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  (Source: Lockheed Martin)
After ten years and billions invested some in the Senate want alternatives to F-35

It's well known that the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter (JSF) has turned into the most costly weapons program in history for the armed forces. When complete, multiple branches of the armed forces will use the F-35 and it will be sold abroad to allies.

The problem for some in Washington is that the delays in delivering the aircraft are mounting, as are the costs to build and maintain the aircraft over its lifespan. The F-35 program has been going for ten years now and some in the Senate Armed Services Committee are now indicating it's time to start looking for a backup plan. Most will find little sense in considering an alternative to the F-35 when it is finally so close to completion.

Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) said, "It seems to me [prudent that] we at least begin considering alternatives."

The reason some in the Senate want to start looking for alternatives is the report published last week showing the costs to maintain the F-35 through 2065 spiraling to $1 trillion. Top acquisition official Ashton Carter has maintained that the $1 trillion figure will be reduced when he completes a "should-cost" review of the F-35 in the next few months. Carter is aiming at a 20% to 50% reduction in that $1 trillion figure.

Christine Fox, Director of the Pentagon cost assessment and program evaluation office, is skeptical of the cost reduction goals.

Fox said, "O&S [operation and sustainment] is hard. Whether we can get it all the way down to legacy [O&S cost levels] is something that I in my office doubt.” Fox points to the cost of fuel being hard to reduce over the life of the aircraft.

Lockheed Martin's general manager for the F-35 program, Tom Burbage, says that the sustainment costs for the F-35 can’t be fairly compared to the costs of older aircraft. He says that the F-35 was developed on performance-based logistics plan that is different from legacy sustainment process. He also notes that the F-35 O&S estimates are susceptible to ground rules legacy aircraft are not bound to.

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F22 ?
By GruntboyX on 5/23/2011 1:00:53 PM , Rating: 3
Bring back the F22? Or is that too late?

RE: F22 ?
By icrf on 5/23/2011 1:25:30 PM , Rating: 2
Different target uses. The F22 is a replacement for the high-end fighters like the Navy's F14 or Air Force's F15. The F35 is a replacement for more general use planes, like the Navy's F18 or Air Force's F16. The high-end aircraft are more capable and expensive to buy and operate. The F35 was supposed to be cheaper to allow much more widespread use.

RE: F22 ?
By Iaiken on 5/23/2011 1:33:53 PM , Rating: 3
The high-end aircraft are more focused and expensive to buy and operate.

Fixed that for you. The F22 does one thing only (air superiority) and it does that VERY well.

RE: F22 ?
By Reclaimer77 on 5/23/11, Rating: -1
RE: F22 ?
By corduroygt on 5/23/11, Rating: 0
RE: F22 ?
By mcnabney on 5/23/2011 3:31:26 PM , Rating: 2
The only reason F35 numbers seem high is because of quantity. If we were making as many F22s as F35s the numbers would be in the trillions. F22 is far more expensive, per plane, which is why the production run of F22s was lowered.

F22 - 187 total production = total program cost $336M each
F35 - 2,442 (planned) = total program cost $156M each

RE: F22 ?
By Solandri on 5/23/2011 6:49:15 PM , Rating: 3
It's a little more complicated than that.

F22 total production cost: $65 billion
F22 amortized unit cost: $357.6 million (includes R&D)
F22 unit construction cost: $150 million (no R&D)
F22 R&D cost: ($65b - 187*$150m) = $37 billion

Projected cost for 2,442 F22s:
2442*$150m + $37b = $403 billion
Cost per F22 = $403b / 2442 = $165 million

Not that far off from the F35. (Damn, I had no idea the F35 had blown its budget this badly.)

RE: F22 ?
By Jedi2155 on 5/23/2011 11:15:15 PM , Rating: 2
I believe the per unit cost of the F35 is still around $80 million each but the R&D cost has already skyrocketed past the F-22 @ $56.4 billion.

The flyaway cost of a F22 is around $133 million so its still about $50 million/60% more....

RE: F22 ?
By Calin on 5/24/2011 3:25:49 AM , Rating: 2
The F-22 is probably too big to work on carriers, and it has no vertical landing capability (and quite a bit of the research costs of the F-35 went into the vertical take-off and landing capability and into carrier-borne versions)

RE: F22 ?
By eldakka on 5/24/2011 4:08:25 AM , Rating: 2
Just being devil's advocate here.

