Massive Sustainment Costs Creating F-35 Affordability Issues

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spazsinbad

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Unread post07 May 2021, 06:05

This 05 May 2021 statistic has meaning for some: https://seapowermagazine.org/navy-reser ... iral-says/
"...TSW [Reserve Tactical Support Wing] also provides critical high-end adversary support to the Fleet with 27 F/A-18A-D Hornets. These aircraft are assigned to VFA-204 at NAS Joint Reserve Base New Orleans, Louisiana, and VFC-12 at NAS Oceana, Virginia.

“Due to the extremely high projected cost per flight hour (+$44,000) of these ‘Legacy Hornets,’ the Navy is accelerating divestment from the F/A-18A-D aircraft,” the admiral [Vice Adm. John Mustin, chief of Navy Reserve] said. “VFC-12’s transition from the F/A-18A-D Hornet to the Block I FA-18E/F Super Hornet in [fiscal 2021] is the first step towards accelerating Legacy Hornet divestment.”..."
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Unread post07 May 2021, 12:38

It's interesting that as the services reign in flight hour costs across the F-35 variations, they allow the legacy costs to spiral in some significant cases.
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Unread post07 May 2021, 22:09

madrat wrote:It's interesting that as the services reign in flight hour costs across the F-35 variations, they allow the legacy costs to spiral in some significant cases.


Theres a lot of reasons, but the reason you hear about the F-35 so much is that its still an ongoing program. No one cares if the status quo is failing, expensive, obsolete, or whatever because the winner for that race has arleady been decided. People don't even know the system ALIS/ODIN is replacing in US Marine and Navy service (it sucks by the way) but they "just know" ALIS must be worse. they can't even name the current system let alone compare the merits

Eventually the two curves meet and head in other directions. Tale as old as time. I told one of my boots in 2004 that in a few years he will rather be in an osprey than anything else, and I was 100 percent right. The USMC retired and put into cadre a bunch of F-18D squadrons (about half) due to the sheer expense of operating what was fast becoming a very unique airplane with harder and harder to find spares. One of the hornet experts here was explaining it, but the USMC's twin seat hornet squadrons skyrocketed in price to the point they decommissioned about half of them. They cadred the Moonlighters in 2007 and I remember that distinctly.

older jets hit a point where they only get more expensive, newer jets flatten their costs and become more manageable eventually they cost the same, well we are "Here"
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Unread post07 May 2021, 23:50

As Xman suggests, the plot of fighter operating costs over time looks like a ‘U’ or a bathtub (viewed in cross section from one end). All of ‘em.

Very expensive early and late in the life cycle.
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Unread post08 May 2021, 01:33

With that in mind, barring inflationary cost increases, the F-35A doesn't look terrible.
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Unread post08 May 2021, 01:51

The CPFH "numbers" that have everyone in a tizzy... the $35K/hr value... does that also include all the early lot birds? If so, I would be curious to know what the CPFH has been for just the past 2-3 lots of aircraft. Or perhaps better still, a break down of CPFH vs production lot or year. Has that been posted anywhere?
Take an F-16, stir in A-7, dollop of F-117, gob of F-22, dash of F/A-18, sprinkle with AV-8B, stir well + bake. Whaddya get? F-35.
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Unread post09 May 2021, 23:25

steve2267 wrote:The CPFH "numbers" that have everyone in a tizzy... the $35K/hr value... does that also include all the early lot birds? If so, I would be curious to know what the CPFH has been for just the past 2-3 lots of aircraft. Or perhaps better still, a break down of CPFH vs production lot or year. Has that been posted anywhere?


All lots? I assume so.

Most recent lots? Not sure; much depends on how much they fly. Most capability (most recent lots) usually top of the list to deploy and thus they fly the most (which in the scheme of things means the least cpfh).

Posted anywhere? Not to my knowledge (ie, in the public domain).

CPFH has many circumstantial dependencies. Absent a detailed understanding of the assumptions made in any cpfh methodology, one is only speculating about relative lot v lot costs.
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Unread post10 May 2021, 12:13

Found this bit of information via a FB group. Perhaps Spaz can comment if the numbers / reference is correct.

