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Lockheed Martin F-35C prototype

  (Source: Lockheed Martin)
Lockheed warns that a cut could have serious impact

The major projects under way for new combat aircraft for the U.S. Air Force are facing some serious issues on many fronts. The tanker bidding process is still anything but final after years of fighting between bidders and people in Washington. The F-35 program is also facing some significant issues (one variant, dubbed the F-35B STOVL, has been delayed due to issues with subcomponent failures).

The major issue for the program continues to be delays and cost overruns. 
Defense News reports that the U.S. Senate is seeking to cut ten of the aircraft from the 2011 defense spending bill for the fourth delivery of the low-rate initial production program (LRIP-4) for the aircraft. The number for the delivery was initially set at 42 aircraft, but the Senate wants that number cut to 32.

Lockheed's Tom Burbage, the executive VP for the F-35 program has stated that the cut could have a "very serious" impact on the program. A cut on the delivery will drive up the cost for all nations involved in the purchase of aircraft.
Defense News reports that the cut in the order comes after intense negotiations between Lockheed and the Pentagon over the price of the aircraft during the key LRIP-4 buy. The LRIP-4 purchase is a key indicator to determine if Lockheed will be able to deliver the aircraft on budget.

Burbage said that at this point the reduction in the number of aircraft for the order isn’t final. He stated, "If the final decision is to support that position, it has a very serious impact on the program. We're trying to bring it online at a ramp rate that allows us to hit high production rates, we have partner countries that are part of that buy, and when you make large adjustments in quantities of airplanes it has an impact on everybody."

Lockheed has maintained that it could deliver the aircraft at about 20% under the Pentagon's estimate of about $76 million per aircraft.

The DOD has already stated that the F-35 program could ultimately cost $382 billion

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By FITCamaro on 9/17/2010 10:12:40 AM , Rating: 4
Like no one saw this coming. Final F22 production numbers were cut to around a quarter of initial numbers. I see the F35 suffering a similar fate.

So we'll have 187 F22s, I forsee maybe 500 F35s, we'll have far less C17s than originally planned since many have already run through their useful airframe life (part of why many want more to be built), and we'll be lucky if we ever get a KC-X tanker.

RE: Yeah....
By weskurtz0081 on 9/17/2010 10:14:32 AM , Rating: 3
Did you just say that the early C-17's have already exceeded the useful airframe life span?

RE: Yeah....
By FITCamaro on 9/17/2010 11:29:50 AM , Rating: 2
They haven't yet, but many are getting close. See link below. Nonstop operations for 9 years + early retirement of 141s have taxed our cargo capacity to the limit. We have Russian cargo planes chartered to carry things for us flying in and out of Charleston every week.

RE: Yeah....
By weskurtz0081 on 9/17/2010 11:44:17 AM , Rating: 2
What Russian planes? IL-76's? I couldn't imagine it would be the Antonov's, if that's the case I would think they would just use C-5's.

RE: Yeah....
By FITCamaro on 9/17/2010 11:47:03 AM , Rating: 2
I'd have to ask since I'm not familiar with them. Just the guys I work with have pointed them out. They're pretty massive jets though. Bigger than the C17.

RE: Yeah....
By weskurtz0081 on 9/17/2010 12:00:54 PM , Rating: 2
That's the Antonov. They have a 4 and 6 engine variant, with the 6 engine one being the largest flying aircraft (IIRC).

Are we sure that those birds are carrying American cargo or carrying cargo for the DOD?

RE: Yeah....
By bradmshannon on 9/17/2010 12:41:35 PM , Rating: 2
Hm, I drive by the CHS AFB all the time and the only large cargo planes I've seen there are the C-17s. What do these Russian jets look like?

RE: Yeah....
RE: Yeah....
By FITCamaro on 9/17/2010 3:49:42 PM , Rating: 2
I've seen the first one here. Do the Russians even fly the second anymore? I've discussed that one with my coworkers since they used to say the Russians would fly that thing to airshows and the Americans would just kinda laugh and feel sorry for them because the tires would be bald, the brakes worn, etc.

RE: Yeah....
By Smartless on 9/17/2010 5:39:41 PM , Rating: 2
I just saw the 2nd one or something similar (AN224 Mirya?) about a year ago in Honolulu. My guess was it was taking a full size drill rig and emergency supplies to American Samoa. I was told that there's only one or two in the world and they do freelance cargo running.

RE: Yeah....
By weskurtz0081 on 9/18/2010 1:34:24 AM , Rating: 2
That's exactly what they use them for, contract cargo x-port. They are very useful in carrying WELL over sized cargo.

RE: Yeah....
By weskurtz0081 on 9/18/2010 1:33:28 AM , Rating: 2
That's pretty much the case with a lot of the Russian cargo jets I've seen.

There are only two operating 225's that I am aware of, I know they use (or at least used to) carry the shuttle around on one of them.

