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Sustaining the Joint Strike Fighter

Recently published review of the F-35 program by the Government Accountability Office (GAO) stated the current sustainment cost projection by Cost Assessment and Program Evaluation (CAPE) for all U.S. aircraft, based on an estimated 30-year service life, exceeds $1 trillion. Using current program assumptions of aircraft inventory and flight hours, CAPE recently estimated annual operating and support costs of $18.2 billion for all F-35 variants compared to $11.1 billion spent on legacy aircraft in 2010. Based on current estimates, the cost of a flying hour on that aircraft would $23,900, about 10 percent higher a flight hour of a single-engine F-16.

DOD officials have declared that operating and support costs of this magnitude are unaffordable and the department is actively engaged in evaluating opportunities to reduce those costs, such as basing and infrastructure reductions, competitive sourcing, and reliability improvements. “We must start today to attack the long term life cycle costs of the F-35 weapon system.” F-35 PEO General Bogdan agrees.

[ismember]He said the Services and the Department of defense are joining forces in analyzing and reducing sustainment costs, fostering competition in several areas of the sustainment program, including elements of the supply chain, support equipment, training operations support. Fixes to the Autonomic Logistics Information System (ALIS) are also required, the system that provides maintenance, reliability, logistics, and training information to support the aircraft sustainment was found unreliable in tracking logistical data and managing aircraft systems. Moreover, lacking a smaller and transportable version needed to support unit level deployments to operating locations the system is not expected to support operations at least until 2015.

“The program is delivering incremental software fixes to address problems more quickly and I have put into place a plan for a complete end-to-end test to ensure the aircraft and ALIS can operate together seamlessly” Bogdan said.

He added that operating over 5,400 flight hours in developmental testing, pilot training and beginning operational training, important data collected from the field is processed into Reliability and Maintainability program to systematically identify cost drivers and optimizing the maintenance approach for those components, to drive down repair turn times. Additionally, the program has instituted a Targeted Affordability Program that provides an increased emphasis on operations and sustainment and total ownership costs.[/ismember]

“We continue to work with the prime contractors to achieve an efficient Performance Based Logistics environment at the overarching weapon system level. “ Bogdan concluded, “The ultimate goal of all of this work is to produce a mutually beneficial sustainment enterprise that – with relevant metrics and incentives – operates, manages and supports the global system, while meeting warfighter-defined readiness and cost objectives.”
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Other topics addressed by Bogdan were:

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