Prof. Lex van Gunsteren explains the debacle of world’s largest military program to date
Research published in the open access book Quality in Design and Execution of Engineering Practice shows that the Joint Strike Fighter (JSF) F-35 combat aircraft is the textbook example of a multi-purpose design pitfall. The JSF has become an aircraft that is hardly able to deliver any combat power, a result of too many stakeholders making too many contradictory demands for its overall purpose.
Prof. Lex van Gunsteren (Delft University of Technology): “The JSF is a complete failure from an engineering design point of view. It is supposed to fulfill three different missions: close-air support (assisting ground forces in their combat), air-to-air fighting (also called ‘dogfight’: combat with other fighter planes) and long-distance bombing. Two of these missions, close-air support and air-to-air fighting, require a maneuverability that the JSF cannot deliver due to its unfavorable lift/weight ratio. Multiple purposes have multiple weight consequences, which are responsible for the unfavorable lift/weight ratio and consequently poor maneuverability of the JSF. No wonder that the result is an airplane that was qualified in the presentation of the 2008-RAND-report as ‘next to useless’, since it ‘can’t turn, can’t climb, can’t run’.”
In his book, Van Gunsteren pleads for quality management focused at fitness for purpose rather than compliance with specifications, rules and regulations. Real life examples like the JSF case illustrate his approach, which concerns a mindset rather than a recipe for effective quality management.