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Author: Subject: F-35 FINAL Development and into Production
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[*] posted on 11-7-2020 at 11:42 PM


Yep, they’ll need land based ones for training and conversion, plus a maintenance / attrition pool, plus I’m sure they’d like a surge capability as well. Carriers can still operate in ‘overload’ condition...



In a low speed post-merge manoeuvring fight, with a high off-boresight 4th generation missile and Helmet Mounted Display, the Super Hornet will be a very difficult opponent for any current Russian fighter, even the Su-27/30
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[*] posted on 12-7-2020 at 12:09 AM


Quote: Originally posted by ADMK2  
Yep, they’ll need land based ones for training and conversion, plus a maintenance / attrition pool, plus I’m sure they’d like a surge capability as well. Carriers can still operate in ‘overload’ condition...


As conclusively proven by Hermes and Invincible during the Falklands War, both operated at maximum overload for weeks at the arse end of a formidable logistics challenge.




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[*] posted on 21-7-2020 at 10:13 PM


Rising Pressures Cloud Optimistic F-35 Sales Outlook (excerpt)

(Source: Aviation Week; posted July 21, 2020)

By Steve Trimble

Lockheed Martin has marketed the F-35 successfully to 14 countries over nearly 20 years. Subtracting Turkey’s canceled program for 100 jets, Lockheed still boasts commitments from 13 countries to buy nearly 3,220 F-35s, with deliveries projected out to 2046. Three more countries with a combined requirement for about 200 fighters are evaluating the F-35 in competitive tenders, and another five have publicly discussed a long-term interest in acquiring the aircraft.

That is the good news for the only supersonic, stealthy fighter with a short-takeoff-and-vertical-landing variant on the export market today.

But that otherwise optimistic sales outlook is clouded by resource constraints, shifting priorities and new technological advances that threaten a large portion of the planned orders in the F-35 program of record. Moreover, the recent expulsion of Turkey from the program because of its acquisition of Russian military hardware highlights rising pressure from political interference on high-profile foreign arms sales.

The U.S.-led F-35 Joint Program Office declared in 2009 that total sales of the F-35 could reach 6,000, but more than a decade later government and Lockheed officials prefer to size the global market at around 4,000. Even the more modest projection may depend on maintaining the original orderbook of the U.S. Air Force, the program’s largest customer, with an official requirement for 1,763 F-35As. (end of excerpt)

Click here for the full story, on the Aviation Week website.

https://aviationweek.com/ad-week/rising-pressures-cloud-opti...

-ends-
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[*] posted on 23-7-2020 at 04:39 PM


JUST IN: F-35 Sustainment Challenges Take Center Stage

7/22/2020

By Jon Harper


Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Chris Drzazgowski

Sustainment issues associated with the F-35 joint strike fighter were under the microscope July 22, with officials highlighting problems and Lockheed Martin executives touting progress.

The program is the largest acquisition effort in Pentagon history, with an estimated price tag of more than $1 trillion. About two-thirds of the lifecycle costs for the stealth jet are expected to come from operations and sustainment.

The U.S. Air Force, Navy and Marine Corps are buying different variants of the aircraft. The program also includes eight international partner nations and five foreign military sales customers. Lockheed Martin, the prime contractor, hopes to eventually sell more than 3,000 platforms worldwide.

The price tag for the fifth-generation aircraft has long been a concern for acquisition officials and lawmakers. In recent years, Lockheed and the F-35 Joint Program Office have worked to drive that down. The procurement cost of the F-35A is now about $80 million per unit, making it more competitive with legacy aircraft.

However, officials have highlighted the need to focus on sustainment issues.

“We continue going after the O&S cost of the aircraft. That is very high,” Stephen Sheehy, Lockheed’s vice president for sustainment business development, said during a panel discussion at the virtual Farnborough International Airshow. The airshow is normally held in the United Kingdom but took place online this year due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

However, he noted that over the past five years there has been a 38 percent decrease in the operations and sustainment costs that Lockheed Martin is responsible for. A further reduction of 50 percent is expected in the next five years, he said.

