Are fixed price contracts a fad?

Are fixed price contracts a fad?

The Pentagon’s top weapons buyer is trying to put the breaks on the growing momentum for fixed price contracts within the Defense Department even as frustration grows over weapons programs being delivered late and over budget.

The first example that Frank Kendall, the under secretary of defense for Acquisition, Technology and Logistics, typically uses is the A-12 Avenger and the problems that a fixed price contract caused during its development. The Pentagon was forced to cancel the program to build a carrier based stealth aircraft in 1991 after costs and requirements spiraled out of control.

Since then the government and the contractors — General Dynamics and Boeing — have been tied up in court disputing the billions the government paid before canceling the program. Most recently, the U.S. Supreme Court overruled in 2011 a federal appeals ruling that stated the contractors owed the government money on the $4.8 billion development contract that General Dynamics and Boeing received.

Kendall said on Tuesday the government wanted to avoid similar court battles as he answered questions about the effect sequestration might have on contracts. He used the time after his speech at the defense conference in Washington D.C. sponsored by Credit Suisse and McAleese and Associates to then explain why fixed price contracts are not always the best option for the Pentagon.

Air Force generals have lauded the fixed price contract it landed with Boeing to build the KC-46 tanker as a success for the service’s acquisition branch. So much so, Air Force leaders often say losing it will be one of the worst consequences of sequestration should the service be forced to cancel it for the lack of appropriate funding.

Kendall did use the tanker as an example of a program that could benefit from a fixed price contract. He wrote a piece for the March/April issue of  Defense AT&L, the military’s acquisition magazine, in which he lauds the tanker contract, but questions the wisdom of future fixed price contracts for development programs.

His concern is the balance of risk and delivering a product the military wants.

“[Firm fixed price] development tends to create situations where neither the government nor the contractor has the flexibility needed to make adjustments as they learn more about what is feasible and affordable as well as what needs to be done to achieve a design that meets requirements during a product’s design and testing phases,” Kendall wrote in his article.

On Tuesday, he pointed out that the development portion of contracts receive most of the attention, but the production and sustainment portions of weapons contracts cost the military significantly more. Kendall said spending a little more during development in order to pay less during those later portions of a weapon’s life span saves the Pentagon money overall.

While he acknowledged that development programs, especially in the engineering and manufacturing design phase, have run over budget, he said that handing the risk of that portion to defense companies does not necessarily protect the military. Yes, the military is forced to pay less for industry mistakes, but he questioned if that is worse than losing a program all together in certain cases.

Kendall also pointed out the benefits of the government and industry working as partners during the EMD phase and providing the flexibility to balance “financial and technical outcomes” rather than a firm fixed price contract where the focus is “squarely on the financial aspects of the contract.”

Along with the Air Force tanker program, Kendall did say there are other program where fixed price development contracts make sense.

“Another example where this can be done is a Navy auxiliary, where the shipyards have a great deal of experience with similar designs and with the design process for that class of ships,” Kendall wrote.

On Tuesday, he listed some of the requirements and circumstances in which he would support the use of a fixed price development contract. Kendall explained in his Defense AT&L article that he looks for firm requirements, a program with low technical risk, qualified defense companies, the financial capacity to absorb overruns, and a business case that will motivate the contractor to push through setbacks.

The Pentagon top weapon’s buyer suggested that the interest in fixed price contracts could be a fad. He pointed out that after the A-12 fiasco Pentagon leaders wanted nothing to do with fixed price contracts. Twenty years, he said it has been interesting for the cycle to return where critics are asking why the Pentagon doesn’t have more fixed price contracts.

“Twenty years ago they said we’d never do fixed price contracts again,” Kendall said Tuesday.

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Re: A-12… —“The Pentagon was forced to cancel the program to build a carrier based stealth aircraft in 1991 after costs and requirements spiraled out of control.”— And… gross, program management incompetence.

Fortunately there is no gross, program management incompetence in the F-35 program…allegedly.

Wouldn’t it be nice if we had, had a “Fixed Price Contract” on the F-35 of the price LM pitch everyone at of $60 Million per plane? I wonder which Contractor Kendall plans on working for after he retires from “Public Service”?

