[UPDATED with video & Winslow Wheeler comment] WASHINGTON: It’s been a tough week for critics of the F-35. Concurrency costs dropped an impressive half billion dollars — note to Winslow Wheeler — and the Air Force version launched an air to air missile for the first time.
The F-35A launched the AMRAAM missile on Wednesday (it can take the Pentagon a while to clear even good news for release). [Video of the test went online Monday:]
Here’s how a statement described the event this afternoon:
“This is the first launch where the F-35 and AIM-120 demonstrated a successful launch-to-eject communications sequence and fired the rocket motor after launch – paving the way for targeted launches later this year in support of Block 2B fleet release capability,” the Joint Program Office said.
Block 2B refers to the software that will allow the plane to fly and fight with many of its weapons, though not all.
You can read the report and enjoy its graph — clearly designed for economists and engineers — here: F-35 Concurrency Costs RTC_May 2013.
As the report notes, the Pentagon and Lockheed Martin are monitoring concurrency costs closely. In the sixth Low Rate Initial Production (LRIP 6) contract the Pentagon pushed Lockheed to bear the pain equally with the Defense Department on all changes “discovered prior to beginning of production” of that lot. The goal is to “”encourage” Lockheed to work on concurrency changes into production as quickly as possible “to avoid cost sharing.” that will continue through the rest of the program, the report says.
Our friend Winslow Wheeler, offered a different perspective.
“DOD now claims that the added unit costs of fixes to concurrency screw ups is now $500 million less than was predicted earlier, even if those costs are unknown and will remain so until the end of initial OT&E in 2019 and operational flying thereafter,” he said in an email. “If Congress tries to take this $500 million out of the program without also removing airplanes, watch ’em howl.”
Here is a breakdown of the 36 planes included in LRIP 6:
18 F-35A CTOL for the U.S. Air Force
6 F-35B STOVL for the U.S. Marine Corps
o7 F-35C CV for the U.S. Navy
3 F-35A CTOL for Italy
2 F-35A CTOL for Australia
We’ve also loaded the report here for your convenience—-PDF embedded from Scribd—