2008. For years, the JSF’s cost goal was an
average flyaway cost of $28-$38 million in FY1994 dollars, depending on the service
version. In November 2000, the program director revised that goal to $31-$38
million each. 4 The total program acquisition cost of the JSF program has been
estimated by CBO at about $219 billion in FY1997 dollars, including some $22 billion
More information about the Joint Strike Fighter may be found at the following websites:
Joint Strike Fighter Program Office [http://www.jast.mil/] , Boeing [http://www.boeing.com]
Lockheed Martin [http://www.jsfteam.com/index.html].
Including the 2,852 U.S. aircraft recommended by the Quadrennial Defense Review in May
1997 and the 60 U.K. aircraft for the Royal Navy. By comparison, 5,054 F-4s were produced
in 1959-1979; 3,805 F-5 versions in 1959-1989; and 2,960 A-4s in 1953-1979. Jane’s All
the World’s Aircraft, 1980-81: 380; 1990-91: 471; 1981-82: 413.
The U.S. Marine Corps and the U.K. Royal Navy and Royal Air Force operate versions of
the AV-8A/B Harrier aircraft flown by these services since the early 1970s. See CRS report
81-180F. The British Harrier V/STOL Aircraft: Analysis of Operational Experience and
Relevance to U.S. Tactical Aviation, August 15, 1981.
Low-end cost of Joint Strike Fighter family raised to $31 million. Aerospace Daily.
November 27, 2000.
for research and development (R&D) and some $197 billion to procure these aircraft. 5
Their actual costs will depend on future inflation rates, technological factors, and
The JSF program emerged in late 1995 from the Joint Advanced Strike
Technology (JAST) program, which began in late 1993 as a result of the
Administration’s Bottom-Up Review (BUR) of U.S. defense policy and programs.
Having affirmed plans to abandon development of both the A-12/AFX aircraft that
was to replace the Navy’s A-6 attack planes and the multi-role fighter (MRF) that the
Air Force had considered to replace its F-16s, the BUR envisaged the JAST program
as a replacement for both these programs. In 1994, the JAST program was criticized
by some observers for being a technology-development program rather than a focused
effort to develop and procure new aircraft. In 1995, in response to congressional
direction, a program led by the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency
(DARPA) to develop an advanced short takeoff and vertical landing (ASTOVL)
aircraft was incorporated into the JAST program, which opened the way for Marine
Corps and British Navy participation. 6 The name of the program was then changed
to JSF to focus on joint development and production of a next-generation
During the JAST/JSF program’s 1994-1996 concept development phase, three
different aircraft designs were proposed by Boeing, Lockheed Martin, and McDonnell
Douglas (the latter teamed with Northrop Grumman and British Aerospace) in a
competitive program expected to shape the future of U.S. tactical aviation and the
U.S. defense industrial base. 7 On November 16, 1996, the Defense Department
announced that Boeing and Lockheed Martin had been chosen to compete in the
1997-2001 concept demonstration phase, in which each contractor would build and
flight-test two aircraft (one CTOL and one STOVL) to demonstrate their concepts
for three JSF variants to meet the different operational requirements of the various
services. The CTOL aircraft will demonstrate concepts for an Air Force land-based
(CTOL) variant and a Navy carrier-based (CV) variant, with the STOVL aircraft
demonstrating concepts for a variant to be operated by the U.S. Marine Corps and the
U.K. Royal Navy. On October 26, 2001, DoD selected a team of contractors led by
Lockheed Martin to develop and produce the JSF. The three variants — CTOL, CV
and STOVL aircraft — are to have maximum commonality in airframe, engine, and
avionics components to reduce production and operation and support costs.
U.S. Congressional Budget Office. A Look at Tomorrow’s Tactical Air Forces by Lane
Pierrot and Jo Ann Vines. January 1997: 83-87. This estimate assumed a JSF program of
2,978 aircraft (including 60 U.K. JSFs) as then projected. In May 1997, the Quadrennial
Defense Review recommended 2,852 U.S. JSFs, which together with 60 U.K. JSFs would be
a 2,912-plane program. Procuring fewer planes increases the unit cost of each plane but
reduces the total procurement cost of the program.
Since the early 1990s DARPA had funded various STOVL projects expected to develop
aircraft to replace both U.S. Marine Corps AV-8B Harriers and the U.K. Royal Navy’s Sea
Harriers. The merger of these research-development efforts with the JAST program in early
1995 cleared the way for U.S.-U.K. collaboration in JSF development.
Tirpak, John A. Strike Fighter. Air Force Magazine, October 1996: 22-28; Hough, Philip.
An Aircraft for the 21st Century. Sea Power, November 1996: 33-34.
Mainly because of their projected costs, three tactical aircraft programs are
currently subjects of debate over the types and numbers of aircraft that U.S. armed
forces may need in the future — the emergent JSF program, the Air Force F-22
program now nearing production, and the Navy’s F/A-18E/F program now in
production. Congressional decisions on these programs will have important
implications for defense funding requirements, U.S. military capabilities, and the U.S.
Program Management and Schedule
The JSF program is jointly staffed and managed by the Department of the Air
Force and the Department of the Navy (comprising the Navy and the Marine Corps),
with coordination among the services reinforced by alternating Air Force and Navy
Department officials in key management positions. For example, Lt. General George
Muellner, USAF, was the program’s first director in 1994, with Rear Admiral Craig
Steidle, USN, serving as deputy director. Subsequently Rear Admiral Steidle directed
the program, with Brigadier General Leslie Kenne, USAF, as his deputy in late 1996
and his successor as program director in August 1997. The current director is MGen
Michael Hough (USMC). His deputy is Brig. Gen. John Hudson (USAF). Service
Acquisition Executive (SAE) responsibility also alternates, with the Air Force having
that responsibility when the program director is from the Navy Department and the
Navy currently in that role with an Air Force director of the program.
Funding for the program has been requested and provided mainly through Air
Force and Navy research-development (R&D) budgets, with some defense-wide
funding since FY1996, when DARPA’s work on STOVL aircraft designs was
incorporated into the JAST program. In May 1996, in response to Congressional
critics, the Department of Defense (DOD) designated the Joint Strike Fighter as a
major defense acquisition program, making the program’s schedule and R&D cost
data more accessible through the Defense Department’s quarterly Selected
Acquisition Report (SAR) submissions, thus facilitating Congressional oversight. 8
The concept development phase of the JSF program, which began with contracts
awarded in FY1994, ended on August 15, 2001. This was the deadline for the
contractor teams to submit the final data on their flight tests. They were then obliged
to answer questions or requests for additional information while preparing their bestand-final offers to the Pentagon by mid-September.9 The Department of Defense, and
ultimately Secretary of the Air Force James Roche will choose the winning design
based on several criteria, including past performance, projected performance, and
cost. DoD currently plans to announce its decision on October 26, 2001,
approximately one year later than previously planned.
Weldon: Designate JSF as Major Acquisition Program. Aerospace Daily, May 28, 1996:
333; DOD Designates JSF as a Major Defense Acquisition Program. Aerospace Daily, May
31, 1996: 355.