“Kendall also pointed out the benefits of the government and industry working as partners during the EMD phase and providing the flexibility to balance “financial and technical outcomes” rather than a firm fixed price contract where the focus is “squarely on the financial aspects of the contract.””

This is stupid. Let the defense contractors develop the technology on their own dime. Let them mature their manufacturing process. Let them get all the bugs of their poor design choices and corner cutting worked out without forcing the taxpayer to have to eat the cost. Then we’ll buy your systems.

Denmark, another member of the F-35 team, has followed Canada and relaunched their fighter competition, deciding to look elsewhere: http://​www​.defensenews​.com/​a​r​t​i​c​l​e​/​2​0​1​3​0​3​1​4​/​D​E​FRE

Until you repeal the requirements in the Defense Authorization Act of 1996 that requires the government to abandon the Mil-Standard and adhere to the commercial standard, the defense contractors will bleed the taxpayer dry. Defense contractors are the biggest leach on the taxpayer and our givernment was stupid enough to allow it and then continue to look the otherway while bribes flow under the table into their pockets.

There are a multitude of problems on both government and defense contractor sides. Using cost contracts only for technology development only makes both more irresponsible on managing both technology and costs. Private companies pay for ALL R&D before a single customer buys one product. IF the product passes all the development and operational tests, they amortize their R&D in the procurement unit costs, fully recovering their investment. This is the ONLY way to instill technology and fiscal discipline. Fixed price contracts should be used for ALL procurement contracts.

As a former government contractor with 16 years trying to help the government oversee the big primes, generally the primes are really inefficient and the government doesn’t enforce “hooks” in the contract anyway. I’m glad to be out of the looney bin! Hopefully sequestration will force some of the more incompetent government people before too much damage is done on the military side.

Do you see any hope for increased competition on the contractor side in the future? I have been troubled in the past by the steadily increasing consolidation in the industry and the reduction in competitiveness. I suppose the “nuclear option” would be some kind of anti-trust moves by the gov’t — do you think that is what needs to happen?

At least we are not repeating the mistake of the A-12 and canceling it as the costs and requirements spiral out of control

Contractor shills will tell you ” There isn’t a defense contractor in business that could afford to pony up that much cash not to mention the insane risks that would be associated.”

Which is just another contractor lie.

There are two ways of raising money. Getting it from the finance industry that assess the risk and prices the money accordingly, and finding a fool to give you a blank cheque. Of course the contractors prefer the later.

If your product has insane risks then why should the government be investing in it again ? If we have a budget of 300 billion why should we even bother starting a program that is likely to cost 1 trillion ?

The contractors arguments always boil down to the same thing — capitalism is good enough for everyone else but it doesn’t work for us. Well it’s pretty obvious that capitalism is working pretty well in every other sector and the industry having the biggest problems is in fact the socialist defense contractors.

Productivity in the defense sectors is now 250 times below the equivalent commercial company doing exactly the same thing. And its just getting worse, because rewarding failure just breeds more failure.

Have you ever worked a day in your life in either the commercial or defense sectors? No?

Unlike automobiles or televisions there is a rather limited market for things like missile defense systems and main battle tanks. Considering the massive investment involved, no company is going to develop something extremely complicated or expensive without a customer waiting. Northrop lost big with the F-20 (which was a rather simple light fighter) and nobody is going to repeat that. Hence most private endeavors are usually limited to smaller things like individual weapons or sensors.

So yes, the government is going to have to request an item meet some certain specifications, establish the numbers they will buy, funding, and timelines, actually follow those plans (which historically has been a problem), and find better ways of rewarding success and promoting competition without sacrificing capability. Whine about greed if you wish but like in every other industry there needs to be be good money to be made if you want organizations and individuals to seek work in such areas.

USG is an unreliable monopoly customer. USG is unable to offer a credible business case on most development programs that would entice a private company to invest in R&D. So USG pays at it goes.

In this blog thread there is an assumption that private companies have to do business with the USG. Companies will only bid on contracts with a structure where making 15% profit is likely with competent execution. Less than 15% then they would prefer to put the money under the mattress. Why take on the bother and the risk, when you can make more money with less risk with a passive investment.

