F-35 Lightning II
The average unit production cost (APUC) for the F-35 is now predicted to be as high as $112 million in current dollars, according to a Pentagon review of the program conducted later last year, which led to a restructuring of the program. The APUC estimate does not amortize the cost of system design and development (SDD). That cost has now risen by $3.2 billion, to $53.2 billion.
If Lockheed Martin is to be believed, there’s not much wrong with the F-35 program. In a briefing here yesterday, vice president F-35 business development Steve O’Bryan stuck doggedly to the company mantra that development is moving right along, with plenty of accomplishments despite the slow pace of flight testing.
Confirmation of the serious problems in the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter development came yesterday when U.S. Secretary of Defense Robert Gates dramatically fired the Marine general running the program. Maj. Gen. David Heinz, the program executive officer, took the blame for the delays and cost increases that have mounted in recent months. Gates also withheld $614 million in performance fees from prime contractor Lockheed Martin.
Continued tensions in the Far East and southern Asia are ensuring that the region remains a major sales battleground for the world’s fighter houses. At stake is the sale of several hundred new combat aircraft in the coming years as air arms seek to modernize their forces or, in the case of countries such as Japan and Singapore, stay ahead of the regional threat.
Japan’s Defense Ministry is preparing to select the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter to replace its aging F-4EJ feet. The plan to about acquire 40 F-35s, estimated to cost about ¥9 billion (US$91 million) each, is likely to be included in new defense policy guidelines to be adopted this month.
Another airshow, another photo opportunity with the F-35 partner nations. Lockheed Martin assembled this group of representatives from the nine countries that are part of the program here yesterday. They all received a newly minted coin mounted in a plaque.
Israel intends to order 25 Lockheed Martin F-35 fifth-generation fighters, with an option for 50 more. If it wants them quickly, as expected, the news could help some other international partners in the Joint Strike Fighter program.
Vision Systems International, a joint venture between Elbit Systems and Rockwell Collins, has received a $54.1 million contract to begin production of Gen II helmet-mounted display systems for the F-35 Lightning II. Lockheed Martin awarded VSI the contract to deliver 52 displays and 30 aircraft shipsets. These HMDS components cover the requirements for Lots 1, 2 and 3 of F-35 low-rate initial production.
Never forgetting who it is working for, Lockheed Martin Aeronautics has stepped up a gear in its mission to reduce the costs of operating aging aircraft and weapons systems, as countries strive to cope with deflating economies. Its solution is what it calls global sustainment.