F-35: Still No Finish Line in Sight

By Dan Grazier
March 19, 2018

Jim Roche, then-Secretary of the Air Force, made an announcement on October 26, 2001, that all aviation enthusiasts had been waiting for: a winner had been picked to design and build the Joint Strike Fighter. The American people were assured the new jet would enter service in 2008 and be a high-performance replacement for the military’s aging airframes while only costing between $40 million and $50 million.

The F-35 has now entered an unprecedented seventeenth year of continuing redesign, test deficiencies, fixes, schedule slippages, and cost overruns. And it’s still not at the finish line. Numerous missteps along the way—from the fact that the two competing contractors, Lockheed Martin and Boeing, submitted “flyoff” planes that were crude and undeveloped “technology demonstrators” rather than following the better practice of submitting fully functional prototypes, to concurrent acquisition malpractice that has prevented design flaws from being discovered until after production models were built—have led to where we are now. According to the latest annual report from the Director, Operational Test & Evaluation (DOT&E), 263 “high priority” performance and safety deficiencies remain unresolved and unaddressed, and the developmental tests—essentially, the laboratory tests—are far from complete.

[FULL ARTICLE]

Pentagon stops accepting F-35 jets from Lockheed over repair cost dispute

By Mike Stone
April 11, 2018

The U.S. Department of Defense has stopped accepting most deliveries of F-35 jets from Lockheed Martin Corp (LMT.N) because of a dispute over who will cover costs for fixing a production error, three people familiar with the matter said.

Lockheed confirmed on Wednesday that the Pentagon had halted deliveries of the jet over a contractual issue, but did not give further details.

Last year, the Pentagon stopped accepting F-35s for 30 days after discovering corrosion where panels were fastened to the airframe, an issue that affected more than 200 of the stealthy jets. Once a fix had been devised, the deliveries resumed, and Lockheed hit its target aircraft delivery numbers for 2017.

But deliveries were paused again over a dispute as to who will pay for what will likely be a complex logistical fix that could require technicians to travel widely to mend aircraft based around the world, said the people, who spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to speak publicly about the matter.

[FULL ARTICLE]

GAO report on F-35 Aircraft Sustainment: DOD Needs to Address Challenges

Oct 26, 2017

The Department of Defense (DOD) is sustaining over 250 F-35 aircraft (F-35) and plans to triple the fleet by the end of 2021, but is facing sustainment challenges that are affecting warfighter readiness (see table). These challenges are largely the result of sustainment plans that do not fully include key requirements or aligned (timely and sufficient) funding. DOD is taking steps to address some challenges, but without more comprehensive plans and aligned funding, DOD risks being unable to fully leverage the F-35’s capabilities and sustain a rapidly expanding fleet.

[FULL ARTICLE]

Air Force Risks Losing Third of F-35s If Upkeep Costs Aren’t Cut

By Anthony Capaccio
March 28, 2018

The U.S. Air Force may have to cut its purchases of Lockheed Martin Corp.’s F-35 by a third if it can’t find ways to reduce operations and support costs by as much as 38 percent over a decade, according to an internal analysis.

The shortfall would force the service to subtract 590 of the fighter jets from the 1,763 it plans to order, the Air Force office charged with evaluating the F-35’s impact on operations and budgets, in an assessment obtained by Bloomberg News.

While the Defense Department has said it has gained control over costs for developing and producing a fleet of 2,456 F-35s for the Air Force, Navy and Marine Corps — now projected at $406 billion — the internal analysis underscores the current and looming challenges of maintaining and operating the warplanes.

It may cost as much as $1.1 trillion to keep the F-35s flying and maintained through 2070, according to the current estimate from the Pentagon’s independent cost unit.

[FULL ARTICLE]

F-35: Still No Finish Line in Sight

By: Dan Grazier
March 19, 2018

Jim Roche, then-Secretary of the Air Force, made an announcement on October 26, 2001, that all aviation enthusiasts had been waiting for: a winner had been picked to design and build the Joint Strike Fighter. The American people were assured the new jet would enter service in 2008 and be a high-performance replacement for the military’s aging airframes while only costing between $40 million and $50 million.

The F-35 has now entered an unprecedented seventeenth year of continuing redesign, test deficiencies, fixes, schedule slippages, and cost overruns. And it’s still not at the finish line. Numerous missteps along the way—from the fact that the two competing contractors, Lockheed Martin and Boeing, submitted “flyoff” planes that were crude and undeveloped “technology demonstrators” rather than following the better practice of submitting fully functional prototypes, to concurrent acquisition malpractice that has prevented design flaws from being discovered until after production models were built—have led to where we are now. According to the latest annual report from the Director, Operational Test & Evaluation (DOT&E), 263 “high priority” performance and safety deficiencies remain unresolved and unaddressed, and the developmental tests—essentially, the laboratory tests—are far from complete. If they complete the tests, more deficiencies will surely be found that must be addressed before the plane can safely carry our Airmen and women into combat

[FULL ARTICLE]

Pentagon to move ahead with $3 billion F-35 upgrade program in 2018

By Andrea Shalal
March 23, 2016

The Pentagon expects to award contracts for a $3 billion, six-year effort to upgrade its newest warplane, the Lockheed Martin Corp F-35 fighter jet, by the end of 2018, the Air Force general who runs the $391 billion program said on Wednesday.

Lieutenant General Chris Bogdan rejected a call by the Government Accountability Office, the research arm of Congress, to make the $3 billion project into a separate weapons program.

Michael Sullivan, director of defense weapons systems acquisition at GAO, told a hearing of the House Armed Services tactical and air land forces subcommittee that it would be difficult for Congress to oversee the upgrade unless it was carved out of the larger F-35 program.

[FULL ARTICLE]

Pentagon ‘Can’t Afford’ F-35’s Trillion Dollar Plus Sustainment Costs

March 3, 2018

“Right now, we can’t afford the sustainment costs we have on the F-35,” Ellen Lord, the new Defense Department undersecretary for defense acquisition and sustainment, told reporters this week. “And we are committed to changing that.”

The F-35 Joint Strike Fighter is the most expensive weapons program in US history and remains the Pentagon’s “most significant” program, according to Lord.

According to the US Joint Chiefs of Staff, “sustainment is a key component of performance. Including sustainment planning ‘up front’ enables the acquisition and requirements communities to provide a weapon system with optimal availability and reliability to the warfighter at value.”

[FULL ARTICLE]

New F-35 modernization plan could come with hefty $16B price tag

By Valerie Insinna
March 9, 2018

Under the F-35 joint program office’s latest plan, follow-on modernization for the Joint Strike Fighter could add up to a total of $16 billion, the Defense Department’s program head confirmed Wednesday.

Responding to questions from lawmakers about the price of implementing the new Continuous Capability Development and Delivery strategy, or C2D2, Vice Adm. Mat Winter acknowledged that U.S. and international customers could pay up to $10.8 billion for development and $5.4 billion for procurement of upgrades to the F-35 between fiscal years 2018 through 2024.

Last September at the Defense News conference, Winter announced that the JPO had re-envisioned the F-35’s follow on-modernization plan, also known as Block 4, as a more iterative process where software updates would be pumped out every six months. New computing systems, sensors and weapons would also be incorporated during the period.

F-35 Jet: Most Expensive Weapon Ever Will Need Another $16 Billion in Upgrades

By David Brennan
March 9, 2018

The F-35 stealth jet will need an additional $16 billion worth of upgrades and development, the House of Representatives Armed Services Committee has been told.

The F-35, made by Lockheed Martin, is already the most expensive weapons program of all time. It has now been revealed that the F-35 will need even more cash to stay at the front of fifth-generation fighter pack, Reuters reported.

The costs are part of a strategy to perform incremental software and modernization updates on the fighters, meaning they would not have to be taken out of service for several months at a time. It is estimated that the project will cost a total of $406.5 billion.

[FULL ARTICLE]

The F-35 Still Has a Long Way to Go before It Will Be Ready for Combat | The National Interest Blog

By Dan Grazier
March 8, 2018

The F-35 still has a long way to go before it will be ready for combat. That was the parting message of Dr. Michael Gilmore, the now-retired Director of Operational Test and Evaluation, in his last annual report.

The Joint Strike Fighter Program has already consumed more than $100 billion and nearly 25 years. Just to finish the basic development phase will require at least an extra $1 billion and two more years. Even with this massive investment of time and money, Dr. Gilmore told Congress, the Pentagon, and the public, “the operational suitability of all variants continues to be less than desired by the Services.”

[FULL ARTICLE]

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