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The production of F-35 has been derailed once again. In an ironic turn, engineers discovered that the fuel tank of the jet known as the Lightning II can explode of struck by lightning. This is the latest setback for the Pentagon’s controversial and most expensive defense program
A report from Pentagon’s Operational Test and Evaluation Office disclosed that a fault in the Joint Strike Fighter’s engine can lead to a catastrophic explosion when struck by lightning. The report also states that all test flights are prohibited within 25 miles of thunderstorm until the device in the fuel tank responsible for maintaining correct oxygen levels is redesigned. Another design fault in the fuel tank was revealed in the report. The fault prevents the F-35 to rapidly descend to low altitude. According to the report, both failings are unacceptable for combat and training.
A Lockheed Martin spokesman explained: “The F-35 program has yet to formally test for lightning protection. We still have four years of Developmental Test ahead of us, before we actually begin formal Operational Testing. There is a plan in place for lightning testing to be completed in the future test plan, and for the jet to be appropriately equipped to fly in all weather. The plan is to conduct lightning test towards the end of the flight test program. Because the testing has not been completed to date, we therefore have a lightning restriction of 25 miles at present for flight operations – this is obviously the safe, and sensible way to do business and supported by all involved in the program.”
The F-35 Lightning II is one of the most sophisticated stealth aircraft ever built. It is designed to be able to flt into enemy’s territory, attack its target, and return to safety without being detected. It is also deemed to be the most expensive defense program as the total cost of buying, operating, and maintaining the aircraft over 30 years is estimated to be around $1 trillion.
The F-35 was hoped to be one of the finest aircraft of the military’s fleet. Start your own fleet of military aircraft models with Warplanes. Warplanes has wide range of model airplane depicting modern and World War II aircraft.
News Source: www.telegraph.co.uk
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To avoid creating a hollow force, the Defense Department is not going to protect force structure at the expense of needed training and gear, top Pentagon officials said Thursday.
“The military will be smaller and leaner, but it will be agile, flexible, ready and technologically advanced; it will be cutting edge,” Defense Secretary Leon Panetta told reporters at the Pentagon as he unveiled more details ahead of the fiscal 2013 budget proposal.
Panetta addressed the media along with Army Gen. Martin Dempsey, Joint Chiefs chairman. Together, they unveiled some of the details from the Pentagon’s new five-year spending plan. The full 2013 budget release is planned for Feb. 13, when President Obama sends his budget request to Congress.
DoD’s plans revealed no sacrificial lambs: all three variants of the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter are safe; the Navy will maintain 11 aircraft carriers; and the Army’s major vehicle programs are intact.
Instead, to reduce projected spending by $487 billion over the next 10 years, the Pentagon is eliminating what it describes as “poorly performing programs,” while slowing down the production of others. Panetta also said DoD has identified an additional $60 billion in efficiencies.
The first tranche of the spending cuts — $259 billion — will come over the next five years.
These targets conform to the initial spending caps outlined in the Budget Control Act Congress passed by Congress in August.
However, they do not take into account the possibility of sequestration, which would initiate an additional $500 billion cut beginning in January 2013 if Congress does not find an alternative way to reduce the country’s deficit.
Panetta said he hopes that when members of Congress sees what it takes to make this first round of cuts, they will be convinced they need to act in order to avoid sequestration.
Vice Joint Chiefs Chairman Adm. James “Sandy” Winnefeld, who appeared with Deputy Defense Secretary Ashton Carter after Panetta and Dempsey spoke, said DoD had arrived at its budget in a “very healthy way,” crafting strategy before making spending choices.
“Sequestration would reverse that,” he said.
DoD leaders also emphasized that the spending plan should be viewed as a complete package and that changes in one area could adversely affect others.
There is little room for modification to this plan while maintaining the quality of the force and providing troops with the capabilities they need, Panetta said.
In a message most likely for lawmakers, Carter said, “It is a carefully balanced package and therefore can’t be changed or modified piece by piece.”
The five-year plan reflects the new strategic guidance, released Jan. 5, by shifting focus toward the Asia-Pacific region, while maintaining influence in the Middle East.
In 2013, the Pentagon is requesting $525 billion for its base budget, with an additional $88.4 billion for overseas contingency operations. It projects the Defense Department will need $567 billion for its base budget in 2017.
The 2013 base budget represents the first budget to decline in nominal terms since 1998, down from 2012’s $531 billion.