The company estimates that it controls 39 percent of the program’s O&S costs, with other program partners responsible for the rest. Lockheed executives say they are working with the U.S. government to achieve similar savings on the remaining 61 percent, with the goal of lowering the cost per flying hour for the F-35A to $25,000 by 2025.

The company has also proposed making a $1.5 billion upfront investment in performance-based logistics, which would save F-35 customers $1 billion over the first five years of the deal and $18 billion in savings by 2040 if that work continues, Sheehy noted.

F-35 maintenance issues were front and center at a July 22 House Committee on Oversight and Reform hearing. Committee Chairwoman Rep. Carolyn Maloney, D-N.Y., criticized Lockheed for the “money, time and manpower our military is being forced to spend to address problems with equipment logs for spare parts.”

Electronic equipment logbooks, or EELs, for parts are a key component of the F-35 sustainment enterprise.

They are “similar to a digital medical record,” F-35 Program Executive Officer Lt. Gen. Eric Fick explained during the hearing. “It tells the story of each part from cradle to grave.”

About 1,000 of the 50,000 parts on an F-35 are supposed to contain electronic equipment logs.

“When a part arrives with an incorrect or missing EEL that part is not ready for installation … it takes significant effort and time for maintainers to reconstruct the part history and create a digital record for that part,” he said. This diverts time from scheduled maintenance, increases the probability of human error and adds cost to the program, he noted.

Last year, the Defense Department inspector general found that between 2015 and 2018, more than 15,000 spare parts for the F-35 lacked an electronic equipment log. The Defense Contract Management Agency has determined that Lockheed is responsible for at least $183 million in missing and delayed electronic logs from 2015 through early 2020, said Maloney, who called the situation “unacceptable.”

Lockheed and Pentagon officials said a number of steps are being taken to fix the problem.

“EELs compliance and accuracy has been a well-known challenge and Lockheed Martin is applying significant diagnostic and remediation efforts to address this issue,” said Greg Ulmer, Lockheed’s vice president and general manager for the F-35 program. These problems “do not indicate that a part is flawed, nor are EELs issues caused exclusively by the contractor,” he told lawmakers.

The company has invested over $30 million in automation, tool enhancements, and process improvements to reduce these types of issues, he said, pointing to what he identified as significant progress. In 2019, the percentage of ready-for-issue parts improved more than 40 percent. The company has two additional rounds of corrective actions to incorporate this year, Ulmer said.

Fick said the ready-to-install rate for electronic equipment logs had increased to 83 percent as of June, and the goal is to reach 90 percent later this year. Beginning in 2021, the contracted requirement will be 99 percent.

“Because of program-led EELs corrective actions and other readiness efforts, we are seeing a steady increase in aircraft mission capable rates,” he said.

Fick said the Joint Program Office has been evaluating whether excessive performance fees may have been paid to Lockheed. Discussions are underway but Lockheed has not yet agreed to repay what program officials have determined the company owes as a result of these issues, he said.

Meanwhile, readiness rates are on the upswing, Undersecretary of Defense for Acquisition and Sustainment Ellen Lord said. The mission capable rate for the F-35 fleet has increased from roughly 60 percent at the beginning of this year to nearly 70 percent in June. The full mission capable rate has risen from below 40 percent to nearly 50 percent during that time frame.

Officials hope that moving away from the F-35’s autonomic logistics information system, or ALIS, to an operational data integrated network known as ODIN will also improve the situation.

“ALIS is a system of systems that serves as the primary logistics tool to support F-35 operations, mission planning and sustainment. It is the system through which EELs are maintained, transmitted and accessed across the fleet,” Lord said. “The department is taking near-term actions to address key degraders of ready-for-issue rate, but the long-term solution to the problem depends on the already underway effort to replace ALIS with a more stable, capable system.”

