The prime contractor for the F-35 fighter’s airframe, Lockheed Martin, is implementing a range of measures aimed at reducing the life-cycle cost of the program. One such measure is to recompete key subsystems, with an eye to finding subcontractors that offer lower costs for sustainment and upgrades. It’s a good idea in principle, but when it comes to the electronic-warfare system it might backfire badly. Incumbent provider BAE Systems has been on the program from its inception, and is the only company that has developed EW systems for fifth-generation fighters. More importantly, it is meeting all of its key performance goals and prices for the EW suite are falling an average of 9% in each successive production lot. It is very unlikely that an alternate source could match BAE’s price and performance, much less surpass it. Recompetition could be a long detour to an unhappy outcome. I have written a commentary for Forbes here.
Find Archived Articles: