Lockheed Martin F-35 (JSF)
15th December 2021Lockheed Martin F-35 (JSF) user+1@localho Wed, 12/15/2021 - 21:17
The F-35 Lightning II / Joint Strike Fighter (JSF) is a U.S. fifth-generation, single engine, multirole fighter developed in partnership with eight nations and produced by Lockheed Martin. It is designed in three variants and is powered by a single Pratt & Whitney F135 turbofan engine. Each variant features a different derivative of the F135 engine. As of December 2021, more than 730 F-35s have been delivered to the U.S., international JSF partners and Foreign Military Sales (FMS) customers. Production is expected to continue into the 2040s.
Low Observable Technology
All variants of the F-35 use a variety of techniques to reduce their radar cross section (RCS). Some of these techniques were used on previous low observable aircraft while others have been improved or are completely new. As with the F-22, the F-35 uses planform alignment to orient flight surfaces, fuselage facets and gaps to concentrate radar reflections into a minimum number of angles. The canopy is metalized to reduce scattering from the cockpit. Doors and access panels have sawtooth edges. Internal weapons bays allow the aircraft to carry air-to-air weapons and a small number of ground-attack weapons while keeping the ordnance shielded from radar.
The engine exhaust is also designed with low-observability to radar in mind. The nozzle consists of vanes with rear-facing facets that abut into a circular, sawtooth pattern. The outer surfaces of the vanes appear to be covered with RAM. In addition, towards the front of the nozzle, the vanes are covered by skin panels with sawtooth patterns that also adjoin with each other in a sawtooth fashion. These panels are likely radar-absorbent structures whose purpose is to reduce scattering in the gap between the vanes and fuselage around the nozzle.
Low observable technologies significantly matured between the development of the F-22 and the subsequent F-35 as shown by the F-35 s use of Diverterless Supersonic Inlets (DSIs) and improved Radar-Absorbent Material (RAM) coatings. Lockheed Martin began internal research and development on low observable Mach 2 inlets in the early 1990s which informed the X-35 s development. In the Spring of 1997, Lockheed Martin had two competing X-35 design proposals. One featured Caret inlets (used in the F-22 and F/A-18E/F) and the other used DSIs. Lockheed had demonstrated the feasibility of DSIs through flight testing of a modified F-16 in December 1997. Inlet designs of modern fighter aircraft must provide flow compression and boundary layer control such that the engine is fed high pressure, low distortion airflow across multiple flight regimes. The F-22 s 2-D Caret inlets use a boundary layer diverter and bleed system feeding into serpentine ducts to regulate airflow at the cost of manufacturing complexity and weight. Lockheed Martin studies showed incorporating DSIs would lower weight, be easier to manufacture and lower the X-35 s RCS. The F-35 s DSIs have a 3-D bump and forward swept cowl which feed into a bifurcated, serpentine duct eliminating the need for a boundary layer diverter and bleed system.
The F-35 s RAM represents a significant improvement in signature reduction and maintenance needs when compared to the F-22 and B-2. Gaps between parts on the skin of the aircraft generate radar returns, the F-22 and B-2 solve this problem by applying a thick topcoat of RAM on top of the gaps. Lockheed Martin reduced the number of parts on the F-35 s skin and used improved manufacturing technologies (such as precision laser alignment of parts during assembly) to eliminate gaps. Lockheed Martin claims that parts fit so precisely that 99% of maintenance requires no restoration of low-observable surfaces . This new approach reduces the amount of RAM required, greatly lessens the airframe's need for line maintenance (by as much as two orders of magnitude compared to the F-22) and also makes the F-35's low observability features more resilient by mitigating the risk of skin abrasions. The F-35 still receives a RAM topcoat that is applied in thicker layers at high scattering areas, such as the engine inlets. The coating also reduces skin friction and drag, thereby saving fuel and likely reducing the aircraft's IR signature. Beneath the RAM-embedded material is a conductive layer that further reduces RCS by modifying the radio waves before they bounce back out through the RAM.
APG-81 Active Electronically Scanned Array Radar
The F-35's radar, the Northrop Grumman APG-81, evolved from the APG-77 featured on the F-22A. Compared to conventional, mechanically-scanned radars, the APG-81's active electronically scanned array (AESA) delivers greater range, 1,000-times faster scanning and the ability to engage many more targets simultaneously. The APG-81 features at least 1,200 transmit receiver modules. Detection range varies with the square root of antenna size and fourth root of transmitted power. However, the APG-81 features better transmit/receive modules and improved processing than the APG-77. In 2000, a senior U.S. Air Force official predicted the JSF radar would have 75% of the detection range of the F-22 s. APG-81 capabilities include: Ground Moving Target Indication (GMTI), Synthetic Aperture Radar (SAR), high gain Electronic Support Measure (ESM) and Electronic Attack (EA), cruise missile detection and tracking and air-to-air multitarget detection and tracking. The APG-81 can simultaneously operate in air-to-air and air-to-surface modes. A maritime targeting mode will be installed later and is expected to include an inverse SAR mode.
AAQ-37 Distributed Aperture System
In addition to the radar, the JSF bears a unique Distributed Aperture System (DAS) that provides unmatched levels of visual situational awareness. Six mid-wave IR cameras, each weighing 16-17 lb., are situated around the aircraft to enable the DAS to see in all directions: one camera is mounted on each side of the chine line beneath the canopy, one camera is mounted in front of the canopy, one camera is mounted on the dorsal (in front of the boom refueling receptacle for the F-35A) and two cameras are mounted on the underside of the fuselage. Each camera provides a 95 field of regard, combining to form 570 overlapping coverage. The DAS informs the pilot of threats such as surface-to-air missiles, anti-aircraft artillery and other aircraft. When a threat is detected, the system boxes it in the visor projection or draws the pilot s attention to it with alert signals and lines.
