Photo: Lockheed Martin
The U.S. government now projects that the total cost to develop, buy and operate the Lockheed Martin Corp F-35 Joint Strike Fighter will be $1.45 trillion over the next 50-plus years, according to a Pentagon document and reported by Andrea Shalal-Esa of Reuters. The new estimate — up from about $1 trillion a year ago — includes operating and maintenance costs of $1.11 trillion (including inflation) as well as development and procurement costs of $332 billion, according to calculations made by the Cost Assessment Program Evaluation (CAPE) office.
Last week the Government Accountability Office (GAO) projected it would cost $397 billion to develop and buy the planes, up from its earlier forecast of $382 billion.
The new estimates are part of a revised F-35 baseline dated March 26 that will be sent to Congress on Thursday.
The new baseline forecasts the average cost of each F-35 fighter, including research and development (R&D) and inflation, at $161 million per plane (or about $135 million in 2012 dollars).
The new cost estimate reflects the Pentagon’s proposal to postpone orders for 179 planes for five years, a move that U.S. official say will save $15.1 billion through 2017, and should avert costly retrofits if further problems arise during testing of the new fighter, which is only about 20 per cent complete.
The Pentagon still plans to buy 2,443 of the new radar-evading, supersonic warplanes, plus 14 development aircraft, in the coming decades, although Air Force Secretary Michael Donley last week warned that further technical problems or cost increases could eat away at those numbers.
Military officials and industry executives argued that while inflation accounts for more than one-third of the projected F-35 operating costs, it is nearly impossible to predict inflation over the next half-century.
They also pointed out that no other weapons program’s costs have been calculated over such a long period and even shorter-term cost projections for other aircraft do not include the cost of modernization programs and upgrades.
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