The first tranche of ODIN is expected to be introduced across the joint strike fighter fleet by the end of 2021.
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[*] posted on 24-7-2020 at 10:17 AM


The price of the F-35 has been falling, but it could hit a wall soon

By: Valerie Insinna   5 hours ago


Two F-35s bank after receiving fuel over the Midwest on Sept. 19, 2019. The two aircraft were in route to the 158th Fighter Wing out of the Vermont Air National Guard Base, South Burlington, Vt., the first Air National Guard unit to receive the aircraft. (Master Sgt. Ben Mota/U.S. Air Force)

WASHINGTON — As defense spending flattens, it may be difficult for the Defense Department to further push down the unit cost of the F-35 joint strike fighter, the head of the Pentagon’s joint program office said Wednesday.

“Overall, as you’re looking to the service budgets and as you look into the service spend plans, you see that the numbers of aircraft in those years are not rising as they did in lots 10 through 14, but they’re a little bit more flat,” said F-35 program head Lt. Gen. Eric Fick during a House Oversight and Reform Committee hearing.

“Some of the flatness in the profile in those years is going to challenge our ability to continue to drive price down by tail. But we are committed to continuing to work hard with the department to establish the best value for our taxpayers and warfighters,” he said.

Since 2016, the Defense Department had pushed Lockheed Martin to lower the unit cost for an F-35A conventional takeoff and landing model — which is being purchased by the U.S. Air Force and most international customers — to $80 million per plane by Lot 14.

When the department finalized a deal for Lots 12-14 in October, it announced that it would reach its unit cost goal a year early in Lot 13, with those jets set to roll off the production line in 2021. The price per F-35A is set to lower from $82.4 million in Lot 12 to $79.2 million in Lot 13 down to $77.9 million in Lot 14.

“We’re currently entering negotiations for the Lots 15 through 17 contracts,” Fick said during the hearing Wednesday.

Over the course of the program, the number of F-35s produced per year has steadily risen, allowing for economies of scale that drive down the cost of each aircraft. Lockheed delivered 61 F-35s in 2017, 91 in 2018 and 134 in 2019. The company was on track to deliver 141 F-35s this year, but the COVID-19 pandemic forced it to scale back its delivery projection by about 24 jets.

Lockheed plans to continue ramping production of the jet over the next several years and will hit a high of about 165 F-35s manufactured in a single year, said Greg Ulmer, Lockheed’s vice president and general manager for the F-35 program. After that, he told lawmakers, there will be “a slight decline” in the next three lots, which will average about 155 aircraft per batch.

Taken together, Fick and Ulmer’s comments could portend that the services never actually reach the previously projected procurement goals. In 2016, the U.S. Air Force dropped its planned buy rate from 80 to 60 jets per year. And although the service procured 62 F-35As in fiscal year 2020 thanks to additional funds from Congress, it has never requested 60 F-35s in its budget and has no plans to do so through FY25.

Meanwhile, the Marine Corps has signaled that it could cut its planned F-35 program of record, which currently stands at 353 F-35B short takeoff and vertical landing models and 67 F-35C carrier variants.

“Right now, the program of record plows ahead as it is,” Marine Corps Commandant Gen. David Berger said in April. “But I’m signaling to the industry, we have to be prepared to adjust as the operating environment adjusts.”

Financial analysts have raised concerns that economic pressures caused by the pandemic and the possibility of former Vice President Joe Biden winning the presidency could portend flat or even decreased defense budgets. But during an earnings call on Tuesday, Lockheed chief executive James Taiclet said that the company remains “incredibly well positioned” even if there is a downturn in spending.

“I think the breadth of the company’s portfolio of products, services, and domains that we operate in is going to position us well even at a downturn, frankly,” Taiclet said. “The threats aren’t going away. Defense is going to have to be supported, I think in any reasonable person’s view going forward, especially if those people are in positions of responsibility, no matter what party they may come from.”
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[*] posted on 24-7-2020 at 05:10 PM


I remember when F-35 critics said it would never get down to $80 million per bird.



