Magazine article National Defense

Commandant: Short-Takeoff JSF Is 'Affordable'; Lockheed Martin Receives $19 Billion Contract to Build 22 Test Aircraft

Magazine article National Defense

Commandant: Short-Takeoff JSF Is 'Affordable'; Lockheed Martin Receives $19 Billion Contract to Build 22 Test Aircraft

Article excerpt

The Marine Corps version of the Joint Strike Fighter, at approximately $50 million a piece, would be an "affordable" airplane, when compared to the prices seen in other aviation programs today, said Gen. James L. Jones, commandant of the Corps.

The JSF prime contractor, Lockheed Martin Corp., won the competition against archrival Boeing on October 26. The company was awarded a $19 billion contract to continue the development of JSF for the Air Force, the Navy, the Marine Corps and the U.K. Royal Navy. The consensus among industry experts was that Lockheed's short-takeoff and vertical landing (STOVL) technology for the Marine Corps version of JSF gave it a winning edge over Boeing.

Undersecretary of Defense Edward C. 'Pete' Aldridge said the Air Force version of JSF would cost about $40 million, while the Navy and the Marine/UK Royal Navy version would cost a few million dollars more.

Jones said that, if the airplane stays close to the $50 million price tag, it would be considered a "success story."

During a news conference in Panama City, Fla., Jones said he was optimistic about the future of the JSF program. "One of the great strengths of the JSF program and one of the reasons I was so supportive of it is that the unit cost will stay very constant during the first few years," he said.

Jones was in Panama City to address the National Defense Industrial Association Expeditionary Warfare Conference.

Asked about what he predicts for the future of JSF, he said he was encouraged by the "progress we are making in reducing the gap between conventional takeoff and landing and STOVL aircraft." As the JSF program moves forward, he added, "You are going to see the difference between the two shrink considerably."

Jones was nor involved in the contractor selection, but, nevertheless, noted that both bids "exceeded our expectations."

Lockheed received high marks for a novel technique it used in the STOVL aircraft to get additional lift. It relied on a combination of engine thrust and a lift-fan mounted behind the cockpit. Boeing's design featured a traditional lift system, similar to what is currently found in the AV-8B Harrier. Lockheed's JSF can direct about 35,000 pounds of thrust downward, while Boeing's achieved 24,000 pounds.

Defense and aerospace companies on the Lockheed Martin JSF team can expect up to $350 billion in sales from the development and sales of the aircraft, said industry analysts. The JSF was dubbed the F-35.

For the team's prime contractors -- Lockheed Martin, Northrop Grumman and BAE Systems -- there is potential for $200 billion in contracts, during the next 30 years. The oft-quote figure represents the "accumulated value of all the production lots," beginning with low-rate production in 2006, said Tom Burbage, executive vice president and general manager of the Lockheed Martin JSF program. …

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