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F-35 Sustainment: Enhanced Attention to and Oversight of F-35 Affordability Are Needed

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[Technical Report, Congressional Testimony]

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F-35 mission capable rates--a measure of the readiness of an aircraft fleet--have recently improved, but still fall short of warfighter requirements, as discussed in our draft report. Specifically, from fiscal year 2019 to fiscal year 2020, the U.S. F-35 fleets average annual 1 mission capable rate--the percentage of time during which the aircraft can fly and perform one of its tasked missions--improved from 59 to 69 percent and 2 full mission capable rate--the percentage of time during which the aircraft can perform all of its tasked missions--improved from 32 to 39 percent. Both metrics fall below the services objectives. For example, in fiscal year 2020 the Air Force F-35A full mission capable rate was 54 percent, versus a 72 percent objective. Since 2012, F-35 estimated sustainment costs over its 66-year life cycle have increased steadily, from 1.11 trillion to 1.27 trillion, despite efforts to reduce costs. The services face a substantial and growing gap between estimated sustainment costs and affordability constraints--i.e., costs per tail aircraft per year that the services project they can afford--totaling about 6 billion in 2036 alone see fig.. The services will collectively be confronted with tens of billions of dollars in sustainment costs that they project as unaffordable during the program.


Subject Categories:

  • Attack and Fighter Aircraft
  • Economics and Cost Analysis

Distribution Statement:

[A, Approved For Public Release]