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USS Jerry Ford Stumbling

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The other side of the coin is that contractors have to make money, I understand that. If the government did nothing but firm fixed price contracts or if every contractor lost money, they would never get anyone to bid. Cost plus contracts allow the government to share the risk with contractors. Generally the more developed the technology the less risk. For example P-8, is just integrating two proven technologies together. The aircraft is essential a commercial off the shelf product COTS, so very low risk and probably fixed price from aircraft side, but other parts like electronic or weapons integration may be cost plus since they are charting new territory there...

@les. The two competing fighter ideas would probably end up costing more in the end. You would essentially have to pay the development and test costs for two different aircraft. I don't think the recovered savings would be enough to justify it... Hard to say though.

In the end there is no easy answer. The days of the defense contractor doing their "patriotic" duty to the country are long gone (if they ever existed at all). You can spend a whole career just trying to document the best practices for acquisition but debacles like jsf and Lcs will continue. Competition is the key IMO but the reverse has been happening in the past 20 years. The complexity of the systems guarantees that only the big guys can bid and there aren't many of them left.

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Speaking as someone IN THE SYSTEM! I appreciate your words. Maybe the best thing for an example on JSF would be to have both Boeing and Lockheed Martin win contracts. The one who can better deliver a suitable platform and on budget would get the larger order. This would more likely create COMPETITION for sales. It would give incentives for the manufactures to deliver platforms meeting requirements and on budget or closer to it.

The British found this system to be more expensive than it was worth with the Swift and Hunter.

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The other side of the coin is that contractors have to make money, I understand that. If the government did nothing but firm fixed price contracts or if every contractor lost money, they would never get anyone to bid. Cost plus contracts allow the government to share the risk with contractors. Generally the more developed the technology the less risk. For example P-8, is just integrating two proven technologies together. The aircraft is essential a commercial off the shelf product COTS, so very low risk and probably fixed price from aircraft side, but other parts like electronic or weapons integration may be cost plus since they are charting new territory there...

@les. The two competing fighter ideas would probably end up costing more in the end. You would essentially have to pay the development and test costs for two different aircraft. I don't think the recovered savings would be enough to justify it... Hard to say though.

In the end there is no easy answer. The days of the defense contractor doing their "patriotic" duty to the country are long gone (if they ever existed at all). You can spend a whole career just trying to document the best practices for acquisition but debacles like jsf and Lcs will continue. Competition is the key IMO but the reverse has been happening in the past 20 years. The complexity of the systems guarantees that only the big guys can bid and there aren't many of them left.

As you note, competition does not always equal better outcomes. Competitions can drive up prices, often up to 5% according to some recent research coming out of the UK. Moreover overruns frequently occur due to decisions made after the awards notice (requirements creep). In Canada, going with a single source/Advanced Contract Award Notice actually forces the selected contractor to open up its books and negotiate a fair price... you don't get that option with a full competition. The recent effort to undertake "should cost" analysis in the U.S., is very similar, and has yielded some pretty significant results. The monopolies, duopolies and oligopoly are not just something that is happening in the public sector; consolidation in the private sector has left many firms with similar choices. Managing that process is key. That's not to say that competitions are bad; rather one must be careful and judicious about its use. Its always a trade off.

And that's the thing... it is exceptionally rare to find programs that meet all three major expectations of a defence program: cost, time and performance. In over the maybe 20+ countries and 50+ programs I'm familiar with, only one has ever avoided all of the three (possibly two with the P-8). Different systems, people, approaches: almost always the same result.

There are so many possible reasons why programs fail. I'll give an example of a program that I'm pretty familiar with; the CH-148 Cyclone program. The program is about four years overdue today, and its now looking like it will be a decade overdue, with a significant cost overrun. The capability is basically a posterboy for almost every single possible piece of acquisition malpractice. Right from the start the requirements were overly detailed and restrictive, it called for a extremely demanding capability that was not easily met by any system then in existence. It was gold plating at its worse. Furthermore there was some political manipulation of the competition requirements, which meant that the program was more likely to suffer cost overruns. That was largely due to the fact that the competition format was not best value, rather it was lowest bidder. That really suited Sikorsky, as they could put up a paper capability up against the in-service Agusta Westland and NH offerings. Sikorsky grossly understated some key aspects of their offering, a militarized version of their Cougar helicopter, such as operational weight. Frankly, all competitors use these tactics. It might not be deliberate either. You can look back at Boeing and the 787 program. It quoted to launch customers very specific performance targets, which also had hard penalties if they were not met (and opened them up to suit.) Despite those penalties, the aircraft was overdue and significantly heavier than expected, reducing its range.