Katie Fairbank. “JSF Deal is Down to the Paperwork.” Dallas Morning News. August 15,
Flight testing of concept demonstrator aircraft – at one time planned for the July
2000 time frame – ran from September 18, 2000 to July 30, 2001. The cause of the
flight testing delay has been attributed to a number of factors. Some point to technical
challenges, saying that the contractors had difficulty with complex software
integration, and STOVL propulsion designs. Others suggest that congressional
reductions in EMD funding also slowed down the program. Former DoD acquisition
chief Jacques Gansler was reported to have blamed the delay in part on Congresses
mandate that 20 hours of STOVL flight testing be completed prior to EMD. 10
During flight testing, both contractors began by flying the Air Force variant of
the aircraft, and concluded with the more technically challenging Marine Corps
variant. Boeing ended its STOVL test program after 57 flights. Lockheed Martin
performed 38 STOVL flights. Both contractors claimed successes. Boeing flew its
demonstrator a month before Lockheed Martin’s got off the ground. Lockheed said
it was the first to make a short takeoff, accelerate to supersonic speed, decelerate to
hover and land vertically in a single flight. Both companies touted their managerial
skills as well as their technical achievements.
The JSF program’s EMD phase should run until around 2008, at which time full
rate production is scheduled to begin. This full-scale development phase is expected
to lead to production of aircraft with a projected initial operational capability around
2010. Given the complexities of fielding three variants of the JSF design, getting such
aircraft in operation by 2010 is viewed by some as optimistic in light of the experience
of previous joint aircraft development programs. 11 Others argue, however, that new
developments in technology as well as changes in perceptions of budget priorities and
defense requirements might enable some JSF variants to achieve initial operating
capability (IOC) by around 2010. First flight of JSF is scheduled for 48 months after
contract award. The production plan for JSF includes building 22 test articles during
EMD, seven of which would be non-flying and 15 flying aircraft. Full rate production
is scheduled to begin in 2008. 12
The JSF is expected to remain in production at least through the 2020s. In 1996,
the program included over 3,000 aircraft: 2,036 for the Air Force, 642 for the
Marines, 300 for the U.S. Navy and 60 for the Royal Navy. In May 1997, however,
the QDR recommended reducing projected procurements for the U.S. armed forces
from 2,978 JSF aircraft to 2,852: 1,763 for the Air Force, 609 for the Marines, and
up to 480 for the Navy.13 Thus, the program would comprise 2,912 aircraft (2,852
U.S. and 60 U.K. JSFs), based on these recommendations. The 1997 QDR also
concluded that some 230 of the Navy’s projected buy of 480 JSFs could instead be
Linda de France. “Pentagon Gives JSF, F-22 Wiggle Room for Meeting Requirements.”
Aerospace Daily. October 13, 2000.
Grossman, Elaine M. Fielding Date for JSF May Slip by One or Two Years. Inside the
Pentagon, January 18, 1996: 3-4.
Hunter Keeter. “Lockheed Martin, Boeing Execs Outline Priorities for Joint Strike Fighter
EMD.” Defense Daily. August 20, 2001.
Quadrennial Defense Review Cuts Procurement in FY1999, 2000. Aerospace Daily, May
20, 1997: 280.
F/A-18E/Fs, depending on the progress of the JSF program and the price of its Navy
variant compared to the F/A-18E/F. Former Defense Secretary William Cohen and
other DOD officials stated in May 1997 that they anticipated a “creative tension”
between contractors producing the F/A-18E/F and those developing the JSF, which
would result in a competitive situation similar to what occurred in the C-17 program
in response to Boeing’s proposed alternatives for Air Force transport planes. 14
There have been some indications, however, that like the test schedule, the
production schedule could slip. For instance, the May 1997 report on the
Quadrennial Defense Review noted that the program’s “maximum planned production
rate of 194 aircraft [per year] will be reached in 2012 rather than 2010, easing overall
modernization affordability.”15 Thus, funding competition with other programs would
affect annual procurement of the JSF, as has often been the case with other aircraft
Funding and Projected Costs
The Defense Department’s quarterly Selected Acquisition Report (SAR) of June
30, 2000, estimated the development cost of the JSF at $23.2 billion in then-year
dollars, 17 with full-scale development or EMD (Engineering-Manufacturing
Development) beginning in 2001 and continuing until 2008. An official estimate of
the total program cost of the JSF — including development, procurement, and other
related costs — has not been released. However, program officials have stated their
“affordability goals” for flyaway cost per aircraft in FY1994 dollars: $28 million for
the Air Force CTOL variant, $30-$35 million for the Marine Corps STOVL variant,
and $31-$38 million for the Navy’s CV variant (carrier-based CTOLs). 18 On
November 26, 2000, Maj. Gen Hough, the JSF program director announced that the
cost estimate for the CTOL variant had increased 10% to $31 million per aircraft in
FY1994 dollars. While this increase was due to “marketplace changes,” or higher than
Muradian, Vago. QDR Tac Air Cuts Will Save $30 Billion, Ralston Says. Defense Daily,
May 20, 1997: 301-302; F/A-18E/F Buy Depends on JSF Progress, Cohen Tells SASC.
Aerospace Daily, May 21, 1997: 285, 288. See also CRS Issue Brief IB93041, C-17 Cargo
U.S. Department of Defense. Report of the Quadrennial Defense Review [by] William S.
Cohen, Secretary of Defense. May 1997: 46.
U.S. Congressional Budget Office. A Look at Tomorrow’s Tactical Air Forces by Lane
Pierrot and Jo Ann Vines. January 1997: 51-52.
Then-year dollars include both actual expenditures in prior years and projected fundings for
future years, in contrast to constant dollars of a specific fiscal year.
DoD uses a “deflator scale” to translate then-year dollars into constant year dollars and
thus account for inflation. Using these deflators to translate the JSF affordability goals from
FY94 dollars to FY01 dollars generates the following cost figures: COTL variant; $30.5
million, CV variant; $32.7 - $38.1 million, STOVL variant; $33.8 million - $41.42 million.
expected labor and over head costs, Maj. Gen Hough said that the cost estimates for
the CV and STOVL variants had not changed.19
According to JSF officials, cost goals are expressed as unit flyaway costs
because flyaway cost accounts for such a significant percentage of procurement cost
that this would be the most relevant measure of cost for the cost/performance
tradeoffs that will determine which contractor will build the JSF family of aircraft.20
In early 1997, Congressional Budget Office (CBO) analysts estimated that the
total program cost of 2,978 JSF aircraft procured through the 2020s would be about
$219 billion in FY1997 dollars, including projected procurement costs of $197.3
billion, development costs of $21.5 billion, and some $200 million in military
construction costs. Each JSF would thus have an estimated program unit cost of
$73.5 million in FY1997 dollars. This analysis suggested that the JSF program’s
“affordability goals” for unit prices might be optimistic. For example, CBO analysts
assumed in their estimate that the JSF’s stealth features will entail some cost penalties
in both development and production of these aircraft, which DOD’s estimates appear
not to take into account.21
As a new program just getting underway, the JSF’s annual budget requests have
been modest compared to those of the F/A-18E/F and F-22 programs, which are at
more advanced stages; e.g., the FY2002 defense budget, requested $1.5 billion in
Navy and Air Force R&D funding for the JSF, compared to $3.9 billion to procure
13 F-22 Raptors, $3.1 billion to procure 48 F/A-18E/F Super Hornets,
In its March 22, 1996, request for proposals for concept demonstration, the
program office projected JSF funding requirements totaling $2.2 billion in FY1997FY2000. 22 The concept demonstration contracts announced on November 16, 1996,
totaled $2,212.6 million ($718.8 million to Lockheed Martin; $661.8 million to
Boeing; and $832 million to Pratt & Whitney for engine-related work). As a
collaborative partner in the JSF program, the British government agreed to provide
some $200 million during the 1997-2001 concept demonstration phase.
