2020-USAF–less than 100 full rate production F-35s #military

So how many full-rate production (FRP) (not low rate initial production (LRIP) mistake-jets) F-35s will the U.S. Air Force have in their hands by 2020?

Less than 100.

Just a few years ago full rate production was supposed to kick in in 2014. In 2008, USAF plans and programs people stated that unless Congress could hand over more gross domestic product, the service could only afford 48 jets per year. Interesting in that for FRP they were in for 80 per year on the F-35 JSF plan. Before 2006 USAF was in for 110 per year for FRP.

Now things with the program are worse. The U.S. is broke and FRP for the F-35 will start in 2016. If the latest negative program news at the end of November has an effect, FRP for the F-35 will start when? 2017, 2018? 2019?

So; 2020. It took the United States Government 19 years to get less than 100 supposedly new-tech fighters into the hands of the USAF (the biggest supposed buyer of the F-35).

What a joke.

27 thoughts on “2020-USAF–less than 100 full rate production F-35s #military

  1. Perhaps Eric it would serve to illustrate the point even better by calculating the number of airframes available at the recognized production rate of 48 airframes a year? Something F-35 proponents cant argue you are being biased with.

    At that rate you still only get 192 jets by Dec 31 2020, and only if production starts at the beginning of 2016 which of course is a time frame assumption nobody has said will happen. This is still a paltry number, only a fraction of what they originally promised and 18 years after the program was started, not to mention 8 years later than LM had publicly promised when they signed the contract. This number being even less than what they should have had by now under the pre 2006 FRP for the USAF.

  2. Also–as you may know–think of delivery time. For example. You order 30 F-35s in fy2017.
    Those jets won’t be delivered to the customer until fy2019.

  3. http://www.wired.com/dangerroom/2009/07/gates-future-jet-supporters-risking-todays-troops/

    oooppppss…”.Consider that by 2020, the United States is projected to have nearly 2,500 manned combat aircraft of all kinds. Of those, nearly 1,100 will be the most advanced fifth generation F-35s and F-22s. China, by contrast, is projected to have no fifth generation aircraft by 2020. And by 2025, the gap only widens.” Gates speech july 2009.

    I guess us detractors of JSF don’t need to worry about making stuff out, Gates and company are the gift that keeps on giving. Yeah, let’s just stay the course with this program, let’s not change nothing.

    • Nico we all saw how accurate Gates was on the PAK-FA, so the idea that China won’t have any 5th gen fighters on his timetable is hilarious.

      Also he managed to avoid talking about their 4.5 gen fighters that are now starting to enter pre-IOC advanced flight testing (J-10B/J-11B/BS/BSH, etc), all of which will give the F-35 a bad time.

      • To RSF:

        I would give Gates a break if he had said that 5 years ago but it is a bit more than one year later and as Goldeel shows, with 48 airframes procured a year, we will be lucky to have about 200 JSF by 2020. So who came up with 1100 5th gen fighters by 2020? There’s only 187 F22s. Were they still thinking LAST YEAR that we going to buy 110 a year?

        Even starting FRP in 2015, we will get 250 tops and that’s forgetting the point Eric made, you buy FY2020, they will be delivered 2022/2023. But who’s counting,right? I don’t think we should count early LRIP lots because I don’t expect them to have any combat capability, they will be used for training and what not.

        Has for the China comment…*shrugs*……

  4. As an aside could somebody clarify exactly what the status of our 14 LRIP F-35A’s is? Are they officially ordered or have we just signed a letter of intent? I believe we haven’t handed over any cheques yet. I’ts just that under the timetable issued by former Def. Minister Faulkner we were supposed to start taking delivery of them in 2014, can’t see that occurring now.

    • At this time, no money has been handed over for these aircraft.

      Since the senior defence bureuacracy is infamous for doing things that are the opposite of common sense when it comes to procurement, this means they will still keep pushing the suits to hand over the money.

    • And to elaborate on that… We could further suppose that they *have* been looking down, fuming and shaking heads since at least Oct. 2001 upon realizing we were actually going to go ahead with this fundamentally flawed, late 90s style bubble Program by design. Pop.. 😦

  5. For the 6th Gen “NG-TACAIR” that USAF is now expressing interest in, we might as well just give the contractor a blank check and tell them “Never mind whether it works or not, just make it looks good AND cancellation-proof.”

    At this rate, JSF’s schedule will just collide right into the 6th gen’s (circa 2030) before we even figure out whether the 5th gen design is fundamentally sound or not….

  6. Robert,

    I think it is safe to say that Fifth Gen design is fundamentally sound.

