Thanks for reminding us of the F-111 boondoggle of the 1960s, but instead of updating that story by following the trail of General Dynamics, it's more revealing to remain at the Texas plant that built the F-111. We're repeating many of the same mistakes, including using the same contractor, with today's F-35 Joint Strike Fighter (JSF).
The F-111 Tactical Fighter Experimental (TFX) was supposed to save money by designing one aircraft to serve multiple military branches, just as today's JSF is supposed to do. Instead, TFX had massive cost overruns and exceeded weight requirements, leading the Navy to cancel its production contract.
The Ft. Worth, Texas, engineering and production plant that gave us TFX was owned by General Dynamics, as Cockburn points out. Now it's owned by Lockheed Martin, and is the JSF prime contractor. It's the same plant with the same history, just a different corporate logo
Boeing was expected to win TFX with their technically superior, lower-cost proposal. When GD Ft. Worth was selected, Boeing complained, leading to Congressional hearings. Navy Secretary Fred Korth resigned when his business connections to the Ft. Worth plant were revealed. When Congress again investigated TFX in 1969, they focused on the plane's poor performance (including multiple crashes in Vietnam due to equipment malfunction), forged test data and runaway cost growth.
JSF was awarded to the same Ft. Worth plant in 2001, again beating out Boeing. Development is estimated at $49 billion, with total production adding up to $245 billion. JSF has also suffered from cost growth, and has already had one major redesign to bring the aircraft weight back into specification--the same problem TFX had.
The GAO has issued several reports critical of JSF, including its cost growth and the decision to begin production before testing is complete, calling the program "unexecutable." Yet Congress keeps funding it! When will someone question this "earmark"?
Feb 15 2008 - 1:49pm