U.S. Air Force Sticking to Plans to Buy 1,763 F-35 Jets (excerpt)
(Source: Reuters; published Nov 29, 2012)
NEW YORK --- The U.S. Air Force affirmed on Thursday its plans to buy 1,763 F-35 fighter jets built by Lockheed Martin Corp in coming years, as Lockheed and the government neared agreement on a multi-billion dollar contract for a fifth batch of planes.
Air Force Secretary Michael Donley told an investor conference that the service remained committed to the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter, which alone accounts for 15 percent of the service's annual investment spending, and had no plans to revise its projected purchase of 1,763 of the new radar-evading jets.
"I don't think there's any reason to revisit that anytime in the near future," Donley told the Credit Suisse conference, underscoring his support for the Pentagon's biggest weapons program.
He said it was not feasible to consider cutting orders or make other major changes to the $396 billion F-35 program, which has already been restructured three times in recent years to allow more time for technology development and to save money.
The Pentagon is looking closely at every aspect of its budget given mounting pressure to cut defense spending, and programs as large as the F-35 are always potential targets.
But Lockheed executives argue that the Defense Department has already reduced production of the new plane sharply from projected levels, cutting into the economies of scale that were supposed to make the new warplane more affordable.
Donley said he had heard proposals about cutting F-35 purchases to save money for other priorities, but said such ideas did not make sense at this point in the program.
"These are good theoretical discussions, but when you look at where we are in the program, it makes no sense to have these discussions until about 2025," Donley said. "There is nothing in the near-term about this program that will change; there is nothing that it will contribute to deficit reduction in the next ten years with the exception of its cancellation."
And cancellation of the program, he said, was something no one would recommend.
Donley said the U.S. government was "getting close" to an agreement with Lockheed about a fifth batch of F-35 jets. (end of excerpt)
Click here for the full story, on the Reuters website.
F-35 Purchase in Jeopardy with Upcoming KPMG Report on Full Cost of Fighter Jet (excerpt)
(Source: National Post; published Nov 29, 2012)
Before the House of Commons breaks for Christmas, KPMG’s review of the price tag for the F-35 fighter jets will be tabled in Parliament, breathing new life into Opposition claims of ballooning costs and Conservative mismanagement.
The report could sound the death knell for Canada’s involvement in the troubled project.
In the wake of a critical audit last spring by the Auditor-General, the accountancy firm was asked to give full-life-cycle costs for the F-35 – the all-in price of purchasing and operating the jets until 2052, not just the 20-year estimate the Department of National Defence provided.
The revised timeline will inevitably bloat the costs from the current $25-billion National Defence estimate.
Defence sources suggest that, were the same criteria applied to the widely admired $33-billion shipbuilding procurement process for the navy, costs for it would soar to over $100-billion.
As well, critics say, KPMG will not provide a comparator estimate for the F-35’s rivals, making it a “meaningless factoid,” in the words of one person familiar with the process.
Regardless, the impending arrival of a headline number several billion dollars higher than National Defence’s estimate has already set off a turf war within government between Defence officials and Public Works employees, who now run the fighter jet procurement process – not to mention their respective ministries.
In the eyes of National Defence, Public Works is already engaged in a butt-covering exercise by launching a “market analysis” of what alternatives exist to purchasing the F-35s.
As the National Post revealed last week, the Harper government is set to ask rival manufacturers about the cost and availability of their fighter jets.
That information will then be set against a risk analysis — weighing mission and capability requirements — to present to Rona Ambrose, the Public Works minister, and Peter MacKay, the Defence minister.
The current statement of requirement (SOR), which demanded the replacement for the current fleet of CF18s have stealth capability, will be “set aside,” according to Ms. Ambrose, while the options analysis is being undertaken.
However, in the House of Commons Tuesday, she let slip that the existing statement of requirement is not being set aside entirely — a bad omen for proponents of the F-35. (end of excerpt)
Click here for the full story, on the National Post website.