JPALS: Surviving and Thriving through a Nunn McCurdy Breach
The Joint Precision Approach and Landing System (JPALS) program was originally structured to support all United States (U.S.) Department of Defense (DOD) aircraft for ship, shore and expeditionary Global Positioning System (GPS)-based precision landing. At the time, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) was planning to phase out the Instrument Landing System (ILS), necessitating an alternate precision landing system for DOD aircraft.
Starting in 2010, FAA diverged from DOD’s incremental phased approach to move toward a shore-based GPS based technology. Subsequently, the U.S. Army and U.S. Air Force reassessed their precision approach and landing capability and requirements. In 2013, the U.S. Navy decided to remove shore JPALS requirements, reducing the quantity from 33 to 23. The Navy also restructured JPALS to a single increment supporting sea based F-35 and UCLASS. This resulted in a critical Nunn-McCurdy (NM) breach for Procurement Acquisition Unit Cost.
The success of the JPALS program following the critical NM breach, was primarily due to the development of a realistic plan and excellent communications between PMA 213, industry, test and the Fleet. The acquisition program schedule was developed using realistic dates and without dependency on individual platform integration schedules. Incentive contracting and involvement of the appropriate Subject Matter Experts during proposal discussions resulted in clear communications of Government requirements to the Contractor. The Engineering Team worked closely with fleet users (the customer) and resource sponsors to capture requirements accurately. Finally, close coordination and transparency with the test community fostered an environment of trust between DOT&E, Operational Test and Evaluation Force and PMA 213. Trust, good communication and flexibility are core competencies that were key to JPALS success.