WASHINGTON — Flying hours for the conventional-take-off-and-landing F-35A model will likely cost 10 percent more than that of an F-16, according to a government estimate.
U.S. Air Force Lt. Gen. Christopher Bogdan, the head of the F-35 joint program office, revealed the figures during testimony in front of the Royal Dutch Parliament defense subcommittee April 18.
"In his statement, Bogdan indicated that the cost per flying hour of an F-35A (variant employed by the U.S. Air Force and Royal Netherlands Air Force) is estimated to be $24,000 per hour; roughly 10 percent higher than F-16 cost per flying hour,” a joint program office spokeswoman wrote in a statement. “This data was derived in cooperation with the U.S. Air Force and the Department of Defense Cost Assessment & Program Evaluation Office (CAPE).”
“Comparable baseline assumptions were used to evaluate relative operational costs between F-35 and legacy aircraft. Future data related to F-35 acquisition and operational costs will be contained in the 2012 F-35 Selected Acquisition Report (SAR12), due to be released in May 2013."
The Netherlands are one of eight partner nations on the F-35 program. They have indicated a desire to purchase 85 of the CTOL model, although like other international partners, those numbers are subject to change. The first Dutch F-35 has completed its flight checks and is awaiting government acceptance, while a second rolled out of production at Lockheed’s Fort Worth, Texas facility in early March.
Whether the flight cost estimates will harm support for the fifth generation jet remains to be seen, but Bogdan has indicated an awareness that other nations are very concerned about costs on the fighter.
“For us in the United States, a couple billion dollars here or a couple billion dollars there isn’t that much,” Bogdan said at a March conference. “But if you go to a country like Norway or a country like the Netherlands, or a country like Canada, those billions of dollars are big bucks for them.”
Contractor Lockheed Martin declined to comment on the statement. Requests for comment to engine manufacturer Pratt & Whitney were not immediately returned.