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Last Updated: Mon Jan 27 11:18:09 UTC 2014

US Air Force Joint Strike Fighter Production
Reduced by More Than 50 Percent

Air Power Australia - Australia's Independent Defence Think Tank

Air Power Australia Media Release

8th February, 2007

This week's disclosure of the the planned budget for the US military indicates a dramatic cut, in excess of 50 percent,  in the build quantity of Joint Strike Fighter aircraft for the US Air Force. This cut will drive up unit procurement costs for Australia, firmly pushing all Joint Strike Fighter aircraft built into the same cost bracket which Defence have attributed to the much more capable F-22 Raptor, said a spokesman for Air Power Australia today.

"Until this announcement, public statements indicated that the original build rate of 110 aircraft annually would be sustained between 2013 and 2028, which including additional Low Rate Initial Production (LRIP) aircraft yields a fleet total in excess of 1763 CTOL Joint Strike Fighter aircraft. The revised figures now put the total for the US Air Force at a number closer to 720 aircraft, which is a typical number for a minimal build to make development viable."

"The production cut has enormous implications for the JSF program as a whole, and for Australia as a potential early customer. The non-recurring expenses in production of the aircraft will have to be amortised across a build which is almost 60 percent smaller than previously planned for, adding a significant additional cost to each production aircraft. Other cost increases will arise from reduced economies of scale in component production, thus driving up the Unit Recurring Flyaway Cost which Defence has repeatedly quoted when asked about Joint Strike Fighter costs."

"Another factor further impacting cost to Australia will be the likely reduction in projected future export numbers, as other JSF program partners trim back their buys to fit within planned budgets, due to the higher unit costs per aircraft."

"Defence have argued from the outset that the main reason why they preferred the Joint Strike Fighter over the F-22 was the allegedly higher cost of the F-22. The production cut in the Joint Strike Fighter effectively kills this argument dead in its tracks. Why should Australia purchase inferior Joint Strike Fighters - or Super Hornets - when fifty five of the far superior F-22s can now be purchased for much less in terms of total dollars?"

"Yesterday's disclosure by the US Defense Security Cooperation Agency of the details of the proposed Super Hornet purchase puts the total cost of the package of 24 Super Hornet aircraft and spares at US$3.1 billion, or around A$4 billion. This puts the total cost of the previously intended package of up to 100 Joint Strike Fighters, the ongoing life extension of the worn out RAAF Hornets and the Super Hornet 'band aid purchase' to a figure in excess of A$22 billion. Yet the resulting package is inferior in total strike capability to the existing fleet of F-111s and F/A-18A Hornets."

"The reality of a much more expensive Joint Strike Fighter will be a total cost either far in excess of A$22 billion to get to a final fleet of 100 Joint Strike Fighters, or a significantly smaller number of Joint Strike Fighters for A$22 billion."

"Buying fifty five of the superior F-22A Raptor and retaining the F-111 with upgrades, as proposed by Industry in 2001, provides a superior total capability to the current Defence plan, and does so at a total cost of around A$12 billion, which is around half the cost of the current Defence plan."

"Air Power Australia has warned repeatedly of the adverse impact of likely Joint Strike Fighter build reductions, which have now materialised with significant cost impact."

"It is time for Defence to accept that the original ad hoc plan adopted for the RAAF's future is not viable either strategically or fiscally. Every key risk which has been identified to date has materialised, making a complete mockery of numerous public statements by senior Defence officials since 2002."

Air Power Australia Website - http://www.ausairpower.net/
Air Power Australia Research and Analysis - http://www.ausairpower.net/research.html

Contacts: Carlo Kopp / Peter Goon

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