Military


F-35 Joint Strike Fighter (JSF) Lightning II Program

Lieutenant General Chris Bogdan, who runs the F-35 program for the Pentagon, gave new estimates for the future cost of the jet at a US House of Representatives hearing 16 February 2017. In late January 2017, the Pentagon agreed to a deal for the tenth batch of the fighter aircraft at below $95 million per jet for the first time, compared with $102 million in the previous purchase. The unit cost of Lockheed Martin Corp's F-35 stealth fighter jet could fall 16 percent to around $80 million in future purchases.

Lockheed Martin trimmed about $600 million in cost from its next Pentagon contract for F-35 fighter jets, Trump said 30 January 2017, telling reporters that the program is now “in great shape." Trump said the savings applied to the next lot of 90 planes, which the two sides had been negotiating for months. “I appreciate Lockheed Martin for being so responsive," he said. Trump said, “We’ve ended all of that. We’ve got that program really, really now in great shape."

In a statement, Lockheed said: “We appreciate President Trump’s comments this morning on the positive progress we’ve made on the F-35 program. We share his commitment to delivering this critical capability for our men and women in uniform at the lowest possible cost to taxpayers."

Richard Aboulafia, a military aircraft analyst with the Teal Group, scoffed at the idea that Trump had anything to do with the cost reduction. He told the Fort Worth Star Telegram there had been an F-35 budget plan in place for years and the only difference is that Trump is now taking credit for it. “Heaven help us if Trump actually believes that nonsense," Aboulafia said. “He is taking credit for something that has been in the works for quite some time."

US President-elect Donald Trump tweeted on 12 December 2016 that the cost of F-35 fighter plane is too high, saying the "program and cost is out of control." Trump wrote on Twitter "The F-35 program and cost is out of control. Billions of dollars can and will be saved on military (and other) purchases after January 20th". Lockheed Martin builds the F-35. The market value of Lockheed Martin dropped 4 billion dollars in early trading after Trump's tweet. F-35's cost had risen to 400 billion dollars to produce 2,457 planes -- nearly twice the estimated cost, according to a CNN report in 2016. More than 1,000 planes were to have been delivered by 2016, but only 179 had been sent as of April 2016.

"Based on the tremendous cost and cost overruns of the Lockheed Martin F-35, I have asked Boeing to price-out a comparable F-18 Super Hornet!" the president-elect tweeted 22 December 2016. But the F/A-18E/F model lacks stealth and other high-tech capabilities of the F-35. There is no "comparable" F/A-18 in terms of stealth and electronics capability.

Trump’s comments were “bizarre," Richard Aboulafia, a military aircraft analyst with the Teal Group, said. “The Navy remains the only U.S. customer for the Super Hornet, while the Marines are completely dependent on F-35Bs and the Air Force is sticking with the F-35A," he said. “Thus, Trump’s tweet is both late to the game and completely irrelevant.... this very strange tweet was based on events that have long been decided and has no impact on events moving forward...."

Conceivably, this "switch" could end the Navy's buy of 340 F-35Cs. However, it could also increase cost on the remaining models and force other buyers to reconsider purchases and collapse the program. Luke Coffey, a former special adviser to UK defence secretary Liam Fox, told The Sun: "If the US cancels the STOVL variant of F-35, it would be an absolute betrayal of the US-UK Special Relationship."

Lockheed Martin's CEO gave President-elect Donald Trump her "personal commitment" to cut the cost of the F-35 fighter. Marillyn Hewson said : "I had a very good conversation with President-elect Trump this afternoon and assured thim that I've heard his message loud and clear about reducing the cost of the F-35. I gave him my personal commitment to drive the cost down aggressively. I know that President-elect Trump wants the very best capability for our military at the lowest cost for taxpayers, and we're ready to deliver!"

Trump said during a press conference on 11 January 2017 he will work to lower the cost of the most expensive weapons program in US history, the F-35 combat jet program. "[The F-35 program] is way, way behind schedule and many, many billions of dollars over budget," Trump said of the jet produced by US defense contractor Lockheed Martin. "We’re going to get those costs way down, we’re going to get the plane to be even better and we’re going to have some competition."

Pierre Sprey, arch-deacon of "Fighter Mafia" that produced the F-16 design, called the F-35 a "hopelessly ineffective airplane," saying, "I applaud what Trump said. It was entirely correct, it’s been true for years. Whether he can deliver on that remains to be seen. The military industrial complex has enormous power to keep the money flowing, but we will see." Sprey pointed out that just the purchase price of the jets will cost American taxpayers some $400 billion, and that by the end of the F-35’s lifespan the program will have cost an estimated $1.5 trillion.

"I would suspect that he has some advisors that know something about defense and the F-35 has been the leading scandal in the entire defense budget for 10 years." Sprey stated 01 January 2017. “Remember, this is the world’s largest military procurement program ever. Completely dwarfs the development of the atomic bomb, the development of intercontinental missiles, nothing has ever cost as much."

"It’s lot of money for something that not only doesn’t work, but actually harms American airpower." Sprey detailed, "For every F-35 you buy, you’re foregoing the opportunity to upgrade and refurbish existing fighters that work far better right now than the F-35 will ever work. You could upgrade five fighters for every F-35 you buy."

