09 May 2022

So Not a Surprise

It turns out that as expensive as the F-35 JSF is to buy, it is even more expensive to operate.

This is not a surprise.  Lockheed designed the aircraft to be a roach motel where countries get in, but they can never get out.

It's a feature, not a bug:

Under current estimates, the U.S. Air Force will reach a tipping point where projected F-35 sustainment costs become too expensive, forcing the service to either cut its planned buy of the Lockheed Martin-made jet or drastically reduce flying hours, the Government Accountability Office found in a new report.

As the Air Force, Navy and Marine Corps’ F-35 operations reach their peak in 2036, it will be exponentially difficult for the services to afford sustaining the F-35 if the cost per tail remains at current estimates, the GAO said in a July 7 report. Cost per tail per year is the measurement the Pentagon uses to measure how much money it takes to sustain a single aircraft annually.

Specifically, the Defense Department will face a $6 billion gap in 2036 between the actual cost of sustaining the services’ F-35s and the cost the services can afford, the GAO said.


Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. C.Q. Brown has already signaled that the service may be willing to cut the F-35A program of record and buy a less expensive “fourth-gen plus” fighter to replace some of its oldest F-16s, which were originally slated to be replaced by the F-35.

Careful, General Brown.  You may end up losing your cushy post-retirement job for comments like that.


Sustainment activities — which include maintaining the jet, the manpower needed to support the aircraft, fuel and training munitions costs, support equipment, certain costs associated with training, and other expenses — make up a whopping $1.3 trillion of F-35 lifecycle costs.

It should be noted that more than any other system in the US military, the JSF is designed in a way that the military must rely on contractors, Lockheed-Martin, to support the aircraft.

Using military resources to do this actually violates the "Terms of Service" for the aircraft.

The $1.3 trillion sustainment estimate reflects an increase of more than $150 billion since the program was re-baselined in 2012, and there are signs sustainment expenses could continue to grow, the GAO said.


The stakeholders of the F-35 program—which include the F-35 joint program office, the services and prime contractor Lockheed Martin — have “unique and differing perspectives on affordability,” which ultimately make it difficult to develop a shared plan for cutting sustainment costs, the GAO said.

I can tell you what Lockheed said, "F%$3# you, pay me."

For example, Air Force officials have noted that, even if it could somehow obtain all spare parts for its F-35 fleet for free, F-35 sustainment costs would still exceed affordability targets by 14 percent. Further, officials told the GAO that there is “little room left for the program to make significant sustainment-related cost reductions” because its design and maintenance plan have already been set in stone.

That is not good.


Officials from the Pentagon’s acquisition and sustainment office noted that the F-35 program could cut sustainment costs by transitioning additional contractor-performed maintenance to military maintenance personnel.

Only, as I stated above, the terms of the contract probably forbid this.


“There’s no question that everyone involved ― certainly Lockheed Martin ― could be doing a better job on getting sustainment costs down,” said House Armed Services Committee chairman Adam Smith, D-Wash., during a roundtable with reporters last month. “The sustainment costs ― and it varies, I understand they’re as high as $38,000 an hour, and that is incredibly expensive ― it’ll make the plane so that you don’t really want to operate it any more than you absolutely have to.”

By way of comparison the twin engine twin seat F-15EX, which the USAF will purchase to save money, only costs $27,000 .00 per hour to operate.  (It's better than the staggering 68 Grand per hour for the F-22)

War, is a racket.


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