A Review of Selected International Aircraft Spares Pooling Programs

Lessons Learned for F-35 Spares Pooling

by Mark A. Lorell, James Pita

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Research Questions

  1. RAND analysis of the nine-country pool of F-35 Joint Strike Fighter sustainment assets proposed three main areas of potential risk for U.S. Air Force participation: prioritization of scarce spares assets, management of innovators versus laggards, and coping with partners unable or unwilling to pay their fair share. Were these issues present in other historical and contemporary spares pooling programs, and, if so, how were they managed?
  2. What other lessons can be identified from other military aircraft spares pooling programs to aid in the management of the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter spares pooling program?

The F-35 Joint Strike Fighter is a fifth-generation stealth fighter whose system development was shared by nine countries: the United States (for which the F-35 is being jointly procured by the U.S. Air Force, U.S. Navy, and U.S. Marine Corps), Australia, Canada, Denmark, Italy, the Netherlands, Norway, Turkey, and the United Kingdom. In 2012, these countries agreed that F-35 sustainment assets would be managed as a single global pool, which would be centrally managed by the F-35 production support manager. In the formal agreement establishing this pool, language was also included to allow participants to opt out of the global pool, should a nation desire to establish (and be willing to pay for) a separate stock of assets. This report reviews other selected historical and current international military aircraft spares pooling programs involving the United States, major European North Atlantic Treaty Organization allies, and other U.S. allies to identify lessons learned. The most successful historical programs were characterized by a single dominant partner that could establish the ground rules and resource allocation priorities, as well as control configuration. At the same time, successful programs made major efforts to ensure fairness, equality, and transparency for all partners, based on relative contribution and need.

Key Findings

Lessons Learned from Historical International Spares Pooling Initiatives

  • The negotiation of international spares pooling programs for common major weapon systems has been attempted many times since the 1960s, but they have proven to be very difficult to implement.
  • Major barriers include (1) security of supply and prioritization of scarce spares assets and (2) configuration management and management of innovators versus laggards. These two challenges can be difficult to overcome unless one partner plays a dominant role in the pooling arrangements.
  • Conflicting industrial, technological, and economic interests and objectives were a major challenge, especially for all-European programs or programs in which all the partners were roughly of equivalent size and influence.
  • The most successful programs were characterized by a single dominant partner that could establish the ground rules and resource allocation priorities, as well as control aircraft configuration. At the same time, successful programs made major efforts to ensure fairness, equality, and transparency for all partners, based on relative contribution and need.

Policy Measures That Facilitate Spares Pooling

  • Successful programs have mitigated the problem of U.S. export control laws and regulations by retaining U.S. ownership of all spares except when they are installed in ally-owned aircraft.
  • All aircraft should conform to U.S. configuration standards, with the proviso that the U.S. Air Force pays for the nonrecurring costs of upgrading the aircraft.
  • Incentives for the prime contractor to meet international fleetwide performance metrics and priorities require a splitting out of the smaller foreign fleets with separately calculated metrics so that these fleets are serviced with the same priority as the larger U.S. fleet.

Table of Contents

  • Chapter One

    Introduction and Overview

  • Chapter Two

    NATO and European Experience with International Spares Pooling

  • Chapter Three

    The C-17 Global Integrated Sustainment Partnership

  • Chapter Four

    Conclusions

Research conducted by

This research was conducted within the Resource Management Program within RAND Project AIR FORCE.

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