The Lockheed Martin F-35 Joint Strike Fighter program is vital to maintain US and allied air superiority, Secretary of Defense nominee Gen. James Mattis said in confirmation hearings before the US Senate on 12 January 2017. “The F-35 is critical for our own air superiority, because of its electronics capability inherent to the airplane, which magnifies each individual aircraft's capability," Mattis told the Senate Armed Services Committee. “It is equally important and more so to our allies, because this will be the total strength of their Air Force.... Many of our allies have bet their security on the F-35," he said.

Defense Secretary Jim Mattis directed 26 January 2017 reviews of the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter program and the Presidential Aircraft Recapitalization program. Pentagon spokesman Navy Capt. Jeff Davis said the purpose of the reviews is “to inform programmatic and budgetary decisions, recognizing the critical importance of each of these acquisition programs."

US Secretary of Defense James Mattis sent two memoranda for Deputy Defense Secretary Robert Work to review the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter program to "determine opportunities to significantly reduce the cost of the F-35 program while meeting requirements," according to RT's Viktor Astafyev. Mattis also directed Work to compare the capabilities and costs of the stealthy F-35 fighter jet to the F/A-18E/F Super Hornet, to determine what improvements can be made "to provide a competitive, cost effective, fighter aircraft alternative."

The cost of the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter program will be reduced by some $600 million, Donald Trump said in a press conference at the Oval Office on 30 January 2017. "We are cutting prices…$600 million off F-35 fighter, and that only amounts to 19 planes," Trump stated. Trump noted he appreciated that Lockheed Martin, the US defense contractor in charge of the F-35 program, was responsive on the issue of cutting costs. Trump further said that another defense contractor, Boeing, will be competing for delivery of other aircraft from the order. "I appreciate Boeing for coming in and competing… Now they will be competing during the process for the rest of the planes," Trump added.

1996-2003

F-35/JSF production totals have been suggested to more likely be in the 2,000-3,000 aircraft range than the 4,000-5,000 or 6,000 sometimes cited. Foreign partners have expressed intent to buy about 700 aircraft between 2012 and 2015, but no formal agreements had been signed as of early 2005. In 1996 the program included 2,978 aircraft for the US: 2,036 for the Air Force, 642 for the Marines, 300 for the US Navy, as well as another 60 for the Royal Navy. The May 1997 QDR reduced procurement for the US to 2,852: 1,763 for the Air Force, 609 for the Marines, and up to 480 for the Navy. The 1997 QDR noted that up to 230 of the Navy's 480 JSFs could be replaced by F/A-18E/Fs, depending on the progress of the JSF program and the price of its Navy variant compared to the F/A-18E/F.

As of 2001 the first operational Joint Strike Fighter, re-designated as the F-35, was scheduled for delivery in FY08. A total of 2,852 planes were scheduled for delivery starting in 2008 for the US Air Force, Navy, Marine Corps, and a small number to the British Royal Navy. Other nations interested in participating in the program included the Netherlands, Belgium and Norway. The requirements of 1,763 strike fighters for the Air Force, 609 for the Marine Corps and 480 for the Navy had held steady since the 1997 Quadrennial Defense Review.

As of 2001 program estimates pegged the recurring JSF unit flyaway costs at $37 million for the Air Force conventional takeoff and landing variant, $46 million for the Marine Corps short takeoff vertical landing variant and $48 million for the Navy carrier version, in 2002 dollars.

As of late March 2002 the Pentagon was reviewing a proposal to cut JSF production by 400 aircraft and limit the Navy's F/A-18E/F acquisition to 460 aircraft versus 548. The JSF reductions, which could be split about equally between the Marine Corps STOVL and the Navy's carrier versions, would reduce the total buy to about 2,600.

In April 2002 the Navy, concerned that it could not afford the number of tactical aircraft it planned to purchase, reduced the number of JSF aircraft for joint Navy and Marine Corps operations from 1,089 to 680 by reducing the number of backup aircraft needed. News reports in 2002 indicated that the proposed reduction would cut 259 jets from the Marine Corps buy, and 50 from the Navy purchase, resulting in a total F-35B buy of 350.

The Pentagon requested $3.4 billion for JSF development in FY03, up from $1.5 billion in FY2002. At that time the planned budget was $3.8 billion in FY04, $5.7 billion in FY05 and $5.7 billion in FY06.

As of early 2003 the Air Force was tentatively scheduled to receive its first F-35 in 2008, but initial operational capability (IOC) for the service was set for 2011. The US Navy, along with the Royal Navy and Royal Air Force, was scheduled for a 2012 IOC. The Marine Corps, with an IOC planned for 2010, would be the first of the military services to operate a fleet of F-35s.

By the end of 2003 it appeared that the cost of developing the Joint Strike Fighter could increase by as much as $5 billion, to $38 billion, and the project could fall more than a year behind schedule. The increase would be mostly because of the higher-than-expected cost of developing parts of the technology and the addition of new capabilities for the fighter jet. Part of the additional cost would be to add anti-tampering technology to the plane, which would prevent foreign buyers from replicating sensitive systems. That could add $1 billion to $2 billion to the program's budget. The proposed increase would also put aside more money for unforeseen changes in design requested by the military or for development problems. The Joint Strike Fighter was expected to be the largest weapons program in Pentagon history, ultimately costing nearly $200 billion. The first fighter was expected to enter service in 2008.




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