Order Code RL30563
F-35 Lightning II Joint Strike Fighter (JSF)
Program: Background, Status, and Issues
October 25, 2007
U.S. Air Force Fellow
Foreign Affairs, Defense, and Trade Division
Specialist in National Defense
Foreign Affairs, Defense, and Trade Division
F-35 Lightning II Joint Strike Fighter (JSF)
Program: Background, Status, and Issues
The Defense Department’s F-35 Lightning II Joint Strike Fighter (JSF) is one
of three aircraft modernization programs in tactical aviation, the others being the Air
Force F-22A 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. Lockheed Martin won this competition and was
selected to develop and produce the JSF, a family of aircraft including conventional
take-off and landing (CTOL), carrier-capable (CV), and short take-off vertical
landing (STOVL) versions for the U.S. Air Force, Navy, and Marine Corps, the
United Kingdom, as well as other allied services. Originally designated the Joint
Advanced Strike Technology (JAST) program, the JSF program has attracted
considerable attention in Congress because of concerns about its cost, effects on the
defense industrial base, and implications for U.S. national security in the 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 projections of future threat scenarios and enemy capabilities. The program’s
rationale and primary emphasis is joint-service development of a next-generation
multi-role strike aircraft that can be produced in affordable variants to meet different
operational requirements. Developing an affordable tri-service family of CTOL (Air
Force and Navy variants) and STOVL aircraft with different (but similar) combat
missions poses major technological challenges. 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 UK Royal Air Force
and Navy for a successor to their Harrier STOVL aircraft, and the U.S. Navy’s need
for a successor to older F/A-18s and a complement to its F/A-18E/F fighter/attack
This report discusses the background, status, and current issues of the JSF
program. Additional information and analysis can be found in CRS Report
RL33543, Tactical Aircraft Modernization: Issues for Congress, which also
discusses the Air Force F-22A, the Navy F/A-18EF, and the Marine Corps V-22.
The JSF program is also addressed in CRS Report RL33390, Proposed Termination
of Joint Strike Fighter (JSF) F136 Alternate Engine; CRS Report RS21488, NavyMarine Corps Tactical Air Integration Plan: Background and Issues for Congress;
and CRS Report RL31360, Joint Strike Fighter (JSF): Potential National Security
Questions Pertaining to a Single Production Line.
This report will be updated as events warrant.
Introduction . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 1
Background . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 2
Design and Performance . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 3
Program Management . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 6
Funding and Projected Costs . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 7
Development and Schedule . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 8
Production Quantities . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 11
Congressional Action . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 12
Major Issues . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 15
Need for New-Generation Aircraft . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 15
Affordability of Program . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 16
Feasibility of Joint-Service Aircraft . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 18
Alternatives to JSF . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 20
Implications for U.S. Defense Industry . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 22
Implications for Military Bases . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 24
Allied Participation . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 24
Appendix A. JSF Key Performance Parameters . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 28
Appendix B. JSF Procurement Plan . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 29
List of Figures
Figure 1. F-35 Lightning II Joint Strike Fighter . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 2
Figure 2. The Defense Acquisition Management Framework . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 8
List of Tables
Table 1. JSF F-35 FY2008 Funding . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 13
Table 2. JSF F-35 FY2007 Funding . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 14
Table 3. JSF F-35 FY2006 Funding . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 14
F-35 Lightning II Joint Strike Fighter (JSF)
Program: Background, Status, and Issues
The Joint Strike Fighter (JSF) program is developing and building a family of
next-generation tactical aircraft for the Air Force, the Marine Corps, and the Navy,
as well as for export. In addition, unlike the F-22A, the F-35 was designed for export
from the onset and will be the first U.S. export of a stealth aircraft. As now
projected, the JSF is the Defense Department’s (DOD’s) largest acquisition program
in terms of cost and number of aircraft to be produced and the longest in terms of
procurement duration. Current DOD plans call for production of 2, 458 aircraft in
three versions over a 28-year delivery period.1 An additional 738 aircraft are
expected to be ordered by the JSF development partner nations of the UK, Australia,
Italy, Canada, Denmark, Turkey, the Netherlands, and Norway.2
The U.S. Marine Corps and the United Kingdom’s Royal Air Force and 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 U.S. Navy plans to procure a carrier-capable version — termed
a CV — to replace older carrier-based aircraft. Currently, the Department of the
Navy’s acquisition plans call for a total of 680 JSFs, with the determination still
pending on the split between the Marine STOVLs and Navy’s carrier CVs. The
United Kingdom anticipates a purchase of 138 STOVL JSFs for its Navy and Air
The U.S. Air Force’s program of record is to purchase 1,763 conventional
takeoff and landing (CTOL) versions of the F-35 to replace its current force of F-16s
and A-10s. In February 2003, Air Force officials announced its intentions to analyze
acquisition of the STOVL JSF to improve future close air support (CAS)
Fifteen of these aircraft will be purchased with RDT&E funds and will be used for
Current anticipated partner orders: UK: 138; Italy: 131; Australia: 100; Turkey: 100;
Canada: 88; Netherlands: 85; Denmark: 48; Norway: 48. Michael Sirak, “F-35 Nations on
Track to Sign New MOU, Says JSF Program Office,” Defense Daily, November 20, 2006.
The U.S. Marine Corps and the UK Royal Navy and Royal Air Force operate versions of
the AV-8A/B Harrier aircraft flown by these services since the early 1970s. CRS Report
81-180, The British Harrier V/STOL Aircraft: Analysis of Operational Experience and
Relevance to U.S. Tactical Aviation (out of print; available from the author at 7-2577).
capabilities.4 To date, however, the Air Force has not committed to purchasing other
variants besides its CTOL platform. While speculation continues as to the
procurement intentions of the USAF (the largest purchaser of the F-35), the Air Force
official position still remains at 1,763 CTOL F-35s.5
Figure 1. F-35 Lightning II Joint Strike Fighter
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 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)
Lorenzo Cortes, “Air Force to Study Acquisition of F-35-B STOVL JSF,” Defense Daily,
February 13, 2004; Gail Kaufman, “U.S. Air Force Wants STOVL JSFs,” Defense News,
February 12, 2004; and Christopher Castelli, “Overall Impact of Air Force Interest in F-35
STOVL Variant is Unclear,” Inside the Navy, March 1, 2004.
Marc Selinger, “Jumper Confirms Air Force Plans to Cut Joint Strike Fighter Purchase,”
Aerospace Daily & Defense Report, December 15, 2004.
aircraft was incorporated into the JAST program. This opened the way for Marine
Corps and British Navy participation. 6 The name of the program was then changed
to Joint Strike Fighter to focus on joint development and production of a nextgeneration fighter/attack plane. And unlike the so-called “joint” Air Force/Navy
TFX program of the 1960s, program proponents note the JAST/JSF program has
been truly “joint” from its inception.
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 to demonstrate their concepts for three JSF
variants (conventional takeoff/landing, short-field takeoff/vertical landing, and the
carrier takeoff/landing). 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 development, production, and operation
and support costs.
Mainly because of their projected costs, three tactical aircraft programs are
being analyzed by both Congress and the Administration to determine the best
combination of the types and numbers of aircraft to meet U.S. armed forces may need
in the future — the emergent JSF program, the Air Force F-22A program, and the
Navy’s F/A-18E/F program. Congressional decisions on these programs will have
important implications for defense funding requirements, U.S. military capabilities,
and the U.S. aerospace industry.
