The F-22 advanced tactical fighter
the Air Force model acquisition program
Project Management in Action
Michael E. Heberling, Cary F. Wagner, Rene G. Rendon
Air Force Institute of Technology, Wright-Patterson AFB, Ohio
ver the past 20 years, many of the major weapon system programs have had significant cost, schedule, and technical problems. In response to repeated calls for reform, a number of special commissions were established to investigate the procurement system and to come up with recommendations for improvement. The Air Force applied these recommendations to one of its most important weapon system programs: the F-22 Advanced Tactical Fighter (ATF). The program management focus has been on advanced planning, risk reduction, and extensive prototyping. To date, this has been a very successful program. While other major defense systems face continual calls for cancellation, the F-22 program has emerged virtually unscathed. Sound management techniques have made the difference.
The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the authors and do not necessarily represent those of the F-22 SPO or United States Air Force.
Problems on major defense projects such as the B-lB dominated the headlines during the 1980s. Even today, the B-2 bomber and C-17 air transport programs face similar criticism. There have been repeated calls for cancellation of these two programs due to cost and schedule overruns. The Navy's stealth project, the A-12 Avenger II, was, in fact, canceled in 1991. Citing cost and schedule overruns, the Secretary of Defense canceled the program after spending $3.1 billion.
SPECIAL COMMISSION RECOMMENDATIONS
In response to the real and perceived problems of the defense procurement system, there have been numerous calls for reform over the past 20 years. To address these concerns, a number of special commissions have been established, each with a charter to study the current procurement practices and make recommendations. Perhaps the best known and most influential of these was the President's Blue Ribbon Commission on Defense Management of 1986. This group, commonly known as the Packard Commission, suggested a number of areas for improvement.
The following are some of the Packard Commission's specific recommendations:
- Establish short, unambiguous lines of communication among levels of management.
- Promote communication with the “users” (that is, the operational commands) to establish actual requirements. Avoid overstated or “goldplated” requirements, which frequently only result in unnecessarily expensive hardware.
- Make trade-offs incest, schedule, and performance. When developmental problems arise, trade-offs should be worked out with the ultimate “user” of the system. This encourages program managers to seek out and address problems, rather than to simply hide them.
- Encourage and reward innovation and productivity.
- Stabilize both the planning and funding environment.
- Do a better job of estimating costs at the outset of weapon systems development.
- Give high priority to building and testing prototype systems and subsystems before proceeding with full-scale development.
- Make greater use of components, systems, and services available “off-the-shelf.” Reemphasize rigid military specifications. Develop new items only when alternatives are inadequate or unavailable.
- Increase the use of commercial-style buying practices. Rely more on market forces than on government intervention. Source selection should emphasize quality, and past performance, as well as (but not just) price.
The 21st century will require a fighter that is not only fast, “stealthy,” and agile, but also supportable, reliable, and affordable.
DEPARTMENT OF DEFENSE RECOMMENDATIONS
The Department of Defense has also made a number of acquisition recommendations of its own, based on “lessons learned.” These lessons were incorporated into many of the current Defense Acquisition Policies and Procedures. They generally agree with the Packard Commission [4:29]. Some of these lessons learned include:
- Express initial mission requirements in terms of general operational capabilities. Establish broad cost, schedule, and performance parameters at the start, then refine them as the program progresses.
- Consider a full range of alternative approaches for meeting the mission requirements before starting any new acquisition program.
- Tailor acquisition strategies to accomplish program objectives and control risk. Address risk management at each milestone decision. The contract type should allow a sensible allocation of risk between the government and industry.
- Use competition to the maximum extent possible.
THE AIR FORCE'S MODEL ACQUISITION PROGRAM
The Air Force selected the Advanced Tactical Fighter (ATF) as its model acquisition program. The goal was to incorporate the recommendations of the Packard Commission as well as lessons learned from earlier programs. The ATF would be a test case for the Air Force. Would these highly touted practices make any difference, or would the ATF be just another major weapon system with cost, schedule, and technical problems?