Generation III Helmet Mounted Display System
The F-35 does not have a Head-up Display (HUD) like most modern fighter aircraft. Relevant flight reference, navigation and weapons employment functions which are typically displayed on a HUD are instead shown on the F-35 s Generation III (Gen III) Helmet Mounted Display System (HMDS). The HMDS supports off boresight AIM-9X shots. The pilot looks at a target through the HMDS and locks onto it. The AIM-9X can maneuver up to 90 from the aircraft s centerline to pursue the target.
The Gen III helmet projects the feed from the DAS onto the pilot's visor, showing the image from the DAS during the day or night in whichever direction the pilot's head is turned, including down and backwards, essentially letting the pilot see through the aircraft. The Gen III helmet also bears an ISIE-11 digital night vision camera which projects its two megapixels of data at 60 hertz onto the HMDS.
AAQ-40 Electro-Optical Targeting System
The Lockheed Martin AAQ-40 Electro-Optical Tracking System (EOTS) is a mid-wave infrared sensor which provides F-35 pilots with long-range IRST, air-to-air targeting forward-looking infrared (TFLIR), high resolution forward-looking infrared (FLIR), laser designation and laser spot tracking capabilities. EOTS provides additional passive detection capability along with the ASQ-239 electronic warfare suite. The APG-81 can cue the AAQ-40 to locate and track airborne targets. The system is housed in a low observable aperture in the lower forward fuselage. Space, power and cooling constraints presented major challenges to the development of EOTS the system occupies approximately four cubic feet and weighs 202 lbs. The EOTS is mounted right below the radio frequency support electronics of the APG-81 and is cooled with polyalphaolefin (PAO) liquid coolant in a similar manner as the APG-81.
ASQ-239 Electronic Warfare Suite
The BAE ASQ-239 Electronic Warfare/Countermeasure System (EW/CM) integrates RF and IR spectrum self-protection and ESM functions. The ASQ-239 supports: emitter geolocation, high gain EW through the APG-81, multi-ship emitter location, radar warning and self-protection countermeasures and jamming. Lockheed Martin claims the F-35 s EW systems are capable of transmitting ten times the radiated power of legacy fourth generation aircraft, enabling the F-35 to provide stand-off jamming capabilities. Pre-Block 4 aircraft have six multi-element antenna array sets covering the Band 3 and Band 4 frequency spectrum (S band for IEEE designation). Two antenna apertures are installed on the leading edge of each wing and one antenna aperture is installed next to the aft wing tip of each wing. The antenna placement for the F-35C is slightly altered to account for the F-35C s longer-folding wing. Band 2 and 5 antennas will be installed as part of the Block 4 modernization program.
ASQ-242 Communications, Navigation and Identification System
The Northrop Grumman ASQ-242 Communications, Navigation and Identification System is an integrated avionics system which combines the following functions: identification, friend-or-foe (IFF), secure, jam-resistant and low probability of intercept communications and navigation and landing aids. The F-35 has two primary methods of communication, voice radio and data links. Radios include SINCGARS, HAVEQUICK, GUARD and VMF 220D.
The F-35 s primary data link is the Multifunction Advanced Data Link (MADL) which provides low probability of intercept communications between F-35s. Each F-35 within a four-ship formation can share data that one aircraft collects within the whole formation. In 2009, Chief of the USAF s Electronic System Center Airborne Networking Division Michael Therrian, explained MADL is a Ku-band data link which transmits a narrow beam between aircraft using a daisy chain system. The first aircraft sends the narrow beam signal to the second aircraft which in turn sends the signal throughout the rest of the formation. MADL trades bandwidth for low observability. Conventional data links like Link 16 have higher bandwidth capacity but broadcast signals which can be located by adversary electronic support measures. The F-35 can communicate with legacy platforms such as the F-15 and F-16 using Link 16 but its use will be subject to the threat environment and techniques, tactics and procedures which will be developed by the services to mitigate the limitations of Link 16.
While equipped with six external hard points (not including the centerline gun pod mount for the F-35B and F-35C), the F-35 must carry its weapons internally in two weapon bays to maintain its low observability. For strike missions, the JSF can internally accommodate two Joint Direct Attack Munitions (JDAMs) -2,000-lb. GBU-31s for the F-35A and C, 1,000-lb. GBU-32s for the F-35B - along with two AIM-120 Advanced Medium-Range Air-to-Air Missiles (AMRAAMs). The bay can also house the GBU-38 500-lb. JDAM, GBU-39 Small Diameter Bomb I (SDB), GBU-12 500-lb. laser-guided bomb (LGBs) and AGM-154 Joint Standoff Weapon (JSOW), as well as the U.K.'s AIM-132 Advanced Short-Range Air-to-Air Missiles (ASRAAM) and Brimstone air-to-surface missile. In the air-to-air role, the F-35 can currently accommodate four AIM-120s internally. The U.S. its close allies Australia and the UK use the more advanced AIM-120D with a maximum range of 100 nautical miles. Other operators use the AIM-120C-7 and C-8 (obsolescence modification of the C-7). A pair of AIM-9X Block IIs can be carried on LO pylons. U.S. Navy budget documents suggest the latest variant of the Sidewinder features RAM to reduce its RCS, though its sill expected to degrade the F-35's LO performance.
The F-35A carries a GAU-22/A four-barrel, 25mm cannon internally; the B and C variants have no internal cannon but can carry a reduced RCS missionized gun pod externally. Four 25mm rounds are being developed for the F-35: the ATK PGU-23 training round, Nammo s PGU-47/U armored-piercing explosive (APEX) round for all F-35 variants, Rheinmetall's PGU-48A/B Frangible Armored Piercing round for the F-35A and the General Dynamics/ATK PGU-32 semi-armored piercing high explosive incendiary (SAPHEI-T) round for the F-35B and C. The PGU-48/U and PGU-32 rounds are specialized to defeat targets particular to the respective service. Over 3,400 rounds of PGU-23, PGU-47 and PGU-48 rounds were fired from F-35As against both ground and aerial targets. The DoD Director, Operational Test and Evaluation (DOT&E) reported that it found the accuracy of the gun, as installed on the F-35A, to be unacceptable . Possible remedial actions include re-boresighting and correcting gun alignments. A total of 2,685 PGU-23 and PGU-32 rounds were fired from the missionized gun pod during tests. The DOT&E reports the gun pod meets air-to-ground contract specifications and do not share the accuracy errors of the F-35A.