In the private contracting world, companies ensure that there are numerous customers that are committed to buying the product. If one customer waffles, there are others to take its place. Given the nature of the USG customer — changing pentagon appointees, changing congress etc. priorities change every two years which is quicker than the R&D program development cycle.

Private companies understand that the likely scenario is that USG changes its mind on quantity, or whether even to do the program. Thus leaving contractors holding the bag on the R&D investment. Recall that the US Army spent $30B US in R&D over the last 20 years on programs they decided they no longer needed.

So private companies will not do business with this customer unless it is cost plus fee.


Which is why the export market is the only way to fly.

F-16+, F-16++, F-16+++ is all low-risk vs something like the F-35…

The F-35 left prototyping a little too soon. Or perhaps we should’ve stuck to delivering one variant at a time, which would’ve led to iterative optimization of each airframe for its niche and eventual divergence; but divergent airframes that work vs. common ones that are still teething? Water under the bridge.

Northrop lost with the F-5 and the F-20 because of the F-16; and the F-18L lost because of the F-18 and the F-16.

We talk a good game about land-itizing navy fighters but we aren’t willing to pay for it; and we talk a good game about navalizing land fighters but we aren’t willing to pay for it.

Unfortunately, that’s not going to work. The defense industry is not going to develop new planes or all sorts of cutting edge technology in hopes that the government will want some of it. It’s billions to develop a new aircraft to the point of the government being happy to just buy it. That sort of expenditure would doom a company if it didn’t result in significant sales. The DoD has trouble even figuring out what it wants when it does do a real RFP, having to guess at it is a fools errand.

The defense industry will/does obviously do some R&D work w/o the government, but they’re very limited in what they spend and the cost is just pushed back to the government anyway (indirectly).

Like many projects, the biggest one with the F-35 is thinking big and forgetting reality. 1 common airframe for 3 very different aircraft was destined to cost a lot of money and have severe design tradeoffs.

“If your product has insane risks then why should the government be investing in it again ?”

Because that’s what the customer (the government) demands. If the industry had to do its own R&D and present a product for the DoD to buy they’d limit their risk, but the DoD wants the bleeding edge of technology and is willing to shell out 10 years of R&D dollars to get a workable product. The other part of the problem is because they want unproven leading technologies that take a decade to mature, and change their minds on what they want every couple years during that process.

A far better alternative is to extirpate the current acquisition system and replace it with one similar to that used by the British. they use a board of experts (civilian and military) that review potential threats, and stipulate the weapons and force structure required to defeat those threats.

This removes huge redundancies, design changes throughout the acquisition process, eliminates inter-service-branch incompatibilities, and most of the chances that some clown will demand the construction of something that requires a change to the laws of physics. And it also removes congress (or parliament) from everything except approval of the budget.

does the british system actually work well, though? my understanding is that the eurofighter turned into a huge mess, they can’t decide if they want one carrier or two, or if they are going to have any planes for them, the SA80 was broken until they hired the germans to fix it, the nimrod ASW plane was cancelled, they are facing a 60 billion pound shortfall in their defense budget, etc.

here’s a quote from the UK’s Strategic Defence and Security Review, 2010:

“Our Armed Forces – admired across the world – have been overstretched, deployed too often without appropriate planning, with the wrong equipment, in the wrong numbers and without a clear strategy. In the past, unfunded spending pledges created a fundamental mismatch between aspiration and resources. And there was a failure to face up to the new security realities of the post Cold War world. The Royal Navy was locked into a cycle of ever smaller numbers of ever more expensive ships. We have an Army with scores of tanks in Germany but forced to face the deadly threat of improvised explosive devices in Iraq and Afghanistan in Land Rovers designed for Northern Ireland. And the Royal Air Force has been hampered in its efforts to support our forces overseas because of an ageing and unreliable strategic airlift fleet. This is the result of the failure to take the bold decisions needed to adjust our defence plans to face the realities of our ever-changing world.”

this doesn’t sound like their strategy has been working

“The other part of the problem is because they want unproven leading technologies that take a decade to mature, and change their minds on what they want every couple years during that process. ”

This is the major issue that causes such cost overruns. If you have a lot of technologies specified as requirements in your RFP, you’re setting yourself up for cost overruns. There is a lot of unknowns with unproven/under-developed technologies and the risk is huge. Then you end up changing your mind alot, which also causes significant delays as designs need to be changed, new designs tested, etc. One small change can have substantial impacts on schedule and cost.

