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January 28, 2011

F-35 ops, maintenance cost worry Air Force

First the Navy was worried that the rosy scenario painted of frugal F-35 operating costs might not be accurate and now, DoDBuzz reports, so is the Air Force.

Senior Air Force leaders are growing increasingly concerned that Joint Strike Fighter maintenance and operating costs will rise far above previous estimates.

A source familiar with the issue said that the Air Force believes a study performed by the Navy one year ago looks increasingly accurate, based on preliminary data the service has compiled. Buzz readers will remember that the Navy study found the F-35 would cost between 30 percent and 40 percent more per plane than does the current F/A-18 fleet.

Since one of the primary goals of the F-35 program, with its web of international partners, was to lower maintenance costs by achieving economies of scale through large program buys by a significant number of countries this would call into question one of the fundamental goals of the program. Another key to achieving those savings was an international PBL contract (Performance Based Logistics). It would spread work share throughout the JSF allies and guarantee greater economies of scale than the U.S. could achieve on its own.

- Bob Cox

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