Current Outlook Is Improved, but Long-Term Affordability Is a Major Concern

March 11, 2013

What GAO Found

The F-35 program achieved 7 of 10 key management objectives for 2012 and made substantial progress on one other. Two objectives on aircraft deliveries and a corrective management plan were not met. Also in 2012, the program conducted more developmental flight tests than planned and made considerable progress in addressing critical technical risks, such as the helmet-mounted display. With about one-third of development flight testing completed, much testing remains to demonstrate and verify F-35 performance. Software management practices are improved, but with significant challenges ahead as software integration and testing continue to lag behind plans.

Manufacturing and supply processes are also improving--indicators such as factory throughput, labor efficiency, and quality measures are all positive. While initial F-35 production overran target costs and delivered aircraft late, the latest data shows labor hours decreasing and deliveries accelerating. The program is working through the continuing effects from its concurrent acquisition strategy that overlapped testing and manufacturing activities. For example, the program is continuing to incur substantial costs for rework to fix deficiencies discovered in testing, but the amount of rework needed on each aircraft is dropping.

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