The other issue is you get a lot of requests for faster, better, cheaper. You can’t have it all.

“faster, better, cheaper. You can’t have it all.”

The general rule is you can have two.

so what’s the solution? how can we get projects done on time, on cost and with the needed capabilities?

You can’t, short of picking “needed capabilities” that are available today instead of paying for R&D tomorrow.

It’s the equivalent of going to the year 2005 and asking Steve Jobs to design the iPhone5 for release in 2007 (the year of the first iPhone) based on their design work on the iPod.

So instead of having iPhone, iPhone3G, 3GS, 4, 4S and 5 you’d dither for years on some half-baked product that would go through LRIP and a massive cost-spiral and give you iPhone4 capability a year before it would have in an incremental process, but cost 4,000/phone because someone thought cutting the unit buy would “make things cheaper”.

Fixed price would be easier if we stopped “bundling” all sorts of R&D programs into the fighter programs.

Need fancy helmets, glass cockpit, IRST, DAS, NGJ? Bundle it!

The contractor shills will tell you that the cost overruns are due to specification changes.

This is just another contractor lie.

The fact is that the changes they are talking about are due to design failures not changes in specs from the government.

The shills would have you believe that a carrier based fighter being able to actually land on a carrier is a change in spec by the customer.

That’s not to say that the overall product specs don’t constantly change but it isn’t due to the piling on of requirements that the shills would have you believe. It’s due to the constant concessions that the government has to make because the product cannot be made to meet requirements at any cost.

The fact is that Lockheed cannot deliver at the price it quoted and it never intended to deliver.

The F-35 is basically a fraudulent program. Of course the crooks are going to make up lies why they shouldn’t be put charged and jailed. Our own resident Crook once said the contractors should just steal what they wanted from the government – because they could , tells you all you need to know about the lack of integrity and the outright criminal attitude of the industry.

So what is better the A-12 which spent about $5B on a FFP contract and was cancelled or an F-35 that increased acquisition cost from $200B to $400B on a CPFF contract? Personally,I think both were bad. So what do you do?

Here’s my view: Allow up to 15% program cost increase period. Beyond the 15%, the company would make zero profit until the cost overruns are recouped by the government. So if you looked at let another example of insanely underbidding the real cost (aka F-35), if the contractor ever made profit it might be years after completing SDD (EMD) if ever!

With that said, the Government does just a horrible job in determining when a contractor has insanely underbid a cost+ project . I mean F-35 is 2 times the cost! The F-35 O&M picture is looking to be very similar. Why do we have CAPE and DABs if you can miss it by this much?? Pathetic. What’s even worse is that the same kinds of cost increases were part of the F-22 , JASSM, and JCM programs yet the government was too stupid to see a trend and account for it. Instead we get a blank check F-35 program that is killing us.

At this price we probably should have. When F-35 started is was supposed to cost what an F-16 cost not what an F-22 costs. Due to the price increases we will likely only buy half as many and we are cutting needed programs across the DoD to pay for it. Is that really a better way?

Yeah but now Boeing owns McDonnell-Douglass and the KC-10 program. Go figure, some congressman/senator took a bribe to let that merger happen.

Start fining these companies if the come over budget. Tell them here is the price and if you go over budget that’s your problem.

The point made here is Firm Fixed Price doesn’t allow any government intervention until the contractor misses the schedule or fails inspection. FFP was intended for ID/IQ type contracts of a known costs structure. The problem with FFP on high risks programs is the government has to assume the contractor has sufficient experience and capability to handle the risks, or you get what happend on the A-12 contract.
A fixed price plus incentive fee contract would better suit a high risk procurement.

The A-12’s design requirements were drastically changed shortly before CDR. That happens all the time on most programs. Fixed price is a recipe for disaster on development contracts.

Taxpayer, the big difference is that private companies don’t have capability requirements. All they have to do is come up with something — anything — that the public will want to buy. Their R&D processes are aimed at that.

The military doesn’t think that way, at least not any more. They have capability gaps they feel they must fill, and strong (sometimes unreasonable) opinions about what counts as filling them. They aren’t shopping for things they like; they’re ordering custom (that’s ‘bespoke’ for our UK friends) wares. Usually before they have a good grasp of what is actually possible and how much it would cost.

