The MoD has announced contracts worth £167 million to upgrade and build new facilities at RAF Marham, the future home of the UK’s F-35 fleet.
Secretary of State for Defence Michael Fallon said:
“The F-35 is the most advanced combat aircraft in the world. Whether operating from land or our two new aircraft carriers, they will ensure we have a formidable fighting force.
They are part of our plan for stronger and better defence, backed by a budget that will this week rise for the first time in six years, and keep rising until the end of the decade.”
The contract between Defence Equipment and Support and Lockheed Martin UK will “allow the construction of three new buildings which together will keep the new aircraft ready for service, provide training facilities for pilots and ground crew, and enable centralised management of the UK’s whole F-35B fleet”.
The MoD state that approximately 300 people will be employed on the construction works, “which will be managed by sub-contractors BAE Systems”. The buildings will become a place of work for around 250 military and civilian staff when they open in 2018.
Balfour Beatty will start work this month on the construction phase.
DE&S Chief Executive Officer Tony Douglas said:
“These facilities are critical to the F-35B Lightning II programme, which is in turn vital to the future capability of the UK’s Armed Forces. The cutting edge technology of these aircraft, supported by world-class facilities at RAF Marham, will ensure we have a battle-winning fleet of jets deployable anywhere in the world.”
Around 500 companies across the UK are involved in the F-35 Lightning II programme. More than 3,000 F-35s are planned for global delivery over the next two decades.
A new spending report also shows a steady cost drop for all variants of the F-35. In March, the annual Selected Acquisition Reports (SAR) for 2015 was released. This report provides status on programme cost, schedule, and performance as of December 2015.
It has been revealed that the Pentagon’s estimate for the total acquisition cost of the F-35 program is $379 billion, down from $391 billion projected in 2014.
According to a statement from the F-35’s project office:
“The overall Acquisition Cost (RDT&E, Procurement, and MILCON) of the program decreased by $7B in base year 2012 dollars (BY12$) and $12.1B in then-year dollars (TY$). The increase of $16B (BY12) and $95.2 (TY$) to Total Program Cost is the net impact resulting from a transfer of $300M to RDT&E, a $7.5B decrease in Procurement, an approximately $200M increase in MILCON, and a $23B increase in O&S.
The RDT&E increase is the result of a transfer of money from the Procurement account to the RDT&E account to fund the modification of 24 Operational Test aircraft for Initial Operational Test and Evaluation, in accordance with Service guidance.
This transfer out of Procurement into RDT&E had zero net effect on Total Program Cost.”
According to F-35 Joint Program Office chief Lt. Gen Christopher Bogdan:
“We are coming down the learning curve and the price curve a little steeper. We are coming down the price curve faster than we anticipated years ago.”
F-35 unit costs have been going down with each successive lot of aircraft and will continue to. The bottom line is that overall programme costs have gone down and continue to massively decrease annually.