Examination of Witnesses (Questions 107
TUESDAY 18 OCTOBER 2005
Q107 Chairman: I would like to welcome
to the Committee Mr Tom Burbage, Executive Vice President and
General Manager F-35 Program Lockheed Martin, Mr Steve Mogford,
who is the Chief Operating Officer of BAE Systems, and also Commodore
Simon Henley. We have a number of questions and I am going to
leave it to you, if you do not mind, to decide who should answer
these various questions. I wonder if you could begin by updating
us on where we are with the Joint Fight Striker programme, how
the United Kingdom programme fits with the United States programme,
and if you could, in doing so, comment on the suggestion that
the Short Take Off and Vertical Landing aspect of the programme
has come under question in the United States. If that were the
case, what would be the effects upon the British? Who would like
Commodore Henley: If I can start,
Chairman, and then I will pass to Tom to comment on the detailed
parts of the programme. My job as a team leader in the way that
the collaboration is set up for the joint combat aircraft is for
me, effectively, to take the Joint Strike Fighter product from
the US acquisition system and then integrate that into the UK.
That involves a great deal of insight into the evolution and influence
into the evolution of the Joint Strike Fighter programme in the
US. We have people placed into the US programme to do that. It
also then involves understanding what the UK environment is and
ensuring that we can take that product and integrate it into the
UK, in particular to integrate with our carriers, to integrate
with our logistics systems, and to integrate with our command
and control systems, so that we can actually operate the aircraft
with other UK assets. We have been involved since the outset of
the programme. We have been watching very carefully, with an announcement
that we are intending to take the STOVL variant and fit that into
our carriers to meet our timescales. We saw about two years ago
weight growth in the STOVL aircraft which called into question
its viability. We clearly were concerned about that, as were the
US, and the US Marine Corps in particular, who are the other main
customer for the STOVL variant. We have seen the programme take
a pause and take a very good look at the design of the STOVL aircraft
to take the weight back out and bring it back to a viable conclusion.
At the current stage that work has been been examined by the US
Defense Acquisitions Board and by the United Kingdom Investment
Appraisal Board and we now believe that the STOVL is back in a
viable position. There have been some added costs to the US to
bring that about. The UK was in fact insulated from that increase
in cost because our negotiations for involvement in the programme
were on a fixed-cost basis. Perhaps for the detail I could hand
over to Mr Burbage.
Mr Burbage: Chairman, on the weight
issue in the STOVL aeroplane there are probably two concerns that
we have, one is technical and the other one is political, because
the programme has been going through a quadrennial defence review
back in Washington over the last few months, as you are well aware.
On the technical side, as the Commodore said, I think we all feel
that the weight is stable now and it has been stable for about
18 months. We have good margins to our performance requirements
and we feel the aeroplane is on track. It is important to note
that the first STOVL airplane is now in build. We have started
the assembly of the central fuselage for that airplane and we
expect to fly that in the summer of 2007. That is to the production
standard, complete with the structural changes that we used to
eliminate the weight. We eliminated about 3,000 lbs of real weight
from the airplane and we improved our propulsion efficiency by
about 700 lbs, so there was a net result of about 3,700 lbs of
improvement in the airplane. To the testimony of the US acquisitions
system, they did allow us to pause and apply a large engineering
team to the project, fix the design, make everything viable again
and then re-baseline the programme. That re-baselining of the
programme was where the additional cost came in. I will mention,
though, that we carry our cost as a total programme cost, both
development and production, and as we went through the weight
redesign we shifted our production programme one year to the right
and those residual production dollars were then transferred in
to cover the cost of the redesign. So on the bottom line there
were no additional dollars handed into the JSF project line. It
came out of reshuffling dollars between production and research
and development. On the political side we have a quadrennial review
process going on now every four years. Congress directs the Secretary
of Defense to conduct a detailed review on the alignment of the
defence budgets with future strategies. As part of that process
every option in the book has been discussed and JFS is a big part
of our future budget going forward so, as you might guess, it
is a large part of that debate. There have been a number of different
options looked at and our best sense right now is that the project
is doing quite well in the end game. The results of that are not
known yet and they will be reviewed through our Deputy Secretary
of Defense up to Secretary Rumsfeld probably by the end of this
month or mid-month in November. So we should have a confirmation
of that in the very near future.
