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  • Fighternomics
    Posted by Bill Sweetman 12:35 PM on Feb 25, 2009

    Somewhere, I'm sure (or I hope) that some Sparky has a PowerPoint slide with two lines on it, one for the F-22 and one for the F-35A, with dollars up the side and FY on the bottom, between here and (say) 2020.

    The dollar number in each case would be the average annual cost. That is, the P-1 money (total procurement, not flyaway, plus upgrades and fixes in the "F-22 Squadrons" and "F-35 Squadrons" line), plus the R-1 (R&D), divided by the number of jets and premised on an equal total each year, based on an honest guess of the money available.

    Clearly, today, with the F-35 R&D program at full blast and low-rate initial production just starting, the F-35 this year will be far more expensive than the F-22 - and that is not to criticize its planning or execution, because it's a question of timing. And the idea, clearly, is that the F-35 line will decline as production matures and accelerates and initial R&D ends, and that ultimately the aircraft will be much cheaper than the F-22.

    However, the F-22 cost line is declining too and would continue to do so - albeit not as fast as the F-35 line. On the other hand, it would need enhancements to take over some of the F-35 mission, and it would need a more aggressive upgrade and counter-obsolescence program.

    But at some point, the plan is that the two lines cross. But until they do, year by year, the USAF is getting fewer jets for the money and falling further behind in terms of replacing fighters;  the average fleet will still be aging and it will be doing so faster with F-35 than with F-22. Again, facts not criticism: the idea is that you sacrifice today for a better, cheaper force tomorrow.

    So when do the two lines cross? My guess is that there is no way that they cross before F-35 R&D is done in 2014. But if the Joint Estimating Team is right and the JSF program office is not, the cross point will be pushed out to the right. And the later that the crossing point is, the longer it takes for the out-year savings - as JSFs, in theory, get cheap and recapitalize the fighter force at a rate of 80 jets a year, or more - to recoup the losses on this side of the crossing point.


    Tags: ar99, raptor, JSF

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