The R&D cost for the F22 of $37b was for a superiority fighter only.

To replace the F35 you'd have to add R&D costs for strike/ground attack and carrier operation capabilities.

However, at least you'd be adding R&D expense to an already proven aircraft....

RE: F22 ?
By JW.C on 5/29/2011 3:48:59 AM , Rating: 2
Just think, all they had to do was a few upgrade to the F-16. Throw in a better engine and some upgraded electronics and slap on some stealth paint! For the low low price of $20 million per copy you have a far better aircraft with a price that doesnt piss off the general population.

RE: F22 ?
By 91TTZ on 5/24/2011 12:11:42 PM , Rating: 3
You're thinking about the program costs backwards. You say, "The only reason F35 numbers seem high is because of quantity". You should be saying "The only reason F-22 numbers seem high is because of the low quantity built".

The F-35 was supposed to be the "cheap" complement to the F-22 in much the same way that the F-16 was the cheap complement to the F-15. It cost half as much as the F-15.

As it turns out, the F-35 didn't turn out to be much cheaper than the F-22. The unit cost is $150 million for the F-22 vs. 139 million for the F-35C.

RE: F22 ?
By marvdmartian on 5/23/2011 3:39:31 PM , Rating: 1
Absolutely. Or do a minor re-design to make it more capable of an attack mode, and call it an F/A-22.

RE: F22 ?
By TSS on 5/23/2011 4:49:45 PM , Rating: 5
The difference between the 2 craft is that the maximum that the F22 can carry is about 2 1000 pound JDAM bombs against ground targets.

The F35 can carry 8 2000 pound bombs.

Not to mention that the F35 is actually cheaper.

You have the F22 for Air to Air. You have the F35 for Air to ground. You have the A10 for close air support. You have the B52 for anything the F35 can't carry. And that's it, you don't need any more planes since those can fill all roles found in the airforce. Mass produce the parts, making it all cheap.

Atleast that was the plan. It's ending up to be more expensive and too complex. But honestly it's comparable to Windows Vista. The F15-16-18 combined where Windows XP, the best fighters your airforce has ever seen, but still based on legacy principles. The F22 and F35 are like Vista, a huge time and money investment into something large and complex using the latest and greatest that isn't all that much better then what you had, considering the cost.

What it will lead to though, is Windows 7, or the 6th generation fighters that'll be as streamlined as the 5th but cost even less then the 4th to make, while beeing even more robust.

However it won't do that if politics keeps backing out and changing the rules. The only alternative to the F35, at best, is skipping the 5th and moving to 6th generation fighter/bombers.

If you have to buy planes from the ruskies their going to laugh their asses off. Especially since you already have to buy trips into space from them.

RE: F22 ?
By Calin on 5/24/2011 3:27:09 AM , Rating: 2
The A-10 is on its way out of the Air Force

RE: F22 ?
By Chernobyl68 on 5/24/2011 2:24:47 PM , Rating: 2
I'm holding out hope they'll find a way to keep that aircraft and its unique capabilities. No other plane in the world does what it can do.

RE: F22 ?
By JW.C on 5/29/2011 3:57:27 AM , Rating: 2
I don't see how they can retire it since they don't have anything thats even close to filling the same mission. Oh and lets not forget how dang close to un-killable the A-10 is.

RE: F22 ?
By random git on 5/24/2011 6:02:30 AM , Rating: 2
Do you think those four planes can really carry out all the roles in the air force? If so, you might want to tell them to get rid of their RC-135s, E-3s, E-7s, EC-130s, KC-135s, C-130s, RQ-4s, MQ-9s etc etc.

That said there is a lot I agree with you, but I doubt any future high tech airplanes are going to be cheap.

RE: F22 ?
By Raiders12 on 5/24/2011 7:34:39 AM , Rating: 2
Even after a lessons learned from the F22 and F35 programs, the 6th gen fighter, will still be a government acquisition program, which will by default have costs blown out of proportion. Its just the way they set themselves up for failure with its pseudo endless back acct, and contracting rules. I imagine a long drawn out contract battle between companies for the next fighter program...

RE: F22 ?
By Reclaimer77 on 5/24/2011 8:47:38 PM , Rating: 2
The difference between the 2 craft is that the maximum that the F22 can carry is about 2 1000 pound JDAM bombs against ground targets.