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[*] posted on 25-7-2020 at 03:58 PM


Quote: Originally posted by unicorn  
I remember when F-35 critics said it would never get down to $80 million per bird.


Boeing's price claims for the F-15EX are not as cute once analysed either.


Quote:

How Much Does An F-15EX Cost? Boeing And The Air Force Don’t Agree.

Jul 24, 2020,11:26am EDT

Eric Tegler

Aerospace & Defense

Boeing’s new version of the F-15, the F-15EX, made news earlier this month when the U.S. Air Force awarded the company a $22.9 billion contract for up to 200 of the Eagles. It comes after a years-long fight that’s not over yet about recapitalizing the Air Force fighter fleet.

The heart of it is a debate about whether buying more copies of a less expensive 4.5th generation fighter to replace aging F-15s on a relatively short timeline is a better option than buying fewer copies of a more expensive fifth generation fighter on a longer timeline. Essentially, it’s the Advanced F-15 vs. F-35 debate.

The Eagle won this round though it owes victory to Congress and the Pentagon, not necessarily the Air Force. The EX’s stronger, revamped airframe, new engines, new avionics and increased weapons payload lend the 1960s McDonnell-Douglas design impressive capability even though the calendar says it’s 2020. While a debate about capabilities was central, cost was arguably the linchpin in the ultimate decision.

The EX was – and is – viewed as having lower flight hour and lifecycle cost than the Air Force version F-35A. But up-front cost was important, too. In testimony before Congress in March 2019, General Joseph Dunford, then Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said that the EX would have a lower purchase price than the F-35A. In a feature for Aerospace America in September 2019, a Boeing source made the same claim.

Those assertions have not been borne out, according to reporting by Air Force Magazine, which cited the per unit flyaway cost of F-15EX in the newly minted contract as $87.7 million, a figure including engines. The same article reported the unit flyaway cost for the latest Lot 14 batch of F-35As as $77.9 million, including its engine.

[Only $10 million bucks out already. :no:]

Was Boeing wrong about being cheaper than F-35A? Is the reported flyaway cost figure in the contract higher than Boeing assured the public and Congress? It’s a worthwhile question.

"I don't know how Air Force Magazine got the contract number — $87.7 million is a number published in the President's budget request for 2021. It's not a contractual number," says Boeing vice president and F-15 program manager Prat Kumar. Kumar went on to suggest that Air Force Magazine’s reporting was not properly researched. "The flyaway cost of Block 1 [F-15EX] will be less than $80 million."

[USAF should hold them to that]

This is what Boeing has long told the Air Force, Kumar affirms, emphasizing that the company has been “very consistent” on this point. Another Boeing source, also participating in the interview, reiterated that Boeing made a firm fixed-price offer for the aircraft. Kumar was also keen to point out that F-15EX and F-35A are not “fungible,” they are different aircraft for different requirements. He repeated Boeing’s assertion that the lifecycle cost of F-15EX is “more attractive” than that of F-35.

[fungible
adj. Returnable or negotiable in kind or by substitution, as a quantity of grain for an equal amount of the same kind of grain.
adj. Interchangeable.

I'm fairly sure F-35A Block4 will do any task F-15EX could do, and a whole lot more capably.]


"What we have said to the Air Force is that we're going to hit a price point for them,” Kumar maintains. “What we offered to the Air Force absolutely measures up to that. It's up to them to figure out whether we're keeping our word or not."

Following up on Kumar’s comments, we asked Air Combat Command what it understood the flyaway cost for the first lot of F-15EX aircraft was as specified in the contract. In an emailed response, an Air Force spokesperson said, “Per the DAF’s [Department of the Air Force] FY21 budget request, the flyaway unit cost estimate is $87.7 million.”