For its' part, the Government of Canada rated the Cyclone as being a low risk development of the proven cougar helicopter, despite the fact that that Sikorsky was going to change the avionics, engines, weapons and structure of the aircraft. Several of the cyclone's enabling technologies were completely immature, and they still are causing issues. Thus, after selection, Sikorsky has struggled to meet its required capability. Its had a number of redesigns, due to structural weight, a new engine (which was later cancelled), a reinforced gearbox, and avionics suite certification. In reality it was errors all around. Actually the program did not feature one major error that everybody seems to blame on it: post award requirements creep. Instead the program already had enough on its plate to get it to this stage. There are several systemic issues: poor management decisions, contractor misrepresentation, overly complex requirements, immature technologies and poor structuring. But correcting them often just results in other issues.

If you're interested there is a book that I always go back to over the years: former Asst. Acquisitions Secretary Jacques Gansler's "The Defence Industry." Its about thirty years old but the first chapter has probably the finest overview of why defence procurements differ from the regular market. Many of its precepts still hold true today.

Edited by -Neu-

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Speaking as someone IN THE SYSTEM! I appreciate your words. Maybe the best thing for an example on JSF would be to have both Boeing and Lockheed Martin win contracts. The one who can better deliver a suitable platform and on budget would get the larger order. This would more likely create COMPETITION for sales. It would give incentives for the manufactures to deliver platforms meeting requirements and on budget or closer to it.

Redundancy doesn't save, and is quickly cut anyway. F136 being a perfect example. How long would the Two aircraft be manufactured? LRIP? The F-35 will have literally hundreds of aircraft produced before it actually hits Full Rate Prodcution. How about IOC? what do you do with the 200 units produced by the "loser"?? Use them? scrap them? or buy 500 more to make it worth while? You can look at the super hornet as a great example of the pressure that starts to get put on keeping jobs and manufacturing running. In the Free Market competition is a wonderful thing, in government contracts? not so much. it would seem to ensure that like LCS you just get double the trouble.

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There are so many possible reasons why programs fail. I'll give an example of a program that I'm pretty familiar with; the CH-148 Cyclone program. The program is about four years overdue today, and its now looking like it will be a decade overdue, with a significant cost overrun. The capability is basically a posterboy for almost every single possible piece of acquisition malpractice. Right from the start the requirements were overly detailed and restrictive, it called for a extremely demanding capability that was not easily met by any system then in existence. It was gold plating at its worse. Furthermore there was some political manipulation of the competition requirements, which meant that the program was more likely to suffer cost overruns. That was largely due to the fact that the competition format was not best value, rather it was lowest bidder. That really suited Sikorsky, as they could put up a paper capability up against the in-service Agusta Westland and NH offerings. Sikorsky grossly understated some key aspects of their offering, a militarized version of their Cougar helicopter, such as operational weight. Frankly, all competitors use these tactics. It might not be deliberate either. You can look back at Boeing and the 787 program. It quoted to launch customers very specific performance targets, which also had hard penalties if they were not met (and opened them up to suit.) Despite those penalties, the aircraft was overdue and significantly heavier than expected, reducing its range.

For its' part, the Government of Canada rated the Cyclone as being a low risk development of the proven cougar helicopter, despite the fact that that Sikorsky was going to change the avionics, engines, weapons and structure of the aircraft. Several of the cyclone's enabling technologies were completely immature, and they still are causing issues. Thus, after selection, Sikorsky has struggled to meet its required capability. Its had a number of redesigns, due to structural weight, a new engine (which was later cancelled), a reinforced gearbox, and avionics suite certification. In reality it was errors all around. Actually the program did not feature one major error that everybody seems to blame on it: post award requirements creep. Instead the program already had enough on its plate to get it to this stage. There are several systemic issues: poor management decisions, contractor misrepresentation, overly complex requirements, immature technologies and poor structuring. But correcting them often just results in other issues.

