Friday, May 20, 2011

DoD: Operating Costs Biggest Threat to F-35

The Pentagon estimates the total cost of operating the U.S. military's F-35s through 2065 at more than $1 trillion, and that's the program's biggest long-term challenge, a bevy of top DoD officials told the Senate Armed Services Committee on May 19.
"Over the lifetime of this program, the decade or so, the per-aircraft cost of the 2,443 aircraft has doubled in real terms," procurement Chief Ashton Carter said. "That's what it's going to cost if we keep doing what we're doing. That's unacceptable. That's unaffordable."
And although operating expenses won't really take off for some years, cost-saving efforts must begin.
"Nobody is going to pay that bill," Carter said. "It's way too high."
Still, he said, the $1 trillion number shouldn't be taken at face value because it's such a long-term sum and because various management steps will bring down the cost.
"I truly believe that we can manage out a substantial number of the production and sustainment costs," Carter said.
"Having the thing costs much more than buying the thing. Seventy cents of the cost of every program is having it, 30 cents is getting it," Carter said.
Christine Fox, who leads the Defense Department's Cost Assessment and Program Evaluation (CAPE) office, said that the F-35's sustainment costs are not quite as high as that of its larger fifth-generation sibling, the F-22 Raptor, but match those of the older and considerably larger F-15C Eagle. Sustainment costs exceed those of the F-16 and F/A-18, which the F-35 is supposed to replace.
"Given the significant increase in capability, it is not unreasonable that JSF costs more to operate and sustain than some legacy aircraft," Fox said. "However, the fact that it will cost about 33 percent more to operate JSF relative to the F-16 and F/A-18 aircraft it is replacing gives the department a significant bill."
The Defense Department and the F-35 program office are going to analyze sustainment costs through 2065. The current sum is mammoth, but Fox and Government Accountability Office acquisitions director Michael Sullivan warned that it is difficult to accurately estimate sustainment costs.
Vice Adm. David Venlet, who spoke to reporters after his testimony, said that scouring sustainment costs for savings would continue after Carter's formal review.
The Defense Department is scrubbing the program from top to bottom in a "should cost" analysis that will inform a new baseline for the program. The "should cost" analysis numbers are factoring into the negotiations with contractor Lockheed Martin to build the jet.

F-22 Upgrade Taking Too Much Time, Money

The latest hardware and software upgrade for the U.S. Air Force's F-22 Raptor stealth fighter jet is over budget and behind schedule, top Defense Department officials told Congress on May 19.
"The Increment 3.2 that we're currently working on for the F-22 for our war-fighting customer is taking too long to implement," Air Force procurement chief David Van Buren told members of the Senate Armed Services Committee. "We are working with the company [Lockheed Martin] to try to speed that up and make it more affordable."
Among other improvements, the upgrade will allow the F-22 to carry the AIM-9X infrared-guided air-to-air missile and the AIM-120D medium-range air-to-air missile, and to attack eight ground targets with eight 250-pound Small Diameter Bombs.
Software development appears to be the primary cause of the delay.
Loren Thompson, an analyst at the Lexington Institute, said the F-22's software is written largely in Ada, a programming language that was once a DoD standard but whose use has waned in the past 15 years.
"It tends to impede quick upgrades to the system to which it is the base software," Thompson said.
Moreover, he said, "The affordability of any upgrade becomes debatable when you purchase a relatively small number of upgrades."
Lockheed has built 187 Raptors, of which two have been lost.
The company said it is working with the Air Force to accelerate fielding of the upgrade, which is split into two components, A and B, while trying to cut costs.
Lockheed has saved the Air Force $20 million by moving some electronic protection software from Increment 3.2B to Increment 3.2A, company spokeswoman Alison Orne stated in an email.
"We have successfully accelerated several Electronic Protection capabilities," she said. "These capabilities were previously planned to field in 2017 and are now part of the 3.2A baseline planned to field in 2014."
The company also is looking at 100 additional items on which it could cut costs for the second half of the upgrade.
"Each savings candidate is being reviewed for potential inclusion into the baseline Increment 3.2B program," Orne said.
Despite Lockheed's confidence, the Defense Department's leaders are worried about the program.
"The F-22 modernization program is a concern to us," said Pentagon procurement chief Ashton Carter, who testified alongside Van Buren at the May 19 hearing.