The topline number is directly shaped by the Budget Control Act’s cap on security spending, which is set at $686 billion for 2013. That has to cover funding for the Defense Department as well as the State Department, the Department of Homeland Security and the Veterans Affairs Department.
Panetta reminded reporters that it was a bipartisan Congress that mandated these defense cuts.
The budget document describes the investment choices as “hard but manageable” and places the budget in a historical context, saying that after every major conflict, the U.S. has experienced “significant budget drawdowns.”
The description of reductions, however, had little impact on stock prices, as Wall Street met the news calmly. Boeing, Northrop Grumman and General Dynamics all saw their stock prices decline by less than 1 percent, while Lockheed Martin and Raytheon saw increases of less than 1 percent. Market analysts had predicted that stock pricing had already assumed significant defense cuts.
FORCE SIZE REDUCTIONS
With the end of war in Iraq and the beginning of a troop withdrawal in Afghanistan, there will be further reductions to the ground forces.
Panetta announced the Army will be reduced from 547,000 active-duty soldiers to 490,000, while the Marine Corps will be cut to 182,000.
“I’m confident 490,000 is the right number for 2017,” Dempsey said, reminding reporters that this was the number for active duty soldiers and does not include the National Guard and Reserve.
However, “it might not be the right number for 2020,” he added.
The Army also plans to remove at least eight brigade combat teams from its existing force structure.
“Even with these reductions, the Army and Marine Corps will be larger than they were in 2001,” according to the document titled “Defense Budget Priorities and Choices,” which outlines the investment decisions discussed by Panetta and Dempsey.
These reductions in force size do require a corresponding reduction in the military’s facilities resources.
Therefore, the president will request that Congress authorize use of the Base Realignment and Closure process with a goal of identifying savings “that can be reinvested in higher priorities as soon as possible.”
“The best approach to reducing that infrastructure politically on Capitol Hill is to work it through the BRAC process,” Panetta said.
The Pentagon did not tie any savings to potential base closures, because those require congressional authorization.
“If we tied savings to it before Congress authorized it, and they didn’t authorize it, it would undermine our whole budget,” Panetta said.
As for overseas basing, the Pentagon says the Army and Marine Corps will sustain force structure in the Pacific, while “maintaining persistent presence” in the Middle East.
MILITARY SERVICE PLANS
The Pentagon has budgeted to forward station littoral combat ships in Singapore and patrol craft in Bahrain.
It has also provided funding for a new “afloat forward staging base that can be dedicated to support missions in areas where ground-based access is not available, such as counter-mine operations.”
The Army will reduce its current footprint in Europe by two heavy brigades, while establishing and maintaining a new rotational presence in Europe.
With the Defense Department shifting its focus to the Asia-Pacific region, the Air Force will maintain the current strategic bomber fleet and will also fund a new bomber program, according to the document.
By doing so, the Pentagon has decided to protect all three legs of the nuclear triad. However, the Navy will have to delay its Ohio-class ballistic-missile submarine replacement by two years.
Carter described the submarine’s original schedule as “aggressive, bordering on optimistic.”
The Navy and Marines will also retain their air-power assets, with the sea services retaining all 11 aircraft carriers, 10 carrier air wings, and all of the amphibious assault ships.
All three F-35 Joint Strike Fighter variants are safe, but the Pentagon has decided to slow down procurement to allow for more testing.
Panetta said the Air Force would also continue with its plans to purchase next generation KC-46 tanker aircraft.
DoD will also invest in new air-to-air missiles, new radars for tactical aircraft and ships, more electronic warfare and communications capabilities.
The Navy will build a new “prompt strike option” from submarines and will add cruise missile capacity to its Virginia-class boats.
The Air Force will lose six tactical fighter squadrons and a training squadron, while the Navy loses seven Ticonderoga-class cruisers, one of which has missile defense capability, but which needs a lot of repairs, the budget document says.
One big-deck amphibious ship and a submarine will be delayed. Two smaller amphibious dock landing ships will be decommissioned and their replacements delayed.
The Navy also loses eight joint high speed vessels and two littoral combat ships.
The Air Force is losing the Block 30 version of the Global Hawk, but other variants, namely the Navy’s RQ-4N and Air Force’s Block 40, are safe.
Carter explained that the Block 30 version was supposed to replace Lockheed Martin’s U-2 spy plane but it priced itself out of the niche for taking pictures in the air, Carter said.
