Massive Sustainment Costs Creating F-35 Affordability Issues

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spazsinbad

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Unread post27 Apr 2021, 22:51

There are TWO report PDFs with one ACCESSIBLE: "What is the difference between PDF and accessible PDF?
An accessible PDF is a PDF document that can be read and accessed by people with disabilities, primarily for the vision-impaired that may use assistive technology to read the file through text-to-speech or a Braille printout. A PDF document is considered accessible only if it meets a set of accessibility guidelines." [so let your fingers do the walking/talking] :mrgreen:
GAO [draft] Report: Massive Sustainment Costs Creating F-35 Affordability Issues [full DRAFT report pdf attached]
27 Apr 2021 John M. Doyle [GAO STUFF: https://www.gao.gov/products/gao-21-505t ]

"ARLINGTON, Va. — Sustaining the troubled Lockheed Martin F-35 Lightning II strike fighter over its expected 66-year service life will cost more than the total purchase price of thousands of the aircraft, the Pentagon’s most expensive weapons platform, a government watchdog told lawmakers....

...The services face a substantial and growing gap between estimated sustainment costs and affordability constraints — costs per tail, per year that the services project they can afford. The preliminary GAO report to Congress said the gap would total about $6 billion in steady state year 2036 alone. The services will collectively be confronted with tens of billions of dollars in sustainment costs that they project as unaffordable during the program.

The Air Force, which is buying the most aircraft, 1,763 F-35As — the conventional takeoff and landing variant — needs to reduce estimated annual per-plane costs by $3.7 million (or 47%) by 2036, or costs in that year alone will be $4.4 billion more than the Air Force can afford, the GAO said. The Navy and Marine Corps, which are buying hundreds fewer aircraft, face smaller, but significant affordability gaps. For the Navy, which plans to buy 273 F-35Cs, the aircraft carrier variant, the gap would total $655 million, and for the Marine Corps buy of 353 F-35Bs, the short takeoff and vertical landing variant, and 67 of their own F-35Cs, the total cost overrun in 2036 would be $886 million.

GAO’s draft report suggested Congress consider requiring annual Pentagon reports on progress in achieving the affordability constraints. It also suggested making F-35 procurement decisions contingent on Defense Department in achieving these constraints...."

Table Graphic: "Gap between F-35 Affordability Constraints and Estimated Sustainment Costs in 2036 Note: Costs are in constant year 2012 dollars as that was the year when the F-35 program was most recently re-baselined.

a Steady state years for the F-35 program are defined in each respective service's affordability analysis as: US Air Force/F-35A – 2036-2041; US Marine Corps/F-35B – 2033-2037; US Navy/F-35C – 2036-2043. Steady state refers to the program's peak operating point." https://www.gao.gov/assets/extracts/b6a ... image2.png


FULL REPORT PDF: https://www.gao.gov/assets/gao-21-505t.pdf (1Mb) [attached]

Source: https://seapowermagazine.org/gao-report ... ty-issues/
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Unread post27 Apr 2021, 23:31

6 billion is "chump change" - Barry Obama
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Unread post28 Apr 2021, 10:34

Podcast: Explaining The F-35’S Cost And Programmatic Issues
28 Apr 2021 Jen DiMascio - Steve Trimble - Lee Hudson

"After a blistering congressional hearing, Aviation Week editors break down some of the F-35 program’s recent struggles and cost issues to develop the program and maintain and operate the fighter.... Rush transcript to follow..."

AUDIO: https://traffic.libsyn.com/secure/force ... Issues.mp3 (29.5Mb)

Source: https://aviationweek.com/defense-space/ ... tic-issues
A4G Skyhawk: www.faaaa.asn.au/spazsinbad-a4g/ & www.youtube.com/channel/UCwqC_s6gcCVvG7NOge3qfAQ/videos?view_as=subscriber
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Unread post28 Apr 2021, 11:34

I see only three options here that can solve the problem:

1. Reduce the number of F-35s to be purchased

2. Reduce the number of flight hours flown by each F-35 (and their pilots)

3. Increase the funding for sustaining the number of F-35s

Clearly number 3 is totally impossible to achieve as that'd increase US defence budget by whopping 0.9 percent... :bang:

Math of this is funny. For F-35A to achieve "affordability constraint", flight hours should not exceed 164 hours when flight hour cost target of $25,000 is achieved. There are now about 2 pilots trained for each F-35. That means each one of these would fly only about 80 hours a year to achieve the "constraint". I seriously doubt that is enough for US pilots to maintain any kind of real proficiency, no matter how good the simulators are. I think most fighter jets get something like 250 flight hours a year currently in US services. If F-35s fly that much, they will need to get the flight hour cost to about $16,500 to stay within "affordability constraint".

