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The McDonnell Douglas/General Dynamics A-12 Avenger II was a proposed American ground-attack aircraft from McDonnell Douglas and General Dynamics. It was to be an all-weather, carrier-based stealth bomber replacement for the Grumman A-6 Intruder in the United States Navy and Marine Corps. Its Avenger II name was taken from the Grumman TBF Avenger of World War II.

The development of the A-12 was troubled by cost overruns and several delays, causing questions of the program’s ability to deliver upon its objectives; these doubts led to the development program being canceled in 1991. The manner of its cancellation has been contested through litigation to this day.

From: "Art Hanley" <>
Date: Thu, 14 Dec 1995 23:51:42 +0700
Subject: Re: A-12 geneology  (long)

I haven't seen the message that Greg was responding to, but this bit
of A-12 lore may prove of interest or helpful.  It's another long
one, so watch out!

The Advanced Tactical Aircraft program was, basically put, the
future of Naval Aviation.  It was to be a first-day survivable strike
aircraft that could operate in all weather, day or night, and possess
good self defense capability against aerial threats, although not be
designed for offensive counter-air operations.  It would replace the
A-6 and have a greater radius of action.  Very heavy emphasis was
placed on stealth (in the opinion of many, too heavy an emphasis) and
all weapons were to be carried internally.  It would have been the
stealthiest aircraft ever.  To give an idea of how heavily stealth
characteristics were pushed, one of the requirements that has been
disclosed would have required the plane to open the weapons bay
doors, eject the weapon(s) and close the doors in 1/2 second.  This
is doable, but it has many consequences in design and drives the cost
up.  This could be a real problem since this was to be one of those
consistently disastrous fixed price development contracts.

The Department of the Navy insisted that companies team for the
competition.  Although never Officially confirmed, it was believed
by some that Department of Navy not only required teams, but directed
who was to team with who.  This is believable when you saw Grumman
teamed with Northrop and GD teamed with Macair.  In those days, a
voluntary teaming probably would have resulted in a MDD-Northrop
team, as they had done in the past on the F/A-18, as well as on the
YF-23. Tthis made for awkward meetings at the plants when the two
companies were pals on the ATF but foes on the ATA. This also
prevented cross fertilization of technologies within the companies. 
For example, the MDD people working on the ATF team were able to
share the benefit of Northrop's experience in developing stealth
technology for the B-2 (one of the reasons that the YF-23 was the
stealthier of the two ATF competitors), while the MDD people working
on the ATA team were forbidden to be told anything about it. I have
been told that at that time the Grumman-Northrop pairing was not a
happy one either.

This posed a problem.  The Grumman-Northrop team had a leader with
55 years of building carrier aircraft, and had built the long range
attack aircraft the ATA was to replace, and a team member with an
enviable reputation for weight control and had built the world's
stealthiest aircraft.  Both team members had large scale composite
structure experience.  The GD-MDD team was lead by a company with no
carrier air experience and had weight problems on previous aircraft. 
The other team member had been building naval aircraft for some time,
but the portion of that company that had built large attack aircraft
for the Navy, Douglas, had not designed one of them since the early
1950s.  Needless to say, this team was at somewhat of a disadvantage.

The design competition went forward.  It is known that there were
discussions with the Grumman-Northrop (and Vought) team (whose
design has been said to resemble a smaller, tandem seat B-2) to
reduce their bid down to what the Government wanted the plane to
cost. Grumman, having gone through this before on the original F-14
contract, along with Northrop basically said, 'Look, we Know how to
build this plane and you can't do it for that amount of money'. 
According to published reports the Government said it was this or
else and the team responded with what was a polite form of, 'O.K.,
See Ya!', and walked away. This only left one team, and they got the