Design and Performance
Contrary to some misconceptions that the Joint Strike Fighter would be one
aircraft used by several services for different missions, the program focused on the
development and production of three variants with common components: a landbased conventional take-off and landing (CTOL) version for the Air Force, a carrierbased version (CV) for the Navy, and a short take-off vertical landing (STOVL)
version for the Marines and the UK. The JSF program is a family of aircraft
performing similar missions, with a mix of components, systems, and technologies.
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 UK 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.-UK collaboration in JSF development.
John Tirpak, “Strike Fighter,” Air Force Magazine, October 1996, pp. 22-28; Philip
Hough, “An Aircraft for the 21st Century,” Sea Power, November 1996, pp. 33-34.
Component commonality is projected to be at 70% to 90%. 8 Many of the high-cost
components are 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 serviceunique aircraft that would have otherwise been necessary, saving at least $15
The JSF will be powered by the Pratt & Whitney F135 engine, which was
derived from the F-22A’s Pratt & Whitney F119 power plant. Consistent with
congressional direction in 1996, DOD established an alternative engine program
(F136), with the General Electric/Rolls-Royce Fighter Engine Team, to compete with
the F135 for JSF production and operations and support (O&S) contracts. In addition
to teaming up with GE on the F136 engine, Rolls-Royce is contracted to develop and
produce the STOVL lift fan system that will be used with both the F135 and F136
engines. The net cost-benefit of an alternate engine for the JSF program has
periodically been debated, and DOD has twice attempted to eliminate funding for the
F136 (removing funding for the engine in the FY2007 and FY2008 budget
requests). 10 Congress has acted multiple times throughout the program’s history to
ensure continued DOD support for the F136.
All JSF planes will be fifth-generation, single-engine, single-seat aircraft with
supersonic dash capability and some degree of stealth (low observability to radar and
other sensors). 11 Combat ranges and payloads will vary in the different service
variants. For example, as currently planned, combat radius requirements are 590-690
nautical miles (nm) for the Air Force, 600-730 nm for the Navy, and 450-550 nm for
the Marine Corps. All three variants are planned to carry weapons internally (two
2,000 lb. weapons for the CTOL and CV variant and two 1,000 lb. weapons for the
STOVL). 12 All versions will also carry AIM-120 AMRAAMs (advanced medium8
Operational Requirements call for 70% to 90% commonality between all variants.
Lockheed Martin notes currently that over 80% of all parts are common on all three variants.
Clarence A. Robinson, Jr., “A New Fighter Paradigm,” F-35 Lightning II Commemorating
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.
See CRS Report RL33390, Proposed Termination of Joint Strike Fighter (JSF) F136
Alternate Engine, for more information. Also see “Dual Engine Development Could Saddle
JSF with up to $800 Million Bill,” Inside the Navy, August 5, 1996, p. 2; “Despite Demand
for Second JSF Engine Source, F120 Comes up Short,” Aerospace Daily, October 18, 1996,
p. 102; U.S. Congressional Budget Office, A Look at Tomorrow’s Tactical Air Forces by
Lane Pierrot and Jo Ann Vines, January 1997, p. 53.
Fifth-generation fighters combine new developments such as thrust vectoring, composite
materials, supercruise, stealth technology, advanced radar and sensors, and integrated
avionics to greatly improve pilot situational awareness. Currently, only the F-22 and F-35
are considered fifth-generation. Russia has a fifth-generation fighter under development and
it is due for its first flight in 2009.
The STOVL variant weapons load was reduced to assist with overall aircraft weight
reduction efforts in 2004. Background information provided by the F-35 Joint Program
range air-to-air missiles, with a range of about 26 nm/48 km depending on altitude13).
General Dynamics is under contract to develop the 25mm gun for the F-35. The
four-barrel GD-425 under development for the F-35 will be carried internally in the
CTOL version and externally in the CV and STOVL variants. 14
Performance features regarding radar signature, speed, range, and payload were
determined on the basis of trade-offs between performance and cost, with the latter
being a critical factor. Program officials have emphasized that cost and performance
trade-offs are critical elements of the program, and were the basis for the jointservice operational requirements that determined the selection of the Lockheed
Martin contractor team for the System Development and Demonstration (SDD)
phase. 15 The 1997 Quadrennial Defence Review (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.” 16 In other words, production
costs must be low enough that these aircraft can be bought in sufficient quantities to
maintain desired force levels. Thus, the parameters of the JSF’s performance and
operational capabilities are subject to refinement for reasons of cost, technological
developments, and future threat assessments.17
In response to the Department of the Navy’s need to replace its aging EA-6B
Prowler electronic attack aircraft, Lockheed Martin has proposed the development
of a two-seat electronic attack variant of the JSF. Dubbed the EA-35B, the aircraft
could potentially be available by 2015, according to industry representatives. A
baseline F-35 will already have a limited electronic attack capability with its Active
Electronically Scanned Array radar (AESA). The Navy currently plans to replace
the Prowler with an electronic attack version of the F/A-18E/F. The Marine Corps,
which currently has no plans to procure either F/A-18E/Fs or the EA-18G electronic
attack variant, has studied the pros and cons of a dedicated EA-35 aircraft, but
reportedly will opt instead to improve the electronic attack capabilities if its baseline
F-35 fighters.18 Currently, there are no formal proposals or funding for an electronic
Office, September 2007.
Steven Zaloga, “AIM-120 AMRAAM,” World Missiles Briefing, Teal Group Corp.,
January 1997, p. 5.
“JSF programs says gun system is ahead of schedule, under cost,” Aerospace Daily and
Defense Report, September 26, 2005.
“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, p. 46.
The Joint Program Office notes that the F-35’s Key Performance Parameters (KPPs) have
not changed since Milestone B in 2001.
Craig Hoyle, “US Outlines New Electronic Attack Aircraft,” Jane’s Defence Weekly, June
4, 2003. Graham Warwick, “JSF Team Rejects Dedicated EA-35,” Flight International,
attack variant of the F-35. However, the idea of an electronic attack variant could
gain momentum in the future after the Air Force lost support for its B-52 Stand-Off
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 Maj. Gen. Charles Davis, 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 in that role with an Air
Force director of the program.
In 2004, appropriations conferees followed a House recommendation to direct
DOD to review this alternative management arrangement. House appropriators
believed that “management of program acquisition should remain with one Service,
and that the U.S. Navy, due to its significant investment in two variants of the F-35
should be assigned all acquisition executive oversight responsibilities.” 20 Conferees
directed that DOD submit a report on the potential efficacy of this change. Prior to
the release of the DOD report, former Air Force Chief of Staff General Jumper was
quoted as saying that he also supported putting one service in charge of JSF program
acquisition. 21 However, General Jumper highlighted the significant investment the
Air Force was making in the JSF program in response to the congressional language
favoring the Navy. In DOD’s response to Congress, the report noted the current
arrangement ensures one Service does not have a “disproportionate voice” when it
comes to program decisions and that the current system is “responsive, efficient, and
in the best interests of the success of the JSF program.” 22 Since DOD’s response to
Congress in 2004, the issue of JSF program management has not been raised.
December 12, 2006.
See David Fulghum, “DAWG Bites; Cuts to Electronic Attack Programs and Impractical
Schedules Worry US Military,” Aviation Week and Space Technology, November 6, 2006.
H.Rept. 108-553 (H.R. 4613), p. 234
Elizabeth Rees, “Jumper Supports Single Service Retaining JSF Acquisition Oversight,”
Inside the Air Force, August 6, 2004.
