Released: 24 May 2000
WASHINGTON -- Competitors for the Air Force's newest multi-role aircraft, the Joint Strike Fighter, will begin flying their concept demonstrators in the next few months according to service officials.
Boeing and Lockheed Martin are competing for the contract. Selection of the winning airframe will be made early next year with deliveries of the first aircraft beginning in 2005 and initial operational capability beginning in 2010.
Tagged to replace an aging fighter fleet, the JSF will fulfill a future ground-attack role, with air superiority provided by the F-22 Raptor.
The Air Force needs the Joint Strike Fighter to replace its aging fleet of F-16s and A-10s, according to Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. Michael E. Ryan. "This will ensure that young Air Force men and women always will have the advantage of technologically superior weapons. We never want a fair fight; we want the odds to be 100 to 1 in our favor."
The Air Force's Joint Strike Fighter focuses primarily on countering the ground threat while maintaining a secondary air-to-air capability, according to Maj. Michael McGee, Air Force JSF Requirements Office, Directorate of Operational Requirements.
"Currently, we team the F-15 to counter the air threat and provide air superiority with the F-16, which counters not only the surface-to-air missile threat but acts as the majority piece of our ground-attack force of fighter aircraft," McGee said. "Just as the F-15 and F-16 play complementary roles today, so too will the F-22 and the JSF."
Not intended to be exclusively an Air Force fighter, three variants of the same basic JSF airframe are being developed for the Air Force, Marine Corps, Navy and the United Kingdom's Royal navy and air force, McGee said. The Air Force is ordering the conventional take off and landing version, the Navy is ordering the carrier version, and the Marine Corps and the United Kingdom are ordering the short take off and vertical landing version.
The focus of the Defense Department's JSF program is affordability by reducing the development and production costs and the total cost of ownership, according to the JSF Joint Program Office.
Of the estimated 3,000 aircraft to be produced, the Air Force is looking to purchase 1,763, McGee said. "This will reduce the cost to the Air Force and other partners because of the economy of scale and the number of aircraft being purchased."
Additionally, the avionics, minus some small variations, will be the same for all three versions of the JSF, he said. "When it is time to upgrade the avionics the services will not have to pay for three different software upgrades for three separate aircraft. The Air Force will only be sharing the cost for one."
Further savings will result from the reduction of different types of support and maintenance equipment used by all three services, McGee said. "The equipment that will be purchased will be ordered in larger quantities, reducing costs even more."
Much of the decision to develop a joint multi-role fighter for use with the three services and the United Kingdom was influenced by cost reduction and a continued movement toward joint operations in the future, he said.
One major advantage the JSF has is that it is the first fighter aircraft designed to be fully interoperable with all four services, McGee said. Although the Army is not purchasing any aircraft, it has been a key player in making sure everything on the JSF is fully interoperable with all Army systems.
* Gen. Michael E. Ryan
* Joint Strike Fighter
* F-22 Raptor
* F-15 Eagle
* F-16 Fighting Falcon