In March 2018, the USAF awarded Rheinmetall Switzerland a $6.5 million contract for 40,000 rounds of PGU-48A/B rounds. In October 2018, Orbital ATK was awarded a $1.5 billion contract to deliver 332,993 rounds ammunition across multiple types including the PGU-32.
To support the concurrent development and early production efforts, the F-35 is being fielded in Blocks. Some blocks incorporate hardware as well as software changes. Blocks 0, 0.1, 0.5, 1A, 1B and 2A supported testing and limited training capability for early LRIP and System Development and Demonstration aircraft. Block 2B began flight testing in February 2014 and provides initial combat capabilities to the F-35 including expanded MADL capability, multi-ship sensor fusion and the carriage of two AIM-120C-7 AMRAAMs and two PGMs (either the GBU-32 JDAM or GBU-12). The USMC declared IOC on the Block 2B software in July 2015 which comprises 87% of the final code and will deliver the initial warfighting capabilities.
The Block 3i configuration forms the stepping stone for full Block 3F warfighting capability. Block 3i rehosts Block 2B software with substantial hardware changes. Block 3i includes new radar, EW and Integrated Core Processor (ICP) modules. The configuration also adds the third generation HMD which corrects the Gen II helmet s poor night vision acuity. The USAF declared IOC with the Block 3i configuration.
Block 3F configuration represents the full warfighting capability configuration for the F-35 including:
- Full Flight Envelope: 9g maneuvering and top speed of Mach 1.6
- Full Weapon Capability of: GBU-31 1,000 lbs. JDAM, GBU-32 2,000 lbs. JDAM, GBU-39 SDB I, Joint Stand-Off Weapon (JSOW) C1, AIM-120D, AIM-9X and GAU-22 cannon
According to Lockheed Martin, Block 3F software has more than 8.3 million lines of code which is approximately four the amount of code in the F-22. Block 3F was released on late LRIP 9 aircraft during the Fall of 2017. There were 31 different versions of the Block 3F software by the end of October 2017. In December 2018, the F-35 began the Initial Operational Test and Evaluation (IOT&E) phase using version 30R02 of the Block 3F software. DoD Director of Operational Test and Evaluation (DOT&E) Robert Behler announced that 30R02 improves the F-35 s suppression of enemy air defense (SEAD), electronic attack, air interdiction and offensive counter air capabilities. See upgrades section for additional information about future Block capabilities. Note, upgrades beyond FOC (Block 4) are discussed in the upgrades section of the profile.
The F-35A Conventional Takeoff and Landing (CTOL) variant is the U.S. Air Force (USAF) model powered by the P&W F135-100 turbofan. The aircraft will replace the F-16 and A-10. The variant reached Initial Operational Capability (IOC) in August 2016 and by the 2030s it will constitute the bulk of the service's fighters. The F-35A can be visually distinguished by its boom refueling receptacle port on the top of the airframe and gun blister mounted on the upper port side (left from the perspective of the aircraft when facing forward).
The F-35B Short Takeoff and Vertical Landing (STOVL) variant is the U.S. Marine Corps (USMC) model, intended to replace the service's AV-8Bs on amphibious assault vessels and F/A-18s at land bases and on aircraft carriers. The design is most distinguished by its unique lift system. The F135-600 engine has a rear nozzle that can rotate downward 90 deg. for vertical thrust, while also swiveling left and right for yaw control in a hover. The engine also drives a shaft connecting it, via a clutch, to a two-stage lift fan located behind the cockpit and exhausting downward through nozzle vanes that vector the vertical thrust fore and aft. Finally, compressor bleed air is fed to nozzles in the wings to provide vertical lift and roll control. Together, these systems allow the F-35B to take off from short runways or decks and land vertically. The F-35B can be visually distinguished by its shortened canopy as a result of the lift fan. The panel lines as well as associated markings are visible from both the top and bottom of the airframe. The B variant also has two diamond-shaped roll ducts on the underside of each wing.
The F-35C carrier variant (CV) is the U.S. Navy (USN) model, intended to provide a stealthy strike platform to complement the F/A-18 in U.S. carrier air wings. It is most distinguished by its larger wings (which include two control surfaces each instead of one on the A & C variants) and horizontal stabilizers, as well as its tailhook and reinforced landing gear. The F-35C is powered by a single F135-400 turbofan engine. USN declared its F-35C's had reached IOC in 2019. The F-35C has a diminished flight envelope with a g-limit of 7.5 when compared to 9.0 for the other variants. Like the F-35B, the F-35C lacks an internally mounted cannon.
The IAF version of the JSF is based off the F-35A and is sometimes designated as the F-35I for its unique features and has been dubbed the Adir (Great). Israel has insisted it be allowed to install indigenous technologies on the JSF. After long deliberations, it was decided that the first squadron of F-35s will be delivered to Israel with only unique Command, Control, Communications, Computers and Intelligence (C4I) capabilities developed by Israel Aerospace Industries. The C4I system and the software will facilitate future indigenous weapon and electronic warfare capabilities. In terms of weapons capabilities, Israel has received a license to integrate Rafael s Spice GPS/EO/IIR bomb-guidance systems. Rafael is about to complete the development of a Spice seeker and tail kit that could fit into the JSF s weapons bays. In July 2018, Lockheed Martin and Rafael Advanced Defense Systems announced a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) to market the Smart, Precise Impact and Cost-Effective (SPICE) series of PGMs. Rafael has previously expressed interest in integrating the Python 5 short-range AAM to fit into the F-35 s internal bay, the AIM-9X is currently only certified for external carriage.
