Tag Archives: F-35

Deceptive Pentagon Math In $89.2 Million F-35 Fighter Price

(Photo: DoD / Staff Sgt. Devin Doskey, U.S. Air Force)


This figure is the unit recurring flyaway cost—the price tag for just the aircraft and engine, which by themselves do not make a fully functioning weapon system.

That $89.2 million does not include procurement funds spent on initial spare parts, flight training simulators, the expensive – and poorly performing – ALIS support system, and more, all unique to the F-35.


“Pentagon leaders are likely reveling in the news that they have negotiated an agreement with Lockheed Martin that they claim drives down the unit cost of the F-35 joint strike fighter to below $80 million in the next few years. While any reduction in costs for the most expensive weapons program in history is an improvement, all is not as it appears in the industry trade press. A quick perusal of publicly available Pentagon budget documents shows the real cost of the F-35 to be above $100 million per copy for the fiscal year 2020 buy. Given the work that remains, and the way the Pentagon has surrendered many key responsibilities to the manufacturer, the price is likely to be at least that amount or higher for the foreseeable future.

The most commonly mentioned figure is for the F-35A, the Air Force’s conventional takeoff variant and the least expensive model. The current estimate for the lot of aircraft currently in production is $89.2 million apiece. This figure is the unit recurring flyaway cost—the price tag for just the aircraft and engine, which by themselves do not make a fully functioning weapon system.

When we also consider the future modifications necessary to correct both the known and potential design flaws and the aircraft’s $44,000 per-flight-hour cost, it is easy to see why the F-35 program is the most expensive in history.

A handy tool for anyone interested in knowing more about actual costs of military programs and weapons is readily available online. The Pentagon posts budget materials for each fiscal year on the comptroller’s webpage. Included are budget estimates and the justification documents containing more charts and figures than any reasonable person would care to view.

The Air Force’s fiscal year 2020 budget pays for the 48 F-35As in Lot 11. The current $89.2 million dollar price the Pentagon uses is calculated by separating out just the costs for the airframe and the engine from the larger total procurement cost that includes ALIS, simulators, initial spare parts, and more to get to the artificially low $89.2 million. That is far from the whole story.

The Pentagon’s own budget documents list the FY 2020 procurement cost for those 48 aircraft as more than $101 million, nearly $12 million more than the figure rolled out for press reports. Using the Navy’s charts and the same math shows that the real costs for each F-35C is more than $123 million, while each F-35B costs in excess of $166 million. But even that figure doesn’t tell the whole story.

None of this factors in the research and development costs of the program. Ellen Lord, the Pentagon’s acquisition chief, announced on October 29 that the program needs more money to complete the developmental and testing phase of the program. The latest publicly available figures show that taxpayers will have spent approximately $55.5 billion for F-35 research and development. If the Pentagon purchases all 2,470 F-35s in the current plan, the true cost of each aircraft goes up by nearly $22.5 million. Program officials had expected to complete development and operational testing by December 2019. But designers and engineers have struggled to complete the Joint Simulation Environment, a highly accurate simulator necessary to complete operational testing. The troubles stem from programming flight data and aircraft performance data gathered during real-world flights into the simulation software. The Joint Strike Fighter program will run out of development money before the simulator and the subsequent operational testing can be completed. The Pentagon expects to announce before the end of 2019 just how much more money beyond the program’s current $406.4 billion budget will be needed to complete this phase of the program.

No matter how the production costs are calculated, that money alone will not buy you a fully functional F-35. Engineers were not able to complete all of the combat capabilities that were supposed to be included as part of the original development phase of the program. This incomplete work, which taxpayers have already paid for, will now be completed in a new development phase and called “follow-on modernization.” Only time will tell how much will ultimately be spent in this effort, but taxpayers are already on the hook for $10.5 billion.

There is also the matter of the cost of maintenance and ownership. Lockheed Martin stands to make most of its money from the F-35 program in annual non-competitive sustainment contracts. As POGO has reported before, the services can’t independently perform many of the most basic maintenance functions on the F-35 and must instead rely on civilian contractors. Lockheed Martin currently receives $2 billion a year to keep the fleet of approximately 400 aircraft flying, meaning the annual operating cost for each F-35 is $5 million.