Great post, as per your norm.

There wasn't some political interference, there was a whole lot.

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Redundancy doesn't save, and is quickly cut anyway. F136 being a perfect example. How long would the Two aircraft be manufactured? LRIP? The F-35 will have literally hundreds of aircraft produced before it actually hits Full Rate Prodcution. How about IOC? what do you do with the 200 units produced by the "loser"?? Use them? scrap them? or buy 500 more to make it worth while? You can look at the super hornet as a great example of the pressure that starts to get put on keeping jobs and manufacturing running. In the Free Market competition is a wonderful thing, in government contracts? not so much. it would seem to ensure that like LCS you just get double the trouble.

The loser ends up like the B-32 Dominator, which was a hedge in case the B-29 did not work out, which it almost didn't.

It is a conundrum - d**med if you do, and d**med if you don't. But at least in the early 1940s we had more than 2-3 firms that could design and mass produce state-of-the-art aircraft.

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Most contracts are cost plus,

Really? That astounds me! Apart from a spell in law enforcement I've worked in and around Aerospace/defense my entire working life, and here in the UK cost plus went the way of the dodo 25 years ago. Doesn't stop companies like BAE promising the world and delivering a small archipelago of course, but the concept went away many many years ago.

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Should probably read, "most development contracts are cost-plus". Fixed-price doesn't seem to work too well for developing new tech, but works great for buying widgets that are already developed and in production.

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But at least in the early 1940s we had more than 2-3 firms that could design and mass produce state-of-the-art aircraft.

You should take a look at the amount of money we were spending at the time and the stakes involved.

After a while its hard to justify keeping multiple companies that rely completely on government contracts through full taxpayer subsidization, for the sake of variety afloat. There is a reason its basically just Northrop-Grumman, Lockmart, and Boeing now, there just isn't much demand post cold war. Hell go take a peak at the F-35 thread and read page after page of those who don't think the west even needs a new fighter type let alone 2 at the cost of billions.

I can imagine the kind of kicking and screaming that would happen if the USMC asked for both the F-35B and the STOVL version of the X-32 as a hedge.

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Its because its multi-role, and the Marines are to blame for it all

Out of curiosity, anyone know if the deck on the Ford is thermally rated for the Marine's F-35B to operate off it?

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Its because its multi-role, and the Marines are to blame for it all

It's multi-role so the Marines are to blame because the Air Force won't let the Navy have the boats the sailors want.

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Out of curiosity, anyone know if the deck on the Ford is thermally rated for the Marine's F-35B to operate off it?

Anything can operate an F-35B once... J/K

Harriers could so generally speaking Bees can. The concern is if you leave that nozzle there for a long period of time. If you watch the B on landing for example its pretty quick, and the engines cuts when the wheels touch.

Harriers can burn holes in things too, and precautions are taken but as the old saying goes:

A does something and no one bats an eye

B does the same thing and everyone loses their mind.

CVN flight decks take a lot more abuse, so they are built to take more abuse.

rn-sea-harriers-3.jpg

Sea_Harrier_FRS_Mk1_DN-SN-87-05757.jpeg

Carriers were tougher back then though from walking up hills both ways through the snow

Edited by TaiidanTomcat

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How about that, I'm an aircraft carrier!

Sounds like something I once read on TFLN.

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They really are streamlining the process...

MARINE CORPS ANNOUNCES PLAN TO DEVELOP, CANCEL NEW AMPHIBIOUS VEHICLE

Drew Ferrol November 24, 2014 Marine Corps

WASHINGTON, D.C. — The Marine Corps announced its plan to spend billions of dollars to research, develop, and build a new amphibious vehicle that will be canceled just before implementation, sources confirmed Thursday.

Dubbed the Amphibious Combat Vehicle (ACV), the new project is slated to be finished in 2020 and canceled in 2018. The ACV is meant to replace the current Amphibious Assault Vehicle (AAV), known among Marines as Amtraks or “Floating Coffins,” which have been used for more than 40 years to take troops from ship to the bottom of the sea floor.