Production & Delivery History
As of the time of this writing, the U.S., eight partner nations (including the U.S. as well as Canada - the later has yet to formally order aircraft) and eight FMS customers have collectively committed to field over 3,000 aircraft, though several countries have expressed interest in increasing their fleets. As of December 2021, more than 730 aircraft have been delivered. Lockheed Martin produces all F-35s at Air Force Plant 4 in Fort Worth, Texas. The facility covers over 6 million square feet with a production bay over a mile long. The company also supports two final assembly and check-out lines outside (FACO) of the United States including one in Northern Italy (Cameri) managed by Leonardo and one in Nagoya Japan (Aichi Prefecture) managed by Mitsubishi Heavy Industries. Lockheed Martin is currently producing F-35s under Low Rate Initial Production (LRIP) lots as the DoD will not grant a full rate production (FRP) decision until the NAVAIR managed Joint Simulation Environment (JSE) is ready. In April 2021, Lockheed's CFO Kenneth R. Possenriede stated Lot 16 production was expected to be awarded in Q4 of 2021. The $9 billion order is expected to comprise a 50-50 split between U.S. and international orders. The Navy awarded Lockheed a $904 million contract to support long-lead items for 133 Lot 16 aircraft on Dec. 30, 2020.
In May 2020, Lockheed Martin announced it expected to deliver 141 F-35s in 2020, only seven more than 2019, as a result of COVID-19. The pandemic was expected to tapper production for three months by 18-24 aircraft. Lockheed Martin has not commented on which customers would be affected. However, an Australian Parliamentary Committee was briefed by the RAAF that a small number of its jets could be delayed by one or two months as a result of COVID-19. Lockheed ultimately delivered 123 aircraft in 2020, including 74 U.S. and 49 foreign aircraft (31 international partner nation and 18 FMS jets).
In June 2021, Lockheed announced it planned to deliver between 133-139 aircraft in 2021. Delays as a result of COVID-19 are now expected to persist longer than anticipated. The company had previously expected to deliver 169 aircraft in 2022 and approximately 175 aircraft a year thereafter. Lockheed had stated the peak production capacity of the FT. Worth plant was 185 aircraft per year. In September 2021, the JPO and Lockheed reached a "production smoothing" agreement to help Lockheed recover from enduring supply chain disruptions caused by COVID-19. Under the framework, Lockheed would deliver 156 aircraft per year for the next several years.
The U.S. DoD estimates the entire domestic program will cost $397.7 billion, including $324.5 for procurement 2,456 aircraft (not including the construction of 18 test aircraft and six static ground test articles) for three services - 1,763 F-35As for USAF, 273 F-35Cs for USN and 353 F-35Bs and 67 F-35Cs for USMC. RTD&E outlays are expected to reach $70.07 billion over the life of the program. The JPO estimates that over their lifetimes these aircraft will require operations and sustainment (O&S) spending of $1.196 trillion. All of these figures are in FY21 dollars.
U.S. Air Force
U.S. Air Force orders alone represent approximately 50% of projected F-35 deliveries throughout the life of the program. The USAF had plans to replace 281 A-10s and more than 900 F-16s with F-35As. The service had planned to acquire 80 F-35As per year starting in 2022 but the service subsequently revised the maximum procurement rate down to 60 aircraft per year (including 48 in recent years + 12 in the unfunded priority request or UPL until FY22). The lower annual procurement rate would extend Air Force procurement by six years or from 2038 to 2044. Growing concerns over both cost per flight hour (CPFH) and Block 4 retrofit costs resulted in the USAF reducing its FY22 buy to just 48 aircraft with no additional aircraft in the UPL. Going forward, the performance of LM's proposed sustainment strategy and rollout of Block 4 into the mid-2020s is expected to impact the overall POR and forthcoming USAF and Joint Staff future tactical aircraft (TACAIR) study which is expected to be completed by the summer of 2021.
Since at least 2018, the Air Force has become increasingly concerned with the F-35A's high cost per flight hour (CPFH) as well as broader sustainment issues affecting the type such as its mission capable (MC) rates, cost per tail per year, etc. CPFH figures vary widely due to different methodology and the base year from which they were tabulated. The F-35's CPFH figures are often measured in FY12 constant dollars as that is when the program was rebaselined or in then year (TY) dollars when adjusted U.S. DoD operations & maintenance account deflator values. For example, according to CAPE, the F-35A's CPFH of $44,000 in TY2019 compared to the F-16's $22,000. The F-35 lifecycle sustainability plan (LSP) that was approved in January 2019 highlights eight lines of effort that assess cost per flying hour, cost per tail per year and overall ownership cost, according to former F-35 program executive officer Vice Adm. Mat Winter. In Feb. 2021, Air Combat Command's Gen. Mark Kelly expressed skepticism that LM would be able to lower that figure to FY12 $25,000 ($29,036) by 2025 under the proposed performance based logistics contract (PBL). Lockheed Martin reduced the cost per flying hour by 15% from 2015-2019 and another 18% from 2019-2021. However, to achieve the $25,000 flight hour goal, LM, the USAF and P&W would have to make cumulatively reduce costs by more than 30%.
Lockheed s plan for addressing concerns about the F-35A s hourly operating costs includes a major limitation. As the airframe supplier, Lockheed directly controls only 39% of the F-35A s hourly operating cost, a company official said (as shown in the table above). By contrast, the Air Force controls about 47% of the cost. The F135 engine supplier, Pratt & Whitney, is responsible for the last 14%. In absolute terms, that means the Air Force s share of the $33,000 CPFH (FY12) comes out to $15,510. Lockheed s share is $12,870, leaving P&W with $4,620 of the total bill.
