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US Air Force chief supports tying F-35 buy to O&S cost constraints

A USAF F-35A flies over the Toronto waterfront on 3 Sept 2021 during the 2021 Canadian International Air Show. Proposed US legislation would limit the total quantity of F-35s that could be procured and maintained by the US military services based on O&S cost targets. (US Air Force)

The US Air Force's (USAF's) top officer supports proposed legislation that would limit the total quantity of Lockheed Martin F-35 Lightning II Joint Strike Fighters (JSFs) that could be procured and maintained by the US military services based on operations and sustainment (O&S) cost targets.

β€œThe language from Congress is really in line with what we are trying to get done,” General Charles Brown, chief of staff of the USAF, said on 8 September during a conference sponsored by Defense News.

By 2036 the Pentagon services buying the F-35 face nearly USD6 billion in sustainment cost overruns that they project as unaffordable because of increasing sustainment expenditures. The draft fiscal year (FY) 2022 defence authorisation bill prevents each US armed service operating the F-35, starting on 1 October 2028, from maintaining more than either their programme of record or a number obtained by multiplying the programme of record by a cost-per-tail equation, whichever is less.

Mackenzie Eaglen, resident fellow at the American Enterprise Institute think-tank in Washington, DC, told Janes on 10 September that if O&S costs rise for the F-35, the services will be forced to maintain lower overall JSF inventories below their respective programmes of record if this requirement is implemented.

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