“Low-end cost of Joint Strike Fighter family raised to $31 million.” Aerospace Daily.
November 27, 2000.
Capaccio, Tony. JSF Office Details Development Cost Issues. Defense Week, May 5,
1997: 5. Flyaway cost includes only the procurement costs of airframes, engines, and
avionics; it does not include the costs of equipment and manuals to maintain the aircraft,
simulators for pilot training, and initial spare parts, and it excludes R&D costs and any
military construction costs for special facilities. Thus, flyaway cost understates the actual
cost of an aircraft, which is more fully expressed as program or acquisition cost, which
includes all of the items noted above.
U.S. Congressional Budget Office. A Look at Tomorrow’s Tactical Air Forces by Lane
Pierrot and Jo Ann Vines. January 1997: 83-87.
Projected annual requirements were $400 million (FY97), $720 million (FY98), $700
million (FY99), and $400 (FY00). Joint Strike Fighter RFP Shows Increased USAF Buy.
Aerospace Daily, March 25, 1996: 455.
The Administration’s FY2003 budget request included $3.5 billion in funding for
the Joint Strike Fighter.23
Reflecting their plan to move the JSF into the EMD phase in October 2001, the
Administration’s $1.5 billion FY2002 request for JSF funding was entirely in the
EMD account. Expressing their support for the program, but also their doubt that the
DoD would be prepared to enter JSF EMD on schedule, the Senate Armed Services
Committee reduced EMD funding. Concept development funds were increased to
keep contractor teams together, but the net authorization was a reduction of $247.2
million. House authorizers supported the Administration’s request, and increased it
by $10 million to reduce development schedule risk of JSF alternate engine common
hardware components. Authorization conferees (S. 1438, S.Rept. 107-333) supported
the Administration’s request for EMD funding. Conferees also expressed their
concern regarding industrial base issues and
direct the Under Secretary of Defense for Acquisition, Technology, and Logistics
to submit a report, with the sub-mission of the fiscal year 2003 budget request,
which details: (1) projections for the military aircraft industrial base, to include
foreign military sales, between now and fiscal year 2015; and (2) actions taken by
the DOD to encourage teaming arrangements in the JSF program that make the
most efficient use of the expertise in the industrial base. 24
Following Senate authorization, Senate appropriators transferred $30 million
from EMD to concept development in anticipation of a delay in the downselect.
Senate appropriators also recommended a $247.2 million reduction to the request,
evenly split between the Navy and Air Force. House authorizors supported the
Administration’s plan as requested. In their report H.R. 3338 (107-350),
appropriations conferees matched the Administration’s request for JSF EMD funds,
and increased the Navy’s account by $2.5 million for the Alternate Engine Program.
FY1994 - FY2001
From FY1994 to FY2001 Congress provided funding within about $329 million
of the approximately $4.3 billion requested by the Administration. Congress imposed
its largest funding cut in FY2001 ($168 million), but provided more than requested
in fiscal years 1998, 1999, and 2000.
Over this time period, Congress has consistently expressed concern regarding
the following issues (1) the pace of the JSF program, (2) it’s affordability in the
“Department of Defense FY2003 Budget Program Acquisition Costs. Aerospace Daily.
February 5, 2002. P.6.
107th Congress, 1st Session. U.S. House of Representatives. Report 107-333 (S. 1438)
National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2002. Conference Report. December 12,
context of overall DoD tactical aviation modernization, (3) the ability to procure a
joint aircraft with widely different STOVL and COTL flight parameters, and (4) the
JSF program’s lack of synchronization with the 1997 Quadrennial Defense Review
The Senate Appropriations Committee recommended FY1997 funding for the
JSF as requested, but the Committee questioned “the current pace of the Joint Strike
Fighter program, given the costs to continue it, the potential for cost growth, and the
need to fund other service priorities now and in the future.” 25
Table 1. JAST/JSF Funding
(in millions of then year dollars)
Concerns about the significantly different flight parameters of conventional and
STOVL aircraft were reflected in the House version of the FY1997 defense
authorization bill, which denied funding for a STOVL variant of the JSF (H.R. 3230,
Sec. 220), thus precluding participation by the U.S. Marines and U.K. Royal Navy in
the program. 26 The language denying funds for a STOVL aircraft was not included
in the conference version of the FY1997 defense authorization bill, but the conferees
retained a House provision calling for a report detailing force structure requirements
for projected threats in 2000-2025 as well as alternative force mixes of aircraft and
U.S. Congress. Senate Appropriations Committee. FY1997 Defense Appropriation Act;
report on S. 1894. Washington, U.S. Govt. Print. Off., 1996. 104th Congress, 2nd session.
S.Rept. 104-286: 99.
Robinson, John and Sheila Foote. Management Concerns Drove Critical JSF Language,
Weldon Says. Defense Daily, May 9, 1996: 236-237. See also in Congressional Record,
May 14, 1996: H4933-H4934 and H2939 the remarks of Rep. Douglas Peterson and Rep.
Paul McHale in opposition to language in Section 220 denying funding for STOVL versions.
munitions and the estimated costs, operational effectiveness, and delivery schedules
of these weapon systems. (H.Rept. 104-724: 37-38).27
When considering the FY1998 defense budget request, Congress discussed the
JSF program as well as the F-22 and F/A-18E/F programs in terms of their long-term
affordability rather than specific preferences among these three programs. When
language directing the Defense Department to indicate a preference in case of
insufficient funds for all three programs was proposed during Senate debate on the
defense authorizations bill, the provision was soundly defeated.
The House National Security Committee’ s28 FY1998 authorization report
directed the Defense Department by February 15, 1998, to provide details on funding
for full development and flight testing of an alternative engine for the JSF. In
recommending decreased Air Force R&D funding, the report noted the Committee’s
concern “that the current pace of tactical aviation programs is both unaffordable and
not coordinated with the ... Quadrennial Defense Review.” 29
Congressional action on the JSF in FY2001 again raised concerns about schedule
and affordability. Specifically, more than one committee voiced concern regarding the
acquisition strategy. Some were concerned that DoD would abandon its “winner take
all strategy” and split the award of the EMD contract between the leading candidates.
While this strategy might prove beneficial to the U.S. aerospace industrial base in the
long run, legislators opined that it would significantly raise JSF costs. Appropriations
conferees (H.R. 4576, H.Rept.106-754. p. 220) endorsed DoD’s winner take all
strategy, and wrote that “...industrial base concerns can best be addressed after the
source selection decision.” Also, more than one committee raised concerns about the
maturity of key JSF technologies and whether the program was ready to graduate
from the demonstration/validation phase to EMD as per DoD plans.
