Lockheed Martin Corp expects it will take around 15 to 20 years to bring the cost per flight hour of the F-35 below fourth-generation fighter jets such as the F-16, the head of the F-35 program said on Wednesday.
The U.S. Air Force has launched a push to drive down the cost of flying and servicing F-35s to the same levels as current fighters without stealth capabilities.
Lockheed Martin Vice President and General Manager F-35 Program Greg Ulmer said there was an effort to lower the cost per flight hour to $25,000 by 2025 but further savings would take longer.
“Today it is different customer by customer but I think $35,000 per flying hour is a good number,” he told Reuters in an interview at the Australian International Airshow.
Initiatives involved in lowering the cost to $25,000 an hour include reducing the number of mechanics needed to support each plane, Ulmer said.
Lockheed is also looking to refine diagnostic systems to reduce false alarms as well as to ensure there are proper spare parts available for maintenance and repairs.
Lockheed Martin Vice President and General Manager Training and Logistics Services Amy Gowder said the United States had been late to install enough capacity for F-35 repairs due to delays in funding approvals.
Experts say the U.S. Air Force could cut back its planned purchases of the aircraft unless it can lower the flying costs.