“We are really excited about the chance to upgrade our amphibious capabilities,” Secretary of the Navy Ray Mabus said in a statement. “The ACV will be a great addition to our fleet so we’ll be sure to scrap it. In fact, the House Armed Services Committee has already asked me to waste as many tax dollars as possible before we cancel this project.”

“There is no reason we should replace the AAV,” Mabus added. “It’s like the Osprey, perfectly safe except for all the deaths.”

While saying that the ACV would be a grand addition to the Marine Corps arsenal, Commandant Gen. Joseph Dunford told reporters the program would likely be canceled soon after glaring flaws are revealed.

“The current plans say the ACV is will resist gunfire instead of bursting into flames,” Dunford said. “Also, it doesn’t direct the engine exhaust directly into the troop compartment. It doesn’t even have a switch that will flood the troop compartment, sink the vehicle, and drown everyone in seconds. A vehicle this good is unacceptable.”

Sources confirmed numerous vendors such as Lockheed Martin, BAE Systems, and General Dynamics are bidding on the ACV contract and are excited to make billions without doing anything. One source said the companies were ready to start the cost overruns as soon as possible.

Read more: http://www.duffelblog.com/2014/11/marine-corps-amphibious-vehicle/#ixzz3K2j9M41K

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They have absolutely no punishment for failure. If they dont deliver they still get paid and there are no other companies that can complete the contract.

Did the contractors learn this trick from the government or did the government learn this from the contractors?

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They really are streamlining the process...

Read more: http://www.duffelblo.../#ixzz3K2j9M41K

rofl.gifrofl.gifrofl.gif

ISAF Drops Candy To Afghan Children, Kills 51

Approximately 1.4 million M&Ms were to be delivered via Container Delivery System in a single package with a weight of 1500 lbs. Due to a malfunction in the static line, the parachute failed to deploy and the container crashed through the roof of a local school at nearly 100 miles per hour.

Upon impact, the force of the rapidly settling candies caused the sides to explode outward, causing what physics professor Dr. Rosella Schwartz described as "essentially a 360 degree anti-personnel mine full of chocolate flechettes."

http://www.duffelblo...ldren-kills-51/

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To start with, they should have named the USS FORD after something, or someone else... I can think of a lot of retired ships that are more suited to carriers. Whoever decided that carriers should be named after Presidents should have been fired. Not that tradition should be the precedent; Kitty Hawk, Connie, Sara, Midway, Lexington, America, Ranger all could have been re-used. The recommissioning of Enterprise was the best carrier name in a LONG time!! The Ford should have been Enterprise from the beginning. If we are going to name carriers after Presidents, they should at the very least have military experience. Just my thoughts.

-brian

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To start with, they should have named the USS FORD after something, or someone else... I can think of a lot of retired ships that are more suited to carriers. Whoever decided that carriers should be named after Presidents should have been fired. Not that tradition should be the precedent; Kitty Hawk, Connie, Sara, Midway, Lexington, America, Ranger all could have been re-used. The recommissioning of Enterprise was the best carrier name in a LONG time!!

Agree with you totally.

If we are going to name carriers after Presidents, they should at the very least have military experience. Just my thoughts.

-brian

Gerald Ford served in the US Navy during WWII.

Edited by Johnopfor

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To start with, they should have named the USS FORD after something, or someone else... I can think of a lot of retired ships that are more suited to carriers. Whoever decided that carriers should be named after Presidents should have been fired. Not that tradition should be the precedent; Kitty Hawk, Connie, Sara, Midway, Lexington, America, Ranger all could have been re-used. The recommissioning of Enterprise was the best carrier name in a LONG time!! The Ford should have been Enterprise from the beginning. If we are going to name carriers after Presidents, they should at the very least have military experience. Just my thoughts.

-brian

Amen!

X11ty-billion!

I'm sure glad the U.S. Navy is still making amends (IMHO) for what happened to the greatest ship they ever sailed.

I was genuinely happy when I read that news over the Summer.

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