This all brings the old Monty Python "What have the Romans ever done for us" sketch (again):

So besides having VLO stealth, insane situational awareness, unparalleled ISR capabilities for a fighter, similar payload and range to Strike Eagle, EW capabilties of a dedicated jammer aircraft, STOVL and carrier capability, what has the F-35 ever given us? It doesn't even have as low sustainment cost as F-16 Block 50 without taking into account the cost of targeting pods, EFTs and all the support aircraft needed... :bang:
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Unread post28 Apr 2021, 13:56

hornetfinn wrote:I see only three options here that can solve the problem:

1. Reduce the number of F-35s to be purchased

2. Reduce the number of flight hours flown by each F-35 (and their pilots)

3. Increase the funding for sustaining the number of F-35s


There's a 4th option - Reduce the sustainment cost of the F-35 down to $20-$25 in 2012 $. But in reality, It seems that a combination of all of these options will likely be exercised to some degree. They may reduce the annual buy and divert that funding into standing up some depot capacity and other sustainment focused initiatives. Long term, probably more reliance on simulator training and LVC etc, and probably a smaller F-35A inventory for the USAF than the 1700+ that has been part of the program since its inception.
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Unread post28 Apr 2021, 16:53

bring_it_on wrote:
hornetfinn wrote:I see only three options here that can solve the problem:

1. Reduce the number of F-35s to be purchased

2. Reduce the number of flight hours flown by each F-35 (and their pilots)

3. Increase the funding for sustaining the number of F-35s


There's a 4th option - Reduce the sustainment cost of the F-35 down to $20-$25 in 2012 $. But in reality, It seems that a combination of all of these options will likely be exercised to some degree. They may reduce the annual buy and divert that funding into standing up some depot capacity and other sustainment focused initiatives. Long term, probably more reliance on simulator training and LVC etc, and probably a smaller F-35A inventory for the USAF than the 1700+ that has been part of the program since its inception.


If I'm reading the data correctly, CPFH has to drop all the way to $16,400/hr in 2012 dollars, which seems unreasonable.

In the GAO report it states that:
In October 2018, in response to a recommendation we made in 2014, the Undersecretary of Defense for Acquisition and Sustainment issued affordability constraints for each of the services.


The 2014 GAO report they mention there is referenced as being this one: https://www.gao.gov/products/gao-14-778

Basically it looks like they want the jet to cost the same as what its predecessors did in around 2010 or so, except personally I'm not sure the analysis done by the GAO or the Undersecretary's office has been entirely sound in this instance, because based on the GAO's 2021 report, the current 2020 annual sustainment costs, multiplied by the jets they specify for 2036, results in a $15.7B fleet cost, or $9.3B for just the USAF F-35A fleet.

By comparison, the F-16C/D CPFH in 2012 was $22,514 for the C and $30,357 for the D, and if they were required to fly 250 hours per tail per year, that'd be an annual fleet cost of $5.95B. That's only 36.6% below the F-35A fleet cost based on 2020 numbers. If they reached $25k/hr in 2012 dollars, that'd go to 20% below the F-35A fleet cost, and with a comparison of 1001 F-16s to 1192 F-35As. Per tail that $25k F-35A vs F-16C/Ds in 2012 would go down to a 5% difference ($6.25m vs $5.94m).

So if the GAO is saying the USAF has to drop the annual per-tail cost of an F-35A to $4.1 million, I don't understand how they got to that number or how the USAF is expected to achieve it when even the F-16C/D is more expensive than that.

So perhaps a combination of those options as mentioned will be required; I'm not sure that the majority of the F-16s fly 250 hours a year for example, so why do F-35As need to?
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Unread post28 Apr 2021, 17:54

GAO is just one point of view. At an actionable level, the CSAF and the OSD need to determine a course of action amongst the various alternatives. The F-15EX isn't any cheaper. In fact in the post 2025 timeframe it will likely cost as much if not more to operate than the F-35A. So what else can the USAF buy? New F-16's? Roper hinted at that but the CSAF seems to have put a hold to that. Perhaps new F-16's will be cheaper to operate than ones that are decades old, but long term there will be upgrade costs that will make them prohibitively expensive to sustain just so that they can keep up to evolving technology and threats.

In the end, they need to get to their 2025 cost goals. That's the best course of action since, for the most part, the number of F-35A's the USAF will have in 2025 is largely fixed (given LOT 15 and 16 negotiations currently underway). Once they do that, they need to then determine what other elements they can introduce that will make them more effective in totality, as a fighting force. I can see more Skyborg like systems and other lower cost (O&S) unmanned systems being bought. Perhaps the USAF lands on 1400 or so F-35A's with the gap being filled by lower cost systems like Skyborg. But I think it will be a combination of all the things but the GAO's conclusions are of little practical importance because the leaders decide based on choices in front of them, and the USAF has no clear path to a lower cost aircraft that is comparable in effectiveness.

