The Joint Strike Fighter (JSF) program, formerly the Joint Advanced Strike Technology (JAST) program, will develop and field a tri-service family of next-generation strike aircraft with an emphasis on affordability. The "family of aircraft" concept allows a high level of commonality while meeting unique service and allied needs. The United Kingdom is a collaborative partner in the program; other nations are also likely to participate.

The focus of the JSF effort is to reduce the costs of developing, producing, and owning these aircraft. The program is accomplishing this by facilitating the Services' development of fully validated, affordable operational requirements, and by lowering technical risk by investing in and demonstrating key leveraging technologies and operational concepts prior to the start of Engineering and Manufacturing Development (E&MD).

In November 1996, designs from two contractors - Lockheed Martin and Boeing - were selected to compete in the JSF Concept Demonstration Phase. This phase will feature flying concept demonstrators, ground and flight demonstrations, and continued refinement of weapon system concepts. Both contractors will demonstrate their design's commonality and modularity characteristics, STOVL hover and transition to forward flight, and low-speed handling qualities. Pratt and Whitney is providing engine hardware for the concept demonstration phase, while General Electric continues its technical efforts to develop an alternate engine source for production aircraft. The Concept Demonstration phase is designed to lead to an affordable and low risk transition to the E&MD phase in 2001. The first operational aircraft will be delivered in 2008.

This joint approach to the JSF's development is anticipated to produce significant savings when compared to the costs of separate programs. The government and industry team is converging on a design concept which, when coupled with other technology "building blocks," will result in continuing U.S. technological superiority at an affordable price.