Apr 21, 2014

F-35 Program Manager: More Buyers Needed to Help Lower Production Costs

The Pentagon released new cost estimates for 78 major weapon systems that has a mix of good and bad news for the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter. While the long-term costs of the program are slightly down, production expenses have increased.
The only bright spot in the report is that F-35 operations and support costs — the cost of operating the entire fleet of 2,443 U.S. aircraft through 2065 — dropped nearly 9 percent. But acquisition costs from 2012 to 2013 increased about 2 percent. Aircraft production costs increased 1 percent. The F-35 engine costs climbed6.7 percent.
The F-35 program includes 1,763 F-35A models for the Air Force, 340 F-35Bs for the Marine Corps and 340 F-35Cs for the Navy. Several hundred are being bought by foreign allies.
The surest way to lower cost, he said, is to bring in more foreign buyers into the program. There are orders of 40 F-35s by South Korea and 19 F-35 for Israel. Another potential customer is Japan, which has a fleet of about 200 F-15s, half of which have been modernized. About 30 percent of F-35 components are made outside the United States, which exposes U.S. aircraft buys to fluctuations in foreign currency rates.
High-rate production is scheduled to start in 2018, when 154 airplanes (90 for the United States) would be built. By 2019, production would rise to 168, of which 96 would be for the United States.

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