The sensible way to do this is in a series of low-cost technology development programs that scrub the major development risks. The stupid way to do this is to leap into a full-bore Major Defense Acquisition Program when all you have in hand is a long wish-list and some willing contractors. As best I can tell, the last leap-forward kind of program where we did it right was the F-117. Since then, we’ve been much more likely to leap before we look and end up with crap or nothing — FCS, JTRS, TSAT, DDG-1000, Crusader, Comanche, …

Exactly. I don’t care how badly you need to have invisible antigravity tanks by next Tuesday; you can’t have them. In fact, if there were any chance at all that you could develop them, saying that you need them soon will change that in a hurry.

Of course, the contractors are complicit in this. Boeing (to pick one egregious example) has no excuse for telling the Army that they could do FCS and JTRS. If they believed it, they’re incompetent. If they didn’t believe it, that’s worse.

I think there a lot of people here who should be working in the pentagon instead doing this research in their free time. I am sure there are some staffing and advising positions available…

Lousy article — development and production contracts are apples and oranges. (And mixed fruit, as with the F35, is wrong.)

Nothing new shows the Pentagon is broken and needs new management. Overall some had success like theKC-46 but JSF and A-12 and parts of the LCS have proven this system will not work. Time to reform.

So when the government decides to add a ground attack capability to the F-22, removes that requirement, then adds it again, that isn’t going to cause any problems for the contractor? Or when it’s decided that the Crusader SPG should become a 40 ton as opposed to 60 ton vehicle? You would know that the tailhook issue on the F-35C is also well underway to being fixed if you bothered to keep track of such things.

The fact of the matter is that the defense industry functions is connected to the rest of the economy and functions similar. Rooting for the PRC and Iranians and calling everybody with jobs “crooks” isn’t fixing anything.

The main problem is that somehow, over the passage of time, research and development has become tied to acquisitions, rather than remaining a separate entity. Nobody would be crying “LETS CANCEL THE F-35!!” If it was a low budget R&D program intended to acquire only a handful of test/research aircraft, with the promise that if what was delivered was up to snuff, we would provide an acquisitions contract worth billions of dollars more.

We really shouldn’t have to pay our contractors for R&D, they should be funding the majority of the R&D side of things out of their own budgets in an effort to remain competitive with one another, which would be beneficial to the entire defense establishment as a whole since innovation would be much much higher than what it is now, likewise there would be greater incentive to minimize costs rather than maximize them.

We shouldn’t be insisting on bundling all the expensive s– with the aircraft. I don’t see why we should be the suckers at the highest tier of Kickstarter: Fighter jet.

“At this level of contribution, get some jets, and doodad A, and doodad B, and doodad C…”

We really should’ve just allowed the designs to diverge from the prototype X-35 as required. As it is, the priority should be the –B, since we still have legacy –16 and Super Hornets. Lockheed can let Boeing handle integration of DAS/IRST/doodads into the Super Hornet fleet and the F-15 fleet, Lockmart’s F-16 unit will handle integration of doodads into the Falcons. As it is, Lockheed should offer to furnish F-16’s with the advanced doodads to the F-35A customers. They should at least get something back for the money they put in. And at the end of the day, they need light aircraft that are reliable and battle-tested. I think they’ll learn that stealth is an expensive PITA…

At some point, Defens will jump in and note that the government used to do a lot of the feasibility research and development before sharing it with the contractors and saying “now you take this to mass production”.

And now it’s just “I am a general, and I watched this movie with whizbang fighter jets, and I want one of those. How much will it take? Here’s a cost-plus contract…”

Firm fixed contracts are simply a ploy used by defense contractors to get rid of the “award fee” aspect of the “cost plus award fee” contract. There is no real difference between the two contracts beyond the award fee given the fact that the DoD conveniently renegotiates contracts every year with suppliers. That’s why they are never officially over budget or off schedule these days, because the government simply renegotiates their problems away. If a defense contractor over runs their annual budget, they don’t get any “award fee” on the over run portion of the money. By renegotiating every year, the government covers up the over run and makes sure the contractor gets their award fee (or profit) on every dime of your money they spent. The same ploy works with the “firm fixed” contract, but the profit on that contract is a fixed percentage of what is spent and the contracting officials have no discretion in adjusting the amount of profit the contractor makes according to their perception of the contractor’s performance.