By using a variety of tools, including an emerging, supply-based performance-based logistics deal and the opening of repair depots, Lockheed believes it has a solid plan to reduce the airframe portion of the cost per flight hour by 40% by the end of fiscal 2025. Since the company s cost-saving plan only applies to its $12,870 share of the overall hourly cost, a 40% reduction would reduce the F-35A s hourly cost attributable to the airframe by only $5,148, lowering Lockheed s share of the overall total to $7,722 (table above also includes notional FY21 adjusted PBL values).
In absolute terms, Lockheed s plan, if realized, would reduce the cost per flight hour of the F-35A to $27,852, which is still $2,852 higher than the company s commitment. To hit the $25,000 (FY12) target by the end of fiscal 2025, Lockheed needs help from the Air Force and Pratt, which account for $20,130 of the $33,000 hourly cost. Fortunately, neither would be required to match Lockheed s plan to cut its share of the cost by 40% over the next 4.5 years. Instead, the Air Force and Pratt would need to reduce their costs by only 14.2% to match the overall, $25,000 cost goal. In September 2021, Lockheed Martin was awarded F-35 PBL worth up to $6.6 billion. The contract is structured over FY21, FY22 and FY23 in one year option segments. CPFH could drop by 8% over the period to $33,400 in 2023.
The Air Force is evaluating levers to reduce its share of the F-35A s hourly operating cost, Gen. Charles Brown, Air Force chief of staff, said in Congressional testimony in early June. But the Air Force s options are constrained in some cases by enterprise-wide interests. For example, Lockheed has outlined a seemingly straightforward path for the Air Force to achieve a roughly 33% manpower cost reduction for line maintenance: By cross-training maintainers on multiple systems, the Air Force could cut the number assigned to each F-35A to nine from 12. However, that proposal may require the Air Force to bifurcate a common pool of aircraft maintainers, creating separate training and career pipelines for the F-35A and the rest of the fighter fleet.
Another core sustainment metric aside from CPFH is cost per tail per year (CPTPY) - the overall sustainment cost for the whole fleet divided by the number of aircraft in service. CPTPY is an important complementary metric to CPFH because the latter is highly variable with the total number of flight hours. For example, increasing flight hours decreases CPFH but would increase total sustainment costs as reflected by CPTPY. An April 2021 GAO report (above) highlighted the significant discrepancy in actual CPTPY costs above USAF projections in FY12 dollars. Notably, GAO's analysis is somewhat limited by taking current costs and projecting them forward. In practice these metrics (MC, CPFH, CPTPY) all vary with production lot. Subsequent lots have generally shown better reliability (mean time between failure) of components and greater availability including fewer man hours in maintenance.
However, the net effect of these growing sustainment concerns has put significant pressure on the 1,763 POR as the service would not be able to sustain that fleet at current CPFH metrics. Additionally, the service appears to be recalibrating its assessment that only fifth generation fighters could participate in Day 1 actions against near-peer threats. Created in January 2018 as an internal think-tank, the Air Force Warfighting Integrating Capability (AFWIC) office had torn up the long-standing assumption that only stealthy fighters could perform a useful role in the future. By the end of 2018, the AFWIC s team of analyst had adopted a new fighter roadmap which envisioned a great power war. The principal role for each F-35A was to launch two stealthy cruise missiles Lockheed s AGM-158 JASSM from just inside defended airspace. That kick-down-the-door pairing would be combined with mass launches of multiple JASSM each from F-15Es and F-15EXs, the source said. Other missions namely, defensive counter-air and homeland defense could be performed by the F-35, but other aircraft, such as F-15EXs and F-16s, also could be used. Driven by this new appreciation for a portfolio of fighter capabilities, the AFWIC team also reconsidered how many of each type would be needed. AFWIC s fighter roadmap by the end of 2018 had capped F-35A deliveries at about 1,050 jets. If new aircraft orders are maintained at a rate of two to 2.5 squadrons a year between 48 and 60 jets for the foreseeable future, the Air Force is at least 10 years away from hitting the 1,050 cap in AFWIC s fighter roadmap.
In the meantime, the Air Force faces other decisions about whether to invest in more fourth-generation fighters, F-35As or next generation aircraft. The Air Force still operates 232 F-16C/D Block 25 and Block 30 jets, which were delivered in the mid-1980s. Air Force officials have said they expect to make a fleet replacement decision for these so-called pre-block F-16s in four to seven years. When the Air Force established the program of record for buying 1,763 F-35As, the plan assumed replacing all of those pre-block F-16s. As a replacement decision enters the DOD s five-year budgeting horizon, however, Air Force officials have been more flexible. In February 2020, the head of Air Combat Command, who was then Gen. Mike Holmes, said that low-cost, attritable aircraft would be considered for the pre-block F-16 replacement in the 2024-2027 timeframe. Discussions of a FT-7 (modified Boeing T-7A Red Hawk) or new build F-16 Block 70 were also reportedly discussed as options. In February 2021, Chief of Staff of the Air Force Gen. Brown announced CAPE would conduct a tactical combat aircraft (TACAIR) study for its future force structure. A "clean sheet" 4.5 generation aircraft would be evaluated as a potential option according to Gen. Brown. In May 2021 as part of its budget rollout, the Air Force revealed plans to replace the 600 "post-Block" F-16s by the prospective multi-role fighter (MR-X) or the F-35 should its sustainment metrics improve.