Reflecting a three month delay in moving the JSF program to the EMD phase,
appropriations conferees cut the FY2001 EMD request by $393 million, and increased
concept development funds, for a net reduction to the program of $168 million. The
conferees also directed that all flight testing – including at least 20 hours for the
STOVL design – should be completed and fully evaluated prior to the selection of a
JSF EMD design (H.R. 4205, p. 717).
The Defense Department’s Institute for Defense Analysis (IDA) provided the defense
committees information and periodic briefings in response to these questions during 19961997. Conversations with Dr. Dean Simmons, IDA, August 21 and November 4, 1997.
The House National Security Committee was renamed the House Armed Services
committee in January 1999.
U.S. Congress. House National Security Committee. FY1998 National Defense
Authorization Act; report on H.R. 1119. Washington, U.S. Govt. Print. Off., 1997. 105th
Congress, 1st session. H.Rept. 105-132: 189-190, 212, 243.
Designs and Performance Capabilities
Contrary to some misconceptions that the Joint Strike Fighter would be one
aircraft used by several services for different missions, the program envisions the
development and production of three highly common variants: a land-based CTOL
version for the Air Force, a carrier-based CTOL version (CV) for the Navy, and a
STOVL version for the Marines and the Royal Navy. Thus, the two contractors,
Boeing and Lockheed Martin, are to demonstrate competing designs for a family of
such aircraft, which use a mix of components, systems, and technologies with
commonality projected at 70 to 90 percent in terms of production cost. As currently
envisioned, the designs will have many high-cost components in common, including
engines, avionics, and major structural components of the airframe. Former Secretary
of Defense William Cohen stated that the JSF’s joint approach “avoids the three
parallel development programs for service-unique aircraft that would have otherwise
been necessary, saving at least $15 billion.”30
The overall Boeing design has been described as the more innovative, featuring
a solid wing (with considerable space for internal-fuel) and a single direct-lift engine
with nozzles for vectored thrust in STOVL operations (similar to the AV-8 Harrier’s
Pegasus engine). The Lockheed Martin design is generally described as more
conservative, resembling Lockheed’s F-22 stealth aircraft. However, the Lockheed
STOVL concept which employs a shaft-driven lift fan connected to the main engine
with extra thrust provided by vectoring nozzles, is the less traditional approach. The
design proposed by the McDonnell Douglas, Northrop Grumman, and British
Aerospace team was an almost tailless aircraft, powered by separate lift and lift/cruise
engines. The use of separate engines was reportedly a factor in the rejection of this
Both of the competing airframe designs will be powered by engines derived from
the F-22's Pratt & Whitney F119 power plant, with a General Electric F120 derivative
to be developed as a competing alternative engine.32 The engines of both designs will
include components made by Allison (now owned by Rolls-Royce, which developed
and produced the Pegasus engines powering Harrier STOVL aircraft since the 1960s).
The JSF program would benefit from the broad engineering experience and the
competitive environment provided by Pratt & Whitney, General Electric, and
Letter from Secretary of Defense William S. Cohen to Rep. Jerry Lewis, June 22, 2000.
Transcript made available by Inside the Airforce. June 23, 2000
Sweetman, Bill. Decision Day Looms for Joint Strike Fighter. Jane’s International
Defense Review, September 1996: 36-39, 42-43; Bender, Bryan and Tom Breen. Boeing,
Lockheed Martin Win JSF Demonstrator Contracts. Defense Daily, November 18, 1996: JSF
Sweetman, Bill. Vectored Thrust Takes Off, Competition for JAST’s Engine Design
Grows. Jane’s International Defence Review, April 1996: 30-32, 35-36, 39; Goodman,
Glenn W. The Second Great Engine War. Armed Forces Journal International, April 1996:
18; Warwick, Graham. GE YF-120 Wins the Vote as JSF Competitive Engine. Flight
International, May 22-28, 1996: 17; Allison Unit Eyes JSF Alternate Engine Deal.
Aerospace Daily, November 21, 1996: 1-3 (Aerospace Propulsion Extra section); JSF
Alternate Fighter Engine Program Fleshing Out. Aerospace Daily, May 20, 1997: 279.
Allison/Rolls-Royce, but despite potential savings through competition the
development of an alternative power plant would significantly increase the JSF’s
development cost. For this reason, there has been some opposition in the Defense
Department to an alternate JSF engine, although there has been considerable support
in Congress since 1996.33
All JSF planes will be single-engine, single-seat aircraft with supersonic dash
capability and some degree of stealth (low observability to radar and other sensors).
Combat ranges and payloads will vary in the different service variants. For example,
as currently planned, range requirements would be 450-600 nautical miles (nmi) for
the Air Force, 600 nmi for the Navy, and 450-550 nmi for the Marine Corps. As
projected in late 1997, Air Force and Navy versions would carry two 2,000-lb
weapons internally, with the STOVL versions for the Marine Corps and the Royal
Navy carrying two 1,000-lb weapons internally. All versions will also carry AIM-120
AMRAAMs (advanced medium-range air-to-air missiles, with a range of about 26
nmi/48 km depending on altitude34). Space will be reserved for an advanced gun, if
one is found that meets operational requirements at an affordable cost. 35 JSF
requirements dictate that the aircraft’s gun must be able to penetrate lightly armored
targets. Both contractors favor a 27-millimeter cannon made by the German company
Mauser, which is used by many European fighter programs .36
Performance features in regard to radar signature, speed, range, and payload will
be determined on the basis of trade-offs between performance and cost, with the latter
being a critical factor. Program officials have emphasized that such cost and
performance tradeoffs are critical elements of the current development phase, since
these tradeoffs will be the basis for the joint-service operational requirements that will
determine the selection of a single contractor team for the EMD phase of full-scale
development to begin in 2001. 37 The 1997 QDR report observed that “Uncertainties
in prospective JSF production cost warrant careful Departmental oversight of the
cost-benefit tradeoffs in design to ensure that modernization and force structure
remain in balance over the long term.” 38 In other words, production costs must be
low enough that these aircraft can be bought in sufficient quantities to maintain
Dual Engine Development Could Saddle JSF with up to $800 Million Bill. Inside the Navy,
August 5, 1996: 2; Despite Demand for Second JSF Engine Source, F120 Comes up Short.
Aerospace Daily, October 18, 1996: 102; U.S. Congressional Budget Office. A Look at
Tomorrow’s Tactical Air Forces by Lane Pierrot and Jo Ann Vines. January 1997: 53.
Zaloga, Steven J. AIM-120 AMRAAM in World Missiles Briefing. Teal Group Corp.,
January 1997: 5.
Advanced Gun Seen Likely for Some Joint Strike Fighters. Aerospace Daily, May 5, 1997:
195. Appendix C provides further details on JSF operational/performance and cost
requirements as projected in late 1997.
Adam Hebert. “Strike Fighter Gun Choice Signals New Era For U.S. Aircraft Cannon.”
Inside the Air Force. October 27, 2000.
Tradeoffs Will Be Made to Contain JSF Costs. Aerospace Daily, September 26, 1997:
U.S. Department of Defense. Report of the Quadrennial Defense Review [by] William S.
Cohen, Secretary of Defense. May 1997: 46.
desired force levels. Thus, the parameters of the JSF’s performance and operational
capabilities are subject to change for reasons of cost, technological developments, and
future threat assessments.