And when the government signs a contract with a schedule — for example, 5 years of development at $300M per year and then in year 2 says that “we need to cut the budget from $300M to $200M for the next 3 years so the development is going to take 6 years so all of the effort is replanned and rebaselined. And then in year 4, the Government says “We need to cut the budget from $200M to $150M for the next 2 years and the system (bomb) that we need to test with you isn’t going to be ready so your development has to go 2 years longer” so all of the effort is replanned and rebaselined so that now we are looking at a 10+year program at well over the original $1.5B. I presume that at this point, all of the government contracting officers and decision makers who LIED by signing a contract that they did not follow should also go to jail.__FAT EFFING CHANCE

The F-35 program keeps chugging along!; at the end of 2013 (THIS YEAR), 95 production a/c will have been delivered to Eglin, Yuma and Luke bases. Eglin and Luke are training commands and Yuma will be the first IOC USMC VMFA-121 squadron with 16 of the certified Block 2B Mission Systems a/c. Mission Systems Block 2B has been up-loaded this week at Edwards, into BF-17 and will be tested and certified along with AF-03/ –06/ –07. :)

$60 million a plane did you say? Reflecting on its own performance to date, a fixed price contract pegged at $120 million a jet would probably lose L/M stockholders $20 million a jet at the current production rate. They could make it up in volume though. If they built 150 jets a year, I reckon they would only lose $1.5 billion a year. Seriously, an insistence on a low ball fixed price contract as a punishment to L/M will only kill the entire program. It costs what it costs. Do you want it or not? No, you say? I can live with that.

Whoa there big fella. I’m sure there is some good stuff amongst the frustration venting, but the F-35 is not bought to any commercial standard. I am absolutely confused by your rant. Hang in there though. There are plenty of good reasons to be angry with the procurement process. You just don’t enlighten me yet.

“If your product has insane risks then…? “
Precisely. The customer types are seduced by the contractor types with visions of sugarplums dancing in their heads. Since it is other people’s money, the customers get used to expecting giant leaps in technology as the way to a better weapon system, and the next promotion, but I digress. It is the capability that is driving the cost. I ask you, if you could do the Marine close support mission any other way, would you spend all the time and money on STOVL? Also, why spend time and money making some “platform” that proves “maneuvering is irrelevant” when it ends up costing more than the maneuvering aircraft after all the compensating electronics are added. I don’t know if the military threats that drive this insanity are overestimated on purpose or not. Certainly, it is smart to have a little technology margin on potential enemies, but how much? There are many successful historical examples among the catastrophies. We need the best people in position to make these decisions, and obviously they weren’t there too often. There is no accountability for the bad executive decisions either. It never stops…or does it?

Fines? Phil…you can’t force a company to eat massive losses. They will stop the bleeding themselves. If a challenging project is behind schedule and over budget, it is a time honored practice of project killers to squeeze the thieving contractors with hold backs, until they perform. Of course, this causes even more schedule slip because the contractors have no money left either. Without government sugar daddys,as soon as the budget is blown, and the bankers lose faith, it’s over. That is a recipe for building F-16A’s (or F-86s) in perpetuity, which are not competitive and also a waste of money. You have to have the right people making the decisions, and they must be afraid of disgrace if they make the wrong one.

the bomber requirement for the F-22 is dropped,
the weight of the Crusader SPG goes up 70%
the range of the F-35 is decreased
50% of the weapons needed are dropped from the F-35
the crewing requirement of the LCS is doubled
on and on the requirements are reduced or deleted and the contractor shills tell us that this is why the cost is increased !

When our resident contractor shill says the F-35 is well on it’s way to being fixed what he means is that the requirements have been reduced so far that the F-35 can now just scrape in to meet them. Except this is just another lie — even Lockheed admits that there is at least another decade of development ahead to bash the F-35 into some sort of shape.

Doesn’t really matter since the rats are leaving the sinking ship. The F-35 is dying. The worlds largest static display program is how one person put it.

