There is good news for militaries waiting to add the F-35 to their arsenal: The fighter jet’s availability rate has risen sharply in recent years and is projected to rise even further while sustainability costs are trending downward.
Lockheed Martin has so far delivered 309 F-35s and is set to deliver 91 this year, Greg Ulmer, vice-president and general manager for the F-35 programme, said in a press conference on the opening day of the ongoing Farnborough International Airshow.
In 2011, the company delivered nine aircraft. “Last year, we delivered 66,” said Ulmer. “This year, we are delivering 91 airplanes; halfway through the year, we are right on target.”
As part of increasing the production rate, the company plans to deliver 120 planes next year and 145 in 2020. The number is set to jump further to about 160 by 2023, Ulmer added.
The fighter jet currently has 12 customers globally and 15 bases. The first aircraft arrival in Australia will take place later this year. Korea and Turkey will celebrate the arrival of the first F-35 next year. “The airplane is doing everything it is supposed to do and more,” said Ulmer.
The company wants to reduce the industry component of the F-35’s operation and sustainment costs by as much as 38% over the next 10 years, said Ulmer. “We are on trajectory to match what it costs to operate a fourth-generation aircraft. We have been spending the last 44 months in particular, very focused on the operational cost for the aircraft.”
Belgium, Germany and Finland are expected to acquire the combat aircraft, which made its combat debut recently with the Israel Defence Force . The company has submitted an RIF for Switzerland, said Ulmer. Replying to a question on media reports that UK and Italy were planning to reduce the number of F-35s that they had initially sought to purchase, Ulmer added that both countries were pleased with the performance of the aircraft.
The company has refined the aircraft’s diagnostic system, the Autonomic Logistics Information System, as part of the efforts to make the technology relevant, through incremental, quicker updates. The contract for future production of the jet’s Distributed Aperture System (DAS) has been awarded to Raytheon.
“The DAS we did select is about two times more capable and about five times more reliable than the current DAS. That reliability is really important to us,” said Ulmer. He added that the company was focused on reducing sustainment costs.
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