Foreign Sales and Allied Participation
Potential foreign sales and allied participation in the JSF program have been
actively pursued as a way to defray some of the cost of developing and producing the
aircraft. Congress insisted from the outset that the JAST program include ongoing
efforts by the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) to develop
more advanced STOVL aircraft, opening the way for British participation.
Various contractual relationships with allied governments and foreign firms are
possible, depending on the amount of funding invested in the program, ranging from
the British government’s participation as a collaborative partner to associate partners,
informed customers, observers or FMS participants. On December 20, 1995, the U.S.
and U.K. governments signed a memorandum of understanding (MOU) on British
participation in the JSF program as a collaborative partner in the definition of
requirements and aircraft design. This MOU committed the British government to
contribute $200 million towards the cost of the 1997-2001 concept demonstration
phase. 39 British Aerospace, Rolls-Royce, and other U.K. defense firms that have long
been involved in major U.S. aircraft programs are expected to be subcontractor
participants in the JSF program. 40 On January 17, 2001 the United States and the
United Kingdom signed an MOU that committed the British government to spend $2
billion supporting the JSF EMD phase. Britain’s investment equates to approximately
eight percent of the EMD program, and has been described by many analysts as a
boon for the JSF program. Britain’s – and other allies’ – participation in the program
makes it much more difficult for Congress or the Administration to cancel the
program, they say. 41 In his nomination hearing, DoD acquisition chief Pete Aldridge
testified that the any decision on the fate of the JSF would have to weigh its
“international implications.” 42
On April 16, 1997, the Dutch and Norwegian governments signed an MOU,
which was later signed by the Danish government on September 10, 1997, committing
a total of $32 million from these NATO allies, who see the JSF as a replacement for
the F-16 fighters they have operated since the late 1970s. On January 2, 1998, the
Canadian government signed an MOU agreement, committing $10 million to the JSF
U.S., U.K. Sign JAST Agreement. Aerospace Daily, December 21, 1995: 451.
Since the 1970s many European and Japanese firms have been major participants in U.S.
aircraft, avionics, and munitions programs as subcontractors or affiliates of U.S. firms; e.g.,
F-15, F-16, AV-8, F/A-18, and AWACS programs.
Greg Schneider. “Britain Backs Joint Strike Fighter Effort.” Washington Post. January 18,
2001. “British commitment seen as major boost to the Joint Strike Fighter.” Inside the Air
Force. January 19, 2001.
Marc Selinger. “JSF decision should weigh ‘international implications,’ nominee for
acquisition post says. Aerospace Daily. April 27, 2001.
program as an observer of its management innovations. Canadian officials have stated
that there is no commitment to buy the aircraft, however, and that Canada does not
expect the JSF to replace its F/A-18A/Bs (operated as the CF-118A/B since the early
On April 21, 2000 it was reported that DoD had extended offers to Australia and
Belgium to become “partners” in the JSF development. Both countries declined the
offer. Turkey, Italy, Denmark, Norway and the Netherlands, however have accepted
partner status in the JSF EMD phase. While the exact details are still to be
determined, participation in EMD is expected to cost each country from $250 million
to $1.25 billion over 11 years. The smallest financial input a country can make to be
a JSF partner is 1-2 percent of EMD cost. 44 The main benefit derived from
participation is a strong commitment by the U.S. to export the aircraft to partner
countries once the JSF is in production. 45 Another benefit of participation could be
the transfer of military aviation expertise. Turkish officials have stated that
participation in the JSF program is a “major opportunity for our defense industry.” 46
I early February 2002, Canada and the Netherlands joined Britain as foreign
partners in the JSF’s SDD phase. As a “Level III” partner, Canada pledged to
provide $150 million over the next 10 years for the system development and
demonstration phase. 47 The Netherlands committed $800 million to the program,
making it a “Level II partner.” 48 The Dutch parliament must approve Prime Minister
JSF program managers are now offering an FMS level of participation for those
countries unable to commit to partnership in the JSF’s EMD phase. JSF officials have
discussed the aircraft with the defense staffs of many allied countries as prospective
customers, including Germany, Israel, Italy, Turkey, Singapore and Spain. Britain’s
Royal Air Force (RAF) as well as its Royal Navy may also buy some JSF aircraft over
the long run. In the near term, however, the RAF is expected to buy the Eurofighter,
which is to be produced by British, German, Italian, and Spanish companies as
Conversations with Canadian Embassy officials, February 13, 1998; Canada, U.S. Sign
MOU for JSF Program. Navy News and Undersea Technology, February 9, 1998:7; Joint
Strike Fighter: Opportunities for Canadian Industry. Report prepared by BDM
International, Inc. for the Government of Canada, March 1997: 15p.
Robert Wall. Pentagon Broadens Foreign Options for JSF. Aviation Week & Space
Technology. June 5, 2000: 46.
Australia, Belgium Enter Joint Strike Fighter Program as EMD Partners. Inside the Air
Force. April 21, 2000.
Bekedil, Burak Ege and Umit Enginsoy. Turks to Pay up to $1 Billion to Join JSF
Development. Defense News. July 17, 2000:6.
Jim Garomone. “Canada Joins Joint Strike Fighter Effort. American Forces Press Service.
February 7, 2002.
“Dutch Government Decides to Join Joint Strike Fighter.” Defense Daily. February 11,
Europe’s next-generation fighter/attack plane.49 The Polish government is reportedly
leaning toward an FMS investment of $75 to $100 million in the JSF program.50
On January 8, 2002 it was reported that the House Government Reform national
security subcommittee had tasked the General Accounting Office to study the JSF
program and determine if there were any disadvantages to the robust participation of
foreign countries. While foreign participation is viewed as a positive means of
encouraging interoperability, legislators were concerned that it could also result in
excessive transfer of technology.51
Alternatives to JSF
According to some critics of the program, the U.S. armed services have
alternatives to the JSF in the Air Force F-16, the Marine Corps AV-8B, and the Navy
F/A-18E/F, which could be produced in upgraded and modified versions that would
maintain force structures while providing at least some of the performance capabilities
promised by the JSF. Moreover, they argue that more advanced versions of current
aircraft designs might be developed and procured at less cost and with less risk of
delays and technological problems than an entirely new family of aircraft variants may
entail. Upgraded versions of existing aircraft designs could probably also be sold to
allied governments that are likely to be JSF customers.
Noting the JSF’s projected cost as well as past experience with new aircraft
programs, Congressional Budget Office (CBO) analysts have suggested options that
would either cancel development of the JSF, reduce procurement of the aircraft, or
alter the types developed and their distribution among the services. CBO analysts
have identified a number of alternatives to developing, procuring, and using JSF
aircraft as currently proposed. These alternative options include reliance on
modification of current fighter/attack planes already in operation or expected to be
in service soon, such as the Navy F/A-18E/F and the Air Force F-22, as well as
procuring fewer JSFs than proposed or none of these aircraft, with their place being
taken by F-16s, AV-8Bs, and F/A-18E/Fs. 52
A CBO report requested by the House National Security Committee’s
Subcommittee on Military Research and Development and published in January 1997
analyzed the budgetary implications of the Administration’s tactical aircraft
modernization plans in regard to the JSF, F-22, and F/A-18E/F programs. The study
Michael J. Witt. Britain’s Air Force Considers JSF as Harrier Follow-on. Defense News,
January 12-18, 1998: 1, 27. Scott, Richard and Nick Cook. UK Air, Naval Forces Sign on
Joint Future Aircraft. Jane’s Defence Weekly, January 7, 1998: 3.
