PARIS AIR SHOW: It’s a mantra: 25 by 25. Lockheed Martin recites it to ward off the criticism that the F-35 is too expensive to operate.
What’s it mean? That the costs of operating the F-35 each hour will fall to $25,000 per hour from its current $44,000. The JSF Joint Program Office is targeting $34,000 in 2024. The Pentagon’s powerful Cost Assessment and Program Evaluation (CAPE) office estimate is about $36,000 in 2024, pretty close to the JPO’s estimate. But CAPE does not believe that the program can get to $25,000 by 2025. In fact, CAPE’s estimate is that flying costs will start to increase again by then because more aircraft will be in need of expensive major depot work.
Asked during his briefing here whether 25 by 25 was achievable, Greg Ulmer, head of the program for Lockheed Martin, said the company would prove itself just as it had by lowering the cost of an F-35A to below $80 million one year early.
While it is true — and impressive — that the F-35A has come down below $80 million in Lot 13, the program has had much greater difficulty lowering operating and maintenance costs. Part of the problem is the acknowledged mess of ALIS, the hugely complex and often ineffective planning and maintenance software system designed for the plane. The Air Force is pressing hard to break ALIS down into a series of apps that can be easily upgraded and provide faster and more accurate planning and maintenance, with Air Force acquisition head Will Roper personally pressing hard for change.
For more details about the possible effects of Turkey being barred from the F-35 program, watch the video.