Does anyone need anymore proof that our collective sickness is fullblown ? Fact: Insanity is a 100% deadly condition 100% of the time . Just keep the pedal to the metal boys it’s way to late to stop.

“Overall some had success like theKC-46″

Only took them 10 years and 4 tries.

When you add time to a development program it should reduce risk and cost less, most project managers in the real world would be overjoyed if their deadlines were doubled.

The F-22 was designed as a pure-bred air superiority fighter. The strike capability was added in the ‘90s, then removed, then added again, then de-emphasized.

The Crusader started it’s life as roughly 60 ton self-propelled howitzer built with fighting the Soviets in mind. With the fall of the Soviet Union it was decided to redesign it into a lighter 40 ton platform with many changes. But it was still considered a “Cold War relic” and killed.

The range decrease of the F-35 is an unfortunate reality. Everybody wishes it wasn’t so. But it still has more range than the aircraft it replaces. The F/A-18 and F-22 also failed to meet initial range goals. The only weapons truly eliminated from the F-35’s planned weapons capabilities were the AGM-65 Maverick and current variants of the AGM-88 HARM.

The insanely small crew size planned for the LCS was the Navy’s desire and one that shipbuilders said they could achieve, but reality has proven to be a harsh mistress as always. Properly crewed at least the LCS can be of some use.

With the F-35, design challenges were greatly underestimated and it was decided to jam all sorts of new systems still in development (the HMDS for example) into the aircraft.

It wasn’t Lockheed or Boeing that proposed one fighter to do everything however. The Pentagon asked for that and Lockheed is trying to deliver.

ALL modern aircraft are in a continued state of development for years after introduction. Later F-35 blocks will continue to integrate more weapons and other features. The same occurred with the F-16 and F/A-18.The Block I Super Hornet couldn’t do nearly as much as the Block II.

Despite your burning hatred of the F-35, it isn’t going anywhere. Too much has been invested into the program for that. It is needed.

Stealth isn’t gold plating. Against future air defenses it will be a requirement. With F-22 production cut back the JSF became extremely critical for the USAF.

Reduce risk, yes. Reduce overall cost? No. You’re still paying people for all of that time.

Agreed, but it’s clear we can’t maturely develop and deploy stealth aircraft. Wish I knew why, especially considering every stealth fighter contract has gone to Lockheed.

Stealth is mainly in the shape of the aircraft. The coatings are the expensive and unreliable part of stealth, and they are not required! A well shaped airplane can be stealthy without coatings, but a poorly shaped airplane cannot be stealthy with coatings alone. Composites are not required for stealth too, and composites are finicky, cannot take much battle damage, and are difficult to repair. So the bottom line is, most of the problems associated with “stealth aircraft” have nothing to do with “stealth”. Mostly what jacks up the price of these new fighters are things that should be separate programs, like new engine or sensor technology. If we would go back to having defense suppliers developing new fighters using their own funds, they’d do things that made sense again, like developing baseline avionics systems they could use as a core across multiple platforms, designing aircraft to be manufacturable, robust, and repairable; and building parts in house instead of farming everything out to overseas subcontractors. Too much blame goes to stealth, and not enough to the way we do business with weapons suppliers. That’s where the real f up is!

I thought that was the conclusion of Lockmart when they were doing the early work on stealth shaping. RAM materials were well known at the time of the stealth fighter, but they did not do enough alone. But the fact that Skunk Works did not pass F-117 without RAM to the government suggests that RAM is still important to lowering RCS, or out of a need to keep the stealth fighter that much ahead on day one without having to go back and upgrade it with RAM.

That said, I thought most of the problems with F-117 came with ensuring the surfaces were as smooth as possible, to the point that rivets could increase the RCS.

That said, computers made it faster and cheaper to design stealthy shapes. The challenges of customizing inlets and surfaces to reduce RCS are also mature, as is the maintenance infrastructure to keep RAM well-maintained. It’s not like every F-22 designer retired and all the JSF guys are fresh-out-of-college…

That said, I think

“developing baseline avionics systems they could use as a core across multiple platforms” sounds critical. JSF would still have experienced teething problems, but at least they would not be related to the avionics, which would be the same equipment that went into the prototypes and are well-known to the aircraft designers. How do you build a car without knowing the specs on the parts, or even the shape or form of the parts before hand? The best you can do is guess and hope the parts you get work together, and design compromises upstream that are not communicated downstream end in much suffering and delay.

