Joint Strike Fighter partner countries are being encouraged to commit to buying aircraft early, with the promise of lower prices, according to program vice-president and general manager Tom Burbage.
The goal is to get international customers to commit to early orders and to smooth out the slope of the increasing production rate, Burbage says."All we're trying to do is stabilize the production plan. We want to take advantage of [the partner countries'] parliamentary process, where they don't micromanage on an annual basis.If they make a long-term commitment we can stabilize our supply processes and reap an economic benefit." What Lockheed Martin is exploring is a consortium buy of JSFs.
Burbage insists that the plan does not call for firm and final sales contracts, which still run two years ahead of delivery(three years for long-lead items). However, committing to numbers and dates of deliveries will give customers a firm price (not fixed, but constrained) even in low rate initial production (LRIP) batches.
To get the new program rolling and to avoid a step in the production ramp-up, Burbage says, the JSF program office is looking for commitments soon: "The end of this year would be great, but it could spill into next year."
Burbage is still predicting a "mid-July, early August" return to flight for the first F-35, AA-1, following an electrical power problem that momentarily blacked-out the largely electric fighter on May 3 and disabled the right horizontal stabilizer. The problem has been traced to arcing inside the electrical unit that provides power to the electro-hydraulic actuator, during a roll maneuver that demanded high power at 40,000 feet. The problem has been traced to a unit which did not conform to specifications.
Photo: JSF program office