U.S. Department of Defense, Report to Congress on Joint Strike Fighter Management
Oversight [forwarded by] Michael W. Wynne, Under Secretary of Defense for Acquisition,
Technology and Logistics, December 20, 2004.
Funding and Projected Costs
The Defense Department’s quarterly Selected Acquisition Report of December
31, 2006, estimated the JSF program at $ 299,824.1 million in then-year dollars for
2,458 aircraft, which equates to a program acquisition unit cost (PAUC) of $121. 9
million per aircraft. The average procurement cost (APUC) (which does not include
R&D or other costs) is estimated at $ 104.4 million per aircraft. The December 2005
SAR noted that the JSF program breached a “Nunn-McCurdy” cost growth limit: unit
cost growth over 30% of the original Acquisition Program Baseline. 23 The December
2006 PAUC and APUC cost estimates are, respectively, 37.9% and 37.7% higher
than cost estimates made in October 2001.
The JSF program estimate has increased over $100 billion due primarily to a
one-year extension in the program’s System Development and Demonstration phase,
a corresponding one-year delay in procurement (from FY2006 to FY2007), revised
annual quantity profiles, and revised labor and overhead rates. 24 Much of this
increased cost and schedule slippage was incurred to address weight-driven
performance issues in the development of the F-35B, the STOVL variant.
DOD’s FY2008 budget requests $6.1 billion in JSF funding. As it did in
FY2007, DOD proposes to eliminate funding for the F136 Alternate Engine. The
proposed termination of the F136 drew considerable scrutiny in the 109th Congress
(second session). The Senate Armed Services Committee held two hearings
specifically on this issue on March 14 and March 15, 2007, and the Air Land
Subcommittee held a hearing on March 28, 2007. The House Armed Services
Committee also addressed this issue in a March 1 hearing, as did the Tactical Air
Land Subcommittee on March 22. FY2007 House-Senate conferees agreed to
prohibit F136 termination pending an independent analysis of the alternate engine’s
potential cost savings. Those studies have been completed and submitted to
Congress. The Government Accountability Office has recommended continuation
of the F136 engine development based on potential return on investment along with
a number of benefits. These benefits include having a second engine in case of fleetwide grounding of the other engine and better responsiveness from competing
contractors. OSD’s Cost Analysis Improvement Group along with the Institute for
Defense Analysis, while noting the various benefits garnered from competition,
questioned the potential for monetary return on investment.25
JSF program breach of Nunn-McCurdy was also reported and addressed in the 2003 SAR.
The FY2006 National Defense Authorization Act directed a change in reporting based on
the “original” Acquisition Program Baseline resulting in a second breach of Nunn-McCurdy.
Summaries of DOD’s Select Acquisition Reports can be found at [http://www.acq.
Analysis of Costs for the Joint Strike Fighter Engine Program, GAO-07-656T, March 22,
2007; F-35/JSF Alternate Engine Acquisition and Independent Cost Analyses, OSD CAIG
Briefing, March 15, 2007; Joint Strike Fighter (JSF) Engine Cost Analysis: Final Report,
Institute for Defense Analysis, July 2007.
Development and Schedule
The JSF is currently in the System Development and Demonstration Phase
(SDD). Figure 2, below, from DOD Instruction 5000.2, Operation of the Defense
Acquisition System, depicts graphically the acquisition system and where SDD fits
into the process. 26
Figure 2. Defense Acquisition Management Framework
Until late in 2003, the JSF program’s SDD phase was scheduled to run until
around 2012, at which time full rate production was scheduled to begin, with a
projected initial operational capability around 2010 for USMC’s STOVL aircraft.
Subsequent schedule changes have added time and cost to the program.
To address growing weight-driven performance problems encountered early in
SDD, DOD extended the SDD phase one year and correspondingly delayed the F35’s scheduled first flight from late 2005 to the summer of 2006 (first flight occurred
on December 15, 2006); the beginning of low-rate initial production shifted from
2006 to 2007. Currently, SDD developmental flight testing will conclude October
2012 and the SDD contract period of performance will end a year later.27
Procurement profiles in the Future Years Defense Plan (FYDP) are as follows:
JSF program milestones: Concept Development (CDP) in November 1996. Milestone B
reached on October 2001, with program successfully completed the CDP exit criteria.
Critical Design Review for the CTOL and STOVL variants were completed in February
2006, with the Defense Acquisition Board approving Low Rate Initial Production (LRIP)
in March 2006.
IOT&E will conclude in October 2013 bringing SDD to a close.
Initial Operational Capability (IOC) for the CTOL variant has slipped from
FY2011 to FY2013. First flight of the weight optimized Air Force variant — the F35A — is scheduled for 2009.28 In June 2005, DOD officials reported that weight
reduction efforts were successful and approved the revised schedule and path
The 2005 National Defense Authorization Act directed the GAO to conduct
annual reviews of the JSF program to assess the SDD’s meeting of key cost,
schedule, and performance goals.30 In March 2006, the GAO issued its second
report highly critical of the JSF testing and production schedule.31 GAO asserted that
the amount of overlap between testing and production in the JSF program is risky and
could lead to considerable cost growth in the future. GAO found that the JSF
program will begin low-rate initial production (LRIP) in 2007, when the program will
have completed less than 1% of flight tests. GAO notes that up to 424 F-35 aircraft
may be built, at a cost of $49 billion, before development testing is complete. The
JSF program intends to make initial production orders on a cost reimbursement
contract, “placing an unusually high risk burden on the government during the early
production phase.”32 GAO recommended adopting a more evolutionary approach to
developing and producing the F-35, similar to the block upgrade approach pursued
successfully in the F-16 program. The GAO’s third report in March 2007 continues
to echo the previous year’s concerns of concurrency risk and cost growth.33 GAO
recommended in the latest report that DOD limit annual production quantities to no
more than 24 aircraft per year until each variant’s basic flying qualities have been
demonstrated (Block 1 DT&E now scheduled for completion by 2010).34 GAO
stresses that the JSF’s program has not reached the level of maturity needed to
guarantee a stable aircraft design and therefore reduced risk of excessive program
cost growth. GAO supports their assertions by noting that JSF total program costs
have increased an estimated $19.8 billion since 2003.35
OSD countered GAO’s assertions noting that GAO’s recommended block
development approach would extend SDD by up to eight years, with an associated
The first F-35 to fly was dubbed AA-1, which is the pre-weight adjusted version of the
CTOL variant. AF-1, the Air Force CTOL, will incorporate the weight adjustments made
to bring STOVL into limits and is scheduled to fly in 2009. The first fight of the weightoptimized STOVL variant, BF-1, is scheduled for 2008 to meet USMC IOC requirements.
Marc Selinger, “DoD Approves detailed ‘re-plan’ for Joint Strike Fighter,” Aerospace
Daily & Defense Report, June 2, 2005.
P.L. 108-375; 118 Stat 1833; October 28, 2004.
Joint Strike Fighter: DoD Plans to Enter Production before Testing Demonstrates
Acceptable Performance (GAO-06-356), Government Accountability Office, March 2006.
Ibid., p. 6.
Joint Strike Fighter: Progress Made and Challenges Remain (GAO-07-360), Government
Accountability Office, March 2007.
Ibid., p. 23.
