25 Apr 21. Turkey’s removal from F-35 program to cause hike in engine price. The cost of the F-35′s engine is set to increase by 3 percent due to Turkey’s removal from the program in 2019, the head of Pratt & Whitney’s military engines division said Thursday.
The company’s F135 engine — which is used in all three variants of the Lockheed Martin F-35 joint strike fighter — was initially manufactured with a total of 188 parts produced by Turkish suppliers, Matthew Bromberg told lawmakers during a House Armed Services Committee hearing.
“These are some of the most critical parts of the engine, and the Turkey suppliers were high-quality, low cost,” he said. “Seventy-five percent of them have been qualified in new suppliers. Most of those are domestic here in the United States.”
Pratt & Whitney expects to have the remaining 25 percent of Turkish-made parts for the F135 qualified by the end of 2021, with all Turkish parts flushed from the system by the time engines for the fifteenth lot of aircraft roll off the line in 2020. At that point, about 20 percent of the F135′s parts will be made by international vendors.
Turkey, once a partner in the F-35 program set to buy 100 F-35A conventional takeoff and landing models, was expelled from the program after accepting delivery of the Russian S-400 air defense system. At the time, the Pentagon hoped to remove all Turkish suppliers from the program by 2020, but it will take until 2022 for all contracts with Turkish companies to come to a close, said Greg Ulmer, head of Lockheed’s aeronautics programs.
The Pentagon’s F-35 joint program office is “continuing to work with Pratt and Whitney on steps to address the projected cost growth to ensure that the F135 Propulsion System remains affordable component of the F-35 air system,” F-35 program executive Lt. Gen. Eric Fick stated in written testimony to lawmakers.
Aside from the forthcoming engine cost increase, the F-35 program is also grappling with difficulties in sustaining the F135 due to a power module shortage.
On April 22, a total of 21 Air Force F-35As were grounded due to engine problems, said Brig. Gen. David Abba, who leads the F-35 integration office. Fifteen of those aircraft would be flyable with engine repairs.
In a March interview, Bromberg told Defense News that a complicated array of factors had caused the engine shortage — which was further exacerbated by the COVID-19 crisis — and it would take time for corrective actions to take effect.
Unlike most fighter engine programs, where a spare ratio of about 20 to 30 percent is maintained to ensure parts are available on the flight line or the depot, the F-35 program funds a spares ratio of only about 10 to 12 percent, he said.
“The whole program was designed to eliminate intermediate maintenance and have a very robust international sustainment depot system that will be able to turn modules very effectively in the field,” Bromberg explained. “The lower spares ratio, though, is making all that a little bit more exposed than you would have seen on another program. And we have to get through that.”
Another issue is that much of the planning and funding of spare parts, repair activity and logistics processes years before it is actually needed. For a program like the F-35, which has only been operational for a couple years, those plans were based on estimates — not hard data from decades of flying and maintaining the plane.
That analysis left Pratt & Whitney a bit late when it came to fielding certain support equipment and technical data, which Bromberg said has since been delivered. On top of that, the COVID-19 pandemic added about three months delay to the company’s plans to ramp up engine production and sustainment efforts.
“We pick our best estimate. In some cases, you’re over. In some cases, you’re under. All that was in place a years ago,” Bromberg said. “But in light of 2020, we probably didn’t have enough margin.”
The F-35 program is beginning to see increased output of F135 power modules due to the arrival of needed support equipment and technical data, Fick said. The F135 engine depot at Tinker Air Force Base, Okla., plans to end a second shift by the end of the year, and the program office is also working to accelerate the stand up of F135 engine maintenance at the Fleet Repair Center South East in Jacksonville, Fla.
“The actions we have taken to date have begun to show benefit, as power module production at the Oklahoma City Air Logistics Complex has increased significantly in the last year and the projected readiness impacts, while still above our requirement, have started to stabilize,” he said.
The Tinker depot plans to produce 40 power modules this year and ramp up to 60 modules in 2022, Abba said.
However, because the services will begin conducting 2,000 hour overhaul inductions in 2022, the program office estimates the costs to maintain the F135 will grow over the next five years, Fick stated. (Source: Defense News Early Bird/Defense News)
22 Apr 21. F-35 program office announces a “strategic pause” on new logistics system. The Defense Department is pausing its efforts to field replacement software for the F-35′s troubled logistics system due to a lack of funding, the head of the F-35 program office said Thursday.
In 2020, the F-35 program executive office announced plans to develop a replacement for the Lockheed Martin-made Autonomic Logistics Information System currently used by maintenance crews to perform functions such as ordering spare parts or logging repair work.
Known as the Operational Data Integrated Network, or ODIN, the new system would combine hardware produced by Lockheed with software coded by the government, allowing the Defense Department to retain more control over the system.
But because of a 42 percent cut to ODIN’s development and testing funding in fiscal year 2021, the program office has decided to take a “strategic pause” in ODIN’s software development effort, said Lt. Gen. Eric Fick, F-35 program executive officer.
“Despite all the positive activities, we underestimated the complexity of deprecating ALIS capabilities while migrating to ODIN and learned several important lessons,” Fick said in April 22 testimony before the House Armed Services Committee.
For years, ALIS has ranked as one of the F-35 enterprise’s biggest headaches. The Government Accountability Office has repeatedly documented problems, such as a bulky “deployable” version of ALIS that cannot connect to the internet or incorrectly signaling to maintainers that a plane is not mission capable due to incorrect data.
“We need to continue to improve the functionality of ALIS in the near term, as we ensure that the ODIN structure that we put into place, from a hardware perspective, from a data environment perspective, and from a software perspective, is what the users need,” Fick told lawmakers during the hearing.
In late 2020, the program office developed an ODIN user agreement and capability needs statement, which lays out what tasks ODIN needs to be able to accomplish and how the system should function, he said.
In addition, “The JPO and Lockheed Martin established a contract that captured data rights, frequent software deliveries, and proper data marking for modern software development,” Fick stated in testimony.
Fick’s testimony did not address when the program office intends to restart ODIN software development efforts, saying only that the JPO will update its plan based on available funding, inputs from the services and its finalized strategy for migrating from ALIS to ODIN.
However, ODIN hardware development is moving forward. Lockheed delivered the first hardware kit for testing at Marine Corps Air Station Yuma in September.
“The new kit is 75 percent smaller, weighs 90 percent less than the current hardware, and is projected to be 30 percent cheaper. In addition to the smaller footprint, we are seeing significant performance improvements in ALIS such as data processing and synchronization times 2-3 times faster than ever seen before,” Fick wrote in testimony.
The program office plans to roll out additional kits this summer, which will save money by being able to host multiple squadrons on a single unit, Fick said. The Defense Department plans to invest $471m into both ALIS and ODIN over the next five years. (Source: Defense News Early Bird/Defense News)