The F-35 Joint Program Office awarded the Lockheed Martin a US$1.9 billion ($2.7 billion) contract to support operations and sustainment of the global F-35 fleet, while improving mission readiness and further reducing costs.
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The annual contract funds critical sustainment activities for aircraft currently in the fleet and builds enterprise capacity to support the future fleet of more than 3,000 F-35 aircraft.
This includes industry sustainment experts supporting base and depot maintenance, pilot and maintainer training, and sustaining engineering across the globe. It also covers fleet-wide data analytics and supply chain management for part repair and replenishment to enhance overall supply availability for the fleet.
The F-35 Joint Program Office, together with each US service, international operators and the F-35 industry team, leads F-35 sustainment and the Global Support Solution.
Greg Ulmer, Lockheed Martin vice president and general manager of the F-35 program, welcomed the announcement: "The F-35 continues to deliver exceptional capabilities to the field, and this contract ensures F-35s are mission ready to meet warfighter needs."
The 2020 annualised sustainment contract will cover industry sustainment activities through 31 December 2020.
"The joint government and industry team continues to make significant progress improving readiness rates and reducing sustainment costs. In 2020, we will continue to optimise and advance the sustainment system. We are confident F-35 sustainment costs will be equal to or less than legacy jets," Ulmer added.
Lockheed Martin's sustainment cost per aircraft per year has decreased four consecutive years, and more than 35 per cent since 2015.
The F-35's reliability continues to improve, and the global fleet is averaging greater than 65 per cent mission capable rates, with operational squadrons consistently performing near 75 per cent.
The F-35 enterprise continues to pursue 80 per cent mission capable rates in the near term and reduce the F-35 cost per flight hour to $25,000 by 2025, which is equal to or less than the cost to sustain legacy, less capable aircraft.
To meet these goals, the enterprise is conducting supply chain competitions and building supply capacity, synchronising spare buys, improving parts reliability and maintainability, implementing advanced analytics tools, accelerating modifications of earlier aircraft, and supporting the stand-up of government-led regional warehouses and repair depots.
More than 490 aircraft, including 134 in 2019, have been delivered and are operating from 21 bases around the globe. More than 975 pilots and 8,585 maintainers have been trained and the F-35 fleet has surpassed more than 240,000 cumulative flight hours.
The Lockheed Martin F-35 Joint Strike Fighter is billed as a catalyst for the fifth-generation revolution, changing the face and capability of the Royal Australian Air Force and the wider Australian Defence Force.
For the RAAF, the F-35A's combination of full-spectrum low-observable stealth coatings and materials, advanced radar-dispersing shaping, network-centric sensor and communications suites – combined with a lethal strike capability – means the aircraft will be the ultimate force multiplying, air-combat platform.
The F-35A – the variant chosen by the RAAF – will have with a projected life of 30 years in service.
Ten nations are currently flying F-35s, including the US, UK, Italy, Norway, Israel and Japan. The first of Australia’s F-35A aircraft are now based on home soil after a period of training and development at Luke Air Force Base in Arizona, plus an epic Pacific Ocean crossing in December 2018.
More than 340 F-35s are operating today with partner nations, more than 700 pilots and 6,500 maintainers have been trained, and the F-35 fleet has surpassed more than 170,000 cumulative flight hours.
Over the coming years, Australia will purchase 72 of the advanced fifth-generation fighter aircraft as part of the $17 billion AIR 6000 Phase 2A/B program – which is aimed at replacing the ageing F/A-18A/B Classic Hornets that have been in service with the RAAF since 1985.