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The armaments directors of eight partner nations and the United States (Ashton Carter) are meeting this week with the CEOs of top partners building the Joint Strike Fighter.The event is one of two CEO conferences expected in 2010; there are usually two per year. This one is set to be held at Lockheed Martin's final assembly facility in Fort Worth, Texas. The top CEOs will include those from Lockheed Martin, BAE and Northrop Grumman on the airframe side as well as those from Pratt & Whitney, General Electric and Rolls Royce on the engine side.This is sure to be a lively meeting. It is taking place in the midst of a restructuring of the development program. And, Pentagon leaders seem to be concluding that the dreaded Nunn McCurdy 50% cost breach is inevitable -- triggering a mandatory review of alternatives. I'm sure the partners want to know how much their airplanes will cost just like we do in the U.S. Air Force Secretary Michael Donley says no alternatives exist ... but I wonder if F-22 advocates won't dig up their arguments for keeping that line open.Also likely to be a discussion is what happens with the F136, which Defense Secretary Robert Gates has vowed to kill or propose a veto over. The United Kingdom wants it, and some other nations may opt for it if it is offered. The 2006 MOU with partner nations includes language indicating the two engines would be available, so it is a logical question if the partners feel stiffed by the U.S. backing out on it. Also, partners are likely to discuss the impact of the delayed testing schedule and production on their in service dates.
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