It is going to be extremely difficult if not outright impossible to game out long term life cycle costs for new built legacy systems because of big unknowns around what it will take to keep them relevant (even with F-22/35/NGAD alongside) in the 2030-2050 timeframe. What's the point of saving on operating cost if you need to spend billions more to upgrade them for marginal return in terms of combat effectiveness against the threats.
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Unread post29 Apr 2021, 01:16

bring_it_on wrote:GAO is just one point of view. At an actionable level, the CSAF and the OSD need to determine a course of action amongst the various alternatives. The F-15EX isn't any cheaper. In fact in the post 2025 timeframe it will likely cost as much if not more to operate than the F-35A. So what else can the USAF buy? New F-16's? Roper hinted at that but the CSAF seems to have put a hold to that. Perhaps new F-16's will be cheaper to operate than ones that are decades old, but long term there will be upgrade costs that will make them prohibitively expensive to sustain just so that they can keep up to evolving technology and threats.

In the end, they need to get to their 2025 cost goals. That's the best course of action since, for the most part, the number of F-35A's the USAF will have in 2025 is largely fixed (given LOT 15 and 16 negotiations currently underway). Once they do that, they need to then determine what other elements they can introduce that will make them more effective in totality, as a fighting force. I can see more Skyborg like systems and other lower cost (O&S) unmanned systems being bought. Perhaps the USAF lands on 1400 or so F-35A's with the gap being filled by lower cost systems like Skyborg. But I think it will be a combination of all the things but the GAO's conclusions are of little practical importance because the leaders decide based on choices in front of them, and the USAF has no clear path to a lower cost aircraft that is comparable in effectiveness.

It is going to be extremely difficult if not outright impossible to game out long term life cycle costs for new built legacy systems because of big unknowns around what it will take to keep them relevant (even with F-22/35/NGAD alongside) in the 2030-2050 timeframe. What's the point of saving on operating cost if you need to spend billions more to upgrade them for marginal return in terms of combat effectiveness against the threats.



The GAO couldn't get a Wet Dream right. If, they were sleeping in a pool of water.............. :shock:
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Unread post29 Apr 2021, 07:26

Dragon029 wrote:
bring_it_on wrote:
hornetfinn wrote:I see only three options here that can solve the problem:

1. Reduce the number of F-35s to be purchased

2. Reduce the number of flight hours flown by each F-35 (and their pilots)

3. Increase the funding for sustaining the number of F-35s


There's a 4th option - Reduce the sustainment cost of the F-35 down to $20-$25 in 2012 $. But in reality, It seems that a combination of all of these options will likely be exercised to some degree. They may reduce the annual buy and divert that funding into standing up some depot capacity and other sustainment focused initiatives. Long term, probably more reliance on simulator training and LVC etc, and probably a smaller F-35A inventory for the USAF than the 1700+ that has been part of the program since its inception.


If I'm reading the data correctly, CPFH has to drop all the way to $16,400/hr in 2012 dollars, which seems unreasonable.


That's what I calculated too. All this sounds like really bad planning or totally moving the goalposts. Basically everything has been known for about a decade. Number of aircraft to be procured, flight hour cost goal (similar to F-16) and likely number of flight hours per year (just look at legacy jet numbers, F-16 and F-15). All these have been known for years and now suddenly (well, 15 years from now) there will be "affordability issues", basically not enough money to operate the jets as intended. So either nobody bothered to do this simple math exercise during the last decade or so, or there is some hidden agenda in all this. Even if F-35 achieve their CPFH goal and flies less hours than USAF fighter aircraft currently do, it will still not achieve these "affordability constraints". How the hell does USAF currently manage to afford flying similar number of F-16s and F-15s that have similar or higher CPFH and fly a lot of hours each year? If F-16s, F-15s and even A-10s are to be retired before 2036, where does their sustainment money go if not for F-35? I bet their combined sustainment costs are currently a lot higher than what is projected for F-35.

I checked latest public Selected Acquisition Report for F-35 and it states that F-35A is estimated to fly 250 hours each yer on average and CPFH is targeted to be about $25,000 for F-35A. It also states that estimated O&S costs are going to be about 252 million dollars for each F-35 with 30 year service life. That gives about 8.4 million dollars CPTPY for all three variants. Given that even currently both F-35A and F-35C are lower than this, where do these "affordability constraints" come from?
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Unread post29 Apr 2021, 08:12

Somewhere in my youth I was introduced to the term “swallowed it...hook, line and sinker” — a colloquialism here in the US for acceptance of (getting duped by) someone or something without critical scrutiny. In this case, we need to be wary of blind acceptance of a narrative that provides no comparative reference for what a range of other aircraft might be using the same “methodology” or references.

We seem to be ignoring what we came to understand as problematic about the use of CPFH given that one service (the USAF) uses a different methodology for calculating same in each type/model/series (DoN term, but whatever the USAF equivalent might be).