Ibid., p. 7.
cost of approximately $13 billion (in then-year dollars).36 While GAO’s approach
would delay fielding of the F-35, OSD noted that there was no GAO analysis as to
the costs of legacy fleet extensions or procurement price increases. The JSF Joint
Program Office noted that program acquisition strategy was designed to take
advantage of knowledge gained from the F-22 program and legacy programs along
with improvements in modeling and simulation to reduce the development period.37
While this strategy presents increased program risk, proponents note projected cost
savings as a result of an expedited testing cycle and retirement of legacy systems.
Proponents also highlight that fixes discovered during a more concurrent (i.e.,
expedited) testing/production cycle are usually much less expensive than the costs
associated with a more exhaustive testing period, with less overlap and extended
production period. This argument is strengthened somewhat by a Defense Aerospace
case study that determined continuity in development is the best way to avoid cost
overruns.38 Programs that are able to manage developmental issues without lengthy
program “freezes” were more apt to keep production cost growth to a minimum.
Currently, the JSF has encountered only one major issue, weight growth, that
has appreciably delayed program acquisition with a significant increase in program
cost. While the program has had 38% cost growth since Milestone B, 20% of that
growth was encountered in 2003, with a majority of that directly attributed to the
weight issue.39 Additional factors such as increased use of higher cost materials
(aluminum and titanium), changes in the buy profile (both the Navy’s 409 aircraft
reduction and the Air Force’s reduction in maximum yearly buy rate), and increases
in labor rates make up a large portion of the remainder of cost growth. DOD
responded to GAO’s reservations stating that it does not believe a major
manufacturing or design flaw requiring extensive program delay is likely at this
The program slip due to weight growth also had a large impact in reducing the
program’s management reserve from the initial $2 billion to $392 million. In an
effort to save money and replenish the reserve account, news reports state Lockheed
proposes to eliminate test aircraft, personnel, and hundreds of test flights.41 The goal
of these cost-saving measures would help bring the management reserve account
back up to about $1 billion, which is considered an acceptable amount to complete
flight testing. Opponents note that such a move would add additional risk to a
program already facing excessive risk with its current overlap between development
DOD Information Paper for SASC PSM’s Stan O’Connor and Creighton Greene in
response to GAO-06-356, June 17, 2006.
Background information provided by JSF Joint Program Office, September 2007.
“Sticker Shock: Estimating the Real Cost of Modern fighter Aircraft,” DefenseAerospace.Com, 2006, p. 3.
Refer to 2003 and 2006 DOD Selected Acquisition Reports on Joint Strike Fighter.
Additional clarifying information provided by JSF Joint Program Office, October 2007.
Joint Strike Fighter: Progress Made and Challenges Remain (GAO-07-360), Government
Accountability Office, March 2007, p. 29.
Tony Capacio, “To Save Money, Lockheed Seeks JSF Testing Cuts,” Fort Worth Star
Telegram, August 30, 2007.
and production. Proponents of this move state that test flights would have been
reduced regardless of the status of the management reserve account, owing to testing
efficiencies gained through commonality and lab investments. While DOD is still
analyzing Lockheed’s proposal, a December 2006 revised procurement schedule had
already reduced the number of JSFs built prior to the conclusion of SDD from 424
to 275, hence potentially reducing program risk.
The JSF is expected to remain in production at least through the 2030s. Current
plans call for the JSF to be manufactured in several locations. Lockheed Martin will
build the aircraft’s forward section in Fort Worth, TX. Northrop Grumman will build
the mid-section in Palmdale, CA, and the tail will be built by BAE Systems in the
United Kingdom. Final assembly of these components will take place in Fort Worth.
Italy is working with Lockheed Martin and the Joint Program Office on the potential
of erecting a second final assembly and checkout facility in Italy. 42
In 1996, preliminary planning estimated 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 procurement 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. 44 Thus, the program would comprise 2,912
aircraft (2,852 U.S. and 60 UK JSFs), based on these recommendations. The 1997
QDR also concluded that some 230 of the Navy’s projected buy of 480 JSFs could
potentially be F/A-18E/Fs, depending on the progress of the JSF program and the
price of its Navy variant compared with 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.45
As part of an FY2004 budget briefing, on February 3, 2003, OSD Comptroller
Dov Zackheim confirmed that as part of the Navy and Marine Corps Tactical Air
Integration Plan (TAI) the Navy planned to reduce JSF purchases from 1,089 to 680
Michael Sirak, “F-35 Program May Get First International Orders In Third Production Lot
in 2009,” Defense Daily International, June 22, 2007.
See Appendix B for proposed procurement quantities through FY2034 (the last planned
procurement year for the United States).
Quadrennial Defense Review Cuts Procurement in FY1999, 2000, Aerospace Daily, May
20, 1997, p. 280.
Vago Muradian, “‘QDR Tac Air Cuts Will Save $30 Billion,’ Ralston Says,” Defense
Daily, May 20, 1997, pp. 301-302; “‘F/A-18E/F Buy Depends on JSF Progress,’Cohen Tells
SASC,” Aerospace Daily, May 21, 1997, pp. 285, 288. See also CRS Issue Brief IB93041,
C-17 Cargo Aircraft Program (out of print; for copies contact Christopher Bolkcom at 72577).
aircraft.46 The Department of the Navy in 2003 followed through with its planned
reduction to 680 aircraft and continues to assess the CV/STOVL mix.47
The Air Force plans to integrate some number of Active and Reserve squadrons
through its Future Total Force (FTF) concept, which would save money in part by
cutting the number of aircraft needed to equip these squadrons. Also, the
commitment to purchase 1,763 JSFs is based on a strategy to replace legacy aircraft
(F-16s and A-10s) on a one-for-one basis. Considering the JSF’s improved
capabilities over today’s aircraft, some say that a one-for-one strategy is not required
and that fewer JSF’s can do the job of a greater number of today’s aircraft.48 On the
other hand, DOD’s recommendation to cut 96 aircraft from the planned purchase of
F-22As may discourage the Air Force from reducing the JSF purchase significantly.49
The HASC has directed the Secretary of the Air Force to submit a report in 2008 on
the feasibility and desirability of procuring F-35s for the Air National Guard to
support homeland defense combat air patrol missions.50 However, the Air Force has
noted in the past that once aircraft are designated for homeland defense, it becomes
very difficult to call on them for overseas deployment.51
Since the JSF is a long-term program, projected quantities are more subject to
change than in the case of aircraft already in full-rate production. Near-term
reductions in quantity could be made up in future years, either through increased U.S.
purchases or through foreign sales. However, concerns have been raised that nearterm quantity reductions could scare off foreign participation and raise the aircraft’s
unit price. The GAO views the budget and schedule changes to the JSF program in
a more negative light. In March 2005, GAO wrote that the original business case for
the aircraft “unexecutable,” in large part because of decreased numbers of aircraft to
be procured. 52
The Bush Administration’s FY2008 budget requested $6.1 billion in funding for
the Joint Strike Fighter. This request is summarized in Table 1, below.
DOD News Transcript, Undersecretary Zackheim Briefs on 2004 Defense Budget,
February 3, 2003. See also Anne Marie Squeo, “Pentagon Might Slash Its Plans to Buy
Fighter Jets By About 30%,” Wall Street Journal, March 22, 2002.
Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments , US Fighter Modernization Plans: NearTerm Choices, by Steve Kosiak and Barry Watts, 2007, p. 6.
Sharon Weinberger, “Air Force Considers Cuts to F-35, F/A-22,” Defense Daily, October
17, 2003, p. 1.
