JSF Buy Shrinks If Costs Grow

JSF Buy Shrinks If Costs Grow

No one at the Pentagon has been willing to say the Joint Strike Fighter buy might get smaller until now. But Robert Hale, the comptroller and thus the main money man, made it explicit today. “If there is cost growth, I think we will just have to reduce the buy,” he said at the annual Precision Strike Association conference.

Hale was responding to a reporter’s question and did not raise the issue himself. He was asked if the F-35 cost growth was completely under control. He noted that the JET estimates are 50 percent reliable — even odds that the price can go up or that they might go down. “I think I would not raise my right hand and swear,” Hale said. But he also made clear the department has tried hard to ensure any more cost growth is less likely. “I don’t think you can be sure, but it is much more robustly funded than it was in the past,” he said.

Cutting the buy in the face of greater costs would seem on the face of it to be a common-sense conclusion. But given the political sensitivity of the program, any hint that the program could either go up in price or get smaller in numbers is sure to attract criticism. As Hale points out so ably and so regularly, the country is in a tight economic spot and defense dollars are precious.

A congressional aide said Hale’s comment “reflects what has taken place historically and is intuitive. If something costs 2x more than you had planned, normally you have to buy fewer. I would be very surprised if that does not happen. And it is going on with ships, ground combat vehicles, and most everything else. A major reckoning ahead.. The aide warned of rising unit costs. “You are looking at least $112 million JSFs, with estimates as high as $137 million – average unit procurement costs.”

But Hale’s mention of the JET’s statistical reliability is also telling. When I asked Air Force Secretary Mike Donley about this at breakfast yesterday, he offered a pretty long answer that basically boiled down to: doing estimates is really hard and this is the best one we’ve got. He noted that estimates rely heavily on past experience. In the F-35’s case, that means the F-16. But the problem with comparing the F-16 to the F-35 is that Lockheed Martin really is pursuing a new type of production. The plane will be the first one made with something close to the automobile assembly line approach, and it relies heavily on concurrency, testing as you build. The F-16 is a hand-built plane that used traditional fighter acquisition processes.

Let’s hope the JET, given those differences, got it right.

Warning flag for tomorrow. Ash Carter, undersecretary of defense for acquisition, technology and logistics, and Bob Stevens, Lockheed’s CEO, will speak about the JSF with reporters at 2:15 p.m. Carter and Lockheed officials will be meeting with top officials from the eight partner nations tomorrow and talking about the program restructure. This is a long-planned meeting but the rumor mill has at least one — and maybe two — senior F-35 executive getting the ax tomorrow.

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That is a lot of mistake jets to be built before flight testing in any quantity of a full-up mission systems jet.

too late to keep building f-22s

The AF got what it wanted, (only more so) which was a reduced force. Big deal, it’s not like we can wage war on our creditor.

The USAF didn’t want that.

Yeah, you’re probably confusing the 2006 Force Shaping initiative… where they were cutting personnel to make more room for F-22’s and more budgetary R&D room for the F-35.

The AF knew a long time ago that they were not going to replace every F15 and F16 with F22s and F35s. They gambled and they lost.

Well also take into consideration that the active duty force has since fallen to nearly half as much personnel from the end of the Cold War. In 1990 the active duty strength was around 650,000. As of 2009, the active duty personnel strength is 327,452.

Rising costs of aircraft aside, the Air Force knew that they wouldn’t be able to sustain the same amount of aircraft anyhow due to lack of manning. As it stands aircraft maintenance has been chronically short-handed for over five years, and progressively got worse under Force Shaping… to the point where certain careerfields were in danger of being critically manned. When they abandoned Force Shaping in 2008, manning leveled off and even got slightly better in certain careerfields. But the Air Force fared the worst in personnel retention rates… with the Army and the Marine Corps being the only services that met and exceeded their goals.

What SHOULD be done is to INCREASE the buy so that the per unit cost goes DOWN.

Note that while delays are causing developement costs to increase, the procurement/production costs are tracking in line with projections.

That ‘congressional aide’ doesn’t have a clue what they are taking about. Average unit procurement costs are nowhere near $112 million JSFs much less $137 million NOT EVEN WEAPONS SYSTEMS COST.

AF projected that they would have less fighters that were more capable than the fleet they were replacing. Stupid if you ask me, but we have been doing that with our air power since the Cold War.

“But the Air Force fared the worst in personnel retention rates… with the Army and the Marine Corps being the only services that met and exceeded their goals.”

I forgot to add that this was in 2009.

If they start canceling some of the intended planes, the per plane price is going to climb. The per plane price will probably go up $2 milion for each plane canceled.

buy f-18 and make new version of it. it is largely suffisant today because all great nation who can have better plane have nuclear weapon and we know this nation don’t make one war against others nuclear power.

we live in one different world. this is the end of the conventional war (state against state).
3 great military zone (USA,EUROPE,RUSSIA) have the better weapon industry on the world but no one time these country was going to fight them self .
if these country don’t sale hi tech aircraft in country who don’t have nuclear weapon , f-18 would be largely suffisant.
f-35 was sale like we sale one new smartphone, not one tool for war

Defense Talk did a good breakdown of some of the bogus numbers being used by LM, and calculated the current cost per unit of the F-35 at 100.6 million each. Unfortunately they also stated that this price was based on a SAR (Selected Acquisition Report) that is 18 months old. The SAR will be updated in April with today’s true costs, and this will elevate the price even higher.


With this information, the congressional aids cost per aircraft of $112 to $137 million seems to be accurate.

