by Pat Host
By 2036 the Pentagon services buying the Lockheed Martin F-35 Lightning II Joint Strike Fighter (JSF) face nearly USD6 billion in sustainment cost overruns that they project as unaffordable because of increasing sustainment expenditures.
In a report released on 7 July, the Government Accountability Office (GAO) said that the F-35 Joint Program Office's (JPO's) estimated sustainment costs per aircraft, or tail, per year, for each variant, increased in 2020, except for the US Marine Corps' (USMC's) F-35C buy. This furthers a gulf between affordability constraints established in 2018 and the projected sustainment costs at steady state, or the programme's peak operating point. Estimated sustainment costs per F-35 tail per year is an important metric for determining aircraft affordability.
The 2020 JPO estimate of the F-35A sustainment cost per tail per year in steady state is USD7.8 million, up from the USD7.1 million cost estimate in 2018. The F-35A affordability constraint for sustainment cost per tail per year is USD4.1 million, representing a gap of USD3.7 million between projected cost and affordability constraint.