While the response doesn’t mention the contract specifically, it cites the same reported price. That price is obviously higher than Lockheed Martin’s LMT per copy price for Lot 14 F-35As. It appears that Boeing and the Air Force are somewhere around $7.7 million-plus per unit apart on their expected cost for the EX. Do they also have different views of what the F-15EX is about to do?

Ready to Fight Off The Line Or Ready To Test Off The Line?

In a July 15 Air Force press release on the Boeing contract award for EX, General Mike Holmes said, “The F-15EX is the most affordable and immediate way to refresh the capacity and update the capabilities provided by our aging F-15C/D fleets. The F-15EX is ready to fight as soon as it comes off the line.”

General Holmes’ comment is interesting in view of the fact that the same press release stated that the “first eight F-15EX aircraft will be fielded at Eglin Air Force Base, Florida, to support testing efforts.”

The release added that two F-15EXs are slated to arrive at Eglin in the second quarter of FY21. Boeing too expects the first F-15EXs to be ready to test, not to fight. In fact, the company is doing the Air Force a favor in getting a pair of EXs to Eglin early, Kumar says. The remaining six Lot 1 F-15EXs won’t be delivered until 2022.

What needs testing? Boeing says it’s not the EX’s airframe or engines, acknowledging that $5 billion in foreign investment in Advanced Eagle variants (the F-15K, F-15SA, F-15QA) and thorough testing took care of that.

Rather, it’s the U.S. Air Force-specific hardware/software systems – from the EX’s Eagle Passive Active Warning and Survivability System (EPAWSS) to its Operational Flight Program (OFP) 9.1 mission computer, APG-82 radar and Legion IRST Pod - that need vetting. The Air Force had already begun testing these modernization systems on F-15C and F-15E. Adding a pair of showroom new, reliable EXs to the relatively small test fleet at Eglin and at Boeing’s Palmdale, Calif., facility will speed things up.

How much? Air Combat Command says the test aircraft will remain at Eglin for a while. It expects the new F-15s to achieve initial operating capability (IOC) following the Required Assets Available milestone expected by the end of FY23. Boeing plans to deliver the next batch of EXs (Lot 2) the same year.

As for General Holmes’ “ready to fight as soon as it comes off the line” statement, the Air Force’s spokesperson says the general was, “referring to the fact that we do not believe the F-15EX program will require a long development phase since F-15EX takes advantage of Foreign Military Sales funding spent to develop the F-15K and F-15SA.”

It’s an easier matter to reconcile than an $8 million difference in F-15EX’s window sticker.

https://www.forbes.com/sites/erictegler/2020/07/24/how-much-...


- Not ready to fight off the line (sort of)
- $8 million more expensive than claimed
- Still needs testing to prove and polish systems, thus added cost.

I'm sure it's a great jet but you'd expect an F-15EX to be cheaper than F-35A to be attractive to the Pentagon (and for Boeing truth to be less convoluted).
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[*] posted on 25-7-2020 at 08:58 PM


This stinks of Boeing using its political clout to get thrown an overly expensive bone after losing out (deservedly so) on the F35 contract



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[*] posted on 26-7-2020 at 11:43 AM


Quote: Originally posted by unicorn  
This stinks of Boeing using its political clout to get thrown an overly expensive bone after losing out (deservedly so) on the F35 contract


Of course it is. There are zero things the F-15 can do that F-35 can’t, but the reverse isn’t true. Even the GBU-28 issue is a non-sequitor. F-35 inner pylons are rated as strong enough to carry such a big munition, it just hasn’t been integrated, because there is a whole heap of other capability more important.

If it became urgent (as we saw with the rapid JSOW maritime attack variant integration) I’m sure we’d see that weapon go on F-35 as well.

Rolling out MER’s onto the wing pylons of F-35 would happen fairly quickly and would see it become a missile carrier too, if USAF really needed that. So even that doesn’t give F-15 any particular advantage.

