He said he was confident additional savings could be achieved in coming years through efforts by Pratt & Whitney, a unit of United Technologies Corp to lower the cost of operating the airplane’s engine, in line with trends seen on other military aircraft programs.
He said the Marines also expected to trim maintenance costs by doing up to 90 percent of the work in house, rather than farming it out to contractors. Similar efforts had resulted in big savings on the V-22, the Marines’ tilt-rotor aircraft, he said.
Schmidle said the Marine Corps’ analysis forecast $520 million a year in lower maintenance and operating savings once the three other planes it now uses were replaced by the F-35, a process that is currently slated to be completed by 2030.
He said the impact of mandatory Pentagon budget cuts on the F-35 program remained unclear, but said the savings expected by replacing the existing AV8B Harriers, EA-6B Prowler electronic warfare jets and F/A-18 fighters with F-35s could make the case for accelerating that process.