Grzegorz Holdanowicz. “Poland Steps Up Interest in JSF.” Jane’s Defense Weekly. July
Selinger, Marc. GAO asked to review JSF international participation. Aerospace Daily.
January 8, 2002.
U.S. Congressional Budget Office. A Look at Tomorrow’s Tactical Air Forces by Lane
Pierrot and Jo Ann Vines. January 1997: 55-71.
evaluated one option that assumed procurement of only the 1,320 JSFs planned for
Air Force buys through 2020 but no Marine Corps or Navy JSF versions; this was
estimated to save about $2.5 billion FY1997 dollars in average annual procurement
funding over the 2002-2020 period compared to current Administration plans,
estimated to cost some $11.9 billion annually. Another option assumed procurement
of 660 STOVL variants of the JSF for the Marines and the Navy, with the Air Force
using F-16s and F-15Es in lieu of JSFs and F-22s, respectively, which was estimated
to save about $4.5 billion (FY1997 $) per year from 2002 to 2020. The study also
evaluated a share-the-pain option that would cap procurement funding for
fighter/attack planes in 2002-2020 at the same level as the historical average for Air
Force and Navy fighter/attack aircraft funding from 1974 to 1997. This option would
continue current development plans, but because of the JSF cost cap it would be able
to purchase only about 40% of the JSFs currently planned (42% for the Air Force,
30% for the Marine Corps, and 51% for the Navy) and about 50% of planned F-22s
and 58% of planned F/A-18E/Fs, with estimated average savings of $5.6 billion
(FY1997 $) in annual procurement funding. Each of these options presents risks and
opportunities. The last option, for instance would save $5.6 billion (FY1997 $) in
annual procurement funding but would also result in a smaller and older fighter force
with less combat capability.
The Joint Strike Fighter program poses a number of policy issues concerning (1)
the need for such new aircraft to cope with future military threats, (2) the affordability
of this program in its full-scale development and production phases after 2000, (3) the
feasibility of such a joint-service approach to diverse service requirements, and (4) the
implications for the U.S. defense industrial base.
Need for New-Generation Aircraft
Some argue that future threat scenarios will not require the combat capabilities
promised by JSF aircraft. According to this view, continued production of modified
versions of the Air Force F-16, the Marine Corps AV-8B, and the Navy F/A-18E/F
along with the Air Force’s stealthy B-2 bombers and F-22 fighters in conjunction with
sea-launched missiles and air-launched precision-guided munitions would suffice for
the most probable combat scenarios. 53 As noted above, CBO analysts considered the
relative costs of several options involving greater reliance on upgrades of existing
aircraft vs. development and procurement of the JSF. GAO analysts have also
questioned the need for new-generation aircraft such as the F-22 and the F/A- 18E/F
as well as the JSF, arguing that current aircraft would provide more capability than
was needed during the 1991 Gulf War and concluding that it would be unlikely
Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments. U.S. Tactical Aircraft Plans: Preparing
for the Wrong Future? by Steven Kosiak, CSBA Backgrounder, October 3, 1996: 5-10.
that potential adversaries could prevent U.S. forces from achieving their military
objectives in future conflicts. 54
JSF proponents argue that it would be more cost-effective to acquire newgeneration aircraft than to upgrade current aircraft to such an extent that they could
perform effectively after 2010, maintaining that existing planes would require major
modifications at considerable cost and would provide less combat effectiveness than
a new JSF family of fighter/attack aircraft. In this view, the proliferation of Russian
and other advanced surface-to-air and air-to-air missiles to hostile countries is likely
to continue, which would pose much more serious threats to U.S. and allied aircraft
than they faced in the 1991 Gulf War. Moreover, many currently operational aircraft
will need to be replaced by the time JSF types could be in full production in the 2010s,
when most of these planes will be about twenty years old, according to defense
analyst Lawrence Korb, who recommends reducing procurement of F-22s and F/ A18E/Fs in order to fund the JSF program. 55 Given the difficulties of accurately
predicting what might be needed in future conflict scenarios, how combat-effective
JSF aircraft would be, and what it would cost to develop, procure, and operate these
aircraft, any analyses of military requirements and the combat effectiveness and
budgetary costs of such new-generation aircraft allow for a range of conjecture and
Affordability of Program
JSF program officials anticipate major savings due to a high degree of
commonality in components and systems among the three versions, which are to be
built on a common production line. They also expect significant savings to be
achieved by basing performance requirements on tradeoffs between cost and
performance features, with industry and the services working together as a team. The
contractors are expected to use new technologies and manufacturing techniques that
reportedly could greatly reduce the JSF’s development and production costs; e.g.,
wider use of composite materials in place of metal, CAD/CAM (computer-aided
design/computer-aided manufacture) systems, and a recently developed plastic
laminate that can be used instead of paint on the airframe. 56 Composite materials have
frequently proven more expensive than metal, raising questions about the savings to
be achieved via composites.
U.S. General Accounting Office. Combat Air Power: Joint Mission Assessments Needed
Before Making Program and Budget Decisions. GAO/NSIAD-96-177, September 20, 1996:
9-10. See also GAO testimony before the House National Security Committee’s
Subcommittees on Military Research and Development and Military Procurement, June 27,
1996. GAO/T-NSIAD-96-196: 4-5 (“Forces of Potential Adversaries Are Limited and Likely
Slow to Improve”).
Korb, Lawrence J. Should We Pay $21 Billion for This Plane? — Yes, It’s a Bargain for
the Future. Christian Science Monitor, November 25, 1996: 19.
Steidle, Craig E. The Joint Strike Fighter Program. Johns Hopkins APL Technical Digest,
v. 18, no. 1, January-March 1997: 6-8, 10-13, 17-18; Kaminski Praises Industry Response
to DOD Initiatives. Aerospace Daily, February 16, 1996: 249; Bender, Bryan. `Paintless’
Design to Save JSF an Estimated $3 Billion. Defense Daily, July 18, 1997: 108-109.
