Pentagon To Review Progress Of F-35 Program Next Week

By Andrea Shalal-Esa/Reuters

The U.S. Marine Corps has also done a detailed analysis that shows the cost per flying hour of the F-35B model, which can land like a helicopter, is likely to be 16.6 percent lower than earlier Pentagon estimates. That reduction would result in savings of $12.3 billion over the next five decades.

“Sustainment cost will be a large topic of discussion,” said Hawn, noting that it was critical to lower the longer-term costs of operating the warplanes so they are affordable.

She said the program in November would also be hosting the first of twice-yearly summits on operating and maintenance costs, an initiative that grew out of a September meeting of the F-35’s Joint Executive Steering Board.

Details were still being worked out, but the meeting is aimed at generating ideas for driving down operating and maintenance costs, Hawn said.

For instance, in September, Britain and Norway said they would work together more closely to lower costs by pooling resources for technical maintenance once the new fighter jets start arriving in Europe in the second half of the decade.

The meeting is expected to include representatives from Lockheed and other major suppliers for the program: Northrop Grumman Corp, BAE Systems Plc and Pratt & Whitney, a unit of United Technologies Corp, as well the U.S. military and the eight partner countries.

Air Force Lieutenant General Chris Bogdan, the Pentagon’s F-35 program chief, has said he hopes to inject more competition into the overall effort of operating and maintaining the planes once the program completes development around 2018.

Lockheed oversees sustainment of the F-35 under the current development contract, but the Pentagon is exploring other options, including dealing directly with component suppliers that work on maintenance, instead of having Lockheed coordinate that work, according to one source familiar with the program.

Monday’s Pentagon meeting is also expected to touch on last week’s news that extended durability testing of the Marine Corps’ F-35 B-model had resulted in minor cracks in the bulkhead of the plane.

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