Pentagon officials had expected to make the long-anticipated full-rate production decision for the F-35 program before the end of this year. Also known as a Milestone C decision, the program must complete all the steps, including operational testing, as required by federal law. No one appears to be letting such trifling details stand in their way, however. The recent cost estimates emerged as part of the announcement of a $34 billion deal for three years’ worth of F-35 production—478 aircraft for the U.S. services and international customers—beginning in 2020. Officials continue to call this “low-rate initial production,” but this is essentially full-rate production in everything but name. The announced 169 F-35s for Lot 14 is the full-rate production figure for the program.

The public shouldn’t fall for the gimmicks the Defense Department constantly uses on aircraft unit cost, but the press, amazingly, seems to fall for it every time. Congress shouldn’t buy these phony cost projections and compound the program’s problems, based on a phony buy-in price by buying more F-35s before testing is complete.”


F-35 Autonomic Logistics Information System (ALIS) Not Working- “Mad Hatter” To the Rescue


“The acronym for the Autonomic Logistics Information System is pronounced “Alice,” and a Mad Hatter initiative is set to fix the system


ALIS is a proprietary system built to Defense Department standards. Let’s break that down a bit. Proprietary means little to no leveraging of commercial technology or open standards.

“The Air Force is moving forward on a way to to fix things — a promising and actually innovative approach called Mad Hatter (clever, right?) that one can only hope will also offer up some better practices for future development.”


“Let’s look backward, shall we, to October 2001. That’s when Lockheed Martin Aeronautics Co. in Fort Worth, Texas, received an $18.98 billion cost-plus-award-fee contract for the Joint Strike Fighter Air System Engineering and Manufacturing Development Program. According to award details, the objectives were to “develop an affordable family of strike aircraft and an autonomic logistics support and training system.”

So, a little more than 17 years ago.

Nothing about the timeline is terribly unusual for development of a military platform. The F-35 program faced more than its fair share of problems and criticisms tied to delays, cost overruns and manufacturing problems that needed to be addressed. But as far as time to full-rate production, complex systems take a long time.

Theoretically, though, it would seem ludicrous to allocate nearly two decades to develop a tech system, considering how rapidly technology evolves. And that brings us to ALIS.

Again, the F-35 has wrestled with a lot of challenges over the years. But what currently receives the most attention — criticism actually — is ALIS. It’s not working. And it’s frustrating maintainers to no end. Our air warfare reporter, Valerie Insinna, has extensively reported on the problems, but here it is in a nutshell: After years of updates and improvements, the F-35’s system, designed to bring efficiency to maintenance and flight operations, continues to be beset by data gaps and bugs that actually make it harder, not easier, to keep the F-35 mission-ready. Maintainers are figuring out ways to work around ALIS and its failures to get the job done. That’s a problem.

There’s a saying in the tech community: “Fail fast, fail often.” It would appear ALIS is nailing the latter, but taking far too long to do it.

And there’s a reason for that. Nothing about ALIS development mirrored the best practices of the tech community, and the result was “good code in a fairly bad user interface and a bad architecture,” as noted by the Air Force’s top acquisition official, Will Roper, in a recent interview with Defense News. Why is that? ALIS is a proprietary system built to Defense Department standards. Let’s break that down a bit. Proprietary means little to no leveraging of commercial technology or open standards. It means a single point of failure. And with standards predetermined by the Department of Defense, the ability to take an agile and therefore adaptable approach to development was all but squashed.

This issue is top of mind for me, as we’ve been reporting a lot recently about the cultural disconnect between the Pentagon and the tech community — “Silicon Valley,” some might say, though not really bound anymore by that specific geography. And, truly, you might say ALIS is the poster child for the failures within the traditional defense community to understand how best to develop technology. To resurface a tongue-in-cheek comment from Josh Marcuse, director of the Defense Innovation Board, about the Pentagon’s approach to innovation: “It’s OK to fail, you just have to fail very slowly, you have to fail very expensively and you have to fail with a high degree of documentation.” It would appear ALIS met that standard beautifully.

The Air Force is moving forward on a way to to fix things — a promising and actually innovative approach called Mad Hatter (clever, right?) that one can only hope will also offer up some better practices for future development.

