Keep the Numbers Up

While the Air Force’s original plan for the F-35 was to buy about 110 of the fighters per year, that goal has steadily eroded as the service’s budget has been taxed with other needs, and now achieving 60 a year will be “a challenge,” Air Combat Command Command chief Gen. Hawk Carlisle said Tuesday. “My problem is buy rate: I need more, sooner, to replace legacy airplanes” that now need service life extension work to remain credible, Carlisle told reporters at the Pentagon. Bigger annual buys create economic order quantities that “drive down costs,” he said. “I would like to see the number go up to at least 60, if I can,” he said. “Eighty would be optimum, but given the fiscal constraints that we’re under, that would be very, very hard to get to.” He did not forecast when USAF might get above the current 48 per year. Carlisle admitted that at the current rate, the last of the planned 1,763 F-35s won’t be delivered to USAF until the late 2040s. Does that suggest a change in plan? “How many we’re going to buy … (is) a decision that can be made later,” he said. In the near term, he needs the jets “as fast as I can” get them. Carlisle said the F-35, at a projected cost of $80-$85 million apiece in three years, will be comparable in cost to a fourth-generation fighter. (See also: F-35 by the Numbers, F-35 Buy Number Still Solid)