Lockheed Martin: F-35 vs 4th Generation Aircraft: Understanding the F-35’s Decisive Edge

Following the release of the Fiscal Year 2020 Defense Budget request today, Lockheed Martin in expectation of significant discussion in the media about the funding for new 4th Generation aircraft has set out a number of points outlining the benefits of the F-35 vs. 4th Generation aircraft.  It also included the official F-35 Joint Program Office and Lockheed Martin media statements on the President’s FY20 Budget Request:

F-35 is the National Defense Strategy in Action
In face of advancing threats, the National Defense Strategy calls to build a more lethal force, strengthen allied coalition partnerships and focus business practices for greater affordability.

The F-35 is the national defense strategy in action. The NDS makes clear that the modern battlespace requires stealth, advanced sensing capability, coalition interoperability, cyber security and an ability to connect in a multi-domain fight. The F-35 delivers on all of these capabilities above and beyond any other fighter in the U.S. inventory.

Increasing F-35 buy rates is foundational to the NDS, while additional investments in 4th generation aircraft will limit the DoD’s ability to execute its strategy for the future. Investments in air power are best focused on procuring and modernizing the 5th generation F-35 to ensure lethality and survivability against any threat for decades to come.

Threat Is Evolving
Investing in 5th generation aircraft is essential as the air and ground threats are rapidly advancing in range and capability, as well as proliferating in quantity across the globe.

At the same time, legacy 4th generation fighters are aging, and their decades old technologies are limiting operational effectiveness. In fact, in many operational environments, 4th gen aircraft are on the verge of being outright outmatched by our adversaries, limiting lethality and survivability.

F-35 is Critical to Mission Effectiveness
Where 4th generation fighters are forced to adapt to this advancing battlespace, the F-35 shifts the power dynamic and is able to define the battlespace that our adversaries will need to adapt to.

The F-35 has the speed, range and weapons capacity you’re accustomed to with any 4th Gen fighter – but it brings in a decisive advantage and a transformational leap in terms of very low observable stealth, advanced sensor capability, situational awareness, information fusion and network connectivity.

This enables the F-35 to operate in any environment, against any threat, ensuring our men and women in uniform can execute their mission and come home safe. Simply, it is the most advanced multi-role fighter in the world – delivering unmatched lethality, survivability and connectivity.

F-35 is a Multi-Role Fighter
Where 4th generation fighters are designed specifically to handle only one singular niche mission like air-to-air, air-to-ground, close air support, or electronic warfare – the F-35 is a multi-role fighter capable of successfully executing any and all missions, including new missions not traditionally fulfilled by fighters.

Several operational analyses and live exercises have demonstrated that the F-35 is more effective than any 4th generation aircraft – and the more F-35’s or 5th generation aircraft our forces have in the fight, the better the outcome.

The F-35 is air-to-everything – effective in any mission, including Strategic Attack, Close Air Support, Suppression and Destruction of Enemy Air Defenses, Air Superiority and much more.

· The F-35 also enables the mission flexibility to operate in stealth mode with more than 5,000 pounds of internal weapons, or an ability to load more than 18,000 pounds of weapons externally and internally to increase payload in a more permissive battlespace. The F-35 can also be configured to carry hypersonic weapons on its external F-35 heavy stores stations.

· No 4th generation aircraft in the world offers this mission flexibility, as no 4th generation jet is stealth with internal weapons capacity.

The F-35’s capability and flexibility allows you to execute the most dangerous sensitive missions deep in enemy territory, down to the lower end missions in a permissive airspace.

And going well beyond the standard fighter missions – the F-35’s ability to collect, analyze and share data, is a powerful ISR asset and force multiplier that enhances all airborne, surface and ground-based assets in the battlespace.

More Capability for Less Cost
Additionally, the price of an F-35A is now below $90 million and on track to reach $80 million by 2020, which is equal to or less than 4th generation fighters – while providing a generational leap in capability for the warfighter.

We’re also enhancing readiness and reducing sustainment costs. Lockheed Martin’s F-35 sustainment costs per aircraft per year has been reduced three years in a row – and by a total of about 15 percent since 2015.

We are taking action to reduce the F-35 Cost Per Flight Hour to $25,000 by 2025 – which is equal to or less than the cost to operate any legacy, less capable aircraft.

As the F-35 capabilities prove critical to success in today’s operational environment, and the lifecycle cost continues to come down below legacy jets, the value of the F-35 has become simply unmatched.

Capacity to Deliver on Demand
>The F-35 enterprise will deliver 48 F-35As for the U.S. Air Force this year and has significant capacity for growth.
>In FY2020 (Lot 14), we can increase production to 60 Air Force F-35As with deliveries in 2022.
>In FY2021 (Lot 15), we can increase to about 80 Air Force F-35As with deliveries in 2023.
>Additionally, we can increase to more than 100 Air Force F-35As delivered per year in the future should the Air Force choose to increase buy rates.

In 2019, Lockheed Martin is delivering 131 F-35 aircraft, which includes 96 F-35As (48 F-35As for USAF and 48 for Int’l).

The F-35 Enterprise has capacity to deliver 188-194 total aircraft per year, or greater than 60 more aircraft than planned in 2019.

Lockheed Martin and our partners have been ramping our manpower, material, methods and machines to ensure we are prepared to deliver the maximum number of aircraft across the three FACO sites for our current and growing customer base.

Should the U.S. Air Force or any other customer plan to increase their annual procurement rate, we are confident we can meet increased demand – while continuing to deliver an $80 million F-35A by 2020 (lot 14).