The F-35 is not your typical tech development program. I get that. One might argue that the sensitivity of the data managed by the logistics systems, combined with the complexity of requirements, prevent commercial practices or open standards from being used. But that argument doesn’t hold water. Smart tech development doesn’t happen in lieu of security.

Did the defense community understand that back in 2001? Maybe not. But let’s hope everyone knows it now.”


F-35’s $400K Helmet Still Blinds Pilots on Night Flights



Image: Lockheed Martin


“The window for making adjustments is rapidly closing.

The pricey helmet was still too bright and distracting for pilots landing on carriers or amphibious ships in the lowest light conditions, Air Force Lt. Gen. Christopher Bogdan told reporters.

A software fix designed to make the state-of-the-art F-35 helmet easier to use for Navy and Marine Corps pilots landing on ships at night is still falling short of the mark, the program executive officer for the Joint Strike Fighter program said Monday.

During the final developmental test phase for the F-35C aboard the carrier George Washington in August, officials told Military.com they were testing a new software load specifically designed to address the F-35 helmet’s “green glow” problem, which can make it difficult for pilots to detect outside light sources and the cues they need to land their aircraft safely.

While testers were hopeful at the time the problem was solved, Bogdan said officials are not yet satisfied.

“The symbology on the helmet, even when turned down as low as it can, is still a little too bright,” he said. “We want to turn down that symbology so that it’s not so bright that they can’t see through it to see the lights, but if you turn it down too much, then you start not being able to see the stuff you do want to see. We have an issue there, there’s no doubt.”

Bogdan said the military plans on pursuing a hardware fix for the helmet, which is designed to stream real-time information onto the visor and allow the pilots to “see through” the plane by projecting images from cameras mounted around the aircraft. But before that fix is finalized, he said, pilots of the F-35 B and C variants will make operational changes to mitigate the glare from the helmet. These may include adjusting the light scheme on the aircraft, altering how pilots communicate during night flights, and perhaps changing the way they use the helmet during these flights, he said.

“We’re thinking in the short term we need to make some operational changes, and in the long term we’ll look for some hardware changes,” Bogdan said.

The window for making such adjustments is rapidly closing. The first F-35B squadron is expected to move forward to its new permanent base in Japan in January ahead of a 2018 shipboard deployment in the Pacific. The F-35C is also expected to deploy aboard a carrier for the first time in 2018.”




Air Force One Is Just the Tip of the Pentagon Cost Overrun Iceberg


                                                       The F-35A at Eglin Air Force Base -“Vanity Fair”


“Even the F-35 pilot’s helmet costs $400,000 apiece.

[Total Program] price now is an estimated $1.4 trillion for far fewer than the 2,443 planes originally planned. Put another way, the Pentagon is spending far more on this plane than Australia’s entire GDP ($924 billion).

In test flights the F-35 has failed to outperform the F-16, a plane it is supposed to replace. It will be, hands down (or flaps up), the most expensive weapons system in history — at least until the next Pentagon doozy comes along.

In addition to being over budget, it will also be very late. The F-35 program had originally promised 1,013 fighters by fiscal year 2016 but has delivered only 179. The last of the F-35s won’t be delivered until 2040, at which point who knows how they will perform against next generation aircraft, possibly all drone fighter jets.

The new Ford class aircraft carrier is yet another example of massive cost overruns by Pentagon contractors. The $13-billion USS Gerald R. Ford is already two years behind schedule, and the U.S. Navy’s newest aircraft carrier is facing more delays after the Pentagon’s top weapons tester concluded the ship is still not ready for combat despite expectations it would be delivered to the fleet this past September.

The USS Ford is the first of three Ford-class carriers ordered by the Navy with combined cost expected close to $42 billion. At a recent meeting of the Senate Armed Services Committee, Chairman John McCain was sharply critical of the delays and cost overruns, “After more than $2.3 billion in cost overruns have increased its cost to nearly $13 billion, the taxpayers deserve to know when CVN-78 will actually be delivered, how much developmental risk remains in the program, and if cost overruns will continue.” He is absolutely right. Taxpayers are entitled to some answers.

