19 May 2011


Tuesday's post looked at the VA Class subs from the GAO's perspective. Today, let's see what my favorite government accountability office has to say about a different project: the Joint Strike Fighter.

Gray jet aircraft taking off on a clear blue sky, with the landing gear still protruding from its underside. Mountains make-up the background.I already mentioned that  the Joint Strike Fighter went into production even though "three critical technologies are not mature, manufacturing processes are not proven and testing is not complete." The GAO report doesn't explain why the JSF pressed ahead into production with an immature, untested set of tech. It didn't explain what sort of pressures drove that decision, but I'm pretty sure it wasn't the result of sound engineering practices.

It's a striking contrast to the VA class sub's decision to rewrite requirements that were "unrealistic and would not be worth the cost to achieve them." Apparently unrealistic, excessively expensive requirements are perfectly acceptable and unchangeable on the JSF.

It reminds me of Kevin Kline's line in French Kiss, where he purposely mistranslates the French airline pilot's intercom announcement for Meg Ryan's character: "The pilot says there is a crack in the engine, but not to worry, we take off anyway."

I gladly concede this is an improvement over previous tech maturity issues, because the GAO points out "the JSF program entered system development in 2001 with none of its eight critical technologies fully mature." And now only three are still immature. So they're making progress. I guess. That's probably why Lockheed is asking to increase the production rate.

Unfortunately, it gets worse. The report says "the JSF is tracking well against its new, less aggressive test schedule despite late deliveries of test aircraft and lower than expected availability rates..." Good to know late deliveries and low availability didn't get in the way of the lowered standards, right? Makes me wonder how much "less aggressive" this new schedule is. And despite this "progress," its combat radius still falls short of the requirement, for reasons "that are not yet fully known."

No word yet on whether the JSF is making progress towards its goal of reducing the cost of each aircraft, or towards it goal of a reduced timeline to build each one.

Oh, right, that's because they don't have goals like that.

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