“That’s a disappointment for us, but that’s the fate of things that become too expensive in a resource-constrained environment,” he added.
Air mobility takes a hit with 27 C-5A Galaxy airlifters being retired along with 65 older C-130s. The entire C-27 fleet of 38 cargo aircraft is also being scrapped by the Air Force.
However, there will also be investment in advance unmanned aircraft, and the Air Force will gain the capability to operate 65 Predator/Reaper patrols and surge to 85 when needed. Today, the Air Force can fly 61 orbits continuously.
For the Army, the Pentagon has curtailed the Joint Land Attack Cruise Missile Defense Elevated Netted Sensor System, a floating missile defense sensor.
The Joint-Air-to-Ground-Missile’s funding has been reduced, with money kept in the budget to find a lower cost alternative.
The Army will cancel its effort to recapitalize its Humvee fleet and will instead focus resources on the Joint Light Tactical Vehicle.
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Sen. John Cornyn says he will vote to approve the nomination of a top Pentagon official whom he criticized just three weeks ago for not supporting the F-35 joint strike fighter strongly enough.
At a Senate hearing Tuesday, Cornyn briefly praised Ashton Carter and said he would vote for his confirmation as deputy secretary of defense.
Cornyn’s remarks came after several of his colleagues, notably Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman Carl Levin, D-Mich., and Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., were extremely critical of the F-35 program and pressed Carter on the importance of controlling “intolerable cost overruns.”
On Aug. 24, Cornyn wrote a letter to Carter “to express disappointment with your apparent lack of commitment to the success” of the F-35 and to urge “you to step up your defense of this key program.”
Cornyn was also critical of the Pentagon buying more Boeing F/A-18 Super Hornets rather than spending the money on the F-35.
As the Pentagon’s head of weapons acquisition, Carter has had to restructure and rebudget the program twice in two years to compensate for delays and cost increases as Lockheed Martin struggled to get airplanes built and flying.
So what changed in the last three weeks?
“Dr. Carter assured me that the F-35 will form the backbone of U.S. air combat for generations to come, and I applaud him for improving the execution of this critical program,” Cornyn said in a statement issued after the hearing.
Carter wrote a letter to Cornyn in which he largely reiterated his past comments and official Pentagon policy on the F-35. Carter said that there are “no alternatives” to the F-35 as the nation’s principal future warplane and that his “focus is on managing the cost and making decisions now that will affect affordability in the future.”
The twin specters of soaring weapons costs, with the F-35 as the leading culprit, and likely defense budget cuts hang over Carter’s confirmation hearing.
He assured the senators that his primary focus, after getting needed weapons and supplies to troops in the field, will be curtailing costs.
Those threats were manifested when a separate Senate panel, the defense appropriations subcommittee, voted to cut $26 billion from the Pentagon’s $656.8 billion budget request for 2012, including trimming $695 million from the F-35 program.
The subcommittee action is one step in the budget process that will unfold in coming weeks as Congress cuts spending to meet deficit reduction targets mandated last month.
Separately on Monday, Cornyn and Sen. Robert Menendez, D-N.J., introduced legislation that would require the Obama administration to allow Lockheed Martin to sell F-16s to Taiwan. The jets would be built in Fort Worth.
“This sale is a win-win, in strengthening the national security of our friend Taiwan as well as our own, and supporting tens of thousands of jobs in the U.S.,” Cornyn said in a statement. “Saying no here would mean granting Communist China substantial sway over American foreign policy, putting us on a very slippery slope.”
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Defence Minister Stephen Smith has set a firm 2012 deadline on any decision to buy additional Boeing Super Hornet aircraft in the face of further delays in delivery of the new Joint Strike Fighter. Smith again vowed he would not allow any air combat capability gap to emerge between retirement of older F/A-18 Hornet aircraft and entry to service of the JSF.
Under current plans, Australia is looking to acquire up to 100 of the advanced Lockheed-Martin F-35 JSF at a cost around $16 billion. But so far Australia has committed to buy just 14, with the RAAF set to take delivery of the first two in the US for training in 2014-15.
The Defence Minister said the RAAF’s 71 classic Hornets were being upgraded and would remain in service until around 2020 when the JSF is expected to enter full service. Twenty of 24 new Super Hornets have now been delivered with the rest to arrive later this year. He then added that Australia prudently chose to buy the conventional takeoff and landing (CTOL) JSF variant rather than the more troubled carrier or short takeoff and vertical landing (STOVL) variants.