The A-12 had a number of serious problems in development.  One of
the most serious was that the team had to essentially reinvent
stealth technology.  The team expected that they would be provided
technological data from previous stealth programs, notably the F-117
and B-2, to which Northrop and Lockheed said, 'Say, What?  That's our
proprietary technology and processes and you want us to give it to
Who?  For a plane we aren't even building'?   This drove up costs and
produced delays while GD and MDD labored to reinvent the wheel.  Of
course, since this was a fixed price development contract, there was
no guarantee they'd get paid extra for this.  Weight problems also
developed, partly but not solely because the RAM being developed
wasn't as light as estimates.  Later reports indicate that MDD, who
had carrier experience, tried to raise bigger warning flags about
weight control but that the team leaders didn't realize how really
critical this was on a carrier plane.  DoD also thought that
management improvements could solve all the problems.  It is also
known that some of the problems were in fact concealed from DoD.  The
final straw came when soon after a major management review where DoD
seemed assured that that had good cost and schedule figures and so
briefed Congress, it surfaced that the plane would experience another
delay and an additional $1 billion would be needed for R&D to meet
spec.  This embarrassment was coupled with the fact that rigid
fixed-price development contracts have little or no adaptability
(something we have to relearn ever 20 years or so) which means a
go/no go decision had to be made.  The Air Force said it was fully
supportive of this magnificent joint development, was unequivocally
committed to the program (the A-12 was to be the F-111 replacement),
and could they please have more F-15Es instead? All this led
Secretary of Defense Cheney to cancel the program when the first
prototype was about 80% complete.

This devastated Naval Air, and also had an adverse affect on the RAF
which fully planned to buy the A-12 as their principal strike
aircraft. While a relief, there were a number who thought the program
should have been restructured not cancelled.  Their argument was that
the plane had serious problems, but they were fixable and doing that
would cost far less than starting something else, plus you'd actually
end up with an airplane instead of more studies.  This prediction has
unfortunately proved correct since the Navy is now going to spend
much more in R&D to get a strike aircraft much less capable than the

The replacement program was the AX (which eventually became the
A/FX). There was more user input to the requiremnts for this plane
which actually would have been a more useful plane than the A-12. 
Not as stealthy (but still a stealth aircraft), it would have had
better provision for more flexible payloads, would have had somewhat
less range (although still more than A-6's), but would have greater
counter-air capability.  It would have had offensive air-to-air
abilities and would be more maneuverable and faster.  A bunch of
different teams formed for that one with some companies competing
with themselves by being on different teams with different partners.
The record, I think, went to Lockheed which was on at least four
teams with different partners ( I can list all the teams if anyone's
interested, but it's complicated enough to require a program).   A/FX
sort of moved along for a while, its IOC was moved back partly to
make room for the F/A-18E/F. The Air Force said it was fully
supportive of this magnificent joint development, was unequivocally
committed to the program (the A/FX was now to be the F-111
replacement), and could they please have more B-2s instead?  A/FX
just sorta went away and along came the first of the many
incarnations of JAST.  The JAST (JSF) aircraft, by the way is not
planned to be able meet the A/FX requirements.

Meanwhile, back in court, the A-12 team and the Government were
suing each other.  The Government said that the program was
terminated for non-performance and that certain problems were
concealed from it.  It says it is entitled to get back the money it
spent on the program.  The A-12 team said that the program was
terminated at the convenience of the Government.  Their main
arguments are that they made it clear that their schedules and costs
were based on the Government supplying them with stealth and
composite construction technology data, which didn't happen, and that
while they were indeed overweight on the prototype, the contract
specified that they didn't have to meet the weight target until the
32nd aircraft and they claim they would have made it by then.  If
this was a convenience of the Government termination, then the
contractors are entitled to reimbursement for their costs and
possibly penalties as well.  So Far, the courts have tended to rule
in favor of the contractors, but everybody is appealing everything
(you're not surprised, are you?). 



Re: US NAVY ATA (Advanced Tactical Aircraft) program
Reply #160 on: December 09, 2010, 08:43:59 pm

I went out to the North end in Jan 2004 looking for the A-12 mock up. Nobody had any idea where the mock-up had gone. Not even the museum guys that supposedly owned the mock-up knew where it was. They told me that if I found it, to let them know where it was! Anyway, after driving around, I found the outboard wing sections. They were carelessly discarded as they had just been dumped on the ground. Also in the area were sections of a restored B-36 and an F-16 demonstrator. I drove around a bit longer and didn’t see the centerbody of the A-12 mock-up anywhere. I see that it has been dumped there as well. No idea if the stuff is still there or not.

General Dynamics to Appeal A-12 Decision
(Source: General Dynamics; issued November 24, 2009)

FALLS CHURCH, Va. — The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit today denied a request for a rehearing of the Federal Circuit’s prior decision sustaining the government’s default termination of the A-12 aircraft contract to which General Dynamics and The Boeing Company were parties with the Navy.

General Dynamics disagrees with this most recent decision and continues to believe that the government’s default termination was not justified. The company also believes that the ruling provides significant grounds for appeal, and intends to petition the U.S. Supreme Court for review.

