GEELONG, Australia—The Joint Strike Fighter program should be able to beat its 2019 price target for the Lightning aircraft, program chief Lt. Gen. Chris Bogdan says.
Speaking to reporters at the Australian International Airshow here, Bogdan also said the F-35’s performance at Red Flag exercises over the past year was “pretty impressive.”
The program has been committed to delivering U.S. Air Force F-35A version aircraft in 2019 for $85 million, compared with the most recent negotiated price of $94.6 million, Bogdan says.
“I am here to tell you today that that’s not enough,” he says. “We need the airplane to be lower in price in 2019 and 2020 than $85 million. And I think we can get there.
“We ought to be looking at about an $80 million airplane by that time frame and then continuing to decrease the price of the airplane lot over lot over lot,” Bogdan says. In part, that would be done by working with industry and maintaining steady production.
F-35Bs, capable of vertical landing, and F-35Cs, designed for catapult launch and arrested recovery on aircraft carriers, cost more than F-35As, which takeoff and land conventionally on concrete runways.
Pilots involved in a Red Flag exercise at Nellis AFB, Nevada, this year tell Aviation Week that the F-35 achieved a 15:1 kill ratio and magnified the value of aircraft of other types they flew with.
Referring to that and an earlier Red Flag event, Bogdan says: “The F-35 dominated those two … exercises.”
Availability and maintainability of the F-35 is not improving much, says Bogdan, because of poorly performing units built early in the program. What Bogdan calls “the good airplanes” are getting better faster, he says, but not the old ones.
Australia is one of the largest F-35 customers, with funded planning for 72 aircraft and a prospective additional acquisition of 28 next decade. According to the head of the Australian program, Air Vice Marshal Leigh Gordon, the country is on track for its target of making the F-35 initially operational in December 2020. At that time, there should be 12 F-35As in an operational squadron and six in a training squadron, he says.