Advice from the Defence Department indicated Australia could wait until 2013 to make a judgement about whether alternative arrangements were required to ensure there was no gap in capability, he said.
“I am not proposing to wait until the last minute. I am proposing to recommend to the government that we make that decision next year,” Smith said in answer to a question from independent MP Andrew Wilkie.
He said there was an obvious Plan B – more Super Hornets.
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The Joint Strike Fighter Program Office deputy director expressed confidence in the progress of the JSF program at an Air Force Association breakfast program last week. The upgrades and acquisitions, particularly the completion of the new Eglin Air Force Base, Fla., training facility, helps to advance the fifth-generation F-35 Lightning II program, said Maj. Gen. C.D. Moore.
“The F-35 is at the nexus of concurrency where we are building production aircraft, conducting developmental tests, and starting to build a cadre of future Joint Strike Fighter maintainers and pilots,” Moore said.
Moore described plans for Pilot Training Center-1, a future facility where the services and their international partners will be able to train and interact. The location of the center has not been determined.
The general reported that F-35 flight science testing is making good progress at Naval Air Station Patuxent River, Md., and Edwards Air Force Base, Calif. The program is building mission avionics confidence with Block 1 software. Also, AF-6 and AF-7 conventional takeoff and landing aircraft are completing maturity flights to strengthen and verify the training syllabus that will be used at Eglin AFB.
Building momentum and maintaining affordability will ensure the JSF program’s longevity into 2035 and beyond, he said.
The Joint Strike Fighter Program Office is the Department of Defense’s agency responsible for developing and acquiring the F-35A/B/C, the next generation strike aircraft weapon systems for the Navy, Air Force, Marine Corps and many allied nations.
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The Boeing F/A-18E/F Super Hornet was not supposed to live this long. But with the latest slippages in the Lockheed Martin Joint Strike Fighter (JSF) program and aging fighter forces worldwide, Boeing talks about stretching production to 1,000 aircraft and keeping the line open to the end of the decade, despite the recent loss in India’s Medium Multi-Role Combat Aircraft competition. The program is close to 700 aircraft, including 41 additional U.S. Navy aircraft announced this year to mitigate JSF delays.
Active campaigns include Brazil and Denmark. A Middle Eastern customer—possibly Kuwait—has expressed interest. The Super Hornet is Boeing’s candidate for the next Japanese fighter order, competing with the Eurofighter Typhoon and JSF. The idea of another Super Hornet buy is being mooted in Australia, which could face a front-line fighter gap if the JSF slips further. Boeing says a number of JSF partners have asked for information on the Super Hornet.
Boeing’s strategy is not to initiate comparisons with JSF, although Boeing Military Aircraft President Chris Chadwick called Lockheed Martin on the mat in May for what he termed “fundamentally untrue” statements about the Super Hornet’s price. However, Boeing never talks about its product without pointing out that it offers “date and cost-certain” capabilities and that all Super Hornets and Growlers have been delivered on cost, and on or ahead of schedule. Recently, Chadwick suggested that the JSF “might become a niche fighter” on the international market because of its cost.
More details have emerged about the “international roadmap” features that have been disclosed piece-by-piece over the past year. The most visible are the conformal fuel tanks (CFT) above the body and the low-radar-cross-section (RCS) centerline weapons pod. Those are to be wind tunnel-tested this year, with a decision on a flight-test program to follow.
The CFTs carry 3,200 lb. of fuel. Boeing says they have no net drag at cruising speed, because they reduce trim drag enough to offset their added frontal area. As a result, a configuration with CFTs and a centerline tank delivers as much range as a three-tank configuration today. The weapon pod carries four AIM-120 missiles, a 2,000-lb. bomb or two 500-lb.-class weapons.
Transonic acceleration and specific excess power, particularly when temperatures at altitude are high, were criticized on the Super Hornet when it entered service. A roadmap option is an enhanced-performance engine (EPE) variant of the General Electric F414, offering up to a 20% thrust boost. That would take the EPE to 26,500 lb. of thrust, giving it the best thrust/weight ratio of any fighter engine—almost 11:1. It has a new core, based on demonstrations conducted with U.S. government funds in 2004 and 2006, and a redesigned fan and compressor. A third test engine was run in 2010.
GE says that it has developed 17 new or derivative engines successfully from the same technology readiness level. Unfortunately, India did not accept that argument.
