F-35 Cost Per Flight Hour

Discuss the F-35 Lightning II
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neurotech

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Unread post01 Feb 2014, 21:57

I noticed in the FY2014 budget, the DoD comptroller released the Cost Per Flight Hours for the F-35.
F-35A Other DoD Component rate is $17,148 (Other Use is $17,948. Hollywood rate?)
F-16C Other DoD Component rate is $8,982. These figures include reasonable maintenance and fuel cost at DoD rates.
http://comptroller.defense.gov/Portals/ ... 14_f_h.pdf

The F-35A would almost certainly burn more gas than a F-16. Another possible reason for the costs is that the maintenance personnel on average are higher pay grade than for a F-16. I'd be surprised if they are including depot "upgrade" costs in the maintenance costs. Depot maintenance costs would be included on a cost divided by hours basis.

When the F/A-18E/F jets were brand new, the contractor flight operations costs were comparable to the legacy F/A-18C/Ds.

The FY2014 DoD rates are F/A-18E ($10,873) & F/A-18F($11,068) vs F/A-18C ($10,968) & F/A-18D ($12,929). An interesting comparison is the C-130H ($8,028) vs C-130J ($4,755). This suggests the C-130H requires a ton more maintenance per flight hour.
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cantaz

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Unread post01 Feb 2014, 22:07

Canadian government report indicates that the F-35A has higher fuel consumption than our current F/A-18A as well. How much more was not specified.
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Unread post01 Feb 2014, 23:32

Salute!

Whoa!!! Higher fuel consumption? Need actual stats.

For the loadout and range and...... seems the F-35 is as good or better than the Viper. First of all, we couldn't fly out 400 miles and come back without hitting a tanker. So just flying a 300 mile radius mission with the F-35 would likely require 2 Viper missions. I flew the SLUF in SEA with 10 x 500 eggs on the 300 mile radius missions without refueling. So take away the tanker support, and then figure we did not need another flight to finish off the targets. How much is all that worth??


The $$$$ per hour are most likely due to maintenance of the LO stuff and such. The basic airframe seems to have good access panels and the boxes should be easy to replace.

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hb_pencil

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Unread post02 Feb 2014, 00:19

cantaz wrote:Canadian government report indicates that the F-35A has higher fuel consumption than our current F/A-18A as well. How much more was not specified.


I believe they were derived from the old CAPE figures which have since been revised downwards... can you give me a link?
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count_to_10

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Unread post02 Feb 2014, 00:20

On tanking costs: I just read something that indicated that the total cost per gallon of fuel delivered by refueling aircraft is an order of magnitude (or two) more expensive than fuel delivered on the ground. Does that sound about right?
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neurotech

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Unread post02 Feb 2014, 00:55

Just to clarify. I said "fuel consumption" (pounds per hour) not range. The F-35 has the range advantage flying operational missions without external tanks. Fuel consumption is more a budget issue. My apologies for being unclear on that.
@hb_pencil: The fuel costs figures used by the comptroller are based on the average for that model aircraft. I don't think they separate operational combat loaded vs training profiles. Having a combat loaded jet shifts the figures for the F-16 significantly.

@count_to_10: I'm under the impression the USAF budget the cost of operating the tanker separate from the cost of the offloaded fuel. Only the later is billed to the squadron. The real cost of using a tanker would increase the cost significantly (I think its 4-5x). For certain test flights, we'd use a F/A-18A-D buddy tanker because it was cheaper than requesting a KC-135 or KC-10 just for a test flight.

With the SuperBug, they can do temporary repairs to RCS reduced sections with "magic tape" if needed. We had a jet with "deferred" maintenance of RAM panels due to a misaligned panel after a minor mishap in a fleet squadron. This was somewhat unusual in the fleet for damage to cause significant RCS headaches in an otherwise safe aircraft. The jet went to depot for phase maintenance eventually and got the repair and RCS inspection before going back. The F-22 RAM wasn't nearly as easily repaired.

It is possible F-35 LO servicing is responsible for the significant cost. Another possibility is the phase depot inspection itself is expensive, and the cost is spread over the 300-600 hours. I do agree that the panel accessibility is much improved in the F-35. The A-37 and F-5 are known for being easy to service in the field. The SuperBug panel accessibility and more efficient LRUs reduced maintenance on the flight line significantly, compared to the F/A-18C/D. I have little doubt the F-35 will require less flight line maintenance than earlier jets.

