That the troubled JSF program has been re-certified after its April Nunn-McCurdy breach is no surprise, especially after many of the issues which saw it breach the threshold were substantially addressed by US SECDEF Gates back in February.
It’s interesting though to observe the disparity between the program cost estimates of the various ‘independent’ bodies reporting in to the Pentagon such as the GAO, JET, SAR and other acronym-rich entities which are predicting unit costs of US$112m or more, and those of Lockheed Martin which says it has consistently come in 20 per cent or more under such estimates on development and LRIP contracts signed to date, and will do the same in the impending LRIP 4 agreement.
There’s no doubt that ongoing production difficulties and delays to the flight test program and the forecast cost increases have tainted the JSF program, adding weight to those arguments that the aircraft itself will not be sufficiently capable against developing Russian and Chinese airborne and anti-air threats such as the Su-35, PAK-FA and S300/400.
But it’s also difficult to get past the fact that those in the know, from the RAAF’s Chief of Air Force down, are genuinely excited by the F-35’s potential. They say that what’s inside the ‘magic bag of tricks’, despite it being mostly theoretical at this stage, is game changing and will be more than sufficient.