Burbage speaks at aviation foundation gala

Published: Friday, January 25, 2013 at 09:40 PM.

He said in the interview that partners and multi-branch use of essentially the same aircraft are a major advantage for long-term purchase and repair cost, he said, but make the program cost sounds deceptively large. There’s never been a development program of this magnitude projected for so many years.

The plan is to build 2,443 JSFs for the United States, about 750 for the eight partner nations, and probably somewhere around the same for other program members, Burbage said. That would be between 3,500 and 4,500.

He said the cost of the first planes off the line would calculate to about $67 million each but design, uniformity and life of the F-35 trims the per plane cost significantly, and further in time, they are very competitive with the historical lifetime cost of other planes like the F-18 Super Hornet.

And the aircraft itself “changes the whole dynamic of aerial warfare,” he said, providing something you can’t put a dollar value on. “Its ability to network through all U.S. services and allies lets them fly and fight as a joint coalition force.”

Asked about public debate on whether the F-22 Raptor has already made some of the JSF technology obsolete, he said, “The Raptor was first to have some of the fifth generation technology plus some unique features but the F-35 is meant to be much broader. For what it was intended to do, it does it very well.”

Lockheed also developed the Raptor, and beginning in 1997 manufactured the plane many still consider the most advanced tactical fighter in the world. A 700-plane fleet was planned but had assorted unsolved problems and former Defense Secretary Robert Gates directed that production be stopped in May 2012 after only 187 were built.

“The F-35 is the first airplane to integrate all the features of the next generation airplane and is aerodynamically equivalent and in many ways better,” Burbage said. “It can carry things inside rather than hanging outside, promoting very good performance. But the real magic is the information it can collect and share. By any definition of what’s required for the future, it’s in a class by itself.”



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