“Was it over when the Germans bombed Pearl harbor?…Nothing’s over unitl we say it’s over…”

Restart F-22 : http://​www​.rand​.org/​p​u​b​s​/​m​o​n​o​g​r​a​p​h​s​/​2​0​1​0​/​R​A​N​D​_​MG7

Anyone care to speculate who the execs are that will be axed? Too bad Gates is not one of them.

I know this is a simplistic view of it for a variety of reasons, but from the perspective of the company building the plane it is wonderful to have people committed to spending a set amount of money on your product. If you increase the price they just buy fewer and that means you get the same amount of money for doing less? Stupid way to run anything.

And again, I know that there are lots of issues on contracting, economies of scale, etc. But in the end the JSF producer gets the same amount of money (or more) for giving you less product. If we don’t think we got ripped off it’s because we’ve not been paying attention.

BINGO Hasbeen! You need to work at the Pentagon.

Produce 10,000 if them if the price is low and right.

I think we the gov’t should have kept the F-22 around now that Russia has the T-50 coming out soon. Will we ever learn from past mistakes. I don’t think many fellow history until elections or someone comes knocking at the front door. And now with their sights on making a new bomber what will our leaders say next???

One way they could’ve fudged those numbers is by taking the TOTAL PROGRAM cost (as opposed to aircraft production cost) for aircraft production plus R&D, OT&E, marketing, general overhead, etc. and then dividing that total by the number of aircraft planned for purchase.… rather than just the costs of actually building a single jet.

I suspect that might’ve happened with the F-22 program as well.

We always see these single figures thrown about, without seeing how these actual figures were compiled.

The latest Rand Corp study stated that the F-22 could be restarted for $227 million per airframe (unit cost of $179 million) for 75 aircraft.

This sounds like a bargain at this point with the JSF costs possibly approaching $150 per fighter (factoring the smaller number of fighters that will ultimately be ordered).

they are different kinds of planes that do not fill the same rolls. The F-22 is an Air Superiority FIghter with the JSF is as the name says a Joint Strike Fighter. Reducing one and raising another does not achieve the same goal but instead changes the shape of the force that you have which is a very different decision

the Germans bombed Pearl harbor?…What about the Japs?

JSF, by trying to be all things, does nothing well. It is a poor, unacceptable replacement for the A6 and A10, which are very inexpensive, straight wing aircraft. The final cost of JSF is going to be north of $250M per copy. Buy more F22, F18, F16, cancel JSF now.


The JSF is NOT trying to be all things & what it will do it will do better than anything before (except for the F-22).

The JSF is not a replacement for the A-6.

CAS is now done use precision guided munitions launched from the relative safety of altutude. With the JSF’s sensors & sensor fusion it will be able to conduct CAS in ways the A-10 could never dream of.

The final average per unit cost of the F-35 is going to be LESS than $100 million.

I wish you were right, but fear you are not. Look at cost if only 1000 are produced. If it is fully operational by 2015, which it probably wont be. Higher cost, fewer planes, we put the Air Force and Naval Aviation out of business. Development costs will be spread over fewer planes.
No way the JSF will ever perform the A10 function, or the A6 function. It can’t fly as slow as the A10.
This is a national disaster, putting our Air Force and Navy, and therefore our country, at risk. A small program can hide a cost overrun, but not as massive a program as JSF. Air Force and Navy need quantity replacements for worn out airframes.

That $227 million is for with the special tools and equipment still being available. Once the production line is shut down, the tools and equipment are all destroyed. At that point the cost to re-start production becomes too expensive, which is what happened with the A-10.… that’s why re-starting the A-10 production line looks unattractive, from the bean-counter’s point of view anyway.


More than 1000 ARE going to be produced. THE USAF alone is going to procure more than 1000 much less the USN/USMC, the 8 partner nations and who knows how many more that will add to the list before it is all said & done.

The 22 FY2011 USAF F-35A are less than $150 million ALREADY. Assuming you have ANY understanding of airfraft manufacturing take a wild guess what producing ten times that each year is going to do for the per unit cost.

The JSF WILL perform the A-10 fuction & do so in ways the A-10 could never dream of doing it.

The JSF is NOT an A-6 replacement, it is A F/A-18C/D replacement. Although obviously it will take over the role as the CAW’s primary strike platform & will do so in ways the A-6 could never dream of doing.

NOBODY is hinding any cost overrun. Although there ARE plenty trying to exaggerate cost overruns & delays.

Cancellations will be forthcoming. The 150M is bogus, as these are not developed, proven or deployable aircraft. Add in development cost, tell me what each one will be. I have a very good idea of cost, having been in the industry my entire life. JSF cannot provide close ground support. Not deployed for five and a half more years, at least. If ever. No way Europeans will fork over what Lockheed is demanding. B variant still has not had one transitional landing.


No the <$150 million IS NOT bogus. It is how much the government is allowcating for each of the 22 FY2011 F-35A. And that cost has been going down with each & every FY buy. DEVELOPEMENT COSTS ARE SEPARATE FROM PROCUREMENT COSTS!!! Add the developement cost to previous generation fighter & take wild guess how much MORE expensive they are using that metric.

Pull your head out of the 20th century & join the 21st century.

What is LM demanding Europeans fork over?

Lockheed still has not said, except they will have to pay whatever the cost ends up being. Considering there is at least another 5.5 years of development, it is fair to add ALL development costs spread over the final production quantity to see the true cost. That is what the taxpayer cares about. That comes out of the money the military would have to spend on buying other fighters. I can insult you just as easily as you insult me, but your cheap cheerleading is insulting enough.


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