But, yeah, they are pretty run down in most cases. If they were transferred over to the USAF, they would probably be grounded for months with red X's.

RE: Yeah....
By EJ257 on 9/17/2010 10:22:42 AM , Rating: 2
we'll have far less C17s than originally planned since many have already run through their useful airframe life

Source please? Not saying your lying or anything, just that I would really like to know more about this. Those birds are not that old.

RE: Yeah....
By amanojaku on 9/17/2010 10:43:09 AM , Rating: 2
Fit is correct. The Air Force asked for $1.6B back in 2007 because the C-17's were wearing out early.

RE: Yeah....
By weskurtz0081 on 9/17/2010 11:04:24 AM , Rating: 2
Hmmm, maybe I missed it, but I didn't see anything about the air frame not lasting in that article.

RE: Yeah....
By FITCamaro on 9/17/2010 11:26:40 AM , Rating: 2

I also work with (and sit next to) guys that maintained C17s for 10-15 years. Many came right out of the Air Force, working with C17s, into the company I work for. Charleston is the main hub for C17s in the country on their way to and from Iraq and Afghanistan. They know everything about the plane, including those which are wearing out.

RE: Yeah....
By weskurtz0081 on 9/17/2010 11:38:55 AM , Rating: 2
Yeah, I was in the Air Force as well, but I was a C-5 maintainer, different beast. Dover started getting C-17's the year I got out, so I have no experience with them. However, I did work closely with a bunch of C-17 maintainers from other bases, and they never mentioned it, but a lot can happen in 3 1/2 years.

RE: Yeah....
By weskurtz0081 on 9/17/2010 11:42:27 AM , Rating: 2
I just read a brief article on the topic, but it said the cracks were minor and easily fixed. It also blamed the cracks on the planes thrust reversers. I have seen C-17 pilots use the TR'S to back the planes up many times, I wonder if that is leading to the cracks forward of the wings?

RE: Yeah....
By amanojaku on 9/17/2010 11:26:45 AM , Rating: 2
Page 2:
Top Air Force officials, including Air Force Secretary Michael Wynne, appeared at Congressional hearings in March, saying that C-17's were wearing out early because of heavy use in Iraq and Afghanistan.
I tried to post another link, but DT's filter is retarded.

Google the article titled "USAF reveals C-17 cracks and dispute on production future" dated April 4, 2008.

RE: Yeah....
By gamerk2 on 9/17/2010 12:34:35 PM , Rating: 2
Hence the "Hidden Cost" of the war on terror: Most of our equipment isn't in any better shape.

Lets face it, no one designed our equipment to last for over a decade of constant use in desert conditions.

RE: Yeah....
By Justin Time on 9/17/2010 5:58:34 PM , Rating: 2
The money has to come from somewhere, and at the moment, the USA has a massive public debt, and a significant trade deficit.

USA is simply not earning enough to pay for its extravagant lifestyle, and hard decisions need to be made, like spending less on defence.

RE: Yeah....
By tynopik on 9/17/2010 9:49:49 PM , Rating: 2
> we'll have far less C17s than originally planned

original plan was for 210 aircraft

a year before it even flew this was reduced to 120 aircraft

223 will be ordered, 13 more than originally envisioned

13 more is not 'far less' any way you slice it

RE: Yeah....
By FITCamaro on 9/17/2010 10:45:43 PM , Rating: 3
Yes but from the sound of it they're saying that the entire Block 1 aircraft will likely have to be retired. I forget how many are in a block but its like 20-30. They're currently on block 9.

So potentially 193 to 203. Especially when from talking to my colleagues, they don't even have enough and won't even when the line is done.

By dsx724 on 9/17/2010 10:10:44 AM , Rating: 2
They should have gone with Boeing's bird instead of Lockheed's. Much cheaper and we would already have all the planes by now under budget. Lockheed is a big mess.

RE: Yeah...
By FITCamaro on 9/17/2010 10:14:24 AM , Rating: 2
You base that assumption on what exactly? Hatred of Lockheed or some kind of omnipotent power of Boeing? Boeing has its own issues. And it is hardly cheap. Part of why they're viewed very poorly by the government right now. Of course part of their problems stem from their unions.

RE: Yeah...
By AssBall on 9/17/2010 11:37:27 AM , Rating: 2
What one did Boeing have? Was it even a match for the F-35?

Remember it is the basis for the JSF as well and had international input during development.

RE: Yeah...
By FITCamaro on 9/17/2010 11:46:14 AM , Rating: 2
RE: Yeah...
By AssBall on 9/17/2010 12:49:08 PM , Rating: 2
Thanks for the link. I'm kinda glad Lockheed got the contract after reading more about (and looking at) that ugly POS.

RE: Yeah...
By ekv on 9/17/2010 4:10:43 PM , Rating: 2
Looks like a gal one of the guys at work tried to set me up with. "O you'll love her. She's a real 4x4 kind of gal." As it turned out, he wasn't talking about off-roading. [4 ft. tall ...]