Changing the Pentagon procurement habits will be as slow as changing the course of a 100,000 ton aircraft carrier. So, given Trump’s obsession with “on time and on budget,” he may be tearing out his long, orange locks in frustration over endless Pentagon budget overruns and delays over the next four years.

But, I’m sure the project to gold-plate the interior of the new Air Force One will come in under budget and ahead of schedule. Yeah, right!”



Never Develop Another Joint Fighter


Washington Times F-35

Image:  Washington Times


“Jointness in defense planning and acquisition is supposed to save money by minimizing redundancy and duplication.

The savings rarely materialize when the services try to develop common weapons.

The idea behind joint aircraft development is that a common platform will allow several services to reap economies of scale in production. As the F-35 has proved, the opposite is true. According to Defense One’s Marcus Weisgerber, the Joint Strike Fighter’s three variants share only about 20 percent of their parts.

The reasons for the lack of commonality are simple. The services involved—the U.S. Air Force, Navy, and Marine Corps—have different operational needs, different aviation concepts, and different organizational cultures. Attempts to satisfy all those involved have made the military’s fifth-generation fighter program the most expensive procurement program in military history, although it was sold on its affordability. As a 2013RAND Corporation study on joint fighter development found that “the need to accommodate different service requirements in a single design, and…increased weight beyond that needed for some variants, potentially leading to higher overall cost, despite the efficiencies.”

Leaving aside the inherent complexity of weapons that push the technological envelope, reengineering the individual variants of the fighter with service-specific capabilities is all but inevitable. Canceling major programs once they have entered into production is rare enough under normal circumstances. When three services have skin in the game, as they do in the case of the F-35, it becomes almost impossible. With the program approved, log-rolling all but ensured the services were free to reengineer the plane to fit service-specific needs with less fear than usual of cancellation—even as economies of scale were obliterated and costs escalated.

The result is a deeply flawed, very expensive fighter jet. Attempts to make the fighter a jack-of-all-trades for three services has inevitably led to it being a watered-down master of none—with short range, only over-the-horizon air-to-air combat capability, and questionable ability to provide close air support.

Yet joint fighter development had an ignominious history even before the Joint Strike Fighter was a flicker in the Pentagon’s imagination. In 1961, Defense Secretary Robert McNamara thought he could save money by making the Air Force and Navy share a common platform . The Tactical Fighter Experimental—initially known as the TFX, and later the F-111—proved to be so costly, and the services’ needs so incompatible, the Navy eventually pulled out of the program. Asmilitary aviation historian Richard Hallion has written, “the critical point too often ignored in discussions of the TFX/F-111 experience was the basic incompatibility of developing a single common airframe to undertake widely differing Air Force and Navy missions.”

There are practical reasons beyond cost to pursue separate platforms, and benefits to pursuing redundancy rather than uniformity. The former provides options, the basis for comparison, and a failsafe should things go wrong—as they often do in defense acquisition. When the F-111 debacle went down, the Navy’s F-4 Phantom provided a fallback option that McNamara was able to convert into a usable aircraft for the Air Force. Not only did it perform admirably for the service, the F-4 also provided the impetus for later success. A decade later, not wanting to be stuck with another Navy plane, the Air Force developed the F-16—which recently bested the F-35 in a training exercise.

Bogdan made his comments on the difficulty of joint fighter development in context of potential Air Force and Navy cooperation in development of a sixth-generation fighter. Based on the few ideas the services have put out for public consumption a potential follow-on for the F-35, compatibility looks to be as illusory as ever. The Air Force wants a manned fighter—unsurprising for a service founded and staffed by pilots—while the Navy wants an unmanned platform. The Air Force wants stealth, while the Navy thinks it is overrated.

As the services plan their next-generation fighters, they should learn the lesson they have too often ignored: joint fighter development does not work. For the sake of American tactical aviation, and their own wallets, American taxpayers should hope that the F-35 chief’s comments are a sign they have.”





The Coming Dogfight An F-35 Or A New Bomber


F-35 & Bomber


“The two aircraft at the center of the Pentagon’s future-of-war plans are headed for a fierce battle.

Even though one has never faced off against a foreign rival and the other has never flown.