However that said, I do like the idea that the US has multiple fighter manufacturers and multiple fighter engine manufacturers... I would not like to see L-M and P&W become too comfortable...





In a low speed post-merge manoeuvring fight, with a high off-boresight 4th generation missile and Helmet Mounted Display, the Super Hornet will be a very difficult opponent for any current Russian fighter, even the Su-27/30
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[*] posted on 30-7-2020 at 09:53 PM


30 JULY 2020

Japan commits to local F-35 production

by Jon Grevatt

The Japanese Ministry of Defense (MoD) has confirmed plans to continue the local production of Lockheed Martin F-35 Lightning II Joint Strike Fighter aircraft.

The move reverses a decision in late 2018 to cease local production at Japan’s final assembly and checkout (FACO) facility in Nagoya and instead focus on the localised maintenance, repair, overhaul and upgrade (MRO&U) of F-35s. That move was previously prompted by the high cost of building the F-35s at the facility.

However, a spokesperson from the MoD told Janes that the new decision to continue building the aircraft at the Japanese FACO facility was influenced by the declining costs of producing the F-35 locally. Producing the aircraft locally, said the spokesperson, is now cheaper than importing the F-35 from the United States.


The Japanese Ministry of Defense has said declining costs has influenced a decision to continue locally producing F-35s for the JASDF. (JASDF)

The spokesperson was speaking to Janes nearly three weeks after the United States government approved a potential USD23 billion deal to sell Japan an additional 105 F-35s.

This Foreign Military Sale means Japan will operate a total of 147 F-35s, becoming the second-largest operator of the aircraft in the world.

These aircraft will comprise 105 conventional take-off and landing (CTOL) F-35A aircraft and 42 units of the short take-off and vertical landing (STOVL) F-35B.

The spokesperson said, “For the acquisition of F-35As in fiscal years (FY) 2019 and 2020… the Japanese MoD has decided to use domestic manufacturing at the FACO… It is confirmed that the unit cost of aircraft produced at the domestic FACO [facility] is less, compared to the unit cost of imported aircraft.”
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[*] posted on 7-8-2020 at 03:29 PM


UK facilities for American F-35 jets are delayed and over budget

By: Valerie Insinna   18 hours ago


An F-35 from the 34th Fighter Squadron at Hill Air Force Base, Utah, lands at Royal Air Force Lakenheath, England, on April 19, 2017. (Staff Sgt. Emerson Nuńez/U.S. Air Force)

WASHINGTON — The U.S. Air Force is on track to begin permanently basing its F-35 jets abroad next year, with RAF Lakenheath in England set to become the service’s first international F-35 base. But construction on new hangars and facilities necessary for supporting the high-tech stealth jet have gone over budget and over schedule, and many buildings won’t be ready when the first planes arrive in November 2021.

On average, construction projects associated with the F-35 beddown at Lakenheath are about 25 percent over the initial $480 million budget estimated in 2015, said Lt. Col. Clinton Warner, who leads the 48th Fighter Wing’s F-35 program integration office.

“The overall trend has been projects are late and also over budget,” he told Defense News during a July interview. “A lot of the assumptions that were made back in 2015 weren’t necessarily valid. There’s been cost growth that was outside of the planning assumptions that were made back in 2015.”

The cost increase is not the only problem. As RAF Lakenheath’s first F-35 squadron stands up, neither the hangars planned to house the jets nor the headquarters building used for planning operations and maintenance will be ready, Warner said. A training simulator building will also be late.

Despite the delays, the Air Force still plans to move forward with the beddown of the jet. Warner said the service is exploring options to keep operations on track, such having the new F-35 squadron share space with existing units — which include three American F-15 squadrons — or potentially leasing additional facilities on base from the United Kingdom.

“In terms of getting here and flying the aircraft, we will still do that. [There is] really no difference in terms of the capability is going to be delivered, but it’ll just look different in how we do it,” Warner said. “It will be some strain on the units here at the base, as there’s more crowding and with waiting for those facilities to come online.”

