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Le GAO a rendu public le 6 avril un rapport dévastateur sur les deux programmes d’avion de combat US en développement, le F/A-22 et le F-35/JSF. (Voir le rapport en version PDF sur le site du GAO .) C’est essentiellement le JSF qui nous intéresse, parce que les ennuis du F/A-22 sont connus, que le programme est en fin de course de développement, alors que c’est tout le contraire pour le JSF ; pour le JSF, également, il y a l’engagement de cinq pays européens, avec un investissement de $4 milliards (équivalent du coût R&D d’un chasseur européen, coût du programme Rafale “Air”), et des promesses d’achat du JSF.
Le rapport du GAO met en évidence l’incertitude du programme JSF et ses divers avatars d’ores et déjà connus et évalués. Le GAO donne à nouveau son verdict, déjà diffusé dans des précédentes versions du rapport: pour lui, le programme JSF tel qu’il a été présenté et structuré originellement est “unexecutable”.
Malgré leur volonté opiniâtre de ne tenir aucun compte des mauvaises nouvelles qui ne cessent de venir des Etats-Unis, les pays européens (sauf la Norvège qui est d’ores et déjà proche de quitter le programme) devront bien finir par admettre qu’ils se trouvent embarqués dans une aventure totalement instable, incontrôlable, sur laquelle ils n’ont aucune influence. Le “calvaire JSF” pour les pays européens engagés ne fait que commencer, puisqu’il reste encore au moins cinq années de développement et d’essais avant d’espérer arriver au seuil du lancement de la production en série. Ce délai de 5 années a toutes les chances d’être étendu. D’ores et déjà, le GAO recommande de nouveaux délais pour que le DoD (le Pentagone) se donne le temps de restructurer le programme et de tenter d’en reprendre le contrôle.
Ci-dessous, quelques extraits de l’introduction au rapport, sur lequel nous reviendrons.
« Increased program costs, delayed schedules, and reduced quantities have diluted DOD’s buying power and made the original JSF business case unexecutable. Program instability at this time makes the development of a new and viable business case difficult to prepare. The cost estimate to fully develop the JSF has increased by more than 80 percent. Development costs were originally estimated at roughly $25 billion. By the 2001 system development decision, these costs increased almost $10 billion, and by 2004, costs increased an additional $10 billion, pushing total development cost estimates to nearly $45 billion. Current estimates for the program acquisition unit cost are about $100 million, a 23 percent increase since 2001. Ongoing OSD cost reviews could result in further increases to the estimated program cost. At the same time, procurement quantities have been reduced by 535 aircraft and the delivery of operational aircraft has been delayed....
» Ongoing program uncertainties—including uncertainties about the aircraft’s design and procurement quantities—make it difficult to understand what capabilities can be delivered with future investments. For example, DOD has been working over the past year to restructure the JSF program to accommodate changes in the aircraft’s design; until this
restructuring is completed, it will be difficult to accurately estimate program costs. The need for design changes largely resulted from the increased weight of the short takeoff and vertical landing variant and the impact it was having on key performance parameters. The other JSF
variants’ designs were affected as well. The program plans to have a more comprehensive cost estimate in the spring of 2005. However, a detailed assessment has not been conducted to determine the impact that the restructured program will have on meeting performance specifications. Until the detailed design efforts are complete—after the critical design
review in February 2006—the program will have difficulty assessing the impact of the design changes on performance. While the program office anticipates that recent design changes will allow the aircraft to meet key performance parameters, it will not know with certainty if the weight problems have been resolved until after the plane is manufactured and
weighed in mid-2007.
» Program officials are also examining ways to reduce program requirements while keeping cost and schedules constant. Design and software teams have found greater complexity and less efficiency as they develop the 17 million lines of software needed for the system. Program analysis indicated that some aircraft capabilities will have to be deferred to stay within cost and schedule constraints. As a result, the program office is working with the warfighters to determine what capabilities could be deferred to later in the development program or to follow-on development efforts while still meeting the warfighter’s basic needs. It may be some time before DOD knows when and what capabilities it will be able to deliver. The content and schedule of the planned 7-year, 10,000-hour flight test program is also being examined. According to the program office, the test program was already considered aggressive, and recent program changes have only increased the risks of completing it on time.
» Finally, uncertainty about the number and mix of variants the services plan to purchase will also affect JSF’s acquisition plans. While the Air Force has announced its intention to acquire the short takeoff and verticallanding variant, it has yet to announce when or how many it expects to buy or how this purchase will affect the quantity of the conventional takeoff and landing variant it plans to buy. The number and mix of JSF variants that the Navy and Marine Corps intend to purchase—and their related procurement costs—also remain undetermined. Foreign partners have expressed intent to buy about 700 aircraft between 2012 and 2015, but no formal agreements have been signed at this time. The 2005 Quadrennial Defense Review—an examination of U.S. defense needs— could also affect the procurement quantities and schedule. In developing a reliable business case, knowing the quantities to be purchased is equally as important as other elements. Without knowing types and quantities the program manager cannot accurately estimate costs or plan for production. »
Mis en ligne le 8 avril 2005 à 13H33