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Last Updated: Mon Jan 27 11:18:09 UTC 2014

F-35 JSF Program:  Assessment of Top Level Programmatic Risks

Air Power Australia - Australia's Independent Defence Think Tank

Air Power Australia NOTAM

  19th November, 2009

Dr Carlo Kopp, SMAIAA, MIEEE, PEng

Contacts: Peter Goon
Carlo Kopp

Mob: 0419-806-476 Mob: 0437-478-224

  (APA Image).

Public discussion of risks in the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter Program has, to date, been largely confined to technical risks inherent in the implementation of the design and production of this aircraft and its associated systems. The more important matter of top level risks imposed on nations participating in this troubled program has, until now, received little if any attention, either in the public debate, or the internal debates within the acquisition organisations  of participating nations.

Air Power Australia has sought to deal with this problem, and recently produced an assessment of top level programmatic risks in the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter.

This assessment was provided to the CEO of Australia's Defence Materiel Organisation (DMO), in compliance with Air Power Australia's long standing policy of open and direct communication with Senior Defence Officials, in line with the Australian democratic process.

This assessment should also be of considerable interest to Dr Ashton Carter, Under Secretary of Defense for Acquisition, Technology, and Logistics (AT&L), and his peers in other participating nations, as they grapple in coming days and weeks with the pervasive problems in the F-35 JSF Program.

To facilitate open debate and critical argument on this important subject, Air Power Australia has decided to make this assessment public, in the hope that all senior acquisition personnel across all participating nations can benefit in the same manner as their peers in Canberra have. The following is an extract from a recent communication by Peter Goon, Co-founder of Air Power Australia.

Extract from Advice to Defence Materiel Organisation, Canberra, 19th November, 2009

. . . . .

As you pointed out in a recent eMail, there has been considerable and significant correspondence  and other communications in relation to the deep concerns held by many about the JSF Program.

Ponder if you will why so many people, from such diverse backgrounds and with such a body of knowledge on Military and Industry matters, have given so much of their valuable time to communicate such a consistent message to you and others in Defence and the Government.

Now, consider this:
  1. If the consistent message that all these people are telling you proves to be incorrect, then there will be nil effect on the National Interest, just some bruised reputations.

  2. However, if the JSF Program claims that you and others in Defence/DMO have been conveying to the Government and the People of Australia are incorrect, then there are extreme levels of risks to the sovereignty of Australia; there will be serious ramifications in terms of safety, performance, supportability,  reputation, schedule and cost for the whole of the Australian Defence Forces and the Australian population at large; and, consequently, history will most likely not be kind to those responsible.
As you know, independent analyses of the data and the facts and testing of the evidence from the Joint Strike Fighter (JSF) Program, as well as deep analyses in the areas of Defence Management, Decay of Critical Thinking in Defence and related traits such as 'Groupthink', 'framing' and the behaviour known as 'a total indifference to reality',  have been done.

All, for some time, have been showing the latter (No 2) scenario is the most likely outcome.

In order to provide clarity to what appears to be a somewhat complex and, thus, confusing situation, the following Risk Assessment has been produced.  As you can see, this has been done in accordance with the instructions and measures contained in the recently approved Defence/DMO Liability Risk Management Process.  The purpose is to assist you in assisting the Government in its aim of ensuring and assuring a new air combat capability (NACC) outcome of "what is right and what is best" will be achieved, in the National Interest.

This Risk Assessment is based upon data and facts available within Defence and Industry since 2004 as well as those provided to Mr Neil Orme's 2008 Air Combat Capability Review.

Notice there are no yellow or green traffic lights in the assessment.  Also, even if the likelihood (i.e. probability) of any of the identified risks materialising was MODERATE/POSSIBLE (i.e. in the Yellow), based upon the 'vector quantity' of risk and relationship between risk and time, the level of assessed risk would still be EXTREME.

Joint Strike Fighter (JSF)
Mantra KPP
Risk Arising
if Risk Arises  
Assessed Level of Risk Comments
Claim the JSF is a Fifth Generation Fighter JSF is not a
Fifth Generation Fighter
P = 1.0
Numerous & Severe including:


SEC Anti-Trust Action/s

Present and Extreme Issue/ Problem
No longer a Risk but a real Issue/Problem.

