Thursday, January 17, 2019

Just when I was beginning to think the F-35 had turned the corner, Thompson let's us know the worse is yet to come...

via Forbes.
If you pay any attention to U.S. military budgets and programs though, you are probably going to be hearing a lot more about F-35 sustainment in the years ahead.  With development hurdles surmounted, keeping the F-35 flying now bulks as the biggest bill that the program will need to pay.  I did a back-of-the-envelope calculation last year and came to the conclusion F-35 sustainment will cost an average of $11.8 billion per year in today’s dollars through 2070 if the military services buy all the fighters they say they need.  My calculation was based on outdated data, but it illustrates the scale of resources that might be required.

The good news is that $11.8 billion is about one day’s worth of federal spending at current rates to sustain most of the tactical aircraft in the joint fleet for a year–aircraft far more capable than the planes in the fleet today.  The bad news is that the Pentagon has never spent anywhere near this amount of money sustaining a single family of aircraft, so controversy is likely.  In fact, it is already upon us to some degree.

In December the Pentagon’s Under Secretary for Acquisition & Sustainment, Ellen Lord, sent a report to Congress describing the gap between what the F-35 is expected to cost to keep flying through 2070 and the amount of money the military services say they have available for that purpose.  There is a reasonable degree of alignment between resources and needs in the case of the sea services, but in the case of the Air Force there is a big gap.  Specifically, the Pentagon says it costs about $7 million to operate each Air Force variant of the plane per year, and the service can only afford about $4 million.  So a 43% gap needs to be closed.

This isn’t as hard as it sounds, because F-35 has just begun operating in limited numbers and sustainment concepts are still being refined.  Eventually there will be economies of scale due to size and commonality across the join fleet, and sustainers will move down the learning curve in pursuing efficiencies.  For instance, contractor Lockheed Martin maintains an F-35 with three personnel, while the Air Force provides similar support with nine personnel.  The difference is mainly organizational, and over time the Air Force will likely implement efficiencies.

New planes such as F-35 are invariably are more expensive to sustain than mature planes that have been flying for many years.  The supply chain for spare parts has not been ironed out, maintainers don’t fully understand all the intricacies of a new system, and large organizations are slow to adapt to changing technology.  F-35 compounds these problems because it is revolutionary in all regards, from its stealthy airframe to its super-efficient engines to its sensing capabilities that seldom get discussed in public.

F-35 is actually the first fighter ever built that had a sustainment system developed in parallel, but so much has changed in the world of information technology since the program’s inception that the sustainment system may need to be rearchitected.  Once the dozens of efficiency initiatives being implemented by the joint program office and services are in place, the Air Force variant will probably cost around $25,000 per hour to operate, compared with around $20,000 per hour for a legacy F-16.  That is arguably a bargain, when you consider how much more survivable, lethal and capable the F-35 is.

But much of the context surrounding such judgments will get lost in media reporting on sustainment costs.  What news consumers will get is eye-popping projections of future costs, because whopping price-tags are what attract those eyes to a story in the first place.  In other words, media coverage of F-35 sustainment could end up being just as misleading (meaning wrong) as coverage of the plane’s development was.  So fasten your seatbelt; it will all work out in the end.
Story here. 

Wow.  Do you get the force of connection here???

First Thompson just shitted on the talking point that legacy planes are more expensive to maintain than new jets.  I know for a fact that the Marine Corps has been rolling out the chestnut that old aircraft are eating up maintenance budgets!  Now we have Thompson switching things up BIG TIME!~

Second did he actually tell us that the sustainment system developed for the F-35 is already obsolete?  DID HE ACTUALLY SAY THAT!!!

I'm flabbergasted!  Dude tells us that his knowledge of this subject is as limited as our own and then he makes pronouncements about everything being good to go.

The most eye watering part of this entire article is this....
Specifically, the Pentagon says it costs about $7 million to operate each Air Force variant of the plane per year, and the service can only afford about $4 million.  So a 43% gap needs to be closed.
The F-35A is the LEAST complex model!  If the USAF has a gap in funding then you know the USMC and US Navy have got to be fucked...proper fucked!

You don't close that big a funding gap with "efficiencies"!!!

I was beginning to think that maybe the F-35 wasn't the clusterfuck I imagined when the 56th Fighter Wing put out the video of the demo practice, but now Thompson has yanked me back to reality.

We can't afford the F-35.

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