January 29, 2012 (by Eric L. Palmer) - Where are the large orders that are to produce "economies of scale" and "affordability" for the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter (JSF)? Apparently in someone's imagination from 2001.
F-35 BF-1 STOVL move to Final Assembly on October 20th, 2007
Consider that everything low-rate-initial-production (LRIP
) batch 5 and before has little value because hardware that drives the final Block 3 software does not arrive until LRIP-6. Many of the various fixes for the F-35s other problems do not arrive until LRIP-7 or LRIP-8; at the earliest. And it will take some years for Block 3 software--which in part signifies the F-35 is ready to move on to full-rate production--to work in anything resembling a final go-to-war jet. Yet, delays to fixing technical problems are the consistent metric in the F-35 program.
The Joint Strike Fighter Memorandum of Understanding (MoU
) is what joint strike fighter partner nations--Australia, Canada, Denmark
, The Netherlands
, the U.K. and the U.S.--agree upon for their yearly order projections. These yearly order projections mentioned in MOU's over the years are more imagination, than a plan based on hard analysis.
Because of the 2nd Nunn-McCurdy U.S. DOD
budget breach and various restructures to the program, the most recent MOU is April of 2010
. Since then, more discovery of technical defects have created numerous kinds of problems for political decision makers.
And, who wants to buy a bunch of incomplete mistake-jets? So far it seems, the U.S., the U.K. (who now have a F-35B STOVL aircraft
that is completely irrelevant to future air operations; is riddled with technical defects and has no credible working mission systems) and the Netherlands who have shown tremendous political confusion over the F-35 in recent years with purchase of "training" aircraft.
compares the April 2010 MOU to the recent U.S. DOD budget announcement. It illustrates U.S. per year F-35 orders are lacking. (Note: I have converted the MOU from calendar year to U.S. Fiscal year). Claims of "economies of scale" in the F-35 program seem a long way off. As a historical perspective here are some previous
(and very optimistic projections) of F-35 orders. See a pattern?
And some say buying in 2016 is good because it represents "peak production" and low price. That faith-based idea, like others is dead.
What about Israel
and Japan? What about Korea?
What about them? Israel, while being an interested security partner in the F-35 program has procurement of U.S. military equipment handled in a special way
. Japan and Korea are run under the U.S. foreign military sales program (FMS
). Those countries are expecting an F-35 with a mature design. Evidence of that has not surfaced. Also curious, is that FMS customers will get better home industry compensation than non-U.S. F-35 partner nations.
But didn't U.S. Defense Secretary Panetta recently state commitment to the program? Yes. And, it is an election year. That "commitment" comes with a U.S. DOD plan to cut 179 F-35 orders between FY2013~2017 due to numerous unresolved technical defects which are the source of program delay and price blow-outs. That is on top of previous cuts from previous restructures.
Until further notice, FY2011 seems to be "peak production" for the F-35.