Saturday, February 18, 2012

USAFs F-35 procurement plan is not believable

United States Air Force (USAF) aircraft FY2013 procurement numbers (PDF) for the F-35 have taken an alarming cost rise since the FY2009 budget.

To be fair, much of that is due to leadership and management incompetence on the part of the DOD F-35 program office and the prime vendor, Lockheed Martin. Because there are so many significant engineering defects, real costs in the program are unknown.

The USAF is an important measure of F-35 procurement health. It is on record as the biggest potential buyer at 1763 aircraft. The USAF F-35A variant is also similar to what most foreign partner nations hoped to buy.

If the USAF large volume buy is in trouble, so is everyone else.

For the  FY2009 budget, USAF predicted that each aircraft purchased that year (we will use weapons system cost) would be $226M. Then, USAF predicted it would pay $100M for each F-35 in FY2013.

The recently released USAF budget prediction shows that for FY2013, the service expects to pay $181M for each F-35. A cost rise of $81M each from the FY2009 prediction.

In FY2009, the USAF expected to pay $172 billion for 1763 F-35s. For FY2013, the USAF predicts that 1763 F-35s will cost $212B; $40B over the FY2009 prediction.

In FY2009, USAF predicted the average cost of each aircraft would be $90M over the span of the total buy of 1763 aircraft. For FY2013, the USAF expects to pay $120M as an average cost of each F-35 for the programs buy of 1763 aircraft. This rise of 33% in just 4 years spells trouble.

If the USAF wants to stay on budget in relation to its FY2009 prediction, it would have to cut 529 aircraft; leaving 1234 F-35s for the USAFs total program buy.

Where will we be in another 4 years? What will future USAF leaders think of their predecessors when having to budget for a significant tac-air short-fall?

“It’s about $37 million for the CTOL aircraft, which is the air force variant.”
- Colonel Dwyer Dennis, U.S. JSF Program Office, 2002-


Anonymous said...

Strange that the AF is still quoting the 1746 number since it is cutting the number of fighter aircraft squadrons to 54 (1080-1296 aircraft). So it seems like the 1000-1300 number should bound the F-35 total buy. I guess they are trying to keep customers in the game......

Horde said...

The 5th Nunn-McCurdy Breach of the JSF Program was finally admitted and acknowledged in late 2009 when, as Eric points out, the USAF were expecting to pay US$172 Billion of American Tax Payers' funds for some 1,763 F-35A CTOL JSF airplanes.

In FY2013, according to USAF Budget documents, that figure has risen, again, to US$212 Billion - i.e. 40 Billion Dollars which is about a 23 per cent blow out!

Doesn't this constitute yet another critical Nunn-McCurdy Breach?


NICO said...

..."In exchange for a $140-160 million price tag per plane, the Israel Air Force will take delivery of planes that are not yet certified to carry any sort of weapon systems, are not certified for the entire flight envelope, and will almost certainly have to be upgraded to repair flaws that will only emerge during later flight tests."

He makes it sound like the Israelis aren't going to be happy, what's wrong with him? Doesn't he know it's 5th gen? LOL!

Good catch Anon, it seems all the proJSF missed that little detail of USAF "downsizing" (and it's not over yet) to maybe a 1000 fighters, why do you need 1743 JSFs???

Horde said...

Speaking of Nunn-McCurdy, what about those other two variants of the JSF with their even greater blow outs in unit cost estimates?

Then, of course, there are all those APB Breach Pachyderms standing there in the room waiting to be acknowledeged.


Anonymous said...

While I agree that 1700 is a very un-likely number, you guys are confusing PMAI with the total number of aircraft...the total number includes training coded aircraft and replacements.

Anonymous said...

And over the next 15 years, one could assess the number of Fighter squadrons to drop even further; let's say to 45-50.

Yet these will include F-22, F-15E, F-16, and even those F-15C/D too, which the USAF now implies will remain a major portion of the mainstay force structure through 2030.

Furthermore, by 2030 it's likely that a replacement for the F-22 will be nearing development, the earliest block II/III F-35A units will be early-retiring (or sold similar to US selling used F-16s) and that various UCAV types will be making up a portion of the fleet as well.

By 2035, one could give a rough guesstimate based on the restructurings and trends to date, that USAF's total F-35A procurement will number around 500-550, with perhaps only 400 of which (incl PMAI, training, test, reserve) serving the USAF in 2035.

Of these, it would not be surprising if many will still be of the block IV variant in order to sustain nominal new aircraft procurement. Whereas, the debate of that point and time would likely be the same as today: do we buy more of the new units, or retrofit and upgrade the older blocks?

Anonymous said...

As I remember, the second (& final) meeting of the F-35 Defense Acquisition Board is supposed to occur before the end of February. Will be interesting to see what they come up with on updated costs and schedules.

Also, there are 180-odd F-22s that are included in the 54 AF squardons, so the actual required total number of F-35s (irrespective of cost, schedule, & technical problems) may wind up being only half of the advertized 1763.

home movers said...

Hi you are doing a great job. I was looking for this information. I found it on your page its really amazing.I am sure that these are your own views. I hear exactly what you’re saying and I’m so happy that I came across your blog. You really know what you’re talking about, and you made me feel like I should learn more about this. Thanks for sharing useful information; I’m officially a huge fan of your blog.

goldeel1 said...

Home movers,

No your not, your some Sh#tty little viral ad campaigner trying to flog your product that has nothing to do with this site or topic, do everyone a favour and just drop off the planet. Eric please feel free to delete this.

goldeel1 said...

So its finally coming out in the open, all the lies about how much this puppy will cost. If they had just stuck to a "son of' F-16 then they may very well have been able to get somewhere near the often quoted $37-40 million figure. But the reality is we have ended up with an aircraft that is going to be more than 3 times that because well, its more than 3 different aircraft.

The best bet is to axe it and strip the carcass of the program for what HAS worked and incorporate it into current evolutions of the F-15, F-16 and SH as new builds. Also put aside money as an urgent priority to reactivate the F-22 line and incorporate any sensor suites into the stalled Lightening II spiral development, including any of the LO coatings developed for the F-35 that might save on maintenance as well as improve reliability and basic stealth.

24-30 new build F-22"C's" per annum and around 20 new build teen series each as well. Seriously look at a re-wing of the F-16 a la the XL and force the USN to face the crap wing and drag and low power motors of the Super Hornet. The F-15 is almost there with the SE but would benefit from faster computers and many of the technology spinoffs from various programs that haven't been incorporated, data fusion comes to mind as it has been quite successful in the SH, as would the now being discussed EO/IR sensors. These programs can be run by small rapid development teams which if LM and Boeing dont show fast turn around on can be taken over by special Govt commission who have one sole task, rescue US air power. What we need is another Ed Heinemann.