Program officials are also counting on the availability of adequate funding to
procure the aircraft at efficient rates of production. Moreover, they expect either
Boeing or Lockheed Martin to be able to produce the JSF at less cost than was the
case with previous military aircraft, when cost controls were less compelling. For
example, the F-16's production costs declined by 38% between mid-1992 and early
1997, largely due to more efficient production methods and reduced labor costs, even
though production rates fell from 20 to 25 aircraft per month in 1991 to about six
aircraft per month in 1994-95, soon after Lockheed Martin acquired the F-16 plant
in Fort Worth, Texas, from General Dynamics. 57 Similarly, Boeing’s experience in
high-volume production of commercial transport planes is expected to facilitate costefficient production of military aircraft such as the JSF. 58
Others doubt these optimistic forecasts, citing past experience with new aircraft
programs, concern about budget deficits, and support for non-defense programs in
this post-Cold War period, which might preclude procurement of the JSF at projected
rates. 59 According to this view, we cannot afford to launch a new JSF program while
having to continue buying improved and ever more expensive versions of current
planes to maintain force structures during what may be a long interim if the JSF runs
into technical or budgetary problems. 60 It can also be argued that critical performance
features may have to be traded off to make the JSF affordable enough to be procured
in the quantities deemed necessary to maintain force structures. 61
Disagreements over performance and capability versus cost and affordability may
threaten multi-service support of the JSF program. CBO analysts have noted that the
performance/capability compromises required to achieve commonality “... could mean
that the service with the most modest requirements in terms of capability (the Air
Force) would have to accept a higher price and capability [compared to the F-16] than
it needs so that the needs of the services with the greater capability requirements (the
Navy and Marine Corps) could be met.” They argue that if history is a guide, JSF
planes “... are apt to be more costly than Air Force requirements might dictate, but
provide less capability than the Navy might desire.” They note further that “... price
increases and decreases in capability are consistent with the history of many single
service programs as well,” since development programs usually provide less capability
Scott, William C. Lockheed Martin Reconstructs TAS [Tactical Aircraft Systems] Unit
as `Fighter Enterprise.’ Aviation Week & Space Technology, July 28, 1997: 64-66.
Schneider, Greg. Boeing Aftershocks. The [Baltimore] Sun, December 22, 1996: 1D, 3D.
For discussion of budgetary constraints and competing defense programs, see Center for
Strategic and Budgetary Assessments. U.S. Tactical Aircraft Plans: Preparing for the
Wrong Future? by Steven Kosiak, CSBA Backgrounder, October 3, 1996: 4-5.
Muradian, Vago and John Robinson. Public Confidence at Odds with Private Concerns
about Tacair. Defense Daily, November 19, 1996: 277; Shanahan, John J. Should We Pay
$219 Billion for This Plane? — No, It’s Squandering on Imaginary Enemies. Christian
Science Monitor, November 25, 1996: 19.
The difficulties of balancing performance and cost in the JSF program are discussed in
detail in CBO’s A Look at Tomorrow’s Tactical Air Forces, January 1997: 48-50; see also
Cole, Jeff, Andy Pasztor, and Thomas E. Ricks. The Sky, the Limit: Do Lean Times Mean
Fighting Machines Will Be Built for Less? Wall Street Journal, November 18, 1996: A1.
at higher prices than early estimates suggest, and they conclude that the JSF
program’s success “... will depend on persuading the services to lower their
expectations from the stand-alone programs they might have without the Joint Strike
Feasibility of Joint-Service Aircraft
Those skeptical of developing aircraft to meet the needs of several services often
point to the TFX program in the 1960s as a classic example of DOD’s failure to
produce an aircraft that was both carrier-capable as well as suitable for land-based Air
Force operations. 63 Analogies between TFX and JSF are rejected, however, by those
who argue that TFX problems will be avoided in the JSF program by developing
variants of a family of aircraft that can meet service requirements while sharing many
common components and subsystems, such as engines, avionics, communications, and
Their argument is supported by an analyst who compared the origins of the two
programs and concluded that JSF has thus far avoided the pitfalls of TFX by an
apparent commitment to much better coordination of service requirements and the
development of three variants for the Air Force, Navy, and Marine Corps/Royal Navy
instead of one all-purpose airframe for both land- and carrier-based operations. 64
CBO analysts have noted, however, that “Many defense programs begin with the
expectation of joint purchases by the services, but those expectations are seldom
met.” For example, in the mid-1980s the Navy and Air Force planned to buy each
other’s next-generation aircraft: the Navy’s Advanced Tactical Aircraft — the A-12
that was cancelled in 1991 — and the Air Force F-22, in which the Navy has not been
interested since the early 1990s. Similarly, the V-22 program began in 1981 as the
JVX tilt-rotor aircraft to be used by the Army, Marine Corps, Navy, and Air Force,
but the Army soon dropped out and the other services reduced their projected buys. 65
While designing an aircraft that meets both the Air Force’s and the Navy’s needs
is challenging, the Marine Corps’ STOVL requirement may be what makes or breaks
this joint program. At one point, some senior Air Force and Navy officials expressed
interest in the JSF’s STOVL variant, which these services might use if developments
in propulsion technology result in STOVL aircraft with the range, payload, and
U.S. Congressional Budget Office. A Look at Tomorrow’s Tactical Air Forces by Lane
Pierrot and Jo Ann Vines. January 1997: 48-50.
For background on the TFX program, which produced the Air Force’s F-111 and FB-111
strategic bombers in the 1960s, see Art, Robert. The TFX Decision — McNamara and the
Military. Boston, 1968; see also and Coulam, Robert. Illusions of Choice. Princeton, 1977.
Rolleston, Mort. Learning the Lessons of TFX: the Joint Strike Fighter and Acquisition
Reform. Unpublished manuscript by Master of Arts graduate in Security Policy Studies,
Elliot School of International Affairs, George Washington University, February 1997.
U.S. Congressional Budget Office. A Look at Tomorrow’s Tactical Air Forces by Lane
Pierrot and Jo Ann Vines. January 1997: 47-48. For discussion of the V-22 program, see
CRS Issue Brief IB86103, V-22 Osprey Tilt-Rotor Aircraft Program.
supersonic speed that Air Force and Navy operators consider necessary. 66 Air Force
and Navy procurement of STOVL as well as CTOL versions of the JSF would reduce
the unit costs of these aircraft, with favorable implications for the program’s
affordability and multi-service support in the annual competition for funding.
The costs and complications of pursuing the STOVL variant, however, are the
impetus behind a Navy suggestion that it be cancelled, and that the Marine Corps buy
the CV JSF instead. Contractors counter, however, that early STOVL technical
challenges have been overcome. 67 Others point out that cancelling the STOVL
version of JSF is complicated by the UK’s investment in the program. Regardless,
DoD is studying the incorporation of Marine Corps fixed wing aviation into the Navy,
which would eliminate the requirement for STOVL. 68
Multi-service support of the JSF has also been threatened by concerns on the
part of some Navy officials that the costs of developing these aircraft may be too high,
given the service’s other funding priorities. In August 1997, the Navy began a review
of JSF costs, raising questions about the service’s continued support. Chief of Naval
Operations Admiral Jay Johnson described this cost review as a routine exercise that
in no way indicated a lack of support for the program, adding that “The Navy is
committed to the Joint Strike Fighter as much as our shipmates in the Marine Corps
and the Air Force.” 69 The Air Force and the Marine Corps are the major participants
in the program in terms of projected procurement; however, the Air Force is strongly
committed to funding its F-22 stealth fighter/attack plane while the Marine Corps is
strongly committed to funding its V-22 tilt-rotor aircraft. Perhaps concerned that the
Navy and Air Force might not fully support the Joint Strike Fighter program in their
long-term budget plans and that this lack of support would slow down or even
jeopardize the program, former Deputy Defense Secretary Rudy de Leon issued a
letter on May 2, 2000 to leaders of both departments, directing them to fully fund the
tri-service fighter program. Stating that the JSF program was at a “critical juncture,”
de Leon reminded the Navy and Air Force leadership that the JSF will be the
“cornerstone of U.S. tactical aviation for decades to come.” 70
Implications for U.S. Defense Industry
Some fear that those firms selected as prime contractors for both development
and production of the JSF (Boeing or Lockheed Martin for the airframe and Pratt &
Caires, Greg and Tom Breen. Global Power Office to Push for STOVL Version of JSF.