Also on the roadmap menu is a spherical-coverage missile-approach warning system and an infrared search-and-track (IRST) system in a chin pod. Boeing and Lockheed Martin are working on a repackaged, updated version of the AAS-42 IRST (originally developed in the 1980s for the Grumman F-14D) for the Navy’s Hornet fleet, carried in a modified fuel tank. Boeing is open to other options for the international aircraft. (Japan, for instance, has its own domestic IRST technology on the F-15J Kai upgrade.)
Inside the cockpit, a new option is a big-screen display comprising an 11 X 19-in. panel, which could be flight-tested next year. Based on commercial technology, the panel is a hedge against obsolescence and a potential cost-saver as well as offering options for new display formats. A low-profile head-up display using digital LCD projection eliminates the big optical box that previously ruled out a panoramic display.
Boeing has been taking a working model of the big-screen cockpit to trade shows and bases worldwide, both to promote it and to get pilot reactions to conceptual display formats.
Although Boeing is careful to keep the “international” label attached to the new options, they are all designed for retrofit to Block 2 aircraft, all but 24 of which belong to the U.S. Navy. And while the modified aircraft will not directly match the F-35C in signatures, it closes the gap in RCS and range (with the CFTs), is lighter and more powerful, and current estimates say it will be less expensive to buy and operate.
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Fresh off a hearing about continued cost increases on Lockheed Martin’s F-35 Joint Strike Fighter program, the Senate Armed Services Committee (SASC) on June 16 approved a bill that would require the government to buy the next batch of aircraft on a fixed-price contract, requiring the Pentagon’s largest contractor to absorb any additional costs.
“That’s really an overhaul of how we acquire large items such as the Joint Strike Fighter,” Sen. Carl Levin (D-Mich.), committee chairman, told reporters June 17 in unveiling the markup.
Levin added that his panel would have liked to shift the burden of additional costs on to Lockheed for the already negotiated fourth lot of low-rate-initial-production F-35s and may still attempt to do so when the bill is debated on the Senate floor. Lockheed declined to comment on the negotiations that began in late April.
Still, the committee remained supportive of the program, fully funding the president’s budget request to buy the fifth-generation aircraft, while taking steps to increase its oversight.
The JSF represents one small portion of the bill that authorizes $688.9 billion for defense and energy programs in fiscal 2012, including the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Congress would still have to appropriate the funds, which is handled through a different bill.
As for the General Electric/Rolls-Royce F136 alternate engine for the F-35, the committee would prohibit the use of government funds for research, development, test and evaluation. But Levin, who supports a two-engine approach, hinted that GE may still be able to gain access to government facilities to keep working on the engine.
The bill asks the Pentagon to again review the business case for pursuing two engines. The last time the Pentagon conducted that kind of review, Levin says, the review found no savings either way. But the committee wanted to probe the area again, given production delays on the airplane and potential changes with the Pratt & Whitney F135 primary engine, Levin says.
The bill also cuts the budget for F-22 Raptor development by $140 million and cuts $185.5 million for the purchase of USAF Light Attack Armed Reconnaissance Aircraft. The bill trims $127.1 million from the KC-46A tanker program, saying the request “exceeds the amount of funds required.”
Meanwhile, the bill provides no money for Lockheed’s Medium Extended Air Defense System, cutting $406.6 million from the budget request and asking the defense secretary for a report on the program and future funding options for the joint missile defense effort the U.S. is pursuing with Italy and Germany.
And the committee asks the defense secretary to report back to Congress on its plan to correct the December 2010 flight-test failure on the Boeing-led Ground-based Midcourse Defense system.
The committee added funding for other missile defense programs, including $50 million to projects the nation is pursuing with Israel. The committee also provided incremental increases to theater-level programs, adding $30 million to buy equipment for the Raytheon Standard Missile-3 Block IB interceptor, a $20 million increase to buy equipment for the Lockheed Terminal High-Altitude Area Defense System and an additional $20 million to “enhance development” of the SM-3 Block IIA missile.
The bill would allow the Air Force to buy a block of two Lockheed-made Advanced Extremely High-Frequency Satellites on a fixed-price contract with incremental funding. The bill also adds language that would allow the Air Force to “enter into cooperative agreements or contracts with commercial space providers to improve the manner in which the space launch ranges are managed, including the ability to share costs.”