Background on the Advanced Tactical Fighter
Today, the mainstay of the Air Force's air superiority fighter force is the F-15 Eagle. Although it was a prominent player in the Desert Storm air campaign, it no longer represents leading-edge fighter technology. It was designed in the ‘60s and became operational nearly 20 years ago, in the early ‘70s. The 21st century will require a fighter that is not only fast, “stealthy,” and agile, but also supportable, reliable, and affordable [6:34-35]. The Air Force has three reasons for needing a new fighter:
- To maintain air superiority against any potential enemy air force.
- To counter the continued growth of sophisticated enemy air defenses. These defenses force current aircraft to fly dangerous and complex low altitude routes. These missions also require numerous support aircraft to suppress enemy air defenses.
- To allow the timely replacement of the F-15s, which will be 25-30 years old by the turn of the century [7:78].
EXTENSIVE “USER” INVOLVEMENT IN THE PROGRAM
In contrast to most of the earlier acquisition programs, the ultimate user of the ATF was a major player in the acquisition process from the very beginning. Extensive communication between Tactical Air Command (TAC) and the acquisition command (Air Force Systems Command) helped to ensure that the operational requirements were accurately reflected in the design process.
Besides TAC, there were representatives from Air Training Command (ATC) and Air Force Logistics Command (AFLC) residing within the ATF Program Office. This was to facilitate the communication process. Members from each of the commands were active participants in working groups, technical meetings, and program reviews [2:4]. This approach helped to establish a direct line of communication with the user. Tactical Air Command was continually involved in the program's development and progress.
Before committing to an expensive new weapon system, the Air Force considered possible ATF alternatives. In particular, the Air Force evaluated upgrades to F-15 and F-16 fighter aircraft with ATF engines and avionics. However, all upgraded versions of the F-15 and F-16 (even with extensive airframe modifications), failed to meet future Air Force requirements. This was especially true in the areas of air superiority and stealth capability [7:78].
COMPETITION AND PROTOTYPING
Competition and prototyping were two priorities of the ATF program. During the concept development phase of the program seven contractors (Boeing, General Dynamics, Lockheed, Rockwell, Grumman, Northrop, and McDonnell Douglas) explored advanced airframe and propulsion technologies and subsequently competed for the 54-month demonstration/validation (Dem/Val) contract involving the design, construction and flight testing of prototype aircraft. In addition, two contractors (General Electric and Pratt & Whitney) provided prototype engines for the ATF engine Dem/Val program.
The concept development phase of the program resulted in selection of two of the seven airframe Dem/Val contractors (Lockheed and Northrop). The Dem/Val contract statement of work was general in nature. It told the contractor what was required rather than how to accomplish it. The specifications listed only goals, with no hard requirements. This allowed the contractors freedom to explore innovative solutions and to reduce risk in a competitive environment. This was under government guidance, but not under government direction.
For example, the Air Force had initially established some very specific goals, which is in contrast with the Packard Commission recommendations. There was a 50,000-pound weight goal, and a $35 million unit flyaway cost [6:36]. It was later recognized that the weapon system requirements should allow for tradeoffs between cost, schedule, and performance. The 50,000-pound weight goal inhibited contractor flexibility and innovation. The Air Force re-evaluated the restriction based on experience in an earlier transport program.
On the C-5 transport program, the Air Force had specified a maximum airframe empty weight. To meet this requirement, the contractor shaved weight off of the wings. This resulted in wing cracks on the operational C-5 aircraft, which impacted the capability of the aircraft and took nearly $1.5 billion to fix. The Air Force modified the F-22 weight goal to a “ballpark” figure in order to avoid a similar C-5 problem [9:38].
During the Dem/Val phase of the program, the contractors demonstrated and validated various technological concepts for the ATF weapon system. The contractors were allowed the freedom to explore solutions and reduce risk in a competitive environment under Air Force guidance using Prototype Air Vehicles (PAVs), Avionics Ground Prototypes (AGPs), and other risk-reduction demonstrations and analyses. The prototypes allowed competing airframe and engine contractors to demonstrate the ATF capabilities and technologies through contractor-run prototype flight test programs. They served as risk-reduction tools by demonstrating technology suitable for the ATF mission.
