Recent Statements by F-35 Program Chief Strains Credibility
(Source: Defense-Aerospace.com; published March 12, 2014)
By Giovanni de Briganti
PARIS --- In recent public statements, US Air Force Lieutenant General Christopher Bogdan, head of the F-35 Joint Program Office, has stretched the credibility he had built up when he was first appointed in December 2012.
At the time, Bogdan’s strongly skeptical statements about prime contractor Lockheed-Martin and about previous program management methods were greeted with relief as observers welcomed an apparently realistic approach to the troubled program.
Bogdan, however, has recently made supportive statements that appear at odds with the public knowledge of the program, and that seem far more optimistic than those of other senior Pentagon officials. Most recently, Bogdan told Australian reporters in Canberra, Australia, that “The cost of an F-35A in 2019 will be somewhere between $80 and $85 million, with an engine, with profit, with inflation,” according to Bloomberg News (see following story).
These figures are difficult to reconcile with the most recent contract prices, which largely exceed $200 million, and US Air Force budget documents
, which estimate that F-35A aircraft ordered in FY2019 will have a Flyaway Unit Cost (FUC) of $97.1 million, plus the cost of the F135 which is procured separately and costs about $25 million.
Total FUC cost is thus at least $122 million, or about twice that quoted by Bogdan. They also are much lower than the prices quoted by the JPO on Sept. 27, 2013, and which set LRIP 6 aircraft (F-35A CTOL) unit cost at $103 million, and LRIP 7 aircraft at $98 million, again without engines.
JPO spokesman Joe DellaVedova confirmed Bogdan’s figures in an e-mailed statement, adding that “The number [he] quoted is an affordability initiative we're working on with our industry partners.”
He added that “Don't know if ‘contradiction’ is the right word to use or how you did the math or what is included in a FUC ... but the reality is we've been buying aircraft at a lower cost than what are in budget estimates” such as the FUC figures quoted above.
“For example, in LRIP 7 (buy year 2013, delivery 2015), we negotiated with LM the price of $98 million for an air vehicle and we fully expect to negotiate a lower price in LRIP 8 and a lower price in LRIP 9,” he said.
The $98 million cost quoted by DellaVedova is $28.8 million lower than the $126.8 million budgeted by the US Air Force for LRIP 7 aircraft, implying that the JPO was able to negotiate a reduction of 22% in the price of F-35A fighters.
Bogdan also made some extremely surprising statements at an industry conference in Washington last week, and which include claims that directly contradict the Pentagon’s OT&E report. Bogdan’s further statements are analyzed in the bottom item of this page.
Such significant departures from documented fact raise serious questions about Bogdan’s credibility, as well as other questions about what caused his remarkable U-turn in the way he speaks of Lockheed Martin and the program’s progress. (ends)
F-35s to Sell for as Low as $80 Million in 2019, Pentagon Says (excerpt)
(Source: Bloomberg News; published March 11, 2014)
F-35 fighter jets will sell for as little as $80 million in five years, according to the Pentagon official running the program.
“The cost of an F-35A in 2019 will be somewhere between $80 and $85 million, with an engine, with profit, with inflation,” U.S. Air Force Lieutenant General Christopher Bogdan, the Pentagon’s manager of the program, told reporters in Canberra today. “The important thing about that is when you can start offering a fifth-generation airplane that rivals fourth-generation prices, you’ve got a pretty good airplane.”
Australia, Japan and Israel are among nations that have placed orders for Lockheed Martin Corp.’s F-35, the Pentagon’s most expensive weapon system, which has been beset by rising costs and technical troubles, including jittery images in the pilot’s helmet. The Pentagon has repeatedly questioned the plane’s progress, finding in January that the fighter wasn’t sufficiently reliable in training flights last year and its complex software system was causing difficulties. (end of excerpt)
Click here for the full story, on the Bloomberg BusinessWeek website.
General Bogdan's Fables
(Source: WarIsARacket.org; posted March 10, 2014)
Air Force Lt. Gen. Christopher C. Bogdan, F-35 program executive officer, recently spoke to an audience at Aviation Week’s Defense Technologies and Requirements Conference. His remarks were reported by the Pentagon in a press release on March 6.
Let's look at what the general said about the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter (JSF) and compare it with the facts.
Progress remains steady in the F-35 Lightning II joint strike fighter’s operational testing, reprogramming, fueling, and stand-up training. The developmental test program is 50 percent complete for 28 F-35s, Bogdan said. . .developmental testing completion in November 2015.
--The JSF program is currently in the system development and demonstration (SDD) phase which is scheduled for completion in April 2019, not 2015.
--Operational testing won't start until 2016 at the earliest.
--Reprogramming has certainly been a feature of the JSF program. Development testing which should have been completed long ago is only fifty percent completed, with the most difficult tests to come.
--Training with about thirty aircraft is now taking place at Eglin AFB and other bases, years ahead of a full production decision.
--"The developmental test program is 50 percent complete for 28 F-35s" makes absolutely no sense.
--RDT&E are budgeted at $1.8B this fiscal year and $1.6B in FY2015, so there is a lot of development and testing to do. The carrier variant can't land on a carrier, for one thing.
Interim capability currently allows the F-35s to survey the battle space, absorb information and give the department a clear picture from an individual perspective, the general said.
Actually, no. The Distributed Aperture System (comprising six infra-red cameras covering an entire sphere around the aircraft, and intended to track aircraft and missiles while delivering imagery to the helmet) has failed in its most basic function as a missile warning system, being unable to tell missiles from decoy flares. Electronic warfare antenna performance of the first three production lots of aircraft was not meeting contract specification requirements. Poorly designed connectors created signal distortion in the six antenna apertures embedded in the aircraft. (end of excerpt)
Click here for the full story, on the WarIsARacket website