Wednesday, August 21, 2013

F-35 CAPE B.S. Cost Estimates Proven to be.... B.S.

Not that I told you so...But I told you so.

H/T Spudman at and Colin Clark at AOL Breaking Defense

Just got home from work and I'm beat, but I can't let this one pass until tomorrow.

As regular readers, and those whom I encounter on the boards elsewhere (Hi there Vet Ops Analyst! ) already know, I've been pointing out the CAPE estimates for the F-35 have been bizarrely high for months years now. You didn't have to be clairvoyant to know this, just observant (and I suppose a little experience and familiarity with the program and subject probably helps).

The fact that each production lot of F-35's has come in progressively further under the CAPE estimates and much closer to LM's projected Cost Curve should have been a red flag to anyone without a bias against the F-35.

LRIP Production Costs Are Coming Down Fast: Pretty Much in Line With LM Estimates and Well Below CAPE Estimates
But until now, the CAPE estimates haven't been brought into serious question in the eyes of the media or the public. Perhaps this piece from Bloomberg will change things?
A fleet of Lockheed Martin Corp. (LMT)’s F-35 fighters will cost $857 billion over 55 years to operate and support, 22 percent less than previously estimated, according to the head of the Pentagon office developing the plane.  
The new estimate reflects the aircraft’s performance in 5,000 test flights over 7,000 hours, Air Force Lieutenant General Christopher Bogdan, the Defense Department’s program manager for the F-35, told the Senate Armed Services Committee in written answers last month that haven’t been made public until now.    

Colin Clark has a little more info on the problem with the 'internals' of the CAPE estimate for the F-35B in particular with a link to a 'Bloomberg piece: Marines Put F-35B Flight Costs 17 Percent Lower Than OSD.

Best Bit:

Among the questionable assumptions Schmidle highlighted is this whopper: the Office of Secretary Defense estimate developed by the Cost Assessment and Program Evaluation office (CAPE) predicted that the F-35B would be flown at full throttle in STOVL mode — which uses enormous amounts of fuel and utilizes the highly sophisticated lift fan system at much greater rates than the Marines project — about 80 percent of its time in the air.

Anyone who has watched the Harrier or the F-35B knows that Marines pilots rely sparingly on STOVL mode. It’s only used for a limited set of tactical moves and, usually, for taking off or landing the aircraft. The great majority of the plane’s flight time — could it be as much as 80 percent? — would be spent flying without using the lift fan and STOVL.

'Starry Night 2013'
CAPE O&S Cost Estimates Had (Have?) the F-35B Flying around in STOVL Mode at Full Throttle....
MOST of the Time
Clark gives a hat tip to an unusually informative Bloomberg piece (F-35 Support Costs Fall 22%, Pentagon Manager Estimates) by 'Slow Tony' Capaccio.  Inside it we find:
"effort remains to continue to find cost efficiencies and reduce this number even further" and “I expect these cost estimates to continue to go down over the next several years as the program matures,” Bogdan said.
Jennifer Elzea, a spokeswoman for the cost-assessment office that compiled the earlier $1.1 trillion estimate, said in an e-mail that she couldn’t comment on Bogdan’s reduced projection.

Heh. Now we get to see how long it takes for the CAPE estimates to actually go down, now that their 'problematic' nature has been found out.. My bet is it will be done gracefully over time, IF they can get away with slow-rolling this discovery.

Production costs going down. Support costs going down. All is proceeding as I have foreseen.

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