Thursday, March 29, 2012

New DOD baseline of F-35 will make it unaffordable to recap U.S. tac-air

New baseline costs for the F-35 arriving. A roll-away cost and a fly-away cost.

The new baseline forecasts the average cost of the F-35 fighter, including research and development (R&D) and inflation, will be $135 million per plane, plus an additional $26 million for the F135 engine built by Pratt & Whitney, a unit of United Technologies Corp.

In 2012 dollars, the average cost of each single-seat, single-engine plane, including R&D, would be $112.5 million, plus $22 million for the engine.

This is the first year that the government has separated out the cost of the plane and the engine, and comparison figures were not immediately available.

Bloomberg reports this:

Which when you look up the latest USAF budget figures (PDF) for "fly-away" costs, there is a disagreement.

(click to make image larger)

All of this assumes DOD will order the original number of F-35s dreamed about years ago. Economies of scale--imagined or otherwise. If the Bloomberg article is accurate, full rate production will never happen.

And, there are all those lost orders which have killed the original business plan.

A review of some of the F-35 challenges can be viewed here.

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


Anonymous said...

It should also be reminded, again, that said average unit cost estimates are only predicated on USAF eventually buying 70-80 units per year in FRP and 3,000+ total units eventually being produced!

With FY14 estimates still showing a PUC cost of $180m+ per unit (compared to about $90m for F-18E, eg), it will be surprising to see Congress actually funding 48 units by the end of LRIP, while heading into increasing austere budget environments, let alone fund 70+ units per year by the end of the decade. Good luck to that sustainability plan.

The hard cold fact is that F-35 procurement is NOT sustainable! F-35 procurement is NOT realistic as an option for many of the partners at anywhere close to the originally required numbers to recapitalize retiring legacy fleets!

Anonymous said...

USAF should have started supplementing reduced F-35 buys with new F-16 acquisition in the FY12 budget. This latest F-16V variant should now be part of an FY13 budget transfer add-on seeing that a larger than expected gap will exist due to larger than expected F-35 reduction in orders and delays.

And as Eric spells out very accurately for the medium-term and longer-term, the expected F-35 procurement plan will simply not be affordable nor a sustainable part of the tacair recapitalization Program.

Strategic planning should begin to see this finally and begin modifying contingency plans accordingly to augment recapitalization requirements.

Even if too little too late, the powers that be should begin to kick in any time now and accept reality of alternative recap strategies.

God speed.

Anonymous said...

Think about how much better off US TAC air would be if it had stuck with building the 400+ F22's and purchased the latest F-16V in numbers using a high low mix.

Canuck Fighter said...

Lessons from the past...being ignored today.

Battleland Blog
Building Weapons: Where 70% Trumps 100%

"...And it’s never really 100% versus 70%. The 100% solution inevitably expands to become a trouble-prone, late-to-need, over-engineered 120% or 130% system, if it delivers at all. Meanwhile, the restrained 70% solution elegantly lands in the 60% to 65% range, usually ahead of schedule, and goes on to make actual contributions in the field.

Most of the time, that’s exactly what we needed in the first place."

Canuck Fighter said...

I can't wait for the Canadian government to explain how they are going to afford 65 mistake jets at $135M a copy plus a $26M engine.

Anonymous said...

The GAO has just released the new SAR for 2012. This is hot on the heels of the new 2011 DOT&E report. Reading these 2 reports together it becomes obvious that the costs are spiraling out of control and will continue to do so. We are still 'early in flight test' (after 10+ years of SDD) and new discoveries are being made all the time. This is starting to get ugly and is likely unrecoverable.
Glad our leaders flushed plan B down the toilet.