F-35 program chief looks to a US$80 million F-35

Lt Gen Chris Bogdan at Avalon on Tuesday. (Seth Jaworski)

Australia could end up paying under US$80 million for F-35A Joint Strike Fighter aircraft as accelerating production drives down costs.

US Air Force Lieutenant General Chris Bogdan, head of the F-35 Joint Program Office in the Pentagon, said the production lot (LRIP) nine negotiated in 2015 was for 60 aircraft while the 2017 lot would be for 134 aircraft.

By 2020 each lot will be for 160 aircraft.

He said the price per airplane was coming down lot after lot. The price of an F-35A in LRIP 10 was US$94.6 million.

“I see that number continuing to come down,” he said at Avalon on Tuesday.

General Bogdan said the JPO had consistently promised that an F-35A purchased in 2019 would be less than US$85 million.

“I am here to tell you today that that is not enough. We need the airplane to be lower in price in 2019 and 2020 than US$85 million and I think we can get there.

“We ought to be looking at about an US$80 million airplane by that timeframe and then continuing to reduce the price of the airplane lot over lot over lot.”

The F-35 has been consistently criticised for being too expensive, most recently by new US President Donald Trump.

General Bogdan said the Trump message to both industry and the Defense Department – that he wanted better value for money was a great message which was to be applauded.

He said since the F-35 program was re-baselined in 2011, the price trajectory had been consistently down. Before 2011, the program was running late and over budget.

Australia plans to buy a total of 72 F-35A aircraft with the full fleet in service by the end of 2023. Two have been delivered, early production aircraft now part of the international pilot training fleet at Luke US Air Force base. Each cost more than US$120 million.

General Bogdan said F-35 had achieved great progress in 2016 with the US Air Force declaring initial operating capability of their first F-35 squadrons. F-35 aircraft were now permanently based in Israel and Italy with Norway next.

In the next four years F-35s will be based in 14 countries.

“We have risks. We have things we want to sort out. There are challenges ahead. But since 2011 when the program, was re-baselined we are in a much better frame than we have ever been.”

In one test of F-35s ability to disseminate data, a Marine F-35B detected a low altitude high speed drone simulating a cruise missile, conveyed the tracking data to a US Navy Aegis cruiser simulation out in the desert. Using that data, the cruiser was able to fire a SM-6 missile and shoot down the missile beyond the visible horizon.

Lt Gen Bogdan said that was a very important demonstration for Australia considering our acquisition of both F-35s and the Navy’s new Aegis air warfare destroyers.

He said the $55 billion F-35 development program, which started in 2001 would conclude next year.

When the F-35 program was re-baselined in 2011, the plan was to finish flight testing by the end of 2017 with full capability delivered between August this year and next February. That includes the final software Block 3F which delivers the full warfighting ability.

“Today I am here to tell you we are well within that window for completing all the flight testing and for delivering that capability,” he said.

Comments

  1. Ronald Spencer says

    This was always going to be the knockers will be miffed and still want the F22 but stand off platforms are the way of the future manned and unmanned

  2. omega talon says

    Something else to consider is that Lockheed’s F-35A scored a 15-to-1 kill ratio in Red Flag wargames against legacy fighter jets like the F-15, F-16 and F/A-18; meaning the F-35A killed 15 legacy fighter jets for each F-35A lost.

  3. Raymond says

    This article should be force-fed to all media outlets that delight in misinforming the masses with half-baked untruths, bias, exaggeration and propagation of other anti-F-35 propaganda, and be required to republish it.

    It is a disgrace that the media can so easily and wilfully continue to report in such an unfair and untruthful way, and portray all manner of matters (the F-35 program is but an example) in a way that suits them or serves their vested interests, with no regard to the actual truth – or at least a genuinely balanced outlook.

    These people should be named, shamed and held accountable for deliberately deceiving society, spreading nonsense and generating ill-will.

    There is a terrible and distinct lack of ‘real’ news; this is a disservice to the public and it appears to be only getting worse. This is why people need to research the facts before jumping to conclusions, and it’s becoming more and more necessary as time goes on. One simply cannot always trust what one reads.

    Thankfully Australian Aviation is a real source of information without the spin and embellishment prevalent elsewhere in mainstream media. The problem is, not too many of the general public see this.

  4. Raymond says

    Hopefully General Bogdan’s presentation is disseminated wide and far with the same fervour demonstrated in the past in regards to negative F-35 coverage.

  5. the road runner says

    Donald Trump had no bearing on the price drop what so ever….
    The F-35 was always going to come down in price as the production line started to ramp up and larger orders were placed!!!!

    The Australian Government and RAAF had said all along that JSF will be around the $85 million mark and this looks to be the case.

    All this good news is starting to come out as more F-35 get in the hands of the end users …
    Red Flag known as a “play for keeps” environment has proved how effective the JSF is..
    Its only going to get better for this little bird as the program matures…

    Well done Australian Aviation for all these news feeds coming out from Avalon

  6. Beepa says

    It’s a real shame that at this time in history we are the most networked/connected we have ever been but are further away from the truth as ever.

  7. says

    Raymond,The jet is so classified hence its hard to research the facts.I for one really hope it works.If it does,I will buy you guys a round of drinks.

  8. says

    Raymond,just a quick question,can you declare IOC without IOT&E to proof the system? If you don’t have milestone C certified completion of system development,you cannot run IOT&E as initial service trials.

  9. Harry says

    Adax, probably not…

    Omega talon, that’s not what it means necessarily, it could just mean that in the 15:1 a f-35 was present and helped an f-22, ie it means it was involved in the kill chain but wasn’t necessarily the shooter!