General Dynamics, headquartered in Falls Church, Virginia, employs approximately 92,300 people worldwide. The company is a market leader in business aviation; land and expeditionary combat systems, armaments and munitions; shipbuilding and marine systems; and information systems and technologies. (ends)

Boeing Statement on Appeals Court Refusal to Rehear A-12 Case
(Source: Boeing Co.; issued Nov. 24, 2009)

CHICAGO — J. Michael Luttig, Boeing executive vice president and general counsel, today said that the company intends to appeal to the Supreme Court after the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit refused to rehear the company\u2019s appeal in the long-running A-12 case.

“We are disappointed in today’s decision. The Court of Appeals' decision is clearly wrong as a matter of law and it has broad implications for all forms of government contracting nationwide. As a consequence, I have directed that an immediate appeal be taken to the Supreme Court of the United States,” Luttig said.

At issue in this litigation, which has been pending over a decade, is the manner in which the Defense Department terminated the A-12 military aircraft program and whether the government owed Boeing (then McDonnell Douglas) and General Dynamics Corporation money for work in progress when the contract was terminated, as well as certain other expenses.

The trial court originally ruled in favor of the contractors, but various appeals over the years have delayed a final decision.

The A-12 was to have been the Navy’s next-generation, carrier-based advanced tactical aircraft utilizing low observable “stealth” technology.

Wall Street Journal
May 24, 2011 
Pg. B2
Boeing, General Dynamics Snag Win
Justices, Citing State Secrets, Toss Ruling That Could Have Cost Firms $3 Billion
By Brent Kendall

WASHINGTON - The Supreme Court on Monday threw out a ruling that could have forced Boeing Co. and General Dynamics Corp. to repay $3 billion to the federal government in a two-decade-old contract battle.

The court, in a unanimous ruling written by Justice Antonin Scalia, said a key issue in the case couldn’t be litigated because it involved state secrets that can’t be aired in court.

The companies and the Pentagon have been fighting since 1991, when the government cancelled a $4.8 billion contract to build a Navy stealth-fighter jet. The government had demanded that the companies repay roughly $1.35 billion they had already received at the time of the cancellation, plus interest, for a total of about $3 billion. It argued that the companies defaulted on the contract for the A-12 Avenger stealth aircraft.

In response, Boeing and General Dynamics argued the government had superior knowledge of the stealth technology needed to build the fighter jet but refused to share it with them. But the companies weren’t allowed to make this claim in court because the government invoked its “state secrets” privilege to protect against the disclosure of sensitive military information.

The companies argued that it wasn’t fair for the government to assert a multibillion-dollar claim against them while also refusing to disclose information that they said was central to their defense.

The high court agreed. Justice Scalia wrote that when litigation would lead to the disclosure of state secrets, “neither party can obtain judicial relief.” His opinion overturned a 2009 lower-court ruling that found the government was justified in terminating the contract because the companies had failed to meet milestones.

Monday’s ruling wasn’t a total win for the companies. The justices rejected their claim against the government for $1.2 billion, plus interest, for their costs not reimbursed on the project, again saying the matter couldn’t be judicially determined.

“Neither side will be entirely happy with the resolution we reach today,” Justice Scalia said.

Monday’s ruling doesn’t end the case, which will now return to lower courts. The government has said it has other legal arguments that support its determination that the companies defaulted on the contract. In court papers, Justice Department lawyers said the government was never obligated by the contract to share highly classified information with the companies.

The Supreme Court declined to rule on that question, leaving open the possibility that the issue could be litigated without endangering state secrets.

Boeing said it was pleased with the ruling. “It has always been our view that the default termination was improper,” said the company’s general counsel, J. Michael Luttig. General Dynamics had no immediate comment, and a Justice Department spokesman declined to comment.

The original contract was made with General Dynamics and McDonnell Douglas Corp., which merged with Boeing in 1997. The first jet was to be delivered to the Navy in June 1990.

The contractors had problems from the start and couldn’t meet the proposed schedule. They also said the cost of finishing the project would substantially exceed the price of the contract. In 1991, then-Secretary of Defense Dick Cheney cancelled the contract.

No planes were ever delivered.

What the Supreme Court's A-12 decision means
By JAMES P. STEVENSON | Last Updated:June 5, 2011

The Supreme Court rendered a decision May 23 on a case filed 20 years ago by aerospace contractors General Dynamics and McDonnell Douglas. It is the largest lawsuit against the U.S. involving government contractors in the nation’s history.