The arrival of U.S. Air Force F-35s in Europe has been a long-awaited milestone for the service, which announced in 2015 that RAF Lakenheath would become the first international location to get the jets. Since then, F-35s temporarily deployed to the base in 2017.

“Having a fighter with the capability of the F-35s one hop closer to a part of the world that’s seemingly less stable certainly will have a deterrent effect,” said Frank Gorenc, a retired four-star general who commanded U.S. Air Forces in Europe from 2013 to 2016.

“Being able to daily train with the partners that have F-35s will have a deterrent effect,” Gorenc told Defense News. “It will cause interoperability to soar both on the maintenance side and on the operations side. I think the benefits of having that equipment — the demonstration of having a fifth-generation [fighter jet] in theater combined with F-15Es and F-16s — I think is the right signal.”

Under the current plans, F-35 pilots and maintainers will begin to arrive at RAF Lakenheath in June 2021, with the first aircraft to follow in November. The base will eventually be home to two F-35 squadrons, each with a total of 24 jets.

That beddown will follow more than five years of planning and development on the part of the Air Force, which stood up a team in 2015 to get the base ready for the incoming jets.


Civilian contractors lay down cement at a construction site on RAF Lakenheath, England, on March 9, 2020. The ongoing construction projects will facilitate two F-35A squadrons, making the base the first permanent international location for U.S. Air Force fifth-generation aircraft in Europe. (Airman 1st Class Madeline Herzog/U.S. Air Force)

In 2018, the U.S. Air Force chose Kier-Volker Fitzpatrick, a joint venture of U.K.-based design and construction firms Kier Group and VolkerFitzpatrick, to build and renovate all installations associated with the F-35 presence at RAF Lakenheath. Construction began in July 2019, with seven of 14 new facilities — which will include new hangars, a building for flight simulation, a maintenance unit and storage facilities — currently either being built or already complete.

As unforeseen costs have mounted, the base’s program integration office has had to request $90 million in additional funding from Congress, as well as permission from the Pentagon to revise the scope of the projects, Warner said.

But there’s no overarching answer for why costs have ballooned.

“Each individual project had a different set of assumptions, a different set of risk profiles, and some were correct and some are not correct,” Warner said.

With only a few years between the decision to base F-35s at Lakenheath in 2015 and the original planned start of operations in 2020, the U.S. government wanted to put a construction firm under contract sooner rather than later, said Stephen King of the Defence Infrastructure Organisation, a U.K. government agency charged with overseeing the building and maintenance of military facilities.

But workforce costs grew as the project was discovered to be more complex than originally anticipated.

“When the workers are tendered, the prices that are coming back in are found to be different from those originally estimated, and it seems to be the price of doing business on a military establishment. There seems to be an ‘add-on’ to the outside market,” King said.

Because the F-35 is a stealth jet that processes large amounts of classified information, many of the installations linked with its operations must meet certain security specifications. Building those structures to both U.S. and U.K. standards while using a foreign workforce of U.K. citizens posed challenges that the U.S. Air Force did not foresee during the design process, Warner said.

“Luckily most of these problems are behind us, but they did cause delays in terms of when we were programming out in the schedule and looking at what we thought it would look like,” he said. “Some of the challenges associated with building those secure facilities were not fully understood.”

Air Force officials have said keeping the projects on track was always going to be a challenge. In 2016, Col. Robert Novotny, who was then the commander of the base’s 48th Fighter Wing, predicted construction projects could face troubles getting funding or finding a skilled workforce to build the new facilities, and that F-35s likely wouldn’t begin to arrive on base until at least 2021 or 2022.

“For me, the concern I have when I look at Lakenheath is not the F-35,” he told Defense News in July 2016. “For me, the concern I have is: Are we going to be able to build enough stuff fast enough?”
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