In addition, during the Dem/Val contract, competing airframe and engine contractors optimized their system designs through analyses, design trade studies, and subsystem, wind tunnel and full-scale testing. This allowed them to meet the ATF requirements and significantly reduce the risks prior to entering the Engineering and Manufacturing Development (EMD) phase of the program. The contractors used this additional detailed information in developing their EMD proposals.
Prior to the start of the EMD program, the ATF System Program Office conducted a competitive source selection between the two weapon system teams (Lockheed, Boeing, General Dynamics and Northrop, McDonnell Douglas) and the two engine contractors (General Electric and Pratt & Whitney). There were, as a result, four possible weapon system/engine combinations. Air Force Secretary Donald B. Rice emphasized that the flight test program was not a fly-off in which the Air Force directly compared performances of the competing aircraft. The companies were free to demonstrate whatever capabilities they considered important in their respective development proposals [3:21]. Contractor teams competed for two contract awards; one for the weapon system and one for the engine. The Lockheed team's F-22 and the Northrop team's F-23 competed for the weapon system contract. Pratt & Whitney's F119 engine and General Electric's F120 engine competed for the engine contract.
Integrated Product Teams . . . are working together to increase quality decrease cost, and reduce the number of design changes using a concurrent engineering approach.
One of the main areas of consideration in the EMD competition was how well each contractor mitigated program risk. The Lockheed F-22 and Pratt & Whitney F119 combination was considered by the Air Force to be the best overall. In August 1991, they were awarded the respective weapon system and engine contracts [3:20].
The Air Force awarded separate EMD contracts to Lockheed and Pratt& Whitney at a total value of approximately $11 billion. The contractors will be required to complete design specifications and prepare engineering drawings. The current contracts call for the delivery of nine EMD aircraft for flight testing and two aircraft for stress testing. The engine contractor will deliver 27 engines. The flight testing of the aircraft is scheduled to begin in 1996.
The EMD contracts are of a cost-plus-award-fee type. Under this arrangement, the contractor receives a reimbursement of expenses plus a base fee of 4 percent. The government then evaluates the contractor semiannually to award additional fee up to an additional 9 percent [1:4]. These fees represent the contractor's potential profit. This type of contract is fair to both sides. Under this arrangement, there is an ongoing incentive for the contractor to meet the cost, schedule, and performance objectives [11:28]. In the EMD phase of the program the Air Force is asking each contractor to focus on integrated product development or “concurrent engineering.” Integrated Product Teams (IPTs), made up of design engineers, system engineers, manufacturing specialists, and reliability/maintainability specialists, are working together to increase quality, decrease cost, and reduce the number of design changes using a concurrent engineering approach. This is intended to help mitigate the probability of schedule and cost overruns [11:26].
The EMD contract contains an event-driven Integrated Master Plan to help drive the planning and funding environment. The plan, created by the contractors, is contractual, and describes how to run the contract on an event-based schedule to develop the airframe, engine, avionics, support and training systems [11:27]. This was developed using contractor-generated requirements to address the system specification performance requirements rather than the traditional rigid military specifications.
Under the current contract, the production for the actual operational aircraft will begin in 1998. The first aircraft is scheduled for assembly in 2001 [6:35]. The total projected production buy is for 648 fighters with a final price tag of $98 billion by the time the Air Force pays for the final order in 2014 [6:34].
The contractors responded to the Air Force's call for innovation and productivity with some remarkable aircraft system advances.
A quarter century after the turbojet revolution and the high-speed breakthrough, three recent developments will significantly alter future aircraft designs. These developments include the use of stealth technologies, synthesized composite structural materials, and enhanced avionics and computer technology [8:5]. Each of these is playing a major role in the F-22 program.
Thermoset and thermoplastic composites (material made from heated plastics for use in molded components) will be used extensively throughout the F-22. This will facilitate a more efficient structural design. It will also result in a significant weight reduction over the prototype YF-22. In addition to the use of thermoset and thermoplastic composites, the F-22 will have the following capabilities:
Stealth technology. The F-22's advanced stealth characteristics will provide the aircraft with a “first-look, first-kill” capability. This will allow the aircraft to detect and destroy enemy fighters before they can detect and engage. In addition, its stealth characteristics will allow the F-22 to operate against an intense integrated air defense system to reach enemy aircraft [13:ii].
