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Joint Strike Fighter: Progress Made and Challenges Remain

GAO-07-360 Published: Mar 15, 2007. Publicly Released: Mar 15, 2007.
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The Joint Strike Fighter (JSF) program--a multinational acquisition program for the Air Force, Navy, Marine Corps, and eight cooperative international partners--is the Department of Defense's (DOD) most expensive aircraft acquisition program. DOD currently estimates it will spend $623 billion to develop, procure, and operate and support the JSF fleet. The JSF aircraft, which includes a variant design for each of the services, represents 90 percent of the remaining planned investment for DOD's major tactical aircraft programs. In fiscal year 2004, the JSF program was rebaselined to address technical challenges, cost increases, and schedule overruns. This report--the third mandated by Congress--describes the program's progress in meeting cost, schedule, and performance goals since rebaselining and identifies various challenges the program will likely face in meeting these goals in the future.

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Recommendations for Executive Action

Agency Affected Recommendation Status
Department of Defense To improve chances of a successful outcome, the Secretary of Defense should limit annual low-rate initial production quantities to no more than 24 aircraft per year, the current manufacturing capacity, until each variant's basic flying qualities have been demonstrated in flight testing now scheduled in the 2010 time frame.
Closed – Implemented
DOD restructured the JSF program in March 2010. Because of cost increases, continuing delays in manufacturing and testing aircraft, and attendant risks, one of the major decisions was to reduce low rate procurement quantities by 122 aircraft over the next 5 years. We believe DOD's actions to slow the program's production ramp rate by reducing the number of aircraft it plans to buy over the next five years is in line with the intent of our recommendation of reducing the risks of making production commitments prior to demonstrating through flight testing that the aircraft works as intended. While DOD is buying 30 aircraft in fiscal year 2010, by the end of year the program will have tested the basic flying qualities of all three variants. The production risks in subsequent years has been reduced by DOD's actions as the program now plans more time to complete testing before it significantly increasing its production rate. This should improve the program's chances for a successful outcome.

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ConcurrencyCost analysisDefense cost controlDefense procurementDevelopmental testingFighter aircraftMilitary aircraftOperational testingProcurement planningProgram evaluationSchedule slippagesStrategic planningCost overrunsCost estimatesProgram costs