Defense Daily, May 1, 1997: 184.
Adam Hebert. “Early STOVL-Variant Challenges Are In The Past, JSF Contractors Say.”
Inside the Air Force. March 16, 2001.
Frank Wolfe. “Navy to Submit Study on Incorporating Marine Corps Fixed-Air Wing.
Defense Daily. September 4, 2001.
Ricks, Thomas E. Navy Begins to Question New Attack Jet That Air Force and Marines
Support. Wall Street Journal, September 9, 1997: A4; Bender, Bryan. Navy Says It’s Fully
Committed to Joint Strike Fighter. Defense Daily, September 12, 1997: 423-424.
Castelli, Christopher. Air Force, Navy Directed to Fully Fund Joint Strike Fighter Program.
Inside the Air Force. May 5, 2000.
Whitney or General Electric for the engine) will dominate U.S. defense industry to
such an extent that competition will be seriously impaired. 71 These concerns are
increased by the continuing consolidation of U.S. aircraft and defense companies,
highlighted in 1997 by Boeing’s acquisition of McDonnell Douglas and Lockheed
Martin’s proposed purchase of Northrop Grumman. Competition in weapons
production is important not only because of cost-control implications but also for
preservation of a broad base of technical skills and competing ideas. Lawrence Korb
has warned that “the Pentagon’s enthusiastic embrace of defense industry
consolidation will ultimately leave it dependent on three giant companies that will
have neither the incentive nor the capacity to come up with the technology
breakthroughs that have been the foundation of U.S. military power.” 72
Others believe that there will still be enough work on combat aircraft programs
to sustain a robust and competitive defense industrial base, arguing that firms not
awarded prime contracts can still play important and profitable subcontractor roles
in the JSF program as well as compete in other weapons programs. 73 In this view,
production of the JSF could be shared by Boeing and Lockheed Martin, just as
production of the F-22 is currently shared by these companies, which would preserve
some degree of competitiveness in development and production of fighter aircraft
although with additional budgetary cost.
To ensure that the “winner-take-all” strategy is in fact in the country’s best
interests, DoD acquisition chief Jacques Gansler empaneled a three-member
committee to study the issue. On June 22, 2000 Under Secretary of Defense Gansler
announced that for now, DoD would adhere to its original plan to award the JSF
contract to a single company. In a letter to Rep. Jerry Lewis, Secretary of Defense
William S. Cohen wrote “The Department has examined a number of options for
continuing the JSF program once concept demonstration is completed. These options
all assume the selection of a single, winning design. They range from winner-take-all
to competition throughout production.” Cohen also stated that DoD and the RAND
Corp. would continue to examine these options so that the next Administration could
make their own judgement on the strategy that most prudently addresses industrial
base concerns. In a letter to the leadership for the Senate Armed Services Committee,
Undersecretary of Defense for Acquisition Aldridge confirmed the Bush
Administration’s adherence to the winner take all strategy.
RAND released its study of DoD’s “winner-take-all” strategy in April 2001 and
endorsed this strategy. Their study found it unlikely that DoD would recoup costs
through establishing a second production line, and suggested that the best way to
keep costs down would be to give production to one team, and compete future
Aboulafia, Richard. From JAST to JSF — The Future of the Combat Aircraft Business,
or More Doomed Paper Airplanes. Military Technology, May 1996: 84.
Pearlstein, Steven. Boeing Free to Purchase McDonnell, Washington Post, July 2, 1997:
Fulghum, David A. and John D. Morocco. Final JSF Competition Offers No Sure Bets.
Aviation Week & Space Technology, November 25, 1996: 20-22.
upgrades to the aircraft.74 Aerospace experts are divided on the feasibility of pursuing
The JSF program could also have a strong impact on the U.S. defense industry
through export. Most observers believe that the JSF could dominate the combat
aircraft export market much as the F-16 has. Some estimate that the potential export
market for the JSF approaches 4,000 aircraft. Like the F-16, the JSF appears to be
attractive due to its relatively low cost, flexible design, and promise of high
performance. Also, analysts note that during his first stint as Defense Secretary,
Donald Rumsfeld played an instrumental role in launching the F-16 program by
including foreign partners in the aircraft’s development. 75 Many competitors, including
France’s Rafale, Sweden’s JAS Gripen, and the European Typhoon are positioned
to challenge the JSF in the fighter export market, or take its market share if the
program is cancelled. Also, few countries have expressed interest in buying either the
F-22 or the F/A-18E/F.
It can also be argued that the demand for civilian transport aircraft after 2000
will be strong enough to sustain a robust U.S. aviation industry, given the need to
replace aging aircraft with quieter and more fuel-efficient planes for expanding
domestic and international travel markets. For example, the worldwide fighter/attack
market in 2005 has been estimated to be worth about $13.2 billion while the
commercial jet transport market is projected to be worth about $43.5 billion at that
time. Compared with its European and Asian competitors, the U.S. aviation industry
appears to be well positioned to meet the needs of an expanding world market for
civil aircraft after the turn of the century. 76 The extent to which such economic
conditions may preserve an adequate U.S. defense industrial base for the development
and production of combat aircraft is debatable, however, given the significant
differences between civilian and military aircraft requirements and technologies.
Adam Hebert. “RAND: Funding Alternate JSF Avionics Teams Would Likely Benefit
DoD.” Inside the Air Force. April 6, 2001.
Vago Muradian. “Coffman: JSF Critical to Preserving U.S. Leadership in World Fighter
Market.” Defense Daily. February 26, 2001.
Aboulafia, Richard. Market Overviews — Commercial Jet Transports, Fighter/Attack
Aircraft in World Military and Civil Aircraft Briefing. Teal Group Corp., February-March
Appendix A: JSF Operational/Performance and
subsonic cruise with supersonic dash
speeds comparable to F-16 and F/A-18c
* Steidle, Craig E. The Joint Strike Fighter Program. Johns Hopkins APL Technical Digest, v. 18,
January-March, 1997: 9. For more current USAF payload requirements, see Muradian, Vago. AF
Seeks 2,000-Pound Weapons Capability in New JSF Requirement. Defense Daily, September 16,
Aircraft range is normally stated in nautical miles (nmi) of 6,080 ft, equivalent to 1.15 statute miles
(mi) or 1.85 kilometers (km).
Muradian, Vago. AF Seeks 2,000-Pound Weapons Capability in New JSF Requirement. Defense
Daily, September 16, 1997: 445-447.
The maximum dash speeds of these aircraft for short duration at high altitude with a clean
configuration are reportedly Mach 2 for F-16s and Mach 1.8 for F/A-18s. Mach 1,the speed
of sound, varies from 762 mph (662 nmph) at sealevel to 654 mph (576 nmph) at 35,000 ft.
Jane’s All the World’s Aircraft, 1996-97: 649 and 657.
These are the projected “flyaway costs” per aircraft in FY1994 dollars, which program officials
have stated as affordability goals. As noted above on p. 4, flyaway cost represents a significant
part of an aircraft’s procurement cost but does not include the cost of all procurement items
nor the costs of R&D and military construction.
Appendix B: Pictures of JSF Variants