Even if the Summer 2021 TACAIR study validates the full 1,763 POR, a bow wave of modernization priorities in the mid-2020s into the early 2030s may force the USAF to reduce its buy of F-35s. The USAF's FY22 aircraft procurement budget was $15.7 billion of which $3.76 billion was for the modification of in-service aircraft and $9.74 billion for new build aircraft (remainder on spares, infrastructure, etc.). By mid-decade the USAF aircraft procurement account will be under enormous strain to fund at least five B-21s annually at FRP worth more than $3.4 billion, as well as T-7A FRP, KC-46 FRP, HH-60W FRP, MH-139 FRP and 72 TACAIR platforms per year (F-35 & F-15EX). If trends continue, the USAF would need more than a 30% higher procurement budget for new build aircraft than its FY22 request. The budget outlook becomes even more bleak later in the decade as NGAD RDT&E reaches its apex and transitions to production, MQ-Next enters service around 2031 and KC-Y (KC-46 follow-on) also enters service. Thus, the USAF has a narrow window in the 2020s in which it is able to afford to buy 60 F-35As per year to recap its legacy TACAIR platforms before the wave of next generation platforms enter service. If the USAF buys 60 F-35As per year through 2030, the USAF would reach the 2018 AFWIC figure of 1,050 airframes
The FY22 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) included a number of measures to correct the trajectory of F-35 O&S efforts across the services and re-align procurement. The bill mandates each of the services to generate CPTPY figures by October 1st, 2025 which will come into force by FY2027. If any variant is unable to meet the CPTPY, procurement could be proportionally reduced. Perhaps most significantly, the JPO would transfer all O&S responsibilities to the respective services by FY2028 followed by all acquisition responsibilities by FY2030. The bill also requests an acquisition strategy from the Secretary of the Air Force and Undersecretary of Defense for Acquisition and Sustainment to outfit the F-35A with an adaptive cycle engine by FY2027. The NDAA discusses the prospect of B and C model engine upgrades.
Department of the Navy
Cumulatively, the USN and USMC plan to buy 693 F-35s including 353 Bs and 67 Cs for the USMC as well as 273 C models Navy. These aircraft will be procured into the early 2030s to replace the legacy Hornet and AV-8 Harrier. The Navy's slow induction of F-35Cs and expansion of its Super Hornet POR has effectively meant legacy hornets in carrier air wings have already been replaced. The FY22 budget request's UPL adds five F-35Cs for $535 million, increasing C model procurement from 15 to 20 if authorized. The Navy will operationally deploy F-35Cs for the first time in 2021 from the USS Carl Vinson.
As of the time of this writing, the USMC's POR for 353 Bs and 67 Cs remains in flux. U.S. Marine Corps Commandant Gen. David Berger may alter the service s POR as a result of an external review following the Force Design 2030 . The wide-reaching for structure plan recommended cutting the number of F-35s per squadron from 16 to 10 while maintaining a requirement for 18 fighter/attack squadrons. The external study will re-evaluate the USMC s existing F-35 POR. The latest Selected Acquisition Report current as of the FY2021 PBR does not alter the USMC s POR.
Australia has a program of record for 72 F-35As which will be delivered by August 2023. A fourth squadron is being considered which would increase the fleet to 100 aircraft. Australia established the AIR6000 program in 1999 to study the replacement of its Legacy Hornet and F-111 Aardvark fleets. Australia joined the JSF program as a level three partner in 2002.
In December 2021, the Australian Audit Office reported the nation's total F-35 acquisition cost is AU$15.63 billion ($11.1 billion), including payments for RDT&E contributions, aircraft procurement, military construction, weapons and training under the AIR 6000 program. Australian F-35A procurement under the AIR 6000 program is divided into two phases: 14 aircraft under Phase 2A/2B Stage 1 and 58 aircraft under Phase 2A/2B Stage 2. The roll-out of the first two aircraft occurred on July 24, 2014 and the first aircraft took flight on Sep. 29. As of December 2021, the Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF) has taken delivery of 44 airframes. The RAAF is the first international customer to receive Block 3F airframes. First arrival in Australia is occurred in December 2018 with an IOC of December 2020 and FOC in December 2023. The RAAF considers the addition of maritime strike capability critical toward the FOC. One of the squadrons will be based at RAAF Tindal, with the remainder at RAAF Williamtown. Canberra will spend AUS$1.5 billion upgrading those bases as part of the F-35 acquisition.
On Dec. 17, 2014, the JPO announced Australia would be one of the countries in the Pacific region to host heavy airframe and engine maintenance, repair, overhaul and upgrade (MRO&U) work. In February 2015, the Australian Minister of Defence announced BAE Systems Australia and TAE Aerospace will be assigned to support regional depot maintenance for airframes and engines respectively. The U.S. Government assigned depot level work for 65 components in November 2016. BAE Australia, Northrop Grumman Australia, RUAG and GE Aviation Australia will perform maintenance for 64 out of 65 components for the Asia-Pacific. In August 2017, the U.S. announced BAE Systems Australia will provide the Asia-Pacific F-35 Regional Warehouse capability as part of the F-35 Global Support Solution. The warehouse will be located in Williamstown and will manage the organization and provision of spares for multiple F-35 operators in the Asia-Pacific region. Total Australian industry participation in the F-35 program exceeds A$1 billion ($720 million in 2018 U.S. dollars) by the end of 2018 with A$5-9 billion expected over the program ($4.31-6.47 billion).
In December 2018, RAAF Air Marshall Leo Davies said Defence had planned to request the 28-additional aircraft in the early 2020s. Air Marshall Davies suggested Australia may wait longer likely as a result of the major changes expected through the Block 4 follow-on modernization program. Australia s DWP update released in July 2020 outlines plans for additional air combat capability between 2025 and the early 2030s valued at A$4.5-$6.7 billion ($3.1-$4.65 billion). In March 2021 interview with ASPI, Air Marshall Hupfeld was non-comital on a follow-on F-35 order, "We look at all options...What s the sixth generation of airpower going to look like when we decide on the next round of F-35s? Is F-35 still valid if there s a sixth-generation aircraft? Will sixth-generation air combat capability be an aircraft? I don t know the answer to that, but they re the things I keep my eyes open for. The [uncrewed] loyal wingman is an example of what may be part of the solution when we look at the next phase of our air combat capability program. And I d never say never to any of those". As of the time of this writing, Australia remain supportive of Boeing's Air Power Teaming offering but has yet to formally commit toward fielding the aircraft operationally.