See CRS Report RL31673, F/A-22 Raptor, by Christopher Bolkcom, for more
H.Rept. 110-146, p. 111-112.
John Tirpak, “For Fighters, A Moment of Truth,” Air Force Magazine, December 2005.
GAO-05-271, March 15, 2005.
Table 1. JSF F-35 FY2008 Funding
USN R&D USAF R&D
(6 aircraft) 1,112.5 (6 aircraft) 1,298.1
Both Chambers approved funds as
Both Chambers approved funds as
a. APCY = Advanced Procurement (current year).
HASC approved procurement requests, but took issue with DOD’s R&D plans
for the JSF. As it did in FY2007, DOD proposed to cancel the F136 alternate engine.
And again, HASC increased the R&D accounts by $230 million and directed that
$480 million be used on the F136 program. Section 213 of the report requires DOD
to annually fund a competitive engine program for the JSF.
SASC also directed that $480 million in R&D be applied to fund the F136
engine. The Senate cut $39 million from JSF R&D because of carryover of unearned
award fees being held in reserve by the JSF program. The Senate noted that the JSF
program was holding this award money as additional incentives for future periods
and therefore in excess of FY2008 requirements.
The Bush Administration’s FY2007 budget requested $5,290.1 million ($5.3
billion) in funding for the Joint Strike Fighter. The Air Force requested $1,015
million in procurement funds to build five aircraft and purchase long-lead items for
eight aircraft in FY2008, and $ 1,999.1 in RDT&E funds. The Navy requested $245
in advance procurement funds (to build eight F-35B aircraft in FY2008) and $2,031
in RDT&E funds. Congressional action on this request is summarized in Table 2,
below. Changes to the request are highlighted in bold text.
Table 2. JSF F-35 FY2007 Funding
USN R&D USAF R&D USN Proc. USAF Proc.
Authorization Bill PL 109-364
(H.R. 5122, H.Rept. 109-702)
Appropriation Bill PL 109-289
(H.R. 5631, H.Rept. 109-676)
Both authorizers and appropriators objected to DOD’s plan to eliminate the
F136 Alternate Engine and added JSF R&D funds to continue the program.
Similarly, both authorizers and appropriators expressed concern about program risk,
either explicitly or implicitly, reacting to what some to believe to be an excessive
overlap between JSF testing and JSF development.
The Bush Administration’s FY2006 budget requested $5,020.0 million ($5
billion) in funding for the Joint Strike Fighter. The Air Force requested $152.4
million in advance procurement and $2,474.8 million in RDT&E funds. The Navy
requested $2,393 million in RDT&E funds. Congressional action on this request is
summarized in Table 3, below. Changes to the request are highlighted in bold text.
Table 3. JSF F-35 FY2006 Funding
Authorization Bill PL 109-163
(H.R. 1815, H.Rept. 109-360)
Appropriations Bill PL 109-148
(H.R. 2863, H.Rept. 109-359)
In cutting JSF funding, the appropriations conference report noted that
“excessive program risk remains,”53 and that “under the revised aircraft build
sequence all of these aircraft do not require full funding prior to the beginning of
fiscal year 2008.”54
H.R. 2863 (H.Rept. 109-359), p. 418.
H.R. 2863 (H.Rept. 109-119), p. 172.
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, (3)
the feasibility of a joint-service approach to diverse service requirements, (4)
potential alternatives to the JSF, (5) the implications for the U.S. defense industrial
base, and (6) Allied participation in the program.
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-22A fighters in conjunction
with sea-launched missiles and air-launched precision-guided munitions, would
suffice for the most probable combat scenarios.55 As noted above, CBO analysts
considered the relative costs of several options involving greater reliance on upgrades
of existing aircraft versus development and procurement of the JSF. Following the
1991 Gulf War, GAO analysts questioned the need for new-generation aircraft such
as the F-22A and the F/A-18E/F, as well as the JSF, arguing that current aircraft
would provide more capability than was needed, concluding that it would be unlikely
that potential adversaries could prevent U.S. forces from achieving their military
objectives in future conflicts.56 Subsequent U.S. airpower dominance in Bosnia,
Kosovo, Afghanistan, and Iraq may strengthen this argument.
Others argue not about a need for fifth-generation aircraft to keep our military
edge, but about the numbers needed of these aircraft. Currently, DOD anticipates
acquiring 2458 F-35s in total for the Air Force, Navy, and Marines. As stated
previously, the Air Force intends on replacing its aging F-16s and A-10s on roughly
a one-for-one basis. The Navy will purchase the F-35Cs to augment the F/A-18E/Fs,
whereas the Marines will replace its AV-8B Harriers that have reached their service
life limits. GAO, CBO, and various independent analysis “think-tanks” have
conjectured as to what is the appropriate force structure given the quantum leap in
capability that the F-35 (and F-22) gives the U.S. military. The Air Force has
acknowledged that there is not a need to replace F-16s on a one-for-one basis because
the JSF’s capabilities and survivability.57 The Center for Strategic and Budgetary
Assessments (CSBA) noted that replacement ratios for the F-16/F-35 “in the vicinity
Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments, U.S. Tactical Aircraft Plans: Preparing
for the Wrong Future? by Steven Kosiak, CSBA Backgrounder, October 3, 1996, pp. 5-10.
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,
pp. 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, pp. 4-5 (“Forces of Potential Adversaries Are Limited and
Likely Slow to Improve”).
John Tirpak, “Struggling for Altitude,” Air Force Magazine, September 2006.
of 3:2 to 2:1 do not seem unreasonable.”58 The CSBA assessment is further
strengthened by recent decisions by the Air Force to extend the service life of at least
223 of the 356 A-10s still in service and to keep a number of the newest F-15s well
into the 2020s.
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. One could surmise that the proliferation
of Russian and other advanced surface-to-air and air-to-air missiles (along with
advanced 4th+ generation fighters) to hostile countries is likely to continue, and could
pose much more serious threats to U.S. and allied aircraft than they faced in the 1991
Gulf War. Proponents also state that aircraft “parity” with our next adversary will
present an unacceptable risk to the air dominance that the U.S. military normally
takes for granted. Recent training opportunities, such as Cope India 2004, in which
US F-15s flew simulated dogfights against Indian Su-30s, Mirage 2000s, and MiG21s, highlight this fact. Various news accounts note that US F-15s were defeated
during many of the engagements against their Indian counterparts during this
exercise.59 Moreover, some argue, 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 over 20 years old. The difficulties of accurately predicting
future conflict scenarios, JSF combat-effectiveness, and what it would cost to
develop, procure, and operate these aircraft, allow for a range of conjecture and
Affordability of Program
JSF program officials anticipate major savings because of 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 trade-offs between cost and
performance features, with industry and the services working together as a team. The
contractors are using 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/computeraided manufacture] systems, and a recently developed plastic laminate that can be
used instead of paint on the airframe).60 However, composite materials have
frequently proven more expensive than metal, raising questions about the savings
Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments , US Fighter Modernization Plans: NearTerm Choices, by Steve Kosiak and Barry Watts, 2007, p. 45.
John Tirpak, “The New Air Force Fighter Debate,” Air Force Magazine, September 2004.
Craig E. Steidle, “The Joint Strike Fighter Program,” Johns Hopkins APL Technical
Digest, January-March 1997, pp. 6-8, 10-13, 17-18; “Kaminski Praises Industry Response
to DOD Initiatives,” Aerospace Daily, February 16, 1996, p. 249; Bryan Bender, “‘Paintless’
Design to Save JSF an Estimated $3 Billion,” Defense Daily, July 18, 1997, p. 108.
