The $114 million mistake

By Skyler Frink
Lockheed Martin was awarded two contract modifications today, each one for changes to the configuration baseline hardware or software resulting from the Joint Strike Fighter (JSF) development effort. Sounds pretty innocent, right? A call to Joe DellaVedova, Spokesperson for the F-35 Joint Program Office, revealed the cause for these contract modifications.

Due to the program involving testing the aircraft while building them, twelve aircraft had already been built before a problem was found. In Mr. DellaVedova's words the modifications are to "provide funding for the contractor to correct deficiencies in LRIP (Low Rate Initial Production) II hardware and software." The deficiencies were not disclosed, but what we do know is that those deficiencies are costing the Department of Defense over $100 million to fix it. The United Kingdom is even footing some of the bill, ponying up $10 million to fix these issues. Specifically, the contracts total approximately $114.2 million.

That's a lot of money to spend just because planes were built before we even knew they worked.

The planes that were already produced (and thus are being fixed) are 6 short-take off and vertical-landing (STOVL) and 6 conventional take off and landing (CTOL) variants.

Of course, this could have been easily prevented if everyone wasn't in a such a rush to get the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter into the air. Rather than building these incredibly expensive machines before they were fully tested they could have simply waited. Now there is a wait that, to quote the contracts, "will span multiple years." Couldn't wait to get them out there, and now we have to wait even longer because of problems that are in the software and hardware.

The software or the hardware, otherwise known as absolutely everything in the aircraft. Be happy to know your tax dollars are going towards a mistake that was caused by rushing a product instead of thoroughly testing it before production, and that the mistake is involved in the all-encompassing hardware and software.

Oh well, maybe this mistake will mean the DoD and Lockheed Martin have learned a $114.2 million lesson that everyone who's had to pay for printing at college already learned- "Make sure there are no errors before you print it out." Except this time instead of wasting a dollar to reprint a report, the government is wasting $114.2 million to retrofit 12 aircraft.

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The Mil & Aero Bloggers

John Keller is editor-in-chief of Military & Aerospace Electronics magazine, which provides extensive coverage and analysis of enabling electronic and optoelectronic technologies in military, space, and commercial aviation applications. A member of the Military & Aerospace Electronics staff since the magazine's founding in 1989, Mr. Keller took over as chief editor in 1995.

Ernesto Burden is the publisher of PennWell’s Aerospace & Defense Media Group, including Military & Aerospace Electronics, Avionics Intelligence and Avionics Europe.  He’s a father of four, a runner, and an avid digital media enthusiast with a deep background in the intersection of media publishing, digital technology, and social media. He can be reached at ernestob@pennwell.com and on Twitter @aero_ernesto.

Courtney E. Howard, as executive editor, enjoys writing about all things electronics and avionics in PennWell’s burgeoning Aerospace and Defense Group, which encompasses Military & Aerospace Electronics, Avionics Intelligence, the Avionics Europe conference, and much more. She’s also a self-proclaimed social-media maven, mil-aero nerd, and avid avionics geek. Connect with Courtney at Courtney@Pennwell.com, @coho on Twitter, and on LinkedIn.

Mil & Aero Magazine

January 2014
Volume 25, Issue 1
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