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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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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.


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