Miss Lee. What was her first name, yeah, I think it was "ugga" 8)

RE: Yeah...
By FITCamaro on 9/17/2010 5:10:06 PM , Rating: 2
Miss Lee. What was her first name, yeah, I think it was "ugga" 8)

That made me laugh.

RE: Yeah...
By Iaiken on 9/17/2010 11:51:33 AM , Rating: 2
Well that's certainly an easy position to take since the X-32 program never came to fruition.

The list of Boeing projects that have gone over schedule and over budget is a mighty long one:


There are undoubtedly more, but I gotta go to lunch.

RE: Yeah...
By F4iHorn on 9/17/2010 12:49:13 PM , Rating: 2

Not a single one of those was a Boeing project from the beginning. Not disagreeing with your larger point, but you need some better examples.

RE: Yeah...
By sorry dog on 9/17/2010 5:24:55 PM , Rating: 2
OK how about

...and my favorite the 2707

doubt the KC767 has helped their rep much either

not that Lockheed has done better lately.

Come to think of it...has anyone had a big time military aviation project come in on time and budget lately?

Just can't think of one right now?

RE: Yeah...
By knutjb on 9/17/2010 6:39:59 PM , Rating: 2
What you don't understand is that the government be it Air Force, Navy, or whoever change their minds and want more stuff added during the process. This extends development, primarily on ground up projects, and adds to cost. I remember a friend who worked the B1 and that was one of their biggest problems, a moving target. Some one would come into a meeting and say we've heard about X and we want it included. The problem was X was an idea in it's R&D stage years from production. Every change adds to cost and complexity.

As for the tanker they have a solid and reliable airframe that should lead to a reasonable product in a reasonable time frame provided the customer will set the design in concrete.

The original 1955, 56, & early 57 KC135A's were significantly modified from 57 on. Had to do with how it was used and the dynamics on the airframe that were unknown at the time since the 135 was derived from the 707 prototype -80.

It's easy to criticize, though, when you have just part of the picture you sound, well... Do some more home work next time.

RE: Yeah...
By FITCamaro on 9/17/2010 10:47:55 PM , Rating: 2
Just an FYI, the military loves the V22.

And as another said, no military project gets built as it was originally bid. The government and military is constantly changing its mind on things as development goes on in a program. They want new features that they didn't think of before. They want to remove a feature that they realize they don't need.

These changes aren't free and aren't always cheap.

RE: Yeah...
By tynopik on 9/17/2010 9:45:30 PM , Rating: 2
Italian KC-767: took FOREVER to resolve flutter issues with wing refueling pods

Wedgetail: AWACS-like thingy for Australia. Delayed then delayed some more then delayed again and still delayed.

787: Was rolled out on 7/08/07 (that's over 3 years ago) and still hasn't been delivered

747-8: good number of delays too

RE: Yeah...
By FITCamaro on 9/17/2010 10:49:17 PM , Rating: 2
Unions and the changing from wireless to wired internet were two of the big things that delayed the 787.

RE: Yeah...
By Amiga500 on 9/18/2010 7:10:08 AM , Rating: 2
Erm. No.

Building the knowledge base of the new materials used on, and techniques required for, the 787 is what has caused most of the delay.

Not the fault of Boeing. Its just the usual learning curve that needs to be worked through. But project managers continually fail to understand that and hence set stupid impossible deadlines.

- 787
- A350
- A400M
- C-17
- A380
- F-35

IMO, the best executing aerospace company in the world is without a shadow of a doubt Saab. They just seem to get the job done on time, within budget and to a very good standard.

Keep Defense, ditch the Post Office
By sleepeeg3 on 9/18/2010 5:31:17 PM , Rating: 2
How about we keep the planes and dump the post office? It has only cost us about $10-17 BILLION each year, over the last few years. It is a bigger expense than the entire department of defense!

Bleeding Edge
By tech329 on 9/18/2010 2:59:44 PM , Rating: 1
I was USAF. Twelve years. Got out in '80 when companies were offering serious $ for people with skills and experience. Spent the next 20 years in Boeing, P&W, Lockheed, GE, Sikorsky etc.

The biggest hurdle they all face, on the military procurement side, is virtually everything they do is bleeding edge. They're not just inventing aircraft. They're inventing technology and how to implement it from the ground up. It is very costly and very time intensive. It's easy to be critical of the cost but anyone who had the view I happened to have would have a great deal of respect for what has been accomplished over the years. It was never easy and never perfect. That was a given. But it never stopped them from trying and keeping at it until they figured it out. Maybe I'm biased after spending the best part of my life in aviation manufacturing but that's my 2 cents.

"I want people to see my movies in the best formats possible. For [Paramount] to deny people who have Blu-ray sucks!" -- Movie Director Michael Bay

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