Apparently the Aussies are budgeting (and flying) their F-35's for only $25k/hr this year (2020-2021). How is it the Aussies can fly the Panther for $25,000 / hour when the US apparently cannot? Which raises the point -- I fail to recall news stories where any non-US F-35 operator has been crying over their budgets that the F-35 is "too expensive." They've all been briefed extensively and are aware of how much it costs to operate, and projected costs to operate, and they all seem to have budgeted for those numbers. Without complaint. (Or am I missing something?)

Australian Department of Defence budget 2020-21 - divide fleet budget (sustainment - $267mil - pg 133) by hrs (8,204 - pg 78), Au$32,545.10 ... then converted to USD at today's exchange rate (which has been going up), is US$25,561.12
When the budget was released and the AUD was weaker, was well below $25k!
Take an F-16, stir in A-7, dollop of F-117, gob of F-22, dash of F/A-18, sprinkle with AV-8B, stir well + bake. Whaddya get? F-35.
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Unread post10 May 2021, 14:59

As 'QS' says immediately above (I parrotphrase OK?): "The F-35 CPFH knows what it is because it knows what it isn't...." :devil:
The Missile Knows Where It Is [substitute 'missile' for CPFH or SFA or oldentymes CDF to be even funnier]
09 Jan 2021 shevyrolet

"The missile knows where it is at all times. It knows this because it knows where it isn't. By subtracting where it is from where it isn't, or where it isn't from where it is (whichever is greater), it obtains a difference, or deviation. The guidance subsystem uses deviations to generate corrective commands to drive the missile from a position where it is to a position where it isn't, and arriving at a position where it wasn't, it now is. Consequently, the position where it is, is now the position that it wasn't, and it follows that the position that it was, is now the position that it isn't.

In the event that the position that it is in is not the position that it wasn't, the system has acquired a variation, the variation being the difference between where the missile is, and where it wasn't. If variation is considered to be a significant factor, it too may be corrected by the GEA. However, the missile must also know where it was.

The missile guidance computer scenario works as follows. Because a variation has modified some of the information the missile has obtained, it is not sure just where it is. However, it is sure where it isn't, within reason, and it knows where it was. It now subtracts where it should be from where it wasn't, or vice-versa, and by differentiating this from the algebraic sum of where it shouldn't be, and where it was, it is able to obtain the deviation and its variation, which is called error."

Source: https://knowyourmeme.com/memes/the-miss ... here-it-is

The Missile Knows Where It Is... https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bZe5J8SVCYQ
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Unread post12 May 2021, 21:50

The 'rushed' transcript of the PODCAST on first page of this thread is: viewtopic.php?f=58&t=57807&p=453181&hilit=PODCAST#p453181 while link is: https://aviationweek.com/defense-space/ ... tic-issues AVIATION WEEK'S CHECK 6 PODCAST Explaining the F-35’s Cost and Programmatic Issues NOT ONLY BUT ASLO (yes I know) a NINE PAGE pdf of the transcript is attached below....
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Unread post12 May 2021, 21:59

Rep. Brown Explains Support for Full F-35 Buy [BEST READ IT ALL AT SOURCE]
12 May 2021 John A. Tirpak

"The F-35’s operational success outweighs its readiness and sustainment challenges, it is making progress against those issues, and it is too strategically important not to keep funding, House Armed Services committee member Rep. Anthony Brown (D-Md.) said at a defense conference.

Speaking at a McAleese and Associates streaming event May 12, Brown explained that he signed a letter from 132 House lawmakers to the body’s leadership urging full F-35 support because “it’s performing well” in “executing … real-world missions.”

The April 28 letter—written by the leaders of the Joint Strike Fighter Caucus—urged the leadership to support whatever request the services submit for buying F-35s in fiscal 2022, as well as any that appear on their “unfunded requirements” lists. The letter was prompted by recent comments from House subcommittee leaders Reps. John Garamendi (D-Calif.) and Donald Norcross (D-N.J.) that they would oppose adding any F-35s to service requests this year, in order to let the sustainment system catch up to the aircraft already in service. Sustainment rates on the F-35 have been the biggest of several sticking points in the program....

...Brown is a Harvard-educated, 25-year veteran of the Army, in which he served as an aviator and a lawyer. His 4th district in Maryland is adjacent to the 8th district, home to the corporate headquarters of Lockheed Martin, which makes the F-35.

