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OPINION – Int’l JSF partners need to ramp it up

written by australianaviation.com.au | March 22, 2012

Coming soon to a F-35 partner country.

The international partners in the JSF program – including Australia – really need to come together to lobby the US government to recognise the disproportionate share of the early production costs of the F-35 they will be forced to pay in the next five years.

The combined partner nation JSF requirement is about 750 aircraft, less than a third of the US’s stated long-term requirement of 2,443. But the US’s FY13 budget has proposed moving 179 F-35s five years to the right to effectively cap US low rate initial production (LRIP) production at about 30 aircraft a year until 2016 – ostensibly because of production and development ‘concurrency’ issues, but more likely because of the US budget crisis.

But by deferring these 179 jets in order to supposedly save about $6 million in concurrency issue repair costs per aircraft for the aircraft it doesn’t buy, the US will in effect pay about $10 million more per unit for the aircraft it does buy… and so will the partners. On top of this, the US has also earmarked about $2 billion to upgrade 300 USAF F-16s because of the slower F-35 service introduction, while partner nations are also having to consider further legacy fighter upgrade programs or gap-bridging buys.

Because of the US slowdown, the partner nations and early FMS customers like Israel and Japan will actually be taking more jets than the three US customer forces combined during this period, and will thus be paying a higher unit cost for these aircraft than they would otherwise have – as much as 10 per cent more – due to the lower than expected US build numbers.

So while we may have seen the start of a movement between the partners with a Canadian-led gathering in Washington in early March, the partners need to take it to the next level and demand a more proportionate deal from the US, not just for the aircraft’s acquisition, but also for the industrial participation of their local industries.


Andrew McLaughlin

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Comments (14)

  • Mark


    Sounds like we could be getting more Super hornets?

  • ron


    100 supers now & a couple of squadrons of “mature” F-35’s in 2025 works for me.

  • Vine


    E’s or F’s?

  • Tim


    To be honest, we shouldn’t get more Super Hornets. We’re kind of rewarding the US for stuffing about with JSF program. We’ve already bought squadrons of them, will upgrade a few to Growlers, have awarded multi million dollar service contracts to US defence companies etc. We’ve now bought a sixth C-17A (should’ve bought 6 in the first place) so more cash going to US companies. Why are we not looking at Eurofighter’s Typhoon or even Dassault’s Rafale? It puzzles me that we almost always seem to go to the US for our defence aviation needs these days. Nobody else seems to get a look in.

  • Alex


    75 silent eagles with the super hornet we got now is the best combo.

  • Kenny


    Tim, I don’t want to sound cynical (but let’s be realistic). Because of the defence arrangements we have with the US, we’re expected to buy their hardware in return for their support if we ever come under attack from enemy forces from the North. If it was a truly transparent market, why not buy the Su-30. On paper it outperforms the F-18E/F and is a lot cheaper (also seems to work for airforces like India).

  • Richo


    Why is Oz always in a lose-lose situation when it comes to defence purchases?
    We coughed up 250 mil to jump on the development band wagon, without due considerstion to the other aircraft types that were/would be available.
    Due to the “development costs” and time frames blowing out, and having to spend even more billions on Super Hornets to fill the “capability” gap,ecause we cant wait, for whatever the threat might be now/near future/never.
    The Defence Dept should take a seriously tough line … and give the taxpayer first priority.. not the smooth talking US sales people from the hugely profiable US defence industries.
    Because they have failed to deliver… our spending to make up their shortfall should be adjusted accordingly.
    Or are our contracts so poorly written we just have to bend over and quietly pay up, regardless.

  • Dane


    May i remind people that the current european gear in service is complete crap. The MRH, Tiger and KC-30 are prime examples.

  • Ray says


    Why didnt we purshase the F-22 was it to good for us

  • Damian


    Remember the F-111?

    When the Australian government selected it in the 60’s “off the plan” it was a highly controversial decision deemed too expensive and plagued with technical problems. Hangered for five years because of the wing root problems that lead to some early hull losses until the problem was fixed the F-111 became a much loved and highly capable fighter/bomber.

    Some could argue that it was because we had the F-111 and it’s exceptionally unique capabilities that some of our neighbours who had less than friendly plans against us shelved them.

    The main reason the F-35 is the right choice is interoperbility with our allied forces, commonality of a global parts stores at various worldwide bases and exchange of lessons learnt by our simarly equipped allies.

    Give it time and I would suggest that in 20-30 years time we will be talking about the F-35 in the same way as we do the beloved “Pig”.

  • Mark


    Even with a volume price the F35 well likely run between 128 m to 185m each.

    The F-15 silent eagle runs about 100 m each.In comparison, some aspects of the Silent Eagle package make it a promising possibility. Boeing is talking about a $100 million price tag per aircraft, a significantly longer range than the F-35, and a maintenance infrastructure that could be based on the one for Israel’s F-15 fleet. Delivery may begin by 2012. […]

    A designed aircraft that can handle continuous hard landings on our short, arresting-wire (carrier-type) northern landing strips.
    The new F/A 18 super hornet has a proven track record on both accounts plus has pilot and crew familiarity and is priced at about 55 m each.

  • Peter


    @ Damian

    The main reason why the F-35 is the wrong choice.

  • Anon


    Why would you comment on an eight month old post?

    “Cleshay…”? Really??? Who’s really “silly and mindless”?

    Pierre Sprey did not design the F-16 or A-10….he helped define their requirements. MAJOR difference!

  • Anon


    Peter, please share with us what PRIMARY SOURCE information you have on the F-35.

    You seem frustrated no one will
    Listen to you – this is your chance to reveal your credentials!

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