F-35s to cost way more to repair and maintain than produce

Flight Lieutenant (FLTLT) Ben Mason and Sergeant (SGT) Justin Kelly in front of a Dutch F-35A aircraft when they accompanied the Royal Netherlands Air Force (RNLAF) on their deployment to the Netherlands in June 2016.Credit: Frank Schulkes

Flight Lieutenant (FLTLT) Ben Mason and Sergeant (SGT) Justin Kelly in front of a Dutch F-35A aircraft when they accompanied the Royal Netherlands Air Force (RNLAF) on their deployment to the Netherlands in June 2016.Credit: Frank Schulkes

The maintenance costs of the 72 F-35A Lightning II warplanes Australia purchased are expected to be multiples higher than unit purchase cost, according to the AFR.

BAE Systems Australia, an Australian-based defence contractor that will repair and maintain the planes, said that the sustainment cost of the planes is likely to be two-thirds more than the unit purchase price.

The company has sustainment programs at Williamtown and will manufacture the planes’ vertical tails. It is expected to earn around A$100 million from the F-35 program annually by the time the planes are expected to be fully operational in 2025.

BAE has been designated the maintenance, repair, overhaul and upgrade (MROU) stakeholder for the planes in the South Pacific.

The designation is a potential catalyst for employment in the Williamstown region of Newcastle, as BAE Systems Australia expects to double its operation size in the next seven years.

BAE Systems Australia’s director – aerospace, Steve Drury said that if the depot runs as expected it will recruit and train local talent.

“We have a partnership with University of Newcastle and a number of TAFEs,” Drury said.

“We’re looking for at least 200 extra people and they’ll be working on the most advanced aircraft in the world.”