On September 13, the F-35 Joint Program Office awarded prime contractor Lockheed Martin a three-year contract for sustainment of the fighter. Lockheed will provide maintenance, training, supply chain management and fleet analytics. The company expects to reduce its portion of F-35 sustainment costs by 40% over the next five years. That is not an unrealistic goal–it has reduced costs by a similar amount over the previous five years. Many of the metrics used to measure fleet reliability and readiness show steady improvement. In fact, the F-35 is already out-performing last-generation aircraft in mean flight hours between failure, maintenance man hours per flight hour, break rate and other measures. Given the company’s track record in meeting price and performance objectives, there is every reason to believe that the challenge of affordably supporting what will soon be the world’s most ubiquitous tactical aircraft is well on its way to being solved. I have written a commentary for Forbes here.
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