Program officials are also counting on the availability of funding to procure the
aircraft at efficient rates of production. Moreover, they expect 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 because
of more efficient production methods and reduced labor costs, even though
production rates fell from 20 to 25 aircraft per month in 1991 to about 6 aircraft per
month in 1994-1995, soon after Lockheed Martin acquired the F-16 plant in Fort
Worth, Texas, from General Dynamics.61 While the JSF program’s overall cost has
increased about 35% from its 1997 projections, CSBA notes that, historically,
procurement cost growth is greatest between the periods of entering full-scale
development and the point at which it enters production.62 Now that the F-35 has
reached its production period, some would suggest that significant cost growth is less
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.63 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.64 It is also 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.65
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 with
the F-16] than it needs so that the needs of the services with the greater capability
William C. Scott, “Lockheed Martin Reconstructs TAS [Tactical Aircraft Systems] Unit
as `Fighter Enterprise,’” Aviation Week & Space Technology, July 28, 1997, pp. 64-66.
Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments , US Fighter Modernization Plans: NearTerm Choices, by Steve Kosiak and Barry Watts, 2007, p. 14.
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, pp. 4-5.
Vago Muradian and John Robinson, “Public Confidence at Odds with Private Concerns
about Tacair,” Defense Daily, November 19, 1996, pp. 277; John J. Shanahan, “Should We
Pay $219 Billion for This Plane? — No, It’s Squandering on Imaginary Enemies,” Christian
Science Monitor, November 25, 1996, p. 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, pp. 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,
requirements (the Navy and Marine Corps) could be met.” They argue that if history
is a guide [the TFX/F-111 being a good example], 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 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 Fighter.”66
While debate continues over the cost of the JSF program, there is a general
consensus that the issue of the United States’ aging fighter fleet must be addressed.
A Defense Aerospace analysis of the costs of fourth- and fifth-generation fighter
aircraft assesses the cost of the F-35 to be comparable to the Eurofighter (a 4+
generation fighter). While authors of this study note that it is very problematic to
compare cost data of various non-United States fighter aircraft (given issues such as
value-added taxes and government subsidies), F-35 proponents could argue that the
aircraft is reasonably priced for a fifth-generation fighter.67
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 and suitable for land-based Air
Force operations.68 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,
Their argument is supported by a comparison of the origins of the two programs
that suggests 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.69
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
U.S. Congressional Budget Office, A Look at Tomorrow’s Tactical Air Forces, by Lane
Pierrot and Jo Ann Vines, January 1997, pp. 48-50.
“Sticker Shock: Estimating the Real Cost of Modern fighter Aircraft,” DefenseAerospace.Com, 2006, p. 2.
For background on the TFX program, which produced the Air Force’s F-111 and FB-111
strategic bombers in the 1960s, see Robert Art, The TFX Decision — McNamara and the
Military (Boston, 1968); see also Robert Coulam, Illusions of Choice (Princeton, 1977).
Mort Rolleston, “Learning the Lessons of TFX: the Joint Strike Fighter and Acquisition
Reform,” International Affairs Review, Summer/Fall 1999.
other’s next-generation aircraft: the Navy’s Advanced Tactical Aircraft — the A-12
that was cancelled in 1991 — and the Air Force F-22A, 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
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 because it appears the most technologically challenging
variant and is a leading cost driver. The costs and complications of pursuing the
STOVL variant (including reducing weight growth) are leading some to suggest that
the JSF program would be more feasible and more affordable if the F-35B were
cancelled. In this case, the Marine Corps would buy the CV JSF instead of the
STOVL variant. It is also feared that changes to STOVL variant that are required to
achieve its desired weight could reduce the level of commonality between the three
variants.71 This would be detrimental to the original goal of the JSF program.
Others point out that cancelling the STOVL version of JSF is complicated by
the United Kingdom’s investment in the program and its requirement for a STOVL
aircraft.72 As the only Tier I partner nation investing over $2B so far, the UK is the
only nation that has had a say as to the requirements and design choices of the F-35
program during System Development and Demonstration phase (SDD). Also, the
decision to terminate the STOVL may be less likely after the 18-month program slip
allowed program managers to successfully get weight growth within limits.
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.”73 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-22A stealth fighter/attack plane, while
the Marine Corps is strongly committed to funding its V-22 tilt-rotor aircraft.
U.S. Congressional Budget Office, A Look at Tomorrow’s Tactical Air Forces, by Lane
Pierrot and Jo Ann Vines, January 1997, pp. 47-48. For discussion of the V-22 program,
see CRS Issue Brief IB86103, V-22 Osprey Tilt-Rotor Aircraft Program (out of print;
available from the author at 7-2577).
Elizabeth Rees, “DOT&E: JSF Weight Reduction Raids Commonality Between Variants,”
Inside the Air Force, January 28, 2005.
The United Kingdom needs the STOVL design to operate off their aircraft carriers and
only plans on purchasing the STOVL design for both their Air Force and Navy.
Thomas E. Ricks, “Navy Begins to Question New Attack Jet That Air Force and Marines
Support, Wall Street Journal, September 9, 1997, p. A4; Bender, Bryan, “Navy Says It’s
Fully Committed to Joint Strike Fighter,” Defense Daily, September 12, 1997, pp. 423-424.
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.”74 Such friction between the services and DOD appears to have occurred
more recently. In the summer of 2006, it was reported that because of financial
considerations, Navy and Marine Corps officials proposed delaying fielding the JSF
for over one year.75 DOD reportedly rejected this proposal and directed the Navy to
fully fund the procurement of six JSFs in FY2008.76
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-22A, 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.77
A CBO report requested by the House National Security Committee’s
Subcommittee on Military Research and Development, published in January 1997,
analyzed the budgetary implications of the Administration’s tactical aircraft
Christopher Castelli, “Air Force, Navy Directed to Fully Fund Joint Strike Fighter
Program,” Inside the Air Force, May 5, 2000.
See, for example, Jason Sherman, “Navy, Marine Corps Propose 14-Month Joint Strike
Fighter Delay,” Inside the Navy, August 21, 2006.
Christopher Castelli, “DoD Overturns Proposal to Delay Fielding of Marine Corps JSF,”
Inside the Navy, December 18, 2006.
U.S. Congressional Budget Office, A Look at Tomorrow’s Tactical Air Forces, by Lane
Pierrot and Jo Ann Vines, January 1997, pp. 55-71.
modernization plans in regard to the JSF, F-22A, and F/A-18E/F programs. The
study evaluated one option that assumed procurement of only the 1,320 JSFs planned
for Air Force through 2020 but no Marine Corps or Navy JSF versions. This was
estimated to save about $2.5 billion (FY1997 $) in average annual procurement
funding over the 2002-2020 period compared with 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-22As, 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, 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-22As and 58% of planned F/A-18E/Fs, with estimated average savings of $5.6
billion per year (FY1997 $). 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 Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments conducted a similar
analysis of JSF procurement options. Their 2007 analysis analyzed four options: (1)
cancel the F-35 program, (2) reduce Air Force buy by half, (3) cancel the Navy
variant (F-35C), and (4) reduce the Air Force buy by half and cancel the Navy
variant.78 CSBA calculates that the various options could save DOD between $300M
and $3.7B over the life of the program (FY2008$). The CSBA, commenting on the
most recent CBO observation that upgraded F-16s and F/A-18E/Fs are “good
enough,” states that terminating the program could have a negative effect on our
deterrent ability and “a strategic mistake in the long run.”79 Terminating the JSF
program at this juncture would leave our allied program partners searching for
alternative aircraft and possibly questioning the United States’ commitment to joint
production programs in the future. The CSBA report, however, maintains that while
program cancellation “appears weak and risky,” scaling back the program to a more
affordable force structure will better match the needs of the Services.80
Another potential alternative to the JSF is the Joint Unmanned Combat Air
System (J-UCAS). The J-UCAS is being jointly pursued by the Air Force and the
Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency and is still in the development stage.81
Originally designed to execute a relatively small range of missions, UAV advocates
argue that the technology is evolving so rapidly that J-UCASs could soon replace
Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments , US Fighter Modernization Plans: NearTerm Choices, by Steve Kosiak and Barry Watts, 2007, pp. 19-26.