A battle is brewing between the two multibillion-dollar aircraft programs — and the defense companies, lobbyists, and Pentagon offices that back them.

It’s a fight without bombs, missiles, or the chest-thumping roar of 43,000 pounds of jet thrust screaming across the sky. Instead, this clash is unfolding in the shadowy conference rooms of the Pentagon and boardrooms of the world’s largest defense companies. The stakes are high: tens of billions of dollars every year for a decade or more.

That money will fund two of the most sophisticated and expensive planes ever built, the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter and the new Long Range Strike-Bomber, or LRS-B. The bomber needs cash to get off the ground and the skittish F-35 camp already is worried the new kids will steal from the huge but finite pot.

“The F-35A and [the bomber] are almost certainly on a collision course,” said Todd Harrison, a budget analyst at the Center for Strategic and International Studies.

The fight will intensify this week when President Barack Obama sends his 2017 budget request to Congress.

The F-35’s price tag looms at $400 billion for thousands of jets to be bought over the next two decades. The 100 planned bombers are expected to cost between $80 billion and $111 billion. The last time the Air Force had such an ambitious plane-building plan, Ronald Reagan was president. But unlike then, defense spending is capped through 2021.

“The problem now is it does not look like we have a buildup of that [Reagan-era] magnitude on the horizon in the defense budget,” Harrison said. “We’re not going to see the budget increase by 30 percent in the near future here.”

Pentagon leaders have expressed unwavering support for both projects.

“[J]ust because it can’t out-turn an F-16, or just because it can’t go as fast, we are absolutely confident that [the] F-35 will be a war-winner,” Deputy Defense Secretary Robert Work said in November at the Reagan National Defense Forum in California, responding to critics of the new jet’s performance. “That is because it is using the machine to make the human make better decisions.”

Meanwhile, Defense Secretary Ash Carter has called the new bomber “a strategic investment in the next 50 years.”

“It demonstrates our commitment to our allies, and our determination to potential adversaries, making it crystal clear that the United States will continue to retain the ability to project power throughout the globe long into the future,” he said in October when the Air Force chose Northrop Grumman to build the plane.

But despite support at the top, a rivalry has emerged within the Air Force ranks, according to Pentagon officials.

“The bomber versus [F-35] fight is one that is taking place inside the building right now,” said the American Enterprise Institute’s Mackenzie Eaglen, referring to the Pentagon. Ultimately, political leaders in the Office of the Secretary of Defense will have to arbitrate, she said.

The F-35 has been largely insulated from recent years’ spending caps. The Air Force plans to buy the lion’s share of them — 1,763 of the planned 2,443 aircraft — with the Marine Corps and Navy getting the rest.

The Air Force needs to buy new planes, lots of them, in the coming years and not just F-35s and new bombers.

Pentagon leaders have been floating the idea of signing a contract with Lockheed Martin, the world’s largest defense contractor, for more than 450 new F-35s over a three year-period beginning in 2018. Most of those planes would be for the Air Force. Between 2016 and 2020, the Air Force plans to spend more than $25 billion on at least 200 F-35s, according to Pentagon budget documents.

For the bomber, Air Force officials will not disclose the actual yearly budget of the plane, saying that would harm national security. But they have released an estimate that it will cost at least $23.5 billion to develop and at least $56 billion to buy 100 planes.

Meanwhile, work is on hold because the decision to give the job to Northrop Grumman is under protest by Boeing-Lockheed team, the losing bidder. A ruling is expected this month.

A new air refueling tanker, built by Boeing, will also play a tangential role in the fight. But the KC-46 tanker is likely to prompt less infighting because most of the Air Force’s current refueling planes date back to the Eisenhower administration. Plus tankers are needed to gas up different planes in all branches of the U.S. military and allies as well.

“The tanker is in a different category in the debate because the F-35 is useless without the tanker and the LRS-B … still needs tanking,” Harrison said.

The tanker program, valued at more than $40 billion, also is more stable because Boeing, not the taxpayer, must pay for any cost increases. The Air Force is eyeing 60 new tankers costing about $15 billion between 2017 and 2020. “That programs has got a lot more security,” Harrison said.