The contractors maintained the government owed them $1.2 billion for unpaid work, and the government claimed the contractors owed the government $1.35 billion for unapproved deliveries.

The government claimed the contractors, working in concert on a fixed-price research-and-development contract to build a stealth bomber for the Navy - known as the A-12 Avenger II - had “failed to make progress,” were behind schedule and had designed a plane that was too heavy. Accordingly, the U.S. terminated the contractors for “default,” which would usually mean that the contractors would not be paid for their work or reimbursed for any money they had extended to their subcontractors, and would be obliged to return payments previously made.

Whether there was merit in the government’s claim, however, was irrelevant, according to the contractors, because the government’s claim could have been avoided if it had provided the contractors with the stealth technology that it was required to, both as a matter of law and contract.

The contractors contend that if they were allowed discovery of some classified documents, they could prove their case.

The government refused to provide the evidence the contractors asked for and has invoked the “state secrets” doctrine, which means that it would allegedly harm national security if the contractors were allowed access.

The government has the right to invoke the state secrets doctrine. But in so doing, precedent states that the government may have to forfeit its rights against the contractors.

But the government wanted it both ways: to withhold the discovery the contractors say would support their position, as well as force the contractors to repay the money the government advanced them.

The government’s position is problematic because the Navy made false statements throughout the development of the A-12, which included inducing General Dynamics and McDonnell Douglas to enter the contract embedded with language that they would receive stealth technology.

Federal regulations require precise language in any contract with the federal government defining the basis for terminating the contract for default. The language depends on the type of contract.

An irony of this case is that the appellate decisions leading up to the Supreme Court were argued, and the decisions were based on the A-12 contractors' “failure to make progress,” default termination language that is required in production or construction contracts but not for research-and-development contracts. The only contractual basis for which the government had any right to terminate the A-12 research-and-development contract for default was if the contractors failed to “prosecute the work.”

Throughout the years of trials, there was never any evidence that the contractors failed to “prosecute the work.” On the contrary, there was evidence that the contractors were prosecuting the work when there was no money appropriated from Congress for the work. Permitting contractors to work without appropriations was a felony on the part of the Navy.

When the contract was terminated for default in January 1991, the contractors offered to “just walk away.” The Supreme Court decision last week had the same effect. Based on the risk of further disclosure of secrets, the court wrote that “it is preferable to leave the parties without a remedy rather than risk” further exposure of the state’s secrets.

As a result, the Supreme Court left the parties where they were when the lawsuit was filed.

So after the nearly half-billion dollars spent on attorneys on both sides, the contractors will be paid in spite of the Supreme Court’s decision. This follows because one of the mandatory contractual clauses for a fixed-price research-and-development contract requires that the contractors be paid even if they are terminated for default.

James P. Stevenson is the author of “The $5 Billion Misunderstanding,” a history of the failed A-12 program.



Two seat, two engine, carrier-based medium fighter for air-to-air or air-to-ground all weather day or night attack.

Power Plant

Two General Electric F412-400 non-afterburning turbofan engines, each developing approximately 13,000 pounds of thrust.


Up to two AIM-120 Advanced Medium Range Air-to-Air Missiles (AMRAAM) Up to two High Speed Anti-Radiation Missiles (HARM) Planned to accommodate a full range of air-to-ground ordnance including MK 82 and “smart” weapons


Westinghouse AN/APQ-183 Multimode Radar. IBM Mission Control Computer with VHSIC (Very High Speed Integrated Circuit) technology. Kaiser wide field of view holographic Head Up Display (HUD). Kaiser Multifunction Display (MFD) screens (7). General Electric IRSTS (Infrared Search and Track System). Integrated Electronic Warfare System. AN/ALD-I I ESM (Electronic Surveillance Module) set.


Wing Span - Overall: 70 feet 3 inches Wing Span - Folded: 36 feet 3.25 inches Length: 37 feet 3 inches Aspect Ratio: 3.75 Wheel Base: 19 feet 2.25 inches Wheel Track 22 feet Speed: 580 mph at sea level Height (Overall): 11 feet 3.375 inches Height (Folded): 12 feet 6.25 inches Wing Area: 1,308 square feet Design Load Factor: 9 Gs Empty Weight: 39,000 pounds Gross Weight: 80,000 pounds Combat Radius: 920 miles