The F-35 Joint Strike Fighter (JSF) program could be the single largest and most complex aircraft acquisition program of the 21st Century. The current plan is to produce some 2,440 planes to equip the US military and around 1,700 for as many as two dozen foreign customers. An international consortium led by Lockheed Martin, the prime contractor, is building the JSF in three different variants, one for the Air Force, one for use by the Navy from aircraft carriers and a vertical/short take off and landing variant for the Marine Corps.
The JSF program also is creating a unique sustainment system to provide for global maintenance, support and improvement across all three variants. The government and Lockheed Martin created an international memorandum of understanding that encompasses production, sustainment and follow-on development. The memorandum commits all the JSF program participants to building and sustaining the most advanced and affordable aircraft, identifying the most cost effective common sustainment approaches across multiple governments and private companies, maximizing commonality to promote affordability and interoperability, and promoting the involvement of industry across all phases of the MOU.
Of late, the Department of Defense, in general, and the Air Force, in particular, had soured on performance-based logistics (PBL) in favor of greater reliance on the public industrial base for sustainment. However, the JSF memorandum of understanding explicitly calls for the creation of an Autonomic Logistics Global Sustainment (ALGS) system that will be based on a PBL business model. The initial phase of sustainment will be used to develop and validate metrics and build confidence in a PBL approach. Particularly significant is the statement in the memorandum of understanding that mature sustainment for the JSF will be based on long-term contracts in which deliverables are expressed as PBL outcomes. ALGS also will pursue joint fleet management and sustaining engineering.
This approach to JSF sustainment will involve a mix of private and public activities and organizations. This will enable program managers to exploit the best capabilities of both halves of the defense industrial base as well as U.S. and international companies. For example, for the U.S. portion of the JSF sustainment program Lockheed Martin could focus on system engineering, configuration management and production and supply of JSF parts, the Air Logistics Commands could provide touch labor and the Defense Logistics Agency could be responsible for delivery and storage of consumables.
The JSF program office will employ a product support integrator to manage both government and private sector sustainment activities. Centralized management and oversight coupled with decentralized execution will allow for the attainment of economies of scale.
The JSF memorandum of understanding demonstrates a sophisticated approach to long-term sustainment, in keeping with the character of the overall JSF program. It also demonstrates an appreciation for how to create and maintain a viable PBL process. Hopefully, this will become the model for managing the sustainment of other major weapons systems.
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