In 2015, the Air Force spent a total of $12 billion on new planes across the board. It is expected to need $22 billion in 2023 for the F-35, bomber, tanker and new planes for intelligence and other types of special missions, Harrison said.

“The problem now is we’ve got three massive programs that are overlapping almost perfectly in time,” Harrison said. “This is really the perfect storm for aircraft modernization.”

And the main driver of what Harrison calls a “bow wave” is the F-35, bomber and tanker.

With three of the world’s largest defense companies in the ring, that fight will soon spill outside of the Pentagon’s walls and into lobbying campaigns.

“I think that we’re going to see a prolonged battle among these programs and these companies,” Harrison said. “It’s gonna get nasty.”

Lockheed, Northrop and Boeing would not disclose specifically how they plan to market their respective projects in the coming months and years ahead.

But Lockheed said that as cash gets tight, it plans to stay focused on the F-35’s performance.

“Our central objective is to always deliver the very best and most cost effective weapon systems and products to ensure our services have the resources they need for our warfighters,” Lockheed spokesman Joseph LaMarca said in an email. “Lockheed Martin’s relationship with the U.S. Air Force and the Defense Department at large remains strong and we continue to work with them on a daily basis to support their strategic priorities.”

A new round begins on Tuesday when the Pentagon’s budget proposal heads to Capitol Hill, but many more rounds are sure to follow.

“This is going to be a fight that drags out over many years,” Harrison said. “Unless someone loses and a program is canceled. And I don’t think that’s likely.”


Big Liberal Win In Canada Is Bad News For The F-35 Joint Strike Fighter


Greg Perry

Cartoon by Greg Perry


“Liberal Party leader Justin Trudeau:

“We will not buy the F-35 stealth fighter-bomber.

We will immediately launch an open and transparent competition to replace the CF-18 fighter aircraft. The primary mission of our fighter aircraft should remain the defense of North America, not stealth first-strike capability.

We will reduce the procurement budget for replacing the CF-18s, and will instead purchase one of the many, lower-priced options that better match Canada’s defense needs.”
Trudeau has said that savings from dropping the F-35 will be used to invest in Canada’s naval capabilities. This reallocation of funds would include investing in new icebreakers, search and rescue ships and aircraft and building more surface combatants. Trudeau has also alluded to an initiative to refocus Canada’s military into a leaner, smarter, more potent fighting force. One that incorporates new technologies like long-endurance unmanned surveillance aircraft.

As for a new fighter aircraft, Trudeau and the Liberals have stated again and again that Canada’s fighter corps’ primary mission is self defense, and there is no need for the F-35’s expensive stealth first-strike capabilities. As such, the likely contenders will to replace Canada’s aging Hornets will be the F/A-18E Super Hornet, the French Rafale, the Eurofighter Typhoon, and possibly the JAS-39E Gripen, with the Super Hornet being the clear incumbent.”


Northrop Grumman CEO Critical of “Better Buying Power” for the Tax Payer



Canadians Choked on the F-35 – Cancelled the Program with the US and took it away from the equivalent of their Pentagon, mandating the Canadian Government find another fighter


Having worked on the inside of Northrop Grumman in two locations for several years, I find a recent article in “Defense One”  begs the question of fixed price vs. cost plus contracting. Anyone who been in the industry knows that IR&D in Aerospace and Defense is a technology ploy to obtain a cost plus contact for development where every cent of risk is on the tax payer (the $Trillion F-35 is a good example).

It does not work like intellectual property at Apple, Microsoft, Google and like firms.  That is why the Pentagon is finding it difficult to utilize commercial contracting techniques for products they must have for security and advancement.Fixed price contracting is considered by the typical defense contractor when production arrives and risk is gone.


Lockheed (with Northrop as a major subcontractor) pushed the F-35 production envelope prematurely into the development (cost plus) window and fell flat on their faces. The government has now capped their program price (at a sunk cost in the billions to US Citizens)  For the F-35 to survive these contractors must now finance themselves any overruns hereafter to get the plane into production.

CEO Bush  questions that Secretary Carter and his staff wish to further authenticate his company’s judgements on new technology earlier in the future because they have been burned.  Go figure?