    The T-50 PAK-FA proves this, as does the Gen 4++ Su-35S, and as will China’s J-XX/J-12.

    The problem is that 5th Gen designs ( and the Gen 4++ Su-35S) are pretty much all that the JSF is not.

    Put another way, the JSF is not a 5th Gen design fighter. Period.

    Anyone who claims that it is a 5th Gen Fighter is either one of those who don’t know what they don’t know about things they don’t understand (and, more likely, don’t care) or someone easily misled or a marketeer for Lockheed Martin or a liar or combination, thereof.



    • F35 isn’t a 5th gen fighter; nor has any of the three Eastern designs materialized.

      Peacetime exercises aside, the 5th gen concept (namely, the combined strength of LO/VLO, supercruise and sensor fusion) has’t been battle tested yet.

    • Most likely testing ground: Asia?

      That seems to be where the geopolitical center/tension is shifting to and where the 4th/5th gen and high-end IADS are conglomerating….

    • As far as the JSF is concerned, the 4th Gen++ Su-35S is more than is needed to keep the Wonga on the ground, or suffer the fate of terrible losses in the air.

  7. Between cyber-warfare, creative anti-denial asset & tactics and economic counterweight/strike, the next all-out-war will be quite unorthodox/handful even for a seasoned 5th gen equipped side….

    • However, the focus should not be on the next war or even conflict.

      Rather on the maintenance and sustainment of peace and security.

      “If you want peace; Prepare for war” . . . . .an oldie but a goodie!

      • Absolutely the focus… good perspective, Peter. It’s easy to whipped up into actual or hypothetical ‘us vs them’ scenarios and fear, etc, when attempting to argue the requirement for this system or that system… but it’s more simple than that, precisely as you stated. When in that focus, it should be a very straight forward and calculated decision making process based on maximizing ‘sustainment’ of the ‘balance’ as best as possible..

        That being said, we can (should) imho, as a 21st century planet Earth, simultaneously seek and hope for an increasing global-wide ‘chilling-out’ and ‘coming together’ on strategic issues (evolving finally from millennia of modus one-upmanships) and one day begin a comprehensive demilitarization and de-escalation. (would be many a people’s dream).

  8. Total USAF fast jet fleet size (est.): 180 F22s + 200 F35s + 300 F15C/Es + 500 F16s + A10 ~ 1,300

    With incremental upgrades; the legacy designs will still make up the bulk of the fleet 30 years after the Cold War ended. With various UCAVs, the number can comfortably be kept above 1,500….

    • Robert –

      My assessments have looked at a 2022 date, seeing a best-case of around 90-110 FOC, combat coded F-35A units. 2020 would probably see that number in IOC at best. (I have accepted Eric’s figure noted here of about 30 F-35A annual units, as a likely ‘max’ under a modified FRP definition).

      One might say ‘max’, due to the fact that USAF’s budgetary buying power will continue to shrink indefinitely and it’s truly amazing to think USAF might only get as few as 16x F-35A in FY11 with a base defense budget of $520b! What happens to the plan, when the defense budget is $450 billion?? And when inflation eats bigger and bigger chunks of the pie?

      I’d also question this 180 F-22 and 500 F-16 2020 TacAir vision. By 2022 (my preferred fudge factor date), it is very conceivable that USAF will have been forced to already retire early lot F-22s (some, potentially, as natural mistake jets) in order to sustain at any cost the stay the course F-35A procurement scheme. Furthermore, this 500 F-16 structure envisioned will likely be substantially reduced below that figure by 2022, as the costs to SLEP/upgrade sufficient numbers will imo simply be unsustainable when also trying to ‘stay the F-35A course’ accordingly.

      By 2024 (fudge factor time expired – you go to war (hopefully not) with the air force structure you have), my gut assessment is the final F-16s will be retired, staying the course. Remaining structure: a max of 170 FOC F-35A, 120 combat coded F-22s and 190 combined F-15s, staying the course, come 2024.

      VLO UCAVs would be absolutely a bonus… but here we go again… they too would need to be factored into the F-35A procurement budget at the same time USAF’s total procurement buying power will be reducing. (Such a UCAV buy model could see annual F-35A procurement down to what, 20 units/yr?)

      Hence most everything going forward (TacAir upgrades, new bombers, UCAVs, etc) will need to be horse traded at the expense of the F-35A’s account.

      My views.. (motivating my criticism)

      • Hi Geogen,

        Perhaps what i tried to convey over the last few posts was that: the next all-out-war will be much more complex and multi-dimensional than ever before.

