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DOD laser-focused on driving down costs of F-35, general says

There are about 630 F-35 Lightning IIs in the field today in nine nations, including the U.S., the program executive officer for the F-35 Lightning II Joint Program Office said. Five of those nations have deployed the F-35 in combat.
Air Force Lt. Gen. Eric T. Fick spoke May 13 at the McAleese Fiscal Year 2022 Defense Programs conference.

“The F-35 delivers truly game-changing capabilities today. With its combination of stealth, sensor fusion and interoperability, the F-35 is truly the quarterback of the joint force,” he said.
The U.S. and its allies and partners who use the F-35 don’t have unlimited funds, so Fick said that the services are “laser-focused” on driving down costs, not just in development and production, but in sustainment, where 80 percent of the money is spent.
An F-35B Lightning II, assigned to Marine Medium Tiltrotor Squadron 164 (Reinforced), 15th Marine Expeditionary Unit, prepares to land on the amphibious assault ship USS Makin Island in support of Northern Edge 2021 in the north Pacific near Alaska, May 6, 2021. (Navy photograph by PO2 Heath Zeigler)
To save on cost, the technicians are increasing the amount of automated testing on the plane’s software so that faulty software isn’t pushed into the field, or even into the flight test, he said.
Using the joint simulation environment for initial operational test and evaluation, is also being employed to reduce the cost to develop and deliver software ahead of open-air flight tests, he said.
In sustainment for the U.S. Air Force, the cost per flight hour for the F-35 went down from $37,000 to $33,300 in the course of just one year from 2019 to 2020, he said, mentioning that’s a lot of progress.
The services are also looking to increase the use of advanced simulators to reduce the cost of actually flying.
Driving down the costs of spare parts, maintenance and repair is the next big focus, he said.

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