Government U-turn on jump-jets – MBS research shows it could have been avoided.


My colleague at MBS, Michael Pryce, sends this:

On 10 May 2012 Defence Secretary Phillip Hammond announces that the UK will revert to plans to buy the jump jet version of the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter, to save billions of pounds in potential costs.

This reverses a decision, made with the explicit support of Prime Minister David Cameron, to buy the conventional, F-35C, version of the JSF in October 2010. This move was expected to save 25% of the cost of buying JSF aircraft to operate from the Royal Navy’s aircraft carriers.

It has now been found that this move to buy the conventional version of the aircraft, and to modify the aircraft carriers to operate them, will be more expensive than the original plan, hence the U-turn.

Research at Manchester Business School, by Dr Michael Pryce, has already shown that such cost increseases were more predictable than the government and MoD have stated, and that the whole process of review and reversion to the original plan could have been avoided.

The research, funded by the Pentagon, looked at new ways of costing complex military technologies, not just in development but also in operations & support (O&S). It showed that the conventional approach to costing such systems was not fit for purpose.

The research looked specifically at the Joint Strike Fighter and UK operations of the Harrier jump jet for its main findings. Advice based on the initial stages of the research was provided to UK defence ministers before the October 2010 decision to cancel the F-35B jump jets.

The full report is available at:

http://www.acquisitionresearch.net/publications/detail/819/

with the JSF specifically discussed on pages 4-6, 30 and 39-40

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About Colin Talbot

Professor of Government. Universities of Cambridge and Manchester, England.
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