        Knocking out high-end ground & airborne element of the IADS will just be one of the many dimensions/phases that the war planner needs to consider. If the late 20th century’s Gulf War could serve as a tempo, it only took the Allies fewer than 50 VLO/F117 to breach the then top-graded IADS and fewer than 150 air superiority fighters to dash the opponent’s AF during the first 48 hours of the war. The SEAD assets back then also numbered well below 100; the rest of the air assets are ground-attack aircraft.

        IADS is not a regenerable asset once the war starts. With F22 being capable of serving both as a fighter and a SEAD and a ISR, it is questionable whether we need thousands of F35 as the USAF and manufacturer insist. The worry is that if we focus solely on buying as many expensive LO as we can, we may end up falling short on other aspects of the war. In short, roughly 300 VLO “silver bullets” should be able to dash foreseeable IADS.

        Breaching enemy defenses is one thing; sustaining and eventually concluding the fight is quite another, as the recent conflicts in Iraqi and Southeast Asia suggest. If we are to be ready for the next all-out-war, other aspects of the conflicts need to be considered, imho….

      • Thanks for reply Robert.

        But 1) one must also note that this late 20th century GW example would serve as moderately high ‘tempo’ in equivalent terms going forward and 2) in all fairness, while such force structure you outlined was deployed, there was sufficient structure needed in reserve given any major hypothetical contingency and towards general security/balance of power maintenance..

        Staying the course (most probably arriving at figures far weaker than you depict by around 2022), the current strategy will be proven as a disastrous and once again catastrophically mis-calculated (from the SecDEF down) policy. Unfortunately, there is still a need today to plan for increasingly UNCERTAIN security threats and contingencies going forward than any time since the end of the Cold War – per the most recent Quadrenial Review. So it’s not an ‘us vs them’ situation, but a general capability deterrence increase being required (yes, including all the next-gen non-kinetic methods), until the dang diplomats and future leaders at large can finally bring the escalation back down to Earth.. Respects-

  9. . . . with the vast majority of that 1,500 fleet being overmatched and fodder for the much cheaper later generation (Gen 4++) Flanker series and the T-50. Then there are what the Chinese call their 3rd and 4th Generation aircraft.

    As has been said before today, neither competitive in the air or in the marketplace.

  10. Of the 180 some F-22s how many will be combat coded?110? 120?
    Of the F-35s, well it is flying question mark
    F-15C’s? For any value over time this is the “golden eagles”, the cherry picked ones that they think they can make last until the 2020s. Having seen the F-15 depot, (which is good) I wish them luck.
    Strike Eagles? Well, some of those are the smaller motor older ones and they are no longer spring chickens.
    F-16s? Well we just put a bunch of those out in the boneyard and will probably continue to do so. Block 30/32s have little life in them. Block 4X are no longer young by a long shot. That leaves us a small number of Block 5X. Not counting the A-10s which can refurbed again and again…. for fast jets…

    We are dying.

    • Robert Dorr – Combat Aircraft wrote in September that the Air Force Council was looking at under Gates direction retiring most of the existing F-15C/D fleet instead of retiring 112 airframes, which would mean only something like 255 would be retained and modernized. If we combine that with the small number of F-22’s and shrinking number of F-16’s Eric mentioned, USAF A2A capability is looking pretty dismal. Its the F-35, or its nothing in the Gates world of slashing and killing US air power. Its sad that all this is under the banner of saving money, while at the same time he continues to dump billions into the Joint PowerPoint Fighter.

  11. Suggest age, particularly calendar age, is not the problem. Rather, capability and thus effectiveness and competitiveness with Reference Threats is the main issue.

    People who don’t understand aircraft design think of age in terms of passing calendar time i.e. years.

    Flying hours and cycles dictate an aircraft’s “age” along with obsolete capabilities and systems.

    That is why, for instance, designing an aircraft to have capabilities that match or are “comparable with” those it is meant to replace is such a silly idea, particularly when your potential opposition continues to evolve their capabilities from previous designs.

    The JSF is, thus, old before its time because aircraft like the Su-35S, upgraded Su-30MKs and T-50 PAK-FA, as will the J-XX/J-12, have made it strategically and tactically obsolete, if not irrelevant, even before it has entered service.

    Biggest aerospace FUBAR, ever.

    • Ah, just see the F-35 for what it is, a fighterbomber. Not an air superiority fighter, not a tactical bomber. It’s a LO’d A-7. Isn’t that the reason why we already see FAXX/NGAD and NG-TACAIR started?

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