The Joint Strike Fighter ultimately will succeed, outgoing Pentagon acquisition chief John Young predicted today, even though program officials inadequately funded the prototype flyoff during the competition to build the fifth-generation fighter.
“I think we didn't fully understand all the risks of achieving weight on the Joint Strike Fighter and other such things, but Joint Strike Fighter is, in the end, going to be successful, and I think fairly successful for what we're asking for three airplanes to do in terms of capability,” Young said.
In February, InsideDefense.com reported that Young had written a memo to Defense Secretary Robert Gates stating that “JSF technology demonstrators were not adequately robust, leading to optimistic estimates of the structural weight of the aircraft."
At least the F-35 program didn't go the way of the A-12 Avenger II, Young noted. The A-12 was intended to be a carrier-based stealth fighter replacement for the A-6 Intruder used by the Navy and Marine Corps, but the program was canceled in 1991 due to high costs. The cancellation led to years of litigation between the design team -- McDonnell Douglas and General Dynamics -- and DOD, which is still ongoing, according to Young.
“People clearly didn't understand the risk ((of the A-12 program)) -- they signed up for a price that was totally unrealistic and kind of said, 'Industry, you got to go do it,' and we took them to court for not doing it,” he said.