In an April 22 hearing on the F-35, Garamendi said he would put up “one hell of a fight” if fellow lawmakers urged adding unrequested F-35s to the fiscal 2022 budget. Garamendi said that the sustainment enterprise for the fighter was built around an expectation of a certain number of aircraft, and that steady congressional adds have contributed to sustainment woes by making it impossible for the enterprise to meet the demand imposed by the greater number of aircraft.

The letter also urged the leadership to support increases in F-35 sustainment accounts, saying that current predictions indicate the depots “may only be able to meet 42 percent of the required repair capacity.”

In fiscal 2021, the Air Force, Navy, and Marine Corps requested 79 F-35s, collectively, but Congress added an additional 17 aircraft to the overall buy. The Air Force has indicated it would like to buy just 48 F-35s a year, and buy the bulk of its fleet of the Block 4 configuration, which will be more capable, particularly in the kinds of weapons it carries and in its electronic warfare suite."

Source: https://www.airforcemag.com/rep-brown-e ... -f-35-buy/
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Unread post15 May 2021, 21:44

Air Force Wants to Cut 421 Old Fighters, Buy 304 New Ones
14 May 2021 John A. Tirpak

"The Air Force will ask Congress to retire 421 legacy aircraft through 2026, replacing them with just 304 new fighters, according to fiscal 2022 budget talking points obtained by Air Force Magazine. The savings derived from operating a smaller fleet will be put toward acquiring new systems such as the Next-Generation Air Dominance fighter later this decade, and a new Multi-Role fighter, called MR-X, in the 2030s.

“The information outlined in the talking points regarding future Air Force fighter force structure is pre-decisional,” said Brig Gen Patrick Ryder, an Air Force spokesperson. The document was not labeled as such, however. He declined further comment about potential future budget or resourcing decisions....

...Over the future years defense plan ending in fiscal ’26, the Air Force would also bring on 84 new F-15EX and 220 F-35A fighters, resulting in a net reduction of 117 jets over the five-year period. The downsizing would be the largest since the “CAF Redux,” or Combat Air Forces Reduction of the early 2010s, in which USAF trimmed its fleet by about 250 airplanes.

...The paper also points out that legacy systems are becoming “significantly more expensive to sustain,” and that USAF fields one of the oldest fleets serving worldwide. The Air Force’s fleet averages 28.6 years, the document points out; by comparison, the Navy’s fleet averages 14.4 years; the Army’s aviation arm averages 15.3 years; the Royal Australian Air Force, 8.9 years, and the U.K. Royal Air Force 16.5 years.

Lt. Gen. David S. Nahom, deputy chief of staff for plans and programs, said this week that USAF’s operating and sustainment costs are “skyrocketing,” and increasing at double the rate of inflation, due to the age of the aircraft. He said 44 percent of USAF’s fleet is operating beyond its planned service life. The F-16 was initially expected to serve only until about 2005. ..." [LOTS more at URL mostly about future NGAD/MR-X & less F-16s & F-15EX 'outsized weapon trucks']

Source: https://www.airforcemag.com/air-force-w ... -new-ones/
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Unread post15 May 2021, 21:59

USAF to Cut F-35 Buy in Future Years Defense Plan [complex stuff best read at source methinks]
14 May 2021 John A. Tirpak

"The Air Force will propose about a 10 percent cut in its planned F-35 purchases in the upcoming future years defense plan, citing sustainment costs for the jet well above what was expected, and because the service prefers to wait for the more advanced Block 4 model. Budget talking points obtained by Air Force Magazine appear to show USAF giving the F-35 program an ultimatum: Get costs under control over the next six to eight years or the overall buy will be sharply reduced.

According to the talking points, which were prepared for Chief of Staff Gen. Charles Q. Brown., Jr., the Air Force plans to request 48 F-35s in Fiscal year 2022, but only 43 aircraft a year from fiscal 2023-2026. The effect over the five years would be to buy 220 jets versus 240 under the previous plan.

Whether Brown has signed off on the new plan is unclear. “The information outlined in the talking points regarding future Air Force fighter force structure is pre-decisional,” said Brig Gen Patrick Ryder, the Air Force public affairs chief, who declined further comment about pending budget or resourcing decisions.

In the last three budget years, the Air Force requested 48 F-35s, and Congress added another 12. That 25 percent increase on USAF’s depot and spares capacity has hurt mission capable rates and prompted some members of Congress to declare they will fight any further such “plus-ups,” to let the sustainment enterprise catch up.