Remember our discussion of the RAND study on CPFH?

Another round of ‘we’re doomed...’ here on this thread.
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Unread post29 Apr 2021, 14:11

bring_it_on wrote:GAO is just one point of view. At an actionable level, the CSAF and the OSD need to determine a course of action amongst the various alternatives. The F-15EX isn't any cheaper. In fact in the post 2025 timeframe it will likely cost as much if not more to operate than the F-35A. So what else can the USAF buy? New F-16's? Roper hinted at that but the CSAF seems to have put a hold to that. Perhaps new F-16's will be cheaper to operate than ones that are decades old, but long term there will be upgrade costs that will make them prohibitively expensive to sustain just so that they can keep up to evolving technology and threats.

In the end, they need to get to their 2025 cost goals. That's the best course of action since, for the most part, the number of F-35A's the USAF will have in 2025 is largely fixed (given LOT 15 and 16 negotiations currently underway). Once they do that, they need to then determine what other elements they can introduce that will make them more effective in totality, as a fighting force. I can see more Skyborg like systems and other lower cost (O&S) unmanned systems being bought. Perhaps the USAF lands on 1400 or so F-35A's with the gap being filled by lower cost systems like Skyborg. But I think it will be a combination of all the things but the GAO's conclusions are of little practical importance because the leaders decide based on choices in front of them, and the USAF has no clear path to a lower cost aircraft that is comparable in effectiveness.

It is going to be extremely difficult if not outright impossible to game out long term life cycle costs for new built legacy systems because of big unknowns around what it will take to keep them relevant (even with F-22/35/NGAD alongside) in the 2030-2050 timeframe. What's the point of saving on operating cost if you need to spend billions more to upgrade them for marginal return in terms of combat effectiveness against the threats.


x2
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Unread post29 Apr 2021, 14:16

Someone needs to get on the stick and replicate the Scott O'Grady/F-16 shootdown vs. him flying an F-35, complete with the cost of each mission.

Scenario #1: O'Grady's mission as flown in his F-16, showing down to the penny the cost of him/his aircraft, the cost of operating all tankers, fighters flying Mig CAP that night, AWACS, rescue helicopters and of course, the cost of his lost F-16. USAF should have no problem getting all of those, then rolling them up into a "It cost X, and we almost lost a damn good pilot".

Scenario #2: O'Grady's mission as flown in an F-35A, showing again everything down to the penny with a bottom line savings # highlighted in red.

This should be no more than a 1 page document, such that a 12 year old understands how much cheaper F-35 missions are vs. their 4th gen counterparts. 1 page, 1 number that can easily be understood by industry, Congress and the general public. Circulate it as far and wide as possible. Including complementary, Amazon Prime free delivery to Bill Sweetman and Pierre Sprey.
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Unread post29 Apr 2021, 15:39

It is a GAO report so it must be true.

Everyone knows that
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Unread post29 Apr 2021, 21:46

quicksilver wrote:We seem to be ignoring what we came to understand as problematic about the use of CPFH....

Indeed, quick, but the problems with CPFH analysis are legion. At the risk of ignoring the issue you’ve raised, and various others as well, I choose here to focus on one other specific problem: understanding how fixed operating costs affect flight-hour analysis. The analyses presented so far in this thread ignore this particular issue, and therefore, lead us somewhat astray as to the actual severity of the problems raised here. I’ve raised the issue of fixed costs at least once before, many years ago. It’s been so long ago (2013 perhaps?) that naturally my fellow f-16.netters can be forgiven for overlooking this issue in the current context.

Below is a table of values illustrating the effects of fixed costs on F-35A flight hours and CPFH:
Fixed costs as a percentage
Of total operating cost
At baseline.......At constrained...Annual hours
Flight hours........flight hours......per aircraft....CPFH
0%........................0.0%.............164..........25,000
5%........................9.5%.............156..........26,247
10%.....................19.05.............148..........27,786
15%.....................28.5%.............138..........29,735
20%.....................38.1%.............127..........32,283
25%.....................47.6%.............115..........35,756
30%.....................57.1%.............101..........40,767
35%.....................66.6%..............84...........48,631
40%.....................76.1%..............65...........62,755

If I’m feeling ambitious, perhaps I’ll look at F-35B and C also. I may also be to shed some light on one or two issues, but they’ll require a bit more research.
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Unread post30 Apr 2021, 11:13

Excellent put fan man. To your point, a quote from the Rand Study I referred to

“The key difference between CPFH used for FHP and reimbursable billing and the CPFH used to compare O&S costs of different aircraft programs is that cross-system O&S comparisons intentionally include some categories that are fixed (i.e., do not vary with flying hours).”

Link to Rand doc here —

https://www.rand.org/pubs/research_reports/RR1178.html
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