Neshant wrote:A trillion plus dollars is a lot to spend for what is largely old wine in a new bottle.
As with most things in life, details matter (or they should anyway).
As I have tried to explain through an easy to understand graphic a few pages back each advanced military system has a project period that can be divided into the following phases -
- Pre Development/Concept definition
- Development, Engineering, and Testing
Except the first phase the remaining phases overlap each other. Development and testing of an aircraft requires procurement of infrastructure and test-aircraft and once delivered, they are required to be sustained. Similarly there are scenarios where you need to dispose off aircraft that have gone through their life-cycle while you could still be be procuring aircraft at the other end of the production cycle.
With that as our base let's look at some of these time-lines. Pre-Development/Concept definition is a requirements furnishing process and involves an academic study of what capability is in need of replacement, what technology is available to do so, how mature that technology is, and if the requirements process determines that some immature technology is required to absolutely fulfill requirements, what it will cost to get it to enough maturity so that it can be legally included in the production program.
Essentially, you look at the mission areas that you need to replenish, look at the threat and how it impacts the requirements and cost.
In the US, they measure this through Technology and Manufacturing Readiness Levels ( TRL's and MRL's). https://s24.postimg.org/9kr8uc0at/trl.pnghttp://www.design-vantage.com/attachmen ... e/MRL2.jpg
As far as timelines, the first phase has no real start or end date and is usually a continuous process of looking at your technology base, the second phase lasts a decade or more, the third phase can be anywhere from a decade to 2+ decades while the substantiate phase is the longest, usually covering 50-60 years. Many fourth generation aircrfat that the F35 is replacing were designed for 6000 hours and would receive a SLEP/SLAP extending them first to 8 or 10,000 hours and if lucky to 12,000 hours. The F-35 is designed from the outset to be an 8000 hour frame so it's O&S phase is expected to last even longer.
The CAPE estimate of $1 Trillion has the following parameters that that 1 Trillion supports -
- First aircraft delivered in the early 2000's to support the test program
- Last aircraft delivered in 2040, retires in 2065 or later
- Total of 2400+ aircraft delivered between 2000 and 2040 covering the production phase of the program
- The training and deployment patterns of USAF, USN and USMC in 2020, 2030, 2040, 2050 and 2060 remain unchanged from the current deployment and training patterns of F-16's, F-15's, F-18's, A-10 and Harriers. There is absolutely ZERO factoring in of LVC which I'm sure will come down the road but this cost does not include that.
- Assumes the cost of fuel increase over 60+ years
- Assumes the manpower and support cost increases over 60+ years
So essentially the 1 Trillion dollar figure covers the O&S cost of 2400+ fifth generation aircraft (or 3rd generation as per your requirements) spread over 60+ years that covers the entire manpower (Item specific) and energy cost to support that fleet.
Now, how much has the USAF paid or will eventually pay to support the F-16, first of which was acquired in the 1970's, and the last of which will probably be retired in the late 2030's (60+ years) ? How much has the USAF paid to support the F-15, the first of which was acquired in the 1970's, and the last of which would be retired in the 2040's (70 or so years) ? How much will the USAF end up paying for the B-52 O&S cost given that it is widely expected to see 70-100 years of service?
It's ok if you do not know the answer to the question above. No one does. No one has ever looked into it, or has been required to do so. Simply put there is no reference $$ amount that one can use based on historic data to develop a "should cost" goal for sustaining nearly 2/3 of the entire combined tactical fighter fleet for the USAF, USN and USMC with a total budget of > $500 Billion a year.
Now, what information do we have based on actual HARD numbers? The same organization that has given us an estimated hard number on the O&S (not a range but a hard number) has also helped the program go back and look at FY08-FY10 F-16 O&S cost factoring in unique sub-systems that are not standard on the F-16 but are on the F-35.
Essentially, the CPFH of the F-16 (All US CPFH data includes global deployment and manpower cost (divided by total fleet hours) at the unit level) with a jammer and a targeting pod.
ViV provided you that a few pages back. Did you have a chance to look at it? Here is what that tells us. A 2014 USAF F-16 Block 50.52 with a center line jammer and a targeting pod costs approximately 20% less to operate and sustain per hour than the current cost to sustain an F-35A using the same factors (Fuel, spares, manpower, unique infrastructure cost etc).
What does this mean? This means that if we assumed that all of the 2400 F-35's acquired were the A variant and the Pentagon instead of going in for 2400 F-35's purchased 2400 block 50.52 F-16's and that the percentage difference in O&S between a smaller, lighter, and less capable F-16 and a larger, heavier and more capable F-35 followed similar trends to the CPFH, the O&S bill for an all F-16 fleet would probably be around $800 Billion over 60 or so years vs $1 Trillion for the F-35.
Sounds too much? should we go back and start acquiring F-4's, or even older aircraft because this number seems ridiculously large w/o any reference or appreciation of what it gets you?
Keep in mind that this is the cost of an F-16 that is not modded up. It's the standard USAF F-16 Block 50/52 with standard EW and IR gear. It's not an F-16++ like the F-16U or XL. Similarly 2400 F-16's cannot replace 2400 F-35's. You'll need more quantity for you are buying a less survivable asset. You'll need support since the survivability and capability inherent in the F-35A is not present on the block 50/52 Viper. Where does this take us? This takes us back to the Gulf War fleet that you have determined is unsustainable.
The USAF can simply not afford such a large fleet support commitment. Think 200 odd Growlers and the VAQ community with their unique range and lab expenditure is expensive? How about maintaining 300-500 of those on top of the 2400 F-16's. How about greater tanking resources given the F-35 is longer legged. These costs add up but Popular Mechanics, or War is Boring is unlikely to do such a cost analysis A) Because they aren't capable of doing it, and B ) Their readers are usually ignorant of such factors.
Of course as you could well be aware, the 2400 F-35's that form the basis of the $1 Trillion cost figure cover 600+ Non CTOL F-35C's and B's including hundreds of STOVL aircraft. Carrier borne and STOVL aircraft traditionally cost more to sustain for obvious reasons so that 20% difference is likely to be even smaller if you purchased say 1800 F-16's, 400 F-18E/F's and a few hundred STOVL aircraft sent from heaven (because there aren't any other left in production).
So I ask again, How much SHOULD
an eventual fleet of 2400+ 5th generation aircraft COST to sustain over 6+ decades with these requirements? Remember, you are advocating for the US and others to develop, produce and sustain a Hypersonic cruising, highly stealthy, chamelion skin wearing, Watson possessing, 3D printed, laser-firing 5th generation fighter. Care to elaborate what the impact of these requirements would have on the EMD, and O&S costs compared to aircraft with much modest, and frankly "realistic" requirements?
Neshant wrote:In other words, R&D should not be LM style where yesterday's technology is merely being recycled and passed off as innovation.
Neither Lockheed, Boeing, Northrop Grumman or DRDO, AdA, HAL etc offer products for phantom requirements. They are asked to respond to technology and product requests with the capability being demanded furnished by the customer which in this case is not a voter but the end-user of the product generally a service or a combination of the MOD/DOD and the service.
If you wan't pie in the sky capability you will have to pay for it. You must be willing to spend Trillions to sustain such high end capability, and hundreds of billions to develop it. Your phantom 5th generation aircraft will be many times more expensive to design, build and sustain even in the future if you spent 3 or more decades making sure the technology is ready to even build to those requirements.
And here you are talking about how the JSF is too expensive to sustain based on I don't know what.