Johan Boeder, a Dutch defense analyst and editor of jsfnieuws.nl, has compiled a chart showing how the Department of Defense’s planned F-35 orders have declined since contract award in October 2001.
The numbers illuminate one of the central challenges faced by Lockheed Martin and the F-35 industry team: preventing unit costs from skyrocketing as volumes plummet.
Learning curve theory posits that manufacturing costs decline by 12% each time output doubles. With each new delay that results in a further production cutback, the F-35′s affordability challenge becomes more difficult. If unit costs increase each time orders decrease, budget cuts become a self-perpetuating cycle — aka: the acquisition death spiral. How does the F-35 escape?