Thursday, August 22, 2013

F-35: 22% drop in 55 year cost projection

Bloomberg (pay site) is reporting the following:
A fleet of Lockheed Martin Corp.’s F-35 fighters will cost $857 billion over 55 years to operate and support, 22 percent less than previously estimated, according to the head of the Pentagon office developing the plane.

The new estimate reflects the aircraft’s performance in 5,000 test flights over 7,000 hours, Air Force Lieutenant General Christopher Bogdan, the Defense Department’s program manager for the F-35, told the Senate Armed Services Committee in written answers last month that haven’t been made public until now. “The previous cost estimate did not factor in this new knowledge,” Bogdan said.

Operating costs include expenses from spare parts to repairs and fuel. Officially, the Pentagon’s estimate remains $1.1 trillion, a two-year-old projection developed by the Pentagon’s independent cost-assessment office. The F-35 is the Pentagon’s costliest weapon system, with an estimated price tag of $391.2 billion for a fleet of 2,443 aircraft, up 68 percent from the projection in 2001, as measured in current dollars. The rising costs and troubles in building the plane even as it’s being developed have led to criticism in Congress. This year, lawmakers, the Government Accountability Office and the Pentagon test office have said the aircraft is making progress in flight tests and in stabilizing production.

The reduced estimate for operating the planes was among such indications cited by Bogdan in his letter to the lawmakers.
The point, of course, is that the first estimate wasn't using real data in many of its assumptions and estimates.  With the addition of real data, those original assumptions have been proven to be wrong and the estimates of cost to be incorrect as well.

Also in the report:
Bogdan estimated that basic production costs, including engines, for the three variations of the aircraft will fall as much as $35 million per plane by fiscal 2018, when full-rate production is scheduled to begin.

If current trends hold and production rates increase, Bogdan said, the Marine Corps version will fall to $110 million a plane from $153 million under the fifth production contract signed in December. The Navy’s version will drop to $100 million from $140 million and the Air Force’s to $85 million from $120 million, he said.
Or costs will fall to pretty much what the manufacturer promised.

If I had to guess, I'd bet that this new $857 billion number will rarely see the light of day on the critical side of the spectrum.  Just as they like to cite 2008 exercises, they'll likely stick with the $1.1 trillion number as well.  Feel free to apprise them of their error.



  1. It never surprises me that critics spout the original CAPE estimates, like they are a gospel truth. The readjustment of estimates will turn into another talking point for critics, as they claim these are simply Lockheed lies. Critics never let things like facts get in the way of their rants.

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