As the F-35 fighter program has gradually retired risk and proven its potential, critics have been forced to resort to increasingly arcane ideas to explain why the program supposedly was a bad idea. Concurrency — the overlapping of development and production steps — is one such idea. The basic complaint is that if you start producing a plane before it is fully developed and tested, then the early production models may require costly retrofits later. It’s a real risk, but not a big one. Current estimates of how much it will cost to resolve concurrency deficiencies represent less than one-half of 1% of the program’s acquisition cost. More importantly, by compressing development and production timelines, concurrency has enabled F-35 to reach the field a decade earlier than a more leisurely, sequential development strategy would have. Considering recent developments in Europe and Asia, that is undoubtedly a good thing. I have written a commentary for Forbes here.
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