The Joint Strike Fighter (JSF) Program remains on track and continues to make good progress.
By the end of February this year all nine JSF Partner countries had signed up for the Production Sustainment and Follow-on Development (PSFD) phase of the Program – a major vote of confidence based on four years of good progress and detailed analysis.
Some media reporting today fails to show a proper understanding of costs associated with the JSF.
The JSF is a fifth generation, stealthy, multi-role, single-seat, single-engine fighter aircraft intended to set new benchmarks in affordability and supportability for a high-performance stealth aircraft.
Defence has always been careful to point out that the total project cost for the New Air Combat Capability project will be higher than the sum of flyaway costs for individual JSF aircraft.
The estimated average flyaway cost for Australia's JSF aircraft is currently estimated to be about $A80 million. Total project costs, however, will also include the acquisition of facilities, spares, initial training, support systems and weapons.
Typically the cost of these broader project elements adds about 50 per cent over the cost of the acquisition of aircraft, providing an approximate per aircraft total cost of around $A120 million.
For a fleet of 100 aircraft this would mean a total project cost of around $A12 billion which is well within the project cost published in the 2007 Defence Capability Plan of $A11.5 to $A15.5 billion.
The specific numbers used here are for illustrative purposes only.
The New Air Combat Capability project team is conducting very detailed analysis of costs leading up to a Second Pass decision on the JSF in late 2008.
Beyond the acquisition project costs will also be a range of through-life costs which include ongoing spares, personnel costs, fuel, ammunition, software upgrades and maintenance costs. These will be funded by Defence operating costs.
Ongoing analysis to date reaffirms that the JSF will mature to provide the capability Australia needs and can be afforded within the original 2000 White Paper budget provisions. (ends)
(EDITOR’S NOTE: This is the first time that the Australian DoD has acknowledged that the total cost of the JSF it is planning to buy will be higher than the A$70-80 million per aircraft. The admission comes after a very critical article published over the week-end by The Age newspaper.)