WASHINGTON --- Two top Pentagon officials laid out a multi-pronged push to lower the price of the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter below $80 million apiece. The chief of the F-35 Joint Program Office, Lt. Gen. Chris Bogdan, and the director of defense pricing, Shay Assad, are underwhelmed by contractor Lockheed Martin’s cost reduction efforts so far. Instead, they said, contractors need to invest more of their own money in reducing cost — with suitable incentives from the government — and streamline the byzantine supply chain.
Meanwhile on the government side, under President Trump’s orders, Defense Secretary Jim Mattis is reviewing both how to reduce the cost of F-35 overall and whether to replace some of the Navy F-35C variants with cheaper but less stealthy Boeing F/A-18E/F Super Hornets.
“The F-35C model vs the F-18 (review), that’s drawing nearer to end but it’s not over yet,” Bogdan said. He’s submitted data on the F-35’s current and projected performance, cost to procure, and cost to operate, he said, which is now being reviewed against Super Hornet data provided by the Navy.
“I don’t think the answer is an either/or,” Bogdan said. “You can’t substitute a Super Hornet for an F-35C in the high-end fight (i.e. against Russian or Chinese radars and anti-aircraft missiles). You might be able to afford more Super Hornets, but they’re going to die in the high-end fight, and I don’t know how economical that is.” But, Bogdan continued, “we’re not only go to fight a high-end fight.” There are plenty of operations in lower-threat environments where the Super Hornet is perfectly suitable, he said, and with its current fighter shortfall, the Navy needs as many planes as it can get.
Speaking separately but largely in synch at the McAleese/Credit Suisse conference here, Bogdan and Assad laid out a multi-pronged approach to cut the stealth fighter’s cost. The previous price goal was to get the cost of the basic F-35A down from $95 million in the latest contract to $80 to $85 million by 2019. Today, said Bogdan, “the new goal we’ve set is that in 2020, an A-model airplane — with engine, in 2020 dollars — is going to be below $80 million.” (The Air Force F-35A is the simplest of the three variants). He also wants to reduce the cost to fuel and maintain the aircraft, its Cost Per Flight Hour, by about a third. (end of excerpt)
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