PARIS --- Hearings before Congressional committees in Washington have brought to light many aspects of the F-35 program, including costs, very low availability and Intellectual Property issues that constrain maintenance, that are normally kept under wraps by the main contractor and the Joint Program Office that runs the program on behalf of the Pentagon and foreign buyers.
Many of the revelations brought to light during hearings by the House Armed Services Tactical Air and Land subcommittee are the latest iterations of long-standing problems that are routinely denied or ignored in public, but which offer a glimpse of the wide range of problems still facing the program.
Posted below is our selection of news stories produced from the hearings. The prepared testimony for the hearings, as well as video footage, can be downloaded here, on the committee’s website.
U.S. Navy Vexed by Lack of Access to F-35 Logistics Coding
(Source: FlightGlobal.com; posted March 08, 2018)
By Garrett Reim
LOS ANGELES --- The U.S. Navy remains frustrated by its inability to connect the F-35’s logistics software with the other logistics software programs it uses.
Efforts to integrate the F-35’s Autonomic Logistics Information System (ALIS) with the Navy’s other internal logistics systems is thwarted by developer Lockheed Martin’s insistence that the software code is proprietary, said Vice Admiral Paul Grosklags in a hearing before the Senate Armed Services Committee on Navy and Marine Corps Aviation Programs on 6 March.
“It is certainly our desire and our plan to interface ALIS with the rest of our naval aviation sustainment systems, (such as) DECKPLATE, AMSRR; those types of things we use for all of our other types of aircraft,” he said in the hearing.
“One of our challenges right now, quite honestly, is the government gaining insight into the coding within ALIS. Right now, much of that is held as proprietary. We have very little, limited rights and access to the data coming out of ALIS.” (end of excerpt)
F-35 Development and Support to Cost $1 Billion Annually
(Source: FlightGlobal.com; posted March 08, 2018)
By Garrett Reim
LOS ANGELES --- The Joint Program Office (JPO) estimates that continued development of the F-35 to deal with evolving threats and changing warfighting environments will cost the U.S. government more than $1 billion a year between 2018 and 2024.
The figure came to light during testimony from Vice Admiral Mathias Winter to the U.S. House Armed Services Committee on 7 March.
In total, JPO estimates that continuous capability development and delivery (C2D2) of the F-35 will cost $16.4 billion over that seven-year time period, with some $11 billion going toward development and $5.4 billion toward procurement.
Vice Admiral Winter, who leads JPO, said development costs will be shared with U.S. allies, leaving the Department of Defense on the hook for $7.2 billion.
U.S. Rep. Nicola Tsongas said she requested the estimate from JPO after not being able to pin down an official baseline cost for the program. (end of excerpt)
Lawmakers Quiz Military Aviation Leadership About F-35 Costs
(Source: US Naval Institute News; posted March 7, 2018)
By Ben Werner
WASHINGTON, D.C. --- Military leaders spent two days on Capitol Hill outlining the F-35 Lightning II Joint Strike Fighter program to lawmakers skeptical about the jet’s costs.
“We understand that the F-35 program needs to reduce F-35 operations and supports costs by about one-third to meet service budget goals for affordability,” said Rep. Mike Turner (R-Ohio) on Wednesday.
Turner, the chair of the House Armed Services subcommittee on tactical air and land Forces, summarized the mood of lawmakers from both sides of the aisle and from both chambers of Congress.
On Tuesday, members of the Senate Armed Services subcommittee on seapower quizzed Navy and Marine Corps aviation leaders about the cost of building and maintaining the F-35.
“Why is the F-35 so expensive to keep flying?” asked Sen. Angus King (I-Maine).
A lot of the parts of that aircraft are very expensive. If there a component fails or parts need replacing, the Pentagon has to go to the manufacturer to create new parts. Funding for a components and parts replacement program was included in the pending FY2019 budget, said Vice Adm. Paul Grosklags, the Navy’s commander of Naval Air Systems Command.
