Pentagon is pressing hard to cut costs to as many programs as possible during
the current budget crunch in Washington. The Pentagon and Congress been
complaining loudly about the costs of the F-35 program coupled with the delays
the aircraft has seen. The project is still moving forward, but there are some
in Washington that think the cost of the new jet is simply too high.
The Pentagon is now looking to cut costs in the F-35 program by reducing the
amount spent on subcontractors. So far the cost
estimates for the program have been pegged at over $380 billion for the 2,400
aircraft the U.S. wants. An additional 700 aircraft have been ordered
internationally. The Pentagon says that it has realized a lot of the money
spent on the program is at the subcontractor level.
"What we've learned is that a lot of the money that we're spending
is at the subcontract level," Shay Assad said. "We're following
money. We want to make sure we have a complete understanding of what we think a
fair and reasonable subcontract price should be, and we do expect Lockheed
Martin to develop their own position."
The costs of the F-35 program are expected to be more understood this fall when
a review is complete. The Pentagon is currently getting ready for negotiations on the LRIP-5 of F-35 fighters. One
place where money can be saved is by finding better ways to make common
features across all the variants of the F-35.
"What we're finding is that we're getting much more precise about what is
the commonality amongst these things and how should we build those common
items, because that's where we'll save some money," Assad added.
While the Pentagon is working to reduce the cost of the F-35 program, some
estimates are saying that the first three production lots of the F-35 are exceeding cost projections by up to 15% to
$918 million. The Pentagon will pay $635 million of that overrun to Lockheed
Martin and Pratt & Whitney, the two lead contractors of the aircraft. The
other $136 million will be met by reducing target fee.
Despite all the concerns with the cost of the F-35 program, the F-35C hit a
major milestone this week. The Navy version of the fighter had its first successful catapult launch. The launch took
place at the F-35 integrated test facility at Naval Air Station Patuxent River.
“It was great to be able to be a part of this milestone in the F-35C test
program,” said Navy test pilot Lt. Chris Tabert. “Due to the hard work of the
entire test team, the event went very well and I look forward to seeing the
airplane operate from the carrier.”
The test team will execute a test plan over the next few weeks that will
include more launches at varying power levels and dual-aircraft jet blast
deflector testing and catapult launches using a degraded catapult
configuration. The degraded catapult tests are to measure the effects of steam
ingestion on the F-35.