F-35 $1 Trillion Cost: Cost And Delays Add To Confusion
The F-35 will cost $1 trillion, well, make that exactly $1.5 trillion over its lifetime. While the Lockheed Martin F-35 Lightning II is seen as the jet of the future, it is also plagued with numerous software problems and is considered as a health hazard to its pilots.
According to a new study, the F-35 will cost more than $1 trillion in maintenance cost for its lifespan. On Wednesday, the House Armed Services Committee shared another damaging report on the F-35 fighter jet or the Lockheed Martin F-35 Lightning II, which is considered as the combat aircraft of the future.
According to experts, due to countless developmental delays, the program will cost 30 to 40 percent more to maintain than current jet fighters. The Defense Department’s annual report broke down the numbers as followed:
The F-35 program will total $1.5 trillion by 2070 including development and procurement, as well as operating cost and inflation – in 2014; the price tag was predicted at $1.41 trillion. The report goes on to reveal that the cost for the F-35 fleet over a 53-year life cycle will be $857 billion, not accounting for inflation, of course. So, why did the cost balloon to such astronomic amount?
While Senator John McCain blamed the cost increases in the program on “cronyism,” the chief of the F-35 joint program office (JPO) Lt. Gen. Christopher Bogdan has another explanation. Bogdan claimed:
“…the projected cost increase in the Pentagon’s biggest arms program was due largely to a decision by the services to reduce the jets’ annual flying hours to 250 hours from 300. The jets have a service life of 8,000 hours, meaning they would be flying for an additional six years or 1.6 million flying hours, which in turn would add significant operating costs.”
However, there is a glimmer of good news, by 2019, pricing for the fifth-generation aircraft will be less than fourth-generation fighters. An F-35A in 2019 is expected to cost $85 million per unit complete with engines and full mission systems, inflation adjusted from $75 million in December 2013.
In the report, Michael Gilmore, the Pentagon’s director of operational test and evaluation, said the Lockheed Martin F-35 Lightning II has “more than 931 unresolved significant deficiencies” that could cause death, severe injury, or severe illness, and it “remains immature and provides limited combat capability.” Gilmore said:
Three out of five F-35s currently considered operational have been grounded due to software problems. There are mechanical problems too – notably, the ejector seat that may kill pilots weighing less than 136 pounds (62 kg) and has “serious problems” with those weighing over 165 pounds (75 kg). For pilots weighing anywhere in between, about a quarter of all aviators, the evaluators estimated a 23 percent probability of death during ejection, and a 100-percent probability of neck injury.
He called the current testing and deployment schedule “unrealistic” and estimated that the software will not be ready anytime soon.