posted on Jul, 5 2011 @ 09:46 AM
As you all know, the F-35 project was created on the 26th October 2001, when Lockheed Martin won the Joint Strike Fighter competition, beating rivals
Boeing with their X-32.
The aim of the competition, and subsequent contracts, was simple - replace the current disparate families of aircraft operated by the US Navy, US
Airforce and US Marine Corp with one single, maintenance friendly family of aircraft.
The aircraft was to replace the F-16, F/A-18C/D and E/F, the Harrier II, and the A-10, and also be exportable to other countries in an export-friendly
The original commitment from the US DoD was for the purchase of 2,443 aircraft, with the price point of $30M set when the JSF project was initiated in
1996, and even then the project cost was raising eyebrows, with warnings that commitments to numbers would have to be cut if the per-unit cost rose
much above the planned price. However, when Lockheed won the contract, the per-unit cost of the F-35 was set at an average of $69M, well above the
1996 price - but the argument was made that the aircraft was more capable, and the commitment to the purchase stood.
Last year, the GAO revealed that the F-35s per unit cost had doubled in real terms, from $69M per aircraft to just over $138M on average, leaving the
DoD with a bill of $340B for their commitment. Quite an increase, and one which has put Lockheed on notice.
Lockheed only survived an outright program cancellation under US law (Nunn-McCurdy provision) by replacing a high level oversight officer from the
DoD, otherwise they would have fallen foul of the 25% increase cap.
In April 2011, a report was leaked which suggested that the per unit cost of each F-35 variant was as follows:
F-35A - $111M
F-35B - $109M
F-35C - $142M
Excluding engine costs, which are $15M for the A and C versions, and $32M for the B version.
And the cost is still rising - Lockheeds prices for the Lot 5 buy are $6M higher per unit than that for Lot 4.
With the F-35B being put on a 2 year probation in 2010, and the USMC shifting some of its F-35B purchases to F-35C models, as well as various
international buyers reducing their buys or suspending their purchases altogether, the F-35 project as a whole is in hot water.
A figure worth noting is that the F-35 project is already at forecasted double the cost of the entire F-22 Raptor programme, including that aircrafts
187 unit total purchase. The JSF is turning out to be one expensive aircraft.
Attributions: Facts and figures for this post was taken from various sources on the internet, including the GAO, DoD and Lockheed. However, it was
an article in this months Airforces Monthly that led me to write this post, and as such this post bears some similarity to that article.