Ibid., pp. 27-30.
Ibid., p. iv.
See CRS Report RL31014, Unmanned Combat Air Vehicles: Issues and Outlook, for more
information on UCAVs.
manned combat aircraft, not merely augment them. This perspective remains
controversial among defense analysts.
Finally, there are concerns among defense analysts and some in Congress that
DOD is too wedded to shorter-range tactical fighters at the expense of a future longrange strike aircraft. The 2007 John Warner National Defense Authorization Act
directed that the Air Force not retire more than 18 B-52Hs and maintain not less than
44 combat-coded B-52Hs until a long-range strike replacement aircraft has reached
initial operational capability or January 1, 2018, whichever comes first.82 Therefore,
if DOD is to follow its desires to retire more of its B-52 fleet, DOD may be
developing and procuring an additional long range strike aircraft while still having
up to 20 years left in its F-35 procurement plan.
Implications for U.S. Defense Industry
As DOD’s largest single weapon system acquisition program, the JSF is a focal
point for discussions regarding the U.S. defense industrial base. The October 2001
award of the JSF Engineering Manufacturing Development (EMD) contract to a
single company (Lockheed Martin) raised concerns in Congress and elsewhere that
excluding Boeing from this program would reduce that company’s ability to continue
designing and manufacturing fighter aircraft. This, in turn, would have a negative
effect on the U.S. defense industrial base.83
Similar concerns were raised in 2006 when DOD proposed terminating the F136
Alternate Engine. In this case, some worried that if the F136 were cancelled, General
Electric (GE) would not have enough business designing and manufacturing fighter
jet engines to continue competing with Pratt & Whitney (the manufacturer of the
F135 engine) in the future. This would leave the United States dependent on only
one domestic manufacturer of this class of engine. Others argued that GE’s
considerable business in both commercial and military engines was sufficient to
sustain GE’s ability to produce this class of engine in the future.84
The JSF program could also have a strong impact on the U.S. defense industry
through export. Most observers believe that the JSF could potentially dominate the
combat aircraft export market much as the F-16 has. Like the F-16, the JSF appears
to be attractive because of 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.85 Many competitors,
H.R. 5122 (H.Rept. 109-702), p. 30.
For more information, see CRS Report RL31360, Joint Strike Fighter (JSF): Potential
National Security Questions Pertaining to a Single Production Line, by Christopher
Bolkcom and Daniel Else.
For more information, see CRS Report RL33390, Proposed Termination of Joint Strike
Fighter (JSF) F136 Alternate Engine, by Christopher Bolkcom.
Vago Muradian, “Coffman: JSF Critical to Preserving U.S. Leadership in World Fighter
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-22A or the F/A-18E/F. The one country that has expressed interest in the
F-22A, Japan, will most likely be unable to procure the F-22 because of a proposed
clause in the FY2008 Appropriations bill upholding a ban on F-22 exports.86 Instead,
Japan is being redirected towards the F-35.
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.87 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
Others fear that by allowing foreign companies to participate in this historically
large aircraft acquisition program, DOD may be inadvertently opening up U.S.
markets to competitors who enjoy direct government subsidies. These government
subsidies could create an unfair for them relative to U.S. companies, it is argued, and
the result could be the beginning of a longer-term foreign penetration of the U.S.
defense market that could erode the health of the U.S. defense industrial base. In
May 2004, the GAO release a report that found the JSF program could “significantly
impact” the U.S. and global industrial base.88 The GAO found that two laws
designed to protect segments of the U.S. defense industry, the Buy American Act and
the Preference for Domestic Speciality Metals clause, would have no impact on
decisions regarding which foreign companies would participate in the JSF program.
This is because DOD has decided that foreign companies that participate in the JSF
program, and which have signed reciprocal procurement agreements with DOD to
promote defense cooperation, are eligible for a waiver.
Market,” Defense Daily, February 26, 2001.
“US Decides to Keep Export Ban on F-22 Stealth Fighter,” Jiji Press Ticker Service, July
Richard Aboulafia, “Market Overviews — Commercial Jet Transports, Fighter/Attack
Aircraft,” World Military and Civil Aircraft Briefing, Teal Group Corp., March 1997.
General Accountability Office, Joint Strike Fighter Acquisition: Observations on the
Supplier Base, GAO-04-554, May 2004.
Implications for Military Bases
In October 2006, Air Force officials indicated the six tentative locations where
F-35s would be based. These locations were Nellis AFB, NV; Edwards AFB, CA;
Hill AFB, UT; Eglin AFB, FL; Shaw AFB, SC; and Kadena Air Base, Japan. The
Air Force is now awaiting environmental studies before making a final
determination. The Marine Corps has tentatively indicated that MCAS Beaufort,
MCAS Yuma, MCAS Iwakuni, MCAS Miramar, and MCAS Cherry Point will be
the bases for the F-35, again pending their environmental studies and approval of the
Basing decisions for the JSF may be of interest to many in Congress. The F-35
is thought by many to be the last manned aircraft that DOD is likely to develop for
some time and is projected to be in service long after other combat aircraft have been
retired. Those wishing to keep military bases relevant, and to potentially “BRACproof” them, may compete vigorously for the JSF.
Allied participation in the JSF development program has been actively pursued
as a way to defray some of the cost of developing and producing the aircraft, and to
“prime the pump” for export. 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. From the Allied perspective, they saw the F-35 as an affordable avenue
to acquiring a fifth-generation fighter, technical knowledge such as stealth, and
industrial opportunities for domestic firms. The two JSF developmental phases
where international participation has been offered are (1) Systems Development and
Demonstration (SDD) and (2) Production, Sustainment and Follow-On Development
(PSFD). Initial Operational Test and Evaluation (IOT&E), a subest of SDD, is
another area that partner nations are assisting the program with. Within each of these
phases, the level of participation and funding drives the amount of influence the
respective nation can wield.
System Development and Demonstration (SDD)
Eight countries, from 2001 to 2002, signed on to the JSF program to support the
anticipated 10-year SDD phase. Partnership was broken down into three levels, by
the size of monetary contributions to the program. The higher the investment level,
the greater the nation’s voice with respect to aircraft requirements, design, and access
to technologies gained during development.
The United Kingdom is the only “Level 1” partner contributing approximately
$2 billion to this phase. UK participation actually began at program outset. On
December 20, 1995, the U.S. and UK 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.89 On January 17, 2001, the United States and United
Kingdom finalized the UK’s SDD participation, which equated to approximately 8%
of the total SDD program. Program proponents noted the UK’s signature represented
“strong international affirmation of the JSF concept,” even though prime contractor
competition and selection had not been completed.90 Many UK firms, such as British
Aerospace and Rolls-Royce, have strong participation in the program.
