Indian F-16 Goes Fast

24.01.08

Categorie: Air |

171459814_e4e1bf7b0d_mWith every improvement Lockheed Martin makes to its proven, affordable F-16 fighter, the rationale for the U.S. spending $110 million per copy on stealthy F-35 fighters takes a hit. Still, the Air Force continues to mortgage its future on its obsession with buying a huge fleet of those new F-35s.

Hot on the heels of Emirates’ F-16E model, which has the electronically scanned radar and extended range of an F-35, there’s the planned Indian F-16, which reportedly will feature “super-cruise,” the ability to fly faster than Mach 1 without a gas-guzzling afterburner. That’s a capability most often associated with the $130 $300-million F-22 Raptor. Now you can have it for around half a fifth the cost.

Don’t count on this changing the Air Force’s mind about F-22s or F-35s. The service wants to put shiny new iron on the tarmac, and it would go out of business before it would do otherwise.

Update, 1:41 EST:
Bob Cox, a reporter on the aerospace beat, tells me that the F-16′s supercruise capability is blown WAY out of proportion:

Lockheed tells me: technical definition of super cruise is sustained supersonic speed without use of an afterburner. F-22 can, apparently, do it. An F-16, clean, no weapons, (probably pointed down?) may be able exceed Mach 1 but probably not for sustained burst. In combat ops it would have to turn on the burner and burn up the gas in a hurry. They tell me an over-eager pilot’s words were swallowed whole by over-eager Indian press! But I’m sure they like the publicity.

Update, 2:42 EST:
Lockheed rep John Kent wrote in to confirm Cox’s claim that the super-cruise thing is all Indian media hype. And he added this intended correction:

The JSF Program Office’s esimated unit recurring flyaway cost for the F-35 is about $47 million for the conventional takeoff and landing variant, and about $60 million for the short takeoff/vertical landing variant and the carrier variant. Those figures are expressed in 2002 dollars — the fiscal year in which the F-35 development contract was awarded. The $110 million figure is not correct.

I beg to differ. And so does Cox’s paper, The Fort Worth Star Telegram:

Pentagon planners now estimate the total cost of purchasing 2,458 planes for the Air Force, Navy and Marines at $299.8 billion, a figure that covers all anticipated costs from the beginning of the program in October 2001 through the end of the program. That figure is 43 percent higher than the original $209.4 billion estimate.

So the per-unit cost, including development, would be closer to $125 million. I said $110 million because the Air Force’s F-35A model is actually slightly cheaper than the Navy and Marine versions.

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2 Responses to “Indian F-16 Goes Fast”

  1. lurch says:

    Gosh – the JSF Program Office would appear to have misstated the actual cost of the F35 and suggested a lower figure than the historical records indicate.

    Now that’s surprising.

  2. ELP says:

    The F-35 hype. “Affordable stealth”. Yeah right. A long way from $40 mil a pop adjusted for inflation in the original promise. An early JSF project manager stated also that the business plan ( if you want to call it that ) states that unit price doesn’t flatten out until 1600 airframes are build.

    The “truth will set you free” will be the flight testing.

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