In October 2018, Belgium officially selected the F-35 as the victor of its international fighter competition. Belgium was the last of the European Participating Air Forces (EPAF) nations to choose the F-35 to replace its F-16 fleet. The Defence Ministry reports the total cost of the acquisition of 34 F-35As as well as training and associated military construction costs total 4 billion ($4.5 billion in 2019 dollars) by 2030. The DSCA notification issued in January 2018 included a $6.53 billion estimated cost for the acquisition of the aircraft, related equipment and support services. The Defence Ministry estimates the total cost of the aircraft throughout its projected 40-year service life will reach 12.4 billion ($14.1 billion in 2019 dollars).
The competition originally included the Dassault Rafale, Saab Jas 39 Gripen, Boeing F/A-18E/F, Eurofighter Typhoon and Lockheed Martin F-35A. In 2017 both Saab and Boeing withdrew from the competition citing requirements which reportedly favored the F-35. Dassault was disqualified by not responding to the Request for Proposals (RFP). Instead, the French Defense Minister sent a letter outlining a broader industrial and diplomatic partnership conditional on the sale of the Rafale. The F-35 and Eurofighter Typhoon were subsequently left as the only qualifying bids.
Canada first joined the JSF program as a tier three partner in February 2000, contributing $150 million ($222.6 million in 2018 dollars) toward its development. Canada had planned to purchase 65 F-35As to replace its CF-18 Hornet fleet. In September 2015, Liberal Party leader Justin Trudeau campaigned that he would withdraw Canada from the F-35 program and hold a competition excluding the F-35. Canada s 2017 Defence Policy Report outlined that an open competition would be held to replace the CF-18 with 88 new fighter aircraft. In October 2016, Ottawa announced its intention to purchase 18 F/A-18E/F Super Hornets as an interim fighter to bridge this gap. However, trade disputes between Boeing and Bombardier effectively canceled the purchase. Canada will now acquire 18 retired RAAF Hornets as an interim fighter, but the aircraft are approximately the same age as Canada s existing CF-18 fleet.
Eligible suppliers for the $11 billion Future Fighter Capability Project (FFCP) submitted bids in 2019. In May 2019, the U.S. Government was in discussions with Canada regarding FFCP bid language which would require all competing firms to guarantee Canadian businesses 100% of the value of the deal in economic benefits. The U.S. Government took issue with the economic offset clause as written as it would exclude the F-35 and violate Canada s prior commitments as a F-35 partner nation. Canada ultimately modified the language of the bid to allow Lockheed Martin to participate. In November 2018, Dassault reportedly withdrew from the competition as a result of information security requirements. France is not part of the Five Eyes intelligence agreement. Dassault s withdrawal leaves the Saab JAS 39 E/F, Boeing F/A-18E/F and Lockheed Martin F-35. Canada is subsequently disqualified Boeing's bid on December 1st, 2021. The country is expected to announce source selection by March of 2022 and deliveries expected to run between 2025 and 2031.
Denmark first jointed the JSF program as a tier three partner in 2002. In June 2016, Denmark selected the F-35 as its preferred replacement for its fleet of 44 F-16s which first entered service in in 1980. The Defense Ministry projects a total program cost of 66.1 billion kroners or $10 billion in November 2018 dollars for 27 F-35As. The acquisition cost is reportedly 20 billion Danish Krone or $3 billion in 2019 dollars. In a April 2021 rollout ceremony, Denmark's first F-35A was presented. The first six aircraft will go to Luke AFB, AZ, training. The aircraft will be subsequently based in Denmark between 2022-23 and with the last F-35A to to be delivered by the end of 2024.
On April 14, 2014, Denmark issued request for information to Lockheed for the F-35A but also requested information on the F/A-18F, Typhoon and JAS 39E/F. Responses were due July 21, 2014. That month, Sweden's FXM defense export agency decided not to make a formal offer of the JAS 39E/F, believing the competition was biased toward favor of the F-35A. In a report discussing the Government s reasoning for choosing the F-35, the Danish Ministry of Defence concluded that Lockheed Martin s bid was superior to both Boeing and Eurofighter s bids in terms of strategic, military, economic and industrial aspects. A key finding of the MoD was the F-35 s airframe is built to last 8,000 flight hours when compared to 6,000 for both the Eurofighter Typhoon and F/A-18E/F. Therefore, a smaller number of F-35s could be procured to meet the same mission demands i.e. 28 F-35As compared to 34 Eurofighters and 38 F/A-18E/Fs. The procurement was subsequently curtailed to 27 F-35As.
On December 10, 2021, Finland announced its intent to acquire 64 F-35A Block 4s upon completing the HX competitive evaluation process. Like Norwegian aircraft, Sweden's F-35s will be fitted with brake-parachutes. Deliveries will get underway in 2025 to support training in the U.S, Finnish F-35s will arrive in-country in 2026 and the type will replace the Finnish Air Force s McDonnell Douglas F/A-18 Hornets between 2028 and 2030. This decision will have a strong impact on the Defense Forces operational capability, said Antti Kaikkonen, Finland s defense minister, announcing the decision alongside Prime Minister Sanna Marin on December 10. The F-35, Kaikkonen said, would define Finnish Air Force s combat capability through into the 2060s. Helsinki s decision comes on the back of Switzerland s selection of the same aircraft in July and means that the F-35 has been successful in virtually every fighter contest it has participated in Europe. We are honored the Government of Finland through its thorough, open competition has selected the F-35, and we look forward to partnering with the Finnish Defense Forces and Finnish defense industry to deliver and sustain the F-35 aircraft, said Bridget Lauderdale, Lockheed Martin s general manager of the F-35 program. Defense officials scored F-35 as the best based on the air, land and sea scenarios posed to the bidders, although no details of the scoring system or what the other bidders achieved was revealed. The F-35 was also deemed to have the highest operational effectiveness and the best development potential.