The bill followed House defense committees in adding funding to keep the General Dynamics (GD) Abrams tank line warm, despite Army plans to close it temporarily. The Senate panel provides $322 million to upgrade 49 tanks.
And it calls on the Navy to restructure its plans to replace the canceled GD Expeditionary Fighting Vehicle and complete an analysis of alternatives on the Amphibious Combat Vehicle before starting a program for the Marine Personnel Carrier.
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South Korea unveiled a series of military reforms on Tuesday, including fast-tracking the purchase of fighter jets and spy planes, in response to two deadly attacks on the peninsula last year.
President Lee Myung-bak said reforming the military was not a matter of choice but a must after last year’s incidents, according to a presidential spokesman.
Defence Minister Kim Kwan-jin said Seoul would purchase high-altitude spy drones and stealth fighter jets and deploy them earlier than planned to strengthen deterrence against the North. Local media said they were initially scheduled for deployment in 2015.
“The aim is to proactively deter current threats posed by the enemy rather than cope with potential threats in the future,” Kim told a news conference in Seoul.
The military will also purchase advanced artillery-detecting radar systems and precision-guided weapons such as the Joint Direct Attack Munition (JDAM) to neutralise the North’s artillery pieces hidden in mountain caves, the ministry said.
Last year Seoul asked Washington to sell it U.S.-made RQ-4 Global Hawk spy planes and it expects to receive final approval for the planned purchase from the U.S. Defense Department in June, a military source told Yonhap news agency.
The South’s military had originally planned to introduce the unmanned spy drones by 2015 but decided to speed up the deployment of the world’s most advanced reconnaissance planes to strengthen its intelligence abilities, according to the source.
At the same time, South Korea will buy 60 stealth fighter jets earlier than scheduled, a senior official at the defence ministry was quoted by Yonhap as saying.
Lockheed Martin’s F-35 Lightening II Joint Strike Fighter, Boeing’s newly designed F-15 Silent Eagle and the Eurofighter Typhoon made by the European consortium are expected to compete for the order estimated at 10 trillion won.
South Korea has purchased 60 of Boeing’s F-15 fighter jets under the first two stages of the fighter modernisation programme, code-named “F-X,” since 2002.
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According to program officials, the Pentagon’s most recent per-unit target price for the conventional-takeoff-and-landing (CTOL) version of the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter is $111.6 million.
The F-35 Joint Program Office says the target price for the short-takeoff-and-vertical-landing (Stovl) version, which has encountered the most challenging technical and testing problems, is $109.4 million. And the target cost for the most expensive variant — the carrier version (CV) — is $142.9 million, officials say.
Neither price includes the cost of the Pratt and Whitney F135 engines; that contract is under negotiation. Based on the low-rate-initial-production (LRIP) III pricing, the average cost of a CTOL engine is about $19 million and the average Stovl engine and lift-fan system cost is about $38 million. Pratt has offered a price reduction of at least 10% for LRIP IV.
Negotiations for the LRIP IV contract began in October 2009 and continued for more than a year; the contract deal was announced Nov. 19 without data on the per-unit target pricing. During that time, the Pentagon learned of more delays in delivering test aircraft as well as a lag in the flight testing program itself. Pentagon procurement czar Ashton Carter and acting Air Force procurement chief David Van Buren shifted LRIP IV away from being a cost-plus-incentive-fee contract.
LRIP IV is the first fixed-price, incentive-fee contract on the JSF production program. Pentagon officials were planning to shift to a fixed-price arrangement in LRIP V, but accelerated that plan to reduce financial exposure to the government of potential cost overruns. LRIP IV also includes the first purchase of CV versions.
The target price is driven largely by quantities. The prices include 11 CTOLs, one of which is a priced option. The base buy includes 10 CTOL aircraft for the U.S. Air Force. The Marine Corps is buying 16 Stovl aircraft, with another going to the United Kingdom. London, however, recently announced it would not purchase a Stovl fleet and this aircraft will be used for testing. This leaves the U.S. Marines and Italy as the only potential Stovl customers.
The U.S. Navy is buying four CVs in LRIP IV — most expensive version and the least mature at this point in the development program.
The LRIP IV contract stipulates that the government’s maximum per-unit financial exposure is 120% of the target price. Any overrun exceeding that ceiling (which represents the out-of-pocket cost to the government) would be paid for by prime JSF contractor Lockheed Martin. The funding would first come out of the company’s profit.
