The F-35 Joint Program Office has awarded Lockheed Martin a US$1.4 billion sustainment contract to support operations for the F-35 fleet around the globe despite government concerns on costs.
The annual contract funds sustainment support activities for aircraft currently in the fleet, as well as building enterprise capacity to support the future fleet of more than 3,000 aircraft.
Activities include air system maintenance, pilot and maintainer training, depot activation, sustaining engineering, data analytics and predictive health management; supply chain logistics, and more.
“This contract is critical to ensuring the transformational F-35s are mission ready to support our men and women in uniform,” said Bridget Lauderdale, vice president of F-35 global sustainment at Lockheed Martin. “We are taking aggressive actions to improve F-35 aircraft availability and reduce sustainment costs. As the sustainment system matures and the size of the operational fleet grows, we are confident we will deliver more capability at less cost than legacy aircraft.”
The claim for lower costs comes despite the recent news that the current cost per plane is too high for the US government.
Vice Admiral Mat Winter said Lockheed was not being as collaborative and as cooperative as he had hoped. “They could be much more cooperative and collaborative. We could seal this deal faster. We could. They choose not to, and that’s a negotiating tactic.”
VADM Winter has ordered a ‘Deep Dive Initiative’ into the costs of the top 100 suppliers, who produce about 85 per cent of the value of the plane, to determine how much it actually costs to build an F-35.
Newer aircraft are averaging between 60 and 70 per cent availability.
Australia took delivery of the next lot of F-35s in early April, which are now operating out of Luke Air Force Base in Arizona. Five more aircraft are expected to be delivered to Luke AFB by the end of 2018, which is also when the first two planes are expected to arrive in Australia.