Supercruise. Pratt& Whitney'sF119 advanced technology engines will provide the F-22 with supercruise, which describes the capability to fly at supersonic speeds without using afterburners. The YF-22s accumulated more than 24 hours of supersonic cruise at speeds between Mach 1.4-1.6 [10:23]. These vectored thrust engines will also provide greatly enhanced acceleration capability, about 50 percent better than that of the F-15 and F-14 [13:19]. This supercruise capability allows the pilot to control and dictate the terms of the air engagement [13:iii]. In addition, the F-22 will be able to use its supercruise capability to enter engagements from an advantageous position, conduct a high speed attack, and then disengage at high speed to reposition itself for another attack, or to disengage unpursued [13:21].
Increased range. The F-22's increased fuel efficiency and superior aerodynamic design will result in a range increase that is two and a half times the supersonic and at least two times the subsonic combat radius of the F-15. In addition, its ferry range will be twice as much as the F-15. This increased range capability affords the F-22 many advantages in terms of air-to-air combat engagement—control of greater volumes of air space, requires less aerial refueling, operates from bases farther to the rear of the theater of operations— thus affording greater basing flexibility and reducing airbase attack threat, and longer loiter times in the immediate battle area [13:21].
Increased agility. Because of its advanced airframe design, control surfaces, vectored thrust engines, and integrated avionics, the F-22 will have unsurpassed agility and maneuverability. High maneuverability is critical for combat effectiveness, especially when the pilot is forced into a close combat engagement. Increased agility allows for greater use of short-range attack missiles and other aircraft offensive weapon systems during close-in engagements [13:22].
Integrated avionics. One of the key features giving the F-22 its advanced warfighting capabilities is the aircraft's integrated avionics system. This complex system of flight controls, engine fuel controls, navigation systems, communication systems, and electronic countermeasures are all integrated and displayed to the pilot on full-color screens providing the pilot with streamlined information and reduced workload. The purpose of this enhanced avionics package is to provide the pilot with precise information needed to support high-level situational awareness— the pilot knows the location of friendly forces and those of the enemy and which systems pose what threats to the aircraft [13:22].
Increased reliability and maintainability. With Air Force budgets and manpower authorizations decreasing, increased reliability and maintainability is becoming a key force multiplier. Pratt & Whitney's Fl19 engine is better than the F-15's F100 engine in terms of reliability and maintainability. It also has 40 percent fewer parts [7:80]. The F-22 is being designed for ease of field maintenance, ease of manufacturing, and high reliability. The F-22 will feature higher mission capable rates and higher sortie rates than the F-15, yet require fewer support personnel and less maintenance equipment. The increased reliability and maintainability design of the aircraft will give the F-22 the capability to conduct 8.5 sorties before requiring major maintenance compared to the F-15's 5.4 sorties. The Pratt & Whitney F119 engine features short and fat compressor engine blades, rather than long and thin blades as in current fighter engines. This engine design reduces the number of compressor stages and the overall length of the engine, which reduces weight, saves space, and makes the engine more reliable [13:23].
In addition, the F-22 has an internal weapon carriage and an internally mounted gun. It will carry a full complement of medium- and short-range air-to-air missiles, including the AIM-120, Advanced Medium Range Air-To-Air Missile (AM-RAAM), and the heat-seeking AIM-9 Sidewinder. The 20 mm Gatling gun will fire between 4,000 to 6,000 rounds per minute [1:4].
The F-22 will have substantially lower life cycle operating and support costs than a comparable squadron of F-15s. Although fuel costs are about equal between the F-15 and the F-22, spares, support equipment, and depot maintenance costs for the F-22 will be substantially less [10:23].
Combining stealth with supercruise technology, longer range, superb agility, integrated avionics, and enhanced reliability and maintainability, the F-22 will be the most advanced air superiority fighter in the world for decades to come.
PROGRAM MANAGEMENT CHALLENGES
The F-22 Advanced Tactical Fighter is considered to be the Air Force model acquisition program. This highly visible weapon system procurement has adopted a number of program management initiatives designed to increase quality, decrease costs, reduce the number of design changes and help mitigate the probability of cost and schedule overruns. These program management initiatives are on the forefront of acquisition reform and provide the procuring agency and contractors increased challenges for improving weapon system acquisition.