Helsinki plans to sign the Letter of Offer and Acceptance for the Foreign Military Sale in the first quarter of 2022. Finland had budgeted 10 billion for the procurement, with the Finnish Parliament approving the use of 9.4 billion.
The breakdown of costs includes 4.7 billion for the aircraft, equivalent to 73.4 million ($83 million) for each of the 64 aircraft. Air-to-air missiles package is valued at 754 million, while the maintenance equipment, spare parts, training equipment and initial maintenance for the first five years of operations will cost 2.92 billion. Officials have put aside 777 million for infrastructure construction and project costs, while 823 million is available for additional contracts, and amendments, as well as future buys of weapons. They also note that the operating costs are well within the threshold of 10% - 254 million - of the annual defense budget, with officials noting the type s operation is possible with the resources of the Defense Forces. None of the bids were significantly cheaper in terms of operating and maintenance costs, defense officials said. The Lockheed aircraft scored 4.47/5.0, the next best package scored 3.81 - likely the Boeing F/A-18E/F & EA-18G.
Finland envisages arming its F-35s with the AIM-120 AMRAAM and AIM-9 Sidewinder air-to-air missiles, Small Diameter Bombs, Joint Direct Attack Munition (JDAM) bomb kits, the Kongsberg Joint Strike Missile and the JASSM-ER cruise missile. Procurement officials say the F-35 s maintenance will be based on a solution modified from F-35's global maintenance system, adding that the proposed system meets domestic security of supply requirements. Finland s non-aligned status means it cannot rely on allies in wartime like other operators of the F-35 can. Lockheed Martin says Finland will be able to rely on the F-35 s Global Support Solution but it will work to enable Finnish industry to undertake the repair of around 100 critical components so that the fleet can be supported if Finland becomes isolated in the event of a conflict. There will also be additional stockpiles of F-35 spares in Finland. Lockheed Martin says it will provide work for Finnish industry which will last up to 20 years. Among the companies to benefit is Patria who will build 400 forward fuselages for the wider program. Kaikkonen said the contest was tough, and there can be only one winner, adding: I would like to stress that all countries involved, are very close and valued partners for Finland, they continue to be so. Our cooperation with all of them is based on long term partnerships, mutual trust and common security interests, Kaikkonen added.
The Israeli Air Force (IAF) is on contract to receive 50 F-35s. These aircraft are referred to both as F-35As and F-35Is depending upon the source as Israeli aircraft feature unique modifications. Jerusalem purchased a first batch of 19 JSFs for $2.75 billion in 2010. These aircraft are being produced as part of LRIPs 8, 9 and 10. The first two aircraft were delivered in December 2016, the IAF declared IOC a year later in December 2017. In November 2014, the Israeli Defense Minister concluded terms for a $4.4 billion contract for 31 additional F-35s. However, the proposal ran into unexpected resistance in the Israeli cabinet, in which the Intelligence Minister raised concerns about the aircraft's capabilities and the Finance Minister raised concerns about cost. The IAF and Defense Ministry rejected the Intelligence Minster's concerns as "old and irrelevant" and stated the alternatives to additional F-35s would cost more.
On Nov. 30, the cabinet voted to purchase 14 aircraft in the second batch under a $2.8 billion contract that will also cover two additional simulators and spare parts for the fleet of 33. On November 27, 2016, Israel's cabinet approved exercising the option to procure an additional 17 F-35s for a total of 50 aircraft. In February 2018, the DoD announced a $147.96 million contract to deliver Block 3F+ upgrades to the IAF. These upgrades will enable Israeli specific hardware and software modifications.
In December 2018, IAI opened a new production line for outer wing sets which will deliver kits starting in 2019. A total of 700 wing kits will be manufactured during the first phase, IAI is expected to produce 811 pairs of wings by 2034. Israeli industrial participation in the F-35 program is expected to reach $2.5 billion by the 2030s. Israel was originally included within the European MRO&U zone for depot level overhauls, but Israel has insisted that it will field its own local depot level MRO capability for its F-35 fleet.
As part of an offset agreement related to the UAE's potential F-35 acquisition, Israel has expressed interest in an additional squadron of F-35As which would bring its total fleet to 75 aircraft. Furthermore, Israel is reported to have obtained greater access to modify its aircraft as part of the offset deal. The first instrumented F-35I test aircraft arrived in Tel Nof Air Force Base in November 2020.
On June 24, 2002, Italy joined the JSF as a Level II partner and contributed $1 billion toward the development of the program. Rome currently plans to acquire a total of 60 F-35As and 15 F-35Bs for its air force, the Aeronautica Militare (AM). The Italian Navy will acquire 15 F-35Bs. As of December 2021, 14 F-35As and one F-35B have been delivered to the AM and three F-35Bs has been delivered to the Italian Navy.
Rome originally planned to acquire 131 F-35s (69 F-35As and 60 F-35Bs) to replace its IDS Tornado, AMX light combat aircraft and AV-8B Harriers. In February 2012, Defense Minister Giampaolo Di Paola announced cuts to the F-35 program as part of a broader effort to enact defense spending cuts. The center-left Democratic Party called for further cuts to the F-35 program in 2014 which did not materialize. In 2018, Italian participation in the F-35 program was threatened by the Five Star Movement which campaigned to withdraw from the program entirely. In June 2018, Defense Minister Elisabetta Trenta clarified that the Government would continue the acquisition of 90 F-35s. However, the government would not seek additional aircraft beyond 90 and the procurement of aircraft may be slowed to reduced Italy s financial burden.
Italian industry is the largest contributor to the F-35 program outside of the U.S. and UK. Italian industrial participation in the F-35 program broadly falls within three categories: (1) final assembly of aircraft, (2) manufacture of components for the global supply chain and (3) depot level sustainment responsibility for Europe. Italy maintains one of two Final Assembly and Check Out (FACO) lines outside of the U.S. The Cameri plant was built between 2011 and 2013 at a cost of 795.6 million euros ($900 million in 2018 dollars). The facility covers approximately 101 ac