Level II partners consist of Italy and the Netherlands, contributing $1 billion and
$800 million, respectively. On June 24, 2002, Italy became the senior Level II
partner, with the goal of replacing its leased US F-16s and complimenting its
Eurofighter Typhoons, and occupies five positions within the Joint Program Office.91
Italy has been pushing to have its own final assembly line, in addition to the
possibility of a maintenance and upgrade facility. The Netherlands signed on to the
program on June 17, 2002, after it had conducted a 30-month analysis of potential
alternatives. The Dutch see their participation in JSF as a boost to its standings as
a maintenance, repair, and overhaul hub in Europe.92
The remaining nations of Australia, Denmark, Norway, Canada, and Turkey
signed on to the JSF program as Level III partners, with contributions ranging from
$125 million to $175 million. While contributions are less than their Level I and II
partners, the benefit to all nations who participate is a strong commitment by the U.S.
to export the aircraft to partner countries once the JSF is in production.93 Turkish
officials have stated that participation in the JSF program is a “major opportunity for
our defense industry.”94
Production, Sustainment and Follow-On Development (PSFD)
Unlike the SDD phase, PSFD will not make any distinction as to “levels.” In
signing the PSFD MOU, partner nations state their intentions to purchase the JSF,
and in what quantity and variant, and a determination is made as to their delivery
schedule. The governance structure of the program has broadened to allow all
participating nations to have a voice in follow-on development decisions. PSFD
costs will be divided on a “fair-share” based on the programmed purchase amount of
the respective nation. Also, unlike the bilateral SDD MOUs, PSFD is an agreement
among all partner nations. Program executives noted the difficulty in coming to an
agreement on PSFD because of the expectancy of “offset” arrangements within the
“U.S., U.K. Sign JAST Agreement,” Aerospace Daily, December 21, 1995, p. 451.
Eric Tegler, “International Instrument: Building the F-35 In Partnership,” F-35 Lightning
II Commemorating First Flight, p. 71.
“F-35 Joint Strike Fighter (JSF) Lightning II: International Partners,”
[http://www.globalsecurity.org/military/systems/aircraft/f-35-int.htm], accessed on October
Tegler, pp. 74-75.
“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, p. 6.
agreement.95 Offset arrangements, considered the norm in defense contracts with
foreign nations, usually require additional “sweeteners” to compensate the purchasing
nation for the agreement’s impact to its local workforce.96 JSF executives decided
to take a different approach, in line with the program’s goal to control costs, to avoid
offsets and promote competition as much as possible. All partner nations have
agreed to compete for work on a “best-value” basis and have signed the PSFD MOU.
Initial Operational Test and Evaluation (IOT&E)
Currently, the UK, Italy, and the Netherlands have agreed to participate in the
IOT&E program. UK, the senior JSF partner, will have the strongest participation
in the IOT&E phase. Italy and the Netherlands are contributing a far smaller amount
and will take part only in the coalition concept of operations (CONOPS) validation
testing.97 Other partner nations are still weighing their option to participate. The
benefits to participation are expedited acquisition of aircraft, pilot training for the test
cycle, and access to testing results.
Program proponents note the economic potential that comes with participation
in the program. A 2003 DOD study into international participation concluded that
the potential exists for partner nations to earn between $5 and $40 of revenue for
every $1 invested through program contracts.98 Current program policy to eschew
offset arrangements will favor governments and corporations that take an aggressive
approach to providing “best-value” bids for JSF work. On the positive side, this
approach seeks to be the most cost-effective. However, partner countries that cannot
compete effectively in this environment could be frustrated by the lack of contracts
Over the last couple of years, press reports have indicated that a number of
partner nations have threatened to withdraw from the program because of frustrations
over workshare and technology transfer issues.99 As previously discussed, the F-35
program has attempted to break from past “offset” arrangements in an effort to keep
costs down. Technology transfer has also been a problem with the United States’
first export of stealth technology. Congress, in the John Warner National Defense
Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2007, sensing United Kingdom frustrations with
Tegler, p. 79.
Travis Taylor, “An Empirical Evaluation of Offset Arrangements,” University of
Richmond, July 2001, p. 6.
Telephonic conversation with OSD/AT&L, October 3, 2007.
“International Industrial Participation: A Study of Country Approaches and Financial
Impacts on Foreign Suppliers,” Office of the Deputy Under Secretary of Defense (Industrial
Policy), June 2003.
See “Norway Signs Industrial Partnership with Eurofighter Consortium,” Defense Daily,
January 29, 2003; Joris Janssen Lok, “Frustration Mounts Among JSF Partners,” Jane’s
Defense Weekly, March 24, 2004; Thomas Dodd, “Danish Companies Consider Quitting JSF
Programme,” Jane’s Defence Weekly, January 9, 2004; Tom Kingston, “Unsatisfied Italy
May Cut JSF Participation,” Defense News, May 10, 2004; Lale Sariibrahimoglu, “Turkey
may withdraw from JSF program,” Jane’s Defence Weekly, November 10, 2004.
technology-sharing, advised the Secretary of Defense to share technology consistent
with the national security interests of both nation.100 Program officials note that they
are working with partner nations to improve their ability to effectively compete for
JSF work and are working with DOD expedite technology-transfer issues.101 While
workshare and technology transfer issues still remain, no country has pulled its
support for the F-35 program, and all have signed the Production, Sustainment, and
Follow-On Development memorandum. The issue for U.S. policy makers is how to
balance legitimate yet often contradictory concerns regarding security, investment,
and industrial competitiveness.
JSF program managers also offer FMS-level of participation for those countries
unable to commit to partnership in the JSF’s SDD phase. Israel and Singapore are
believed to have contributed $50 million each, and they are “Security Cooperative
Participants.” This relationship provides “specific case scope outside the cooperative
development partnership.”102 JSF officials have discussed the aircraft with the
defense staffs of many other allied countries as prospective customers, including
Germany, Greece, and Spain. The Polish government is reportedly leaning toward
an FMS investment of $75 to $100 million in the JSF program.103
P.L 109-364; 102 Stat 2134; October 17, 2006.
Tegler, p. 81.
Selected Acquisition Report. Office of the Secretary of Defense for Acquisition.
December 31, 2005.
Grzegorz Holdanowicz, “Poland Steps Up Interest in JSF,” Jane’s Defense Weekly, July
Appendix A. JSF Key Performance Parameters
4 Surg / 3 Sust
3 Surg / 2 Sust
3 Surg / 2 Sust
< 8 C-17 equivalent
loads (20 PAA)
< 8 C-17 equivalent
loads (24 PAA)
< 46,000 cu ft
Short Take-Off Distance
Vertical Lift Bring Back
Very Low Observable
Radio Frequency Signature
Maximum Approach Speed
Meet 100% of critical, top-level Information Exchange Requirements
Secure Voice and Data
2 x 1K JDAM,
2 x AIM-120
With Reserve Fuel
Notes: JSF Joint Program Office: October 11, 2007. PAA = Primary Aircraft Authorized, ST = Short
Tons, Vertical Lift Bring Back = amount of weapons/fuel that can be safely landed with.
Appendix B. JSF Procurement Plan
U.S. Air Force
Note: F-35 Lightning II Program Brief (April 19, 2007), JSF Program Office.