Three analyses of the efficacy of sustaining two engine-makers for the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter have produced one vote for and two against. The lone advocate is the Government Accountability Office, whose representative told a House panel last week, that an engine competition in the long run would produce savings of at least between 10 and 13 percent. A new in-house Pentagon analysis—by the Cost Analysis Improvement Group (written summary)—agrees with an earlier Pentagon review that forecast no net cost savings. Another review—this by the Institute for Defense Analyses (written summary), working independently for the Pentagon—says there would be substantial up front costs that would require savings of about 18 percent in procurement and operating and support costs before DOD would recoup its investment, something that IDA doesn’t expect to see happen. However, all three agreed that an engine competition likely would produce better operational readiness, improved contractor responsiveness, greater technological innovation, and a stronger industrial base. David Ahern, director of DOD’s portfolio systems acquisition, told lawmakers that “considering the other requirements on the department’s resources … considering the maturity of the engine … it is a well-founded decision.”
The Air Force overall reduced its size by 120 aircraft in fiscal year 2021, but kept about the same number of fighter, bomber and attack aircraft, according to data supplied by the service. The F-35 fleet saw the biggest increase while the B-1B bomber fleet saw the largest decline.