The Air Force set an operating cost goal of $4.1 million per airplane per year—in fiscal 2012 dollars—early in the program, expecting the cost would be in line with that of the F-16. It has failed to hit those marks, however, and Air Force leaders have recently expressed hard skepticism the goal can ever be achieved. Air Combat Command boss Gen. Mark D. Kelly said in February he was not “brimming with confidence” about reaching F-35 support cost goals, and he reiterated that sentiment after a late March tour of F-35 sustainment facilities.

In fact, according to the USAF talking points, the service expects sustainment cost per tail per year to be $7.8 million in 2036 (again, in 2012 base year dollars). “This is an unaffordable sustainability model, if the F-35 were to become the majority of [the Air Force’s] fighter fleet,” the document said. “The Air Force needs the F-35’s advanced capabilities, [but] in affordable capacity.”...

...The service further noted that the Marine Corps and Navy—which have more complex versions of the F-35—set a cost per tail per year of $6.8 million and $7.5 million, respectively, “which are more realistic but likely still unachievable.”

The Air Force noted that the F-35’s procurement price has come down steadily over the last decade, now below $80 million a copy, but that sustainment “will be the overall cost driver.”...

...The cost per flying hour has come down 10 percent in the last year, from $37,000 in base year dollars to $33,000, Fick said; calling it a sign of progress.

He also put the sustainment metrics in context, noting that numbers can be confusing. “I can reduce my cost per flying hour by flying more hours,” he said. “You increase the denominator [and] the overall cost per flying hour dips down. On the other side, that actually increases the cost per tail per year that the services have to pay,” because they’re flying more hours.

“Alternatively,” he continued, “I can fly less—maybe offload some of that work to simulators, … and that would increase the cost per flying hour, because I’m now amortizing all my fixed cost to a lower number of flight hours.” Only by looking at both numbers together, he said, “can you get a really clear view of the work that you’re doing.”
... [LOTS MORE AT THE URL not excerpted here]

...The Air Force talking points continue to describe the F-35 as the “cornerstone of the high-end fight.” It was originally supposed to replace all the F-16s and the A-10s, but “whether the Air Force is able to afford to replace the majority of the fighter fleet with F-35s is a decision point that is still a few years off. In the near term, we must concentrate on achieving the F-35 capability needed for advanced threats (high-end fight).”

For the near future, and through the decade, the talking points say the Air Force will concentrate on “prioritizing” the Block 4 fleet and building it “to desired capacity; finaliz[ing] basing laydown; [and] continu[ing] advanced weapon integration.” Block 4 “must be affordably realized,” the Air Force said.

Fick said that the Block 4 improvements, previously planned to come at a rate of two per year, will now be annual only, due to the complexity of software integration.

The service will also explore manned/unmanned teaming arrangements between the F-35 and autonomous escort aircraft.
“While the F-35 is a formidable platform today, it has some significant challenges to ensure it stays capable against an evolving future threat,” the Air Force document said. Operating costs and sustainment “are areas of concern that need continued focus and work to address affordability.”"

Source: https://www.airforcemag.com/usaf-to-cut ... ense-plan/
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Unread post15 May 2021, 22:04

Some pollie and others BLAB here: Making the Air Force’s Case for Big Fighter Cuts May 14, 2021 Amy McCullough

https://www.airforcemag.com/making-the- ... hter-cuts/
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Unread post16 May 2021, 01:21

For many years the policy and media focus was on the acquisition cost of the F-35. Lockheed and the F-35 program office optimized to get a low acquisition cost. Little attention was spent on stockpiling spare parts and keeping the planes in the air. Now the focus has swung to sustainment cost but it will take a while to develop a bureaucracy focused on sustainment. The effective cancelation of ODIN is not a good sign.

Without many stockpiled spare parts, I do not know how combat effective our current F-35 squadrons are.

Low budget countries with ongoing competitions must not be excited about the high F-35 sustainment costs, although Rafale and Typhoon also likely have high sustainment costs. We will see what happens with Canada, Finland and Switzerland. Also, high F-35 sustainment costs are not what a UK government focused on domestic jobs want to hear about.

Future unmanned combat aircraft will require fewer spares as they only need to be flown for testing, not for training a human pilot.
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