“The insanely small crew size planned for the LCS was the Navy’s desire and one that shipbuilders said they could achieve, but reality has proven to be a harsh mistress as always.”

Which is surprising, since the Navy has used crew simulators before. This could’ve been crudely tested long before the LCS was built, and then tested with a cost-plus prototype. And if it couldn’t be done without extensive R&D, then it means you kick that low-manning can down the road or spend the money, but you don’t glomp it with the LCS program.

Low-crewing is in the interest of the Navy to test, because it’s what’s going into the Zumwalt. Forget the LCS, the Zumwalt’s combat effectiveness is tied to the concepts that we are finding aren’t so hot in LCS-land.

Not necessarily true. If you are building a house and have a plan to build it in 3 months but then decide that you don’t have enough money to pay 1/3 of the cost each month so you make it 16.66% per month for 6 months, the contractor is not able to still do as much each month so the risks are still there. The only risk that is substantially reduced is the material acquisition (long lead material) and perhaps the technology maturation risk (as long as the tech is being done on a seperate contract) but the exectution risk for activities in a goven period is not reduced when the customer stretches out the program by reducing the funding.

Ah, the long missed plain speaking and clear thinking from AC. Good to see your posts again, particularly amidst all the other noise and clutter in this thread.

Hell, you don’t need me.

Coatings help reduce an aircraft’s signature, but not a lot. 2 to 3 dB is all you get. Radar receivers being what they are these days, 2 or 3 dB can be the difference in picking up a reflection a few hundred yards sooner or later. The majority of stealth comes from not having a significant amount of skin reflecting those radar waves back to the receiver, hence the chines and angles. In the grand scheme of stealth, shaping is still number 1, edge treatments (often lumped in with coatings) are number 2, and the coatings themselves are definitely number 3 in importance. The big problem with the coatings is that they can defeat all your shaping and edge treatments if damaged, and often they are easily damaged.

With regard to surface smoothness, that is more important for the coatings than it is for radar reflections themselves. If you look at the wavelength of X-band radar, for instance, it is about 1 inch. Any surface irregularity less than 0.1 inch from the ideal is insignificant with regard to what is reflected. In fact, flaws as large as 1/4″ have almost no effect at that wavelength. The biggest problem with things like protruding rivet heads is they can screw up the coatings, but then so can rocks or bugs.

Developement Prpgrams should be cost plus. However the agreement to buy the end product should not be made until the developement is totally over and that product should be fixed price and that price should be determined and agreed upon then based partialy on the cost of the developement. Fee can be award fee on a cost type contract or fixed price contract. That makes a differenceas to if the contractor has anything to loose.

To really obtain equitable results however the developement contract needs to include a clause indicating the government gets a portion of the income from an commercail use from said developement paid for by the government.

Most of your current contracts with extremely heavy expenses due to labor or costs a contractor does not know or is not able to control are cost type contracts. And of course, any changes require a new pricing for the changes. So a true FFP contract is only in those rare cases where the cost and exact design are known and will not change.

The whole issue looks and sounds like the tail wagging the dog. We are continually indoctrinated with the idea that if we don’t pay the price we will loose! How stupid; there is always someone ready to jump into the void and at a far less cost. We hear the same thing from the banking industry and big business; we have to pay the high cost to ensure we get the best! What kind of crap is that; just pay a reasonable cost and if that is not enough for the “high cost best” let them go somewhere else. It will not be long before the “high cost best” are on the soup line and we are getting done what has to get done at a cost we can afford.

How many BILLIONS were wasted to design a NEW Aircraft Carrier? It was supposed to be the carrier of the future. And the FORD class deliverable will be just a vanilla carrier. Talk about gross program mismanagement, Bill Deligne has wasted his share of the tax payer dollar.

It does not matter what contract type CPFF/FFP/any cost reiumburseable type. When a lowly Contracting Officer tries to hold a contractor’s feet to the fire and he’s browbeat by the PM to “accept” the overrun, contracts never wins. We do not enforce the basic contract. We ALWAYS deviate and bow to pressure to accept changes/addtnl costs.


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