Global Market Wants More Fighter Capability, but F-16 Prices

US firms may be projecting a larger demand for the fifth generation F-35 strike fighter than the market can support in the near to mid-term, said Richard Aboulafia, the Teal Group’s vice president of analysis, on Thursday. The world market likes US fighters, but many countries want “F-16 prices,” meaning costs between $35 million and $50 million a pop, he told the audience at his Oct. 24 talk that AFA’s Mitchell Institute for Airpower Studies sponsored in Arlington, Va. Aboulafia said he is concerned US aerospace firms will forfeit the part of the market that demands modernized fourth generation aircraft especially as the production lines for the F-15 and F/A-18 go away around 2019. The Japanese, Israelis, Singaporeans and likely South Koreans will acquire the F-35, but not many other nations anytime soon, he said. Some analysts are anticipating demand for the F-35 will grow, but Aboulafia said he is not entirely convinced this will happen as the unit price point—more than $65 million—is too high for many nations. The F-35 will also soon not be the only fifth gen choice on the world market. The Russian PAK FA fighter “looks real” and the Russians will have no problems finding willing buyers, he said. (Aboulafia’s briefing charts) (See also From One Generation to the Next.)