Afraid your data isn't correct. The F-22 has been tested with external weapon pylons back when Lockheed proposed the F-22B (bomber). The hardpoints are already built into the wings and centerline for bolting on weapon racks, just like the F-15. When stealth isn't required, it can be every bit the bomb truck that the F-15 Strike Eagle is.

Stealth is only important for "first in" scenarios. Once all air power and ground to air threats are suppressed, switch to external stores and bombs away.

Not to mention that the F35 is actually cheaper.

It is? Not from what I'm reading.

RE: F22 ?
By inperfectdarkness on 5/25/2011 8:07:57 PM , Rating: 2
um, no. not by a mile.

perhaps those are the only KINETIC COMBAT aircraft that are needed in the USAF (if you discount the b1/b2); but it is NOT all the aircraft/roles needed.

you need tankers, surveillance, c2, etc. there's a LOT more to the puzzle than just some fighters/bombers.

RE: F22 ?
By Reclaimer77 on 5/24/2011 12:21:47 PM , Rating: 1
How in the hell does pointing out that we can bolt on a AN/AAS-35(V) Pave Penny or a ASQ-228 ATFLIR, TIALD, and LANTIRN to an F-22 earn someone a -1 on here?

RE: F22 ?
By Manch on 5/23/2011 1:37:06 PM , Rating: 2
Unfortunately, it's quickly becoming just as expensive. At the same price it would be better to have more F-22's. 185 22's isnt sufficient considering it's supposed to replace the F-15. Of course those production lines are shutting down or have already. Some inCongress tried to push thru an order of a few more jets to keep the lines open and give us the option to buy more. Now, it would cost more to bring it back up. The F-35 program biggest issue is it's trying to be something for everybody, and despite the best intentions by some to keep prices in check, anything done thru the government with all it's red tape can never escape ballooning costs.

RE: F22 ?
By FITCamaro on 5/23/11, Rating: 0
RE: F22 ?
By Ushio01 on 5/23/2011 2:57:05 PM , Rating: 2
Er only 1020 F15's were built for the US airforce hardly thousands and some of that number were replacement for attrition.

RE: F22 ?
By FITCamaro on 5/23/2011 5:34:10 PM , Rating: 2
Sorry I forgot to say the F16s as well.

RE: F22 ?
By andre-bch on 5/23/2011 5:55:16 PM , Rating: 2
F-22s aren't supposed to replace F-16s.

RE: F22 ?
By andre-bch on 5/23/2011 3:22:19 PM , Rating: 2
Currently, there are only 267 F-15C/D planes in service.

RE: F22 ?
By yomamafor1 on 5/23/11, Rating: 0
RE: F22 ?
By Jeffk464 on 5/23/11, Rating: 0
RE: F22 ?
By Nfarce on 5/23/2011 7:49:38 PM , Rating: 3
1) As an American, I take pride in our military aviation technology. It will be a cold day in hell before I support us buying

2) The F/A-18 went head to head as the YF-17 with the F-16 program back in the early 70s. The USAF chose the F-16 and canned the YF-17 design. The Navy picked up that design and made some minor modifications to become the Hornet. The only thing the Navy has now beyond that is the E/F Super Hornet model which is really nothing more than the same airframe about 33% larger with some new engines and aero changes. Now why would the USAF want to go back to a design they rejected 35 years ago?

RE: F22 ?
By Nfarce on 5/23/2011 7:53:16 PM , Rating: 2
Oops - got cut off on the first point:

It will be a cold day in hell before I support us buying Eurofighters. But at the rate our education system continues to fail us, we may have no longer have engineers left to build cool new stuff in a generation or two.

RE: F22 ?
By random git on 5/24/2011 6:05:54 AM , Rating: 2
If you are comparing the viability of fighter jets based solely on airframe characteristics, you are seriously doing something wrong. Block II super hornet would murder any F-16 flying 1v1.

RE: F22 ?
By Iaiken on 5/24/2011 11:40:15 AM , Rating: 2
What's more, the airframe of the F/A-18 Super Hornet has almost nothing in common with the original F-18 once you are back of the forward fuselage.

The aircraft is larger, the geometry of the intakes, wings and leading edge extensions are different, the cant and location of the vertical stabilizers are different, the internal structure is contains fewer parts and dramatically fewer structural connections (allows for greater structural stability and strength). Additional hard-points, advanced avionics packages and and increased gross takeoff weight are the last elements that make the F/A-18 is a totally different beast than it's predecessor.

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