One thing people don't seem to talk about is that LRU depot visits can be a major contributor to operating costs. On the legacy F/A-18s we made a point of testing/tagging/swapping avionics LRUs before returning them to ensure they really were faulty before sending them to the avionics depot for repair. I remember one time we had a faulty connector going to a FCS module, but replacing the LRU module seemed to temporarily fix it. If the "faulty" modules hadn't been tested after removal the maintenance bill would have been expensive to say the least. Replacing the connector fixed the problem permanently. The F/A-18 has pretty good onboard diagnostics, but the F-35 is a generation improvement.
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cola

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Unread post02 Feb 2014, 02:29

neurotech,
so what does the DoD column exactly refer to and who foots the rest of the bills?
Why is Federal column there?

Thx
Cheers, Cola
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neurotech

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Unread post02 Feb 2014, 02:56

cola wrote:neurotech,
so what does the DoD column exactly refer to and who foots the rest of the bills?
Why is Federal column there?

Thx

If a federal agency requests the use of a US DoD owned/operated aircraft. An example would be the US Forrestry Service could ask for a crewed C-130J for fire fighting, but they have to pay for it. Despite what some people wonder, agency heads are not typically flown around in jet fighters :D
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cola

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Unread post02 Feb 2014, 03:22

Ok, but F16's flight hour surely can't cost <$10k.
Where are the rest of the expenses and who's paying them?
Isn't the DoD the sole provider for the USAF?
Cheers, Cola
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neurotech

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Unread post02 Feb 2014, 04:23

cola wrote:Ok, but F16's flight hour surely can't cost <$10k.
Where are the rest of the expenses and who's paying them?
Isn't the DoD the sole provider for the USAF?

Apparently, an F-16 does cost < $10k/hr. That doesn't cover all the sustainment and logistics costs, just the expenses incurred in a squadron operating the jet. The DoD also gets their fuel cheaper and tax exempt, compared to civilian airlines.

Define "provider"? There are some aircraft leased to the USAF/USN etc. that are not DoD owned. NASA sometimes loan aircraft to the USAF.
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cola

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Unread post02 Feb 2014, 15:00

Not that long ago Lt.Gen.Bogdan declared F16's current CPFH being in $27k class, or was it $24k can't remember?
Anyway, there's a 2x0% discrepancy to what apparently DoD pays according to this report, so where does the rest come from?
Cheers, Cola
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basher54321

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Unread post02 Feb 2014, 16:27

neurotech wrote:The F-35A would almost certainly burn more gas than a F-16. Another possible reason for the costs is that the maintenance personnel on average are higher pay grade than for a F-16. I'd be surprised if they are including depot "upgrade" costs in the maintenance costs. Depot maintenance costs would be included on a cost divided by hours basis.



Would this figure account for stealth and IT system related maintenance? You have a lot more internal avionics hardware (far bigger airframe) and a load of 1st Gen systems that have not even been developed. If so could the cost decrease over a period of 10 years or so as the systems become more stable?
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cantaz

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Unread post02 Feb 2014, 17:25

hb_pencil wrote:I believe they were derived from the old CAPE figures which have since been revised downwards... can you give me a link?


http://www.forces.gc.ca/en/about-report ... -2013.page

Operating Phase Assumptions wrote:Aviation Fuel: The CF-18 fuel burn rate has been adjusted based on information provided by the F-35 Joint Program Office on the expected fuel burn rate for the F-35A. For the purposes of the current cost estimate, specific F-35A fuel consumption rates, which are higher than for the CF-18, are used.
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neurotech

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Unread post02 Feb 2014, 19:23

cola wrote:Not that long ago Lt.Gen.Bogdan declared F16's current CPFH being in $27k class, or was it $24k can't remember?
Anyway, there's a 2x0% discrepancy to what apparently DoD pays according to this report, so where does the rest come from?

Not sure, but it could be the "program/budget cost per hour". When a country buys a jet, they negotiate for spares, support to be included. I've read the budget docs for the F/A-18 and the "Flying Hours" budget seems to track the reimbursable rates.

One possibility is that LTG Bogdan is including program logistics costs in his figures.

Edit: It seems likely that LTG Bogdan included the F-16 SLEP costs in the F-16 CPFH he used. This is the cost the USAF would be spending on the additional flying hours beyond the 6,000(8,000?) design life of a F-16C, in addition the regular Operations and Maintenance cost.
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cola

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Unread post02 Feb 2014, 21:29

neurotech,
all you said stands and there are million and one ways to book the expenses BUT...doesn't DoD pay them all?
Edit: ok, it may not be $24k/hour, but I read USAF's annual reports that put F16C's CPFH in $18k class, which is still double this figure.
Cheers, Cola
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