NATO to Russia: Cooperate on Missile Defense

BRATISLAVA, Slovakia - NATO's secretary-general on May 19 called for a "true, strategic partnership" between NATO and Russia after warnings from Moscow of a possible new Cold War should the two sides fail to agree on missile defense.
"My objective is to develop a true strategic partnership between NATO and Russia," Anders Fogh Rasmussen told reporters following talks with Slovak Foreign Minister Mikulas Dzurinda.
Russian President Dmitry Medvedev on May 18 issued a startling warning of a new Cold War era if Russia and the West failed to agree on missile defense.
Moscow is increasingly worried about U.S. plans to build missile defense facilities in formerly Communist eastern Europe and is also offended that NATO appears to have shunned its proposals for a joint missile defense shield.
"We do have our disagreements, but we have areas in which we share interest, in particular weapons of mass destruction and missile technology," Fogh Rasmussen said.
"We have decided to develop a NATO anti-missile defense, we have invited Russia to cooperate in anti-missile technology," Rasmussen added. "Our idea is to have two independent systems that cooperate - a NATO system and a Russia system - each responsible for protection of its territory but capable of cooperation, data exchange," he said.
Moscow has been battling NATO plans to deploy a system the West sees as a means of protection from nations such as Iran but Russia believes could potentially be deployed against its own defenses.
Rasmussen repeated the long-standing Western position that its missile defense plans are in no way directed against Russia.
"Our missile defense system is not directed against Russia, we do not consider Russia as a threat to NATO, and Russia should not consider NATO as a threat to Russia," he said, at once encouraging Moscow to "focus on real threats instead of focusing on ghosts of the past."
"More than 30 countries in the world have missile technology, some of them with a range that can hit targets on NATO territory," Rasmussen added.
Medvedev on May 18 reiterated an earlier threat to pull out of the new START strategic arms reduction agreement that entered into force this year if the missile shield is deployed and operated without the Kremlin's input.

India OKs $2.1B Upgrade for 51 Mirage Aircraft

NEW DELHI - India's top acquisition body has cleared a $2.1 billion deal to upgrade 51 Dassault Mirage 2000H aircraft, ending a four-year wait.
A Mirage 2000 jet fighter takes off from Nancy-Ochey, France. India will spend $2.1 billion to upgrade 51 Dassault Mirage 2000H aircraft. (File photo / Agence France-Presse)
At its May 19 meeting, the Cabinet Committee of Security (CCS) agreed to the French proposal to allow only French missiles on the upgraded Mirage aircraft, ruling out a proposal to arm the planes with Israeli missiles, said a Defence Ministry source.
A contract is expected within three months, and the program is to be complete within five years after that.
Under the deal, lead integrator Thales and Dassault will upgrade four Mirages in France, then help India's state-owned Hindustan Aeronautics Ltd. (HAL) perform the work on the other 47. MBDA will help deliver a variety of missiles for the upgrade.
The upgrade includes replacing the avionics with two mission computers, an advanced navigation system, and pulse doppler radar that can look down to detect targets through clutter out to 70 nautical miles.
The new glass cockpit will come with two lateral displays and an advanced head-down display. The upgraded radar warning receiver will have an instantaneous wide bank receiver and an integrated missile approach warning receiver that can provide continuous information on time to impact. A new jammer will be able to handle multiple surveillance acquisition radars. Other new gear will include a digital video recorder, data transfer system, and simulation systems.
The upgraded aircraft will be able to carry four beyond-visual-range missiles and other missiles and smart ammunition.