These per-unit target costs include some ancillary items not directly associated with building production aircraft, such as testing instrumentation equipment, says Tom Burbage, Lockheed Martin executive vice president and general manager for F-35. Though he says that the government’s per-unit target price is higher than Lockheed’s unit recurring flyaway (URF) price, the two sets of numbers are following the same price reduction curve.
Lockheed officials declined to release the URF because they say it is competition-sensitive; the F-35 is still competing against the Gripen, Eurofighter and F/A-18 E/F in various international campaigns. Based on the most recent multiyear procurement of 124 F/A-18E/F and E/A-18G aircraft, the per-unit cost is approximately $42.7 million, excluding the cost of both engines.
However, Burbage says in general the target per-unit cost cited by the Pentagon exceeds Lockheed’s URF by about 3-4%. “It is not worth arguing about real prices … because it is only really a small amount of money,” he says. “These numbers aren’t important to the U.S. Department of Defense” because officials they know the numbers. “These numbers are important to the international partnership [and] they do tend to get taken out of context,” Burbage adds.
Lockheed’s decision to agree to a fixed-price, incentive fee contract in LRIP IV earlier than planned is an effort to “try and dispel some of the cost discussion … to try and signal to the world that we have confidence in our cost.”
A government source says that the if the target per-unit prices are achieved, the cost is on a steep downward curve – reducing by more than $100 million since the first lot – for the CTOL version, which is competing in the international market.
Talks for LRIP IV are nascent, but Burbage says he hopes to have a contract for this next lot by June.
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The final launch of the iconic Harrier GR9 aircraft was facilitated on the HMS Ark Royal, the United Kingdom’s Flagship, at 0900 on November 24, 2010, approximately 40 nautical miles off the coast of Newcastle.
A Harrier GR9 aircraft
Joint Force Harrier which is based at RAF Cottesmore will decommission as part of the Strategic Defense and Security Review (SDSR). HMS Ark Royal will also decommission under the review.
Together with her Harrier aircraft, HMS Ark Royal has become an iconic emblem of the United Kingdom, able to project power and strike globally; its versatility and flexibility a significant asset. Being able to position the Ship miles off the coast and negotiate over-flight restrictions to deliver force of devastating effect offers considerable capability to the defense of the United Kingdom.
Although significantly enhanced since their most successful and famous combative sorties during the Falklands conflict in 1982, the present variant, the four Ground Attack and Reconnaissance Harrier GR9s, painted an iconic picture on the deck of HMS Ark Royal, admired for the last time by almost 12,000 visitors when the Ship opened her gangways to the general public in Newcastle.
Harrier pilot Lieutenant Commander James Blackmore (35), the last pilot to ever launch a Harrier from the decks of HMS Ark Royal, said “This is a truly memorable day. We accept the decision to decommission both the Harrier and HMS Ark Royal; however, of course the final launch will be emotional. I have flown over 90 sorties off the Ship and combat sorties in Afghanistan, and the aircraft’s capability still astounds me. Landing an aircraft on a runway which is not in the same location as where you launched from gives exceptional flexibility.” Blackmore also adds “I feel honored and proud to be the last pilot to ever launch a Harrier jet from HMS Ark Royal.”
Both the Harrier and HMS Ark Royal are due to leave the Service next year. Reflecting on the Harrier and HMS Ark Royal, Captain Jerry Kyd, HMS Ark Royal’s Commanding Officer said “As the last Harriers lift off the deck of HMS Ark Royal for the final time it is with a real sense of pride that we remember the fantastic contribution they, and the carriers, have made to UK Defense around the world. The tremendous reception we received in Newcastle last weekend, where Ark Royal was built, reflects the very deep fondness for this iconic warship and her air group. Although we now look back on the significant achievements of the Harrier with immense pride and a tinge of sadness at our loss, we can now look forward to an exciting new chapter of Naval aviation as we continue the training for and procurement of the Joint Strike Fighter aircraft.”
Captain Kyd also said “HMS Queen Elizabeth and her sister ship will enter service from 2015 and together with their helicopters and the Joint Strike Fighter, they will be a very powerful strategic asset able to project serious power anywhere in the world, delivering 21st Century Carrier Strike capability. Add to this the new Type 45 Destroyers, the forthcoming Type 26 frigate, the Astute class submarines and the Royal Marine Brigade, the United Kingdom will have a balanced Naval Service that remains in the premier league, working for Britain to deter potential threats, defend our global interests and, if necessary, defeat our enemies.”