Signing F-35 PBL Contract By Fiscal ’21 ‘Challenge,’ Lockheed Says

F-35B
Credit: USMC

ORLANDO, Florida—Signing a five-year performance-based logistics (PBL) contract for the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter by the start of fiscal 2021 is going to be a “challenge,” a Lockheed Martin executive says.

The company plans to invest $1.5 billion toward the PBL to jump-start projects in which customers can see a return on investment in areas like reliability and maintainability improvements, Greg Ulmer, F-35 vice president and general manager at Lockheed, told reporters here Feb. 27 during the Air Warfare Symposium.

The government has formed a joint team composed of U.S. Air Force, Navy, Marine Corps and Lockheed Martin personnel, Navy acquisition executive Hondo Geurts told reporters in January. “We’re looking at everything from the way we’re doing things now to a full PBL, to something in between,” Geurts said.

Ulmer is confident the government will decide to sign a five-year PBL. “I don’t know the exact timing when of when that will occur but that’s the intent,” he said.

The Defense Department is working with outside consultants to generate a data set on aircraft performance, material, labor and other cost elements. This is intended to assist the government in deciding whether the PBL contract will provide the most effective path for the F-35 program, Pentagon acquisition executive Ellen Lord told reporters in January.

On Jan. 6, the F-35 Joint Program Office awarded Lockheed a $1.9 billion contract to maintain the F-35 fleet, support training and expand capacity. The contract follows a $1.4 billion award in 2018 and one for $1.15 billion in 2019 for global sustainment services.

Lord said a key focus for the government is lowering the cost per flight-hour of the fifth-generation aircraft. Lockheed has committed to lowering the F-35A cost per flight-hour to $25,000 by 2025. 
 

Lee Hudson

Based in Washington, Lee covers the Pentagon for Aviation Week. Prior to joining Aviation Week in June 2018, Lee was at Inside Defense where she was managing editor for Inside the Navy.