Saturday, November 26, 2016

Producing, Operating and Supporting a 5th Generation Fighter

Production Costs

The F-35 Lightning II was designed to be an affordable 5th Generation fighter, taking advantage of economies of scale and commonalities between the three variants. Since we built the first F-35, production costs have dropped 55 percent.
The most recently contracted unit costs for Low Rate Initial Production lot 7 (not including the engine) are:
  • F-35A: $98 million
  • F-35B: $104 million
  • F-35C: $116 million
An F-35A purchased in 2018 and delivered in 2020 will be $85 million, which is the equivalent of $75 million in today’s dollars.

The U.S. Government and F-35 industrial team continue to collaborate to further reduce F-35 costs for future production lots. Since the F-35 program Technical Baseline Review in 2011, the team has studied and successfully implemented numerous affordability measures to drive costs out of the program.


The F-35 program, like many fighter programs, includes an overlap of flight test and initial production known as concurrency. Concurrency allows for a steady production and supply chain pace and faster delivery of the F-35 to the warfighter.
Because of concurrency, early production aircraft require some retrofits to implement changes based on flight test discoveries. As the flight test program matures, the risk of new discoveries declines. As risk declines, fewer retrofits are required in later production lots. In June 2013, Department of Defense concurrency cost estimates dropped by $500 million for the first five production lots due to more accurate estimating methods and proactive efforts to make updates more efficient. 
Lockheed Martin and the F-35 Joint Program Office share concurrency costs through the first four production lots. Beginning with Low Rate Initial Production Lot 5, Lockheed Martin took on a greater share of known concurrency costs.

Operating and Support Costs

Just as program maturity has led to more reliable concurrency estimates, increased knowledge of F-35 operations have resulted in more reliable operating and support costs. In August 2013, the F-35 Joint Program Office reported a 22 percent decrease in operating cost estimates across the 55-year life of the Lightning II. Estimates include expenses like spare parts, repairs and fuel. We expect cost estimates to continue to decline as the program matures further and operating and support affordability initiatives are implemented. 


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