Ken Larson Mission to learn dot com


Northrop Grumman CEO Wes Bush


“Better Buying Power, has been pushing firms to share the results of their research projects on a Defense Department website so government technologists can “look up what industry has done and they can identify technologies and they can inquire about it.

Bush voiced his opposition to a provision in the Pentagon’s Better Buying Power acquisition doctrine that requires companies to get a Defense Department sponsor when they conduct independent research-and-development projects, commonly called IRAD or IR&D.

In April, Under Secretary of Defense for Acquisition, Technology and Logistics Frank Kendall, the Pentagon’s top weapons buyer, announced the new policy. Kendall called the mandate “a minimalist requirement,” saying it “enhances the communication between industry and government.” “I don’t think it’s a very high hurdle for people to get over,” Kendall said in April at the Pentagon.

But industry executives are not excited about the provision, arguing they should be able to spend their own money on projects of their choosing. Behind the scenes, executives and their surrogates have voiced their displeasure with the request, making Bush’s public rebuke at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, or CSIS, all the more notable. “I think the challenge here is to preserve the ‘I’ in IRAD, to ensure that we really do maintain independence,” Bush said, “but also enhance the flow of discussion and communication around it.”

Top Defense Department officials have been pushing firms to spend more of their own money on  research-and-development projects as federal spending is expected to decline. The hope is that these projects could spur new technology that could give the military a cost-saving edge on the battlefield of the future.

Bush’s sentiment expressed Tuesday is widely shared throughout the defense sector, but getting executives to speak publicly about the issue is rare. His comments could prompt more CEOs to speak openly on the policy. “If the fix is to try and put some controls into the front end of it, I think we end up in the wrong place on this,” Bush said of getting prior Pentagon approval for research projects. “It’s got to be some place in the middle. It’s got to be where we enhance the dialogue, enhance the communications and enhance the engagement.”

Research teams made up of outside-the-box thinkers are key to spurring innovation, Bush argues. “[H]aving worked in innovation for essentially my entire career, one of the things that rings really true to me is the benefit of independent thinking,” he said.

At the same time, there is a criticism that companies don’t share the results of their IRAD projects or, in some cases, use this work to defer costs when competing for Pentagon contracts. In other cases, companies’ internal research focuses on defining intellectual property rather than advanced technology, Kendall said. “I have seen some behaviors, and they’re not general, but I’ve seen enough of them to make me nervous, by industry,” he said.

“I think that’s a pretty minimalist requirement, too,” Kendall said. “We are paying for this even though it’s not directly contracted out.” Bush agreed that companies must have a better dialog with the Pentagon about the research projects they’re working on.”


Former UK Defense Chief Slams F-35 as ‘White Elephant’




“Nick Harvey, who served as armed forces minister from 2010 to 2012, recently said of the fifth-generation stealth fighter jet, “You could argue it was already one of the biggest white elephants in history a long time ago,” according to an article by The Independent, a national newspaper based in London.

He added there was “not a cat in hell’s chance” the Joint Strike Fighter would be combat-ready by 2018, the article states.

The Joint Strike Fighter is the Pentagon’s most expensive weapons program, estimated to cost about $400 billion to purchase 2,457 aircraft for the Air Force, Marine Corps and Navy.

U.S. allies are expected to buy hundreds more. Britain, for example, wants nearly 140 of the planes — the largest planned international F-35 order. Some 130 of the aircraft have been built so far, including three for the U.K. The F-35 is designed to replace such aircraft as the F-16 Fighting Falcon fighter, A-10 Warthog attack plane, F/A-18 Hornet fighter and AV-8B Harrier jump jet, a variant of which is flown by the British air force.

Behind schedule and over budget from original projections, the acquisition effort has struggled to develop technologies, from the engine and tires to the helmet-mounted display and weaponry. Complicating matters, the hardware and software must be built for three versions of the aircraft, the F-35A, F-35B and F-35C.

Officials have said the program is making progress in reducing cost overruns and developmental challenges. Yet even U.S. Air Force Gen. Herbert “Hawk” Carlisle, head of Air Combat Command, recently acknowledged the F-35A will only offer limited close air support when it begins operational flights next year because it will initially lack the large area, high-definition synthetic aperture radar known as “BIG SAR” and a pinpoint glide bomb known as the Small Diameter Bomb II, or SDB-II. “Those are systems that are going to be coming onto the airplane in later blocks,” he said.