Q108 Chairman: Confirmation of whether
the STOVL variant is going ahead in the United States or not?
Mr Burbage: I have heard nothing
threatening the STOVL version at all lately. The other two variants
have been debated but our sense of the situation right now is
that all three variants will be carried forward.
Q109 Chairman: Thank you. Would a
British STOVL version be the same as a United States STOVL version
in all respects?
Mr Burbage: The UK and the United
States co-signed the operational requirements document (the ORD)
prior to the contract's award and the UK was part of the decision
process that selected our team to build the airplane. The airplanes
Q110 Chairman: Including in their
Mr Burbage: Yes. I should defer
that to the Commodore. Do you want to comment on that?
Commodore Henley: I have nothing
Q111 Mr Havard: They are the same
Stealth-type characteristics or two different types of Stealth
Mr Burbage: At the risk of getting
technical, Stealth is designed into the airplane in terms of its
shape. In terms of its characteristics they are based on the shape
of the airplane. The rest of it comes from other techniques, either
coatings or management of emissions, and we are not building two
Q112 Chairman: What about the international
partner version, the version that was designed, I think, in 2003
in relation to having as many common characteristics with the
United States aircraft as possible for sale outside? Are there
any differences in that version? There must be presumably if it
has got a different name?
Mr Burbage: If we go back to the
way the programme was constructed, the programme was constructed
to be a US/UK combined programme. At the contract award we had
no other international partners, just the UK. Subsequent to contract
award a government-to-government invitation was extended to a
number of other allied countries. Those countries were allowed
to participate in the development project and in so doing were
allowed to participate industrially also. Those countries now
bring their unique requirements into the project and we will deliver
airplanes that are responsive to their operational requirements,
within the guidelines of the US national disclosure policy. The
rest of that is strictly government-to-government, it has nothing
to do with the industry side.
Q113 Chairman: Okay. With many apologies
I will repeat one question just for final confirmation. The US
and UK STOVL versions will be identical in all respects, particularly
in their Stealth characteristics. Is that correct?
Commodore Henley: Could I say
I think we can only answer that by saying they share the same
Mr Hancock: That is not an answer, is
it. That is unfair to us.
Chairman: It is an answer to the question
but it is not a complete answer to the question.
Q114 Robert Key: May I ask in what
respects they are different aircraft?
Commodore Henley: I am not aware
that they are different in any respect.
Q115 Robert Key: But they are not
Commodore Henley: I think I answered
that by saying I am not aware that they are different in any respect.
I am aware of what the United Kingdom has demanded of this aircraft
and I am aware that the aircraft that we are buying meets that
Q116 Robert Key: But the requirement
is identical because you said the British and American Government
signed a document jointly.
Commodore Henley: Correct.
Q117 Robert Key: So in what respects
are they not the same?
Commodore Henley: And I said,
I am not aware that they are different in any respect.
Q118 Mr Hancock: They have a different
capability because they are going to do different things. The
United States Marine Corps will not fly the plane in the same
operational states as the Royal Navy will fly it. So there are
different capabilities. We are asking whether the plane itself,
the product, is identical when it leaves the factory before it
is customised to suit the use?
Mr Burbage: I would argue they
are not being built to different capabilities. There was a common
requirement constructed by the UK and US together. That common
requirement is what we measure the airplane against and deliver
the airplane against. There are some differences in UK weapons
and US weapons.
Robert Key: That is fair enough.
Q119 Mr Havard: Can I just apologise
for jumping in earlier with a question. You said 70% of Stealth
is built into the shape of the thing. What we are trying to tease
out from you is that other remaining 30%. Is it then the case
you might strap different Stealth things into it after the event
than the British might? Is that what we are talking about? Is
that why it is different?
Mr Burbage: No sir, we do not
strap anything into the airplane.