For proof, see:

Mr Secretary - Why Does the Pentagon Say the JSF is a 5th Generation Fighter . .  Really?
Affordable Not
in Numbers Needed


>50% increase
in costs
>5 year delay
+ BACC Costs
(>$6.6 Bn)

Extreme Already over Defence/ DMO SEVERE consequence rating which states >10% increase in cost and >12 months delay as SEVERE outcomes.
Survivable Not
Survivable Against
Reference Threats
Loss of Air Superiority
Extreme For Reference Threats, see relevant papers and analyses via the linked buttons below.

Loss of access to and control of Air/Sea/Land Gap

Lethal Less Lethal
Loss of Air Superiority
Extreme For Reference Threats, see relevant papers and analyses via the linked buttons below.

Loss of access to and control of Air/Sea/Land Gap

Supportable High Dependence
Foreign OEM
(International Conglomerate)
Loss of
Sovereign Control/
Deskilling Australia
Extreme Origins of risk lie in the Total System Performance Responsibility (TSPR) and similar contracting models adopted by the DMO earlier this decade.

(1)         A conservative estimate based upon JSF Program claims of ability to defeat Su-27SK fighters and S-300V/PMU1/PMU2 SAM systems.  Independent analyses yield an 'Almost Certain' likelihood.



Legend for Assessed Level of Risk (in keeping with AS/NZS4360:2004 and ISO31000):


Extreme level of risk (Immediate action required by Executive and Directing Governance levels, i.e. do not proceed with activity until this level of risk is reduced)


High level of risk (Executive Management attention required)


Moderate level of risk (Able to delegate to Implementation Management Level with ongoing Executive Management oversight)


Low level of risk (Able to be managed through routine procedures)

In drafting this and looking at the Risk Assessment Table, attached, it became obvious this project is also suffering from what Mr Charles Haddon-Cave QC cited as the 'Normalisation of Deviance' in his report 'The Nimrod Review' - an independent review into the all pervasive and extant issues surrounding the loss of the RAF Nimrod MR2 Aircraft XV230 in Afghanistan in 2006. 

This is a recently released and appropriately scathing report (very professionally done) on the UK Ministry of Defence and some of its principal contractors. In this report he names those responsible and says why.

The costs/schedule of the JSF Program have already exceeded what would be considered standard risk assessment metrics for CATASTROPHIC (or, in DMO/Defence risk parlance - SEVERE) let alone MAJOR consequences, by significant degrees.  Also, a glance at the below list which are the uncanny, yet disturbing, parallels Mr Haddon-Cave determined with other accidents/incidents like Columbia, Challenger, et al., shows as self evident that others in this list equally apply to the JSF Program e.g. 'Dilution of risk management processes', 'Power Point engineering', Imposition of 'business' principles, etc.



Are these traits of the JSF Program and/or Australian NACC Project?


The 'can do' attitude and 'perfect place' culture.



Torrent of changes and organisational turmoil.



 Imposition of 'business' principles.



Cuts in resources and manpower - deskilling.



Dangers of outsourcing to contractors.



Dilution of risk management processes.



Dysfunctional databases.



'PowerPoint engineering'.



Uncertainties as to Out-of-Service (In-Service) date.



'Normalisation of deviance'.



 'Success-engendered optimism'.



'The few, the tired'.


The $64 billion dollar question should now be self evident - What needs to be done to prevent this 'perfect storm'?

What remains is for this assessment to be formally presented to the Minister for Defence, the Hon John Faulkner, and the Minister for Defence Procurement, the Hon Greg Combet, prior to any decision by the Government on continued involvement with the JSF Program.

As our Ministerially appointed senior contact in Defence, can I rely upon you to do this, on our behalf and that of other concerned private citizens of Australia?

When doing so, if there are any countervailing views that accompany this assessment, in the interests of completeness and good governance, could you please provide us with copies of these, in keeping with standard governance and critical thinking protocols.

If you have any questions or disagreements concerning the above or the various requests contained herein, please don't hesitate to contact me directly.


Peter Goon

Peter Goon

Principal Consultant/Advisor

Head of Test and Evaluation

Co-Founder, Air Power Australia

Peter Goon and Associates


Mob:     +61 (0)41 980 6476                                                                                          Thursday, 19 November 2009


"Scientists discover the world that exists; Engineers create the world that never was."

Theodore Von Karman, Aerospace Engineer

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