The Marine Corps’ F-35B jump-set variant is scheduled to enter so-called initial operational capability, or IOC, later this year, followed by the Air Force’s F-35A conventional version in the latter half of 2016, followed by the Navy’s F-35C aircraft carrier variant in 2019. (The Marines, however, will reach the milestone in part by relying on software that doesn’t integrate a full suite of weapons.)

The Defense Department plans spend $11 billion to buy 57 F-35s in the next fiscal year, beginning Oct. 1, up from $8.6 billion to purchase 38 of the aircraft in the current year. U.S. lawmakers this week will debate legislation to authorize an additional $1 billion to buy six more F-35Bs than the Pentagon requested.

he additional aircraft were listed on a Marine Corps list of priorities that didn’t receive funding in the Pentagon’s spending plan for next year, according to a fact-sheet on the legislation from Rep. William “Mac” Thornberry, R-Texas, chairman of the House Armed Services Committee.”


Air Force Says It Cannot Maintain/Store Planned Fighter Production of $87.2 Billion (842 Aircraft)



Keeping A-10                                     Means F-16 Cuts                        And F-35 Delays 


If not allowed to retire the A-10, the Air Force says it will have to send F-16s to the boneyard and delay plans for the F-35 because there aren’t enough airmen to maintain both fighters.

If lawmakers succeed in passing a bill requiring the Air Force to keep the A-10 in its fleet for another year, too few maintenance personnel would available to stand up the first operating unit of the F-35 at Hill Air Force Base, Utah, and even fewer to continue maintenance of the F-16, the service told congressional staff in a recent briefing. The base is expected to begin receiving F-35s later this year.

The Air Force plan, if authorized, would be to move F-16s from Hill to replace retiring A-10s at Whiteman Air Force Base, Missouri, and Fort Wayne Air National Guard Base, Indiana.

But if that plan is blocked, the Air Force cannot move the F-16s from Hill. Meanwhile, the Falcon units would lose maintenance personnel to the new F-35 units, causing the F-16s to “lose deployable capability,” according to an Air Force talking paper obtained by Air Force Times.

Thus, moving forward with the F-35 “requires the retirement or transfer of assigned Hill AFB F-16s in late FY15/early FY16, ” the paper says.

Nevertheless, it is looking more likely that the Air Force again will be directed to keep the A-10s flying. House Armed Services Committee chairman Rep. Mac Thornberry, R-Texas, in his markup of the defense bill included $682.7 million for the fleet. The bill will go to the full committee Wednesday, and multiple senators have also vowed to keep the planes flying.

The Air Force wanted to move the F-16s to the bases as soon as possible, following environmental impact studies. But the requirement to keep the A-10s at the bases would prompt the service to move the F-16s to the boneyard at Davis-Monthan Air Force Base, Arizona, “until such a time they are transferred to another base or divested permanently.”

The Utah base will be the first operational location for the F-35s, with it expected to have 72 of the jets. The base currently has 48 Block 40 F-16s.

The Air Force has said it needs 1,100 trained maintainers to reach initial operating capability for the F-35. Lawmakers have previously blasted Air Force concerns on the maintainer issue, saying it is a “false choice.”

After the F-35 program executive Lt. Gen. Christopher Bogdan raised the issue last fall and said he was worried about the impact on IOC, Sen. Kelly Ayotte, R-N.H., said there are other ways to move money and personnel to support both the A-10 and F-35.

“Suggesting that we must prematurely retire the A-10 to fulfill long-anticipated maintenance requirements for the F-35A is a false choice,” Ayotte said in a statement to Defense News, sister publication of Air Force Times. “There are a variety of steps the Air Force can take to maintain the combat-proven and cost-efficient A-10, while also providing sufficient maintenance personnel for the F-35A.

Chief of Staff Gen. Mark Welsh has vowed to reach initial operating capability on time, despite a possible issue with having enough maintenance personnel. This includes hiring contractors and increasing use of Air National Guard and Air Force Reserve personnel.”