AIR FORCE NEWS
Air Force Pushing Lockheed Martin to Reduce F-35 Sustainment Costs
Lockheed Martin must reduce the F-35 joint strike fighters’ operation and support costs, said the chief of staff of the Air Force March 29.
“Are O&S sustainment costs a major concern right now? Absolutely,” said Gen. David Goldfein during a meeting with defense reporters in Washington, D.C.
The service hopes to reduce the price tag enough that it will be comparable to the sustainment costs associated with a fourth-generation fighter such as the F-16 or F-18, he noted.
However, Goldfein pushed back on the suggestion that O&S costs, if untamed, could result in the reduction of a third of the service’s planned buy of F-35s, as was recently reported by Bloomberg News.
“It’s way too early to be talking about any curtailment of any procurement or any buy because anything that we might be talking about is really well out into the future,” he said. “It’s just not true that there’s … any intent on our part to go one aircraft below the current program of record.”
The Air Force has stated it plans to purchase 1,763 F-35As.
In a statement to National Defense, Lockheed said it shared the Air Force’s goal to lower sustainment costs and was confident it could reduce them to a level that would be equal to or less than the cost to sustain fourth-generation fighters.
“Lockheed Martin is investing in several initiatives to lower the industry component of F-35 sustainment costs and continues to partner with the Joint Program Office to reduce overall operations and sustainment costs,” the statement said.
“We expect to see a similar cost-reduction trend as we’ve seen with production as the sustainment program matures and the operational fleet grows. Through economies of scale, systems improvements and cost-reduction projects, we expect to significantly enhance readiness and lower costs,” it added.
Reducing the price tag to levels on par with legacy aircraft is also important to the Marine Corps, Navy and international partners who are all collectively planning to buy hundreds of joint strike fighters, Goldfein said.
“They’re replacing fourth-generation with fifth-generation [aircraft], so they’re used to spending about that amount of money on sustainment costs,” he said. “I’m talking to them about sustainment costs. We’re all very concerned.”
However, Goldfein was optimistic that Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis, Deputy Defense Secretary Patrick Shanahan and Undersecretary of Defense for Acquisition and Sustainment Ellen Lord would be able to negotiate a reduction.
“Secretary Mattis brought in an incredible team … who have been out in industry through most of their careers and know how this business works,” he said. Lord came from Textron Systems and Shanahan came from Boeing.
They “are now helping us wirebrush down the costs of not only procurement but also sustainment,” he said. “It gives me a level of optimism in this program going forward that we’re going to be able to get to a pretty good target.”
When asked if the Air Force plans to pressue Lockheed to reduce its contractor support and personnel costs, Goldfein said that is part of the negotiation process.
“Ms. Lord is fully engaged on those issues. She and I have talked about it extensively, and so we are looking at all of those issues," he said. “We’re not going to stop until we can get those costs down.”