Wednesday, September 20, 2017

Lessons for the Aviation Industry

The F-35 programme was being driven by a very professional team of uniformed and civilian members of the Pentagon. The Indian MoD needs to have such core ability and learn programme management. Public criticism of the Pentagon for the programme resulted in huge public and government pressure and in turn, aircraft improvements and cost cuts. President Trump himself has been a critic of the cost overruns and delays. Pentagon had no more money to pour into the programme after three costly restructurings in recent years. At one stage, there was a proposal to invite an open tender for all follow-on projects in the programme.

The aircraft is expected to be in service till 2070. The estimated total programme cost till 2070 is $1.5 trillion which is 30 times India’s current total defence budget.

The Lockheed Martin F-35 Lightning II Joint Strike Fighter (JSF) is the world’s latest family of single-seat, single-engine, all-weather, stealth, multi-role, fifth generation combat aircraft. It has three variants – the F-35A is the Conventional Take-Off and Landing (CTOL) variant. The F-35B is the Short Take-Off and Vertical Landing (STOVL) variant and the F-35C is the carrier-based Catapult Assisted Take-Off Barrier Arrested Recovery (CATOBAR) variant. This USA-led, multi-nation programme has financial contribution and work sharing between several friendly countries.

The JSF development contract was signed on November 16, 1996 and the contract for System Development and Demonstration (SDD) was awarded by the US Department of Defence (DoD) in October 2001, to Lockheed Martin, whose X-35 beat the Boeing X-32. The first flight of the F-35A took place on December 15, 2006. On July 31, 2015, the United States Marine Corps (USMC) declared “ready for deployment” the first squadron of F-35B fighters. On August 02, 2016, the US Air Force (USAF) declared its first squadron of F-35A fighters, combat ready. The F-35C is expected to join the US Navy (USN) in 2018. Nearly 200 aircraft had been built by January 2017. The F-35A costs $85 million apiece. The initial F-35Bs and F-35Cs cost around $122 million and costs will come down to around $110 million once full-scale production begins. The programme has seen delays and cost overruns which have forced the buying partners to extend the lives of their existing fleet of fighters. Increased costs have also meant cutting down of numbers by some operators. With the US planning to acquire 2,457 aircraft, deliveries of the F-35 for the US military are scheduled until 2037. The aircraft is expected to be in service till 2070. The estimated total programme cost till 2070 is $1.5 trillion which is 30 times India’s current total defence budget. Such a large modern programme has many a lesson for the aviation industry and the operators.
20/09/17 Northlines

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