The majority of these program management initiatives adopted by the F-22 System Program Office focus on the implementation of the concurrent engineering approach to weapon system development. Concurrent engineering has been defined as a systematic approach to the integrated, simultaneous design of both products and their related processes, including manufacturing, test, and support [12:3]. The implementation of the concurrent engineering approach to weapon system development has never before been attempted on this scale for a major aircraft development program. Concurrent engineering is a concerted effort to achieve maximum efficiency, economy, and quality throughout the weapon system life cycle. This approach to weapon system development calls for the consideration and inclusion of product design attributes such as manufacturability, procurability, reliability, maintainability, and schedule ability, in the early stages of product design. [5:21].
Concurrent engineering differs from the traditional weapon system development process in that it requires the appropriate functional disciplines, such as engineering, procurement, test, and logistics support, to work interactively to conceive, develop, and implement new weapon system programs. Concurrent engineering requires transferring information among these functional organizations involved in the weapon system design, development, and manufacturing process.
Concurrent engineering is a concerted effort to achieve maximum efficiency, economy, and quality throughout the weapon system life cycle.
In the traditional serial engineering environment, product design is often done in a relative vacuum, without any consideration to manufacturability or supportability. The other functional organizations such as procurement, manufacturing, test, and logistics support may not even see the design until it is virtually completed. If these organizations raise issues during design reviews regarding the difficulty, time, and expense involved in producing the design as presented, they may cause the need for the product to be redesigned. In addition, if a redesign is too expensive, no action will be taken to improve the product in terms of procurability, manufacturability, and supportability. Thus, the product will be more expensive to produce, maintain and support than it should be for its entire life. Therefore, instead of trying to force-fit designed products into existing manufacturing and logistical support processes, program managers are implementing an integrated product development approach that moves previously “downstream” product considerations “upfront” to the product development phase [12:2].
When properly implemented, concurrent engineering can result in the following benefits to the organization: shorter time to market, lower product development costs, higher product quality, lower manufacturing costs, lower testing costs, reduced serviced costs, enhanced competitiveness, and improved profit margins [12: 10].
Organizational Structure Considerations
The implementation of concurrent engineering to the F-22 program required a change to the traditional organizational structures of both Air Force and Contractor program offices. The traditional functional organizational structures were converted to reflect the integrated product development (IPD) structure. The IPD structure is focused on establishing Integrated Product Teams (IPTs) for each major product of the weapon system. The IPTs serve as the vehicle for removing the communication barriers that exist between functional organizations.
The F-22 Program Office consists of four primary IPTs and six functional directorates. The four IPTs include Air Vehicle, Support System, Engine, and Training System. Each IPT is organized into lower-level product teams or “Sub-IPTs” that are responsible for the major subsystems for that product. For example, the Air Vehicle IPT consists of eight Sub-IPTs: Analysis and Integration, Armament, Propulsion System, Airframe, Avionics, Cockpit, Utilities and Subsystems and Vehicle Management System.
The six functional directorates include Engineering, Test, Contracts, Financial Management, Projects, and Logistics Support. These functional offices provide specific policy, expertise and resources to the IPTs. In addition to the program manager and project officers, each IPT includes team members from every functional area of the Program Office. The IPTs also include representatives from the contractors, weapon system users, supporting logistics centers, and government plant representative offices. The mission of the IPTs focuses on total weapon system development and integration with other F-22 IPTs and various external customers. Weapon system development includes conducting all technical and management reviews and reporting product development status to the Program Director.
Contract Management Considerations
The use of the concurrent engineering approach to weapon system development requires an integrated focus to contract management and contractor performance measurement. This new focus requires the implementation of specific IPT tools to manage the contract, track the contractor's performance and motivate the contractors to achieve cost, schedule and performance objectives.
In managing the contract, IPTs use specifications, Statements of Work (SOWS), budgets and an Integrated Master Plan (IMP). The IMP is an event-driven planning document generated by the contractors during the Request For Proposal (RFP) process. As an integral part of the contract, the IMP expands on the contract Statement of Work by delineating all essential tasks in a hierarchical and IPT format. The IMP contains Work Breakdown Structure (WBS) specific events, significant accomplishments and criteria required for the successful completion of the program.
