October 01, 2012
Credit: Credit: U.S. Air Force
The Pentagon on Friday moved toward bringing in other companies to operate and maintain its most expensive weapons program, the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter, a step that could reduce revenues for the current prime contractor, Lockheed Martin Corp.
The move is the latest action by the Pentagon to drive down the cost of the new single-engine, single-seat warplane, whose operations and maintenance costs are currently projected to reach a staggering $1.11 trillion over the coming decades.
Last week, top Pentagon and Air Force officials publicly slammed Lockheed’s performance on the new radar-evading jet, whose development and production alone are slated to cost $396 billion. The officials said they were looking at ways to introduce more competition to the program.
Lockheed and the Pentagon remain locked in protracted and tense negotiations about a fifth order of F-35 production jets, with neither government officials nor industry executives expecting an agreement before the end of the third quarter.
On Friday, the Defense Department invited companies to participate in a two-day public forum on Nov. 14-15 on possible opportunities to compete for work managing the supply chain of the new fighter jet and providing support equipment, simulators for training and a computer-based logistics system.
“We want to reduce F-35 life-cycle costs by injecting competition into the program,” said Joe DellaVedova, spokesman for the Pentagon’s F-35 program office. “We want to collect information and learn what is out there in the marketplace.”
The Pentagon said its “industry day” would help “identify potential business sources with the resources, capabilities, and experience to successfully deliver a wide range of hardware and infrastructure services in support of F-35 ... sustainment.”
In a notice published on a federal website, the F-35 Joint Program Office (JPO) said it would use information from participating companies and other market research “to refine its acquisition strategy and to evaluate alternatives that will deliver the best value, long-term F-35 sustainment solution.”