In a few situations, a part could be covered by a warranty, but Grosklags said for the most part, the Pentagon’s ability to negotiate warranties is limited by congressional language dating back several years. (end of excerpt)
F-35 Program Faces Critical Year of Tests, Transition
(Source: Stars and Stripes; published March 7, 2018)
By Claudia Grisales
WASHINGTON --- The F-35 program, the Pentagon’s most expensive weapon ever, will face a series of critical tests this year.
After 17 years of costly development and engineering efforts, the program will enter into an operational test period this fall.
The F-35 will complete its baseline development program by May of this year, and then enter an operational test period phase in September, said Rep. Mike Turner, R-Ohio, a senior member of the House Armed Services Committee.
This, after the F-35 program completed developmental weapons testing, and the deliveries of F-35s to U.S. and foreign military services.
“Last year marked several notable accomplishments for the F-35 program,” said Turner, chairman of the House Armed Services supbanel on tactical air and land forces. “But the F-35 program continues to face challenges ahead.”
Among those, said Rep. Niki Tsongas, D-Mass., a ranking member of the subpanel, is the development of new, related software technology that could lead to more financial headaches.
“The F35 program has come a long way,” Tsongas said. However, “the last 17 years of F-35 software development have seen dramatic cost increase and delays. How this new effort will somehow defy this unfortunate history remains an open question.” (end of excerpt)
U.S. F-35 Fighter Modernization Could Cost $16 Billion Through 2024
(Source: Reuters; published March 8, 2018)
By Mike Stone
WASHINGTON --- The Pentagon estimates it will cost nearly $16 billion to modernize the fleet of F-35 jets through 2024, a U.S. lawmaker said on Wednesday, citing information provided by the Pentagon on the stealth fighter jet program.
Modernization costs would be split between $10.8 billion for software development and $5.4 billion for deploying the updates and other procurement in support of the modernization efforts, Representative Niki Tsongas said at a hearing of a subcommittee of the House of Representatives Armed Services Committee, citing the information provided by the Pentagon.
Vice Admiral Mathias Winter, the head of the F-35 Joint Program Office which administers the program, provided some detail on the modernization program.
The nearly $16 billion figure represented the outer limit of the modernization costs to bring all of the jets to their maximum potential currently known as “Block 4,” Winter told reporters after the hearing. The Pentagon was uncertain all F-35s would necessarily need to undergo this level of modernization.
International customers were estimated to be responsible for $3.7 billion of the $10.8 billion software development costs, with the United States shouldering the rest, spending about $1 billion per year over the seven-year plan, Winter said. (end of excerpt)
Air Force F-35 Fleet Facing Low Availability, Logistics Limitations
(Source: Air Force Magazine; posted March 07, 2018)
By Brian Everstine
The bulk of the Air Force’s F-35A fleet is on an older software suite and is mission capable less than half the time, as the service works to catch up on its maintenance and sustainment, a senior USAF official told Congress Wednesday.
Out of the Air Force’s 130 total F-35As, 100 are on the older Block 2B software suite and have a mission capable rate in the “low 40” percent, Lt. Gen. Jerry Harris, the deputy chief of staff for strategic plans, programs, and requirements said at a House Armed Services Tactical Air and Land subcommittee hearing. The rest are in the upgraded Block 3I and 3F software suites, with these running a mission capable rate in the “60 to 70” percentage range, Harris said.
At the same time, the Air Force is still facing issues with the F-35’s Autonomic Logistics Integration System – a series of servers that gather flight information of F-35s and automatically orders parts and maintenance actions. The Air Force knew at the outset of the program that ALIS would have shortfalls and would need to be upgraded, but these upgrades are proving to be “longer and more manpower intense” than expected, Harris said.
The Air Force is in the middle of an in-depth study of ALIS and its shortfalls, which should be completed by the end of the year, he said.
The service was also late in standing up depots for the F-35, which in turn has led to slowdowns and issues in fixing jets and refurbishing parts, at times going back to the manufacturer to make new parts, Harris said.
All of this has not only limited the mission capability rate of the F-35A fleet, but also has led to a hefty price tag. F-35As currently cost about $50,000 per flight hour, varied by which software suite and if the jet is operational or in a training location. (end of excerpt).