In order to track the contractor's performance, IPTs use Cost/Schedule Control Systems Criteria (C/SCSC) reports, technical performance measurements (TPMs), and an Integrated Master Schedule (IMS). TPMs are used to measure the values of essential performance parameters. IPTs use TPMs to forecast technical values to be achieved, measure differences between allocated and achieved values, and determine impact on weapon system effectiveness. The IMS is a schedule of tasks necessary to successfully complete each IMP area. The contractors’ performance is measured by the achievement of specific IMP/IMS tasks.
The IPTs use the award fee provision of the contract to motivate the contractors to achieve cost, schedule and performance objectives. The F-22 award fee philosophy is different from previous weapon system programs. This is because the award fee evaluation criteria are based on the contractor-developed and government-accepted plan, as opposed to the government's unilaterally directed plan. As stated before, the IMP is the contractors’ plan for developing and producing a weapon system to meet the cost, schedule, and performance objectives. If the contractor delivers what was proposed in the contract in terms of the cost, schedule, and performance objectives in the overall development of the weapon system, the contractor has fulfilled all requirements and is entitled to receive the pre-determined maximum level of fee stated in the contract. This award fee philosophy differs from the traditional philosophy in which the contractor begins the fee period at O percent and earns a higher fee by exceeding cost, schedule and performance goals, which can lead to “goldplating” and runaway cost and schedule performance.
It should be noted that the IPT tools for managing the contract, tracking the contractor's performance and motivating the contractor are not new to the contract management process. However, what is new is the way these tools are used in the concurrent engineering environment. These IPT tools, such as the specifications, SOWS, IMP, C/SCSC, TPMs, IMS and award fee provisions are designed to work together in a cohesive manner as a single integrated management system. Although each of these IPT tools is owned and controlled by the responsible team leader, they are used throughout the acquisition planning process by all members of the IPTs to accomplish system and subsystem goals.
The Air Force has applied both procurement reform recommendations and “lessons learned” into the program management of the F-22 Advanced Tactical Fighter program. Special attention was given to risk reduction, competition, and prototyping. By allowing the contractors more flexibility in meeting performance objectives, the Air Force is getting a better product. In addition, the implementation of the concurrent engineering approach to weapon system development has provided valuable lessons learned for the rest of the defense industry. As defense budget cuts increase and defense companies continue organizational draw-downs, major weapon system programs are expected to follow the lead of the F-22 in full implementation of concurrent engineering to weapon system development. To date, this has been a very successful program. The F-22 Advanced Tactical Fighter program has become the model for future weapon system acquisitions.
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Lieutenant Colonel Michael E. Heberling is head of the Graduate Acquisition Management Department at the Air Force Institute of Technology, Wright-Patterson AFB, Ohio. He earned a B.S. at Cornell University, a M.S. at the University of Northern Colorado, and a Ph.D. at Michigan State University. Colonel Heberling has been the contracting officer on the A-10 Aircraft Acquisition Program, the acquisition staff officer for the National Aero-Space Plane, and the liaison officer with the Navy on the Ground Launched Cruise Missile Program.
Captain Gary F. Wagner is a master's degree candidate in the Graduate Systems Management Program at the Air Force Institute of Technology, Wright-Patterson AFB, Ohio. He graduated from the United States Air Force Academy in 1988 with a bachelor of science in astronautical engineering and a second lieutenant officer's commission. He worked as the systems effectiveness manager for the Atlas II and Atlas E Medium Launch Vehicle Programs at Air Force Space Systems Division, Los Angeles Air Force Base, from 1988 until 1992.
Captain Rene G. Rendon is a contracts manager assigned to the F-22 System Program Office, Aeronautical Systems Center, Wright-Patterson AFB, Ohio. He graduated from Angelo State University with a bachelors degree in business administration and received his M.B.A. from the University of North Dakota. After an assignment as a missile combat crew commander, he served as a contracting officer on the Peace keeper ICBM Assembly and Check-out Program and then as a contracts manager with the Maverick Missile Program.